Click to return to the Home Page

Inventory Steve's Store Steve's Blog About Steve Great Customers Vacation Rental West Virginia E-Mail Steve Home

Previous Files
August 9, 2007
July 24, 2007
May 28, 2007
May 2, 2007
March 1, 2007
January 10, 2007
October 8, 2006
June 26, 2006
May 23, 2006
April 25, 2006
December 6, 2005
October 14, 2005
July 22, 2005
May 10, 2005
April 20, 2005
March 29, 2005
March 16, 2005
March 11, 2005
Most Recent
August 27, 2007

……..Continued from July 24, 2007

Quitting time came promptly at five o'clock and I was out the door and in my car in a flash. I drove as fast as I could, without attracting police attention, to the airport where the Luscombe awaited me, tied securely down in the back row of parked airplanes.

The old Stewart Airpark lay on the west side of the town, hard by the banks of the Ohio River, and was one of the few old-time flying fields that had survived into the 1960's. It was built in the twenty's, when airplanes had little crosswind capability, and was constructed to enable a pilot to land into the wind, no matter which way the wind was blowing. The landing area consisted of acres of well-drained sod, some 1800 by 3100 feet in size, and from the air it looked like a great, green velvet table cloth.

As I pulled my car into the parking lot, the airport lay glowing with the emerald sheen of high summer in the slanting, late afternoon light. It was bordered to the west by the great river and to the east by State Route 47. A flood wall cut diagonally across the south end of airport property and a small neighborhood marked the north end of the field.

Stewart Airpark in 1962 was home to fifty or so airplanes and was operated by a busy FBO that was also a Piper distributor. The field was uncontrolled, but had lots of traffic during the pleasant months, with 40 cent per gallon gas fueling great amounts of aeronautical activity. Local pilots flew the pattern and announced their movements and intentions on Unicom frequency when their airplanes were equipped to do it. Everyone else utilized the Mark I eyeball, and so far as I know no one ever got tangled up with anyone else there.

I quickly made my way to where the white Luscombe was parked. My flying kit consisted only of an Esso road map, because in thinking about this trip I was about to make, I realized that I knew US Route 50 like my own face in the mirror and thought I could recognize it as well from 500 feet as I could from the altitude at which my 1957 Chevy usually operated. On the other hand, I knew nothing about aerial navigation or any of the normal skills that pilot's use to get from one place to another, so why pretend that I did?

So that was to be my plan. I would follow the roads, the same roads that I used to drive from my home in the middle of the state, to where I now lived, on the western edge of West Virginia. I would not to try to emulate the more seasoned pilots, which I certainly knew I was not, by navigating, doing pilotage and reading aeronautical maps. I would just 'drive' home. The only exception would be that my wheels would be dangling above, not planted on, the roads I knew so well. This would work just fine, I knew.

The 5 o'clock traffic, the preflight of the airplane and getting fuel, had taken much precious time and caused my departure to be much later than I had anticipated. I glanced anxiously at my watch while doing the run up at the end of the sod runway and took solace in the 56 minute estimated enroute time that my friend had made for me. This would still work. I would still have time to complete the round trip and make it back to the field before dark and that's all the time I needed.

As I had been taught, I gently pushed the throttle forward and the little airplane responded by accelerating down the green strip, the tail coming up and the wings nibbling at the air. It bounced gently once or twice on the gear, then eased into a slow climb through the warm summer sky. The evening sparkled with the golden sunshine of a late summer's afternoon, and the broad Ohio River fell away to my right as I turned toward the downtown area of the city. I would pick up US Route 50 there, that famous strip of asphalt, follow it east, and it would take me to within 15 miles of my destination. It would be my compass.

I looked down on the city as I made my way across town and soon the familiar pattern of 'Washington's Pike' appeared below me. I thought how easy this was and wondered why anyone would want to navigate any other way but following roads. The shadow of my little airplane leapfrogged over the sluggish lines of evening traffic and I felt completely superior to all that crawled about below me. How could I not, for I was a flyer now, and had no patience for things that moved about on the earth?

Soon I was following the road through open countryside, and the familiar hamlets of Ellenboro, Pennsboro and West Union passed beneath the nose of the airplane. I watched the town of Salem appear, then the city of Clarksburg loomed before me, a place I knew well and where I planned to hook up with route 20. That road I knew, wound through the hills to the southeast for several miles, on its way to Philippi, the town that had served as our family's trading center during my youth. From there, the Tygart River made its serpentine way to the village of Arden, the target for tonight's mission. Finding my destination was as easy as following the path from my bed to the bathroom in the house I grew up in and which now awaited my unannounced and dramatic appearance in the sky above it.

Finding Route 20 South, it was only a matter of minutes before I was over Philippi, the old covered bridge passing beneath me as I joined the river and continued downstream toward my home.

This seemed like a dream to me. After a lifetime of looking up at the very sky I was now occupying, I was at this minute zooming through it, announcing my passage with an important roar to all those below.

Since my mission plan called for minimum altitude over the target, I had wound the trim forward and stuck the nose of the little airplane down, in order to get to the planned altitude by my objective. A satisfying hiss of air washed over the airframe and the little A-65 Continental engine took on a serious note as the airplane slid down the slope I had created. The whole airplane took on a vibration I had never felt before as the airspeed indicator needle reached for the red line that marked 'this fast and no faster', and I wondered if anyone had ever flown it at this speed before.

About a mile from my parent's house, the twisting river made an oxbow of its meandering path toward the Ohio, and as I passed this point, centered between the stream's grassy banks, something flashed by, close beneath my wheels, so fast that I couldn't estimate by how much I had missed it. A power line, I noticed belatedly, now spanned the river here, and was hanging from supporting towers that crowned the tops of the hills bracketing the stream bed. How much I had missed the heavy cables I couldn't say, but I the image of the windings that were built into the cables during manufacture remained burned into my brain like a photograph, and it shook me.

To be continued………

Steve Weaver Aircraft Sales - Route 3 Box 696 - Phillipi, West Virginia - Phone 304-457-4523 - Fax 304-457-4799 For a restorative vacation for both your body and your soul, consider a week on the banks of the unforgettable Tygart River, in the heart of West Virginia. Click for more.

Copyright © 1997 - 2007 Steve Weaver Aircraft Sales. Specifications are based upon owner's representations, and subject to buyer's verification. Aircraft are subject to prior sale or removal from market.