A Deafening Silence……………#167 (80’s)

Cessna 172

Cessna 172

The  parts department at the Service Company wasn’t without its humorous moments,  especially at the benefit of an employee and her resolve to drive Gary’s 1950 Dodge pickup.  An afternoon found a need arising to encompass a fan belt for one of the service pickups, Gary initiating a telephone call  to the Kiowa Auto Parts store informing Gerald Elwood about the fan belt and that Kathy Rathgeber would be arriving to realize the purchase.  Kathy was about to leave when it was discovered that it seemed all the other service pickup were in use with nothing for her to drive, so without hesitation Gary handed Kathy the keys to his 50 Dodge pickup stationed curbside.    He observed from inside as she positioned herself behind the steering wheel, inserting the key in the ignition of the three generation old vehicle,  she remained seated,  the seconds ticking away,  then watched as she stepped out returning inside, with a bewildered look she said, “alright where’s the starter?”.   Gary explaining, the starter was on the floorboard adjacent to the accelerator,  just step on it and the gas pedal at the same time, making sure you step on the clutch pedal.   Kathy approached the parked vehicle for a second attempt, successfully starting the Dodge  but immediately shut it off once again returning inside with a question, “where’s reverse?”. Gary holding back a smile informed her, the floor-shift reverse was located all the way to the right and in a down position.   A return to the transport finding the very slight  petite young lady starting the Dodge,  attempting to back out, trying to  turn  the steering wheel, then abruptly letting the Dodge coast back to the curb turning off the engine,  returning once again,  handing Gary the keys with a look of frustration mumbling as she walked away  “I can’t turn the steering wheel”.   Gary realized her dilemma,  the pickup didn’t have any  power assist steering and unless moving was almost impossible to turn the steering wheel especially when it’s on a downhill  slant against a curb,  Gary deciding  to pick up the part himself.

The starter positioned adjacent to the gas pedal.

Dodge starter positioned adjacent to the gas pedal.

The Cessna 172 was making an approach to Kiowa, the flyover was heard within the confines of Kiowa Service, Sandy Palmer in the office mentioning that it was probably Steve returning.  Steve Miller,  the owner an accomplished pilot as was his brother John,  the flyover was an unspoken notice given for the need of assistance at the airport to berth the plane.  Steve having served notice that when available Sandy could send a service company employee to assist the housing of the aircraft  at the  Kiowa airstrip.  Gary having assisted Steve on several occasions had recently acquired a new  responsibility,  the Millers being  the primary consumer of the aviation facility was resolute in its upkeep and appearance, assigning the parts manager this added assignment.   Miller and several other local aircraft owners bestowed their craft in the small hangar facility.   Beside the mowing Gary found himself adjudging and replacing runway light bulbs, having never observed a night landing he no idea that dirt runway even had them. Steve was adamant about keeping  the outer grounds mowed and manicured,   having good reason with the piloting of prospective customers  from adjoining states to the John Deere dealership, it was good business sense, for a prospective customer’s first impression  might be lasting one.

The Kiowa Airport

The Kiowa Airport

Steve Miller wasn’t a home-grown local, Gary sensed that he wasn’t overly  appreciated by the Kiowa community,  his success in capturing a small rural John Deere Dealership known as Schubach Implement may have been the reason.  Changing the name and fabricating the business into the largest combine sales dealership in the United States may have inhibited some within the community to be invidious of his accomplishments.  The sales department demonstrating  phenomenal prestige and success, the Miller Brothers,  Steve, and John, salesperson Larry Swonger having obtained a prominence with Deere & Company as the most prodigious John Deere combine salesmen,  the three and their spouses being awarded with an all expense paid European vacation.  Gary’s discovering that with the volume of  success came progress and alteration, finding the installation by John Deere of an inventory control computer system,  a product of Texas Instruments.  The large encumbering apparatus, its size even dwarfing the service company’s  Western Union teletype machine, with its installation came the time consuming  process of downloading all of the prevalent inventory.    An attendance in a classroom educational program at the John Deere school facility in Wichita introduced Gary to the operating aspects of  the new computer innovative application,  the era of a new age having arrived in this small rural agriculture community, no more inventory flagging by on the written parts index cards.

Ron Zahnter, wife Lea Ann, children Angela and Darren

Ron Zahnter, wife Lea Ann, children Angela and Darren

Ron Zahnter was a small in stature, but the only  John Deere serviceman who could accomplish replacing a combines hydro-static transmission in the field,  its size and weight  normally requiring the formidable pulleys and chains of a shop application.   A request finding Gary mounting the forklift,  securing a pallet with the heavily laden  hydrostat from the warehouse,  transporting the burdensome transmission of all places, to the airport.  On  arrival, the forklift driver finding Steve and John and a number of the service shop personnel waiting.  Their purpose was to  attempt to load the hydrostat into the rear of Steve’s 172 Cessna.  The improbable  became probable, a partial temporary disassembly of the passenger seat giving just enough clearance and  with four stout mechanics maneuvering the bulky transmission to  a placement in the rear seat area of the aircraft.   Bruce,  the newly acquired company pilot and Ron Zahnter preparing for a journey to Garden City to rendezvous with a custom harvesting crew awaiting the replacement and installation of the 7720 hydrostatic transmission.

Ron's experience published in Aviation Safety

Ron’s experience published in Aviation Safety

Gary finding the events of Ron and Bruce’s flight to Garden City interesting,  not only because of the transporting of the transmission but because  it was Ron’s first flight in an aircraft and he was extremely apprehensive about flying,  even with a multi-engine rated pilot of Bruce’s stature.   The take off from the short dirt landing strip of Kiowa completed,  the Cessna 172 attaining a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet,  encompassing the 160 air mile journey,  the supercharged Cessna able to approach a cruising speed of  140 mph.   Ron was beginning to relax, the anxiety of his first flight starting to recede,  questioning Bruce about the remaining time to Garden City,  Bruce replying,  it would be another twenty minutes before reaching their destination.  Then it happened,  the steady drone of Cessna’s engine coming to a halt,  Ron suddenly realizing a deafening silence and the sound resonating from the plane’s engine  having stopped,  the only audio sound  he could accord was the presence of the wind,  its echoing whispers contacting the winged airborne structure.   Bruce’s first  concern  was not the gliding craft,  but Ron,  his appearance now void of any skin color,  his eyes wide with panic.   The pilots first response was to calm  Ron,  a recollection of  an instructional  class about a similar  situations when a passenger loses all sense  and  attempted to open the door.  Bruce in a  sequestered voice,  not totally truthful,  telling Ron not to worry,  because of the altitude we have plenty of  time to appraise the situation, but to Ron it seemed like a life-time before a familiar sound came to life, the restarting of the engine.   Bruce having accessed a supercharger malfunctioning causing the engine to shut down,  Ron gaining some assurance as they descended, the Garden City Airport in view.   The John Deere mechanic again on the ground,  a shaken but now an experienced flyer,  vowing,  his first flight would be his last flight in  a small plane.   Ron completing his assignment,  the hydrostat installed, Steve sending a service pickup to retrieve the new non flyer,  Bruce remaining with the Cessna  172  awaiting  the supercharger repair.  The Pilot having an opportunity to pen the account of his episode with the aircraft and Ron,  submitting the article to the Aviation Safety, a monthly avionics  magazine,  the venture published for all to experience.

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