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Understatement – A lost art.

Seemed like a great idea at the time.

I have been vacationing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina since my college days. I love it there, miss it when I’m gone and count the days until I return.
The Outer Banks is also the birthplace of my desire to fly in a biplane.
I’ve always found those old airplanes intriguing, but there has been a blue and gold one flying over my head, year after year, at the beach that got into my head. I’d watch that plane go by, I’d think about it and think about the someday when I’d be in it.

The Plan And The Understatement

Someday became part of the plan during last year’s vacation. We arrived on Saturday, Sunday I was to be airborne. Airborne at the Outer Banks, where the Wright Brothers flew. 

While unloading the car, I missed a call and got a voice mail. It was from someone involved with the plane tour. He let me know that they would have to postpone my trip and would credit our Visa account for what was paid on my flight. He said they had a “slight brake problem” that, given the holiday weekend, would likely be difficult to get repaired.

I was, of course, disappointed. All things considered though, part of flying is how you stop flying.

The next morning, the same gentleman called to confirm that I’d received the message. We had a very cordial conversation in which he repeated the “slight brake problem” phrase. I let him know that I appreciated that he was on top of keeping the plane up and I’d certainly be ready to fly later in the week if they got the brakes worked out. Failing that, I’d be back in town next summer and would be back in touch.

Doing The Right Thing

This is what no brake problems looks like.

He even offered the number of another biplane tour service in town. I told him I wasn’t interested in that number. Why would I fly with someone else when I knew how meticulous they were on the maintainance of their plane? He made a joke about how his plane was better anyhow because it was painted blue and gold like the U.S. Navy Aerobatic team, The Blue Angels.

The vacation went on without any major mishaps. Occasionally I’d see the red biplane of the competitors service fly over and I’d resist the urge. Staying with the original plan, even if it meant not flying until next year, was the right thing to do.

Friday was our last night at the beach. We went out to eat and as we were strolling to the car, a photo in the newspaper box of the local paper caught my eye. It was a picture of a biplane, painted blue and gold, just like The Blue Angels.

While Technically True, Understatement Paints A Deceiving Picture.

If there is such a thing of a photo of a biplane caught in a compromising position, this was it. It was shocking.

Reached for comment, the white airplane said it felt “violated”. (Outer Banks Sentinel, 2009)

Apparently, the “slight brake problem” led to what we outside the aviation business like to call “a collision with another plane”. A collision, with two passengers in the seat I was planning to occupy about 24 hours after the mild entanglement between the biplane with brake problems and the other plane.

I’m no expert, but I believe the “slight brake problem” may have led to the possibility of an issue in the area of the wings.

The other plane seems a little less culpable in the whole airplanes snuggling together situation,  given that there wasn’t a pilot or anyone on that plane at the time. Of course, according to the newspaper article, there may or may not have been a pilot in the biplane at the moment the two planes sort of tapped one another.

In aviation terms, a plane having a slight electrical problem

In aviation terms, a plane having a slight electrical problem

Perhaps I should consider the red plane next year.

I don’t know, maybe that position is a little overstated.

This is a rewrite of something I wrote after last year’s vacation. I swore I would take this event as a sign and never consider doing this again.   Vacation is coming soon and I am starting to think about it again. The red airplane is really cool looking.

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38 Comments on “Understatement – A lost art.”

  1. fnord says:

    Wonderful story, so well told!

    I’m guessing that seeing the photo of the result of that “slight brake problem” tempered your disappointment.

    Hope your vacation was wonderful even without the flight.

  2. Kathi D says:

    Picky picky picky. Refusing to fly just because of a slight brake problem and possibly a slight wing problem? Sissies.

  3. Sue Gigante says:

    OH MY GOSH………Maybe now you’ll listen to me when I say…”NO FLYING”!!!!!!!!

  4. The pretty half of Dibby says:

    Goodness!!! I think I’m glad you didn’t decide that a “slight brake problem” wasn’t enough to cancel your flight Superman!

  5. Abe's Blog says:

    That’s great! What a creative way to discuss somewhat serious problems. I will have to think of some good ones for my own situations. Right now I am experiencing a bit of a banking problem (none of the money in it is mine.)

  6. Great story!

    I think that that guy you talked to at the blue and yellow plane company who coined the term “brake problem” will probably be recruited by BP for their PR department. He sounds like a master of understatement and spin. Except BP would train him that you don’t credit the VISA account.

  7. spencercourt says:

    We drove the Outer Banks many years ago while returning from DC. Spectacular.

    I was fortunate enough to see the Blue Angels when we happened to be San Francisco during Fleet Week.

    As for that bi-plane, that is why I will not go up in a small airplane. I know that they have more “options” than big planes when things go wrong, but it seems that things go wrong more often with small planes than with big ones.

  8. blackwatertown says:

    Stick to your gun and choose something safer instead… like a parachute jump.

  9. Keli says:

    I admire your unflappability. Really I do. But I think I’d try really hard to emulate the Wright Bros on their first flight : 2 ft off the ground and only about 12 sec. long.

  10. linlah says:

    I’d say that blue and gold plane was meticulously broken.

  11. pattypunker says:

    and apparently “meticulous” about their planes is an overstatement.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m really into certain people being meticulous – pilots and aircraft mechanics are high on the list. Shepherds, not so much.

      Shepherds? Where did that come from? I don’t know very many of them.

  12. Kate says:

    Um, holy crap!

    Also, I am super jealous of your regular Outer Banks vacations. Ocracoke quickly became my No. 1 vacation spot of all time. Can’t wait to get back … I’m still drooling over the crab cakes from Howard’s.

    • omawarisan says:

      Holy crap for sure. Imagine being those people, thinking you’re heading for the runway, realizing something isn’t quite right with where you’re going, looking back at the pilot and realizing he isn’t in the plane! The brakes slipped while it was warming up.

      Love Ocracoke and Howard’s. Can’t wait to get there.

  13. Betty says:

    it’s a sign. don’t do it.

  14. jammer5 says:

    I saw a movie where a girl took a airplane, tore the wings off and removed the tail, wound it up and had a helicopter. Just saying 🙂

  15. Pauline says:

    Wow! You’re lucky you weren’t in the plane at the time!
    Flying does sound fun though…

  16. shoutabyss says:

    A beautifully woven tale that left me in a flat spin. Break right! Talk to me, Goose!

    Ooops. Got a little carried away there.

    I did not know North Carolina had an Outer Banks. I’m going to have to Google that and learn more.

    The pictures for this posting are perfect. Somebody tell the white plane that someone has to be on top, so don’t feel too bad.

    Flying in a small plane is so much more fun than on the airlines. It really is a blast. I’m glad you got bumped from that one flight, though. 🙂

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh man ,if you get the chance, go to the Outer Banks. Really nice place, pretty much devoid of resort hotels. Beaches are big and not packed, even on busiest weekends. If you drive a few miles down the coast you can find sections of beahc where you can’t see another person for miles.

      Thanks on the pictures…the blue plane on top – that is the plane in question here! That is the end result of brake problems.


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