Thursday, July 3, 2003

Memories of Flight, Part 3

I will never forget my friend Jack, a pilot. He finally convinced me to go up in a small airplane with him. Other friends that had flown with him said he was a better pilot than driver, so I eventually gave in and set up a time to go flying. First, we had to fly to Augusta, Ky. and do a "fly over" as he called it, over his daughter's house. He would fly real low, close to the treetops - his way of saying "hello" to her. Then we headed north again.

He wanted to show me Foster's Bridge. Little did I know he wanted to show it to me from underneath the bridge!! Yes, he flew under the bridge. At the time, I was scared to death, but as I look back on that day, it is one of my fondest memories of Jack.

It is just how he lived his life, he did not do anything the "ordinary" way.

Karen Kolesar, Cincinnati

Jan. 24.1991 I flew a Cessna 172 from Hamilton, Ohio to a small field near Sidney,Ohio. After a short visit I prepared for the return flight to Hamilton. I taxied down the runway and made a 180-turn into the wind. A cock pheasant came runnig down the center of the runway. He ran straight toward the propellor so I expected to see flying feathers etc. at any moment. The pheasant missed the prop and took up a position under the right wing. AAAs I advanced the throttle for takeoff the bird started running to keep up with the plane. As the plane accelerated the bird began to fly in formation. When I took off he could no longer keep up. I radioed the field operator to tell the story, he told me the pheasants name is Rocky. and this was a common occurrence. About a year later Rocky was no more-a victim of hunters.

John Habig, Fairfield

My one great story does not involve me personally flying, although the thrill is always there. What it does involve is the thrill of flying that was provided by the dream and hard work of a good friend and fellow (Boy) Scouter - Mr. Gerald (Jerry) Oberlag

Jerry's college major was aeronautical engineering. He now works in Procter & Gamble's paper making business. His love for flying however is still an important part of his life.

One day in the fall of 1994 Jerry approached me with the idea of developing a Fall Camporee centered on the Aviation Merit Badge. This is a very demanding badge for not only does it require a great deal of "book work" it also requires that the Scout take a ride in an airplane. The Ft. Hamilton District normally has 200 to 300 Scouts in attendance at a camporee. This would require approx 15 aircraft (with pilots) to fly the Scouts on a Saturday afternoon.

Jerry had heard that the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Owners Association) has a program to fly 1 million youth by the year 2003 and he saw them as a resource. He enlisted a co-chairman named Tom Burden (Vietnam combat pilot and EAA member) to be "Flight Boss" and a core group of 8-10 people and started the process which turned into 18 months of loving work by a group of over 100 volunteers.

In August of 1996 the "Flight of the Eagle" was held at the Butler County Regional Airport. In attendance were an excess of 400 Scouts and their leaders. Some 30 pilots provided their aircraft and all of the Scouts who wished to were given a flight that they will remember.

Not being one to accept that the job was done, Jerry kept the group together and did it again in 2001 this time flying over 700 Scouts. The program was so well received that it will be done this year in another Area of the Dan Beard Council and then on a rotating basis every other year.

This is all thanks to the vision of one man who loves flying - Gerald (Jerry) Oberlag.

The look on the faces of the Scouts as they stepped off the plane was my highest thrill in flying and I didn't leave the ground.

Carl J. Baur, West Chester

February of 1964, I was two months pregnant with my first child, and air-bound to join my young Air Force husband in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the next few years. It was to be a long trip of ups and downs. Luckily I was through the morning sickness phase of the pregnancy!

The day started out to be foggy and rainy, progressively getting worse as the plane neared St. Louis. Later, I found out that a tornado had hit a suburb of the city before our scheduled landing. The plane hovered around the airport for a while before being able to land. This incident held us up for a few hours.

As the plane headed west, the skies became clear. All of a sudden, I could feel the plane dropping drastically; the seat belt lights came on, and the stewardess announced that the Rockies were below and we had hit an air pocket. It fell and fell, and then sharply began to zoom back up again hurriedly. I closed my eyes and could picture myself on the roller coaster at Americana!

There was too much to see below, so I kept my eyes glued for the rest of the trip to the California coastline. The Grand Canyon was a portrait of watercolors and shadows. There were times I was being drawn into the picture! The entire portrait is forever imbedded into my memory. The clear skies lasted all the way across the Pacific until a large mass of clouds appeared on the dark blue horizon. February was the rainy season for the Hawaiian Islands, but the lush greenery that came into view made up for all the raindrops that were falling. Diamond Head was the first recognizable symbol of two years in paradise. As I left the islands in February of 1966, the plane rose out of raindrops to clear skies. Good-bye, Paradise!

Three summers ago I planned a trip for my husband and myself to one of the last great frontiers, Alaska. During the entire trip, we lost 6 hours and gained them back again upon arrival home. While cruising the Arctic Sea aboard a ship, I saw the sun set at midnight and rise at 3 AM.

On our way to our destination, we flew over areas in the Midwest that seemed to be farmed in perfect circles, rather than squares. The Badlands appeared to be giant barren anthills from the air, such as I could imagine might be found on the Red Planet. A river snaked through the area, as the hills began to be higher and greener. A huge dam came into view, forming a lake. I often wondered if this was the Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia River, or it could have been the Snake River and one of its many dams. In the distance through an area of white fluff, a flattened white peak stood up above the fluff. It reminded me of a picture of Mt. Fuji in Japan. If it stood over any of the other mountains, then it must be Mt. Rainier, minus its peak. A lot of the top was blown off after the last eruption about 5,800 years ago. It had last erupted in the 1840's, with no visible steam spewing out of the top from the air. It stands at 14,410 feet high and is considered the most dangerous volcano in the Cascades, due to its proximity to a large population.

While on the way back to Cincinnati, the pilot tried to avoid strong winds and lightening by flying above the angry clouds, but they soon surrounded the plane, causing it to rock and roll! He changed the course to further North and we landed at Minneapolis. Seatbelts were on all the way! I overheard two stewardesses talking at the ticket counter. One was telling the other that all planes east were grounded, but the one we were scheduled to fly out on, leaving me really apprehensive! One stewardess wouldn't go, but apparently the airline found a gal who did... The rest of the ride was turbulent, until we were over northern Indiana. My heart pounded so that I could hear and see it move beneath my shirt! Wet hands gripped the chair arms and I grabbed my husband's hand every time the plane bounced! I made out the face of my recently departed Mother in the clouds. The image seemed to reassure me that it would soon be over. When the sky cleared, twinkling stars were above and twinkling lights were below, creating a feeling of calm once again. Soon the lights of the Greater Cincinnati Airport came into view and I could hardly wait to feel my feet on land.

Would I undergo the experience of flight again? You can bet I would! When I was up in the air, I saw and observed so much, but there is so MUCH more out there. The stars and lights are beckoning me to partake of new discoveries beyond my imagination. Orville and Wilbur must have felt the same calling; Neil Armstrong and John Glenn felt it too. Such small steps, but each step leads onward and upward to newer frontiers. I may not see a new one, but I am encouraging my grandchildren to add rungs to the ladder, by seeking their own adventures with the quest for new discoveries through flight. Thanks Orville and Wilbur for the experiences of a lifetime...

Jan Beedle, Franklin

As a young man, I was very privileged to earn my pilot's license through the Civil Air Patrol in my home state of Tennessee. Later, while a senior at university, I took part in an internship in South Africa made possible by the ending of the Apartheid regime, and decided seize upon the rare and golden opportunity to earn my South African flight permit. Quickly I learned just how different flying in Africa was to that in the United States! Such a starkly different yet vibrant landscape Africa offers to those with a yearning for adventure.

Despite the hazards of poor services and dismal aircraft maintenance, and perhaps with more bravado than common sense, I took myself in a single-engine Cessna 172 up to the neighboring country of Botswana and its famous lush expanses of the Okavango River Delta. A spanning true wilderness region, the Okavango is one of the world's great pristine wildlife areas, where the multitude of animals live unspoiled in their natural habitat and the wild beauty of the watery landscape extends as far as the eye can see. I can never forget the thrill of skimming above the treetops, the wind rushing through the open windows as I gazed down upon the breathtaking scenery, savoring the sight of wild elephants, huge crocodiles, and flocks of exotic birds passing just beneath my meager wings. Of course I'd absently left my camera at base camp, but I'll surely never lose the vivid memory of such an incredible experience made real for me by the dream to be a pilot. What incredible joys flying can offer to those willing to open their lives to it.

Justin Drafts, Wilmington

Our family's favorite flight tale happened when our son, Dan, was about 3 years old. As the thrust of liftoff pressed us back in our seats, Dan commanded in a VERY loud voice, "Look out, God! Here we come and we don't want to run over you!" I never take off without a chuckle brought on by that memory.

Patti Normile, Terrace Park

It was in 1932 that the name of Amelia Earhart became a byword when she was the first woman flyer to solo cross the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland.

It was during the late 30s that I, as a child, began gluing strips of balsa wood together making miniature model airplanes. Something I did because of my yearnings to be a woman flyer when I grew up. I wanted to wear jodhpurs and a white scarf, just like Amelia did. Every girl and boy in my neighborhood wanted to be a flyer and had the same yearning because of the popularity of Earhart, and Lindberg before her. Now after 60 years, my dream of flying was about to come true.

My brother-in-law, John Costello, had a pilot's license he had earned on the G. I. Bill after leaving the U. S. Navy and was coming to visit from California. I decided to take him out to Harrison Airport nearby so he could accompany me on my very first flying lesson.

The plane we'd fly in was a Cessna 182 model, sparkling white with blue strips, a modern day light plane with new modern design, and I was going to get to fly it. It was certainly not like sitting in a seat in a big 747 Jet airliner in an area as wide as a small room. At most, the width of the front seat of our Cessna trainer plane was less than four feet wide with two-bucket seats, side by side. The rear seat was approximately three-foot wide where the body of the plane begins to thin close to the tail section. I calculated the wingspan to be about 25 feet wide, maybe less. I'm not a good judge of length. I really wasn't measuring the plane. Size was not germane to Jet aircraft; there was no comparison. When I saw it, it looked small standing next to it.

Our Cessna plane had dual controls, one for the pilot and one for the student, me. There was a seat in back for two passengers. John climbed into the plane and sat down in the rear seat, fastening his seat belt. I hesitated a moment and then lifted myself into the student's seat next to the pilot. The instructor reached over and began fastening my seat belt pulling it so tight around my waist I thought I'd not be able to breath. Then he placed another belt around my two shoulders laughing as he said, "Don't want you to fall out when we get up there, the doors sometimes come open." Was he kidding me? Yes! Both he and John began laughing.

I couldn't see over the 'dashboard' and I asked, "Do you have a pillow I can sit on so I can see out?" Both men laughed again. There was nothing to see except sky in front of us. Laughing again, the pilot informed me it wasn't a dashboard but was called a flight panel. I kept saying dumb things and asking dumb questions, things that made them laugh and they kept kidding me. The palms of my hands were sweaty and I had felt butterflies in my stomach but the tension was over when I too began laughing, the tension almost entirely gone now.

There were 'dual' steering wheels in front of both seats, open at the top so that it wasn't a complete circle. The pilot started the engine and the propeller in front of the plane began to move in its circle. The pilot began explaining to me what was happening. He had two foot pedals that controlled the movement of the rudder on the ground. One pedal was used to turn left, and the other to turn right. We moved forward as he taxied to the runway where we'd be taking off.

When he reached the end of the runway he picked up a small notebook and his radio, speaking to the girl in the office, jotting down notes in his book about his flight plans. He'd asked me where I wanted to go. I told him over to Bright where my daughter Linda Knight lived. I guessed he wrote; where we were headed, so they could keep in contact with other planes and the girl in the office.

Then the pilot began explaining all the knobs and small windows that indicated air speed, altitude, alternators, and the rest of the flight instruments. This one little glass circle simulated an airplane across a horizontal line showing the airplanes flight pattern in order to keep the wings straight. He fully explained all the rest of the controls that would fly the airplane. Finally, the girl on the other end of the radio gave him permission to take off. She said, "Cleared for takeoff!"

The pilot instructor began revving up the engine with the throttle until the plane engine was running fast but smoothly. Then the plane leaped forward. We were moving steadily until I finally noticed the ground leaving us as we went up, up, higher and higher. We were airborne as the pilot circled the field and banked the plane heading south toward the Ohio River.

I felt exhilarated as the plane moved. It felt different from flying in a huge passenger jet. I could feel the wind in the wings and occasional air turbulence that John called "sky pot holes". I could hear the engine turning and it was hard to hear the pilot.

I'd called my daughter to tell her to look for our plane. It seemed like such a long time until we reached River Road and banked right. I thought we were still over the river but the pilot told us it was Hidden Valley Lake. We were high above State Line Road heading north again searching for my daughter's house. Then we saw it. We were about high above it. I could barely see someone in the front yard watching the plane, waving as the pilot circled the house several times. My camcorder was catching the action out of the side window. Oh! This was just great!

It was then that the pilot told me to "Take the stick, Jackie." What stick? I asked, "Do you mean the steering wheel?" They both laughed. "The stick, dummy!" John said. So I did! The pilot said, "Don't worry, I've got the stick too."

I held the 'stick'. I was flying the plane, at least, for a few minutes until I heard John call out from the back seat. "Pull back the stick, you're nosing down." I pulled back on it and the pilot called out, "No, that's too far, we're going up." About this time, I just wasn't sure of myself and I was getting yelled at and told the pilot to take over. I'd need more than a moment in time to learn how to keep an airplane level in the sky. At this point, I sure didn't feel like Amelia Earhart.

We'd been flying over 45 minutes when John said something to the pilot I couldn't hear. John was getting seasick. No, carsick! No, airsick! I have teased John unmercifully ever since.

The trees on the ground looked like green upside down clouds as they got bigger as the ground came up to meet us. I thought I would hear the screeching of the brakes, but there was none. We landed like a feather floating down forward the landing was so perfect. I could barely feel the wheels touch the ground as we landed.

Dreams are wishes the heart makes, and I'm so glad my childhood wish finally came true. Thanks to Johnny Lee! I hope he'll remember; always sit in the front seat so he won't get airsick again. Maybe next time I'll leave the 'driving' to him.

I'd hesitated about going up in the first place. I worried a little. I even had the feeling of being scared, but when I got out of the plane, there wasn't even a wet spot on the seat I'd just vacated. I wanted to go up again and now I can, every time I view the videotape of my first flying lesson.

Jacqueline Costello, Cleves

I have a little story to tell about my first airplane trip. Many years ago when I was in my senior year at U.C., I went to Florida at spring break with my parents. Although we drove down, it was necessary to fly back in order to be at school on time. I boarded the plane in Ft. Lauderdale in the evening. The Captain and Co-pilot along with the stewardesses greeted each passenger as they boarded. The plane was not very full. Shortly after I was seated, the stewardess came by and said the Captain had requested that I come forward and join him in the cockpit. I was flabbergasted. Why did he want me? I nervously stood and followed her to the front of the plane. The pilot greeted me in the doorway. The co-pilot stepped out and I stepped in and sat in his seat. What a thrill! Here I was, surrounded by all kinds of lights and switches and semi-darkness and a starlit sky. What a beautiful sight! Although in my mind, I questioned why I had been singled out to enjoy "the view" he didn't make a pass and I was allowed to sit there for a little while, totally immersed in the peace and beauty of night flying and the thrill of being in the cockpit. This was something that would never be repeated in this day and age and was something I treasured all my life. The year was 1951.

Jackie Soper, Cincinnati

The plane thundered down the runway, full open throttle, then came to a screeching halt! My first flight turned into an aborted takeoff! I was at Big Delta, Alaska on a clear, below zero February day in 1954.

More than a year after being drafted I was headed home on leave from "Big D." The plane was a two-engine, twin tail prop job with a history of reluctance to leave the ground if speeds, weights, etc. weren't right. It transported troops and gear from Fort Campbell, Ky. to test men and machinery during winter airborne exercises. Having delivered the troops the plane was returning to its base near Nashville, Tenn.Ours was a small base, 105 miles from Fairbanks, built during World War II. It was used with the Russians for supply line logistics. Housing was mostly Quonset hut built during that era. Russian and US pilots had used the small air field and support infrastructure for aircraft ferrying. By 1954 concern was the lack of concord between us - hence the intensive training and testing programs. Occasionally, transitory personnel had to make do wherever a cot was available. One of the pilots stayed in our ten man hut and offered a trip back to Nashville, Tenn. All we had to do was clear orders, gear up properly for the trip and report to the plane. If the pilot then said OK, we were on! We showed up in our Arctic gear, Bunny boots and all, helped load the cargo and followed it into the plane. The Captain looked us over, helped us into standard issue parachutes and gave instructions for their fitting and potential use. The thought of jumping out into Yukon Territory flitted across our mind and held little appeal. We lowered the side seat rack, belted up and roared off - to a very abrupt stop at the end of the runway! Now what? As we taxied back to the end of the runway for another try I recalled the pilot's earlier voiced opinion that the plane was a good one. The problem lay in taking it airborne too soon - hence, another try. Now - a successful launch into the wild blue yonder. First leg of the way home took us over the wilds of Canada's Yukon. In winter that far north the days are short and there's not much to see in the dim light. We landed at the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton, Alberta and spent the night as their guests. I recall pleasantly the dinner and breakfast meals in the Queen's Dining Hall - and the presence of many lovely women in the military mix, unlike our somewhat spartan life at Big D. Continuing flight involved a quick stop at Great Falls, Montana, then on to Nashville. Unexpected and still some 600 miles from home in Detroit, MI, I showed up at the downtown YMCA for a night's lodging in their dormitory. Decked out in my Arctic gear with Screaming Polar Bear shoulder patch, my presence was a curiosity. I had a good time sharing my first flight with kindred spirits.

Harold E. Johnson, Mason,

My wife Heidi has always had a love for flying, she attained her private pilots license at the ripe old age of 18. But that does not compare to her latest rating. This past summer Heidi, who was 3 months pregnant at the time, decided to go after her "Instrument Rating" to be certified to fly in bad weather. Her father, Bill Farrell. who is a accomplished pilot himself is very proud of his daughter and has always been behind her through thick and thin and this time was no exception. He told Heidi that she could accomplish anything that she puts her mind to. So they went to Sporty's to see about getting her instrument rating. Sporty's set her up with Theresa Clark, a seasoned woman pilot who immediately befriended Heidi and off they went. It took Heidi 5 months of flying to prepare for the final test and 3 of the months were during the hottest part of the summer. I remember she told me that the only thing that would calm down the baby was the roar of the engine. The day of the flight test was a hot muggy day; I met Heidi at the airport to make sure she knew I supported her. We went inside Sporty's where we were to meet her examiner Al Passel. Since she was 8 months pregnant, the first question that the examiner asked her was if she did a weight and balance. He indicated that never before has he flown with a woman that was 8 months pregnant and was worried about their combined weight. Heidi showed him all the calculations and assured him that she was ready to get her rating. So off they went and two hours later "Amazing Heidi" passed her test. She was now an instrumented rated pilot. One month later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Sophie, and encouraged me to go after my private's license. This was a good thing because who would of thought that the only thing that would calm Sophie down was not the typical ride in the car, but a ride up to the airport to hear the roar of the planes. We are now due to have a second child and already "Amazing Heidi" is thinking about getting her commercial rating. Heidi we all love you, you are truly amazing.

John Meegan, Cincinnati

One of my most memorable experiences in regards to aviation happened about fifteen years ago. I was working with a small airline in Ft.Lauderdale (Florida Express). A pilot friend of mine asked if I would join him on a cross country trip on his brother's single engine, two seater, Lake Amphibian seaplane to Seattle. His brother had sold the seaplane and Walt, my friend was going to deliver it. I said "YES" immediately and then cancelled at 10:00 p.m. the night before because there happened to be two small unrelated plane crashes in the Everglades that week. I had flown commercial a lot but never had been in a small plane. I woke up and decided to go and not miss this opportunity and to this day I am so glad I changed my mind. It is still one of my most memorable life experiences.

We took a southern route, followed the Gulf coast, then over the Grand Canyon where Walt gave me the controls. I remember beads of sweat just pouring down my face. What a feeling and what a view. Flying a few thousand feet up verses thirty thousand feet really changes the flying experience. We landed at small landing strips with not much of anything which really takes you back in time. We never landed in the water due to the sale of the airplane. We then went up the coast of California and then landed in Seattle. This trip took four days and the beauty of it was there was a high pressure system over the entire country and we never passed a cloud. Not one. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have made a trip like that one.

Kim Frey, Bethel

I have spent my share of time in the air, both on commercial and military aircraft, but my scariest flight took place aboard a C5-A transport in 1971 while I was stationed with the U.S. Air Force at Pope AFB, NC. Pope had been granted a C5-A for testing by its Tactical Airlift Center. I was assigned to the 464th Tactical Airlift Wing information office and was scheduled to ride the C5-A on a night test flight for the purpose of writing a feature story on the experience for the base newspaper.

The C5-A was a mammoth airplane capable of transporting hundreds of troops and almost any type of equipment including jeeps and trucks. It was the brainstorm of engineers at Lockheed and the pipe dream of military commanders because of its long range capability. But there were problems. The C5-A had structural troubles and spent more time on the ground at Pope than it did in the air.

On the evening of my flight, the aircraft commander had filed a flight plan that would take myself and a full aircrew on a loopover El Paso, Texas, then back to Pope. The entire mission would last less than four hours. The plane took off with a roar and we were quickly at 30,000 feet. As the plane approached the Mississippi River, something went wrong.

I heard a hard rush of air at the front of the aircraft and crew members began scurrying about, pumping their open palms to their faces indicating that we should put on the oxygen masks that were now dangling before us. A pressure seal had broken on the flight deck. The pilot drove the C5-A to a lower altitude, aborted the mission, and flew the plane back to Pope.

We landed safely about an hour later, but confidence in this new giant of the skies was once again rattled. The C5-A continued to be tested and eventually found its way into regular service, but military leaders continued to rely on the proven and reliable C-130 Hercules and C-141 Starlifter for serious transportation. Both of these aircraft played important tactical roles in the war with Iraq.

Michael J. Matre, Fairfield

You really had to be there.

I remember the very first time I took an airplane trip. It was in 1979 and I was heading to Florida with a group of my "then" single friends looking forward to the beach, sand, surf, and other, uh, shapely pursuits. Up until that time I had no real conception of the miracle of flight nor of the truth of what it is like to be on a plane. You know how it is... you watch TV, you see movies or read what others have written about flying or speak to friends or family who have "made the trip", but when you actually have the experience somehow it's altogether different!

When we arrived and had gotten our tickets and luggage matters straightened out, we were informed that our flight would be delayed 30 minutes. Is this standard procedure? Anyway, one friend of mine, Mike, who knew this was my first time, used this as a springboard for comments like: "They need to make sure the wings won't fall off." OR - "Perhaps the pilot is still asleep, long fights you know." His comments were sly, sarcastic little bits designed to engender some fear in this novice. And darned if they weren't at least a little bit effective!

Finally, after 40 minutes of this abuse (yeah, the flight missed the 30 minute mark), we were granted the privilege of boarding the plane. Once on board, the first revelation was the very narrow aisle. I'm not a big person, really rather slender, but my, it seemed more cramped than my newly purchased Honda Civic! And even the seating seemed cramped. Like human sardines we were packed tightly together! Quite unlike the many TV shows I'd seen which depicted more spacious accommodations. Oh, the one thing I forgot to mention was that this was a nighttime trip, so my insistence on having a window seat seems superfluous now. What could I possibly see during the middle of the night? And indeed all I saw were the runway lights as we taxied down to the on-ramp, or whatever they call it. As the sound of the engines revved up, Mike, who just happen to be seated next to me, worried in my ears that the plane might stall just as it took off. I tried to ignore him as the vehicle started its run for the roses. And within mere seconds, we were off!

I felt a pressure pushing me back into my seat and the "feel" of the wheels below us transmitted a kind of bounce as we proceeded. Then the "bounce" slowly disappeared and I realized we were floating! Airborne at last! As the plane began it's climb and the lights started to diminish in the window, Mike asked me if I had any gum. "No, why?" I replied. "It might help in the changing cabin pressure." He said. I was about to comment when there occurred this strange popping in my ears. At first I thought my hearing was going, but somehow it became clearer. Clear enough to hear Mike inform me of the reason for the "POP"! As we settled down for the flight, some of our party even went to sleep which I could not do. But I did attempt to be calm since I couldn't see the ground. This might seem trivial, but I do suffer from acrophobia. Mike was also just about asleep when, suddenly, the plane shook jarringly! I turned to him in dismay, what was happening? "Oh nothing." He said. "It's only turbulence. There's not too much chance the plane will shake apart." I turned to the window, my eyes wider with that remark. But nothing happened. Whew! And after a couple of hours of relative boredom, the plane began it's decent through the darkness. Only one last "surprise" greeted me as the landing began and that was the "slam" as the wheels touched down.

I survived it, thankfully, and that vacation in Florida was certainly one of the most memorable and enjoyable times I've had. Now, do you want to know about the flight back?

Calvin (Joe) Cox, Cleves

When I was going through the Army's flight training program in 1971, one of the final phases of Primary Training was a long cross-country flight in the tiny helicopters that we used for training. These helicopters, similar to the one eaten in the "Jaws" movie, cruised at a rompin# stompin' 80 mph. They were driven by 5 fan belts, and were sometimes referred to as "Mattel Messerschmidts". That day, my stick buddy and I - along with the other 34 or so folks in the flight - took off from Mineral Wells, Texas (west of Ft. Worth), heading to Ardmore, OK. Being conscientious, dedicated, wannabe aviators, we planned our route; calculated the headings, figuring in our speed and the effect of the forecast winds; and looked forward to this great adventure. So, off we went.

About an hour later, as we were approaching the airport, we heard the other crews in front of us calling the tower on the radio requesting landing instructions. As we approached the airport, we did the same.

Executing an flawless pattern entry, we proceeded downwind - but noticed that we were the only ones visible in the pattern. Given the traffic on the radio, this was somewhat surprising - but then, maybe they were already on the ground getting their soda and resting for the next leg.

Entering cross-wind, then turning final, we started to really worry because we could now see the length of the runway with nary a helicopter in sight. Executing a quick "go around", we immediately took off and climbed back to altitude to figure this out....

Suddenly, we noticed something - on the map, the Ardmore Municipal airport was on the very edge. Turning the map over, we found - you guessed it - a much BIGGER airport called Ardmore International. THAT was the airport we were supposed to head for. Pushing the cyclic full forward to max speed (a blistering 90 mph), we then re-called the tower and said that we were a "bit further out" than we had expected, but were now inbound. We then made an uneventful landing - and never told our classmates of our "detour".

John Bowers, Terrace Park

A few years ago I was leaving Reagan International on a full moon night. It was beautiful and we flew out lower than usual past all the monuments. I did question this in my mind but figured it was a crystal clear night and we were being treated with the view. The beauty of DC gone, we finally banked to the left toward Cincinnati but the turn kept coming and soon I saw out the other side of the plane, the monuments in the distance.

I was scared to death mainly because no one was saying anything and the seasoned travelers, who I always keep an eye on to judge if there is danger, did not even put down their papers.

Finally an announcement was made of a problem with the landing gear and "as soon as the fire crew were on stand by we would land." We flew around and around. Only one passenger "lost it" by calling many relatives to announce he may die in a emergency landing.

All went well . We were asked if we wanted to wait on the plane while it was repaired or get off and fly home on another flight. All wanted off the plane. ...and we waited.

An hour later we reboarded a second plane and there was a slight delay during which a workman with a tool box entered the flight cabin for 1/2 hour. We then were told they needed to get a OK to fly out after 10 p.m. We did fly out at 10:30 and arrived safely home.

Did you know it is only 8 hours to drive from Cincy to DC and I have enjoyed many excellent audio books on tape?

Carol Litkenhaus, Cincinnati

To give a bit of background, before launching into a somewhat offbeat memory of glider experiments during World War II, I joined a Kentucky National Guard unit in 1939 as a 17-year old. This unit was Federalized January 1, 1940. Originally a horse cavalry troop, it was converted to an anti-aircraft company when called to active duty. Since I had been very interested in flying, and in fact, had taken a few lessons while in high school, when the Air Corps opened the flying sergeants program in 1941 (at that time the minimum age for the flying cadet program was 21), I applied. I was transferred to the USAAC.

I went through primary training and on in to basic where just prior to graduation I committed an unpardonable sin! On the final night of smudge pot landings, I managed to hit a light truck, sent out because of deteriorating weather, demolishing the truck and the BT-15. I was washed out! Just at that time a glider pilot program was getting underway and so I requested to be assigned to that effort.

That program started with a lot of time in light planes, like Cubs, involving such tactics as killing the engine at 5,000 feet at night and gliding down to land guided by a smudge pot. Ultimately we did fly CG-4A,s towed by C47,s. The CG-4A could carry 15 airborne troops and a jeep. A C-47 could tow two and possibly three cargo gliders.

After graduation, as flight officers, we spent several months in a troop carrier squadron, training both glider pilots and tow pilots.

Someone in the upper echelons must have worried about how to retrieve the gliders and the pilots after they had delivered their troops. So in 1943 an experimental unit was cobbled together to test a method that had been devised. At that time our squadron was based at Pope Field (Fort Bragg). The experimental unit, to which I had been assigned on temporary duty, assembled in South Carolina. The system to be tested consisted of two poles, about ten to twelve feet high and a long Nylon tow rope with a loop at the pickup end which was suspended between the two poles, located about 15 feet apart. The other end of the tow rope was attached to the regular towing fixture on the glider. The pickup plane was equipped with a pole carrying a latch on the pickup end. This could be lowered in flight. The latch was detachable and carried a length of tow rope attached to a winch in the tow plane. The idea was that the tow plane would reduce speed and swoop down low enough to engage the latch on the pickup pole to the loop suspended on the two upright ground poles.

The equipment for the test consisted of CG-4A gliders and Douglas B-23,s, a bomber which was rarely used actively but was a stable and easy to fly aircraft, as pickup tow planes .

The first time I flew the test glider, it was quite an experience! Rather than the tow plane roaring down the runway and the glider accelerating until it could lift off and climb through the slipstream easing the load on the tow plane, one sat and listened for the pick up plane as it approached from the rear. Then it was overhead and, with luck, it connected with the loop of the tow rope, went to full throttle, and began to climb. The tow rope had a substantial amount of "give" and the winch in the tow plane had a brake that was gradually applied. Nevertheless, the effect on the CG-4A was similar to being catapulted! It was necessary for the glider to climb as rapidly as possible to get through the slipstream of the tow plane and to reduce the drag as much as possible. In the tow plane, this was a quite exciting experience for the pilots! First, they had to get low enough so that the relatively short pickup arm could contact the glider's tow rope loop and secondly get that pickup arm was in the narrow space between the two upright poles supporting the pick up loop. When contact was made, even though the "give" of the tow rope and the gradual braking of the winch softened the impact, the dead weight of the CG-4A had to be accelerated to flying speed, imposing quite a load on the pickup plane! It was a sticky moment for the pilot of the tow plane!

A number of successful pickups were made over the two weeks of the period and the tests appeared to demonstrate that this system was feasible. However, I have no knowledge of its use in combat! This in spite of a number of opportunities in Europe in the invasion and the mission which became the background for "A Bridge too Far"!

W. H. Long, Wyoming

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