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Fuel Flow in the Dark

Lindbergh was my hero.  Science was my copilot.  Delano, California was the origin, the KCAB Citabria was taking me home from an aerobatic contest.  Typically, one would land at Blythe for gas and make the flight two legs.  There was something of a tailwind and I had read about how if you get high and lean out the engine you get long range.

I wanted to be a real pilot, one who can get the maximum out of his plane and the situation.  Somehow it had slipped past me that Lindbergh landed in Paris with enough fuel remaining to make it to Berlin.

The numbers worked for a non-stop, so I crammed every last drop of fuel into the two wing tanks and launched into aeronautical history.

Cruising over Blythe at 11,500 the gathering dusk turned the sky ahead into a featureless, horizonless blur. for a while I was more worried about keeping the airplane upright than running out of gas.  Eventually the sky darkened and the diamond dust of the valley gave me a reference.

The last half hour spent staring at the dwindling fuel indications and the city lights below taught me the lesson. I made it to Falcon Field with the motor still running, but only just.

The escapade was based on the attitude problem Paul Bertorelli described. I was young, smart, daring and knew I could push things to the limit with little margin for error.  I did that a lot in those days.

I got away with it.

The lesson learned was not so much that I did and could, but that I hadn't ought to again.