Lidle tragedy not lost on me

Oct 17, 2006 5:57 AM

Do you like the AFC? You will after this weekend’s games:

Chargers -5 versus Kansas City: San Diego looks like a powerhouse, and the Chiefs don’t. If KC quarterback Trent Green plays, don’t play the game. If he remains out, fire!

Bills +6 versus New England: Buffalo is a tough home team, and since they get almost a full touchdown they get my vote.

Pittsburgh -2½ versus Atlanta: I like short favorites when you get the better team. Bill Cower will study today’s film of how the Giants handled Michael Vick, and his team will do the same.

We lost a good soldier last week with the tragic death of Cory Lidle, the Yankee pitcher. As you know, his plane somehow rammed into the 20th floor of a New York City apartment building. This tragic incident reminded me of my experience with another small airplane.

In the early 1980s, the Circus Circus Corporation had a Cessna that flew from Laughlin to Vegas almost every day. On Sundays the pilot picked me up in the afternoon, and flew me back to Vegas, as Monday and Tuesday were my days off.

On one occasion the pilot told me early Sunday that we may not be able to fly that day, due to some strong winds exceeding 25 mph. We were to leave at 3 p.m., and we waited until about 4 p.m. The pilot said "We may be able to make it — let’s go over to the airport and see; if not, we’ll make arrangements to stay overnight and go to Vegas the following morning." I agreed, and we proceeded to the Bullhead City airport just to check it out.

We got into the plane, and taxied to the end of the runway. The pilot had a conversation with the control tower. I didn’t know what was going on, because they were using pilot jargon. He then told me that he’d like to take a shot at it. Not wanting to be described as a "chicken," I replied confidently "Be my guest."

We started down the runway, and as we gained altitude the plane began going sideways. Now the runway is in Bullhead City, and the hotels are in Laughlin; they are separated by about a half mile of the flowing Colorado River. As we kept going up we still were going sideways. I looked out my window, and we were heading for the Riverside Hotel. The pilot never spoke, and I couldn’t.

In my mind I was laying even money that very shortly we would join Don Laughlin in his penthouse suite atop the Riverside. I don’t know how close we got, because my eyes were closed shut. I do know one thing — we went further sideways than we did up, and I was never so scared in my life. Incidentally, I drove back and forth from Vegas to Laughlin for the next three weeks!