|The following story takes place at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the Lockhart Municipal Airport, and 3,000 feet above the ground between those two locales.
A photo of N733CP, the plane I was flying in this story. Note that this picture was not taken at the same time
On the second flight I ever made during my flight training, I was responsible for the pre-flight inspection. Though neither Dustin nor myself had a great deal of experience with these sorts of procedures just yet, I decided that I'd be able to figure it out one way or another. Of course, the 'or another' part of that was preparing to reveal itself to me.
We had been taught in the previous lesson that there is a very specific methodology to doing a pre-flight inspection. The formula is mainly just geared at making sure you don't overlook any obvious steps and so it's important to always go in order. For a person like myself who likes to do many things at once, this linearity took a little getting used to. Nevertheless, I did the flight inspection as requested and was ready to get going.
Upon completion of my pre-flight inspection, our new instructor Garrett came out to greet Dustin and I just prior to the flight. We were planning a short comfortable afternoon voyage out to Lockhart (50R) as we had done the week before. For those who don't know, Lockhart is a small town located about 30 miles south of Austin. From ABIA, it's a straight shot and thus makes for a great training facility.
I taxied out of ABIA and took to the skies, heading south towards Lockhart. When we got into the area, Garrett had me doing all sorts of aerial drills. I was mostly working on turning around a point, controlling my altitude, and some basic navigation. After about 20 or so minutes of this, we entered the pattern at Lockhart and touched down.
Garrett instructed me to taxi the plane over to the gas pump there (gas is sold much cheaper in Lockhart than at ABIA) and was planning on having us gas up the plane. As I parked and killed the engine, he got out and climbed onto the sidestep to see the top of the plane. When he came down, he very calmly asked me to step out of the plane. I did. He asked me to walk around the plane and take a look at the top of the plane and see if I noticed anything of interest.
I climbed atop the plane as requested and much to my great surprise, the plane was missing both of its gas caps!
I could tell that Garrett was pretty angry at the situation, but he did his best to remain in good spirits and was not too outwardly angry with me. We called in the problem to someone back in Austin and as it turns out, I had simply left them on top of the plane and they must have fallen onto the ground as soon as I engaged the throttle. We had to wait about 30 minutes, but someone brought them to us and all was well.
Months later I was speaking with a flight instructor who was adamant about the fact that planes cannot fly without gas caps since the lack of pressure would simply suck the gas right out of the wings.
While I'm sure it's ideal to have them in place, I had to respectfully disagree with this person's analysis.