2200 Pennies

“A pound of water and a pound of feathers are both still a pound!”

“Right… I know that, but we are talking about fluid ounces not weight ounces, there is a difference”

“No there’s not”

“OK, this 20 fluid ounce bottle of water weighs about 2 pounds, right?”

“Yep”…tossing it from hand to hand.

“So how much would a 20 fluid ounce bottle or mercury weigh? About 25 pounds, right? They are both 20 fluid ounces but different weight ounces”

“I still don’t think we landed on the moon”

David doesn’t like to dwell on subjects when they start to rub him the wrong way.

We were in Costco loading up supplies for Haiti and trying to keep track of how much everything weighs.

We were getting ready to fly to Haiti to deliver supplies to the Earthquake victims there. David McInnis was so generous and kind hearted; he was flying his personal plane, a Pilatus N116TH, all week long from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to various landing strips in Haiti.

We needed to make sure we didn’t overload the airplane with too much cargo since all planes have weight limitations. Too much weight and you could pile up at the end of the runway on take off.

I wasn’t about to have my tombstone read “Chemical Engineer, but still could not add.”

We loaded up the plane and realized we hade the ability to load another 600 pounds. Coordinators on the tarmac were asking all the planes there headed for Haiti if they could take on a little bit more cargo from the stockpile of donations. Literally tons of them.

Cup O’ soup, sterno, children’s Tylenol, Vienna sausages, tuna, bottled water, rice, and a dozen soccer balls from our Costco run. Cases of canned goods from donations.

Airborne over the Atlantic with 1200 pounds worth of goodies,  along with big dose of turbulence to keep all 3 of us on edge.

“Does this plane not pull fuel from both wings at the same time?”

“Yes, why?”

“How come the right tank is at 75% full and the left is still completely full?”

“Good question”

“And why is the right fuel pump light on?”

“Good question”

5 minutes of head scratching.

“I think we are venting!”

“What the F$%#!, Is this Apollo 13?”

“Do you see a contrail-like looking stream coming off the right wing tip?”

“Uh….no….. like what?”

“Like this” as Bob pointed out the left wing. I leaned over to see what he was talking about. Holy shit, is that fuel? We are venting fuel?”

Suddenly the ocean in the windshield looked bigger than I had ever seen before.

We took turns flying the plane and trying to troubleshoot the problem by reading the emergency procedures.

“Try pulling that breaker. No, not that one, the other one. OK maybe reset the mains. Maybe try pushing the breaker back in. Try another one. OK maybe that one.”

“Can we reboot this whole thing?”

We tried a couple dozen things, not being sure if we solved the problem. We sat there and starred at the left fuel gauge. Finally it started to drop. We were burning fuel on the left tank OK now. A visual check out the window and no more venting.

We just had our glitch for this mission.

Not sure how we fixed it but hopefully it was gone.


Nice ride all the way to Haiti after that. Definitely the coolest airplane I have ever flown.
Descending from 26,000 feet we finally dropped into the clouds. I kept double checking the height of the terrain on the radar to make sure we stood clear.

Bob nailed a perfect landing.

As soon as we started to offload the goodies, it began to pour down like crazy.

Then McSmartAss did it.

He threatened to do it, but I wasn’t sure he would go through with it.

The mayor of Jacmal had decided a day earlier that he was now going to charge pilots a $22 landing fee. Rightfully so this really pissed David McInnis off. He had been spending is own time and resources to the tune of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to help the Haiti people.

Then this butt-head Mayor decided to line his own pockets with a new “landing fee” tax.
When the mayor asked for the $22, McSmartAss handed him a shoe box full of pennies. $22 dollars worth. About 20 pounds worth.

“That is Shit money! You insult me!”

“No, this is valid U.S. Currency.”

By this time Bob and I were already heading off into the distance to avoid the gun fire.
We hid behind a King Air that had crashed a couple days before.

By some miracle, we didn’t hear any gun shots or see any RPG’s. Not sure how he pulled that off.

Back in the Pilatus heading for home.

We could not see any of the damage at Port-Au-Prince, the cloud level had it completely covered.
One of the doctors in Ft. Lauderdale, before we had left, had just returned from Port-Au-Prince.
He told me his team was doing about 200 amputations a day.

That is what I saw I my mind’s eye beneath the clouds.

The flight home was smooth in the night-time air. We were watching the fuel the whole time wondering if we had enough to make it back to Ft. Lauderdale or if we would have to land in the Bahamas for fuel. None of us want to do that if we didn’t have to. It was getting late and it would add a couple hours of postponement to bed time.

“We should be fine as long as we don’t hit any head wind”

About 13 minutes later a 43 knot head wind smacked us right in the kisser.

The FAA wanted us to start our decent in Ft. Lauderdale from about 100 miles out to sea. We asked if we could stay at 26,000 until the last minute to save on fuel.

They said no.

We said pretty please.

“Are you in “min” fuel situation?”


The let us stay at 26,000.


We landed with 8% left in the tanks.

Good luck Haiti.

About admin

Mark L. Fox is a leading authority on teaching practical creative thinking techniques for business. Mark was the youngest Chief Engineer ever on the Space Shuttle program at the age of 31. He received NASA’s highest recognition of “Launch Honoree” at the age of 23. Mark has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering with an MBA. Having held top management positions in Rocket Science, Aircraft Hydraulics, Engineering Services, Customer Service, Software, and e-Business, Mark has an extremely diversified background.




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