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Archibald (Hobo)

Story ID:9359
Written by:Monte Leon Manka (bio, contact, other stories)
Organization:retired
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Corona CA USA
Year:1999
Person:Hobo Chelsea Kansas Kid
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Archibald Quinlin Armstrong
Ace Pilot

Clarence finished and Arch started his tale.

I was once an airline pilot. I flew a 777 for one of the major airlines. I had a route that I followed day after day. My home base was Corona, Ca. I flew directly to Scoby, Montana. Then on to East Mauch Chunk Penn. From there to Bradenton Fla. Then back home again.
The 777 I flew was a dream. This plane would almost fly itself. I enjoyed flying this plane because I could get some sleep time between landings.

In the cockpit behind the pilots seat was a small room. This room could only be accessed by a secret code. With the code, you could open the panel and you and the co-pilot could hide and get a nap. We would put the plane on auto-pilot and then go into the secret room.

I had a good friend that was co-pilot and she and I would spend a couple hours in the “nap room” between points. We would lock the door to the cockpit, open the panel, and have a couple cocktails or catnap.

In the beginning, I would check the plane over outside and inside but I had such good ground crews I quit checking. This was my first mistake.

I was spending so much time in the Secret Room with my co-pilot, napping and drinking, that I did not hear the warning buzzer. The fuel warning light came on and I did not know how long it had been on. When I came out of the secret room I spotted the alarms and began to assess my options.

The fuel was down to 10% and I needed 15% to make it to Scoby. We slowed the engines down to conserve fuel and the passengers knew that something was wrong. While the co-pilot was making adjustments, I spoke to the passengers.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I was shaking in my boots but I was trying hard to stay calm, we have a problem.” The passengers started to moan and groan and a few screams were uttered. “There is nothing to worry about.” “We have just enough fuel to make it within fifty miles of the airport in Scoby.” “I have confidence that we can make it and I want you to stay calm and take precautions for a rough landing.” The questions were coming fast and furious but the pilot retreated back to the cockpit and locked the door.

I asked Mary Ann the co-pilot what she thought our chances were of making it to the ground safely. Mary Ann told me slim to none. The responsibility suddenly dawned on me that I had several hundred passengers to get on the ground safely. These passengers were depending on me.

I got out the manual and started to read the part on what to do when you had a low fuel light.
I read that you should shut the outside port engine down; this we did. The plane dropped, then gained the altitude it lost.

I could hear the passengers screaming and knocking on the door to the control room. The manual said to cut the outside starboard engine, this we did.

When we shut the two engines down the two remaining engines were laboring just to hold the altitude. The fuel was close to 2% and falling fast.

As a last resort, we were to jettison the baggage and we decided to do this. As the baggage and freight fell toward the ground we could see it falling in the darkness and hoped we were over a lake and not some farm or town.

The plane gained altitude. There were fifty miles left and we were on 0.5 % in fuel.
The manual said next to jettison the Steinway piano out of First class this was done and we had forty miles to go. The manual said if you had forty miles to go to start jettisoning the third class passengers.

Mary Ann said she could not do this and volunteered to bail out to help lighten the load. Mary Ann opened the door and disappeared into the darkness and I could see the landing field in Scoby. I cut the inside port engine and we were on 0% fuel and we started dropping like a rock.

So not to slow the plane down I did not let the wheels down until just before we touched down. We hit the ground hard. We blew twenty tires but we were alive. The inside Starboard engine stopped on the way to the taxiway and a pull motor hooked up and towed us to the terminal.

I walked into the terminal to make my report. I passed the mens room and went in. I was sick, I lost the dearest co-pilot I ever had. The Steinway was a great loss.

I went into the debriefing room and handed my resignation to the president of the company and left. I turned in my leased Mercedes, gave away my clothes, money and anything I had and hit the road. I never wanted to be over four feet off the ground again.

Here with you I feel free, no responsibility and you do not ask any favors. I do hope you will accept me into your circle. Thank You

The ring of Hobos mumbled to each other and decided that the loss of the Steinway was traumatic enough to let him join their close knit group. They rose and each shook Archibald’s hand and welcomed him.

Monte L. Manka 12-16-99