Baron - 4
Baron - 3
Baron - 2
Baron - 1
the Cassutt - 2
Up in WV
Rico - 2
on the Roof
Better Than a Gear Up
The other day I was thinking about the life
I was living in 1969, which is something I seem to do a lot. I
imagine that particular year fascinates me because of my
unnatural immersion in the world of aviation that existed for me
then. For several reasons, there was almost nothing other than
aviation that I had contact with during this particular year.
The outside world that year had almost ceased to exist
for me, and my life was entirely revolving around things
aeronautical. I was living at the airport, I had no car and my
only personal contacts were with people that were in one way or
another involved in aviation. To say I was focused on my career
would be an understatement. In subsequent years I got a car, met
a few people that didn't fly, traveled a bit other than in an
airplane and began to develop an interest in a few things
outside of aviation. In terms of being a one note Samba, 1969
remains unique in my life.
Anyway in my latest drift
down that particular river, I remembered that the summer of 1969
marked the first of the many trips I was to make to the big EAA
fly in, which in those days was simply referred to as 'Oshkosh.'
As I thought more and more about that pilgrimage and the
subsequent flight, murky and embarrassing details began to
emerge from the mists of time, much like the wrong end of the
runway swimming out of the murk during a low approach.
milestone I recalled, would fulfill a long time yen to witness
firsthand the sights and wonders of the big convention that I'd
only read about in the aviation magazines. Better still, four of
my students, all of whom I had infected with 'Oshkosh Fever',
would accompany me to the big event and we had started planning
and outfitting for the trip weeks before.
And so it
was that a bright summer afternoon saw the five of us, packed
like sweaty sardines into the Cherokee Six alongside camping
gear for a week's stay and a miniature motorcycle, winging
northwest toward all the excitement. After prudently circling
the confusion of Chicago and the liquidity of Lake Michigan I
flew off the Chicago chart and reached in my flight case for the
Green Bay. Hmm, it's not there.
Calmly I explained to
my students that this could be a bit sticky for someone less
experienced than their feckless captain, and should it ever
happen to them they should turn around immediately, fly back
onto the chart they just left, find an airport and purchase a
chart. However, I modestly stated, in view of the navigational
capabilities possessed by yours truly, I would reach into my bag
of tricks and find us a solution that would not delay our
arrival at Oshkosh. Suitably awed, four innocent heads nodded
approval of my plan. I switched on the ADF and started listening
for the Oshkosh AM radio station. Not having a frequency for the
station, I knew I would have to identify it by the
advertisements for the local businesses that were being aired.
Soon I found it, strong and clear with one commercial after
another, touting Oshkosh merchants of all stripes.
switched the ADF to point and the needle swung directly toward
the nose. I nodded knowingly to my students. Oshkosh coming up I
smirked. My students smiled their satisfaction at the steady
hand controlling their fate.
Soon an airport appeared
out of the summer haze, dead ahead and almost exactly where the
ADF was pointing, the runway perfectly aligned to the 36 that I
knew Oshkosh to have. I did have the frequency of the tower,
thanks to a handout the EAA had sent and I dialed in and called
Oshkosh and received an immediate response. I reported eight
miles south, airport in sight and they asked me to report five
out. At five miles from the airport I reported and was told I
was not in sight and to make a straight in for runway 36, report
two mile final.
As I drew nearer I was surprised at
the dearth of aircraft parked there. I expected to see hundreds
of them, and while there were quite a few, there weren't the
numbers I was expecting. Well, it is early in the week and the
crowds probably come later. I reported a two mile final for 36
and a weakened response from the tower advised me that I still
wasn't in sight, but I was cleared to land, report short final.
On short final I dutifully reported, pulled the
throttle and flared, just as the barely audible response came
from the tower. 'We don't have you, are you sure you're landing
Oshkosh?' Then their transmission faded completely and the
realization of what I had done swept over me. Fond du Lac,
Wisconsin had one more operation that day than they had radio
contacts and I was the idiot of the moment. As I poured the
power on and climbed out, a flush of heat climbed my neck and I
shrank to half the size of my previous persona under the
incredulous looks from my students. There are just no words for
occasions like this.
Of course with five witnesses to
my incredible faux pas, only one of whom couldn't wait to get
back to our airport to tell everyone they ever knew about it, I
achieved a tolerable amount of fame during the next few months.
Even more unfortunately one of my students wrote a song about
the sad affair and it gained a spot on the top ten that summer,
at least at the airport.
any rate, we eventually landed at Oshkosh and there parked all
over the airport, were the airplanes that had been missing at
Fond du Lac. With tents pitched and the Six tied down, we combed
the grounds to explore the aircraft and the displays and to
watch the landing traffic as it arrived in a steady stream. We
all agreed that it was unlike anything we'd ever seen and in
spite of our spirited sightseeing it took several days to visit
everything. Our little motorcycle proved quite handy for trips
to town for provisions, but miniature motorcycles were not
licensed for the road in Wisconsin, and ours made quite a stir.
I recall one store keeper looking out at the tiny machine parked
in front, asking if it had shrunk after being left out in the
If memory serves me right, this was the year
that the EAA first moved the convention to Oshkosh from
Rockford, Illinois and we found very rude facilities with none
of the polished appearance that the convention boasts now. The
grounds were very rough and small rocks dotted the fields
I recall how impressed I was with the
solution that the association used to take care of the rock
problem. Throughout the week there were periodic announcements
which asked each and every person to bend over right then, pick
up a rock and deposit it on one of the rapidly growing piles.
When this occurred, as far as you could see people were bending
as one, remindful of the faithful facing Mecca. It was
fascinating to witness the power of numbers at work and by
week's end almost all of the rocks were stacked in neat piles
all over the grounds.
spite of my humiliation at Fond du Lac, it was a wonderful
experience all in all, and I remember it fondly. I loved
sleeping out under the stars, surrounded by hundreds of
airplanes, drifting gently off with the sound in my ears of an
aircraft engine running up somewhere.
though, it was tough to get to sleep, what with my dumb student
practicing his new song