I made it into the FAA database! Oh. Maybe that’s not a good thing.

Okay, the longer story:

I’ve been making as many trips to Las Vegas in a DiamondStar as the US Aero representative will fly along on. So Robert Stewart (the representative) said he would meet Adam at the Long Beach Airport and fly up to SMO and collect me there. We have to fly to North Las Vegas first.

Arriving at SMO Robert jumps out, takes a photo of Adam and me standing by the plane, and says, “This is great! Why don’t you guys fly it to Vegas?” I had actually thought that I would fly it with Robert as co-pilot so that he could point out some more of the features. I felt like the last time we flew to Las Vegas I learned so much about the plane. (I needn’t have worried, he just leaned forward and gave Adam and I a two hour lesson the entire way. It was great.)

As we arrive at the North Las Vegas airport I focus on the landing. I mean, REALLY focus. I’ve learned that if I think of nothing but the landing, and I desperately reach out to the airplane, if I nearly close myself off to everything else and try to become the airplane, my landings are better. More straight ahead, more on the center line, less bump, less unnecessary speed and safer overall. I want smooth and safe landings. I have a handle on so much of the flying and I really want to be able to just glide onto the ground.

So I focus. I know the speed and pitch of the plane as I bring it down to the runway. I slow it down, I bring the nose up, I float down the runway, dropping my wheels closer and closer to the concrete. They brush and I let down the nose. I am a little left of the center line, which is often a problem for me. I give a little right rudder. The plane pulls a little to the left instead. I actually press on the right brake a moment, which since we just landed is a little rash. The plane veers further left. “No left brake!” says Robert from the back seat. I lean on the right brake. I feel Adam’s feet on the pedals for a moment and then he helps on the right brake. We both stand on the right brake. The airplane departs the runway to the left and trundles onto the gravel and sand infield. Robert is shouting in the back seat, Adam is saying “Hey hey hey” from the right seat. I am grimly keeping all the pressure I can on the right brake.

We stop.

Robert leans forward, “What were you doing? No left brake, that was a great landing until you hit the wrong brake.” Adam says, “No, he wasn’t touching the left brake, look…” and I lean away so that he can see I have the right brake to the floor. We tell the tower we’ll get back on the taxiway and I advance the throttle a little. Nothing. We’re stuck in the gravel. I say that I think we have a flat on the left. We tell ATC we need some help, shut down and climb out.

Robert sees the flat tire and says that I probably hit the brakes before the flaps came up and without the plane’s weight on the tires it is really easy to “flat spot” the tire down to the cords and have one go flat. It’s the first I have heard of it. (Since then I have checked with other Diamond pilots. Not one brings up the flaps before braking.) There is a gorgeous, sleek fairing that fits over each tire on the landing gear. The fairing over the left wheel, which is flat, is smashed. It looks forlorn. The whole plane looks like an albatross that has stubbed its toe on one of its infrequent, uncomfortable interruptions of continuous flight. I wish the plane was flying again. Instead Adam and I have to get in a van and Robert walks the plane’s wing along while a tug tows it to a repair shop.

The shop (Ron’s) is great. They say that they can get a new tire on in the time it takes us to have lunch. I want two new tires (I am a big believer in preventative maintenance), but they don’t have them on the field. It turns out that’s just fine. Robert thought it was that I braked too soon, I thought it was that it was a demonstrator airplane and the tires were worn, but neither was the case.

So we have lunch. Robert is a little bummed out because he wasn’t in the right seat (co-pilot) so he couldn’t save the plane, but we have a pleasant lunch. We walk back to the shop.

Flashback: Back in June when the plane was being assembled in London, Ontario, a number of workers were puttering around the plane, doing their various tasks. One was fitting the finished fuselage with the rudder cables. Another stacked material nearby for the next step. The one that was installing the rudder cables clipped off a bit of excess. It spun through the air and… disappeared. Huh. Everyone continued on, figuring it went under the work bench or something. It had, in fact, fallen into one of the three tires that was sitting in a neat stack by the plane. Later that week someone installed the tires and inner tubes onto the wheels. They fitted the inner tube into the tire with the wire inside it. They fit the tire over the metal wheel and inflated the inner tube. They attached the wheels to the landing gear struts.

Now Ron showed Robert the piece of wire. It had lived inside the tire, between the tire and the inner tube, for months. You could see the mark on the rubber where it had made a home. It finally decided to puncture the inner tube between SMO and VGT. Just my luck.

Robert was much happier when he realized it wasn’t my fault that the tire had flattened on landing. He even said that it was a good piece of flying, since I had avoided the runway sign (apparently one had taken out an RV8 the previous month, destroying the landing gear, prop, engine, and so on), and hadn’t crashed into the other Diamond (what are the chances?) on the taxiway ahead.

We climbed in, sans wheel fairings, and flew to Boulder City Municipal. I did my “official interstate business” in Nevada (that would be the site visit where I checked on a few construction issues at the Castle project) that allowed it to be a business trip, and then flew home to Santa Monica.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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