In the summer of 1975, while working at the job of State Court Administrator in Lansing, Michigan, the bank and I bought a 1957 Cessna 172 – N8273B; “73 Bravo” when transmitting to airfields and other aircraft. The job is contained in the Michigan Constitution and described as the administrative arm of the Michigan Supreme Court, the office through which the Court exercised its constitutional superintending authority over all of the state courts, including the Court of Appeals, the circuit courts, the district courts and the probate/juvenile courts.
The work often required travel to judicial and other conferences and to inspect court operations. At that time the court rules read that any Michigan citizen could lodge a complaint about any judge and the Judicial Tenure Commission, the group that recommended disciplinary action to the Supreme Court, “…may investigate…” the complaint. The rule also read that if the State Court Administrator submitted a complaint, the Tenure Commission “…shall investigate…,” the word “shall” replacing “may” making a huge difference, a huge difference that vested the State Court Administrator with a significant amount of authority. To be sure, that authority was used rarely, but the possibility of a Tenure Commission investigation was often more than enough to encourage the energetic cooperation of judges who were experiencing problems ranging from failure to stay on top of their caseloads to judges who were experiencing even more serious problems; e.g., substance abuse, alcohol addiction, prolonged inattention and/or absence from work, etc.
And so 73 Bravo became a useful tool for me when I had to visit a judge for a conversation the judge did not look forward to. Several times I would call a judge to say that I was coming to see them about a problem. Typically the judge would ask when I planned to visit, and with 73 Bravo and good weather I could ask them to please meet me at the local airport in an hour or two.
Michigan is a large state. If I could drive to the court in an hour or less, driving was the more efficient method of travel. Longer than an hour’s drive – I’d climb in 73 Bravo. I can not offer empirical evidence for the following assertion, but I’m fairly certain that once word got around that the big bad wolf could show up rather quickly resulted in fewer problems that required in person visits and trips to the local airports.
During those years I had to make presentations about court management to various groups two or three times a month, and having 73 Bravo meant I could handle those chores and the required travel when the meetings were more than an hour from Lansing much more efficiently – spend much less time travelling.
Having my own aircraft was, of course, also great fun. I flew on personal trips as well, often with my children and friends. On several occasions I flew to Chicago to visit family, and even got to land at Miegs Field once, an airport hard by Grant Park in downtown Chicago. Miegs Field is now gone, but it was a blast to be on final approach a few blocks from so many buildings that were much higher in the sky than I was, and to park my old Cessna alongside the much newer and much more expensive aircraft of the rich and famous.
I experienced the higher buildings sensation many times to and from Detroit City Airport and a few others around Michigan, but never as many or as tall as in downtown Chicago.
My most memorable flight was from Detroit City to Lansing Capitol with all four kids. 73 Bravo had just had its tires changed along with its annual inspection, the weather was CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited), no turbulence, beautiful Michigan sunshine, and four sleeping kids fifteen minutes after takeoff. I’ve always wondered how they could sleep with all the great scenery rolling past the windows.
Approaching Lansing, I was advised of medium to strong crosswind for my active runway. On approach, the crosswind was coming from my right, and I did what pilots do for crosswind landings. As I leveled and touched down, 73 Bravo tried very hard to take a much too soon and too fast turn to the left. With full right aileron, right rudder, and a stomped-on hard right brake, I kept her straight and got her slowed down enough to hear the sound a flat tire makes. The left tire was nearly on the rim.
The kids didn’t wake up until the sirens and flashing lights of the emergency vehicles came with the towing truck that would get 73 Bravo to where the tire could be changed.
Much to the kids’ delight, we rode in one of the emergency trucks. I, however, was much less than thrilled with the experience. A few calls to the tire manufacturer and two newer and better tires later I was still running hot. I calmed down in and hour or two. For several weeks I had calls and even a few invitations to pilots’ groups to talk about landings with a flat tire.
Just another lucky day in a life replete with answered prayers and good fortune.