Checking in on an old friend

May 28, 2008 by Paul Richfield, Senior Editor

Pilots are often asked to name their favorite airplane and for me, the answer’s always been easy: N400BS, a 1981 Cessna 421C I flew for three years in the early 1990s. We met under unusual circumstances; I was flying freight and looking for a better gig, when I noticed the pristine twin sitting in a maintenance hangar at the San Luis Obispo, California airport. I ran the tail number through the FAA database and quickly located the owner, a local businessman with the initials BS.

“How did you know I was looking for a pilot?” he asked. “I haven’t even run the ad yet.”

Then he told me the airplane was in the final stages of a double engine change, the result of rough handling by his former pilot. We talked a bit and went out to lunch; I had a lot of twin Cessna time and the job was mine if I wanted it.

Over the next 36 months, 400BS and I developed a mutual trust—I’d keep it safe and well maintained, and it would run like a Swiss watch, in VMC, IMC, whatever. We were a common sight all up and down the west coast; the boss did a lot of business in the Los Angeles basin and in the Bay Area, and used the airplane the way most people use a car.

While I’ve long since moved on to other pursuits, and other airplanes, I like to check in on 400BS from time to time to see what it’s up to. It’s still flying for a living; now for some entity called Corporate Flight International, Inc., in Aspen, Colorado. And, it’s been getting some fresh air. Recent destinations include Flying Cloud, Laramie, and Pine River Regional. Check out FlightAware, to see where your favorite (former) airplane’s been recently.

2 Responses to “Checking in on an old friend”

  1. Dodge Says:

    My favorite airplane may be somewhat a surprise to many, but it was a light-pastel-green Cessna 150 that my wife and I had from 1977 through 1983. We both had our certificates, and we always flew together – if I went flying, she came along, and if she went flying, I came along. We flew almost exclusively just for the sheer joy and fun of flying, but we did fly from Jackson, MS to Memphis, TN about four or five times a year to visit my wife’s brother, and we only had one emergency situation in that aircraft the entire time (gunk got into the fuel line and the engine quit, but we made a dead stick landing at the nearest airport – luckily, it happened to be just about right under us – with no damage to the plane, and no damage to us, unless you count the bruises I got because of my wife gripping my right thigh with her left hand – she left a single vivid purple-black bruise for each finger and thumb, and I still don’t understand why her hand didn’t cramp and why I didn’t feel her holding on to me. It was my turn to take the left seat, but she would have handled the situation at least as well as I did had she been PIC for that flight). But, the maintenance crew where we were forced to land got the gunk out of the fuel line, and we were flying again three days after the incident. That C150 was the only model with that color that I have ever seen, and, in fact, it’s still in service – we sold it, intending to “trade up,” but we never got the chance, as my wife was killed before we could find a new plane (her death was non-aviation related). We both dearly loved that plane, and even though a C150 isn’t known for speed, it’s a very fun, very responsive little aircraft, and the only complaint I ever had was that the top of my head always touched the ceiling – I’m a bit over 6’6″ tall. We loved that plane, and I will never forget all the fun we had flying it. We could have easily afforded a much larger and faster aircraft when we acquired our little C150, but we thought it was the most fun to fly of all the others we “test flew”, and the only reason we were going to trade up to a bigger aircraft was because a C150 has just two seats, and we were about to have an addition to the family (my wife was pregnant when she was killed). Nevertheless, every time I go up by myself, she’s there in the right seat with me – I can see her even if no one else can…

    As an aside, my wife had a “little-girl voice”, and, about once a week, someone who was not a local pilot would radio us demanding that our young child not be allowed to handle the radio communications!

  2. Jon Mather Says:

    Pretty awesome stuff, I love it hah

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