Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oklahoma--Flying




On weekends I worked at the City Airport.  My job was fueling up planes, washing windshields, cleaning the leading edge of wings, getting planes ready for the people who were renting them, and keeping the hanger clean.  Instead of taking pay I took it out in flying lessons.  I learned in an Aeronica Chief.  The man I worked for was well known in aviation  He was a barnstormer.  He gave flying lessons to Gen. Patton.  He had several planes and ran a charter service.  I would go with him often if he had room.  He is now in the Aviation Hall of Fame.  He died this past summer at age 101.

Our neighbor had several children and one day he asked me if I could drop candy from the plane for one of his sons birthday.  We made up some little parachutes out of handkerchiefs then tied bags of candy on them.  They went out in the country about 5 miles from town and I went and got the plane.  It was one I had never flown before with a stick rather than a wheel like I was used to so I was a little nervous but I flew over them and dropped the parachutes with the candy.  They thought this was great.

At Christmas time they gave 80% of the Fort time off to go home or whatever.  Christmas was in the first week and I got stuck in the 20% that had to stay.  Darlene rode home with the couple we lived with.  Monday morning I went to work.  There wasn't much to do because the base was pretty much at a standstill.  My commanding officer and I were talking.  He knew I was taking flying lessons and he asked if I needed some cross country flying time.  I said yes, I could use some.  He told me to go check if I could get a plane and take it home then come back Sunday, pick up my pass and drive home.  He said he would cover for me.  So that afternoon I fueled up the Aeronica Chief and headed north 600 miles.  This plane had no radio and very few instruments.  I charted my route on maps that would show a windmill and 2 tanks, a small town water tower, or a farm pond.  It was visual flying.  I stopped at Anthony, Kansas to fuel. It was a small airport and I was lucky there was someone there to fuel me.  I was almost home when I noticed 2 airforce planes flying real close, one on each side of me.  The pilots were pointing me to get off.  I wasn't paying attention and I was flying over the bombing range at Shilling Air Force Base at Salina.  They escorted me and I got off!!

A neighbor had an alfalfa field that was 1/2 mile long.  I circled the house at home and they came and watched me land and picked me up.  I drove some stakes in the ground and tied the plane down.  While I was at home I had to give rides to the whole family.  My mom had heart trouble so we had to take it easy and she got along ok.  My sister clamped both hands around my leg while we were making a bank and she wouldn't let go.  I had a good friend come out in the evening to take a ride.  My neighbor was carrying the milk to the house and I throttled the engine down and came up behind him.  It scared him because he hadn't heard us coming.  I hadn't seen their windmill so I had to pull up quick and level out to keep from stalling.  He dropped his two buckets of milk and my friend riding with me got sick to his stomach.  I told him that behind him were some containers and he filled one and one half of them.

So I spent Christmas week at home with the family.  Early Sunday morning I headed back to Lawton.  I stopped at Anthony once again for fuel.  When I got within 100 miles from Lawton their was a large storm to the west of me which I didn't appreciate.  Then I noticed a plane I thought I recognized flying beside me.  It was Ralph Swaby, the owner.  He got worried about me in the storm and came to see about me because he knew what time I was supposed to be back.

I landed at 3pm at the airport, went home and got some clothes, picked up my pass at the base, and drove home and spent another week with the family.  At the end of the week Darlene and I and Steve headed home (back to Lawton).  By the grace of God, and having a good commanding officer and flight instructor I got to enjoy 2 weeks at home.  

4 comments:

Auntie Kaye said...

Very interesting.

Kaye said...

Very interesting.

Cindy and Gary Wurtz said...

I really enjoy reading about your life. I see you were up early this morning writing, hope you are feeling well.

mark said...

Well I finally found my sign on and password. Looks like you had fun and learned new and exciting things, wish you had continued to pursue your flying. Sounded so exciting.