Sunday, March 18, 2012

Something Happened

Something happened on this day thirty-five years ago in Wichita, Kansas. A Cessna Aircraft Company production test pilot named Jim Ballard picked up a blank Aircraft Log. On the cover next to the 'N' he entered '631S' and next to 'SERIAL NO.' he wrote '18265554'. Then he turned the page and on the first leaf, next to 'Record of' he entered 'Cessna 182Q 18265554 N631S'. On the next line, next to 'With Engine' he wrote 'Continental O-470-U 465712'. Then he went out on the ramp at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport to meet the machine whose birth as an airplane he was about to facilitate.

Jim certainly performed a careful pre-flight inspection, then he climbed into the cabin and started the big Continental six and, with concurrence from the tower, taxied for departure. Senses alert for any sign of defect or maladjustment, he took the machine off the ground and into its natural element. For 1.3 hours he checked and verified, in accordance with his production test check-list, the readiness of this machine to be sent on to its new owner-pilot. Then he landed, back where he'd begun.

After shutting down he opened the Aircraft Log once again and turned to the first page for the recording of flight data. He filled in the year, '77', and the day, 'Mar. 18'. Under From, 'Ict' and under To, 'Local'. Nature of Flight is 'Test', and Duration of Flight is '1.3'. And then he signed the column labeled Signature of Pilot...'Jim Ballard'. N631S had passed its test.

Thirty-five years later...two engine overhauls later...nine owners and 4,235.2 tach hours later...N631S continues to pass each test, to be a machine admirable in every respect. As the current caretaker, my gratitude flows to Jim Ballard and to every owner and pilot who has cared for and worked with this airplane in the intervening years. I'll try to be worthy of the airplane you've entrusted to me.


Chris said...

Happy birthday, 31 Sierra!

Sarah said...

Nice - Happy Birthday to N631S!! I found the test flight paperwork for my plane a while ago, too; definitely a neat thing to have in the maintenance logs. :) Hope your annual goes well, and hope to talk to you on frequency again soon!

Frank Van Haste said...

Chris & Sarah, N631S thanks you for your birthday good wishes!