Thursday, July 3, 2003

Memories of Flight, Part 4



During World War II, I was repatriated from Stalag 1X-B, Germany, on an Air Force hospital flight direct from Paris to New York. Because of lice and scabies, I flew the Atlantic lying naked on a stretcher. My helmet between my knees contained a small bottle of Lily of the Valley perfume, which a French Red Cross nurse bought for me to take to my mother.

The plane had to refuel in the Azores and in Newfoundland. As we approached the Azores, the Army flight nurse told me to put on an orange "Mae West" flotation jacket. I told her I was warm enough, and she said to look out the window. I rolled over on the stretcher, looked down, and saw that the landing runway started under water on one side of the island and went back under the other side. She said, "If we do it wrong, you'll need Mae West." (We didn't make waves landing or taking off.)

We had left Paris at 12:10 midnight, and after the two refuelings, circled the Statue of Liberty at 8 p.m. that evening in the golden light of sunset. It took me until 11 p.m.to get the courage to use the Red Cross free phone to tell my parents I was home but had "lost a little weight" - 116 pounds in 106 days.

Robert Clark, Cincinnati

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I was a flight attendant for United Airlines from 1969 to 1975. Take a step back in time to when the Airlines are serving appetizers, cocktails and dinner on a flight that is about an hour long and a full load of passengers. Talk about running your butt off and passengers landing with dinner trays on their laps!

So picture yourself aboard a Boeing 737 and I am your friendly stewardess assisting with boarding , seat assignments and carry-on luggage. Yes, another full load with the luggage and carry on bags crammed under the seats. Up up and away we go and it's time to put on our running shoes and serve 70 passengers cocktails and dinner. I was the tray runner on that memorable day and I mean the runner, more like the 100-yard dash. I was fast and a little slimmer in those days so I was ready for the challenge. I am running the race of my life with trays in hand and my foot gets caught in the handle of a giant suitcase crammed under the aisle seat. I can feel myself falling and flying through the air and not with the greatest of ease. Yes, I fall flat on my face and my trays with ham, peas and scalloped potatoes fall into the laps of two of my passengers. As I hit the ground and skin my knee I yell a four-letter word and look up from the floor to the eyes of 70 passengers hanging over their seats watching my in-flight entertainment.

Just another day in the Friendly Skies, one that I will never forget.

Cherie Miller, Loveland

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Almost thirty years ago, my new husband and I flew to Palm Beach for our honeymoon. I had never flown before, so to make it extra special my new partner in life purchased two first class tickets. Boy was I impressed! I thought I had picked a real winner! I was a little nervous about the flight that morning, but Ron assured me that there was nothing to fear. He was right, the flight was routine. However, just as the wheels were touching the runway, a big flame shot out of one of the engines. I of course was sitting by the window (so I'd have a better view on my maiden voyage)and was hysterical! Ron very calmly looked at me and said that this occurs every time, just like when the NASA rockets take off. Not until a we landed did my new mate tell me that he had never seen anything like that before. Keep in mind that Ron was a control tower operator in Vietnam and had seen hundreds of take-offs and landings. We had a wonderful honeymoon and ten days later headed back to Cincinnati to begin our new life together. As I walked onto the plane for our return trip, I turned to my husband to ask which first-class seats we had been assigned for the return trip. Much to my surprise, while we were in Palm Beach, my new husband had called our travel agent and exchanged our first class tickets to coach. As I like to say, either he was disappointed in my honeymoon "performance", or as the saying goes "the honeymoon was over." After nearly thirty years, we've flown all over the world together (Ron even sent me to Italy last year to cooking school for my 50th birthday) but there was something special about that first flight together. Was it an insight into what was to come? Probably. But I wouldn't have changed a thing. Ron has always kept me guessing and laughing, and I hope that never changes.

Carole Meldon, Cincinnati

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As a pilot in the Army Air Corps in 1945, we had many exciting missions while flying in China-India-Burma. While flying C-47 transports in Burma, one mission was to supply OSS troops. The OSS troops were operating behind enemy lines to recruit and train local Burmese to fight the Japanese. On one flight into an unimproved field, we punctured a main-landing gear tire.

Since we carried no spare tires, we had to remain overnight awaiting a replacement. The OSS personnel were pretty cool and alert but I was pretty uncomfortable being in a jungle camp behind enemy lines overnight.

Fortunately, we were not attacked that evening. Flying the HUMP between Burma and China seemed less daunting.

Larry Wilbers, Cincinnati

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The details of the flight are a little fuzzy, but the memory remains as vivid as if it had happened yesterday. "The flight," was my first solo flight on the way to becoming a private pilot.My journey to this flight began on July 4 with a free demonstration flight with an instructor named Tom. The demonstration flight was a precursor to taking flying lessons. We took off in a Cessna 150, a small two-seater, that eventually became my home away from home for the next three months. We climbed to the Northwest, did a couple of turns, and flew up over the tree-covered mountains. Within minutes of leaving the ground, I was hooked, ready to sign up immediately, but Tom wasn't finished selling though. He let me fly the plane. I signed up 15 minutes later and started lessons the next morning. My first solo flight happened on a clear, cloudless, windless late July evening in Bennington,Vermont. The sky to the West was a brilliant orange, while the ground and surrounding mountains gave off a pale blue hue. I had just finished flying patterns with instructor Tom. I had been flying twice a day, morning and evening, with Tom, and was waiting for days for him to ask me when I wanted to solo. After the final landing of the lesson, we taxied over to the tie down area, the normal routine, however that's when normal ended. Tom opened the right door of the plane, climbed out, and told me it was time to solo. He didn't ask, he didn't suggest, he told me it was time. I must have had a look of fear on my face, because he added "you're ready." My first thought was, in fact, absolute surprise, followed by fear, followed by excitement, followed by fear again, as he shut the door. Tom walked away, going over to sit in the grass by the taxi way, leaving me to wonder what I was going to do.I distinctly remember taxiing past him toward the edge of the runway thinking okay, I know what I'm doing, I've done this hundreds of times, well not hundreds, but many, I just needed to do what I'd always done successfully before. But Tom was always with me before, and there was always that security that if something went wrong, Tom would take over. As Tom watched, I taxied to the edge of runway 31, and did my run up to check the instruments to be sure everything was working right Bennington is a one runway airport, and you have to taxi onto the runway to get to the end before taking off. There isn't a tower, but there is someone on duty for a local air freight company, we called him the freight guy, that controls the air traffic around the airport. "Bennington, 2-9 Victor backtracking on three-one," I said before going on to the runway. I checked the air around the airport, got the okay from the freight guy, and backtracked to the end of 31. As I turned at the end, lining up my nose wheel on the center line, I remember thinking this is what I've been practicing for, I can do this. Then I thought to my self "but..."I gave the plane full power, and 2-9 Victor began to slowly pick up speed as it moved down the runway. I didn't roar, it didn't race, it just sort of went, slowly. Working the foot pedals so that I kept going straight, I watched the airspeed indicator waiting to reach lift off speed. Once the little Cessna did, I gradually pulled back on the yoke and the plane and I lifted off the ground. As the ground fell away, it was like magic. We, the plane and I, gradually climbed to 1,500 feet, moving through the calm air without a bump or ripple. The sensation was like floating. Once I climbed to 1,500 feet, I made a slow right turn, notified the freight guy, and then made a second right turn putting me on the downwind leg of the pattern. Bennington, unlike most airports, has a right hand pattern for its landing, meaning that when you are in the downwind leg, you are flying parallel to the runway, with the runway on the right, heading in the opposite direction of when you take off. As I flew the downwind, I could see Tom sitting on the grass. I wondered how many of these events he had seen in his career.I was jolted back to reality when another plane broke the radio silence to let the freight guy know that he was entering the pattern behind me from the west. As it turned out, he was far enough away that he wasn't going to cause any problem for me. When I reached a point 45 degrees off the edge of the runway, I made two more right turns, the second one setting me up for my approach and landing. I kept thinking, this is the critical part, this is where you have to be very precise, or you can get in trouble. Tom always told me that accidents happen on take offs and landings not because of one major problem, but a series of small problems that aren't corrected. I was determined that there were going to be no problems, major or minor. I watched the runway, watched the lights to be sure I was on the proper glide path, reduced my airspeed, added flaps, and slowly floated over the edge of the runway. As I did so, I reduced power, pulled the nose up slightly, and flared to a perfect landing, gradually letting the nose wheel touch down. The combination of elation, relief, and feeling of achievement is difficult, if not impossible to explain. Tom rushed over to the tie down area to congratulate me on a perfect solo flight. He has probably told that to hundreds of others, but I knew he really meant it for me.The emotions of that event were varied and numerous. Fear, excitement, anxiety, self confidence, self achievement, doubt, and satisfaction were all experienced, but in the end, remembering that accomplishment is what remains vivid to this day. Flying through the air, feeling as if you're floating on nothing, and getting a plane up into the air and back on to the ground safely is amazing - especially when you do it solo.

Stan Flower, Amelia

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This avaition experience began during the late spring of my eleventh birthday ('53). My uncle Ray had received his private pilot's license some eighteen months before at the Hamilton Airport and was the family's only aviator.

Before this particular "hop" to Indianapolis, we had taken several local flights by renting one of the Cessena 120/140s (2 seat tail-draggers) available that Ray was checked out to fly. This was to be our first cross-country flight, even though the distance traveled was only 100 miles from our home base.

We departed on a westerly course, using V.F.R. (visual flight rules), in broken cumulous clouds. The weather forecast was to remain the same throughout the day. Our crusing altitude was low enough to allow us to follow the railroad tracks over to our destination; a practice used by the early mail-plane pilots such as Charles Lindberg. After an hours flight we landed at a local F.B.O. airport for a lunch of burgers and fries.

Before our return flight home, Ray was told that we might incure a weather system change involving rain/showers with possible overcast.

Just east of Indy, we could see the developing rain. Ray elected to climb above the disturbance. The clouds were still broken some 4,000 ft. below our crusing altitude of 8,000 ft. The view was spectatular; a blanket of white clouds below as far as the eye could see.

Using the factors of speed, flying time, and compass readings, my uncle was using dead reconning to find our location on this return flight. Once our location over the hamilton area was established, the cloud-cover below was solid with no visual reference to the ground.

This pleasure trip had taken a potentlly deadly turn if it were not for Ray's training and pilot skills.

We began a slow spiral decent into the clouds, emersing our small aircraft into a gray fog with zero visability, except for our wings. The chance of other aircraft being in the same cloud is always a possibility. After several minutes of non-visual references, disorientation sets in - were it not for the instruments telling the pilot otherwise. We glanced at each other to see how the other was holding up. Since we had no knowledge of our exact location to known hazards (hills with tall radio/tv towers, etc...).

Finally, we broke through the overcase at 1200 feet, five miles from home. Never before, or since, was a landing so welcomed.

Steve Plapp, Cincinnati

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Aviation has been a part of my life ever since I was a young man growing up in Lancaster, PA. I used to rake hay on my father's farm and watch the small planes fly in and out of the Lancaster Municipal Airport. I wondered where the planes were coming from, where they were going and dreamed that, someday I too might break the bonds of gravity and fly off to the far corners of the world. Little did I know how those dreams would become reality.

Somewhere around age 8 or 9 I took my first airplane ride. It was cheap. I didn't weigh much and the charge was just a penny/pound. I'll never forget that first sensation of watching the earth drop away below me. It hooked me for life. I knew I wanted to be a pilot.

My flying career has taken me all over the world and across a wide spectrum of aviation. I learned to fly at the Lancaster Municipal Airport. I worked my way up through my commercial, instrument, multi-engine and instructor ratings by working all day in construction jobs in order to pay for another hour of flight time in the evenings. After 2 years of study at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas I gained my qualifications to work on aircraft as an A&P mechanic (Airframe & Powerplant) and I was ready to launch into my aviation career.

I needed to build hours in order to get a real flying job. So, I bought an old forlorn 1946 Cessna 120 that was rotting away in a man's backyard. In between working as an aircraft mechanic and a flight instructor, I spent a year completely rebuilding it and then took to the sky for the trip of a lifetime. I experienced America at 1,000 feet and 100 knots as I barnstormed across the country from coast to coast and north to south. I camped out at little country airports, watched the St. Louis arch go by, flew along the rim of the Grand Canyon and flew over Old Faithful under a full moon. I didn't really have an itinerary, just a start and stop date. What a beautiful country! What a way to see it!

But I had goals for what I wanted to do with my aviation interests. I had been heavily impacted by the stories of mission aviation pilots that flew the bush in support of frontier missionaries in third world countries. I knew that was what I really wanted to do. And since there was no place to really learn to do that type of flying in the lower 48, I went off to Alaska to hone my skills.

Now the Eskimos had been flying for years before I arrived there in 1979. They had a lot to teach me. The first rule was that it is unsafe to fly above 1,000 feet AGL (above ground level). At least that is the way the bush pilots in the lower Yukon River Valley had been doing for years and the view from 1,000 feet is what the passengers were used to seeing. In fact, bush passengers had concluded that it was better to stay below 1,000 feet so that if something when wrong, you wouldn't have so far to the ground. So when this green horn from the "outside" decided to take the plane up to 3,000 feet, one of the passengers quickly tapped me on the shoulder, informed me that this was definitely unsafe and that I'd better get the plane down to a safe altitude.

I soon found that I didn't want to be above 1,000 ft AGL. In fact, in the winter flying with an 1/4 visibility in snow, I wanted to be right on the deck so I could follow the willow brush lines along the Yukon River. The black and white contrast was the only thing that kept me from getting hopelessly lost in the white-out conditions over the snow cover tundra. And besides there were lots of interesting things to see like: arctic foxes hunting for hares at night under a full moon, the northern lights flowing across the night sky and reflecting off the snow blanketed terrain and the tracks of the first bears to come out of hibernation in the spring.

But there were times when I needed to fly above 1,000 feet. Flying from St. Mary's to Chevak under an overcast sky, there is no horizon to be seen. All is white. And there were no navigation aids for pin pointing your location. So, for an hour and a half you flew on instruments and a constant heading. The object was to get within CB radio range of the village buried under the snow. When the computed time past, I would start flying expanding box patterns until someone heard my aircraft above sound of the howling wind and gave me instructions over the CB radio as to which direction I needed to fly to get to the village.

And then there were those nights spent flying between Bethel and Mountain Village. For 1 hour 45 minutes I would sit alone in the cockpit with just the glow of the instrument panel. Everything else was pitch black. The sky is overcast with no moon or starlight. The tundra is barren with no villages or ground lights of any kind. There are no navigation aids to mark the passing of distance. The air is silk smooth. It is just me, the airspeed indicator, the altimeter, the artifical horizon and the sound of the of the aircraft engine. After a while all sensation of movement stops and I would experience what can be best described as a state of "suspended animation". It felt as if I was no longer moving and that I could just step out of the airplane with no adverse consequences. And then off in the distance, so faint it fools the brain and the senses, is that a pinprick of light? You glance away and back repeatedly until you're sure. Then you make the heading correction and fly to the frozen warmth of civilization nestled at the foot of a mountain in a crook of the Yukon River.

Night village landings with no runway were always interesting. You come overhead the village and circle until someone gets to the airstrip with 2 snowmachines (snow mobiles), one for each end of the strip. You fly your approach pattern being careful not to dip your wing too low and lose the little horizon you have from the snowmachine lights. Final is indicated when the 2 snowmachine lights come into alignment. With a 20 - 30 knot cross-wind, the whole procedure can get a little dicey. The thud and jolt of the gear on the ground feels especially good on those nights.

Ski flying has its own set of challenges. There is no depth perception when the landscape is totally white with snow. And snow conditions vary greatly depending upon the amount of wind. I remember landing at Pitkus Point, about 20 miles from the Bering Sea. I set up the usual glide path for about 300 feet per minute descent and waited for the skis to make snow contact. What a surprise to find that, in spite of the assurances from over the CB radio that the snow conditions where just fine, the drifts were actually rock hard and almost as high as the aircraft wings. For a couple of terrifying seconds I'm not to sure how this is going to turn out as the aircraft bucks and slides to a stop over the drifts. It's obvious that someone's need for a flight out of the village had skewed their judgment and almost causes damage to the aircraft.

Then there are the terrific winds that frequently batter the western Alaska tundra. I remember spending a whole day digging my Cessna 207 out of the snow where it was completely buried after a four-day, 100-knot blizzard. Another day comes to mind when I took off from Unakleet without rolling the wheels. The wind was blowing at 50 - 60 knots. The sky was clear, but the surface visibility was nil with blowing snow right on the surface. Wing walkers stabilized the aircraft until it was pointed into the wind. With full power and flaps, the aircraft just launched like a helicopter. In fact, by flying at a low airspeed into the wind, the aircraft would actually move backwards across the ground. Winter landings on wheels in a 30-40 knot direct cross-winds with zero traction on an icy airstrips were always interesting. It sounds dangerous until you realize that there is really no need to roll out of the crab angle that has kept you on the centerline during the approach. You just land and let the aircraft slide down the airstrip sideways on the ice.

After two winters of arctic flying, I went to the other extreme; the tropical mountains of Irian Jaya Indonesia on the Island of New Guinea. My wife and I served there for eight years with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), an aviation mission based in Redlands, CA. We were there to provide vital transportation for missionaries and relief workers working in this remote area of the world among stone-age people, one generation removed from cannibalism.

Bush flying in these rugged mountains covered with triple-canopied jungle presented a whole new set of challenges. Most of the airstrips I used were at high elevations of between 5,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level. Since there was very little level ground, most of the airstrips resembled ski jumps carved into the sides of the mountain cliffs. The strips were sloped at up to 24% grades. The approach ends commonly had 1,000 foot shear rock drop offs. Swirling winds spilling down off of the mountain peaks often made the strips unusable after 9:30 in the morning. Other strips were buried deep in box canyons where you were committed to land while you were still five miles out on the approach. In fact, I remember a close call were I was landing in a box canyon early in the morning. I was past the point of no return when suddenly the sun popped over the ridge in front of me and blinded me to everything in the valley including the landing strip. I had no other option but to continue to descend in the blind. Fortunately, the breezes were light and the aircraft drifted only slightly off the approach centerline. By looking straight down out the side window, at about 100 feet, I saw the airstrip just off my left gear and I had just enough time to jog to the left and land.

Normal operations into some of the airstrips could be unnerving, especially for a first time pilot or passengers. In fact, the first time I landed in Hitatipa, I had to get out and walk the length of the airstrip in order to get my heart out of my throat enough to takeoff again. The airstrip is hidden deep in a box canyon, where it can only be seen by flying directly overhead at 3,000 feet. The approach is made by making a very steeply banked descending 180 degree turn at tree top level along the side of a mountain peak. Upon roll out, the aircraft descends down between shear rock walls where the wing tips almost appear to be scrapping the rocks on either side. With no airstrip in sight, the aircraft descends until the landing gear is just 50 feet off the raging river cataract below. It is with great relief that the front seat passenger sees the airstrip come into view just 5 seconds before the wheels jolt onto the gravel surface. But the relief quickly turns to panic when it becomes clear that the airstrip is far too short to stop on and there is no way to abort the landing. The uninitiated are by this time resigned to their fate when the aircraft makes a 30 degree turn to the left and another 800 feet of airstrip miraculously appears out of no where in the windshield.

During my time in Indonesia, I had the privilege of flying a Cessna 206 across the Pacific from Honolulu to Irian Jaya. At 6,000 feet over the ocean, you are flying in blue-out conditions. The horizon is almost indiscernible as the sky and ocean blend together. The aircraft cabin is one big fuel tank with just enough room for you to squeeze into the pilot seat. The biggest challenge is staying awake for the 15.7 hours from Honolulu to Majuro Island. The navigation is dead reckoning for all except the last 45 minutes when the Majuro Beacon comes alive to guide you to the first spit of sand visible since overhead Johnston Island 10 hours ago. From there it is 9.5 hrs to Truk Island with its sunken fleet of Japanese war ships at rest in the atoll, and then another 7.6 hours on into Jayapura, Irian Jaya.

After returning to the States in 1989, I flew for a small upstart commuter jet airline out of Cincinnati. After flying for the forgotten people in one of the remotest corners of the earth for eight years, I suddenly found myself flying for international elites as I flew a Concorde connection between JFK and Boston. My flight would meet the British Airways Concorde in JFK, where my passengers would board just before the Concorde pushed back for London. I would then take on newly arrived Concorde passengers for Boston. There is nothing quite like the sight of being number one for takeoff behind the Concorde on a misty morning in JFK and watching it rotate in a cloud of its own lift.

Now I fly an Airbus A-300 full of cargo and I see the country from a new perspective, 30,000 feet and .80 Mach. Aviation is always new and always changing. It has been a long time since I reminisced about all the places it has taken me. Thanks for inspiring me to refly the journey.

Ed Landis, Independence

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My first flight was in 1946. It was a Piper Cub float plane. Since then, I have flown in everything but supersonic fighters and bombers. That said, I have to say that the most nostalgic was a short ride on the B-25 "Old Glory" at Lunken back in 2001. My Dad was in a B-25 outfit during WW II. This particular plane had been in his outfit - the 310th Medium Bomb Group. During the flight, I was the tail gunner. What an experience.

Tom O'Brien, Mount Adams

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Four thousand plus hours of flying time will net quite a few stories, some more pleasant than others. From my first flight in an airliner, during which I barraged my parents with questions non stop from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C., to a multiple engine failure over the Alps in a C-130, to crashing my Cessna 182 into the hills near Falmouth, KY, to watching the sun rise and set from my cockpit, it's been an adventure few people experience. Here's my favorite memory:

Shortly after graduation from Ohio University and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Air Force, I was sent to pilot training in Lubbock, Texas. Pilot training required us to transition from a small prop plane equivalent to the Cessna 172, to a small twin jet aircraft called the T-37, and finally to a supersonic aircraft called the T-38. We referred to the T-37 as the "flying dog whistle", because it was unbelievably noisy. It was also difficult to master, because a jet doesn't have the response of a prop, but much more speed. In addition you were wearing a helmet and oxygen mask, operated at higher altitudes, and you had your hands full. And just as you felt comfortable with the aircraft, the Air Force had a way of placing you back at square one. The reward for controlling the T-37 was transition to the T-38. It had many nicknames, the most affectionate being "The White Rocket". After briefing this first mission with my instructor, and doing a thorough preflight, we climbed into the airplane. As we taxied out to the runway with canopies raised in the hot Texas sunlight, my instructor requested a "burner climb to 40,000 feet" from the tower. After clearance, we closed our canopies and positioned ourselves on the runway for takeoff. He announced he had the aircraft, so I put my hands in my lap. When cleared for takeoff, he released the brakes, and added power, all the way to the afterburner position. I was already thrilled beyond belief, but the best was yet to come. When we reached takeoff speed, he pulled the aircraft off the runway, and pointed it straight up. We were perpendicular to the ground. It was a reasonably bright day, but there was a deck of clouds at a few thousand feet above the ground. Within seconds, we were punching through that deck, and headed for the next one. There must have been at least six layers. As we penetrated each successive deck of clouds, my world got brighter and brighter. I can truly say it was a religious experience. I felt for a moment I was heading straight for Heaven. Suddenly, we broke above the final deck of clouds, and I was treated to the most beautiful blue sky I have ever seen. The earth was far below. There was not a cloud above us, only deep blue sky. If you can fall in love with an airplane, I did that day. I could have stayed up there forever.

William G. Krider, Lawrenceburg

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My story of flying memories is about my dad, Ed Moorehead. The year is 1966. My older sister Kathy was in the Air Force and stationed at Carswell AFB outside of Fort Worth Tx. She fell in love and the wedding was set for Nov. 5, 1966. Now at this time we all lived in Detroit Michigan so my mother and I drove down about a week before the wedding to help iron out the small details. My father being self-employed roofer couldn't afford to take that my time off and was to fly down to Dallas on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Well come that Thursday - no Dad. The airlines could only advise my mother that Dad did board in Detroit and arrived in his connection city of Chicago. What happened then, they couldn't tell. They advised they would call if they found anything out. The early the next morning they called to advise Dad was on his way to Dallas and should arrive around 2 p.m. We all went to pick him up. When he arrived we asked what happened.

He gave this rendering: "I got on the flight in Detroit, landed, got off the plane and went inside. Not sure what to do so I sat down where there were other people sitting. Next there came an announcement that everyone in this gate area had to go to another gate and board immediately. So I followed every one and got on board. I dozed for a while then got woken up by the pilot advising us to fasten our seat belts as going over the Rockies it might get bumpy. I called the stewardess over and told her that the plane better turn south right now or else I needed to get off. She asked if I was a first time flyer which I said yes, without a parachute on. She looked at me real funny and asked for my ticket, which I gave her. She then advised that this plane was going to Seattle, not Dallas. She would check with the pilot to see what they could do for me. She came back and said they would help in Seattle.

Upon landing, the airline person met me and advised that it was too late to get me to Dallas that I would need to sleep in the pilot lounge and they would get me there as soon as possible tomorrow. I told them I was the father of the bride and had to get there by 4 p.m for the rehearsal. Well, next morning they boarded me on a flight back to Chicago, where I was met by four airline personnel who escorted me to the next flight. Which as you can see landed here in Dallas and I am safe and sound."

Marilyn Mallow, Cincinnati

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Returning from Pensacola, Florida to California in my CH53E, we landed at Dallas to refuel. After topping off with no problems, we took off NAS to Albuquerque. Everything was fine until just after the half-way point.

We had been flying a standard VFR flight plan going from Navaid to Navaid (Tacan to Tacan). After the half-way point, we encountered headwinds of up to 80 knots that our weather brief in Dallas had not mentioned. It was a freak desert storm that pops up - not a cloud in the sky - just hellacious headwinds.

My co-pilot, totally oblivious to the new situation, continued the flight as planned. I started figuring out ground speed and found out we were doing 50 knots over the ground. Then I asked my co-pilot if anything had changed. He said, "No, continue as is." Since we were flying a new helicopter with 3 engines, 5,000 shaft horsepower a piece, and 15,000 pounds of fuel, he had never encountered a situation where fuel was a factor in the flight.

He was used to flying modern aircraft with two on-board computers. He had never flown in the "good old days" when weather and fuel were limiting factors. He fell in to the horrible modern sense of false security in that the computer age will always take care of itself.

Now this flight was on Sunday and there were no other military airbases open within range that we could go to except our final destination in Albuquerque.

I asked him to figure up the distance that we had remaining and the fuel we had. His comment was, "No sweat - never ran out before." Big birds eat lots of gas. Then I asked him to break out the old tried and true Jeppson wiz wheel computer that he hadn't used since flight school. I asked him to work out distance, air speed, ground speed, fuel flow, and fuel remaining. Much to his surprise, he said, "Oh darn (actually, his exclamation was more graphic). So, I asked him what our options were. Being the modern person he was, he said we could just put it down by a farmer, spend the night, and call for a fuel track in the morning.

Then I asked him if we shut one engine down, how much more fuel would we use in the other two engines. He worked up the program and stated with some despair, "we can make it." From that point on, we flew an old VFR direct navigation route, had to read the VFR charts again identify spots on the ground to find out where we were. We pulled our two remaining engines back to maximum efficiency at 94% and continued our flight. Needless to say, we made Albuquerque on the low fuel lights and fuel to spare, although one engine did spool down when we were taxing in.

We both re-learned a valuable lesson that day. Even though you are flying high-powered modern, computer-controlled aircraft, some of the old school lessons of Aviate - Navigate - Communicate, and flying by the "seat-of-your-pants" are invaluable.

Never forget the basics that the Wright brothers taught, it will save your life.

Major John Sayre, USMC (Ret), Newport

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My first flying experience was on a prop jet going to Chicago for a Union Printers baseball tournament. Since I was afraid of heights, I was terrified. My children were so excited to be flying, I tried to be nonchalant about the whole thing. I let them have the window seat and I sat in the aisle seat not wanting to know how high off the ground we were. Since the whole plane was ballplayers, families and friends, the pilot was being a good guy and very time we were over a place of interest he would point it out. After a while I felt like I was missing out because I was too chicken to lean over and look out the window. The next time he pointed out something, I raised up and leaned to the left to look out and at the same time the plan banked to the left and I almost lost it. I got back in my seat and was sure I had tilled the whole plane. To this day, I sit only in aisle seats and do not move until the plane lands.

Shirley Stall, Cincinnati

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My father always loved airplanes. He had wanted to learn to fly since he was a kid, but somehow he never got around to it. So from the time I was a baby, he would take me down to our little airport in Rising Sun to watch the small planes circle endlessly around that grassy stripe in the middle of a field. Through my teens I continued to visit that field of dreams and wonder if my time would ever come and what it would be like to actually be flying.

I was sixteen years old on a bright, crisp autumn day. I was watching this pretty, little, yellow Piper Cub practicing "touch-and-gos". Suddenly it pulled off onto the grass right next to me. From the rear seat I saw the pilot motioning to me and over the din of that little 70-horsepower engine I heard a woman's voice saying, "Hop in, kid"!

It was like a dream. I climbed in front and buckled the seat belt as she advanced the throttle from the rear. In what seemed like a ten-foot roll, we were airborne. Out over the cornfields, down along the river, rolling lazy turns and cracking crisp steep banks. Then she let me take the stick saying, "You've got the airplane" I had the airplane! It was heaven. I was shaky but was getting the hang of it when all too soon we were back at the field and she said, "I've got it". She put it on the runway like a feather floating to earth and as we rolled to a stop, she tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You did pretty good, Do ya wanna learn to fly? I can teach ya." Her name was Mary. She was a flight instructor and she changed my life. For the next three years, I saved my lunch money until I had enough for each of the twenty or so one-hour lessons. Sometimes weeks would pass and even months, but when I could get there, Mary was always ready to take me up again.

That was thirty-some years and many, many flight hours ago. Today when I sit on the runway, with my hand on the throttle waiting to hear "Cleared for Takeoff", I think about Mary and the thrill that I still feel. As I push the throttle forward I thank my father for sharing that love with me.

Tim Anderson, Covington

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Like many flyers, I've got my share of flying stories to pick from: the time I flew a DeHavilland Tiger Moth over the English countryside one vacation, the A-Star helicopter tour of Kauai's Na Pali coast I took once, hang gliding the sand dunes of legendary Kitty Hawk, N.C., sighting a pack of wolves from a Super Cub in Alaska, and soaring over California's wine country in a sailplane last year for my birthday. But one story beats all others in my book - not for good-natured bragging among fellow pilots but for the fondness I feel for the memories this story invokes.

One evening in October of 1999, my dad called me in Madison, Wisconsin, to give me some exciting but unexpected news: he had just fulfilled a lifelong dream to buy his own small airplane and wanted me to fly it home from Flying Cloud Airport near Minneapolis with him. He was living in tiny Rantoul, Illinois, at the time and the flight promised to be a fun eight-hour adventure together. I happily agreed to make the trip and scheduled the time off from my job as a customer service agent for Comair out of Dane County Regional Airport in Madison. This story isn't about that trip, but specifically, the first flight Dad and I made together in the airplane I'm about to tell of.

Arriving in Minneapolis two weeks later, we ventured to the airport in our rental car to inspect the airplane, a shiny aluminum 1946 Ercoupe 415-D. For Dad, it was love at first sight. He had flown Ercoupes as a newly minted private pilot in 1969 out of famed Flabob Airport in southern California (back when they rented for $8 an hour wet!) Dad adored 'Coupes for their easy handling and honest, fun qualities and very soon I was to become a fan of these wonderful little aircraft too. The Ercoupe we were there to buy was a clean, well cared-for example and after a thorough inspection of the craft and its logbooks, Dad signed the title papers and handed over the check. Now there was only one thing left to do before departure for home: fly it around the patch.

Dad had not flown an Ercoupe in thirty years and had only recently dusted off his pilot's certificate after watching me get my license a couple of years before. Ercoupes are a slightly different breed of light airplane in that they have no rudder pedals and the rudders and ailerons are linked together by a coordinating mechanical setup. They are steered on the ground like a car (something that takes a bit of getting used to by those of us whose flight instructors slapped or hands if we tried to use the yoke to steer in Cessnas and Pipers during the first few flying lessons) and have no flaps for landing. Once used to these quirks, however, 'Coupes are extremely fun to fly and are in fact, able to do things their more conventional brethren aren't so capable of.

"I'm going up for a quick trip around the airport for some touch-and-goes to get my Ercoupe legs back. You're welcome to go but I'll understand if you don't want to since I haven't flown them in a few years. It's your call." I simply replied, "Dad I trust you", and settled into the right seat next to him. My father seemed so pleased at that moment. He patted me on the leg and reached behind me to flip the master switch to ON, then pulled the starter knob to bring the Continental C-85 to life. The propeller blurred in front of us and we donned our headsets and sunglasses. Dad took his time going through the Pre-Takeoff checklist and familiarized himself (and me) with the location and operation of every switch and instrument as we allowed the engine to warm up. The plane had no panel-mounted radio so we were sort of tangled up in the wires running from our headsets down to a hand-held transceiver the plane's owner had thrown in as part of the sale.

Dad called for taxi clearance and we slowly made our way to the active runway, Dad getting used to not having rudder pedals with which to steer and me suddenly caught up in the enormity of what was happening: my dad and I, airplane fanatics to the end, father and son, about to launch into the wild blue as equals - both qualified pilots taking the newest member of the family, Ercoupe-Three-Zero-Four-Zero-Hotel out for her shakedown flight. I couldn't have felt more proud and I knew Dad felt the same way as he looked over at me and grinned as broadly and warmly as I'd ever seen him grin.

Poised at the beginning of the runway, we sat waiting for those magic words from the tower, the words we were to hear for the first of many times to come in that great little airplane: "Ercoupe 3040-Hotel, wind 270 at 8, left closed traffic approved, cleared for takeoff." And just like that, Dad pushed the throttle smoothly forward and we began to roll down the runway. The Ercoupe has a wonderful feature all "Coupers" love, that of the slide-down side windows. These plexiglass panels drop out of sight into the side of the fuselage and allow both pilots to hang their elbows into the slipstream while resting their flying hand on top of the yoke. Such was the position we adopted for this and every flight to come as seating in Ercoupes is on the tight side for broader-shouldered pilots.

Propwash blew the heavenly smells of Avgas and freshly cut grass into the cabin as we gained speed and at 80 knots, Dad nursed the yoke back and we left the ground smiling stupidly as the exhilaration that accompanies every takeoff took over. My dad and me were flying! As the ground fell away, I marveled at how in touch with the sky you feel when flying in an Ercoupe. I also loved the way it felt not to be so contained, much like open-cockpit bi-plane drivers must feel. As we turned crosswind in the pattern, Dad looked over at me and said words I'll never forget as long as I live. He said, "I'm so proud to be sharing this with you." I couldn't speak because my emotions were running so high at that moment and to be honest, the rest of the flight around the airport that day is a blur to me now; a happy, proud, wonderful blur. I felt like my dad and I had arrived at some great new place in our relationship that wasn't there in quite the same way previously. We were sharing in a dream that only the two of us really knew the significance of and for the first time in my adult life, I felt like an equal to my dad. I'll never forget the way that felt.

Dad died just a little over a year ago but the memory of that first flight in his treasured little Ercoupe will live in my heart forever.

Christopher Talbot-Jones, Erlanger

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Way back in 1986, shortly following the Challenger disaster I had the opportunity to take a back seat "Orientation-hop" with the US Navy's Precision flying team the BLUE ANGELS. The only reason I mentioned the Challenger was because nobody else wanted to go up for fear of what might happen?

So anyway, the US Navy just doesn't let anyone go up and fly. I had to pass a very thoughough two day flight physical and physiology training, or in other words: a two day crash course in how to fly a Navy Fighter Jet. Only then did I get thrown into the back seat of a McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk 2. This was also the last year the Angels flew this aircraft and switched to the F-18 Hornet the following year.

At take off we screamed down the runway and the pilot told me to place my hands on the control stick and then he pulled it back as far as it would go and we lifted straight up like a rocket, a 5 G high performance take-off. Over the skies of Corpus Christi Texas Naval Air station and the Gulf of Mexico we spent the next 30 minutes going thru all the maneuvers you see in the airshow.

We got way above the 10 thousand foot ceiling and the Lieutenant gave me the controls and the fighter was all mine to do whatever I wanted to do. He even placed his hands on the canopy to show me he had no control of the plane whatsoever.

I first did some easy barrell rolls and a then tried my hand at a 4 point roll, which I didn't do too well, then I banked the aircraft to the left while trying my best to keep the plane flying level but failed at that too, we lost too much altitude, if it were a video game we would have crashed.

The only mistake I made was telling Lt. Wayne Molner: "Show me your stuff, flyboy." And then he let me have it. He took me on one of those 'Loop-the-loops" and then I got really really sick.

I never hurled in the cockpit but came very very close. We did so many tricks up there I cant recall all of them but the real clincher was this: high over the tarmac he did this thing called a carrier landing, where-in he banked the fighter at a really tight angle to bleed off some air-speed, all I can recall was watching the G-Meter in front of me, it went from zero to 3, 5, 7, got to 8 then I passed out in the back seat! When I came to, a few moments later, the arrow on the meter stayed on 8.

One minute later we were on the ground and I just had my entire body ravaged from every ounce of energy it could muster. It felt as though I had just wrestled this huge giant and I had nothing left in me. It was physically difficult to just climb out of the cockpit wearing my flight suit. I was covered in sweat from head to toe and although in my 20's at the time, it really knocked me out and I wouldn't trade the experiece for anything.

Since then, I have spoken to many Career day classes on how much fun it is to be a radio personality, but I always share my Blue Angel Experience.

Dwaine Luna

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The recent announcement of the demise of the Concorde air adventure brought back memories of my first trip to Europe in 1985. The trip was a consolation prize for giving up smoking. Since I had not traveled much by air, the goal was to experience as many forms of air travel as possible during the trip. This was more of a distraction from the trepidation of traveling solo and speaking only English. As it turned out, I hit 14 countries and got through it just fine.

To me in my state of stress, not much could be worse than traveling the cheap ticket way to London on the drafty and jam-packed PEOPLES EXPRESS. After a diversion to Shannon Airport, we eventually made it to Gatwick, London, England which seemed like 16 hours later. This began the subway, bus, taxi, shuttle airline adventures in modern passenger travel at the time.

The real fun began when I bought a ticket on the CONCORDE, the French SST. That Concorde ticket was like money in the bank! When ticket agents found out I was booked on that flight, they arranged hotel rooms and service that was otherwise hard to come by.

My ticket was denominated in Turkish Lire - about $1,200 US at the time. Passports were stamped in those days so I had a record of where I visited but so did the passport agents in some less than friendly rival countries. I got a really nice room in Greece by going to the Air France ticket office, showing the ticket agent my Concorde pass and explaining that I needed a place to stay. Actually, it was a desperate act, but a really smooth move, because the U.S exchange rate was being disputed and on the spot reservations were next to impossible to get! On the spot was the only option on this leg of the trip.

Going from PEOPLES EXPRESS to the CONCORDE was going from famine to feast. Most of the passengers (politicians and "old money" folks) had their own row. Travel time was 3 hours and 45 minutes - 2 hours traveling at close to mach 2 at an altitude of 50,000-60,000 feet. They supplied cloth napkins and chinaware servings of Iranian Caviar, champagne, Lobster casserole. Not to be overlooked were the many gift mementos. Absolutely nothing like the trip over!

That should have capped off the thrill of flying. However, swirling and whirling into Manhattan on a helicopter into Manhattan was excitement of another kind! Being greeted by friends and family upon landing in Cincinnati from the TWA flight home wasn't bad either.

Margery Mattox

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In 1966, when I was 11, I spent several weeks with my great-grandmother, who lived in Washington D. C. Shortly before I was to come home, all the major airlines went on strike. My parents managed to arrange for me to fly home on Alleghany (now USAir.) The flight made 2 stops between Washington and Erie PA. At the first stop, the plane was delayed.Finally one of the flight attendants came up to meto confirm that I was flying by myself. She then told me the plane was overbooked, and they had received permission for me to ride in the jump seat in the cock pit, if I was interested. Boy was I! After the flight took off, I got to sit in the co-pilots seat for much of the flight. When I got off the plane in Erie, I turned around and waved at the pilots, who waved back to me. My parents wondered what I had done that the pilots would know who I was.

Lise Sigward

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