Text Adventures

Maj & Barb,

I would like to join as possibly your oldest member, but also with a story.

My inspiration for flying was my dad's sister, Aunt Lela, who, at the age of 55 in the 40's, as a widow and after her last daughter was married, went to the Las Cruces NM airport for lessons. They gave her ONE, and told her to find something safer to do. But she figured out (she was a geometry teacher) that she needed to work on her depth of field.

So she got her license, bought a Cessna 140 (rag wings) and started flying. She became the flying grandmother in the Southwest, and flew with the 99's for a number of years. She was still flying when she developed cataracts in both eyes and, after getting one fixed, she had an accident that flipped her over on her back. She got out OK but they made her stay in the hospital overnight which really made her mad. She was 81.

The local flying club agreed to rebuild her plane for the experience, but on a volunteer basis; they did not realize how precious time was to her. By the time it was repaired a year later, her medical had expired and she decided to fly right seat from then on.

She was my inspiration for starting flying when I was in my forties. She flew from New Mexico to Bloomington, IL. for our wedding and when she was 90 I flew to New Mexico to visit her and hear her wonderful stories -- like flying to Cuba, and to Alaska.

No, she never got an instrument rating. She just flew when it was nice, like we all should!

Bill Whitney
Evanston, IL

One thing Bill's story didn't mention was that after Aunt Lela flipped over, she got out of the plane and was walking across the field limping as the fire engines were coming. As they approached, she turned around, limping back to the plane. When they arrived, they told her she couldn't gett back into the plane, to which she replied that it wasn't burning or anything and she had lost one of her shoes in it. Great story.



Gary "Slip"
A Canadian Adventure

The hangar I bought for my plane came with a twin engine ultralight, that I thought I would like to try before I sold it........

So there I was, on my first taxiing lesson in the ultralight, when ,after reaching the end of the runway, I turned and headed into the wind to taxi back to the apron. (I felt that I should master taxiing before daring to lift off)......

As there was to be no dual instruction in the ultralight, since it was only a single seater, I decided that I should wear my fire retardent flight suit and the crash helmet that came with the.... er..... "plane?" or whatever you may chose to call the instrument of ultimate humiliation.

I congratulated myself for resisting the urge to just head into the wind and lift off, and decided to taxi the thing around to get the feel of the controls. The first thing I noticed was that there were no brakes designed into the thing, and no way to turn it on the ground other than to manipulate the dual throttles for the engines. I reasoned then, that one must taxi at a greater speed, so as to have enough air moving over the control surfaces to make them effective.

........ I headed into the wind, which was blowing steady at about 5-10 knots from 190 degrees. I was on runway 22, which faces 220 degrees. I started to accelerate to a speed in which the rudder pedals allowed me to finally maintain a constant heading down the runway......

Believe it or not, just prior to pulling the "instrument from hell" out of my hanger at the Cardston Airport, I was talking to an instructor from the Lethbridge Airport who, as he was leaving, (after I explained that I was about to start my check out in an ultralight) warned that I was to be very careful since switching from an airplane to an ultralight was far more difficult than the other way around. I assured him that I in no way intended to lift off until I felt comfortable with the feel of the thing. He left me all alone at the uncontrolled field and went on his way, secure in the knowledge that I was in no danger.

........ the craft began to become manageable, due to an adequate forward speed. I had concentrated on the feel of her for only the slightest moment, however, when a gust of wind picked her up and she did three things at once. She jumped up to about 25 feet, she immediately weather vaned into the wind(30 degrees off runway heading) and then, due to such a low weight giving no inertia, she slowed to the point where there was not enough air moving over the control surfaces to allow the rudder or the elevator to work at all.......

What does one do when climbing sideways in an ultralight, knowing that gravity is going to have it's way with you? AND, for some strange reason the thing is climbing higher, I guess due to the fact that the engines are grabbing like hell for air as it's foreward momentum is diminishing rapidly.

....... it was then in a quick moment of clarity I realized,...shut the damn thing off idiot and brace yourself for the crash as you are now at 40 feet and climbing into a stall.....so I did......

I walked away with a dented helmet and a bruised ego, the ultralight didn't fare so well.

Great experience, great fun.


While working on an elderly gentlemans house today, it turns out he was the skipper of the USS Wasp, aircraft carrier, during the space capsule recovery in the 70' and has flown Coursairs (prop) and F8U corsairs and several others. Still watches Wings on the discovery channel every night and discussed making below minimum night landings on pitching aircraft carrier deck....adrenalin rush & couldn't sleep for the next 3 days tc.

I mentioned that I had almost quit flying about 10 years ago after a bad BFR flight, (my attitude...not the instructors) and had cut of the check ride in the middle of it with intention of "hanging it up". On return to the FBO office, there was a 74 year old lady (I was about 45) that had JUST passed her private pilot checkride and that the next day I passed the "ride" no sweat. I did not know his wife was listening and she popped through the door, very excited, and said "Harold, that's how we can get back in the air, I can get MY license, and we can start flying again. (Harold has no hearing in one ear, and is slowly losing hearing in the other ear). His response was a question "You mean I might be able to fly again?", accompanied by the biggest grin I think I've ever seen. It would have made the kid in the candy store's grin look like a frown.

His wife had NEVER considered getting her own ticket, thinking she was "too old". About a half hour later, as I was leaving for another job, he told me "I think I'm going to have a hard time sleeping tonight". You could really tell that flying meant FAR more to him than most people would ever know..

If any of you happened to serve on the USS Wasp, or if you know anyone that did, please let me know.

Art 9026D


An Alaskan Adventure

August 14, 1997, not a bad day. I didn't do much flying but I think the day covered some pretty neat extremes. Starting out with meeting Phil Boyer, the president of AOPA. Phil Boyer was doing a group of town meeting through out Alaska. Between the one in Fairbanks and Bethel they decided to stop and have lunch in McGrath. When I was first told Phil Boyer was coming to McGrath for lunch I didn't believe it. McGrath has maybe 400 people...what's Phil Boyer doing in McGrath? I even called AOPA headquarters to verify it. Yep....he's doing lunch in McGrath. One of the reasons being the Flight Service Station and the effort by AOPA to keep the 14 remaining Alaska FSS open. (This is not counting the 3 AFSS's).

The AOPA folks came in on my change out day. I work the first part of the day and Dick, my co-worker from Kenai, worked the remainder of the day and the rest of the week. I worked the AOPA Cessna 425 in and Dick took over. I headed out the door about the same time Phil and his crowd started towards the FSS. We met in the dirt street in front of the FSS. This is McGrath, the only thing paved in the whole town is the runway After introductions I gave him the tour of the FSS along with a weather briefing to Bethel. I have to admit...Phil Boyer didn't need me to read the weather to him. My guess is he can read Metar as well as I can. After he filed his IFR flight plan we all headed outside again....just in time to watch a Northern Air Cargo DC6 start up and take off. It really brought home the dependence bush Alaska has on aviation....Besides it is neat watching those old radial aircraft take off.

Off to the Takusko House for lunch. (In what used to be a small yellow school bus,...hey with only 20 miles or so of roads cars are not that plentiful, especially ones large enough to haul a small crowd around.) 20 people or so were there for lunch and to meet Phil. No real hot topics, I think a number of people discussed their concerns after lunch. Like purposed airspace restrictions over national parks or wild-life reserves...this could cover something like 60-80% of the airspace over Alaska. Or the part-timing of the McGrath weather service office, and how that could impact McGrath. The concern I got the biggest kick out of, was Phil trying to convince one of the local hunting guides he should re-join AOPA. Bob M. went on about what has AOPA done for him? His engine blew up a few mouths ago and Continental hasn't even started on it. With hunting season here, Bob M. has starting calling clients and saying don't come. Phil Boyer did say he would call the president of Continental up and find out what’s going on with his engine.

Lunch ended they piled back into the school bus and off to the airport. Then, the whole crowd was gone as fast as they had arrived, in a big twin turbine Cessna that will take them anywhere (almost) you would want. But it didn't seem like a very personal flying experience, not close to the environment, but thru any kind of weather. I guess when you have a schedule to keep like Phil Boyer....looking for black bear in the berry patches or moose or caribou just isn't in the time table. He's missing some of the best parts of being in Alaska. Maybe next trip he’ll come in a Tripacer, or at least a super cub.

Work, now being over for the week, it was time for me to start having some fun, or a least time to get out of McGrath. A friend of mine, Sunny, is the camp cook up at Colorado Creek upper camp. There’s suppose to be some great blueberry picking...sounded like a good reason to go. I didn't head out until 7pm, how I did I think I was going to get many berries picked....?

I flew low over the upper camp and came in and landed. Sunny was already there...boy is she fast. Turns out she was down having dinner with Ron and his family in the lower camp. My timing was perfect...dinner!! I'm sure that makes me a "real pilot" . Pilots I know have this act for always showing up right at meal time. I have come to take it as a true sign of a "real pilot". I have finally pulled it off...now all I have to do is find the place in my log book to signed off.

As soon as I had stepped out of my plane Sunny was wanting to know if I was going to stay the night. I had the best intentions of going home....But between the good company and food, I ended up staying. That is the reason I carry a toothbrush and extra clothes around with me.

Colorado Creek gold mine has been mined since sometime in the 30s. In that time over 50,000 ounces of gold have been taken out of Colorado creek. (that's a lot of gold). Over dinner I had a chance to make a nuisance of myself to Ron's dad, Tubbie. (no I didn't ask about the name).

I got my first glimpse of Tubbie a few weeks ago when I was flying Tower Tom around. He was the supervisor for the temporary tower at McGrath. We stopped in hoping to bag some of Sunny's famous cookies. At the time I didn't have the upper camp approach down. So, no one in the upper camp came down to pick us up. After a few minutes Tubbie took pity on us and offered to drive us up. That was if we didn't mind if he is just about blind. He could see things fairly close, and things fairly far away. It was just that stuff between he can't see. What the heck. It's not like there is any traffic on the road to the upper camp, and Tubbie has been driving this road forever. Tom and I piled in an ancient suburban without brakes and off we went.

During the short ride up I discovered that Tubbie has lived in a time frame that I have a hard time imagining. Coming out to the Kuskowin Valley back in the 30's. Flying into McGrath in an old stagger wing Beeche or Pilgrim. Finding a boat to go down river to Sterling Landing, then over the dirt road connecting most of the mines. I never did get around to finding out what kind of transportation that would have been. He went to work at Little Creek. The best mine in the valley he later claimed. Like a lot of other people coming to Alaska he had an uncle working out here. Then the ride was over. Here was a person I knew I wanted to talk more with.

Before I had loaded my dinner plate up with goodies I was asking questions. Not only did I have Tubbie to ask questions of, but Ron and the whole family. What did Tubbie do during WWII? (The government shut down all the gold mining as being non-essential to the war effort). He became a B17 pilot in Europe. He wasn't a pilot at that time, but his wife was. I wanted to jump on that line, but in consideration to wife number two, I didn't. What about simple things, like washing clothes? At first it was by hand then they got a gasoline washing machine. I wonder how many washes per gallon? "As a matter of fact so-and-so still uses one". Propane came in. Now most of them are electric. (due to the huge generators most camps have). The stories were just getting interesting...like Ron going to school in a whore house and the family living in a bar. Yea...? Turns out they moved to Ophir just after the big boom and both buildings were empty. Good buildings might as well use them. I have been told Ophir had between 2,500-6,000 people at one time, now it's a ghost town. Times have changed in the Kuskowin Valley.

Overhead the sound of an incoming plane. It didn't sound familiar. A white and red C172 came floating in. The plane might not have been familiar, but the pilot sure was. Jim's family is the story of mining in western Alaska. Starting with Jim's grandfather straight from one of the Scandinavian countries. His English might not have been very good but he knew how to mine. Folger's Creek, Cripple Creek, Gains Creek, Goodnews Bay, the list seemed endless. Jim's family was the first to find gold at Colorado Creek. Later in the evening Jim gave us a tour of the different building. As he told the stories we didn't even seem to notice the remaining bugs of the season.

To get to the upper camp four of us piled onto a couple of ATV's and headed up the hill with a few dogs chasing behind. The small family house, now with holes in the floor, all the doors gone. Where the bear went thru the front wall when it heard Jim crying as a child. His father shot the bear thru the screen door. The location in the kitchen where he remembers watching his Dad and Uncles downing a few shots after a clean-up. (clean-up is the last washing of the dirt from the gold,) A couple of gold pans brimming with gold. Outside, the bathhouse. His job, as a child, was to keep wood chopped so there would be hot water in home-made boilers for showers, now rusted 55 gallon drums. The office, where we found filing cabinets with paper work from 1934. The blacksmith's log book. Unused company envelopes with return addresses from Anchorage, McGrath, Folger's Creek, Anvil Creek, and Cripple Creek.

Or the lean-to looking building next to the old office...that use to be the post office the next creek over, Cripple Creek. They dragged it from there one winter, a good size mountain standing in between, adding to the pains of moving this building. The wooden sled runners were still there under the building. Here was the camp kitchen. Every year the same old grumpy guy from California would come up. He was like family and what a great cook. Or the cat (caterpillar tractor) that could just be made out in the over growth of willows, still sitting in the cat shed. WWII surplus. Bought on the docks in Anchorage then freighted into McGrath and a winter haul road to Colorado Creek. The hours of being exposed to -40 temperatures The short days and hard work. The camp came alive as I could see the brothers sitting around a small kitchen table, or tending to the endless paperwork in the office.

Pretty soon, with the fading sunlight (it was still after 10PM) it was time for Jim to head back into McGrath. With him went the faint connection with the past. The Uncles disappeared from the kitchen and Colorado Creek lost the glow of it's glory days. What a time that had to be.

I still can't imagine what life had to be like back then. But then , I had a difficult time believing that Phil Boyer was stopping to have lunch in McGrath too!




It happened August 2, 1996.

It was a steamy August evening in Miami. The time was about 2:00AM. I had just landed with my instructor from doing some night cross countries for my PPL certificate. My instructor is an older man, about 60 years old, or close.

After the engine is shut off, I usually get out of the plane and tie it down, and take care of the outside stuff; he will stay in the plane and write or straighten out his notes from the flight. Well, this night was not a usual one. Everything was going well as we started out and headed to Ft Lauderdale executive for some T&Gs. On the way back we decided I should get some some class B experience, so we transitioned through MIA Class B. On the way south to Tamiami, we overflew Opalocka airprt, which is north of MIA. These airports have almost identical layouts, just that OPF has smaller runways. There was only one plane being sequenced for landing at MIA. I was listening to the freq and heard that the craft was cleared for visual to 9R. I saw the plane approaching the airprt, but I quickly saw it was the wrong airprt. The tower asked if it had the rwy in sight, and the PIC confirmed. They quickly cancelled his clearence, and he was to told to do a missed approach. The 727 broke off approach and powered up. I was sitting there with my instructor, at about 3000 ft, watching it and making remarks, when we noticed it was climbing straight for us. We were in Class B airspace, and the controller forgot about us. My instructor told me to radio in and tell them i was going to maneuver to get out of the way, the controller freaked out and had me doing evasive maneuvers like in the movies(I was in a C-152). I was yanking and banking. Quite an experience, we were in no real danger yet, but I think he forgot we were there and got caught off guard.

Anyway, after that, he apologized a million times and gave us priority through Class B to Tamiami. After landing at TMB, I got out to do my usual thing, and Robert (my instructor) did his thing in the cockpit. When I was tying down the tail, these guys started coming out from around the planes around me. Then all these flash lights came on on me. They had dogs and everything. I thought is was the FAA (I only had 35 hours and had no experience with the FAA). I was ready to tell them that it was not my fault. But it turns out that it was US customs. They asked me all these questions, but would not take the lights off my face, and they stayed at about ten feet from me. They asked for ID, but I left my wallet in the car. They asked where I came from, what I was doing flying so late, etc. I think that they caught my accent (I dont speak pure and perfect english, I have a slight Antonio Banderas like accent) and thought I was smuggling things in. While this was going on we heard an aricraft approaching and land, but there were no lights on. They quickly apologized and took off for the runway. They were after someone who had busted the ADIZ, and got the wrong plane. All the while Robert was sitting in the plane oblivious to the whole thing. I told him and he did not believe me until he saw all the customs cars and personnel on the runway.

What a crazy night. I did not tell my mom, she would tie me down to the bed and never let me leave home. But I told my dad and he told me he has been on several flights into miami that go-around, and the pilot says that there was another plane on the runway and caused the go around, likely excuse.

Safe Skies Lobo

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Last Modified on April 12,1998
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