A Deafening Silence……………#167 (80’s)

The Cessna 172 was making an approach to Kiowa, the flyover was heard within the confines of the Kiowa Service Company, Sandy Palmer, the office manager mentioning that it was probably Steve returning.  Steve Miller,  the John Deere dealership 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 Miller brothers being  the primary consumer of the aviation facility was resolute in its upkeep and appearance, assigning the service company 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, never observing a night landing,  having no idea that dirt runway even had lighting. Steve was adamant about keeping  the outer grounds mowed and manicured,   having good reason with his and Johns piloting of prospective customers from adjoining states to the John Deere dealership, it was good business sense, as a prospective customer’s first impression might be a 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 building 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 and salesperson Larry Swonger having obtained  prominence with Deere & Company as the most prodigious company combine salesmen,  the three and their spouses being awarded for their marketing expertise with an all expense paid European vacation.  Gary discovering that the volume of  success required progress and alteration, 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 and with its installation came the time consuming  process of downloading all of the prevalent inventory.   Attendance in a classroom educational programs 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  on the hand written parts index cards.



Ron Zahnter was a small in stature, but the only Kiowa John Deere serviceman that accomplished 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 Miller 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.



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 consistent drone of Cessna’s engine coming to a halt,  Ron suddenly realizing a deafening silence and that 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 coming into  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 now non flyer,  Bruce remaining with the Cessna  172  awaiting  the supercharger repair.  The pilot later relating the events, 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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