I have always had a passion for flying although now-days I prefer someone else to do the piloting bit after one of my 'touch-and-goes' failed on the 'go' bit and the plane demolished the airfield boundary fence and ended up on an adjacent road ... I digress.
One day I got rung up by a Vietnam veteran who knew I was a pilot. He told me that he was dying of cancer and, after the event, would I be good enough to fly his wife and ashes over the Waiomu Valley in the Coromandel where he had spent many happy days hunting when she would disperse them to the winds. I agreed.
Some time later I got a call from the wife who said he had passed away and would I please now do the deed. I arranged to meet her at the Ardmore Airfield and she duly turned up with hubby in a box. I gave her a careful flight briefing. We would fly across the Hauraki Gulf direct to the Waiomu Valley where I would put the plane into a gentle right hand turn; she would open the cockpit window on her side; hold the box outside; open the lid and let the slipstream do its thing.
Pretty simple? Well perhaps, but I failed to take into account that this was a pretty emotional time for her and instructions can get a little bit mixed up when that happens. I can certainly confirm that she was pretty 'emotional' a little bit later on on the flight.
Everything went great until we reached Coromandel. Fine day; zip turbulence; VFR and all of that. Put the plane in a gentle right hand turn and said to her that it was time to let hubby go. I decided it would be proper to concentrate of flying the aircraft looking ahead and give her a bit of space to say a final goodbye ... bad move. She utterly buggered up the sequence; opened the cockpit window and then opened the box ... inside the aircraft.
Many of you will recall those ubiquitous glass balls that turned upside down and the Christmas scene that developed with snow falling heavily. Well, in the space of a couple of seconds that's what the cockpit resembled. Bits of hubby flying everywhere helped by a 130 knot wind blasting into the aircraft. Things deteriorated fast. Her initial scream was quickly replaced by an hysterical shout along the lines of 'I've just eaten him'. She then proceeded to projectile vomit over the front cockpit widow which tended to obscure my view forward. By this time I wasn't starting to feel too good either with bits of him (and her) attaching themselves to me. For the first only only time in my flying career I declared a PAN PAN PAN and headed to Thames sticking my head out of my window to stop me barfing up also. I did perhaps the most god-awful landing of my career and just slammed the aircraft onto ground, stopping quickly on the runway, and jumped out before I was sick too. An ambulance from Thames Hospital arrived shortly thereafter to take the lady away as she was a complete mess. Here endith the story (almost). What was left of hubby ended up in a vacuum cleaner. I never flew that plane again. Couldn't be sure if the grit on the floor was grit or hubby.
If that makes me a cannibal I plead guilty.