These days Shelli Robb-Kahler is executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce. She grew up “right here in Sequim.”
She recently recalled one of many aerial adventures she shared with her dad and her three sisters.
“My oldest sister, Laurie, was stationed on Whidbey Island. Her husband was in the Navy. My dad had several airplanes and we would sometimes take a jaunt over there. It was a short flight.
We had a CB, an amphibious airplane that also landed in the water. It was a very loud airplane, so most everybody in Sequim would joke that ‘Duke was taking off’ because it was so loud you could hear it all over town.
So one day we took off and brought Laurie back to Whidbey Island. There were four of us. My father was flying, Laurie, my younger sister Cindy and me.
I noticed on the way over my dad and my oldest sister were having a lot of conversations and he was fiddling around a lot. There’s a 12-year gap between my oldest sister and me, so I was pretty young. I was probably 11 or 12. I was aware of what was going on but not completely aware.
So anyway, we landed and my sister got out.
We were ready to take off to go back to Sequim, and I remember my oldest sister saying, ‘Tighten your seat belts and be good girls on the way home because your dad needs to focus on the airplane.’ So we knew that meant to be quiet and shut up and don’t say anything.
We took off, and all the way home I remember my dad pumping and pumping and pumping. I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on but I knew it had something to do with the landing gear because he was pumping the manual landing gear.
So we got back to Sequim and we kept circling the air strip.
We kept flying and flying and circling and circling. And my mom kept calling on the radio up to the CB because that was normal procedure. She was asking my father why we continued to circle and my father refused to answer. And being a good girl, I didn’t say anything.
So we did this process for — I don’t know, it seemed like an hour, but probably wasn’t. And finally my dad said, ‘I want you to tighten up your seat belts and hold on tight.’
Of course, we didn’t know what was going on.
It turns out he couldn’t get the landing gear down, but thank God this was an amphibious aircraft and the landing strip was grass so we just slid in on the belly.
We got out and we were fine. Then my father proceeded to get the largest tow truck to bring the plane over to the shop so he could work on it.
He had been circling the airfield to burn off the excess fuel before landing.
My mother was furious for two reasons. No. 1, because my father had refused to answer the radio, and two, because he was flying around with her precious cargo, and she knew he was fully capable of landing it out at our cabin at Sequim Bay State Park on the water.
But he knew he wouldn’t be able to work on it there because it would be in the water.
I don’t want to make it sound too bad. It wasn’t horribly risky, but it’s one of the many, many adventures we had with my father and his planes.”