Thursday, July 3, 2003

Readers share memories of flight

We asked, and many of you responded - with flying colors

The Cincinnati Enquirer

If you want to read memories that weren't in today's print edition, Click here
In honor of the 100th anniversary of flight, we asked readers to share their own memories of flying - their first time on a plane, a close call in the air, any poignant or even sad memories associated with flying.

Hundreds of folks did share them. Here are some of our favorites:

Emma H. Kohl's family believes she was the first woman in Hamilton County to obtain a pilot's license. This picture of her, then Emma Howe, is dated June 1932.
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Early woman pilot

Our family believes that my mom, Emma H. Kohl (then Miss Emma J. Howe) was the first woman to obtain a pilot's license in Hamilton County (June 29, 1932, by her log book; Private Pilot's License No. 25744).

When Mom graduated from Hughes High School, she went to work to earn money for flying lessons, should her parents allow her. (The permission of parents was vital for young adult women in those days.) My grandparents saw how determined she was and how persistently she pursued the necessary accumulation of funds, working at Crosley Radio and at City Hall, and they relented and allowed her to pursue becoming a pilot.

Mom told us that in those days, as part of their training, each pilot-to-be had to disassemble and assemble an airplane engine (these were the big rotary engines), because often engine trouble forced the pilot to land in a field and to go into the nearest town and have fixed, or have made, the replacement part for whatever caused the problem. Mom was thrilled when her engine ran perfectly after she reassembled it. She was particularly pleased, as the engines of some of the men in the class did not run. We treasure Mom's pilot helmets, a thin one for summer and a thick one for winter, both with goggles attached (the cockpits were open).

Mom flew out of Lunken Airport known as "Sunken Lunken" because the airfield is so much lower than the hills immediately around it. Particularly because of this situation, Mom often practiced "side slipping" the aircraft on landing to deliberately loose lift and so make the aircraft descend more steeply once the hills were cleared.

Once, unknown to her, her parents came out to watch her fly, and arrived just in time to see her practice a sideslip in landing, whereupon her mother threw up her hands and exclaimed, "Oh, she is going to crash! I can't look. Tell me what happens."

Mom is 92 now and Alzheimer's has robbed her of these memories, but we would love to hear from anyone who may remember her from her days as a pilot, or of the activities around Lunken Airport in the early '30s.

Ronald H. Kohl,

Joker of a boyfriend

Spring 1963, I was a 19-year-old who had never flown in an airplane. My boyfriend had just received his pilot's license.

I was his first passenger in this small, one-engine plane. We were flying above the Ohio River and the motor died - he radioed Lunken to prepare for a crash landing!

I almost got sick, I was so scared. Then he laughed and said he had just cut the engine and didn't have the radio engaged. He was just joking.

I married him anyway.

Sally Mills, Cincinnati

A scary encounter

This was my second time on a jet. The first time was the flight there.

Dayton Air Show schedule
While a college student, I spent three weeks in January 1982 in Washington, D.C., as an intern. On the Wednesday before we were to leave on a Saturday, a plane crashed into a bridge on the Potomac.

It was very cold and snowy as we took off from Washington National (now Ronald Regan) Airport and banked hard left. I literally could look straight down at the tail of the plane in the water and the cranes and other recovery vehicles crowding the banks. It was sobering to say the least, and it tainted the flight with a feeling of doom.

We made a stop in Raleigh, N.C., en route to Lexington. We were the first plane to land after the runway opened following an 8-inch snowfall. The reverse thrust of the engine kicked up a whiteout outside our windows and we felt as if we were skidding.

Then, at takeoff again, one panicked passenger began mumbling "We're gonna die! We're gonna crash into a mountain!" until someone finally told him to shut up!

Between Raleigh and Lexington, we passed through a weather front that tossed our plane around so it felt like we were riding on a washboard road in a truck with no springs. When we landed at Lexington, it was 60 degrees amid thunderstorms.

I didn't fly for nine years after that. I really didn't want to go through a flight like that again.

Gary L. Eldridge, Rising Sun

Bumping into the Lord

We had just taken our 3-year-old son on his first ride in a big jet plane - he was checking everything out above his seat, etc. As we were going along we hit a big air pocket and the plane made a loud thud; he looked over at his dad with all the innocence a 3-year-old could hold and said, "Daddy, I think we just hitted God!"

Where that little mind thought he was flying we'll never know, but it is a flying memory I will always treasure. He is almost 39 years old now.

Audrey Dodson, Liberty, Ind.

First and last flight

In 1927 at the Pocahontas County Fair in West Virginia, Scotty, pilot of a biplane, was "barnstorming" at the fair for $1 a ride. He told my dad that he would give me, age 12, a real thrill. He dived down into a low place behind a hill. With no straps I held on as I left the seat with my back tingling. Dad told me he was sure I was killed when the plane went out of sight.

Scotty was a well-known barnstormer at many county fairs. He lived in Ohio and two weeks after my ride he flew a stunt under a bridge in Ohio and was killed.

That was my first and last flight. Do I need to tell you why? Oh yes, Scotty had a jug in the barn and took a drink between flights.

Dave Sharp, Oakley

A gift from a father

One of the first gifts I can remember my father giving me was a plastic model kit of a B-25 Mitchell, a World War II bomber. It was given to me while Dad was going to the hospital with my mom to have my brother Jeff. That must have been the start of aviation in my life. Dad would tell me stories of his time in the Air Force. Although Dad was a medic while in the service, flying was a passion. Hearing his stories made me want to make flying a part of my life. He took me on my first airplane ride at Blue Ash Airport in 1960.

I recall one evening, during the '60s, Dad said we had to get down to Lunken Airport "right away." The reason, I soon found out, was the Ohio River was forecast to flood, and Dad knew all of the airplanes would have to fly out to higher airfields. We sat there on Beechmont Levee for hours while the aircraft departed. My mom thought we were crazy. At age 6 or 7, I told Dad, "Someday, I'm going to be a pilot!"

He told me I could be anything I wanted to be. Sometime later Dad told me, "Just remember when you grow up, and you're up there flying, if you look outside your window and see an angel, that'll be me." We spent years together going to air shows at Lunken Airport, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and later, at Dayton International Airport.

My father died in March of 1998. He is buried at Rest Haven Memorial Cemetery, right across the road from Blue Ash Airport. After Pat, a good friend of mine, and already a certified pilot, took me up for a sightseeing afternoon in 1999, I knew it was time to become the pilot I said I would. I began taking lessons at Schmidt Aviation located at Blue Ash Airport (where Dad took me on my first airplane ride as a kid).

On Nov. 15, 2000, I took my check-ride at Blue Ash, and was presented with my long-sought private pilot's license. After leaving the airport, I went straight to the cemetery, hoping somehow that Dad would know what I had accomplished. My eyes filled with tears as I knelt beside his grave because he wasn't here to share it with me. As an airplane took off from Blue Ash, I looked up and realized every time I would take off from or land there Dad would never be far away.

Mike Wood, Cincinnati

Proud wife of a pilot

I'm submitting this because I am so very proud of my husband, Maj. John Sayre, USMC (Ret). I am thankful to have him as a husband, and get choked up every time I think of the other wives and children who are not widows and orphans because of his ability to fly the "Big Green Machine," a CH53E helicopter.

Maj. Sayre was co-pilot of a CH53E when on a ground-control approach to Tustin Marine Corps Air Station (Calif.) at 2,500 feet and four miles from the base. He heard a "big boom" and the helicopter flight gages "went bonkers." He lost one out of three engines and a fire developed. A hole was blown out of the cabin section. One of the gears in the transmission had broken apart and flown through the main transmission and the number 2 engine, which was on fire.

He remembers, "We were starting to get molten metal dripping from the main transmission and the Number 2 engine, and the main transmission had started to break apart. Before I even realized it, I had hit the primary and secondary fire extinguishers, shut the engine down, and went through all the proper emergency procedures. Even though I had two airfields within two miles of me, I decided to put it down in a strawberry patch. The technical representative, who investigated the incident, said that I had less than 60 seconds of flight time left.

"All the other crashes of the same type, where the pilots had tried to make an airfield, had crashed and burned. Mine was the first out of nine accidents where the aircraft survived. The accident investigation revealed that I had done everything right, and the surviving aircraft provided evidence of the cause of the previous nine accidents where all the aircraft perished and 26 Marines lost their lives.

"Two days later, I insisted that I had to be the one to fly the helicopter out of the field. I have never left an aircraft without bringing it back." Maj. Sayre gave up his wings after that and never flew again.

C.J. Sayre, Newport

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