Just a story about a boy and his airplane
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03-09-2016, 06:20 PM
Just a story about a boy and his airplane
I wrote this for an aviation site I belong to, and it was very well received...some of my friends here have expressed an interest in aviation so I thought I would share it on TTA. I dunno if anybody cares our will get much out of it, but...it says This That and The Other Thing, and this qualifies! I hope you like it.

This is in answer to an open question about what it was like flying the DC-3 aircraft.

James Jones, Retired airline pilot, former USAF F-15C/F-5II fighter pilot, former bush pilot
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I actually have a close but weird relationship with the old Douglas DC-3- ( a plane designed in 1936, and the last one rolled off the assembly line in 1950) -which is unusual for a person my age.

I was a 17 year old private pilot, multiengine rated with a brand new instrument rating. I was in possession of perhaps 200 total flight hours, building my required 250 for my commercial as fast as I could. I had learned to fly in the family Champ, and then gone to a local flight school for my multi and instrument ratings. I still flew the Champ as much as possible, because A. I loved it and B. All I had to pay for was fuel.

My only goal in life, that I remember, was nailing my commercial check ride on my 18th birthday- I would end up starting it on my birthday but finishing on the day after because of thunderstorms. Close enough.

I landed at a small field I had never been to before. It was public, but unpaved, grass, and interesting. T-hangars predominated, full of odd-looking aircraft of all sorts. Most looked like they had been sitting dormant awhile. A row of individual hangars sat mysteriously, their locked doors making me want to go peek between the cracks, to try to see what secrets they held.

But the queen was a HUGE (to me) DC-3 sitting at one end, nose pointed wistfully at the sky. She looked proud, yet abandoned. Her paint was rough, but her tires were round and all the windows and the door were closed tightly.

I tied the Champ down and walked over- she only got larger as I approached. The largest plane I had piloted so far was a Cessna 402, which had seemed like an airliner…compared to this beauty, that 402 was a hot wheels car. Wow. The cockpit had to be 50 feet in the air! (Actually I believe it’s about 15, but…) I walked around her, just absorbing the history and… coolness. She was a Queen.

This was the first visit, but I made her a regular stop on my rounds. I started eating my bag lunch under her wing. Nothing changed, she never seemed to move. We became friends. She told me stories about the “old days” of aviation. That ol’ girl really could spin a yarn- I was still mesmerized.

One day while I was leaning against one of her main tires after eating my sandwich, I heard a voice say “Hey, what are you doing under there?” It sounded like an old man. I jumped out from under, guilty although I wasn’t sure why. “Hello!” I said kind of nervously “I was just enjoying the shade. It’s hot today.”

This old guy- to my young eyes he had to be at least 147- chuckled and said “Relax son, feel free. Glad this old gal can still be helpful to somebody!”

I shook his hand and introduced myself- this is the south, that is practically a law- and he said his name was Red. His hair was grey, but I made no comment.

We ended up sitting under that wing many times over the next few months, talking. Red was the airport manager, and as I eventually found out, owner. Even more eventually, I found out he owned the DC-3 herself! I couldn’t quite understand how one little guy could own something so huge and majestic and—just—THERE. It seemed like too much for any one person.

Red and I became good friends, we went flying together in my Champ- he loved that a young guy like me could still fly- and preferred- a taildragger. We went flying in his great big cabin Waco, a first for me. And it was purple, still the only purple plane I have ever flown, over thirty years later!

Red often asked after my flight career, and even gave me some pointers for my commercial check ride, which I passed handily, although a day late. My father died during this time, following a massive stroke 5 years before. Red was a big help.

The next time I visited, after my commercial ride, Red specifically called and asked me to come- and he asked me to get there bright and early. That was a first!

You never tell a Texas ranch kid “bright and early” I landed while it was still dark, flying quite illegally in the Champ — it had an electrical system, of sorts, and basic exterior position lights, but that was it — no interior lighting at all. The runway had no lighting, either, but it was a bright night and I was young and had been told to be early. So I was. Flashlight stuck in my mouth and all.

Red wasn’t expecting a 4:30am knock on his door, but he took it well. We chatted while we drank coffee and he got showered and dressed.

I was curious about why I was there, but just assumed he wanted to celebrate my passing the check ride. Boy, did he ever.

We walked out to the DC-3 and climbed in her- we had done this many times before, we often sat in the cockpit on cool days and chatted with the windows open. I was still curious about what we were up to. I didn’t even really look around as we got aboard- I just thought we were going to have a father-son talk, or something. Red could be a bit dramatic at times.

We climbed aboard and up the long sloping floor to the cockpit. She still seemed huge to me. Red motioned me into the left seat and plopped into the right. We talked for awhile about nothing at all, while I looked at the old fading panel and smelled the peculiar smell that all old aircraft seem to share: a smell of faraway places and fuel and metal and the sweat of fear and and worry mixed with a certain joy found only in things that battle the gravity well. I’m sure the space shuttle has this smell inside.

Red finally asked “Are we gonna sit here all day or are you gonna fire her up?”

I grinned- thinking we were going to run her awhile, which I had never done. “Sure- talk me through!” “Talk hell, you’re a commercial pilot- grab that checklist and wake this bird up.”

I did, and after an embarrassingly long time, I had her rumbling, belching, and shaking. Cold engines. Wow. The smoke and noise and shaking would be something to run from in most aircraft, but in this beast it was just her morning stretch and yawn.

Red grabbed two headsets from under our feet somewhere and handed me one while he turned on the intercom. “Whatcha think?” He asked. “Very cool!” I replied. I finally had felt the old DC-3 come to life. That would have been enough. But we weren’t through.

“Are we just gonna burn all this fuel in the parking lot?” Red asked. I felt my face do something weird — a stroke perhaps? No— I think it was just a dawning realization that something very, very awesome was happening.

I don’t remember a whole lot about that first flight…except that she was HEAVY. Whew! I don’t know how many pounds of force she required on the controls, but it was A LOT. Way more than I had ever experienced. We flew around awhile, my eyes so big they kept rubbing against the cockpit roof. Ouch.

Red let me fly a bit, then started showing me maneuvers and having me copy him. We did this for along time, then came back to the airport for an early lunch. I was having a blast.

After lunch we flew some more! I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing. We did landings and takeoffs and aborted landings and go-rounds and short field landings and slow flight and stalls and…everything. I was in heaven. She was still HUGE.

At the end of the day, Red gave me my type rating in the DC-3. He was — although I had no idea — an FAA examiner. I left the airport that day a qualified DC-3 captain.

My first jet type rating would be in a super luxurious Gates Lear 55. Quite a first! But my proudest moment was when my permanent pilot’s license arrived with that first type rating, period: the DC-3.

I wish I could tell you more about the first time, but it was all really down to the smell, the heaviness of the controls, the rumbling engines, and the fact that she was HUGE. She flew great, very easy to taxi and land and takeoff in. I had no problems whatsoever. Of course, I wasn’t nervous, because I was just goofing off with a good friend- not on a check ride with the FAA! That probably helped a lot.

My first experience with a 12,500+ pound aircraft was the best experience imaginable, for me. I remained friends with Red until his death, 22 years later. Red was a good guy. A really good guy. Not everyone will introduce you to the Queen personally.
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03-09-2016, 06:53 PM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
This is a fantastic story.

And yes, the Gooney Bird is a magnificent aircraft.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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03-09-2016, 07:15 PM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
(03-09-2016 06:53 PM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  This is a fantastic story.

And yes, the Gooney Bird is a magnificent aircraft.

Blush Thank you, RS...it's one of my fondest memories. Red died 11 years ago, and I still miss him every day. Best birthday present/checkride party I ever had. Heart
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04-09-2016, 02:46 AM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
Even as a Brit, where pilots of any kind are still a fairly rare breed, I appreciated the longevity and achievements of the DC3/C47 (the Dakota to the RAF) and the pilots who flew it on so many hostile and humanitarian missions all over the world.

Tomorrow is precious, don't ruin it by fouling up today.
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04-09-2016, 05:05 AM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
Great story. My first job was with an aggy pilot. I used to sit on his lap and watch for power lines.

Often we would do aerobatics. I was flying aircraft at age 9. I always wanted to be a pilot and actually join the air force. However I realised my schooling was insufficient and played drums instead. Smile

NOTE: Member, Tomasia uses this site to slander other individuals. He then later proclaims it a joke, but not in public.
I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
Banjo.
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04-09-2016, 05:33 AM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
(04-09-2016 05:05 AM)Banjo Wrote:  Great story. My first job was with an aggy pilot. I used to sit on his lap and watch for power lines.

Often we would do aerobatics. I was flying aircraft at age 9. I always wanted to be a pilot and actually join the air force. However I realised my schooling was insufficient and played drums instead. Smile

The world needs drummers, Banjo...without 'em, my guitar playing would wander around lost! Now Bass players, of course, are superfluous, but don't tell 'em, they feel badly enough. Smile

Thanks, Banj Cool
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04-09-2016, 06:03 AM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
(04-09-2016 05:33 AM)The Dark One Wrote:  The world needs drummers, Banjo...without 'em, my guitar playing would wander around lost! Now Bass players, of course, are superfluous, but don't tell 'em, they feel badly enough. Smile

Thanks, Banj Cool

Thanks.

However. It is the responsibility of ALL musicians to keep time. Metronomes can be downloaded on smartphones for free.

I recommend Mobile metronome.

"It is your job to make the drummer sound good."
Thelonious Monk.

NOTE: Member, Tomasia uses this site to slander other individuals. He then later proclaims it a joke, but not in public.
I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
Banjo.
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04-09-2016, 06:52 AM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
Great story!!

The world becomes less colorful when people lose the will and compassion to help out youngsters such as Red did for you...

.......................................

The difference between prayer and masturbation - is when a guy is through masturbating - he has something to show for his efforts.
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05-09-2016, 12:06 AM
RE: Just a story about a boy and his airplane
Quote:However. It is the responsibility of ALL musicians to keep time. Metronomes can be downloaded on smartphones for free.

LOL...yes, my comment was only meant to be taken as comic relief. I have the utmost respect for bass....LaughatLaughatBig GrinLaughat Sorry, I just can't say that...I thought I could, but...Cool
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