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PIPER CUB

ERA
at Nicolet Airport

An American Phenomenon

By — Mr. Beverly M. Butler


— „
PIPER CUB
ERA
at Nicolet Airport

An American Phenomenon

by
Mr. Beverly M. Butler

& Cover Design by


Illustrations
Karen Sheaffer Hebert

Published by

Jones Publishing
lola, Wisconsin
Other Jones Publications:

CESSNA OWNERS Magazine


and
PIPERS Magazine

For subscription information


on these publications, write:

Cessna Owner Organization, or


Piper Owner Society

Aircraft Owner Organization


Box 337 Iola, WI 54945

or call 1 (715) 445 5000

Note: Jones Publishing does not


distribute this Piper Cub Era book.

* * *

Piper Cub Era at Nicolet Airport

is distributed wholesale and retail

exclusively by:

Hickory Grove Publications


12503 Hickory Grove Road
Maribel, WI 54227
1 (414) 863 8245

Autographed copies of this book


can be obtain directly from the
author at the Maribel address.
PIPER CUB ERA
at Nicolet Airport

An American Phenomenon

Published by Jones Publishing,


P.O. Box 337, Iola, Wisconsin 54945 USA
(715) 445-5000

Distributed by Hickory Grove Publications


12503 Hickory Grove Road
Maribel, Wisconsin 54227 USA
(414) 863-8245

Copyright @ 1993 by Mr. Beverly M. Butler.


All rights reserved. Reproduction of this work,
in whole or in part, without written permission
of the author is prohibited.

Artwork: Copyright @ 1993 Karen Sheaffer Hebert,


used by permission.

Book design by Graphically Speaking


San Jose, California (408)365-0933

ISBN # 1-879825-01-5

FIRST PRINTING

SECOND EDITION
Published in 1993

Printed in the United States of America


In memory

of my late wife

Nancy L. Butler
Acknowledgements

To my late wife Nancy, who was my best critic, and who


edited everything I wrote.

To Don Wright, president of Cottage Publications of Elkhart,


Indiana, for recognizing that there were two books in the original
Recreational Vehicle manuscript I had sent him, and for suggest-
ing that I remove the aviation stories and create this book.

To my sister, Anna Lee Patrick, for editing and advising.

To my son Keith, for his input on some of the incidents he


witnessed as a child, and for his editing.

To my dear friend Mike Boncher. Without his help, there is

no way I could have survived six years at Nicolet Airport.

To my step-daughter, Karen Sheaffer Hebert, for donating


her talents to draw the sketches at the beginning of each chapter,
for painting the cover, and for the production of this book.

To David Sakrison, editor of CESSNA OWNER Magazine


and PIPERS Magazine, for assistance in final editing and produc-
tion of the original manuscript.

To Norm Petersen, Experimental Aircraft Association asso-


ciate editor for his editing and encouragement, and for writing
the back cover.
* * *

V
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bev Butler was born in Macon, Missouri, May 3, 1922. His
interest in airplanes began in 1927 after listening to the radio
description of Charles Lindbergh's successful solo flight to Paris
in the Spirit of St. Louis. Bev's brother, Chris, built a five-foot
wingspan rubber-band model that year. That started Bev on a

model airplane building spree which involved more than 300


airplane models, and lasted through his high school days.
Each week in 1930, Bev walked to the Skelly Oil Company
station in Macon where he received flying lessons written by
WWI pilot. Captain Frank Hawks. He then ran over to another
service station and talked them over with barnstorming pilot,
Charlie Fower.

Bev flunked the eye test when he tried to enlisted in


In 1942,
the U.S. Air Corps, and then enlisted in the U.S. Army
Navy
Signal Corps. During the war, he received a communications
degree from Port Arthur, Texas, College. He got his first airplane
ride in a C-47 transport while serving as a radiotelephoto
operator in Australia in 1944.
After the war, Bev received an ALA degree from the Univer-
sity of Minnesota and started writing short vignettes of his life.
In 1953, he moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where he got his
next airplane ride. That was when he took his first flying lesson-
-and where this book really begins.

vi
PREFACE
I've been retired for more than eight years now. After forty-
five years in the business world, I find myself busy as ever
putting thoughts and ideas down on paper with the touch of my
fingers on the computer keyboard. My writing started out as an
autobiography where my wife Nancy and I took an RV trip
around the country while I recalled my life story. Many of the
stories told here were taken from that book.
As the book progressed, however, it became more and more
evident that my life's
happenings had been dominated by one
overriding theme: Nicolet Airport. The time I spent as manager
and flight instructor there was the worst financial undertaking
and yet the most enjoyable experience of my life. It was far more
than just a business.
This story could be told by any one of hundreds of pilots who
flew out of that tiny airport in the 1950s and 60s. I'm sure many
of them would tell it in a slightly different manner, and I hope
that someday one of them does; but I can only tell the story as I
saw it.
The above was written for the 1st edition of this book
which quickly sold out. Rather than having a second printing, I
decided to revise and expand the original by adding more than
ninety new stories told to me by pilots at EAA conventions, and
as traveled around the country. Although one new chapter has
I

been added just to accommodate many of them, most have been


inserted near similar stories in the original version.

Enjoy,

Bev

vii
Vlll
INTRODUCTION
THE PIPER CUB ERA! What is it? What was it? Is it over? I

really don't know if it's over, but I know it was in full swing
during the 1950s and 60s when a group of twenty small-airplane
pilots got together to reopen a little airport near Green Bay,
Wisconsin. It was named NICOLET (Pronounced Nick-oh-lay)
for Jean Nicolet, the French explorer who pioneered this area
circa 1630.

The first modern era of aviation started with the Wright


Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. If the
Piper Cub era had an exact beginning, it would have to be in 1937
when the Piper company purchased the Taylor Cub patents from
the Taylor Company. The E-2 Cub was their first model and that
begat a long line of other models, including the most famous
J-3,which quickly became so well known that the name “Cub"
became the generic name for all small airplanes.
More than a dozen companies manufactured small aircraft
during the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and even into the 60s before they
started going out of business— one by one. Aeronca Aircraft, and
later Champion Aircraft, which made the popular Aeronca

Champ, Chief, Sedan, and Defender are gone; so are Stinson,


Meyers, Fairchild, Rearwin, Taylorcraft, and so many others.
This is a story about all of those beautiful, wonderful, small
airplanes, and about the filling station attendants, clerks, paper
workers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, architects, plumbers, bar-
tenders, policemen, and hundreds of others from all walks of life
who flew them in and out of Nicolet Airport between 1945 and
1975. Come live with them as they fly those magnificent little
machines.

ix
May we offer a suggestion...

To get the full flavor of this book, please start at the


beginning, read slowly, and pause at the stars after the end
of each vignette.

X
Mike Boncher and I are still best of friends nearly thirty years
after Nicolet Airport closed. Although its closing didn't bring
the "Piper Cub Era" to a complete end, it certainly finished one
Mike and I were partners for six years
chapter of it— at least for us.
in the small, fixed-base operation that saw Aeronca Champs,
Chiefs, Citabrias, Defenders, and Sedans; Cessna 140s, 150s,
170s, and 180s; Taylorcrafts, Stinsons, Beechcrafts, Ercoupes,
Rearwins, Luscombes, Ryans, Fairchilds, Meyers, Lakes,
and a Republic Seabee; Piper
Bellancas, experimental airplanes,
and so many other Pipers we can't begin to
Pacers, Tri-Pacers,
name them all— including the Super Cub and the world famous
J-3, better known as THE Piper Cub.
When I say that we ran the "business," I use that word
lightly because of all the fun we had during those six short,
wonderful years. This morning in the 1990s, now more than a
quarter of a century later, it's just getting light as Mike and I find
ourselves sitting and staring out the south window of his car-
reminiscing at what used to be . . .

1
"Remember the day we thought Jerry Seroogy was going
. . .

to crash the Mini-plane? He hit one of those bumps we missed


with the roller!" Mike laughed.
"Yeah," I said as my mind quickly spun in reverse.
* * *

The Mini-plane was an experimental, half-sized, two-winged,


open-cockpit airplane that Jerry and his two close friends,
Ardovino Mariucci and Bill Wogsland, spent two years building
in their basements from mail-order plans. Mike and I, and

dozens of their other pilot friends, paid regular visits to their

homes and watched as they welded the frame, glued the wooden
wing ribs together, formed the fuselage profile, and finally
covered it with a professional "Ceconite" covering.
When the tiny plane was finally finished, they carefully

loaded all the parts onto a truck and hauled them over to our
Nicolet Airport for weeks of assembly. Meanwhile, it was
mutually agreed that when the plane was ready to fly, they
would abide by a few simple rules which would eventually lead
up to the maiden flight. The first rule called for them to take turns
taxiing the Mini-plane up and down the longer 4,000 foot
runway to break in the newly overhauled engine. They never got
to a second rule, and the subject of just who would get the honor

of actually making the first flight never came up.


We spectator-pilots stood in awe during the week following
the Mini-plane's assembly as the three proud owners displayed
their little novelty by taxiing it up and down every ramp and
taxiway throughout the airport property. We noticed, however,
that each time one of the "test pilots" pulled the Mini-plane onto
the long runway for a simulated takeoff run, he got a little bolder
and added a little more throttle than his predecessor. This
prompted us to start kidding each of them about getting so close
to actually taking off.

No one seems to remember just who did it first, but one day
the white plane with bold red numbers was going a little too
little

fastand its wheels actually left the runway. The Mini-plane had
suddenly become airborne for a few seconds before the throttle
was chopped and it touched back down.
That must have looked like fun because the other two

2
owners immediately joined in, and from that moment on, none
of them was satisfied with taking his turn by merely taxiing. Each
time one of them climbed into the cockpit, he taxied to the
downwind end of the runway, pointed the nose into the wind,
and gave the plane full throttle. We watched as the Mini-plane
became airborne for a few hundred feet before the pilot realized
he was running out of runway and set it down just in time. He
did, that is until one day . . .

... aweek had passed and it was Jerry's turn. There was still
no agreement as to who would be the first to fly the little bug as
Jerry taxied away from the gas pump. A stiff wind was coming
from the north, so rather than fight a crosswind on the longer
east-west runway, he decided todo his fast taxiing and simu-
lated takeoff directly into the wind on the shorter, 2,300 foot
runway.

Smith Mini-Plane at the Sheboygan Airshow, in the early Sixties.

3
"That was the day the wheels hit the bump," Mike laughed.
"He bounced so high he ran out of runway before he could set
it back down."
Jerry told us later that he figured he had no choice but to give
it and fly around the pattern before landing back
full throttle

where he started. The Mini-plane was no longer a virgin.


"I remember," Mike chortled. "When he gave it the throttle,

it passed right over our heads here," and we both looked up as

if to see was really there.


if it

"Jerry's log book shows his accidental flight was on Decem-


ber 7, 1 961, exactly twenty years after the day President Roosevelt
said would live in infamy," I said.
"And it was almost another Pearl Harbor," Mike laughed.
Now, thirty years later, one of the three owners told us the
The cowling had been removed for adjustments,
rest of the story.

and the Mini-plane was not ready to fly that day. Equally
important was the fact that the FA A hadn't yet signed the Mini-
plane's license for legal flight. Jerry said he never, ever did that
again. Sure, Jerry!
* * *

"Where on earth did those thirty years go?" That's the


question Mike was asking as we sat in his parked car near the
north end of the old north-south runway. Earlier that morning
we had driven south on Green Bay's Webster Avenue before
turning east towards the East River on Lebrun Road in anticipa-
tion of seeing some semblance of our old, beloved Nicolet
Airport. Our plans to stop exactly at the end of that runway were
being thwarted, however, because, after a quarter of a century,
we were unable to find any evidence to prove that it once existed.
We got out of the car. Mike lowered his head and started
shuffling slowly along the right-of-way, scanning every inch of
the shallow ditch that separated Lebrun road from the end of the
old runway. Every few feet he stopped to gaze at a spot for a few
seconds before continuing on. When I saw him stop and stare at
something before getting down on his knees for a closer look, I

yelled over to him, "What are you looking for?"


"Pm trying to see if I can find the hole in the ditch that Jim
Masse made when his Cessna 140 stood on its nose after he ran

4
it off the end of the runway," he hollered back.
"After thirty years?" I questioned with a scrunched-up face.

* * *

I don' t know where Mike was that morning in 1 962, but I was
in the north repair hangar working on a plane. When I heard a
commotion, I stepped outside to see Jim's eight year old son, Pat,
running breathlessly toward me. "Dad crashed our airplane-1
gotta call Mom," he hollered over his shoulder as he continued
running towards the outdoor phone booth.
I knew Pat's mother Doris very well, and I know what she

must have thought when he called her and, I found out later,
uttered those frightening words, "Mom, we crashed!"
Pat was so and passed me so fast, I couldn't get any
thrilled,

more information from him, but I dropped my tools and fol-


lowed a group of pilots who were heading towards the north end
of the runway. Sure enough, there was Jim's plane, standing on
its nose. Within minutes, a group of us had let the tail down easy

and pulled the plane out of the ditch. Jim told us that he had
aborted the takeoff after the engine quit.
* * *

That very same thing happened to me one day after taking


our Cessna 140 off from Austin Straubel Field after it had
received an annual inspection. I had brought the plane over with
both gas tanks full but, I was told later, they had to drain the right
tank for the inspection and the mechanic not only forgot to refill

it, he left the selector on the empty tank. The fuel gauge indicat-
ing needle had blocked off the lower half of the "E" (for EMPTY)
and made it look like an "F," (for FULL). Evidently I had enough
gas left in the drained tank to get me out to the runway and get
the plane into the air before the engine quit.
Both Jim and I had neglected to follow a rule we both knew
so well— "Never trust a gas gauge. Stick your finger in the tank
to feel the gas." Unlike Jim, however, I had a very long runway
and was able and stop in time. Jim almost got his plane
to land

stopped too, but not quite. The plane damage was minimal. Jim's
ego damage was great. But ecstatic Pat's day was made.
* * *

5
Before the north end of this shorter second runway could be
opened, the Public Service Company had to bury the overhead
electric power lines that stood high across it. The runway was
only 2,300 feet long to begin with, and if they hadn' t buried them,
pilots would have had to take off sooner and come in higher on
finalapproach while landing, to avoid hitting them. As Mike and
I inched alongside the gravel road, searching for any trace of that

once buried cable, our shoes became sopping wet from the early
morning dew which had dampened the un-cut grass.
Beyond the fence, huge condominiums and twisting resi-

dential streets covered all vestiges of the runway itself. I felt a


pressing urge to hop over the ditch, scale the fence, and once
again walk on the sod where Mike and had spent our summers
I

on Dick Matzke's tractor. Dick was one of our first and most
generous student pilots. He owned a nearby farm and furnished
us with a spare tractor each year. On days too windy for flying,
we connected it to a four-ton, concrete-filled, bump-removing
roller and spent hours pulling it up and down runways to make

them a little smoother. It worked fine, except for that one bump
we accidentally left for Jerry and the Mini-plane. Mike said I left
it, I said he did, and Jerry just said, "Thank you."

* * *

Still looking for traces of the old runway, we left the car and
passed the old Peters' farm as we walked east down Lebrun
Road toward the river. All of the buildings were still there, but
Mrs. Peters had moved. She complained a lot about our planes
scaring her cows, and we did everything we could to keep the
noise down because many of our pilots were farmers and
understood her concern.
As we neared the river, Mike and I stopped and glanced at
the outlines of Will Wiese's home and barn. Will's buildings
were gone, except for the foundations. We stood silently shaking
our heads, knowing that Will is gone too. He died from a stroke
just a few months previously.

Will was my student. His daughter, Diane, also took flying


lessons, but mostly she helpedme "publish" (mimeograph) the
monthly NICOLET AVIATION NEWS. Here is a story out of the
March, 1960, edition called "POOR WILL WIESE."

6
* * *

We all feel Will Wiese is a nice sort of a chap and that a person
would normally treat him fairly. We also feel that Mike Boncher
played a dirty trick on him Sunday, February 7, when Will came
to the airport with every intention of going flying. With Will in

the back seat, Mike taxied the Aeronca Champ out to the active
runway for takeoff.
After Mike went through the check list, pulled the plane onto
the runway, applied full throttle and picked up flying speed,
poor Will still thought he was going flying. But a sudden
crosswind gust and a piece of farm equipment, which someone
had left alongside the runway, had other plans for Poor Will.
When that gust forced the Champ off the runway, Mike saw the
machinery dead ahead and figured he had no choice but to apply
full right rudder to avoid a certain collision.

The plane swerved to the right and barely missed the


equipment, but Mike saw a barbed wire fence coming up at him
fast. He immediately chopped the throttle, applied the brakes

and steered the plane between two fence posts. But it was too
late. Mike, Will, and the plane went through the fence, sheared

off the landing gear, and came to rest in the farm field adjacent
to the airport.
Did I forget you that Poor Will lived on the farm next
to tell
to the airport? Will came to the airport that day with every
intention of going flying, but when Mike went through the fence,
he had taken Poor Will back home to his own property, and he
never did get to go flying that day.
* * *

"My, God, was that really thirty years ago?" Mike asked
rhetorically.
After passing Will's old farmstead, Mike and I stood in
silence as we paused at a spot on Lebrun Road where it came to
a dead end at the river. We each knew what the other was
thinking. It was here, during Nicolet Airport's heyday, that
one
of our student pilot friends parked his car one night, after an
argument with his girlfriend, and ran a hose from his car exhaust
intoone of the windows. Everyone at the airport was shocked,
and we thought afterward that he could have ended his life by

7
crashing his airplane, but we knew him well enough to know that
he loved it too much to do that.

All the nostalgic reminiscing suddenly got to me. "I don't

feel so good, Mike," I said. "I think I'll go home and write
a book."
"Why don't you?" Mike urged.
"I think I will," I said as we headed back towards his car. "I

think I will."

Mike drove us back to his house in Green Bay where I had


left my car. During the thirty minute drive to my Maribel,
Wisconsin, home, my head kept swirling with thoughts and
ideas for a book about Nicolet Airport. What would be the
format? How would I begin? Should I start by telling about the
day I first arrived at Nicolet? Or should I start with the day I
learned to fly in Grand Rapids, Minnesota? Those questions
persisted the morning following our visit to Lebrun Road.
* * *

8
CHAPTER TWO
The Very Beginning
I remember the day my father-in-law paid a visit shortly
after his eighty-fifth birthday. He walked into a bedroom and
stood staring at a wall. When I walked in, he turned to me and
said, "Now, what am doing in here?"
I

As I sit here staring at my computer keyboard, I know just


how he must have felt. What am I doing here? I know that some
of the events leading up to this moment started many years ago,
but they didn't really start coming to a head until I retired.
The first four years of my retirement were devoted to writing
an autobiography in which a recreational vehicle trip (from
Wisconsin, to Texas, California, Washington, and return) was
used asa premise for telling my life story. The manuscript was
submitted to publishers a couple of years ago. A few weeks later,
one editor called to say that he believed there were more than one
books in the manuscript.
When he suggested separating them, it prompted me to go
into the computer immediately and put everything relating to
my first love, aviation, in one long document. It also prompted

9
me to give Mike a call a few days ago, and that led up to our
getting together yesterday.
The premise for that autobiography can best be described by
quoting the first page from it:
"I once heard an airplane pilot describe flying as being
'hours and hours of boredom, interrupted occasionally by a few
moments of stark terror.' I've never had any moments of 'stark
terror' have experienced many hours of
while RVing, but I

boredom while driving from one faraway place to another. I did,


that is, until I found something to do during these long trips
between campgrounds.
"'What do 1 do?' you ask. I do exactly what I am doing right
now. I am dictating my thoughts and ideas into a microphone
which is attached to a tape recorder here in the front seat of my
car. The mike is rigged in a way that leaves my hands free for

driving while I am talking."


Yesterday, 1 my belt and
fastened that tape recorder to
recorded the conversations and observations Mike and 1 had
while trying to find the end of that runway. After finishing
breakfast a few minutes ago, I walked into my little niche at the
far end of our house and turned on the computer. I then typed

out our conversations from yesterday before reaching up and


pulling three pilot logbooks from a shelf. The small red one was
purchased in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the day I took my first
flying lesson, and the two large black ones were started after
receivingmy flight instructor rating.
All my personal flying history is recorded in them as well as
much of Nicolet Airport's history. FAA rules require instructors
to record all flight instruction given, so ninety percent of the
lessons given at Nicolet Airport were recorded in these three
logbooks. They are now beside the keyboard on my computer
table and will be used as a guide for this undertaking. Everything
is all set now to begin this story, "PIPER CUB ERA."
He * *

I opened the little red logbook and saw that my first flying

lesson took place the day before Christmas, December 24, 1953.

Please allow me
quote another page from the traveling book.
to

My wife Nancy and I were towing our Airstream trailer through

10
Illinois on our way
southern Texas when:
to
"Off to our by squinting through my sunglasses, I can
left,

see a few small airplanes securely tied down at what appears to


be an old airport with sodded runways. A dilapidated hangar,
with its caved-in roof and abandoned look, attests to the passing
of the Piper Cub era. This scene evokes pangs of nostalgia and
sadness for me, because it was at this type of airport that I took
my first flying lesson:"

* * *

It was December, 1953, and I had been living in Grand


Rapids for six months. Business was good, but I had exhausted
all available recreational choices. 1 was really bored as I strolled
into the Pokegama Hotel bar December 23 and told
the night of
my troubles to bartender Bill Pfeifer. Even though had sent his 1

hole-cutting rod through the ice and to the bottom of the lake on
my first and last ice-fishing venture with him, he still talked
to me.
When lamented the recreational void was suffering. Bill
1 I

said, "Why don't you learn to fly?" He added that he held a


private pilot license, then told this story:
* * *

"One day I arranged to give airplane rides to a bunch of


relatives gathered for a family reunion at a lake cottage. I saw

them lining the shore in front of the cabin in apparent anticipa-


tion as was making the letdown in my skiplane, and they all
I

started waving as I turned onto final approach.


"Because the wind was coming from behind the cabin and
out to the lake, I decided to land with a straight-in approach into
the wind This meant
. that as the plane touched down, it would
be heading straight at the group.
"Because most of my ski-landings had been in snow (which
caused a lot of drag and slowed down the plane) I wasn't quite
prepared for the reaction of the skis on clear ice. Wind had blown
the snow off the lake, and the plane wouldn't stop. It kept sliding
and sliding toward the waving crowd.
"Of course there were no brakes on the skis, and the plane
was so close to shore it was impossible add power and take off
for a new approach.

11
"At the last moment, I did the only two things I could think
to do. First, just before reaching the people, I applied full right

rudder and added a burst of power. This caused the plane to start
turning around and around as it continued towards shore. When
I knew the plane wouldn't stop before reaching shore, I turned
off the switches to stop the propeller from turning so as not to
chew up anyone.
"Meanwhile, everyone on shore thought this was an act

created just for their enjoyment. They all stood, cheered, and
clapped as the plane finally slammed into the shore beside them.
No one was hurt and the plane wasn't damaged, but I got out to
a standing ovation as cold sweat ran down my chin."

* * *

had always wanted to learn to fly as a kid, and I built


I

hundreds of flying model airplanes. Whenever I looked up in the


sky and saw a small plane, I just knew I could fly it. Bill's story
must have gotten me so excited I dreamed about it all night,
because I bed the next morning, picked up the
rolled out of
telephone, and called the airport. It was the day before Christ-
mas, and my exact words were, "What do I have to do to learn
to fly?"
"Get into your car and drive out here," the man said. "I'll

be waiting for you."


That brief telephone conversation changed my life. Without
eating breakfast, washing my face, or even brushing my teeth,
and in spite of the 20 below zero weather, I kept the appointment.
With only a "Hello-How are you? My name is Ned Powers," he
then marched me out to a small yellow airplane with red trim and
told me to climb into the front seat.
I felt a little apprehensive when I saw the plane had skis

attached to the landing gear where the wheels belonged, but N ed


was PILOT, and that alone made him worthy of a little
a
reverence. As he strapped me in the front seat, he explained that
the airplane was an Aeronca Champ, but he could have called it
anything and it wouldn't have mattered to me. I felt as if I were
in a new dimension of time and expected the ghost of Christmas
past to step out of a hangar any minute and tell me I shouldn't
be so happy.

12
Ned told me to just relax and not touch the throttle while he
"propped" the engine. He then backed out the door and moved
to the front of the plane and started giving the propeller quick
downward pulls. Nothing seemed to be happening. Ned walked
back and opened the door. He then pushed and pulled a knob in
and out several times.
"She just needs a shot of gas," he said as he moved back to
the propeller.
up and down my spine when the engine jumped
Shivers ran
to life. Ned untied a wing rope, ran around the wing struts,
jumped into the back seat, and buckled his seat belt. When he
pushed the throttle forward, the engine raced for a few seconds,
but the plane didn't move as the skis appeared to be stuck to
the snow.
I turned around to see a great big smile on Ned's face as he
said, "Don't worry. I'll get her," and he pushed the throttle all
of the way forward until the tail came up. He then moved his feet
back and and the plane swayed sideways until suddenly
forth,
it we were free. I turned around again, but
lurched forward, and
this time Ned only grinned and said nothing as he started taxiing

out to the runway. After a few minutes of turning switches and


tapping instruments, he pulled onto the runway and gave the
engine full throttle.

My heart leaped as we surged forward. I Ned was


thought
some kind god as he gently lifted the plane into the air as if by
of
magic, but we didn't seem to be getting any higher. I honestly
didn't think we were going to make it over the trees that stood
at the end of the runway, but he somehow managed to make it

at the last moment.

Ned then turned from a god to a saint as he climbed us up


to a thousand feet and told me to take over as pilot. WOW! He
even held his hands and feet up forward beside me, just to prove
that I was actually doing the flying. WOW!
For the next two weeks we followed roads, made left turns,
right turns, did climbs, glides, and stalls, until one day Ned
directed us five miles south of town where he started me making
takeoffs and landings on ice-covered Lake Pokegama. I thought
at the time that taking off and landing on a lake was real neat,

probably because it seemed like something we shouldn't

13
be doing. After all, airplanes are supposed to land at airports,
aren't they? We then started visited many other neighboring
lakes until my log book showed . . .

. . . 1-6-54: First solo. WOW! I remember that! Ned got out


of the plane and said, "Make three takeoffs and landings and
then come on in," and I saw him patiently standing in that sub-
zero temperature. I was so excited and concerned at the time,
that I do not remember actually making those takeoffs and
landings. I do remember going into the flight shack afterward
and having a card made out commemorating the occasion,
however.
* * *

I rented their Aeronca Champ for the next couple of weeks


after the first solo and practiced everything Ned had taught me.
1-15-54: my first airplane, a Cessna 120 with skis.
Purchased
As soon as the title was changed, Ned took me out and gave me
an hour of instruction in it.
1-17-54: Received twenty minutes instruction before soloing

for the remainder of two hours.


* * *

1-23-54: Soloed the Cessna:

After making and landings with the wind


several takeoffs
coming straight down the runway, the wind shifted and in-
creased in velocity just as I was making a landing. I wanted to
change runways, but there was a crosswind on all three.
After two more attempts at landing in an awkward, crabbed
position, I decided to leave the airport and head for Trout Lake,
where Ned had taken me many times to practice
five miles east
takeoffs and landings before I soloed. The lake was five miles
long and a mile wide, and a landing could be made directly into
the wind from any direction. I was scared and anxious to get back
on the ground, so I landed the plane at the very edge of the lake.
That made it necessary to taxi four long miles to reach a house
to call for help.
Ned answered phone and promptly flew another in-
the
structor over to the lake. As we were flying back to the airport,
the instructor was kind enough to say that I did the right thing
by landing on the lake and directly into the wind rather than

14
attempting to land in a crosswind I couldn't handle, but he
criticized me for not flying closer to the house before actually
setting down. A month later I did the same stupid thing when I

landed at the very end of Duluth airport's 7,000 foot runway and
then taxied the length of it before reaching the flight office. If it

hadn't been so cold on those two occasions, I might have


overheated and damaged the engine.
* * *

1 -23-54: My logbook shows that I received three hours and


twenty minutes of instruction the same day I landed on Trout

Lake. Over margin was written, "Dual-crosswind


in the right
landings." The instructor who brought me back from the lake
gave me the dual on our return. I remember him teaching me to
lower the wing on the upwind side and cross-control with the
rudder to keep the plane lined up with the runway. He must have
done a good job, because I don't remember ever having difficulty
with crosswind landings after that.

* * *

One thing that helped me a lot in my landings during those


early days was the fact that the plane had skis, rather than
wheels, because skis are much more forgiving than wheels. Skis
will slide sideways in the snow, and although wheels will slide
on grass, they are absolutely unforgiving on a hard surface
a little
like concrete or asphalt. Landing in snow with a plane on skis is
like landing in a feather bed and it's difficult to tell when the skis

actually touch down.


The dangerous part of landing with skis is not being able to
focus the eyes on the surface of fresh snow. It's like making a
glassy water landing with a seaplane. With skis on fresh snow or
floats on glassy water, a pilot must land near grass that is sticking

up through the snow or water, alongside a fence, shoreline, or


any object he can focus his eyes on. Otherwise, he should come
in with the nose of the plane slightly high, in a three-point
attitude, and add a little power to "feel" his way down.
* * *

During the next several weeks I investigated all the lakes and
towns within a fifty mile radius of Grand Rapids, while making

15
cross-country trips to other Minnesota towns like Brainerd,
Duluth,
2- Eveleth, and Bemidji.
* * *

9-54: My daughter Shirley's tenth birthday. With 40 hours


and 45 minutes of total time, Ned wrote out the recommendation
and gave me the private flight test. Of course I passed, but there
is one fact about that thirty-day period that will remain forever

etched on my brain; the temperature did not rise above zero


degrees Fahrenheit-day or night. There were days when it
3-
dropped under 30 below, and on some occasions we couldn't
even get the planes started. Oh, how well I remember propping
my Cessna on below zero days after the starter failed to turn the

engine. Because of the ever-present snow in the area, all my


lessons and flying were done in airplanes with skis rather than

wheels.
on the Cessna with wheels.
21-54: Replaced the skis
3-22-54:With 74 hours and 45 minutes of total flying time, I
took off on what turned out to be the craziest flying adventure
I was ever to have-a solo, round-trip, flight to California.

* * *

Grand Rapids Minnesota: the author'props" his Cessna


120 at 25 degrees below Zero.

16
CHAPTER THREE
California - Here I Come!
My ex-wife, Eloise, took our two young children and moved
to Vallejo, California, shortly after our divorce in Kansas City
two years previously. had considered driving out to see them
I

before I started flying, but buying the Cessna 120 and getting my
private pilot license was too much of a temptation to ignore. It
was early on the morning of March 25, 1 954, when I took off from
the Grand Rapids, Minnesota, airport on a planned, two-week,
solo round-trip to California. The first leg called for stops in
Ames, Iowa, Kansas City, Missouri, Alva, Oklahoma, and
El Paso, Texas.
The flight to Ames was uneventful, but a strange thing
happened on takeoff. The magnetic compass was reading "south"
during my takeoff run, but the second the plane left the runway,
the compass started turning, and it continued on for a full 360
degrees without stopping. I was so shook-up I really don't
remember, but it may have gone around twice. After reaching
1,000 feet five miles south of the airport, it finally quit turning.
To this day, I still don't know what caused it. I continued on to

17
Kansas City and spent the night with my brother. Bob.
* * *

The next morning I flew on to Alva where I had the first of


many problems. On touchdown, a right crosswind caused the
120 to weathercock into the wind and leave the runway. As it
proceeded onto the grass apron in front of the flight office, I
realized that the left brake had failed. The plane was going into
the wind and heading straight towards the flight shack, and I

couldn't stop.
At first I tried to pass to the left of it, but the useless left brake
would not permit it. At the last second, I applied full right rudder
and brake, and by giving the engine a sudden burst of power, the
rudder caught the blast of the "prop-wash," enabling the plane
to ground loop. As we spun around, the left wing-tip missed the

huge plate glass window by inches. ("Ground loop" means


turning around quickly on a spot on the ground.) I spent the
night in a nearby hotel, and by the time I returned the next
morning, a mechanic had replaced the left brake disk and filled
the wing tanks with gas.

* * *

I untied the plane and took off heading south for El Paso. The
low-frequency radio went dead a few minutes after takeoff, but
it was a clear day and I had no trouble navigating. A few hours

later, I entered the El Paso traffic pattern, got a green light from
the control tower, and landed. (Young pilots of the 1990s don't

realize how nice we had it during that period of aviation history.


Today's pilot can't enter a controlled area without a radio having
all of the proper tower and ground control frequencies.)
A brilliant red sun was just setting as I taxied over to the El
Paso airport apron and tied the Cessna down among many other
small planes. After I explained the radio problem, the operator
sent a mechanic out to remove it from my plane, and I walked
into the coffee shop and ordered a glass of orange juice. The
waitress asked if I wanted a large, medium, or small one. I'm
glad I decided on the small, because she brought me the largest
glass of orange juice I had ever my introduction
seen. That was
to the vastness of Texas. It was late when finished my drink, andI

18
I was tired. So I curled up in a flight office lounge chair and went
to sleep.

When I awoke the next morning, I learned that the night-shift


repairman had corrected the problem and the radio already was
installed back in the plane. I didn't know it at the time, but that
old radio was to save my life on the return trip from California.
* * *

It was still dark when I took off the next morning. As I

progressed westward, I saw mountain ranges ahead and on each


side of me, but I stuck to the valleys and gradually gained enough
altitude to clear the highest ridge in my path. By the time I saw
Phoenix, four hours and 400 miles later, I was cruising at 11,000
feet when I noticed the oil pressure slowly dropping. I throttled
back immediately. Fortunately, was within gliding distance of
I

the Phoenix airport. I made the let-down and landed to complete

the non-stop flight.


I had been wearing a winter jacket and fur cap with built-in
ear muffs since getting chilled at high altitude. I was leaving my
plane and heading for the flight office, when I noticed natives
standing around in their halters and shorts, enjoying the 80
degree weather, and staring at me as if I had just arrived from
Mars. I sure felt foolish.

My first act was to check the oil. The dipstick indicated "add
oil," so I added three quarts. After searching my mind, I realized
I had neglected to complete my early morning line check, and
hadn't checked the oil before takeoff.
With only a short rest while eating a sandwich, I took off over
the desert and headed for California later in the morning. My log
book shows only that I flew on to Fresno, but I remember making
quick stops at the Barstow and Bakersfield airports for gas before
continuing.
Ten hours and fifty minutes after taking off from the El Paso
airport early that morning, I set the Cessna down at the Fresno,
California, airport late in the evening of March 28 to complete the
1,100 mile trip in a state of absolute exhaustion.
The minute the plane was secured, 1 hopped on a bus and
rode to a downtown hotel. As I was registering, I noticed a dining
room and coffee shop next to the lobby, so I went up to my room

19
to wash up before dinner. After removing my shirt, I sat down
on the edge of the bed to remove my shoes. Then I decided to lie
back and rest for a few seconds.
* * *

It was five o'clock in the morning when I awoke, still in the

same position on my back with all of my clothes still on, except


for the shirt. I stood up, washed my face, put on a shirt, and went
to the coffeeshop and had breakfast. It was just getting light
when the bus arrived back at the airport, and an hour later the
120 was back in the air heading for Vallejo.
My flying thoughts were distracted by the idea of seeing my
three year old son Kenneth and his two year old sister Joyce
because it had been almost two years since I last saw them in
Kansas City. I know I should have been paying more attention
to flying conditions because, like anything else, flying can be
dangerous if you don't think about what you are doing. When I

took off, I certainly wasn't planning ahead.


had heard about the foggy conditions of the San Francisco
I

Bay area, but never gave it a thought that morning. I violated the
Civil Air Regulations by not bothering to check with the weather
bureau before taking off. As the Cessna proceeded towards the
northwest, the cloud ceiling became progressively lower and the
visibility dropped to barely one mile. I suddenly found myself

in a valley whose surrounding mountain tops were completely


obscured by the low-hanging clouds. There was no place to land,
and all I could see below me were houses, buildings, and canals.
I never saw so many canals in my life, and they were absolutely

useless as checkpoints.
The only path I could see to get out of the valley was to follow
the freeway, and when I saw it disappear up a hill in the fog, I
knew was in big trouble. I started flying in as large a circle as
I

I could make without hitting a mountain while my mind was

racing a mile-a-minute, trying to think of something that I could


do to get myself out of my predicament.
I hated to lose sight of the freeway, because it was the only
checkpoint I could recognize, but I had to leave it and take the
only canyon I could see leading out of the valley. Suddenly, all

of my known references were gone and I had no idea of my

20
position. I was hopelessly lost, and the Cessna was traveling 105
miles per hour through mountainous territory.
1 was feverishly looking down, desperately trying to find a
place to land. Iwould have set down in a park, on a golf course,
or in a street that was free of cars, but I could see no place
available. For a few seconds I visualized a crash landing that I
might not survive, when suddenly . . .

... I couldn't believe my eyes. There, below me, was an


airport so large, I thought it was the San Francisco International.
I had been too busy looking ground to turn on the radio,
at the
so I watched the control tower for
started circling the field as I

some kind of a light. They must have been as surprised as I was,


because I made two complete circuits before an operator finally
gave me the green light to land. It's possible they hadn't used a
light gun in years and had to run somewhere and get it out of
storage.
My thought that it was the San Francisco airport was quickly
dispelled when two soldiers in an army jeep pulled alongside my
plane before it was ordered to follow them to
stopped rolling. I

a tie-down where four were placed around


soldiers with rifles
my plane. A sergeant then ushered me into a room where I spent
the next four hours being interrogated by the FBI, the CIA, the
and by the Army's own local security officer.
Secret Service,
Everything was removed from my plane, and it was thoroughly
searched.
During the extensive interrogation, I had just explained that
i had gotten lost when one young lieutenant asked, "What do
you mean you were lost. Don't you know that's against
regulations?"
was too scared to say anything, but I would like to have
I

asked him if he was a pilot and if he had ever been lost. I would
also liked to have reminded him that if he were a pilot and had
never been lost, he sure hadn't flown anywhere.
After four hours of their asking me questions, one of mine,
"Where in the hell am I?" was finally answered. I was told that
I had landed at Travis Air Base, which was the most secret

experimental jet air base in the country at that time. They finally
checked my identity through my old army serial number and
became convinced I was not there to blow up the place and

21
decided to allow me to leave.

The man in charge of the interrogation made it clear that they


could make me dismantle the plane and have it removed by
truck, but after making me sign at least ten different forms
releasing them from any liability for my actions, I was permitted
to leave. By this time, the fog had lifted and I took off and flew
several miles over to the Fairfield Airport.
3-29-54: After securing the plane, I took a bus into Vallejo to
visit my two children.
* * *

3-31-54: After the two day visit, I left Vallejo on the 3:15 a.m.
bus and returned to the Fairfield airport. It was still dark while
I was using a flashlight to check the oil and pre-flight the plane.

I took off at 5:30, with barely enough light to see the runway. The
air was glassy smooth as and I saw an eerie
I headed east,

formation of low hanging clouds that rimmed the top of one


mountain range. The low frequency radio was working just fine
as I tuned to the Sacramento station. The airport was located
within the city limits and very difficult to find. I couldn't
distinguish the runway from the thousands of street and
lights

business lights that ran alongside the airport. Automobile head-


lights on a runway added
street parallel to the to my confusion.
In his book, "Thirty-Three Hours To Paris," Charles
Lindbergh wrote that when he arrived over Le Bourget Field
near Paris in 1927, ground search lights were focused on his
plane and nearly blinded him. Well, there were no search lights
to blind me, and I'm no Lindbergh, but I know just how he must
have felt. I couldn't see the airport, let alone the runway, until the
tower operator saw my plane and kept "talking me down" until
I got within 500 feet of the threshold lights. Then I finally saw the
runway and landed.
I gassed the plane and had a cup of black coffee before taking
off and flying on to Reno, Nevada, where I paid for the gas with
a personal check. I was quite surprised to get it back in the mail
a month later after I had forgotten to sign it. It reminded me of
how nice it was for airports to take a pilot's personal check far

away from home when gasoline service stations would never


consider it. I signed the check and returned it that day with my
letter of apology.
22
After gassing in Reno, I continued on to Ogden, Utah, and
landed in a 40 mile per hour wind. Talk of the strong winds was
dominating all conversations as I walked into the flight office.
One pilot told of a chartered plane that had arrived in Ogden that
morning but flew back to the west coast without landing because
of the high winds. The owner of a Cessna 170 refused to take off
on his trip and warned me not to take off on mine. I wanted to
be on my way, so with line crew assistance, I got the plane out
to the active runway and took off.

The airport was located next to The Great Salt Lake. It took
forty long minutes to complete a huge, sweeping, climbing turn
over the water before reaching the 9,000 feet of altitude necessary
to cross the Wasatch Mountain Range. Mountains I had seen on
the trip so far hadn't really bothered me, but the second I crossed
that range, would have given anything to be back on the ground
I

again and listening to the 170 owner advising me not to take off.
The winds at that altitude were over 100 miles an hour, right on
my tail. That gave me a ground speed of more than 200. 1 was
literally being tossed around like a match stick in a hurricane,

and at that moment I visualized aluminum and my blood being


strewn all of the way down the side of the mountain.
I couldn't turn back because I would never be able to make
any progress against that wind. When I looked down, there were
no roads, rivers, lakes, cities, or any of the objects that I had been
used to seeing for check points. It was all mountains and they all
looked One time in northern Minnesota all lakes below me
alike.

appeared to much of anything makes


be the same shape. Too
very poor check points. To make matters worse, the Cessna was
bouncing all over the place, and it was a constant fight to keep
the plane level. I suddenly got that horrifying feeling that I was
totally lost with no chance of ever finding a place to set the
airplane down safely.
The only navigational aids on board were a magnetic com-
pass, which was swinging back and forth so wildly it was next
to impossible to read, and the low frequency radio that had been

repaired in El Paso. I never fully trusted the compass, even in


calm air, and I had no knowledge of magnetic deviation and
variation at that time.
I did the only thing I could think to do when I tuned the radio

23
to the Rock Springs, Wyoming, low-frequency station. And
when I heard the call letters and got the proper "A" signal, it was
like receiving an old friend. The plane was being blown eastward

at 100 miles per hour, and I was flying forward at another 100

miles per hour. Because Rock Springs was to the northeast,


reasoning told me to turn the plane until the compass indicated
as near straight north as possible. Then as I drifted east at that
fantastic rate, and flew north at the same speed, I should come
out about right.
As I continued on, flying north and blowing east, the "A"
signal gradually changed untilwas receiving the steady signal,
I

which indicated that I was "On the beam." (I remember as a kid


we used the expression, "You're on the beam," but I never
realized at the time that it originated from aircraft low
frequency radio.)
Evidently my calculations were correct because, when I
called the Rock Spring's CAA station, the operator answered

immediately. I wanted to say, "Doctor Livingston, I presume,"

because I felt as if I were in the middle of my own little dark


continent up there.
After circling a town twice, I was in a state of total confusion
when the station operator said that he couldn't see me. After
describing what saw below, he informed me that was over
I 1

Green River instead of Rock Springs, and he "talked me in" to


the airport twenty miles farther east. A few minutes later I

crossed over the airport and landed in a 35 mile per hour


crosswind.
As soon as the plane touched down, that crosswind blew me
off thehard surface runway and I wound up in the middle of a
grassy section of the field. But I was on the ground and couldn't
have cared less.

The CAA radio station agent was giving me a ride into town,
when he told me that Rock Springs was wide open, and that
anything I might want was available. I walked around the
downtown section later that evening and I saw red lights at the
tops of dozens of stairways, but I was tired and checked into a
hotel for the night. (Sure you did, Beverly!)
* * *

24
4-1-54: Took the Cessna off in a 40 mile per hour wind and
headed for Rawlings,Wyoming, where I landed in another 40
mile an hour wind. I gassed there and immediately took off for
Casper, Wyoming. Because of my inexperience and low flying
hours, when I reached the Casper airport, I chopped the throttle
on the downwind leg, opposite the spot on the runway where I
expected to touch down, just as I had been taught. The winds
must have been at least 80 miles per hour at my 800 foot traffic
pattern altitude as I glided and turned onto the base leg. By the
time 1 turned onto the final approach, my little Cessna had
drifted five miles east. It took nearly ten minutes of flying at
cruising speed to reach the end of the runway. The line crew
must have been watching and fully aware of my predicament,
because two of them drove out in a Jeep and were waiting by the
time I reached the runway.
When the plane touched down, the wheels were actually
rolling backward, and I had to add power just to stand still. One
man drove the jeep while the other grabbed a wing strut in the
50 miles an hour wind. Taxiing in became a real problem,
because each time I added extra throttle, the plane hopped back
into the air. Several times the man holding the strut had to let go
to keep from being pulled out of the Jeep. Until we finally made

it into a hangar, the tail wheel didn't touch the ground once

because of the strong winds holding up the tail section.


Two hours later, in the same wind, the same two men
pushed the plane onto the apron in front of the hangar and held
the wing struts until I gave it full throttle. The plane went straight
up, like a helicopter, and I climbed to 1,000 feet before leveling
off. When I looked down, the two men were still standing on the

ramp directly below me.


After executing a 180 degree turn, I flew east to Chadron,
Nebraska, where the surface winds had finally died down to a
mere 35 miles an hour. It was there that 1 did a very dumb thing
by forgetting to replace the oil cap after checking the oil. Fortu-
nately, my next stop, Valentine, Nebraska, was only 140 miles
and one hour away. Even though the engine cowling and the
plane's belly were covered with oil, I had enough oil left in the
engine to keepit running until I made a safe landing.
While waiting for an oil change, I used the manager's old

25
Underwood typewriter to type out the details of the trip, from
the beginning in Grand Rapids until arriving in Valentine. (The
details of the rest of the trip were written on the typed sheets in
pencil after I arrived back home.) It had been a trying day and I
was extremely tired, so I spent the night sleeping in an airport
lobby chair.

* * *

4-2-54: Leaving Valentine, my troubles were nearly over, but


not quite. There was a light fog in the valley when I took off. As
soon as I reached 800 feet altitude, ice suddenly began forming
on the windshield and the leading edge of the wings. I remem-
bered Ned telling us in ground school that one inch of wing ice
can form in one minute, and that it would not only change the
curvature of the wing and destroy its lift, an airplane can't fly
with the extra weight it would create.
I figured that I had one minute to get below the fog, so I

immediately throttled back and glided down to 100 feet above


theground before recovering. The plane was so low that at times
Ihad to climb to get over telephone lines, then dip back down to
keep below the fog. Conditions had become much worse than
they were before I took off.
The airport manager and I discussed the weather before
takeoff, and we both figured I could make it out of the valley.
After seeing my plane disappear into the fog, he realized I was
in trouble and started flashing the runway lights off and on. I

finally saw them and landed back on the runway.


* * *

Essentially, thatwas the end of the California trip. Within an


hour the fog lifted and I flew on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and
Minneapolis where I spent the night. returned to Grand Rapids
I

the next day. When I got home, I learned that a pool had been
started to see if I would make it back all right. Most of my fellow
pilots bet that I would not have a safe return, but the only person
who bet that I would make it back was my flight instructor, Ned
Powers. He had covered all the bets and won all of the money.
In reality, only an idiot would have made such a trip with so little
flying experience; had I been there to bet, I would have lost, too.

26
But my Cessna never let me down through the fifty-one hour, ten
day round-trip.
(Incidentally, that yellow typewritten paper is here in front
of me now, more than thirty-five years later.)
CHAPTER FOUR
Spreading My Wings
Now that I've had more than thirty years to think about the
solo trip to California,know it was, first of all, very stupid. If
I

one of my students had told me that he was going to make a trip


like that with only seventy hours of flying time, I would have told
him that he was out of his mind Many times I have tried to justify
.

my stupidity by saying that was sore at my ex-wife, and that I


I

didn't care if I lived or died. But I know that wasn't the case. For
some strange reason, there was no doubt in my mind that I
would make it back to Grand Rapids safely. I don't remember
any feelings of danger, except just before landing at Travis Air
Base and while being tossed around east of Ogden and losing all
checkpoints.
Although it doesn't rank with Lindbergh soloing the Atlan-
tic, Armstrong landing on the moon, or seeing the
or Neil
Gossamer Albatross crossing the English Channel, or Dick
Rutan and Jeana Yeager circling the world in The Voyager, my
solo flight from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, to California and
back in my little single-engine Cessna 120 certainly was unique,

28
The author's Cessna 120 visits Crystal Airport near
Minneapolis, after its California trip.

and ranks high on my list of aviation achievements— because 1

was involved.
* * *

It was April 4, 1954, when I arrived back in Minnesota from


and it would be another year before deciding
the California trip,
to leaveGrand Rapids. A number of amusing things happened
during that time, and here is one of them:
This may not be the funniest story I have, but it has always
been one of my favorites. It involves Bill Zaiser and one of his
waitresses. Bill was a friend, a pilot and the owner of the Zaiser
Cafe in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. One day in the summer of
1954, Bill was sitting beside me in his cafe sipping his morning
coffee, while I was eating my breakfast. A young waitress stood
before us and asked if I would give her an airplane ride.
After I agreed, she added, "Bill keeps promising to take me
up, but always says he's too busy," and we decided to meet at
the local airport at four-thirty that afternoon after her shift
ended. When I stopped in for noon lunch, however, she told me
she couldn't go flying that day because her boyfriend had to
work late and wouldn't be able to drive her to the airport. When
I said I would be able to give her a ride, she stepped back, took

a good look at me and said, "Oh, no! I'm not going to get in a CAR
with you."

29
* * *

After returning from the California trip, I really felt like

spreading my wings, so to speak. Personal and business trips to


Canada, South Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, and all over
Minnesota followed my return. My boss' son Jim bought the gas
and we flew to St Louis, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio, to visit

his friends.
One trip to southern Texas was made after my boss offered
to buy the gas if I would fly his other son, Tom, back to his army
camp when his furlough was a routine flight until we
ended. It

landed at a most unusual airport in Oklahoma. It was completely


round and had no runways. The sod field was very well kept,
and allowed pilots to land into the wind, regardless of the
direction. We gassed the plane and tied down before spending
it

the night in a nearby hotel.


The round airport was quite interesting, but our flight
southward soon became very boring until I asked my passenger
if he had ever been in a loop. When he said no, but he would like

to, we broke the monotony with a series of loops, lazy-8s, and

chandelles. When got through showing off, I leveled off, and we


I

continued on our way. (A lazy-8 is a zig-zagging maneuver made


by a series of left and right, climbing and diving turns, and a
chandelle is a maneuver in which the pilot banks the plane, pulls
back on the and makes a 180 degree climbing turn to the
stick,

opposite direction. Because of the name, assume the chandelle 1

had been invented by the French during World War I as an


evasive maneuver.)
It was just a short hop down
Tom's base in Texas where
to

we landed at a neighboring small airport around noon. By the


time we had eaten and strolled around enjoying the southern
sun, it was suddenly late in the afternoon. I didn't want to spend
the night there, so I said goodbye and took off for home just as
the sun was setting.

As I proceeded north, a brilliant full moon prevented the


landscape below from becoming enveloped in total darkness. It
was possible to distinguish the outlines of buildings and clumps
of trees, but I navigated exclusively by recognizing the size of the
towns by the expanse of their lights along the way.

30
Somewhere in northern Texas, was looking straight down
I

at a dark area when I saw and it appeared to be


a bright light,
traveling in the same direction I was going. At first I thought it
was a train headlight, but ruled that out when it starteci blinking.
I had absolutely no idea just what it was. I made a 90 degree turn

to the left, and so did it. It followed me when I turned back on

course. I zig-zagged and even did a 360 degree turn without


shaking it.

Suddenly, I was overcome with the thought that it might be


one of the flying saucers that had been in the news for the past
few days. I saw myself being interview by the press the next day
and had all the delusions of grandeur associated with such
happenings. Then I looked up to see had a sister ship above
if it

me, but all I saw was the beautiful full moon. Oh, boy; the moon!
As quickly as it came, the mysterious light disappeared when the
ground below ran out of swamp water and would no longer
reflect the light from that gorgeous moon.

* * *

Years later, pilot Arthur Henderson told of the day he was


flying with his father, pilot and founder of Lakeland, Florida's,
"Sun 'n Fun" fly-in, Billy Henderson:
"We saw this tiny, shiny object coming at us, right in our
path. Suddenly it passed us so fast we were sure it was a flying
saucer. We quickly did a 180 and soon found that our UFO was
only an aluminum toy balloon that must have gotten away from
some kid."
* * *

The 120 was still based in Grand Rapids when a friend


offered to buy the gas if I would fly him down to Minneapolis one
night. Except for a few hours during the Texas and California
trips,and the tlrrity minute check ride from my instructor, night
flying was new to me, but I made it to Wold Chamberlain Field
without a problem. When we arrived, the control tower gave us
clearance and we landed. Then, as soon as the plane touched
down, the tower operator said, "34 Nectar, make a left turn
there!"
The operator should have said, "At the next intersection."
Because I had been taught always to obey a tower's instruction,

31
I executed an immediate left turn— right into a snow bank
alongside the runway. I called the tower and told the operator
the situation and, while the engine idled, my friend and I ran
back to the tail and started pulling the plane backward out of the
drift. While we were tugging, pulling, and sweating, three
commercial airliners approached to land before pulling up and
executing go-arounds. Then the pilot of a huge air force bomber,
who obviously wasn't amused, gave us a deafening buzz job I'll
never forget.
A few minutes later, we had the plane back on the runway,
and continued taxiing on to the first intersection before turning
left onto a taxiway. As soon as I was off of that active runway,

the tower operator instructed me to taxi over to an area near the


administration building and wait. The airport person who met
us there immediately started bawling the daylights out of me for
my goof-up. When finally got to say that this was my first night
I

flight since getting a private license, and that I was confused, he


let me go with the warning, "Don't do it again!" I never did it

again, either.

Another incident happened one somewhat dreary summer


day while was flying the Cessna from Grand Rapids
I to Minne-
apolis for a sales meeting. On the floorboard of my little plane
were two rudder pedals which were operated by the feet, much
like the steering bar on a child's sled. Of course, there were no

clutch or brake pedals there. The visibility was quite poor that
morning, as was flying at one thousand feet and slightly below
I

a patch of low-hanging clouds. Suddenly, a huge Canada goose


appeared directly in front of the windshield. Instinctively, my
foot came off the right rudder and hit an imaginary brake pedal
on the floorboard so hard that my foot was sore for a week. I must
have thought the plane had air brakes. I missed the bird.
* * *

By the time I Wold Chamberlain Field in Minne-


arrived at
apolis, the clouds had completely disappeared, and it turned out
to be a most beautiful, sunny day. After landing and securing the
plane, I found myself walking towards the administration build-
ing, but just inside the cyclone fence that separated a crowd of

32
about two thousand spectators from the planes and airport
personnel who had gathered for someone's arrival.
My mother once said, "Beverly, a curious child is an intel-

ligent child." Sometimes I think my curiosity carried me beyond


the limits my mother had in mind, but being a curious child of
now thirty years, I asked someone what was going on. was 1

informed that Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, was going


to arrive at any minute. I recognized the Governor of Minnesota

and the Mayor of Minneapolis among the dignitaries, and a


small girl stood nearby with an arm full of flowers. Because I was
wearing a new suit, white shirt, tie, and had on a new panama
hat, 1 figured I would blend in quite nicely.

After the plane landed and taxied over to our location, the
ground crew pushed a portable stairway up to the door. What
possessed me I do not know, unless it was an inner voice of my
departed mother telling me to be curious, but I walked over to
the foot of the stair, spread my feet apart with my hands clasped
behind my back, and with my back to the plane, pretended to be
searching for would-be assassins. The local people probably
thought I was with the FBI or CIA.
A few minutes later, the Emperor came down the stairs and
stood six inches from my shoulder. had read that he was short,
I

but after standing beside his four foot frame, I had a different

definition of the word


The little girl presented the flowers
short.
to a woman, who I think was the Emperor's daughter, and after
they all exchanged pleasantries, they left. So did I.

* * *

After the Selassie incident, I took a cab over to our St. Paul
office to attend the special meeting for district managers, to be
conducted by our national sales manager, Mr. Grimsley. After
the meeting, Mr. Grimsley told my boss that he had to make a
quick trip to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Mr. Kennedy suggested that
I fly him over in my little plane. Of course, no one could refuse
a big-wig like that, so I agreed.
World War II few years before, and as we
had just ended a
drove manager
to the small airport, the salestold me that he had
been in the Army Air Corps pilot training program during the
war. That impressed me, so after taking off and reaching cruising

33
altitude, I asked iflike to take over as pilot. Of course
he would
he was delighted, but I was somewhat less than thrilled when I

quickly discovered that he didn't show much aptitude. I couldn't


wait to get my hands back on the controls, and the minute we
entered the Eau Claire traffic pattern, would take I said that I

over. But he was having a ball and quickly said that he would like
to make the landing.

I wasn't an instructor then, and I must have turned green

when he had trouble keeping the plane lined up with the runway.
But worse than that, a valley just off the end of the runway made
it look as though we were landing on an aircraft carrier, and he
was heading the plane straight into the side of a hill. At the last
moment, I did what had to do and grabbed the controls, added
I

power, and landed.


Once safely on the ground, was still shaking as we taxied
I

in. We secured the plane and were walking into the flight office

when 1 asked him how far he had gotten with his Air Corps
training. Again, I must have turned green when he said, "Oh, 1
washed out before solo. never could land
I that damned plane!"
* * *

Mr. Kennedy was my boss, and we decided to take a fishing


trip after Mr. Grimsley left. We then boarded my Cessna one

morning and flew north to Kenora, Canada. Several days later,

we were on the way home, cruising at 1,000 feet above the


ground, when saw a large moose standing in a clump of dead
I

trees in the middle of a swamp. As we circled, he turned his body


360 degrees and followed us with his eyes at all times. He didn't
move from his tracks, but imagined he pictured us as being a
I

huge horsefly— or maybe a moosefly. 1 kept my eye on his tail-


just in case.

* * *

Between flying episodes, I worked as a salesman in order to


pay for them. My business was a door-to-door operation and
usually required driving down a road and stopping at each
house to make an appointment for a demonstration. I lost a lot
of time by going into a new territory only to find no one at home.
One day I flew over a road unknown to me and noticed a lot of
cars in driveways. Then I got the idea of using my plane for

34
spotting. It worked like a charm, but the high cost of operating
the airplane sure reduced the profits from those sales.

* * *

It wasn't long after the Mr. Grimsley incident that I moved


to Minneapolis and based my plane at Crystal Airport. During
my stay there, several frightful things happened. Most pilots
who have flown for a number of years know that there are some
private pilots who consider themselves to be flight instructors.
After my California success, I somehow felt invincible and that
I could do no wrong.
One of my friends, who had ridden with me on many
occasions, asked if I would let him fly the plane. I was so cocky
that I not only agreed, but moved over to the right seat, even
though I had never flown from there before.To instill his
confidence, after taxiing out to the active runway and pointing
the plane into the wind, I crossed my arms, took my feet off of
the rudder pedals and put them flat on the floor and said, "O.K.,
give her and take off."
full throttle

Before the plane had gone 100 feet, it veered towards the left
side of the runway. When I told him to give it right rudder, he
gave it too much, and we were suddenly out of control. I yelled
for him to let go, which he did, but it was too late to keep the plane

on the runway. I maneuvered the plane between two runway


lights and "horsed" it into the air over the snow bank alongside

the runway.
The plane was so near stalling that I had to ease up on the
stick and pick up speed without gaining altitude. We settled to
where we were almost touching the snow, but by the time I had
the plane under control, two trees, completely off the airport
property, were coming up fast. When I realized I didn't have
enough altitude to clear them, and too much wingspan to fly
level between them, I dipped the left wing and cleared the two
trees by inches. Needless to say, my flight instructing days were
over until I got my instructor rating.
* * *

What I didn't yet know, in the above story, was that there are

four different reasons why a "tail-wheeled" airplane will turn left

35
on takeoff. The effect is much more severe with a conventional
gear than with a tri-cycled gear plane. They are:

1 . In a three-point attitude, the down coming propeller


blade on the right side takes a bigger bite into the air than
the left side.

2. Torque of the engine and propeller cause the plane to


rotateand put more drag on the left wheel.
3. The propwash corkscrews under the fuselage and hits

the left side of the vertical fin, pushing it to the right and
steering the plane left.

4. There is a gyrating effect caused when the tail

comes up. This is why right rudder must be used on


takeoff.

I apologize to non-pilot readers by being technical, but many


of our pilots have never flown a taildragger, and they should
understand why the FAA requires an instructor's endorsement.
* * *

Although I was completely in charge of the takeoff on this

next episode, a similar thing happened, and I have no one to

blame but myself. The day before Christmas, 1954, one year to
the day from my first lesson, I accepted the dinner invitation of
a Minneapolis girlfriend and flew us over to her parents' home
in Baldwin, Wisconsin. She called ahead and they were waiting
for uswhen we landed. It started snowing after our arrival, so
we decided to wait until the next afternoon before leaving. We
spent the night and ate our fill of turkey the next day before our
hosts drove us back to the airport.
I had to abort the first takeoff attempt because the six inches

of snow that fell during the night caused so much drag on the
wheels that the plane couldn't get up to flying speed. I then
taxied up and down the runway several times to tamp down the
snow before taking off.

Telephone and power lines were stretched across the end of


the runway, and it took all the lift the wings had to get us into the
air and clear the wires by mere inches. Then my troubles began.

The winds let up, causing a loss of lift, and the plane started
settling into the valley that lay beyond. Then 1 realized we
needed more speed to get the extra lift for climbing. I lowered the

36
nose and let the plane settle to within a few feet of the snow
covered ground before trimming the elevator for a slight back
pressure on the stick. Very slowly, we picked up speed and
started to climb. It took every inch of the one mile I had available
to get enough altitude to clear the trees on the ridge surrounding
the hollow. My girlfriend never knew it, but I shook the rest of
the day.
* * *

If you smoke, and are having a difficult time quitting, this


next story might help you the way it helped me. My late wife
Nancy was secretary to the same physician for twenty-four
years. He is and throat specialist, and treats many
an ear, nose,
and mouth. Believe me, there
patients with cancer of the throat
are very few people working at their clinic who still smoke. I
smoked for twenty-nine years before quitting cold turkey. There
were two events, completely unrelated at the time of their
happening, which led to the method I used for quitting:
The first event happened the day I decided to find out how
high my Cessna would fly. After filling both gas tanks, I took off
from Crystal Airport and made large, sweeping turns around
the city until I reached an altitude of 13,500 feet above the

ground. For thirty minutes, I tried to climb higher without


success, but the thin air just wouldn't produce enough wing lift.

Then, I made a near-fatal mistake. Without thinking about the


lack of oxygen at that altitude, I lit a cigarette, and the second it
touched my lips, I started to black out.
I had enough presence of mind to realize I was in serious
trouble, so I quickly put out the cigarette, pulled back on the
throttle,pulled up the plane's nose to slow it down, then lowered
the wing until it was nearly straight down. I was then in a
left

"side-slip" which dropped me and the plane to 8,500 feet in


seconds where I found sufficient oxygen to start breathing
easily again.
Fifteen years later, I was listening to the Arthur Godfrey

radio show one morning when I heard him tell a very interesting
story. He said researchers at a western university were conduct-
ing experiments by having student volunteers fill their lungs
with as much air as they could hold, and then holding their

37
breath as long as possible. After repeating the procedure several
times, the smokers said that they not only didn't want a cigarette,
but that they couldn't smoke because it hurt their lungs. I

remembered the flying incident and figured those students had


the same lack of oxygen in their lungs I had in mine that day at
13,500 feet above Minneapolis.
Old smokers don't die easily, however. For the next few
weeks, I went through periods when I would practice holding

my breath as many times as necessary for me not to want a


cigarette. Because 1was a salesman and had to drive several
hundred miles a day, I threw my cigarette package on the floor
ahead of the right front seat so I would have to stop the car in
order to reach it. I played those games until I got up early one
Sunday morning. I found myself in the bathroom with a cigarette
in my mouth and I couldn't remember getting or lighting it. At
that instant, I took the cigarette out of my mouth, flushed it down
and threw the rest of the package into the wastebasket.
the toilet,
had very strong desires for a cigarette for months and faint
I still

desires for a couple of years, but by holding my breath, I killed


the desire and was able to quit. That was over twenty years ago,
and I haven't smoked since.

* * *

I climbed the 120 upward to 13,500 feet just to see how high
it wouldfly. That wasn't the only limit I thrust on that small

plane. Although I had flown from Minneapolis to Kansas City,


Missouri, on several occasions, I had never been able to make the
trip non-stop. I planned each flight with a mid-point stopover for

gas in Ames, Iowa. One day, however, a stiff north tail wind
induced me to try making the flight without refueling.
The Cessna was fully loaded with 25 gallons of gas when I

took off from Crystal Airport, but by the time I reached Highway
36 in northern Missouri, was still fifty miles from Kansas City
I

and running low on gas. According to the old sectional chart I


was using, the Cameron, Missouri, airport was only twenty
miles to my left, so abandoned my non-stop plan and decided
I

to go for more gas. The airport was supposed to be at the edge


of town, but one circle of the area proved that it was closed.
The nearest airport that I could rely on to be open was in St.

38
Joseph, Missouri, thirty miles west. I had no choice but to turn
and head there, because I had lost precious fuel going to
Cameron. I was cruising at 1,000 feet above the ground and
decided not waste any more fuel by climbing to a higher altitude.
Twenty minutes later I passed the St. Joe eastern city limits-just
as the engine quit. The airport was next to the Missouri River on
the far west side of the densely populated city and still ten miles
away. My low altitude gave me additional anxiety as I desper-
ately looked for a place to land.
The Cessna 120's more luxurious sister, the Cessna 140, has
which permits flying on both gas tanks at the same
a fuel switch
time. My 120 switch permitted flying only on the left tank or the
right tank at a time. I quickly switched to the other tank and the
engine started. A couple of minutes later it stopped again. I

switched back to the other "empty" tank, and once again the
engine sputtered back to life. By this time I could see the big river,
and I held my breath as I started a straight-in final approach— just
as the engine quit again. Fortunately, I was able to glide to a
downwind landing on the north-south runway.
Evidently I got a little more gas with the plane in a three point
attitude because the engine started again as I taxied to the gas
pumps. The Cessna 120's gas tanks hold 25 gallons of gas,and
after the lineman finished filling them, I paid for 25 gallons of gas.
* * *

After flying out of Crystal airport for a year, I sold the 120
and moved Three weeks of Los Angeles was all
to California. I

could take, so packed up and drove to the land I loved, Grand


I

Rapids, Minnesota. During the year I was in Minneapolis, I had


heard rumors about troubles in the Mesabi Iron Range and they
were confirmed as soon as I arrived. The entire Iron Range was
in the process of shutting down.
I didn't want to leave the area because there is, and always

will be, a very tender spot in my heart for Grand Rapids,


Minnesota. I loved the North Woods atmosphere, the fishing,
and the people I met. When I first arrived in 1953, 1 was told that
a little girl by the name of Frances Gumm had started singing and
dancing on the stage at the Grand Rapids theater. I never
recognized the name, however, until I was told that she changed
it to Judy Garland after moving to Hollywood. Leaving Grand

39
Rapids was like leaving Oz, Dorothy, Toto, and the Munchkins.
But first and foremost, Grand Rapids is where I started

flying. For a pilot, that's the greatest love of all, after a good wife,
of course.
My reason for leaving Grand Rapids had nothing to do with
aviation. It was 1955, and I still had to make a living by selling.

While was living there before moving to Minneapolis, I found


I

it frustrating to hear the miners say that they couldn't buy my


product because they were either on strike, going on strike, or

had just come off a strike.

[A few years after I left, I saw a television special on


economic conditions in the United States, and one of the stories
was about those iron ore miners. The report said the Minnesota
Mesabi Iron Range had been shut down because the high wages
of the miners had made the cost of their ore so high that it
couldn't compete with the cheaper Japanese iron. The TV special
went on to say that the miners now have new jobs utilizing the
great tree population of the state. They are making wooden,
disposable chopsticks for Japan, for half the wages they had been
earning when the mines shut down. There's a message in there
somewhere. J
* * *

I started scanning a United States map with the idea of


finding a territory whose economy didn't go up and down like

a yo-yo, some place with a solid economic foundation. I consid-


ered going back to Minneapolis or St. Paul, then Duluth, Kansas
City, and Des Moines. Then I asked myself, "What product is
used everyday by everyone? What product would be in produc-
tion forever without shutting down?" could think of only one I

product: toilet paper.


I looked back at the map and saw Green Bay, Wisconsin, and
suddenly remembered that somewhere, someone had told me
that paper mills who manufactured many brands of that useful
product were located in Green Bay, and that the city had
endured the Great Depression of the thirties with fewer prob-
lems than any other city of its size in the United States. My car
was already loaded, so I headed east toward Wisconsin. I arrived
in Green Bay in July, 1955, without an airplane.
CHAPTER FIVE
The Early Days
I called Mike Boncher earlier this morning to see if he had any
new ideas for the book. He suggested that we return to the scene.
So I drove into Green Bay to meet him at the Kegler's Club
bowling alley near Lebrun Road on south Webster. It is next door
to a large supermarket that has been constructed on the former
site of the Old Dutch Supper Club, after wrecking crews had torn

it down.
A lot of our memories were hauled away with that Old
Dutch rubble. It had been a very special meeting place for a small
group of us. Besides myself, Bill Blaha, Vern Jensen, Barbara
Bultman, Dick Matzke, and many more of my students, stopped
there every Thursday night after ground school, so we could
continue talking pilot talk.

Kegler's Club was closed when I arrived, so I waited in my


car and started daydreaming about 1957, but Mike drove up
before my thoughts got off the ground, so to speak. After he
parked his car and climbed into mine, we headed south on
Webster. Two blocks later I started slowing down. When I

41
turned on the direction indicators to turn east on Ridgeway
Boulevard, Mike said, "Don't bother. It's closed off and we
won't see anything going that way. Let's go over to the Swan
Club, instead."
I really wanted to turn back there. I once estimated that I had
driven the one mile down Ridgeway Boulevard from Webster to
the airport at least five thousand times during those six years.
But we continued five blocks straight ahead before turning left

on Dickinson Road. It was another mile east to the large Swan

Club parking where we stopped and got out of the car. The
lot

Swan Club was a half-mile south of our old airport and in a


perfect line with the north-south runway. It was funny that both
of us automatically looked up as if to see one of our small planes
were passing overhead.
When was instructing takeoffs and landings with a student,
I

I averaged seven per hour. My log book shows that I gave over
2,200 hours of instruction, and almost half of them were spent at
takeoffs and landings. When there was little or no wind, most of
us used the north-south runway because it was closer to the

flight shack. Adding it all up, I figured that I had taken off and
landed over the Swan Club more than five thousand times.
* * *

"Remember the time Phil Roshong took off in one of our


Champs?" I asked Mike. "He said he was going to prove that he
could take off to the south with no wind, and then turn around
and land back on the runway without using power."
That was a very tricky maneuver. Phil said he would climb
straight out for one minute, turn around, establish a glide, and
then glide back to the same runway and land with no power.
"Yeah, I was there," Mike said.

"He almost made it, too," I added. Phil was the chief pilot
for the Green Bay Box Company, and everyone considered him
to be the best pilot in the area. He instructed me for my
commercial pilot license, and I always gave him credit for much
of my flying skill.
"Actually, he did make it," I said. "But the tail wheel hooked

the top wire of the fence at the end of the runway and pulled a
section of it down. Luckily, the old fence was rotten and broke.

42
and neither Phil nor the plane was hurt or damaged."
"Yeah, I remember. He sure was a fabulous pilot," Mike
agreed.
* * *

Years later, I was talking to my former student, Dick Matzke,


when he reminded me of the day I took off with our Champ in
a forty-mile-per-hour wind, climbed
to 300 feet, then flew for
five minutes before coming back down and landing where I took
off— without ever making a turn.
Although I didn't remember that, I do recall slow-flying the
champ directly in front of our flight shack for several minutes
with zero ground speed while my students looked on. God, I

sure must have loved to show off in those days.

* * *

We walked across the street from the Swan Club and


scanned the area to the north in search of any sign of the south
end of the north-south runway. Our only clue was a lone tree that
stood in the open field a couple of hundred feet from the south
of the end of it. Because that tree was in line with the runway, all
of us had passed directly over it each time we took off or landed.
The one exception came when one private pilot overshot the
runway and put his Taylorcraft in the top of it. That happened
a few years before my arrival, but I was told about it.

* * *

"Remember Jim Masse's Piper Cub?" I asked.


"Sure,Bob Walters was his partner and flew I it many
times," Mike replied.
"Jim and I took off to the south one day and passed over our
heads here," said as we both looked up. I was instructing in the
I

front seat because the Cub's peculiar weight and balance re-
quired pilots to solo from back seat only. A few years ago, I
it

wrote a vignette about what happened to Jim and his Cub that
day. Here it is:
* * *

Jim Masse and Mike Boncher not only are the best of friends
today, they are in business together. While we were at
still

Nicolet, Jim was my student and part owner of a Piper Cub while

43
Mike was part owner of the airport business. I wouldn't go so far
as to say Jim's Cub was slow, but with its small 65 HP Lycoming
engine, it could barely go 70 miles per hour downhill. Because
Jim had completed primary training and had soloed on a
all his

number of occasions, we decided to check him out for


cross-country flying one day.
The winds on the ground were only in the teens and we never
anticipated any trouble when we took off. Jim left the traffic

pattern in the proper manner before taking his pre-planned


heading toward Waupaca, Wisconsin, fifty miles to the
southwest.
When 1 have an exceptionally good student, such as Jim, I

usually sit back and enjoy the ride. He is permitted to stray a little
off course, but I pay only as much attention to him as is necessary
to keep him from getting lost.

Because he had picked the right heading, and because I felt


as if I didn't have to keep a close eye on him, I looked down and
noticed that the windsock on our large hangar was getting a little
threadbare and needed replacing. The grass on both runways
was getting long and would have to be mowed that week. The
parking lot was vacant, except for our cars, and no one was

coming down the road towards the airport. I noticed that all of
our airplanes were safely tied down and all hangar doors were
closed. Then I noticed something else. We were still over the
airport. Jim and the Cub hadn't moved an inch since climbing to

1,000 feet, and that was fifteen minutes before.


It is unusual, but not unheard of, for the winds at that

altitude to be over 70 miles per hour while the surface winds


were less than 20. We were heading directly into a wind which
was blowing as fast as we were flying, and the two cancelled each
other out and left us standing still, as far as the ground was
concerned. Because Jim was still in the traffic pattern, he just

throttled back and landed. We tried again the following week-


end, and he had no problem.
* * *

Jim's Cub flew at 70 miles per hour. Our Champ could do 85.
A few years ago, a man flew from Los Angeles to New York in
four hours. We just learned that our SR-71 spy plane flew from

44
Los Angeles on its way Smithsonian Institution in Wash-
to the

ington, D.C. in seventy minutes. That is over 2,500 miles per


hour. WOW!
* * *

"Remember the day I arrived at Nicolet, Mike?" I asked.


"Of course," he said, lowering and shaking his head at the
thoughts my question triggered.
Shortly after arriving in Green Bay in 1955, 1 rented a room
on south Ashland and visited several banks and finance compa-
nies before setting up a selling business similar to the one I had
in northern Minnesota. I had been single for nearly four years
when I married Joyce early in 1956. It wasn't long after the
honeymoon that I found myself at Austin Straubel Field talking
to operator Bill Leithold about his airplanes. When he told me
that the cheapest plane he had for rent was a Cessna for eighteen
dollars per hour, my heart sunk.
While there, I learned that the airport was named for Army
Air Force pilot, Austin Straubel of Green Bay. He was the first
pilot from Brown County, Wisconsin, to be shot down and killed
in the Philippine area, almost immediately after the Japanese
bombed Pearl Harbor at the beginning of WWII.
* * *

I was talking to local jeweler Bill Brice a few months later,


and he told me about a small airport called Nicolet. He said he
believed it was closed, but that some flying activity might still be
going on there. (I later learned that Bill had once constructed a

twin-engine, home-built, experimental airplane, similar to one


of the early Wright Brothers' planes that had to be flown while
lying down. I was told that he actually flew it at Nicolet Airport,
and was lying down when he did it.)
I followed Bill's directions; south on Webster, then east on

Ridgeway Boulevard until I came to a dead end in a parking lot.


When my car stopped, I found myself looking through the
windshield at a small red airplane had never seen before. ItI

turned out to be a Rearwin Cloudster.


It was Saturday morning and appeared to be the beginning

of a beautiful day. I got out of my car and looked around to see


a rusted, ancient road grader parked behind the Rearwin. To my

45
left was unpainted single-plane T-hangar that looked in
a small,
need of repair. A Piper Cub and an Aeronca Chief were parked
in a small section that had been mowed out of the sea of tall grass
that seemed to engulf the whole area. The Chief was tied down
alongside the low, yellow Shell gas pump, and a Taylorcraft was
on the other side, waiting to be gassed.
I stepped slowly across the parking lot towards a small,
apparently newly-constructed building that stood almost di-
rectly in front of the gas pump. Little did I realize that the tiny

piece of real estate I was walking on would dominate my life for


the following six years.
stopped in front of the small building when I saw another
1

airplane parked inside a much larger, unpainted World War II


quonset hut. The hut had been erected next door to the small
main airport hangar, and looked as
building, evidently as the
though it could hold six or seven small planes, if they were
staggered in there just right. A slender pole extended upward
from the roof, and from its top, a tattered, yellow windsock that

read"SHELL" was gently waving in the light breeze. Next to the


quonset were two small outdoor wooden structures which bore
signs, "MEN" and "WOMEN." Thirty yards past the out-
houses, a three-plane T-hangar stood, much in need of a paint job
and a few minor repairs.

opened the screen door and stepped inside the little


I

building, which turned out to be the flight shack. It was there I

met one of the most pleasant persons I have ever known. He was
a jovial sort of man of medium height, who had a slightly oval
face and a smile that would melt the polar ice cap. As soon as he
saw me enter, he bounced out of his chair, extended his hand,
and said, "Hello, I'm Mike Boncher." At this moment I would
like to say that the rest is history, but there is much more to the

story. Mike then introduced me to Clarence Rentmeester, the


airport manager.
* * *

Mike and I walked back to the Swan Club parking lot. "Tell

me about Nicolet Airport before I arrived in 1955, Mike," I

requested.
"The original Nicolet Airport was located a few miles south
of De Pere near the Fox River," Mike began. "Owner-brothers
46
A1 and John Garrity then bought this property here in De Pere
township shortly after World Warand laid out four runways
II

so they could expand the operation. By the time you arrived, two
runways had been eliminated, leaving us with just a north-south
and an east-west runway.
"The Garritys appointed flight instructor Boyd Miller as
their first manager and immediately made arrangements with

the federal government to subsidize flying lessons so they could


teach under the G.I. Bill. The airport business then flourished for
a few years until the government quit financing flying. With that
loss of revenue, the airport closed and Boyd left in 1955.
"Clarence somehow inherited the airport managership at
that time, and he ran Nicolet for the following year. He didn't
more as his hobby. John
exactly run the airport as a business, but
and A1 Garrity were in the farm implement business, so when
Boyd quit as manager, they used the airport property to park old
tractors, cultivators, and even the antique road grader on the
airport grounds.
"Clarence and were working together at Engebretsen's
I

Auto Body shop during this period, and one day he asked if I
would come out to the airport and bartend at a weekend party.
Of course, I said 'Yes' or I never would have become a pilot. One
thing led to another and before I knew what was happening, my
wife. Rose, and I were taking flying lessons from anyone who
would take us up. There were very few instructors around, so
Rudy Boehm, Vic Peters, Rube LeFevre, Bill Wogsland, Mac
McDonald and a few other private pilots gave us lessons. Ardo
Mariucci had a commercial license and gave us more advanced
training. Eventually, instructors Bob Sutton, Ralph Van Ess, and
Gene Due came along, and both Rose and I soloed."
"What kind of planes did you have to fly?" I asked.
"Well, Clarence had a J-5 Cub, but traded it in and bought
aLuscombe, Rearwin Cloudster, J-3 Cub, Aeronca Chief, and an
Aeronca Defender," he said.
I remember arriving during that time and flying the Chief a
couple of times. "How about the social atmosphere?"
"Our biggest, and best, bash happened the day Clarence put
a belt in the wringer of an old washing machine and ran it over
to a car wheel on an axle, which acted as a spit. We then stuck a

47
48
1991

Airport

Nicolet

49
big beef on it and had the darndest barbecue beef and bean
dinner I ever ate," he said.
"Were there any privately owned planes there then?"
"Oh, yeah. I remember Mac bought a Taylorcraft and took
Ray Rasmussen Seroogy bought Bill
in as a partner. Later, Jerry
Wogsland's J-3, and I went into partners with him. Then Ardo
bought in for one third. I got a recommendation from Bob Sutton
and flew the Cub to Appleton and got my private license from
examiner Max Sagunsky. Then Seroogy took his recommenda-
tion and the Cub to Wausau and got his private license from Lyle
Grimm," he stated.
"I'll bet that was a great feeling. What was the first thing you
did when you got back to Nicolet?"
"I did what do as soon as they get their licenses. I
all pilots

came back to Nicolet and took my family up for an airplane


ride," he smiled.
"Then what?"
"After a year, Clarence had to close the airport, so Seroogy,
Rudy, and I talked Garrity into letting us form our 'Gold Key'
flying club. It lasted only thirty days and then you came along
and changed things. You know the rest," Mike said.

* * *

It wasn't long before my visits to the little airport became


daily affairs and I gradually became more and more aware of the
possibility of operating a successful business there. Word of our
discussions got around, and local pilots started hanging around
in the evenings and joining in. Their anger at having no small
airport for satisfying both their flying and social desires was
most prominent.
Meanwhile, Mike and I became quite close. When one of us
proposed starting a club to re-open the airport, it was all the
incentivewe needed to go ahead. Mike came up with a list of
twenty names of the more active pilots in the area, including us,
and we contacted each of them before calling a meeting. When
itwas over, each of the original twenty members had chipped in
twenty dollars and we were in business.
H* H*

50
CHAPTER SIX
Getting Organized
The name, "De Pere Airport Corporation" was agreed upon
at that first meeting in September 1957, and we immediately filed

for a charter as a non-stock, non-profit organization. Dr. Keith


Downey was elected president, Ray Olson, vice president, John
(Bob) Sutton, secretary, and John Garrity, treasurer. I was named

business and airport manager, and Mike Boncher and Jerry


Seroogy were members-at-large.
The other original members were Robert "Red" Baetsen,
Rudy Boehm, Willard Duchateau, Bill Gross, Bob Krouth, Rube
LeFevre, R.I. (Mac) MacDonald, Ardo Mariucci, Bob Parmentier,
Vic Peters, Ray Rasmussen, Don Smith, and Bill Wogsland.
Our plan was to operate only on weekends with volunteer
help from the membership. It took all of our initial four hundred
dollar "kitty" just to fill the airport gas tanks to take care of the
half-dozen privately owned planes on the field. Within a few
weeks, word of our re-opening the little airport got around.
When the Green Bay newspaper and television stations ran
stories about us, our parking lot became jammed with cars of

51
people wanting to learn to fly. Then planes started coming from
everywhere. We had to scramble to make tie-downs for the

newcomers by tying nylon ropes to the old, car rear axles we


pounded into the ground. While one member was holding an
axle for another to hit it with a sledgehammer, the standing joke
was, "When I nod my head--you hit it!" But to the best of my
knowledge all of the heads survived.
We were soon deluged with requests to rent an airplane
from pilots who didn't own one, and that forced us to purchase
our first plane, an Aeronca Champion. Meanwhile the Green Bay
Press-Gazette newspaper, and the local television stations, con-
tinued giving so much free publicity to our new venture that we
were absolutely inundated with people wanting to learn to fly.
Five new members came from just one television station.
When six members of the Brown County Sheriff's department
joined our group, several from the Green Bay Police department
followed. There were so many others who signed up, including
and service station attendants, that I can't name
doctors, priests,
them all. Although three local flight instructors. Bob Sutton,
Ralph Van Ess, and Armand Ullmer had full time jobs, they
became swamped with instructing appointments and took care
of the student pilot training.
One month after buying the first Champ, we had so many
requests to rent our only plane that we purchased a second one.
A few months later we added a Cessna 140 for private pilot

Our original Aeronca Champ, NI5J4E; Jim Masse' &


Bob Walters' Cessna; and others, at Nicolet Airport.

52
training. In time, we added a Cessna 170, two Taylorcrafts, a
Piper Cub, a Stinson, a Cessna 145, and an 85-HP, S7DC Aeronca
Champ on floats for seaplane lessons.
During the following six years we owned fifteen different
airplanes and had as many as eight at one time. There were only
five privately owned planes on the field when we started but we
gained another twenty within months and had a high of thirty-
threeby the time we closed. It was only a matter of weeks after
we opened that I found myself so busy taking care of customers
and keeping the planes flying fulltime, that I had to quit my
selling business and spend all my time at the airport.
During that first year, many members became active around
the airport. Wogsland designed and, with help, built a huge
Bill

wind-tee, which they installed at the junction of the two run-


ways. Several of us took a ladder up on top of the quonset where
we leaned it against the tall steel pole and, while two of us held
it, a third climbed up and replaced the shredded wind sock.

Although I got the courage to scale the building and hold the
ladder, I'm sure glad no one asked me to climb it. Climbing an
airplane to 10,000 feet didn't bother me, but climbing a ladder 50
was just too much.
feet in the air

Everyone seemed to pitch in doing something. Some mem-


bers brought lawnmowers from home and cut the grass around
the tie-downs while others were doing a large assortment of jobs.
One of my students, architect Jack Tilleman, volunteered and
designed a large cement-block five-plane T-hangar. With the
help of other members with expertise, the hangar was built just
north of the tie-down area.
Every operation needs a sparkplug, and while my duties
involved repairing the planes and managing the business until
I could get an instructor rating, Mike Boncher was the catalyst
who made Mike and I were not
the physical aspects function.
"order-givers" and probably spent more time than anyone on
the tractors mowing and rolling the runways. Most of our work
was in the evening and on weekends, and Mike once estimated
our time to be worth about ten cents an hour.
Although our volunteers did many of the things necessary
to keep the airport going, there were some things just too big for
our individual efforts. The following story was written up many

53
years ago with the expectation that some day I might write a
book. It explains one of those "too big" jobs:
* * *

Everyone is aware of the exaggeration of fishermen's stories.


If an uninformed person overheard a group of pilots talking and

relating their stories. I'm sure he wouldn't give much credence


to them. Wild as they may seem, most flying stories I have heard
have proven to be true. The following story 1 know is true
because of my involvement:
When I was at Nicolet Airport, our volunteers mowed our
runways in the summer, but we were so poor that if Brown
County had not stretched its rules and plowed the snow from
our runways in the winter, we could not have survived the six
years I was there. After one plowing session, I noticed that the
driver, Joe, had piled snow at the end of the runway rather than
at the side. Our shortest runway was only 2,300 feet long, and its

effective length was much less because planes had to come in


higher than usual to avoid the pile of snow.
What I did not know when I called Brown County headquar-
ters was that all of the drivers were taking a break in a country
store, and that they were having an argument about who had

plowed the deepest snow and made the biggest pile. Their CB
radio was tuned into their headquarters when a voice came in
and said, "Will the driver who plowed the runways at Nicolet
Airport please return and lower the piles. They are afraid their
airplanes are going to run into them."
What he did not say was were landing. One
that the planes
guy, who probably visualized airplanes hitting snow banks at
2,000 feet, jumped up and yelled, "Joe wins! Joe wins!"
* * *

My time was divided between running the business and


doing mechanical work on the airplanes, and we had a special
hangar set aside just for doing repair work. One day I was in that
hangar removing the bolts from an aircraft engine in preparation
for giving it a major overhaul. One of the bolts wouldn't budge
so I solicited the help of several pilotswho took turns failing to
get it loose. When I saw student pilot. Grant Dieck, coming down
the road, I realized that I had made the mistake of telling the guys

54
that I couldn't get the bolt loose and I asked them to say nothing
to Grant when he arrived.
I pretended to be busy doing something else when Grant
came through the door. After a few minutes, I casually asked him
if he would like to help. When he said, "Sure," I handed him the

wrench and told him to start by removing the tight bolt. Of


course he didn't know that it couldn't be done— so he did it.
* * *

During our six years, a nearby farmer, who was not one of
our pilots, mowed our runways for the hay each summer. In fact,

itwas one of his pieces of equipment left beside the runway that
Mike nearly hit on the Sunday Poor Will Wiese took his aborted
ride. But we still had to use Dick Matzke's tractor and the huge

roller to remove the bumps from the sod runways. Mike once

told me of a day he was rolling a runway when a real live western


jackrabbit came bounding down the taxiway, looking just like a
kangaroo he had seen in Australia. We found out later that it was
an escapee from a local sportsman's club, which had imported
it from Texas.
We never really knew just how heavy our roller was until the
day Bob Ruggles borrowed it to smooth out the bumps in his
back yard. Bob was a student pilot who rented a farm house next
to the airport. The roller was four feet in diameter and full of
concrete. When Bob reached the middle of his yard, the roller
suddenly sank down about three feet, requiring another tractor
to pull it out. After the roller had been removed. Bob discovered
a moonshine still which had been abandoned years before.

Moonshine was the subject of another story of that period:


The group had set aside Wednesday night as our social night
when we played cards, had wienie roasts, visited, and drank
beer. The morning after one such party, I was in the repair hangar
working on a plane, when I heard a noise. I stopped working for
a minute and listened and heard nothing. Five minutes later I
heard something again. I could have sworn it was a groan. 1 went
outside and saw nothing, but as I started back in, I heard it again.
This time I knew it was a distinctive groan. I walked around
behind the building to find one of our student pilots leaning

55
against the hangar, holding his head, and groaning. He had spent
the previous evening at the social trying to get the beer drinkers
to try some of his own homemade, moonshine whiskey and
when most refused, he drank it himself. He hadn't been home all
night and asked me to point him in that direction.

* * *

It has always been my policy never to drink any alcoholic


beverage during the day. One day, however, I would have had
a hard job convincing anyone that I didn't. I had spent hours

applying butyrate dope newly covered wings in that


to a pair of

north hangar when suddenly I didn't feel too good. (Dope is a


clear liquid lacquer that resembles fingernail polish, and gives
off very strong fumes.) I quickly felt the urge to get some air. The

second I stepped out the south door and started across the
parking lot towards the flight shack, the fresh air entering my
lungs suddenly made me "as drunk as a skunk" and caused me
to stagger so badly that I literally bounced my body against
several cars. I guess that is why they call it dope. Anyway, I took
a lot of ribbing from some of my students who saw me, because
they knew how strict I was about drinking.
* * *

It always bothered me that we had a beer bar at the airport


and that some drank a few beers before flying, but
of our pilots
the rule I and for anyone flying our airplanes,
set for myself,

could not be forced on others. I never saw anyone drunk before


flying or, as airport manager, I would have stopped him or called
the police. Our group was so strict about drinking and flying that
no one was permitted to fly our planes, even after having just

one beer.
The bar was built in the members' lounge for our evening
socials and was a part of the flight office. After getting my flight
instructor rating, I remember seeing one of my solo students
drinking beer at the bar just before I left to give a one hour lesson.
He was still there drinking when we returned. An hour later, I

landed with yet another student and saw the drinker taxiing out
for takeoff with our other Champ.
I quickly took the controls of our plane and followed the
student out to the end of the runway. When he turned around,

56
he found us in the middle of the runway blocking his takeoff. I

got out, walked over, and ordered him to take the plane back to
the ramp and tie it down. He argued but finally obeyed. We
followed him in where I told him that we didn't permit drinking
and He again argued for a minute before getting mad and
flying.
picking up his log book. As he stormed out of the flight shack, he
said that he was going over to Austin Straubel Field to do his
flying. I quickly phoned Phil Roshong, who was the president of

Green Bay Aviation, and told him the story. Phil's reply was,
"He's not going to fly over here." A couple of months later, the
student returned and apologized, and there was no more trouble
with him.
I'm sure our no drinking policy had something to do with it,

but in the six years, none of our members ever had an accident
related to drinking and not one of my student pilots damaged an
airplane or hurt himself in any way from any cause. I had more
than three hundred students, of which nearly a hundred had
their first solo, dozens got their private pilot license, several got
a commercial pilot license, several dozen got seaplane ratings, a
couple got flight instructor ratings, and one became a captain for
a major airline. I was quite proud of our record.
* * *

Ardo Mariucci once told me a story about drinking and


flying that had nothing to do with the pilot doing the imbibing.
Ardo's job as salesman for the Colgate Company took him into
all kinds of grocery stores and brought him into contact with all

kinds of store owners.When one of them learned that he was a


pilot and owned his own plane, he offered to pay for a flight up
to Crivitz.Ardo refused the money but agreed to the trip.
The northward flight was uneventful, but the minute they
landed, the man asked if it would be all right for him to be gone
for an hour. Ardo said, "Fine," and after finding a couple of old
rags, busied himself by wiping excess oil off the bottom of
the cowling.
When the man returned an hour later, Ardo couldn't believe
what he saw. That man had managed to get stinking drunk in just
that one hour, and he was reeling and staggering all over the
place. Ardo's first thought was not to fly him back, but then told

57
himself that it was only a forty-five minute flight back to Green

Bay and everything would be fine.


While Ardo was waiting for the man to return, the winds
picked up, and as he was helping the man into the front seat and
fastening his safety belt, he noticed that they were quite strong.
He taxied out to the runway and took off, and by the time they
were airborne, the air was rough as the devil.
Ardo was flying his old WWII, open-cockpit, Ryan PT-22
trainer that day and, half way home, he was horrified to see the
man unbuckle and stand up. With both of his arms
his seat belt
extended as high as they would reach, and with a great big grin
on his face, the inebriated man started flapping his arms as if he
were trying to fly, and he seemed to be waving at anything and
everything he imagined he could see.
Ardo was scared to death that a sudden down draft would
make his drunken passenger become airborne without a para-
chute.He quickly throttled back to slow flight and began coaxing
the man to sit back down into his seat until he finally succeeded.
When asked if he ever took the man up again, Ardo said,
I

"Hell, no. I never saw him again because I never went back to his

grocery store. But I sure did read the riot act to him."

I needed to learn all about aircraft theory, weather, radio


navigation, dead-reckoning navigation, civil air regulations,
and other flying-related subjects for my instructor rating. Be-
cause teaching one of the best routes to learning, I started
is

teaching ground school on Thursday nights. The reputation of


our classes grew to the extent that we had as many as thirty
students a night, some of whom drove over fifty miles to attend.

A conversation in this next story took place during one session:


One summer afternoon, student pilot. Bill Blaha spotted a
small, wild kitten as it approached him, probably looking for
food. Bill had other ideas and decided to catch it and
for the cat
take it home The little kitty panicked
as a pet for his four kids.
when he saw Bill approaching with outstretched arms, and
dashed into the large quonset hut hangar. While I stood watch-
ing, the cat suddenly darted my way and as I reached down for
it, it crawled beneath a pile of boards. The second I stuck my hand

59
blindly through a small opening to retrieve it, the darned cat bit
my finger so hard it punctured the skin in four places and I

started to bleed. I held onto the cat, however, and put it in a shoe
box before taking it over to our veterinarian president, Dr.
Downey. The cat died during the night and I was told that, by
law, I had to take rabies shots.
A year prior to that, 1 had been exposed to rabies and had to
take the shots. I took eight of sixteen shots at that time before
becoming so ill I had to quit. After the cat bite, I started to take
the shots, but quit after only eight because again my system
couldn't take it. Evidently the total of sixteen shots within a year
was sufficient to immunize me, or I never had rabies to start with,
because that was over thirty years ago and I'm still here.
While I was taking the last shots and in great pain, I still
conducted ground school at the airport every Thursday night.
We had a large crowd most of the time because many pilots'
wives attended to stimulate their interest in flying. Hope, wife of
student pilot Gordon Kiefert, was there at one session and said,
"Bev, when Ben Casey was exposed to rabies on television, I

worried about him until he got well, but I'm not the least bit
worried about you."
"Hope," I said, "1 am making a list of all the people I am
going to bite if I do develop rabies— and you just went to the top
of my list."

About the little cat? Dr. Downey sent the carcass to the state
laboratory inMadison and the autopsy showed that it had died
from malnutrition. The only benefit I got from those shots,
evidently, was peace of mind.
* * *

Recently I stopped at the Caledonia, Minnesota, airport and


read our hangar-cat story to pilot Phil Moen, who promptly said
that he had a better one. He will tell it:

"A few years ago, a very friendly cat showed up in our


hangar and quickly made it his headquarters for mouse-hunting.
He must have been very good at it, because we never saw another
mouse after the day of his arrival. All of our pilots were most
grateful, and we adopted him as our own.
"Several of us were sitting around talking about our little

60
friend one day,when we decided that we ought to repay his fine
effortsby giving him a thrill that he, or any other cat for that
matter, had ever had.
"Someone found a piece of cotton material and some string,
and we designed and manufactured a little parachute for him.
We then carefully ran tests to make sure everything would
function properly to ensure a safe landing after being tossed out
of an airplane window at 3,000 feet. But plans oft times go astray!
"As Dan Foltz held him, our kitty enjoyed every minute of
having the chute strapped on, taking off, and climbing to alti-
tude. He was still purring when we opened the window to
execute the final phase. That was when the fur of our little

parachutist got ruffled by the wind. At first he was just upset. But
when thewind pulled the parachute out the window, our little
friend went wiki and sunk his claws into Dan's face.
"Unfortunately, the cat had four paws and a full compli-
ment of claws to go with each, while Dan had only two hands.
After pulling away two paws, he discovered his hands were
covered with blood. Each time he let go of a removed paw to
reach for another, the little one replaced the removed claws back
into Dan's face and neck and the blood continued to flow.
"1 trimmed the plane for level flight and let go of the controls

to help Dan. By using our four hands, we finally succeeded in

grabbing all four paws away from Dan's face. At that instant,
however, the tremendous pull of the outside parachute jerked
our little friend out of our hands and out the window.
"Actually, the cat got the better of the deal as he gently
floateddown to a perfectly safe landing, while Dan's face and
neck were covered with deep scratches, and his clothes were
covered with his own blood.
"Soon as we landed, we ran over to find the kitty completely
unharmed but tangled up in the parachute lines. The second we
cut him free, however, he let out an ear-piercing yell as if to say
goodbye to a bunch of crazy pilots, and took off as fast as he could
run to parts unknown.
"It was really a shame, because he never came back to our

hangar, and we lost not only a good friend, but the only hangar-
mouser we ever had. I wish now that he had stuck around long
enough for us to say we were sorry."

61
* * *

Many things were happening that first year at Nicolet. Bob


and Armand had a number of students who soloed without
incident, and we were fortunate that none of them had accidents
ofany kind-until one Sunday morning. Here's the story:
Klaus Schwaube was a German veterinarian who immi-
grated to this country right after World War II ended and became
a U.S.government meat inspector. His first assignment brought
him Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he became good friends
to

with Dr. Keith Downey. One Sunday morning they came to the
airport to see if Klaus could take lessons and learn to fly. Our club
ruleswere explained to their satisfaction, so Klaus laid a twenty
dollarbill on the counter and joined our flying club. I hadn't yet

received my flight instructor rating, so an appointment was


made for him to begin immediately with one of the two instruc-
tors we had available.
I paid little attention to Klaus' flying in the beginning, but 1

was aware that he took lessons regularly and that he soloed after

a few weeks. He continued with follow-up instructions and


rented our Aeronca Champ trainer for solo flights. Because we
had several hundred pilots, I don't remember too much about his
flying activities until one Sunday morning a few weeks later:
There was a lot of excitement at our small grass-strip airport
that morning. Someone had said that a friend of Klaus, a former
German Luftwaffe fighter was going to be at our airport
pilot,

that afternoon. Remember, this was 1957, only twelve years after
the end of WWII. By the time I had picked up on the conversa-
tions, someone had come up with a plan for Klaus to play a trick

on his German pilot friend.


The plan was that as soon as the German arrived, someone
would go out and start one of our Champs as if he were going to
take a lesson. Klaus, after telling his friend that someday he
would like to take lessons and giving the impression that he
knew nothing about flying, would then leave his friend and run
out to the airplane, jump in it, and taxi out for takeoff. We were
supposed to run after him yelling, "Klaus, come back. You can't
fly that plane." Klaus would then take off and fly around the

airport to complete the joke.


Well— it didn't work out that way. The plan started out all

62
right, but either because of his haste or his excitement, Klaus
forgot to look around. As the plane started to move, the right
wing tip of Klaus' Champ hit the left wing tip of our only other
Champ. Because of his inexperience, he either forgot to pull back
on the throttle or else he pushed it forward, and his plane
cartwheeled around until the two small planes were face to face.
Before the engine finally stopped, the propellers of both planes
splintered as the one chewed into the other.
The problem with practical jokes is that someone always
seems to get hurt. Klaus was embarrassed, and both of our planes
were knocked out of commission for the next few weeks. We
don't remember the reaction of the Luftwaffe pilot to the cha-
rade, but we're sure it made him wonder how we won the war
with that type of behavior at our airports.
* * *

One day after the incident, we were sitting around the flight
shack waiting for the wind to die down. It had been blowing
quite strongly all morning, and by early afternoon, the sky had
become quite dark. Suddenly, Jim Masse stood up and said, "It

sounds like a freight train coming." We ran outside to see a lone


twister working its way east down the east-west runway.
For years I had a habit of keeping a loaded camera in my car,
so when I saw the funnel, I ran to the car, grabbed the camera, and
cocked the shutter while running back toward the ramp. I

quickly lay down on my stomach and "framed" the lone twister


between the wings of two Piper Cubs as it worked its way to the
northeast corner of the airport. The shutter clicked just before it
left the airport property. A few seconds later, the funnel passed
over Will Wiese's farm, and we could see it sucking up all kinds
of sticks and debris, and we were thankful not to see a small
airplane among its cargo.
Shortly afterward, the twister left the ground and disap-
peared up into the clouds. Student pilot Don Love, then head of
the Channel 2 television News department, arrived just as the
funnel was leaving the ground. After explaining what had
happened, we made arrangements for him to use the picture,
and it was shown on Channel 2 that evening. It was also printed
in the Green Bay Press-Gazette newspaper the next day.

63
Nicolet

hits

Twister
CHAPTER SEVEN
Commercial License And
Instructor Rating

Dr. Keith Downey and have been friends since a couple of


I

years before we re-opened Nicolet Airport. We flew together in


his Stinson many times before deciding to pool our knowledge
and study for the commercial pilot written exam. A few months
later, FAA examiners from Milwaukee came to Green Bay where
we each took the test and passed.
Phil Roshong was chief pilot for Green Bay Box Company
and founder and operator of Green Bay Aviation. Many consid-
ered him to be the best flight instructor around, so I latched onto
him for instruction for my commercial license.
After two months of his expert instruction, I took the flight
test with examiner Lyle Grimm in Wausau, Wisconsin. My

commercial pilot license is dated March 3, 1958, just six months


after we re-opened Nicolet Airport. Nearly two years later, I

gave Keith instruction and he became a commercial pilot.


Because of Phil's limited time, I switched to Ralph Van Ess
65
for instruction for my instructor rating. We immediately started
working on maneuvers required for the instructor flight test.
all

After I reached an advanced stage in my training, Ralph selected


a couple of students for me to give practice instruction to under
his supervision. Meanwhile, my flying was confined to giving
rides, mostly on Sunday.
There was still much to be done in getting the airport in top
shape, and any spare time I had was devoted to helping Mike and
the rest of the group. Besides replacing the frayed windsock on
top of the quonset, we repaired and painted hangars, removed
all of the old vehicles from the property (including the old road

grader and a rare Crosley automobile), built an addition to the


flight shack, (which included a new bar and luxurious flush-
toilet rest room), got an outside pay phone installed, mowed all

the tall grass on the field, and welded a steel fence between the
flight shack and the plane ramp.

[I took a special night course in welding at the vocational

school so I would be able to work on airframes, but my skill left


much to be desired. It turned out that erecting that fence was the
full extent of my welding career, and I even had trouble with that.
When I came to a corner, instead of walking around the post
behind the torch flame, I stood still and directed the flame in a

circle. When the torch completed the circle, the flame was
pointing directly at my coveralls and set them on fire.]

During those early days, various members organized flying


activities, such as fly-in breakfasts where we would fry pan-
cakes, bacon, sausage, and eggs and serve them with steaming
hot coffee. Pilots from airports around the state, and sometimes
the adjoining states, would rise at daybreak to fly in for the affair.
It was really quite heartening to see so many of the pilots' wives
volunteer to help with the cooking and serving. Many times our
morning and traveled to fly-ins at other
pilots left early in the
towns such as Sheboygan, Plymouth, Sturgeon
airports in such
Bay, Oconto, and many others.
* * *

was five miles south of Green Bay in De Pere


Nicolet Airport
Township, and Oshkosh was 55 miles south of Nicolet. The city
of Oshkosh had been named after Indian Chief Oskosh, but the
white man added an "H" to the spelling. It is one of the better-
66
Scenes from the Sheboygan Airshow, about I960:
Above a P-51 Mustang lands in front of the French
,

Bleriot. Below, a close-up of the Bleriot, the first airplane


to fly the English Channel in July 1909.

67
known Wisconsin cities, after Milwaukee, Green Bay, and
Madison.
When I was young and growing up in Missouri, the word
"Oshkosh" meant "OshKosh B'Gosh" overalls. Nowadays,
most kids outside of Wisconsin wear jeans and have never heard
of overalls. To the people of this state, and to pilots and aviation
enthusiasts all over the world, the name Oshkosh now means the
gathering of thousands of airplanes for an annual fly-in and air show.
In the early 1950s, Paul Poberezny invited a small group of
pilots to Curtis-Wright Field in Milwaukee for a very special fly-
in. It was the first meeting of those inventive souls who were not

content just to fly Pipers and Cessnas. They were the men who
designed, manufactured (in their homes and garages), and flew
their own tiny aircraft. They called them "Home-built," but the
Federal Aviation Administration called them "Experimental."
In 1953, Paul Poberezny organized them into a club and named
it, "The Experimental Aircraft Association."
Some of our members were active in the EAA from its

beginning. I wasn't because of the multitude of chores to be done


but several of my students and many of our private
at Nicolet,

and commercial pilots joined at its inception. Jerry, Bill, and


Ardo became our most active members when they spent two
years building their Smith Mini-plane in their basements. I was
never able to help them in the construction, but 1 sure felt highly
honored the day they let me fly it.

Over the years, the EAA has grown from that small group
of Wisconsin pilots to an organization that lures airplane enthu-
siasts from all over the world. The main attraction is the annual
fly-in held during the week of August 1st. A few years ago, the
super-sonic SST "Concorde," landed in Oshkosh and dis-
jet,

charged a large group of visitors from Europe. Nancy and I were


there another year when Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager landed the
"Voyager," before they flew it non-stop around the world on
only one tank of gas. In 1989, we saw the Soviet Union's
ANTONOV AN-124, the second largest airplane in the world.
The AN-125, the largest, was invited, but couldn't make it.
During the fly-in, WWII is re-enacted by the EAA Warbirds
in conjunction with the Confederate Air Force out of Harlingen,
Texas. They put on a very exciting display of formation fly-overs

68
and make “bombing" runs where demolition experts synchro-
nize explosionson the ground to make the bombings frighten-
Dozens of American fighter planes and the
ingly realistic.
world's only surviving B-29 Bomber take part in the exercises.
War planes from foreign countries, other than Canada, that
participate include a British Spitfire, (which flew in the "Battle
of Britain)," and a replica Japanese Zero from the Pacific theater.
Champion acrobatic pilots from the U.S., Europe, and the
Soviet Union put on dazzling performances at each show. Some
of the regulars include Bob Hoover, Julie Clark, Duane Cole, Earl
Cherry, Leo Loudenslager, and a trio called "The Eagles,"
composed of Tom Poberezny, Charlie Hillard, and Gene Soucy.
Many visitors, who are EAA members, walk along with
pilots among the dozens of antique planes, ultralights, and the
huge assortment of experimental planes. It is sad to watch the old
pilots walk through the antique plane section, shaking their
heads and reminiscing about the "good old days" of aviation.
During that week, the Oshkosh airport is called "the busiest
airport in the world" because it literally handles more takeoffs
and landings than any other. One year recently, there were
54,900 takeoffs and landings, 15,000 airplanes on display, and
840,000 people in attendance.
The daily entrance fee that year was $15 for non members
and $10 for members, while the annual membership fee was $35.
If you can't attend the fly-in during the summer, you might want

to visit the year-around museum in the off season. It is open 8:30

to 5 Monday through Saturday, 11 to 5 on Sunday, and displays


an exact copy of the Spirit of St. Louis, along with many other
aircraft and interesting artifacts. A special addition to the build-
ing was recently completed. Called the EAGLE HANGAR, it
houses war planes from World War II exclusively.
The Boeing Aeronautical Library, located in the museum
headquarters building, is open to the public for reference only,
but anyone can get information on aviation free of charge.
Photocopying is available. This is a valuable service for anyone
constructing a home-built airplane, or for anyone with a strong
interest in aviation or aeronautics.
* * *

Over the years, many EAA Chapters have been formed


69
throughout the world, but outside of Oshkosh, none has been
more successful than the EAA branch in Lakeland, Florida. After
an impressive 1971 visit to Oshkosh with his wife Adair, founder
Billy Henderson teamed up with his friend Martin Jones and

started a homebuilt project with twenty other enthusiasts. It

soon became EAA Chapter 454.


Following his third visit to Oshkosh in 1 974, Billy and Martin
organized Lakeland's first EAA fly-in. Since then it has grown,
and now known world-wide as the "Sun 'n Fun" fly-in. With
is

a third of a million visitors and many hundreds of every


conceivable type of aircraft, the week-long, mid-April event is a
pilot's answer to the winter blues.
* * *

I never joined the EAA during the early years, but I managed
to attend a few conventions. For some strange reason the
ultralight section always fascinated me.
I was sitting in the EAA author’s corner in Oshkosh in 1991
when Jeff Hudson stepped up and requested a book. After
signing it, I asked what kind of a plane he flew. His answer was,
"An ultralight."
When mentioned
I that I had always wanted to fly one, but
had never had the chance, he pulled his calling card out of his
pocket and said, "If you're ever in Lake Wales, Florida, give me
a call and I’ll get you up."
More than a year and a half later, I was a volunteer at the

"Sun 'n Fun" museum in Lakeland, Florida, when someone said


that an ultralight from Lake Wales had just landed for a publicity
picture. I ran outside and asked the pilot if he knew Jeff Hudson.
Flis answer was, "I’m Jeff Hudson."
Two days later I flew his RANS S-12 AIRAILE. And I was
amazed. The control pressures and movements were nearly
identical to that of a Cub or Champ. The only difference I found,
which Jeff had cautioned me about before takeoff, was having to
make such a steep descent on final approach. This was due to its
lighter weight. If my five acres in Wisconsin were flat enough for
a runway, I'd buy an ultralight today.

During the discussion following our flight, I asked Jeff for an


unusual story. Afterward, I figured that when a man takes off in

70
Rons S-12 Air Raile at “ Sun 'n Fun ” fly-in — eaa Photo by BUI Noack

an air vehicle and lands without it, without using a parachute,


it has to be somewhat unusual. Here's his story:
"My first ultralight was called it was
'Easy Riser.' Actually,
a motorized hang-glider with no landing was strapped
gear. I

into it with a harness that permitted my legs and feet to hang out
the bottom to serve as a catapult for takeoff, and for a landing
gear and brakes on landing. My arms hung over parallel bars for
pitch control in flight after a lever had pulled up the harness.
"On one of my first landings, as soon as I thought I was down
for good, I pulled a 'quick release' which freed me from the
harness, and the only things keeping me in the plane were my
arms over the bars. Unfortunately, after coming in too fast and
realizing I was going to overshoot my landing area, I shifted my
weight back to get the nose up. The downward momentum of my
body jerked my arms off the bars, and I dropped about 15 feet in
to a soft newly-plowed field.

71
"I quickly covered my head when I realized the plane might
land on top of me, but I looked ahead just in time to see it make
a perfect landing— without me."
* * *

1 got this next story about an ultralight during a visit to


northern Wisconsin:
Ultralight owner Pat Kenney was a very good friend of the
KG Racetrack operator in Eagle River, Wisconsin. During a
conversation, they conceived an idea for a stunt to be pulled
before the races one weekend. The plan was for Pat to fly across
in front of the crowd and drop flour-filled, paper sacks to act as

"bombs."
The stunt turned out to be more exciting than planned when
one thrown bomb got stuck in the ultralight's rigging wires.
While Pat was feverishly trying to dislodge the sack, he wasn't
looking where he was going, and the plane crashed into the
cyclone fence directly in front of the crowd.
Except for his pride, Pat wasn't hurt. But the people in the
grandstand stood and cheered, probably wondering if he was
going to repeat the stunt the following week.
* * *

We never had anything that thrilling happen at Nicolet, but


we tried a number of gimmicks, including spot landing contests
where a pilot had over a line on the runway. They never
to land
quite caught on, but bombing contests soon became the most
popular sport of all. Lime was used to make a fifty foot circle at
the junction of our two runways. A pilot and "bombardier"
would then fly over that bullseye at 1,000 feet and drop a lime-
filled, paper sack bomb. We used lime because so many of the

"bombs" missed the target and landed in farmers' fields, and


lime was harmless to crops.
Our rules called for two persons to be in the plane, the pilot
and a bombardier. Student pilots weren't allowed to carry
passengers, so they acted as bombardiers for our private and
commercial pilots. The exception to this rule was that students
could carry me as a "passenger" because of my instructor rating.
That worked out great for me because I got to be the bombardier,
which was the really fun part.

72
One Sunday, while was acting as bombardier for a student
I

who was bomb I threw hit a wing


flying our Taylorcraft, the
strut, which punctured the paper bag. We watched as the leaking
lime trailed the bomb all of the way down, and we saw it fall into
the middle of the bullseye. That was the only bullseye ever
recorded, except for the one thrown from 400 feet by a frustrated
jokerwho was immediately disqualified. Ours would have
missed by more than fifty feet if it hadn't accidentally hit the
strut, but it counted. I got a lot of boos from my students when
accepting the first prize, a great big lollypop.
* * *

We weren't the only ones who had bombing contests. After


Glenn Kinneberg of Spring Grove, Minnesota, got frustrated
trying to hit the Caledonia Airport bullseye the conventional
way, he decided to flood the area with feathers by slitting open
one end of a pillow and dumping all of them over the target area
at once.

Glenn was flying his brother Don's Piper PA-11 that day,
and when he stuck the slit end out the window, all the feathers
blew back into every nook and corner of the plane.
He landed immediately and tried to vacuum them out
before Don found out what a dumb thing he had done, but his
secret got out when he had to explain why Don kept finding
feathers on each flight thereafter. Three years later, feathers were
still working their way out of cracks during another annual
inspection.

* * *

A paper sack kept a similar situation from happening to Dale


Faux of Daleville, Indiana. With his wife Marty in the front seat
and a bag of snacks beside his son Spencer in the back seat. Dale
took off from Lakeland, Florida, in his Beechcraft Bonanza,
heading for an EAA convention in Oshkosh. When they reached
6,500 feet. Dale heard a loud explosion behind him and was sure
the plane was going down, Spencer informed him that it
until
had come from a bag of potato chips exploding in the thinner air.
* * *

On some weekends, literally hundreds of onlookers came


out to Nicolet to witness our bombing contests, parachute jumps

73
onto our field, and other activities, and to take advantage of our
two dollar airplane rides over Green Bay. Sometimes the Civil Air
Patrol would sponsor penny-a-pound rides where each person
had to step on a scale and pay according to his weight. They lost
money on the little kids, butmade a little on the heavier adults.
Student and private pilots weren't allowed to fly passengers
for hire, and because 1 was the most available commercial pilot,
I had the privilege of flying most of them. Over the years, I have

taken more than five hundred people up for their first airplane

rides, and not one person ever refused to go again. It was my


observation that the best passengers for a first time ride were
young children, and people over eighty.
The closest I ever came to having a person refuse to fly with
me again, after their first flight, came the day the wife of a friend
of mine decided to take her first ride. It happened late one
evening, minutes before sunset. After made the takeoff run, and
I

just as the wheels left the runway, she started screaming, "Get

me down! Get me down! Get me down!" It was too late, as we


were committed to the air and I could no longer set the plane back
down on the runway.
I immediately started a low, left turn to circle the field at 100
feet,but she kept screaming for me to land until she felt the
wheels touch the runway. She then became dead silent as taxied I

over to where her husband and children were standing. I turned


off the switches before getting out of the plane to unbuckle her
seat belt, but I reached for the buckle she said, "No, I want
when
to do it The sun had just dipped below the horizon and
again."
1 had no lights on the plane at that time, so we couldn't fly any

more that day. In fact, I never did have the opportunity to take
her up again.
* * *

Student pilot Barbara Beck brought her two younger sisters


out to the airport one Sunday and asked me to give them a ride.
They were excellent passengers and laughed and giggled most
of the time. It was a hot afternoon and there were lots of thermals
(rapidly rising hot air). When we hit one, the plane made a

sudden lurch, and the girls both became very quiet. For a few
seconds I thought they were scared to death, but suddenly, one
of them giggled, "What was that? Did you hit a little piece of

74
air?" I much, I used it on all future rides.
liked that expression so
Anytime the plane was jostled by air turbulence, I would turn to
my passengers and say, "Don't worry, we just hit a little piece
of air."
On another occasion, a minister brought his wife and two
small children to the airport to get their first airplane ride. The
discussion among them led me was a certain
to believe there

amount As we were taxiing


of apprehension about their safety.
out for the takeoff, I said that I would notify him when we
reached our highest altitude, and at that time he could hum
softly, one chorus of "Nearer My God To Thee." It broke the

tension, and they enjoyed their ride.


The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said it best when he said, "I
don't know why some people are afraid to go up in an airplane.
Do they think God forsakes them just because their feet aren't on
the ground?" He added, "Remember the motto of TWA - Travel
With Angels." I liked that.
* * *

There was one person who received more "rides" from me


than any other. He was Brown County Sheriff, Artley Skenandore.
I don't know if there were many escapees from the local refor-
matory or if Artley just liked riding in airplanes, but almost every
week I would get a call to have the plane ready for another flight.
Most of our searches for inmates were really adventures as
they were flown at or below tree top level, and we often missed
trees and buildings by only a few feet. It never bothered me until
one incident near the end of our flying together.
Artley had called to have me meet him at Austin Straubel
Field. When he arrived, he put his walkie-talkie radio in the
baggage compartment behind the back seat of our Champ before
climbing aboard. Did I neglect to say that Artley weighed over
three hundred pounds? Even flying with less than a full tank of
gas, the plane was still overweight.
We pulled onto runway 18 for a takeoff into the south. I gave
the Champ full throttle and lifted her into the air. A few seconds
later, when we reached an altitude of only 10 feet, Artley

suddenly spun around to retrieve the walkie-talkie. When he


did, the gyrating effect of his turning body literally moved the
Champ twenty to thirty feet to the left, to the extent that we were
75
no longer over the runway. It really shook me up when I thought
of whatmight have happen if he had done that while I was flying
between two trees only a few feet above the ground. That
incident invoked an immediate talk about his movements when
we were in the plane together at low altitude. We never had a
problem.
sfc ^ ^

Between giving rides and taking care of other airport duties,


I spent my spare time studying and practicing the flight maneu-
vers required for a flight instructor rating. On May 2, 1958, my
instructor, Ralph Van Ess, finally decided I was ready and wrote
out a recommendation for the flight check. Before 1 could fly a

Champ to Wausau to take the test FAA Safety Agent Don with
Woods, I had to rent a parachute because one of the required
maneuvers was a precision spin.
I had never worn a parachute before and I found it quite
uncomfortable, but worse, it was thicker than the seat cushion I

had removed, and it changed my eye level. Fortunately that had


no effect on the results of the test, and I passed the maneuver
part.

My problem happened when Don took the controls and told


me that he was going to do a spin, and that I was to analyze it and
tell him what he did wrong. 1 knew something was wrong
because the plane jerked something terrible. When he said,
"Well?" told him that
1 it wasn't done smoothly.
"Why?" he asked.
When couldn't give him the answer he was looking for, he
I

toldme to fly back to the airport where he promptly flunked me


on the "Analysis of Maneuvers." He then told me that when he
did the spin, he didn't use any rudder. When told him I didn't I

have my feet on the rudder, he said that was my mistake. He had


passed me on all of my maneuvers, and told me that would have I

to take the Analysis part over.


When I got back to Nicolet, Ralph and I immediately started
working on the problem, and two months later, July 24, I
returned to have Don Woods pass me and write out my limited
flight instructor rating. The limited part of the rating meant only

that my students had to take their flight tests with an FAA Safety

76
Agent like Don. I would have to get a certificated flight instructor
rating to be able to send my students to an examiner like Ned
Powers. (In order to receive my c.f.i. rating, I had to be a limited
instructor for one year.)
After receiving the rating, I walked out to the Champ and
took off for Green Bay. remember climbing to 1,000 feet, putting
I

my feet up on the instrument panel, and steering all of the way


home without using any rudder by maneuvering the plane only
with my hand on top of the stick. was flying like a drunken sailor
I

and singing "1-2-7-9-0-8-5" at the top of my lungs, to the tune of


Casey Jones. Don had told me that I hadto sign my instructor
rating number each time I signed a student log book, and that
was my attemptto memorize it.

* * *

Here's a little trivia: The very first instructor rating ever


issued by the U.S. government was to movie actor Bob Cummings.
He wasn't the first instructor, but he did get the first rating.

* * *

I gave my first lesson to Don Mastek two days later. My


second lesson was given Grant Dieck, the most talented
to
student I was ever to have. There will be more about him later.
Many little happened during those early days, some
things
ofwhich I thought were funny at the time. My tenth student was
Doyle Kloehn who went on to get his private license. On one of
I stood behind him and watched as he took a coin
his first lessons,
out of his pocket to use as a screwdriver to turn the dzus fittings
on the engine cowling. After checking the oil and completing the
"under the cowling" inspection, Doyle used the coin again to
lock the fittings, then threw it over his shoulder into the tall grass.
He couldn't believe it when
him what he had done, but I
I told
kidded him for years about being "old money bags" who had
money to throw away.
* * *

Bob Walters was my eleventh student. He went on to get a


private license and purchase a Piper J-3 Cub in partnership with
Jim Masse. When Jim was ready to get his private license, they
sold the Cub and bought a Cessna 140. Later, Bob and Jim sold
that Cessna to Jim Hennig who went on to get a commercial pilot

77
license and an instructor rating. Jim then gave lessons in it to his
father, Fred.

* * *

Jack Pomprowitz was my first student to get his private pilot


license. When he arrived back at Nicolet Airport after taking the
flight test, he called his father. Jack told me that his dad had made
arrangements with the Green Bay Press-Gazette to have a photogra-
pher come out and take his picture, and that they wanted me to be
standing beside the plane with him when it was taken.

Jack's father was a very successful businessman, possibly


because of his ability to give orders, among other things. had I

never met him and was quite surprised when he stalked into the
flight after arriving, pointed his finger at me, and said,
shack
"YOU." Then with a sweeping motion out the door with his
finger he added, "OUT."
I pointed my finger at my chest and said, "Me?"

"Yes, you," he said. "Out!"


"Yes, sir," I said as I jumped out of my seat and followed his

curt order to join Jack for his picture.


Jack and I laughed about it later, and he said that was the way
his dad was.
* * *

A few months after getting his private license, Jack rented

one of our Champs for a cross-country flight and was heading


south when he suddenly heard a horribly loud noise. The whole
plane was shaking so badly he thought the engine was coming
off. He looked down for a place to land and discovered that he

was nearly over the Neenah Airport. He throttled back immedi-


ately and established a glide as he headed for a runway. Jack said
that he quickly realized he couldn't reach the far end of the field
to turn around and land into the wind, so he made a right turn
and landed downwind.
The airport manager witnessed the affair and ran out to bawl
the devil out of him for the traffic pattern violation, until he
learned that it was an emergency. The cause of the problem
turned out to be a broken valve head in one of the cylinders, so
Jack had to catch a ride back to Nicolet.
* * *

78
W"
11 '

A\\

CHAPTER EIGHT
Private Experiences
Ron Heim was my student until he got his private license and
took off on his own adventures. He was somewhat of a maverick
when it came to flying his Piper Tri-Pacer in and out of places
where even angels feared to tread. On one occasion, Ron told of
the time he had flown two of his friends to a grass landing strip
in a remote part of Canada. Everything was normal when he
landed, but several days of rain turned the sod field into a
runway more suited to a float plane.
The morning the group decided to leave, Ron and his

passengers secured themselves in their seats in preparation for


takeoff. As soon as he started taxiing, however, he quickly
aborted the whole affair when the plane refused to move in the

quagmire. After unloading his passengers, the plane would


move slowly along the strip with him alone at the controls, but
it wouldn't move fast enough to take off.
After sizing up the situation, Ron figured that he had to have
help. A plan was concocted in which the two men would run

79
alongside, pushon the wing struts until the plane got going, then
jump in while they were moving.
That was the way we used to start our Model T Ford. To
avoid cranking the engine when the battery was dead; a bunch
of us would push the car until it started, and then we would all
jump on the running board.
Ron's plan worked fine except for one small detail; his Tri-

Pacer didn't have a running boarci. By the time one of the men
was inside, the plane was going so fast the second man couldn't
make it through the door, and he had to let go. So, Ron and his
sole passenger took off without him.
Once in the air, they looked down to see the poor, mud-
spattered victim of the episode still standing in the mud, waving
for them to come and get him. Ron circled the field as he
contemplated his options. If he landed back on the strip, they
would be back where they started. This was a very remote part
of Canada, and that poor man would perish without food and
shelter, so he had to find a way of retrieving him. Ron finally
solved the problem by landing on a gravel road a mile away and
waiting until his stranded passenger worked his way through
the woods to his plane.
* * *

Mike Boncher told me one morning that he was going to take


a up for a ride in a Champ. Although the student
student pilot
hadn't yet soloed, Mike felt that he had received a sufficient
amount of instruction to understand the mechanics of an air-
plane. It had rained earlier in the evening the night before, and
by morning the temperature had fallen to the extent that the
whole airport property was a solid sheet of ice. With the student
in the back seat, Mike taxied slowly and carefully out to the

north-south runway for takeoff. Meanwhile, the student was


looking through the side window and down at one of the wheels.
Suddenly, the student pilot said, "Boy, Mike, these wheels
sure do have good traction. They aren't slipping or spinning on
the ice at all." (For non-pilots I will explain that the wheels do not
propel the airplane like a car. It's the propeller that does the job.)
* * *

I've known Dr. Fran Mongin for many years, but I didn't

80
know until recently that he had taken lessons from Boyd Miller
and soloed at Nicolet Airport immediately after World War II.
When I asked for any unusual happenings, he said that when he
first started flying, he nearly set his Taylorcraft into a field before
discovering that pulling on the carburetor heat control knob
smoothed out the sputtering engine. (Ice was forming in the
carburetor.) I laughed and said that was nothing unusual and
that and it had happened to all of us at one time or another.
"Well," Doc said, "another time my Taylorcraft ran out of
gas as I was returning from a cross-country trip and I managed
to stretch my glide all of the way to a safe landing at Nicolet
Airport."
He got me there.
* * *

Robert (Red) Baetsen was a former WWII, P-51 Fighter pilot


and one of the original twenty members who re-organized
Nicolet Airport in 1957. had been over twenty years since I had
It

seen or talked to Red, so I picked up the phone and called him


the other day. After reminiscing and exchanging pleasantries for
a few minutes, I asked if he had any unusual stories from the
"good old days." Here's what he said:
"Here's a story I'm sure you've never heard. My wife's
younger brother and I were expected at the family cottage near
Crivitz one summer morning, so we decided to rent a Champ
and fly up there instead of driving. We took off at eight o'clock
and flew straight to the Crivitz airport where the family was
waiting, and they drove us directly to the cabin.
"We stayed longer than we should have, and by the time we
got back to the airport the sun was getting close to the horizon.
I gave the propeller a spin and took off as quickly as possible
because the Champ had no which meant we
electrical system,
had no navigation lights, no radio, and no lights in the plane.
"By the time we reached Abrams, it was totally dark and I
had to follow car lights below us to get back to Green Bay. I had
already trimmed the plane for level flight before it got dark, so
I left the trim and throttle settings where they were because the

cockpit had absolutely no light and it was impossible to read any


instruments.
"It occurred to me to go over to Austin Straubel Field to land
81
where they had lighted runways, but I knew 1 would be in big

trouble landing over there without contacting the control tower.


Flying anywhere at night without navigation lights is a no-no, so

I decided to continue on to Nicolet and take my chances of


getting down safely.

"After passing over Green Bay and Allouez, we circled past


De Pere and approached the long runway from the east. The only
light visible on the airport property was the one in the phone
booth, but that was a couple thousand feet away from the
runway, and of no use whatsoever except to let me know I was
definitely at Nicolet Airport.
"I started a let-down into the west and it went all right until

thedim light from the moon showed that we were too high and
would be setting down in the middle of a corn field. We were
fortunate that the corn had started turning light brown, because
green corn wouldn't have reflected that precious bit of light. I

remembered morning takeoff and that it


the corn field from the
was just north, but right alongside, the runway. As I pulled up
to go around and make another pass, I must have made a mental

note of just where we were in relation to the lights of De Pere


straight ahead.
"We flew around the pattern and made a fresh approach
using the De Pere lights as a guide. This time I fixed my eyes on
that cornfield below for a reference and started the let-down

with just a little power. I concentrated hard on the corn until it

started to become visible. After maneuvering the plane slightly


to the left, which put us alongside the corn, flared out at an I

altitude just above of the top of the stalks. Then I knew was only I

a few feet from the ground and over the runway, which I couldn't
see at all. raised the nose slightly and chopped the throttle as the
I

plane settled to as nice a landing as I could have hoped for."


* * *

Red made a form of an emergency landing, and all of my


flying was done with a consciousness of the possibility of an
engine quitting at any time. Green Bay had a reformatory two
miles northwest of Nicolet, and our traffic pattern required us to
fly over it often. Many times I wondered what it would be like

to actually have to land on the football field inside its walls.

82
Years later, I got this story from Joe Leonard of Lakeland,
Florida:
"Although had been discharged from the service, I was
I

wearing my officer's uniform the day I led sixteen other pilots


while delivering seventeen Stearmans from Virginia to a dealer
in Pennsylvania. It was a private business deal and had nothing

to do with the government. Just north of Arlington, low ceilings

and poor visibility made an emergency landing necessary in the


beautiful green field below.
"The minute all the planes were down, we were immedi-
ately surrounded by armed guards. We had landed inside the
walls of a prison.
"In answer to the warden's question, I replied, 'We landed
here on official government business.'
"Noting my officer uniform, and possibly having been
discharged as a soldier of lesser rank, the warden clicked his
heels and threw a G.I. salute. I threw back my shoulders an gave
him an acknowledgement.
"'What can we do to help?' the warden asked.
"Realizing the weather wouldn't clear up before the next
day, I replied, 'We need a ride into town.'
"We not only got the ride, but they picked us up the next
morning and treated us like royalty.
"All of the guards and prisoners were standing outside
waving handkerchiefs as we took off, so we all turned around
and buzzed the hell out of them."
* * *

I was just referring back to my log book when came across


I

a couple of entries worth sharing:


December 3, 1958: Flew co-pilot to Michigan for Phil Roshong
in Green Bay Box's converted Douglas B-23 bomber. Big deal.
May 20, 1959: Flew co-pilot to White Sulphur Springs, West
Virginia, in an English De Havilland Dove with C.E. Higgins.
Another big deal. I do remember navigating for him by operating
two omni radios. At one point, 1 got two fixes and looked at the
map where they crossed and said, "This can't be right!"
Mr. Higgins (I don't remember his first name) screamed,
"Don't say that!"

83
* * *

Some of our private pilots brought their families out to


Nicolet for airplane rides, and I'm sure many of them turned the
controls of the plane over to one of the children after takeoff. I

know I did. Several of my students told me that their interest in


flying started when Dad let them take over and become the
"pilot.” Bill Wogsland let his daughter, Jan, pilot his J-3 Cub
while she was quite small, and teaching her was one of the easiest
jobs I had as an instructor. She was such a natural, 1 remember
encouraging her to become a professional pilot, but she had
other ideas. Jan soloed on her 16th birthday with a minimum
amount of instruction from me because of Bill's training.

Jan Wogsland of Green Bay gels her Pilot Certifcate from


the author after soloing on her 16th birthday at Nicolet
Airport.

* * *

Jim Engebretsen was telling me the other day how his father

84
brought him out to the airport and strapped him in when he was
so small he couldn't reach the rudder pedals. "He took me with
him everywhere he went and always let me take the controls.
Dad belonged to a team in an airport softball league and we flew
his J-3 Cub over to towns like Shawano, Clintonville, and
Dykesville just to play ball. In 1950, we picked up Rudy Boehm
and flew our Stinson Voyager over to Indiana to see the India-
napolis 500 car races.
"What I remember most about flying with Dad was going up
through Door County during the Belgian Kermis festivals.It was

like a huge, spread-out summerfest where neighbors covered

the long tables with food while polka bands blared and older
folks danced right out in the fields. We landed in one farmer's
field after another, and the people flocked around our plane the
minute we touched down.
"As soon as Dad had given rides to everyone who wanted
togo up, we would take off and fly on to another kermis where
everyone was waiting for us. People were so grateful for the
rides, they were constantly shoving food at us.
"When I was old enough to solo. Dad took me over to

instructor Bob Jubin in Oconto, and he soloed me out without


any trouble. Dad wasn't an instructor, but he taught me every-
thing I know about flying.
"I tell you except maybe
don't have any exciting stories to
the time Orby Jones and I were landing at Nicolet when a flock
of about twenty Hungarian Partridges took off in front of us. I
had just flared out for the landing and was only ten feet above
the ground when several of them hit the windshield and blocked
my view. A second later, hit the runway a little crooked and
I

twisted the landing gear. Nobody was hurt, but I had to pay for
the damage. That was the only thing ever happened to mar my
thoughts about a great time of my life."

* * *

Warren (Mike) Bradshaw of Vero Beach, Florida, had a near


disastrous incident with a bird while he was delivering messages
to sugar estates just outside Kingston, Jamaica, in 1940. When he
put his British Auster airplane into a very steep right turn only
feet above the ground, a huge buzzard suddenly dove down into

85
the top left wing and completely removed three ribs from the
leading edge to the trailing edge.
Only two seconds from hitting the ground, Mike spotted a
dirtroad straight ahead and steered the plane down the center
with his rudder just as the wings became level simultaneously
with the wheels hitting the ground. Sugar cane stalks on both
sides of the narrow road hit the wings and served as brakes.
Unbelievably, the only damage to the plane was that caused by
the buzzard.
* * *

Bob Jubin, was chief flight


Jim's Engebretsen's instructor.
instructor and manager of the Oconto, Wisconsin, airport twenty
miles north of Nicolet. Bob recently told me a funny story about
an incident that happened while he was instructing another
student:
"One hot summer day we took off in a J-3 Cub and flew
southward on a cross-country flight that was to end in south
Chicago. That was the day should have checked the NOTAMS
I

(Notice to airmen).
"It was a somewhat boring flight until we started over the
city of Chicago. We
were heading south and cruising at three
thousand feet when suddenly we looked ahead and saw dozens
of airplanes coming at us at the same altitude. Before I could
think of what to do, they were everywhere— in front of us, on the
left— on the right-and they were going in the opposite direction.
We had no place to go except straight up or straight down.
"Remembering my WWII fighter pilot days, in a second I
flipped the Cub over on its back, pulled back on the stick,
executed a 'Split-S/ and lost 1 500 feet. By the time we leveled off,
even with no power, the airspeed indicator was showing more
than 1 50 miles per hour in a plane that red-lined at 120. The whole
plane was shaking and vibrating violently, and as the windows
rattled, I added back pressure on the stick and gained altitude
until the plane's airspeed dropped to normal.
"The Cub wasn't the only thing shaking. After I quit, 1

looked straight up to see fifty to sixty Army and Navy planes


directly overhead. If had checked the NOTAMS before taking
I

off that day, I would have learned that it was Army-Navy Day

86
in Chicago, and were they having a big parade on
that not only
the ground, they were having an air show up where we were. We
flew right into it."

* * *

Bob's story took place in the air while he was giving his
student a cross-country check. This story isn't quite as thrilling

as it took place on the ground:


After receiving my instructor rating, teaching at Nicolet
took up most of my time. According to my log books, by the time
my flying career had ended, I had instructed nearly three
hundred students and had given more than 2,200 hours of
instruction. Flight instructing was a very serious business, but it
had its lighter moments. For example:
A flight instructor becomes a mother hen the minute one of
his student pilotsis ready to solo for the first time. From the

moment of the student's initial flight until he has been cleared for
cross-country flying, each little step must be monitored with the
utmost concern. Aside from the student's physical control of the
airplane, his weather evaluations is the most important element
to be watched.
Until the student is properly taught and signed-off for cross-
country flying, the instructor has complete control of all the
student's activities, which are confined to the local airport area.
During this period, the student is required to make all the
preparations for a flight which would take him to a different

airport. This includes drawing a wind triangle, estimating ground


speed and fuel consumption, and figuring an estimated time of
arrival. Fie then has to check with the weather bureau to get the
necessary wind directions and velocities.
After the student has completed all of the preliminaries and
both he and his instructor feel that he is ready for the check flight,
the instructor double checks all the student's findings. This
necessitates calling the weather bureau to make sure that the
student not only got the correct information, but that he inter-
preted it accurately.
One day, after a student had made an appointment for a
cross-country flight check, and after he had prepared his trip to
another airport, he handed all his maps and papers to me for a

87
final check. I picked up the telephone and called our local
weather bureau, and this is the conversation that followed:
“Weather bureau."
“Hello, this Bev Butler calling from Nicolet Airport. I have
a student pilot who wants to take a flight check to Waupaca this
morning and I'd like to double check his findings. How is the
weather 100 miles west of us?"
“Looks fine."

“Any fronts moving this way or any problems with the


winds aloft?"
“No, looks fine."

“Are you getting your reports from Minneapolis, Wausau


or Eau Claire?"
"No."
“Just where are you getting your information?"
“Oh, I'm looking out the west window."
window!"
"Well, for Christ's sakes— I've got a
Ihung up.
Our flight to Waupaca was uneventful.
* * *

Another student, on another day, was flying the last leg of

his cross-country trip from Clintonville to Nicolet Airport. I


mentioned earlier that I usually sat back and allowed the student
to stray a little off course, but this student was too sure of himself
and immediately took wrong direction. I decided to
off in the

take a little cockiness out of him by letting him go. I said nothing
to him during the next thirty minutes, and he acted as if he knew

exactly where he was all the time. Finally, he pointed through the
windshield and said, "There's Nicolet Airport!"
"Go ahead and land," I told him.
The student entered the pattern properly, turned onto the
downwind leg, pulled on the carburetor heat, and then chopped
the throttle. He appeared to be happy as a lark until the wheels
hit the runway. Then I saw his head move forward as if he was

looking at something ahead. He had discovered that he had


landed on a hard surface runway, and suddenly realized that
Nicolet Airport had only sod runways.
The student leaned forward again and shook his head. He

88
had seen the huge sign over the flight office door that read
"OUTAGAMIE AIRPORT." He had landed in Appleton, 30
miles off course.
"That sign can't be right!" he exclaimed.
"Of course it isn't," I replied. "They only put that sign up
there to confuse you."
Needless to say, the cocky student flunked the cross-country
flight check and had to take it over. He wasn't quite so sure of
himself the next time and passed with no trouble.
* * *

While we're on the subject, here is a theoretical problem


flight instructors often use to give a student pilot a better
understanding of the winds he might encounter while flying
cross-country. All the figures are exact. This is NOT a trick
question and you don't have to be a pilot to figure it out. Here's
the problem:
A pilot flies a plane in a straight line at 100 miles per hour,
between two points on the ground which are 100 miles apart, and
into a headwind of 10 miles per hour. He has a ground speed of
90 miles per hour. He then turns around and
flies back over the

same course under the same and disregarding the


conditions,
time it takes to turn around, he has a ground speed of 110 miles
per hour on the return trip.

The question is not how long did it take him to fly both ways.
The answer is not exactly two hours. The answer is 2.02 hours.
Now for the question: Why 2.02 hours instead of only 2 hours?
The answer is at the end of Chapter Nine. Don't peek!
* * *

89
CHAPTER NINE
And There Were Women
Mike's wife Rose not only soloed during Clarence
Rentmeester's reign as manager of Nicolet Airport, she contin-
ued flying there after I arrived. She then became my student and,
after a few months of instruction, took the final flight test and
became a private pilot. The reason for saying "final" was
because there were three of them. I wasn't the only one capable
of flunking a flight test.
Rose's first flight check came unexpectedly when Don Woods
showed up at Nicolet on other business. When he told her that
he could give her the flight test that day, I hurriedly wrote out
a recommendation while she prepared for the test. Evidently it
wasn't enough time. Even though she had no problem passing
the maneuvers, her troubles began when Don told her to fly to
Shawano on the cross-country check.
After flying westward into a stiff wind for a period of time
(she really didn't know for how long because she had forgotten
to check her watch), Don asked her if she knew her position. She
hadn't properly prepared a cross-country flight plan and told

90
him that she had no idea where she was. When he told her to look
backward, she nearly fainted when she saw Green Bay's Austin
Straubel Field still in sight. Don was quite compassionate and
explained that he couldn't sign her private license until he was
sure she could fly cross-country and return safely. That was the
end of that blamed myself for not properly preparing her
test. I

for the exam, but Don had taken us by surprise and we just didn't

have enough time.


Rose's second attempt to pass the cross-country part of the
flight test started when she and Don took
off from the Wausau
airport. This time she again headed west and again became lost.
When I was lost in northern Alabama, I said that if anyone had
told me I was over Texas I would have believed them. If anyone
had told Rose that she was over Wyoming that day, she probably
would have believed it because, when she looked down, she saw
a large herd of buffalo. Quick reasoning told her that Wyoming
was a thousand miles to the west and that she had only 12 gallons
of fuel on board, but it didn't help; she was still lost. Don again
said that he was sorry before ending the second test.
Rose recently reminded me that had accompanied her to
I

Wausau for the third test. This time she had memorized every
square inch of land within a hundred miles of Wausau, so she
passed with flying colors. I had forgotten, but she told me that
we did loops, spins, and all the other crazy maneuvers on the
way home, to celebrate. Rose is an excellent pilot.
* * *

Marjorie Warren of Monroe, Georgia, got lost after flying off


the end of the map on her first solo cross-country before getting
her private license. Several hours after she failed to return from
a planned seventy-five minute round trip, several army planes
were sent up to find her. At one point, she picked up a voice on
her radio that said, "747 Juliet where are you?" in a sing-song
manner— mimicking the "Car 54 where are you?" voice from the
old TV series.

By holding down her mike key, however, she finally was


located and brought in by radar. The fuel gage was no longer
registering when she arrived and a large aircraft had to execute
a go-around after she was given permission for an emergency

91
landing. Similar to the way pilots made bets that I would not
make it back safely from my California trip, Marjorie learned
that pilots listening in were sure she would be "all shook up,"
and bets were made that she would make a bad landing. But she
said she fooled them and made a perfect landing.
* * *

had numerous female students. They ranged in age from


I

and I found all of them to be top-notch


sixteen to fifty years,
pilots. Maxine Mattern, Grant Dieck's sister Karen, Ken
Newbury's daughter Jan, and Bill Wogsland's daughter Jan,
were among the many very talented female pilots.

Civil air regulations require a person to be sixteen years of


age before receiving any pilot license. Six of my students soloed
on their sixteenth birthdays, making them the youngest licensed
pilots in the United States on those days. Because the same age
requirement applied to getting a driver's license, I asked if any

of them had first received their driver's license, and each of them
replied, "No, my pilot's license was more important."

Jean Delano with the author after soloing at Nicolet Airport on his
16th birthday. The Cessna 145 is in the quonset hangar behind
them.

92
Student pilot, Ken
came to the airport one day in
Muller,
1960 and brought a delightful young woman with him. Her name
was Barbara Bultman. I don't remember exactly how it began,
but she started helping out in the flight shack by making
appointments for plane rental and instruction while I was giving
lessons. We didn't have any excess money to pay her; so I started
giving her flying lessons as compensation.
Barbara progressed rapidly and was ready for a cross-
country when a man called from Iowa and offered to buy
flight

our Cessna 1 70, if we would take his Cessna 1 40 in trade. He told


us that his plane had a damaged landing gear, but he believed it
could be safely flown to another airport for repairs. After getting
the go ahead from our membership, I decided to "kill two birds
with one stone" and give Barbara cross-country instructional
flying time on the way.
After she took off, Barbara flew and navigated the entire trip.
A few minutes after our arrival, the man accepted our offer to
trade, so I put Barbara on a bus for home and joined the mechanic
who was securing the damaged gear with a length of control
When we finished, took our newly acquired plane off and
cable. I

flew to the Wisconsin Rapids airport.


If you ask, "What is a Cessna 145?" very few pilots will know
the answer. We didn't either until the Wisconsin Rapids opera-
tor told us that the 140 gear could not be repaired, but a new gear
box could be installed directly behind the damaged one. He had
a conversion kit which included the new gear box and a nose
gear, so after him to go ahead with the job, one of my
I told
students flew over and picked me up. A week later, we picked
up our new tri-cycle-geared plane and the papers listed it as a
Cessna 145.

Barbara started soloing cross-country after that trip and told


me recently that on her solo trip to Marshfield, Wisconsin, she
couldn't find the name on the water tower, but fortunately was
low enough to read "Welcome to Marshfield" on a highway
billboard. She finished her cross-country requirements and
continued with her lessons until I signed the recommendation
for her to take the private pilot flight test in 1963. However, her
father died suddenly, and she lost her desire when she lost her
dad. I know she would have passed because she was an excep-

93
tional pilot and had soloed seven different planes, including an
Aeronca Champ, Cessna 140, our new Cessna 145, Cessna 170,
Stinson, Taylorcraft, and a J-3 Cub.
* * *

Speaking of Ken Muller, he came to Nicolet Airport one day


and told a weird story about the last time he "almost" flew an
airplane. It went like this:

He was taking lessons in the state of Maine and, one day after
soloing, he decided to rent an Aeronca Champ and go flying.
Without tying the plane down or chocking the wheels, he turned
on the switches before walking around in front of the plane and
Ken had
giving the propeller a spin. The instant the plane started,
to jump out of the way because he had left the throttle wide open,
and the plane literally took off and went solo without him. It kept
circling as it climbed and drifted northeast with the wind until
it was out of sight. When Ken told me that story, he said that it

had never been found. Many years later, however, he was


notified by authorities that hunters had found the wreckage of
that Champ in a Nova Scotia, Canada, forest, ten years after it
took off.

* * *

When told Ned Powers about Ken Muller propping a


I

Champ with the throttle wide open while taking lessons in


Maine, he said that every winter they had a rash of such
happenings. One day in Duluth, a pilotless Champ took off and
started gaining altitude as it circled over Lake Superior. It moved
out toward the middle of the lake before starting to circle back
toward the city. When the authorities became fearful of its

crashing into a populated area, they requested that the Air


National Guard go up and shoot it down. Ned said that it took
quite a few hits before they finally hit a vital spot on the plane and
sent it crashing harmlessly into the water below.
* * *

One of our private pilots called to rent our Cessna 140 after
a six-inch snowfall. Because of his inexperience in dealing with
wheels in the snow, I told him I would fly the plane over to Austin
Straubel Airport where he could take off on a dry runway. I had

94
no problem with the takeoff and assumed everything would be
all right during the landing.
Although most of the runway was bare and dry when I
arrived, there still was some snow for a couple of hundred feet

at the end. I made a full-stall landing at the very end where the

roll out was as smooth as possible on the inch of snow left by the

snow plow.
When the tires hit the bare cement, however, I discovered
the right wheel was locked, and the plane ground-looped to the
right. The tail came up, but not enough for the prop to hit, and
the left wing-tip nearly scraped the runway.
The tower operator saw what happened and said emergency
equipment was on the way. They weren't needed, however,
because nothing was damaged. After pushing and pulling the
wing strut forward and backward, the snow in the wheel broke
loose, and I taxied in before they arrived.
* * *

Bob Takala came out after a fresh snowfall to fly our Cessna
140 to Escanaba, Michigan. The snow was so deep I volunteered
to taxi it out to the active runway in order to make tracks that
would enable him to take off with less trouble.
Everything went okay on the taxiway, but when I started
down the runway, the wheels broke through a crust of ice and
stopped the plane so suddenly, it caused the nose come down
just enough bend one propeller tip on the ice. That turned out
to

to be the only damage, and it was the only accident I ever had

with an airplane in my entire flying career. Bob didn't fly our


plane to Escanaba that day.
* * *

A couple of years later Bob took the plunge and married


Grant Dieck's sister, student pilot Karen Dieck. They weren't the
only marital hook-ups we had. Not to be outdone, Grant Dieck
married Barbara Beck, Tom Flaherty married Maxine Mattern,
and Will Wiese's daughter, Diane married Paul Baenen. Bob,
Karen, Grant, Barbara, Tom, Maxine, Diane, and Paul were all
student pilots. These logbooks sure bring back memories!
* * *

95
While Don Pacourek was still a student pilot, he asked me to
fly to Ontonagon, Michigan, with him in his Aeronca Chief
because the weather looked bad, and he didn't want to go alone.
We took off heading north, and after passing Abrams, low
ceilings forced us to fly below 1,000 feet. Within minutes, the
high clouds became extremely dark. A lower level of clouds
suddenly formed under us and completely obscured the ground,
just asI was in the process of telling Don that we should turn

around and go back to Nicolet. It looked as if we were the white


in an Oreo cookie.

The Chief had only basic instruments. It had no sensitive


altimeter or needle ball, but we had to turn around, with or
without instruments. I was in the middle of a 180 degree turn
when I saw trees through a small opening in the lower clouds. I
quickly executed a slip through it before recovering at tree top
level, but the clouds extended down into the trees. If a tall tree
had been in our path, it would have been curtains for us.
The only way I could keep the plane level was to look straight
down, like Lindbergh did while crossing the Atlantic with no
windshield. We somehow maneuvered the plane until the com-
pass read "south," and within a matter of minutes we could see
through the windshield just as the ceiling began lifting. By the
time we got back to Abrams, we were again up to 1 ,000 feet above
the ground and heading for Nicolet Airport. I don't know if Don
ever fully realized just how close we came to cashing in our chips
that day.

* * *

During this period of Nicolet's history, we bought and sold


a few small planes. One day word reached us through the
grapevine that a farmer in the Reedsville area had a Taylorcraft
for sale. Further investigation not only confirmed the rumor, but
led us to his barn where we purchased a near-mint-condition
airplane (only the original fabric on top of the wings didn't pass
our inspection). Both the engine and the airframe had a total time
of only 200 hours since new. (That's like 16,000 car miles.)
Although the wing fabric didn't pass, the mechanic deter-
mined that it would be safe to ferry the plane to Nicolet Airport,
if I low and slow. After calling the FAA in Milwaukee, the
flew it

mechanic wrote out a ferry permit and gave the propeller a spin
96
to start the engine, and Ipromptly flew it to Nicolet without
incident. On my arrival, we wheeled it head first into the north
hangar and immediately removed the old nitrate fabric from the
top of the wings. It was fortunate that we put the plane in nose
first and left the hangar doors open with the tail sticking outside.
Because thirty years have elapsed, I cannot remember just
why we found it necessary to weld the top of the airframe, but
Ido remember the mechanic standing on a ladder welding while
a student stood watching the torch to make sure the flame didn't
touch the fabric. However, the second I bent over to pick a tool
off the floor, I heard someone yell FIRE!

Instinctively, I ran back to the tail and pulled the plane out
of the hangar backwards. Because the fabric was nitrate, old, and
dry, it burned all the way back to the tail in seconds (like a piece
of celluloid film), and I suffered severe burns to my right hand.
Someone called the De Pere fire department, but all fire was out
before they arrived. We later discovered that the ceiling of the
hangar had blackened, but never actually burned. The nitrate
fabric had burned off the Taylorcraft so fast that no damage was
done to the plane itself, but the woodwork shaping the fuselage
was slightly scorched.
I rushed to the De Pere Clinic where Dr. Ray Waldkirch, a

pilot and our favorite FAA appointed medical examiner, ban-


daged my hand. Dr. Waldkirch was owner of the Taylorcraft
which landed in the tree off the south end of the runway near the
Swan Club (although he wasn't the pilot on that trip). Before the
day was over, we finished welding the airframe, sanded down
and spar-varnished the scorched woodwork, and I had ordered
a complete slipcover and ten gallons of butyrate dope for the re-
cover. A week later, the Taylorcraft was on the line for rent, for
only eight dollars an hour! Remember?
* * *

Between instruction, repairs, charter flights, socials, and


ground school, incidents happened that can't be put in any
particular classification. This next story has no category:
This is a story about a very nice man. His name is Ray
Rasmussen. He is a pilot and was an original member of the
group of twenty aviators who put up the money to re-open
Ray was always eager
Nicolet Airport in 1957. to help our flying
97
group in any way he could. He devoted many hours of his time

to various airport projects. During my six years at Nicolet, I

never met anyone who didn't like him. But Ray had a habit that
ran most of us up a tree.
I was the club's flight instructor, and our rules gave mem-
bers the privilege of flying our planes, but only after I gave them
a check-ride. The day Ray decided to fly, I quickly scanned his
logbook and saw that he was a private pilot with over 1 ,000 hours
of flying time. He had all the qualifications to fly our planes. I
handed his logbook back to him and we climbed aboard our
Cessna 140.
Fellow pilots who knew Ray well warned me about his use

of superfluous English during an ordinary conversation, but I

didn't notice anything unusual during the few minutes we spent


in the air that morning. That time was sufficient for me to
approve him for using the plane, and our conversation was
restricted to aviation talk during our
flight. After he returned

from making a few practice takeoffs and landings, however, I


was alone in the flight shack when he walked in. Within seconds
1 understood why everyone called him "Professor." In the
middle of an otherwise banal conversation, he injected, "I'm
sure glad I don't have a bad case of nyctalopia."
He knew I didn't know what that word meant, but contin-
ued talking as if 1 did. 1 had overheard him using such elephan-
tine words with others, but this was my first one-on-one discus-
sion with him. It may have been the fact that had nothing else
I

to do at the time or my insatiable desire to increase my vocabu-


lary, but 1 blurted out, "I don't know what that word means,
Ray."
"Night blindness, of course," he replied as if any dummy
ought to know. And like a dummy, I put my intellectual tail
between my intellectual legs and went on to other things.
During the next few years I engaged in a number of conver-
sations with Ray, and each time he had a new word for me to
contend with. My routine was always the same. The minute he
started talking, I pulled a pen and paper out of my pocket and
waited until he delivered that "special" word. When he did, I
held up my "stop" hand and asked him to spell it for me and then
define it. Each evening after I got home, I looked the word up in

98
my dictionary, and it aggravated me no end that he was always
right about both the spelling and the definition.
Ray's "verbalisms" were the subject of many of our bull
sessions, and everyone volunteered ideas for knocking him off

his lofty intellectual perch. But several years slipped by as he


continued describing his flying exploits with ten-dollar words
without reprisal from any of us. Finally, he presented us with a
situation we couldn't pass up.
One windy morning Ray flew our Cessna 140 to Milwaukee.
Later that day, I was sitting in the flight office talking to several

of my student pilots when the phone rang. It was Ray calling to


tell me that after seeing a crosswind on each of our two runways,
he had landed at Austin Straubel Field. Fie said he felt safer

landing over there because the wind was blowing directly down
one of their three runways. I agreed with his decision because it

is always safer to land directly into the wind than with a


cross wind.
hung up the phone and turned back to the students. I asked
I

Grant Dieck if he would go over to the other airport and fly our

Cessna back. He nodded to a friend and they left in Grant's car.


An hour later, Grant and the 140 circled our field while
several of us gathered on the ramp in front of the flight office. He
didn't land on either runway because of the high winds, but
landed between us on the ramp instead. The winds were so
strong, the plane rolled less than ten feet after it touched the
ground. We quickly grabbed the wing struts and "walked" the
Cessna over and tied it down in the large opening of the steel
fence which surrounded the flight office. The plane was then
only twenty feet from the front door.
Wehad barely finished securing it and had just sat down
when we saw Ray's car coming down the airport road, and we
all quickly agreed to act as if nothing had happened. Ray parked

his car and started walking towards us. Suddenly, he stopped


and stared at the plane he had left at the other airport an hour
before. After a few moments, he turned back toward us, took two
steps, stopped, looked back at the 140, put his hands on his hips,

bent over to re-read the plane's number, and once more moved
back toward us. When he got to the door, he stopped again,
turned around and stared at the plane in total disbelief.

99
Suddenly, he spun around and said, "How did that plane
get here?"
"What plane?" I asked.
"2058 Victor," he said raising his voice.
"Oh, I sent one of my student pilots over and he flew it

back," I said.
"Who?" he asked.
"Grant," I replied.
"Well, I, I, I," he said, unable to think of a word to follow.
We had completed the perfect squelch.
Ray stood speechless. He knew Grant had less than 40 hours
of flying time while he had over 1,000, but what he didn't know
at that time was that Grant Dieck was the most talented student

pilot I had ever had. Grant went on to get his private and

commercial licenses. He then got seaplane, multi-engine, instru-


ment, and flight instructor ratings before getting an airline
transport rating and becoming a captain for a major airline.
If had been in Ray's place that morning, I would have done
I

the same thing he did and landed at the other airport. It was only
because of the arrangement we made with Grant before he took
off that we would wait for him to land and grab the wings, that

he was able to land successfully.


Ray didn't know about that arrangement, so one would
think that hewould have become a little more humble after that
experience. The truth is, however, the following day he was his
old, usual, loquacious self and, to the best of my knowledge,
remains that way to this day.

* * *

Mike stopped out the other day and read that story about
Ray, and he agreed that Ray was always trying to help out. He
told me the following story to prove it:

"One day was


on the bench in front of the flight
I sitting

shack, watching the planes take off and land, when I saw Ray
coming in for a landing on the long runway. He missed the
runway, and I watched as he very carefully set his Taylorcraft
down in the plowed field alongside it.
"After taxiing in and shutting the engine down at the gas
pump, Ray walked over to me and said, 'Boy, Mike, our runways

100
sure are rough!'
'"Yes, Ray. Our runways are rough. But not as rough as the
plowed field you just landed in/ I said.
"'Did I do that?' he asked.
"'You sure did,' I said.

'"Doggonnit/ Ray said. 'I was very careful to make a real


good landing for the benefit of the student pilots.'

"I said, 'Look Ray, you want to see some nice landings,
if sit

down here by me and watch the students land.'"


* * *

We received a lot of free publicity from the local newspaper


and the television stations during those early days, and they
were really quite generous with the coverage. They weren't too
generous the day student pilot Loyal Jessie came running into
the flight shack and told me that a plane had crashed just a few
feet from the west end of the long runway.
We quickly ran out there, but found only a remote-con-
trolled, five foot-wingspan, gasoline-powered model airplane

that evidently had gotten away from its owner. It came within 10
feet of making it to the runway and I thought it would make a

greatnewspaper story. However, when I relayed the story to the


Green Bay Press-Gazette, they were ready to send out a reporter
and cameraman until I said the last part about it being a model
airplane, and they accused me of planting the small craft there
just for the publicity.
Loyal said he didn't know just who that model belonged to,
but I suspected that he knew more about it than he let on. still I

think it was a good story.

* * *

The west end of the long runway was the highest point of the
airport property. Soon after we reopened, we removed the fence
at that end as a safety measure, but there was still a small ridge

left in its stead. Our local pilots were all aware of this situation

and came in a few feet higher as a safety margin.


I had just landed into the east with student pilot, Rita Rottier,

one day, and as soon as we turned around, we saw a Cessna 140


coming in on final approach, much too low. When the plane hit
that ridge, my first thought was that the axle had broken in two.

101
but I learned later that the bolts holding the axle to the landing
gear had sheared off. Upon impact, the plane bounced at least
thirty feet into the air, but the wheel bounced up over fifty feet

and, unbelievably, came down and bounced again, off the right
wing, while the plane was still in the air. The instant the right

landing gear touched the ground, the Cessna went up on its nose,
but didn't flip over on its back.
Meanwhile, Mike was cutting grass around the smudge pots
on that runway and also witnessed the accident. He immediately
ran over and assisted Green Bay physician, Dr. Thomas Beno,
and his son, Tommy, in getting out of the plane. Rita and I shut
down the Champ and got there seconds later, while the Cessna
was still standing on its nose. In the twisting impact, the left wing
tank had ruptured, spilling raw gasoline onto the windshield.
Dr. Beno had the presence of mind to turn off the ignition prior
to touchdown, possibly averting a flame-out. Mike noticed the

gas dripping from the wing and quickly pulled the tail down to
bring the plane back to a three point position.
Dr. Beno had learned Outagamie County airport
to fly at the
while doing special work at the Appleton hospital. He had
rented the Cessna from Max Sagunsky after receiving his private
license. Dorothy Sagunsky was the office manager for their

operation, and when I mistakenly told everyone that the axle had
broken, she called me from Appleton and bawled the devil out
of me for getting my facts mixed up. I remember finally hanging
up on her, but she was so mad, she called me back and said, "I'm
not through with you," and continued to bawl me out. Fortu-
nately, the only injuries were a seat belt burn to Tommy's thighs,
a slight bump on the doctor's head, and the damage to Dr. Beno's
ego, of course.
* * *

The land in the airport vicinity slopes downhill one mile


from Webster Avenue, past Nicolet, and on to the East River,
which is located just east of our airfield. Each spring, melted
snow water literally flowed by our flight shack and stood in all
the low areas, especially around our parked planes and in the
lowest area on our north-south runway. After a few years, a
group of us dug a trench across the runway and installed a

102
drainage pipe. That helped, but we still had a water problem
each spring as long as I was there.

The standard springtime joke was, "We could fly today if we


had a seaplane." But it wasn't just a joke. There were so many
requests from student and private pilots for a seaplane that we
made a deal to buy one from Gordy Newstrom in Grand Rapids,
Minnesota. Ned Powers flew our new seaplane down to Green
Bay and landed on the Fox River near the Vercauteren Lumber
Company.
•i* sj®

The answer to the wind problem is that you spend more time
[1.111 hrs.] flying into the wind at a slower ground speed than

you do flying with the wind [.909 hrs] at a faster ground speed.
If you had a 50 mile per hour wind, you would spend 2.0 hours

going and 0.6 hours returning for a total of 2.6 hours. To really
understand the problem, imagine flying the first leg of the trip
into a headwind of 100 miles per hour. You would not move an
inch and you would never get there, as Jim Masse and I couldn't
get to Waupaca that day.
* * *

103
CHAPTER TEN
The Seaplane Cometh
During WWII, a humorous story circulated about a naval
officer who was questioning a recruit about naval tactics. The
officer said, "Suppose you are in command of a small ship in the
middle of Kansas when suddenly, a Japanese destroyer appears
over the horizon and coming straight at you. What would
you do?"
"Well, would order our submarine to torpedo it
Sir, I

immediately. Sir," the young man answered.


The officer laughed and said, "And where would you get a
submarine in the middle of Kansas?"
"Same place you got the destroyer, Sir," the recruit replied.
* * *

Of course, that story is not true, but this one is:

When I was in Wausau receiving my flight instructor rating


from Don Woods, he described the procedure for getting a small
seaplane ashore during a storm. He said, "The best way is to set
the plane down about thirty feet from land, point the nose

104
toward shore, hold the stick all the way back, and then give it full
throttle. As the plane heads for the beach, the floats will push the
water ahead of them, creating a huge wave. It will then 'ride' the
crest of the wave until it is a safe, thirty feet inland."
That sounded like a terrific idea. I thought about it for a few
seconds and then asked how would
1 get the plane back to the
water after the storm.
"I told you how to get it out of the storm." he laughed.
"Getting it back to the water is your problem."
I solved the problem in the ensuing years by not flying in that
kind of weather.
* * *

Ned delivered our seaplane just nine months after listened I

to Don's advice on how to land it during a storm. That started


three years of the most interesting experiences I've had in
aviation. Ned had given his estimated time of arrival and I was
standing on the shore of the Fox River when he landed. He taxied
over to where I was waiting and stepped out of the plane wearing
his trademark, a genuine Texas Stetson cowboy hat. With a big
grin on his face, he stood on the right float and told me that he
was going to give me the flight test for a seaplane rating on the
spot. Ned could do that because he was an FAA examiner.
Before I climbed into the plane, Ned added, "Most of your
private and commercial pilots more than two hours
will require
of your instruction before they solo the seaplane. They probably
will need an additional two or three hours of dual before you can
recommend them for the flight test to get their rating. But with
flight instructors, we slice it off like baloney. I'll show you only

once how to do each maneuver, and you will do it right the first
time if you want to receive the rating." Who could defy an order
like that? After three and a half hours of instruction, Ned dated
my seaplane rating that day, April 13, 1959.
* * *

In the air, a seaplane Champ flies identically to a Champ with


wheels, except that the seaplane doesn't roll as easily in flight

because of the drag of the floats, and it cruises about 5 miles per
hour slower for the same reason. Stall landings on the water are
the same as landing on sod, but step landings and glassy water

105
landings are different and require special instruction. The most
difficult and challenging aspect of a seaplane is maneuvering it

on the water.
Learning to operate a sailboat is tricky, with or without a lot

of wind. After landing a seaplane, maneuvering on the water it

to a spot on shore, or to a specific dock, presents all the problems


of a sailboat plus the additional complication of having no sails.
The closest we came to having a sail was to open the one door on
the right side. Of course, the seaplane has the power advantage
over a sailboat.
We created yet another problem by having our float plane
docked on the Fox River; we had to contend with the river
current. On windy days it was quite a show to watch a pilot
maneuvering our seaplane to the dock after landing. I was
supposed to be the expert, but many times I had to make several
attempts before I could get the plane into its berth and tie it down.
For the first month after Ned delivered our new toy, we had
to tie it down on shore until a dock could be built. When strong
winds blew from the north, the Lake Michigan water rushed into
the river causing much higher levels. When the water level
raised, we had to wade into the water to untie the plane, and we
kept a pair of hip boots handy just for that purpose. Southerly
winds did just the opposite and left us high and dry. The
lowering of the water level made it necessary for us to tug and
pull the seaplane across the shore as much as ten feet to get to the
water. It often took an hour just to get the plane into the water

and ready to fly.


The answer to the launching problem was to build a double
dock, which would allow us to tie the plane between the two
docks and allow it to rise and fall with the tide. I remember seeing
Mike and a lot of other club members working on the dock, but
one incident that took place during the construction stands out
from the rest:

* * *

It was a scorching hot, July afternoon as student seaplane


pilot, Emil Fischer and I were working on the new seaplane dock
in the Fox River. We took turns holding and driving the pilings.
One of us would hold a post while the other wielded a very heavy

106
sledge hammer to pound it down into the river bed, and both of
us were sweating, dirty, and tired. Emil and I had just taken a
break, and as we stood in the shallow river water with our pants
rolled up to our knees, we must have looked like a pair of poor
ragamuffins.
Without warning, one of Emil's best friends, Frank Cowles,
chose that very moment to slowly pass us in his huge, long, white
yacht.As we squinted into the brilliant afternoon sun, we saw
Frank and his guests sipping their ice-cold drinks as they sat on
deck chairs in their summer finery, he in a white suit and

captain's hat and the ladies in flowing pink and white dresses.
What possessed me I don't know, but I straightened up,
threw out my chest, raised my right clenched fist high over my
head and shook it at them as I roared at the top of my lungs,
"Capitalists!"
Emil doubled up laughing, no doubt thankful he was too
dirty to be recognized.
* * *

When was taking my first lessons, I looked upon my


I

instructor as some sort of a god. After I received my instructor


rating, I realized I wasn't really God, I only acted like Him. When
Ralph Van Ess wrote out the recommendation for my instructor
flight test, he made a very sobering observation. He said, "Bev,
remember one thing. In most jobs, when you make a mistake,
you say you're sorry, and then you do it over until you get it right.
A flight instructor doesn't have that luxury. If he makes a
mistake, he has to go down to the funeral home the next day and
look at the results."
Because of the seriousness of the occupation, instructors
have make sure students completely understand every phase
to
of flying, including taxiing the plane on the ground. As an
example, if I wanted a new student to taxi out to the runway for
takeoff, I might say: "O.K., now look around and watch the wing
tips so they don't hit anything. O.K., stop here. Now, look
around. Now go ahead, etc, etc."

Acting like God isn't easy to do and it isn't easy to turn off.

One day, one of Green Bay's prominent physicians, Dr. George


McGuire, who was already an accomplished pilot, came to the

107
The float plane got an awful lot
airport to take a seaplane lesson.
it, we had to drive
of use in spite of the fact that in order to use
nearly two miles from the airport to the river. Doc had just
purchased a new Thunderbird and offered to drive us.
He had been driving for over twenty years and I should have
been able to sit back and enjoy the ride, but when Doc came to
the stop sign at Riverside Drive, I said, without thinking, "O.K.,
stop here." I then looked up and down the street and said, "O.K.,
you can go ahead now." When I realized was in his car and not
1

in an airplane, I suffered one of my more embarrassing moments.

* * *

Incidentally, DoctorMcGuire occasionally came out to the


airport in the middle day and rented a Champ or Cessna
of the
140 and went flying for an hour. He explained that when had a
serious operation coming up, flying was the most relaxing thing
he could find to do because it was impossible to think of anything
else while he was up there.

* * *

said Dr. McGuire gave me ONE of my more embarrassing


I

moments. Before telling my MOST embarrassing moment in


aviation, please understand that I was born over sixty years ago
in a small town in Missouri. Back in those days farmers would

drive their newly acquired Model T Fords into town once a week
without understanding all the traffic rules. As dumb kids, we
would stand on a corner and laugh at the mistakes they made
and we referred to them as "Dumb Farmers," even though most
ofthem were a lot smarter than we were. Anyway, this story has
nothing to do with seaplanes, but here it is:
Student pilots Gerry Clabots and Cletus Cisler, and a friend,
rented our Cessna 170 to have me give them cross-country
instruction on a trip from Nicolet Airport to Madison, to Billy
Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, and return. Each of them would
take turns sitting in the left front pilot seat and flying one leg of
the trip, while I sat in the right front seat. The other two rode

along in the back seat.

We landed in Madison and two of them changed seats before


the new pilot took off and flew to Milwaukee. When we were
twenty miles out, I picked up the microphone and got clearance

108
for a straight-in landing from the control tower. The pilot (I don't
remember which one it was, and I wouldn't say if I did) was
making his approach when I noticed that he was lined up with
the taxiway instead of the runway, which was hundreds of feet
over to our left.

I said excitedly, "Hey! You're landing on the taxiway. Get


the plane over up with the runway over there. Do you
and line it

want them to think we are a bunch of dumb farmers?"


I no more than got the last word out of my mouth when I

could have bitten off my tongue. I turned around and looked in


the back seat for their reaction because I realized only too late
them were farmers. I might add, farmers with a
that all three of
good sense of humor, because they all laughed as I slid down in
my seat. THAT was my most embarrassing moment.
* * *

After Bob Jubin gave me the story about flying into the
Army-Navy Day formation, he shared his most embarrassing
moment:
"The city of Oconto, Wisconsin, was having a water-boat
show in the city park in the summer of 1955. It was a carnival-like
affair. I was quite a barnstormer in those days and would do

almost anything for a dollar, and because the city park was
adjacent to the bay of Green Bay, I decided to use my 'Seabee'
airplane to give rides.
"In order to carry as many paying passengers as possible on
each flight, I carried a minimum amount of fuel in the tanks. The
five to ten gallons I put in enabled me to give three or four rides
before flying back to the airport and getting another small
amount of gas.
"After one such refueling, I flew back to the park and gave
several more rides. In fact, I would say one more ride than I

should have, because when I turned onto the final approach


three miles out, the engine quit dead. I was out of gas.
"I generally made a power approach from three miles out,
which was just about right for setting the plane down near the

park. When the engine stopped, however, had to lower the nose I

to keep up airspeed for a power-off landing.


"As soon as the plane touched the water, one young passen-

109
ger looked out the window and said, 'Beautiful landing-but
where's the shore?'
"Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed as we had to sit

and drift for the next twenty minutes until a boat arrived and
towed us ashore."
* * *

One last story about being embarrassed: Bob Harless of


Douglas, Georgia, didn't double check after the line boy checked
the oil of his Piper Cub. Evidently, the oil cap hadn't been
tightened, and as Bob proceeded along the West Virginia Turn-
pike near the Cabin Creek area, the leaking oil dripped down
onto the hot exhaust stack. This created a tremendous amount
of smoke.
Because of the mountainous terrain, and the power lines and
trees below, Bob turned and flew ten miles to a safe landing on
a small island in the middle of the Kanawha River. After
realizing he was alone with no boat or communications, and
believing the only way to get home was to swim the river. Bob
located a clean five-gallon bucket before disrobing and sealing
EVERY stitch of his clothing in the pail. He then jumped into the
water and started the long swim to safety.

Halfway across, a large, coal-barge-pushing paddle-wheel


boat came a little too close, and the turbulence jerked the pail out
of his hands. Bob then swam back to the island dressed like
Adam without the fig leaf, and waited until he was rescued.
When help arrived, the color of Bob's face couldn't be
distinguished from his red hair.
* * *

Don McKnight of Niceville, Florida, had no seaplane rating


the day he took off from Hylan Field south of Rochester, New
York, in the summer of 1949. He didn't think he would be
needing one that day anyway.
He had no sooner retracted the gear at 1200 feet when the
engine sputtered and quit. There was no time to hand-pump the
gear back down, but a quick look showed a limited space
available for a dead-stick landing in the Erie Barge Canal.
Don was fortunate that the plane was an amphibious Repub-
lic Seabee, but unfortunate that there wasn't enough room for

110
takeoff after the engine was repaired, and it had to be lifted out
of the water by a crane and tracked back to the airport.

* * *

Back to our seaplane, some of the incidents that happened in


itwere funny, some were scary, and some were nearly tragic.
One day I was giving a first seaplane lesson to one of our land
Champ students. I had told him to pretend that, while landing
on water, you are landing on grass, and as soon as the floats touch
the water, keep the stick all of the way back in your belly button,
and don't let up on it until the plane stops moving. I should have
added, "Unless . .

We glided northward over the Main street bridge as we


approached a landing spot at the mouth of the Fox River in the
bay of Green Bay. It was quite windy and the waves were slightly
white capping. Evidently we touched down while the floats
were going up a wave and at that instant, we were hit with a
sudden gust of wind. Before realizing what had happened, we
were 30 feet back into the air.
was horrified as I sat in the back seat and saw the nose of
I

the plane pointing up into the sky in a stall position over the
water. I remember trying to say something during that split
second like, "PUSH THE STICK FORWARD" or "EASE UP
ON THE STICK," but nothing came out of my mouth.
The student was quite muscular and had more strength than
1.He also had four fingers pulling his stick backward while I had
only a thumb to push my stick forward, and I tore the nail out of
my right thumb while trying to overcome his power and get the
stick forward.
The wings and one second later we hit the water so
stalled,

hard it bone in our bodies. I just knew that the float


jarred every
struts would be bent or that one of the floats would be split open,
but I was amazed, after stepping out onto the float and examin-
ing everything, to find that nothing on the plane was damaged.
Something was damaged, however. At the student's re-
quest, we immediately returned to the airport where he picked
up his log book and said that he was going to quit flying
altogether. To the best of my knowledge, he never flew after that.
* * *

111
Gordon Stitt of St. Germain, Wisconsin, told of the day
Pilot
he was giving a seaplane ride to a teenager whose father and
sister were pilots. Gordon wasn't an instructor, and the kid

surprised him by asking if he could fly the plane. Here's what


happened:
"He seemed to we circled the lake and
be doing fine as
entered final approach. When we were ten feet above the water,
I told him to come back on the stick to make a full stall landing.
Evidently he got confused and pushed the stick full forward
instead.
"The plane hit the water and ricocheted to a nose-high
attitude where the wings stalled. We weren't high enough for the
nose to drop, so the plane backed down into the water tail first.
"Fortunately nothing was damaged, but it ended my days
of teaching."
* * *

Gordon told us this one also:

"My Aeronca Champ plane was still tied down on the


float

bank of the river in front of my house when the river froze over.
I wanted to take off on the ice and land in the field behind my

house where I could tie it down for the winter. Wind had blown
all of the snow off the ice, and I didn't anticipate any problems

taking off with floats on clear ice.


"The takeoff run was all right, but when I approached a
curve in the river, I gave the plane right stick and right rudder
to make a right turn. However, the plane didn't turn, but
continued in a straight line course in a crabbed position . .

... I'd like to interrupt Gordon's story to mention that it

would be nice if we had a hold button in an airplane, much like


the one on a VCR. At this point, Gordon could have pushed the
button, stopped the plane, and studied the situation to decide
what to do. Instead, he continues . . .

... "I went back to neutral position with the ailerons and
rudder and managed to get into the air and make the turn before
coming to the trees.
"That was hairy enough, but really got a shock when II

landed in the field. I should have made a power step-landing, but


Ithought that the six inches of powdered snow would provide

112
enough cushion and give me a real soft touchdown. But after
making a full stall landing, the plane dropped through that snow
as if it weren't there. The floats hit the frozen ground underneath
so hard that it jarred my teeth and whole body to where I didn't
know if I would be able to walk away from it."
* * *

After Gordie told that story, I pressed the rewind button and
stopped the action where he was trying to turn on the ice. We
discussed the possibility that the reason the plane wouldn't turn
right may have been because of the ailerons. A down aileron has
more drag than an up aileron, so it may have been the drag
a lot
on the down left wing aileron which kept the plane from
turning right.
In hindsight, it may have turned right if he had crossed
controls— right rudder and left stick. But with hindsight, things
always work out better— we think. Back to play!

* * *

This little incident caused no lasting problem, but it could


have been disastrous at the time:
One of our land plane private pilots at Nicolet wanted to get
checked out in our float plane one spring morning. Because of his
extensive flying experience, I didn't think it necessary to explain
anything other than that pertaining only to the seaplane. I sure
was wrong.
Because of the restricting width of the river, it was necessary
to take off in a crosswind. We discussed that procedure and he
executed it just fine. We quickly broke free of the water and had
sufficient distance to clear the trees along the shoreline ahead.
The moment we were 50 feet above the trees, we found that
the wind had shifted a little more from the left and had increased
in velocity. The student had done so well and was so much in
command of the plane that apparently relaxed a few seconds
1

too soon. Before realizing what he was doing, he had made a


right downwind turn, and we suddenly found ourselves sinking
in a downdraft caused by the wind following the tree tops
downward as they slanted toward the river.
I yelled, "Let go— I got it!" which he did, and the plane
continued downwind and downward, much like the way my

113
Cessna 120 had settled down into the valley in Baldwin, Wiscon-
sin.Because we were just above stalling speed, instead of raising
the nose and trying to gain altitude, I lowered the nose a
calculated amount and trimmed for a full-power descent toward
the last trees before reaching the river where we would then have
a mile of clearing over the river to start climbing. At the very last

second, when I gave a slight back pressure on the stick to clear

the trees, not by feet, but by inches, it put us back to slightly above
stalling speed.
We may have removed few leaves as we passed through
a
the top branches, but the second we cleared the trees, I again
lowered the nose and quickly trimmed for a descent toward the
river. At the shoreline, we leveled off and were racing five feet

over the water when had to remind myself that our fast
I

downwind ground speed was only an illusion of safety. The


airspeed indicator showed we were doing 50 while the stalling
speed was around 45, so I realized we were still in trouble as we
needed an airspeed of 70 for a good, controlled climb out over

West De Pere that lay straight ahead.


The fact that I am still here to tell about it is evidence that we
made it, but it sure was hairy for a few moments. Maybe an
incident like this is what prompted that first pilot to say that
flying is "hours and hours of boredom, interrupted occasionally
by a few moments of stark terror."
* * *

114
CHAPTER ELEVEN
The Seaplane Goeth
We don't have an exact count, but there must have been at
least fifty pilots who either took lessons or just rented and flew
our seaplane. Most went on to get a seaplane rating, but some,
like private pilot Don Schlaeffer, preferred to stick to land
planes. He did go with me as a passenger on a 1960 Canadian
fishing trip, however.
Don and I sat in quiet anticipation as we flew our seaplane
over the northern woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, heading
for the land of the big northern pike. As we proceeded north and
west over miles and miles of forest land, I couldn't help thinking
about something Ned Powers had said during a ground school.
"If your engine quits while flying over trees that are close
together, and there is no you can reach without power,
clearing
don't panic. Just head the plane into thewind and pretend the
tops of the trees are a meadow. Then, when you make a full stall
landing, the branches will grab the wings and slow you down
until you come to rest.

115
"Be careful, though," he added. "You might get hurt
climbing down the tree."
* * *

Before we could get the plane into Canada we had to land at


the port of entry on Gull Lake. Our flight northward was
beautiful and scenic, and it was uneventful until we arrived at
the lake and completed the final approach. The floats had no
sooner touched the water when the engine quit. Because we had
no electric starter, it simply meant I would have to get out of my
seat, step out onto the right float, and "prop" the engine from

behind. I had done it dozens of times without incident.


The instant I stepped through the door, my 160 pounds
landed on the right float and caused the plane's right wing to
start coming down toward the water. According to Ned, there

is NEVER ALLOW A SEAPLANE


a rigid rule in seaplane flying:
WING TIP TO GET UNDER WATER! He explained that the
instantany part of one wing goes under the water, that portion
loses and it's the same as the other wing gaining that much
its lift

more. That aggravates the situation and causes the underwater


wing to go down yet further. Eventually the seaplane will roll
over on its back.
As I look back on it, I don't believe it was just my weight that
caused the problem; the wind may have shifted to the left, giving
the left wing more lift than the right one. It didn't matter, the
right wing tip was under water, and very slowly, the plane was
in the process of rolling over.
Don and I have talked it over many times and neither of us
can remember what happened next. I was on and
the right float
had to shift my weight to the left side of the plane, but we had
no left door. The only way to get there was to swim, go to the
front of the plane and swing across the floats under the propeller,
or crawl on my hands and knees across the two-inch wide strut
connecting the two floats. Because I didn't get wet, that elimi-
nated swimming. Because I couldn't have been stupid enough to
swing on a prop while it was connected to a hot engine, I must
have crawled across the narrow strut.
I don't remember how I got there, but in a split second, I not

only crossed over to the left float, I climbed, hand over hand, up

116
the left wing strut until I was hanging near the left wing tip. That
left me dangling twenty feet in the air. I shook and wiggled and
did every kind of body gyration possible until the wing stopped
going up. Then very, very slowly, the wing and I started coming

down. By the time the right wing tip came out of the water, I had
walked myself, hand over hand, back down the strut to where
I was standing on the left float.

Please don't ask how I got back to the right float. Don doesn't
remember and neither do I, but after giving the propeller a spin,
the engine started, we passed through customs, then continued
on our way. We nearly lost our seaplane that day. If that hot
engine had gone under the cold Canadian water, we could have
kissed her goodbye.
* * *

Don and I left Gull Lake and headed nearly straight north for
our destination, Eagle Lake. It is near the town of Vermillion Bay,
in the middle of Ontario's great I was at the controls
fishing.
navigating fifteen minutes later when suddenly none of the
shapes of the lakes below us matched the shapes of the lakes on
our map. I called it to Don's attention, but before he could say
anything, I quickly started a left turn while telling him I was
going to circle to see if I could find a lake I could identify. Before
I had completed the first 90 degrees, this "lowly student" said
to me, "the instructor," "Didn't you teach us in ground school
not to panic when we got temporarily lost, but to keep our
heading for a short while as we probably would pick up a good
check point quite soon?"
I quickly turned back to our original heading and followed
Don's advice. Within two minutes we found a lake we could
identify and continued on our way. Wouldn't it be appropriate
to again say, more proof that instructors aren't God?
Incidentally, I checked with Canadian authorities on an-
other trip, and when they compared our map with theirs, they
said our map was wrong at the point where I started to turn.
* * *

We were thankful not to have lost our seaplane in Gull Lake


as we had many more interesting experiences to come. One day,
a large group of us traveled to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, for our

117
summer vacation. Bill Wogsland and Jerry Seroogy flew their
World War II primary trainer, Ryan PT-22, for Ned to fly in the
air show. My wife Joyce and I flew up in the seaplane because I

had already written out recommendations for Mike, Jerry, and


Bill to take their seaplane flight tests with Ned. The rest of the

gang drove their cars.


After a four hour flight from Green Bay, Joyce and I arrived.
As we turned onto our final approach to land on the tiny lake next
to the airport, I mentioned to her that it looked awfully small and
that I might have trouble taking off in such a short distance. But
we landed with no problem.
We secured the seaplane and went into the flight office and
joined the group who were anxiously awaiting the overdue PT-
22. It wasn't long before Bill called to say that bad weather had
forced them down into a farmer's field near Duluth and they
were going to have to spend the night there.
The next morning, the PT-22 arrived with a broken wing tip.
Bill and Jerry quickly explained that a highway patrolman had

blocked off a section of the highway so they could take off that
morning, but the road was so narrow they clipped a mailbox
before they could get the plane into the air. We wheeled the plane
into a hangar where it was repaired and ready for the air show
the following day.
During the war, an enemy flag on the
fighter pilots painted
side of their planes to represent an enemy plane shot down in
combat. Bill and Jerry dropped their jaws when they saw that the
mechanics had painted a picture of a flying mailbox on the side
of their PT-22.
* * *

Our group and our wives, had rented several


of pilots,
cabins on Bass Lake five miles west of Grand Rapids. After the
air show, Ned joined us and took Bill, Jerry, and Mike out for

their flight checks. After the last one had finished, I was waiting
when the four of them walked into the room. In response to my
question— "Well, how did they do?"
Ned replied, "Hey, Man, those guys fly that plane better
than you do."
"Of course they do," I countered. "They had a better

118
instructor than I had." (I was their instructor— Ned was mine).
Ha!
Ned sat down at a table and wrote out their seaplane ratings.
* * *

Although I had an instructor rating, I always felt like a lowly


student in the presence of Ned. On several occasions during our
visit, I expressed concern to him about my ability to take off from
that small pond. Each time Ned's only remark was, "You can
make it, Hey." He loved that expression, "You can make it,

Hey."
The day after seeing Bill, Jerry, and Mike get their seaplane
ratings, Joyce and I got back into the seaplane to go home. I

started the takeoff run near the shore on the downwind side of
the pond and gave the plane full throttle. There was no inkling
of a problem as we surged forward. I held the stick back as the
floats came up to the surface of the water and then eased up on
it as we started "planing" on the surface. By the time the floats
were all the way "up on the step," however, the opposite shore
was coming up at us so fast, I had to "chop the throttle" and
abort the takeoff.
I turned around and taxied back to the starting point and
repeated the procedure. By the time I had aborted two more
takeoffs, I noticed that a large crowd had started gathering on the
shore to watch the farce, and when 1 noticed that Ned was sitting
among them, I started feeling quite uneasy, to say the least.
On my fourth attempt, I decided to try taking the plane off

on the left float by forcing the right one into the air. That way
there would be less drag. I started into the wind on the left

shoreline, same as the other attempts, and the plane went


immediately "up on the step." Then, instead of continuing
straight ahead for take off, I executed a sweeping, 360 degree
step turn to the right so that by the time I was back to the spot
where had started,
I I not only had the floats up on the step, I also
had a lot of speed for the takeoff. I was confident that we would
make it on this attempt.
I held the stick to the left, added a little back pressure, and

then used just enough right rudder to keep the plane going
straight ahead. The right float came out of the water just fine, but

119
when I pulled back on the stick to get the plane into the air, it

wouldn't go. At the last second, I again "chopped the throttle,"


but this time it was too late. We were still in the water when we
stopped all right, we were near the upwind shore, and in the
but
middle of a huge weed bed.
The keel, or bottom, of a float is built so that it resembles the
barb on a fishhook. The floats had attached themselves to the

weeds, and the plane wouldn't budge. When I stepped out onto
the right float, saw that the shoreline was now lined with
I

spectators, and they were apparently enjoying my predicament.


Now, among them, were four flight instructors, and Ned, of
course. The only thing I could think to say to him was, "Yeah, I

can make it, Hey!"


I was embarrassed for a while, because I had seen similar
planes take off and land on that small pond many times. Ned
suggested that I let Joyce out to get rid of some weight and then
fly to the seven-mile-long Lake Pokegama, five miles to the
south, but I had had enough for one day.
After a half-dozen volunteers got the plane out of the weeds,
Ned's chief instructor tried taking our seaplane off by himself.
He failed twice before succeeding on the third attempt, and then
only after he got out of the front seat and flew it solo from the rear.
1 didn't feel so foolish after seeing that, because he didn't have
a passenger.

Ned drove us to Lake Pokegama where the instructor had


landed, and we joined him in an immediate inspection of the
plane. We found that I had committed a cardinal sin by neglect-
ing to inspect the floats before takeoff. There had been a driving
wind and rain storm the night before, and our inspection found
the floats to be full of water. Because water weighs over eight
pounds per gallon, we were considerably overweight for take-
off, and I could have tried all day and still not have been able to

get that plane airborne with Joyce in it. Fortunately, we always


carried a hand pump, and I used it to pump the water out of
the floats.
* * *

As if I hadn't made enough mistakes for one day, after Joyce


and I left Pokegama Lake and headed southeast for Green Bay,

120
I was cruising at 4,000 feet to take advantage of a good tail wind.
Gradually, the small clouds at 2,000 feet became more numerous
and closer together. I realized we were going to become caught
on top with no instruments, so I headed straight south where I
could see there was no overcast. An hour later we were clear of
all clouds, but when 1 looked down, all of the lakes looked the

same and I had no idea just where we were.


I saw two fishermen in a boat on a large lake, so I landed and

taxied to within yelling distance of them and shut off the engine.
I told J oyce that I was going to ask them what lake they are fishing
on and that I would be quite upset if they yelled back to me, "The
same lake you just landed on." However, they politely told us
that we were on Spooner Lake, fifty miles off course. We then
took off and flew on to a seaplane base in Phillips, Wisconsin,
where we got a bite to eat, gassed the plane, and continued
on home. •

* * *

I attended a seaplane rally after our return and heard David


Zawistowski of Eagle River, Wisconsin, telling us that he once
saw a Piper Super Cub make a wheel-landing on water— with
wheels. Here's the way he described it:

"My guide and I were fishing on King Salmon River in


Alaska when my friend Eddie Clark, who lived in the town of
King Salmon, came flying straight at us in his Piper Super Cub.
It had extra large tires on its wheels and he was barely skimming

over the water at cruising speed when he went down and made
a wheel- landing on the water, just as he passed within a few feet
of our boat.
"The water was icy-cold as the spray soaked us, but we
couldn't get upset because we were laughing so hard.
"Eddie told us later that his plane had gotten very dirty
while landing in a dry creek bed, and he always used the King
Salmon River as a plane wash. He explained that he needed
cruising speed in order to land on water with wheels. As soon as
the wheels touch the water, he had to hold the stick forward to
keep it there, same as making a wheel landing on land. He added
that it works better if the pilot holds the brakes on while
doing it."

Excuse me if I just take his word for it!

121
* * *

For non-pilots, and new pilots who have never flown a tail-

dragger (a plane with a tail wheel but no nose gear), I will explain
a wheel landing. Instead of landing by pulling back on the stick
and slowing the plane until it no longer has flying speed (called
a stall landing), the pilot makes the final approach very fast and

actually flies the plane down until the front wheels touch the
runway. At that instant, he thrusts the stick forward, and the
plane goes down the runway with the tail still high in the air.

Wheel landings are tricky to learn and do, and they also can
cause problems. One day, while my Cessna 120 was tied down
at Crystal Airport alongside a Luscombe, I questioned the owner
about his policy of always making wheel landings, and never
making a stall landing.
When he answered, "Wheel landing are a lot more fun," I

suggested that if he ever were to have an emergency, he wouldn't


remember how to do the much safer stall landing.
You guessed it! A month later he was standing in his empty
tiedown when I arrived. Sheepishly, he told how he had landed
in a farmer's field after running low on gas, and hadn't seen a
ditch hidden by vegetation. Of course he had made a wheel
landing, and the ditch completely washed out the landing gear.
* * *

Eddie Clark wheel-landed a land plane on water. We did the


opposite with our seaplane in the fall. We followed Ned Power's
suggestion and returned it to Nicolet airport by simply landing

on the grass. Afterward, we used a tractor to pull it over to the


ramp where we tied it down, but it did look kinda goofy being
tied down in the snow during the winter. Landing on grass for
the first time took a little guts, but it worked out so well that's the
way we did it each year.
The real problem came in the spring when we had to get it

back to the river. The first year, we used a hoist to lift the seaplane
onto a flatbed trailer at the airport and later unloaded it into the
river. We used that method for the first two years before
deciding that was just too much work. Then I got a brilliant idea.
Here is the article I wrote for the May 1, 1960 edition of the
NICOLET AVIATION NEWS:

122
Our Aeronca S7DC Seaplane tied down for the winter at
Nicolet Airport.

If you are wondering how we did it, pull up a chair and we'll
tell you all about it. First, we picked a windy day. Then we pulled

the float plane to the runway with a tractor and pointed it into
the wind. My plan was to take it off from the grass without using
wheels or a dolly. We figured it was too much work to obtain a
flatbed trailer, remove the farings between the wings and fuse-
lage, fasten ropes to the wing bolts, use a hoist to lift the seaplane
up onto the trailer, drive it through the streets down to the river,

and then reverse that process to get it into the water. Too much
trouble.
With only 3 gallons of gas in the tank, Bev at the controls, six
pilots (three on each side) pushing forward on the wing struts to
get the plane moving as full throttle was applied, the plane
reached the amazing speed equal to that of any float plane being
pushed on the grass by six men. This is not quite as fast as six men
can run when they're not pushing a seaplane on grass.
After the men dropped from exhaustion, we obtained a flat
bed trailer, removed the farings between the wings and fuselage,
fastened ropes to the wing bolts, used a hoist to lift the seaplane
up onto the trailer, drove it through the streets and down to the
river. No problem.
* * *

123
Co

Brown

of

Museum

Public

Neville

Collection

Press-Gazette

--

problem!

No
-

seaplane

tows

Matzke

Dick

124
We had several dozen pilots get their seaplane ratings. Some of
them purchased their own seaplanes, including Carl Verboomen
who put his Aeronca Sedan on floats, Emil Fischer, who sent me to
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to pick up a Luscombe before putting it on
Others were Dr. George McGuire,
floats. who bought a Lake
Skimmer, and Don Pacourek, who went the limit and bought our
beloved Aeronca, S7DC, seaplane in the fall of 1961.
Many of our land airplane private pilots started taking
seaplane lessons. Jim Gagnon got my very first one after Ned
delivered the plane. Then Ken Newbury, Bill Gross, Ogden
Hamachek, Mike Boncher, Jerry Seroogy, Bill Wogsland, Paul
Stone, Jack Tilleman, Jim Masse, and many more discovered the
exhilaration of the seaplane challenge and received the rating.
Don Pacourek got his rating and my last seaplane lesson just
before he purchased the float plane from us.
When my seaplane flying was finished, I added up the hours
of instruction I had given, and the total turned out to be a
surprising 250. knew at the time it was happening that seaplane
1

flying was an awfully lot of fun, but now that I look back on my
flying career, I will have to say that flying that float plane, and
instructing in it, was the most enjoyable of all of my flying
experiences, and I really miss it.

* * *

One of the nicest things about the EAA is that, although I

don't fly a seaplane anymore, all of my pleasant memories of it


are rejuvenated on each visit. On one of them I got this story from
EAA associate editor, Norm Petersen:
"I was returning to Oshkosh from Minneapolis in my Piper
J-3 'Cub' on Edo 1320 floats in 1988. 1 was enjoying the brilliant
fall coloring of the trees and wondering where I would land to
transfer five gallons of fuel from a plastic can strapped in the rear
seat— to extend the range of the Cub enough to get me home.
"Two hours into the trip, I spotted an odd-looking series of
small, square ponds with another pond across the end of the
group. It had a tiny sand beach in the southwest corner, just
had no sooner landed and taxied up to
perfect for a float plane. I

the beach, when two men drove up in a pickup. They stepped out
and one said, 'Do you know you are the very first person ever to
land in our cranberry bog?'
125
"Ready for a good bawling out, I was completely taken
aback when they drove me to the next pond to observe how
cranberries are harvested. They carefully explained how the
special machine drives through ten-inch-deep water and beats
the cranberries from the vines so they can float to the surface
from where they are loaded into semi trucks. I grabbed my
camera and took color pictures of the men and the entire
operation.
"Driving back to the airplane, the two men were quite
excited about the happenstance of my landing in their pond.
They helped me with the refueling and when it was time to take
off, their parting words were, 'If you ever come this way again,

please land and say "Hello." You are always welcome.'


"In appreciation of their hospitality, I sent a complete set of
Don Rooeghier and Harlan Bemis of the Edlen
the pictures to
Cranberry Company in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin."
* * *

Speaking of the EAA, it might be nice to end the seaplane


chapters with this story told by Steve Hartl of Neosho, Wiscon-
sin, at an Eagle River, Wisconsin, seaplane rally:

"My wife had died a few years before I attended the last

EAA convention. I made reservations for a campsite near the


seaplane docks before flying my kids and a tent to Oshkosh.
After arriving and going into the office where Kathy Wick
assigned us a campsite, we proceeded on and set up
to the site
our tent. I made the mistake of not putting up the proper sticker
before returning home, and when we returned the following
day, our tent was gone. Someone else's was there instead.
"We returned to the office and found our tent all bundled up
in a corner, but Kathy quickly straightened out the mess and
gave us a new campsite. This time everything was fine. I went
back to the office and apologized to her for all the trouble I had
caused, and she not only forgave me, this is Kathy here with me
now. We have gone steady ever since the convention."
Aaaaah!
* * *

126
CHAPTER TWELVE
Activities and Trips
August 3, 1959: Received certificated flight instructor rating.

As a limited flight instructor, all student pilots I recommended


for a license or rating had to take their flight checks with an FAA
Safety Agent, such as Don Woods in Wausau. After receiving the
certificated rating, they could take their tests with examiners,
likeNed Powers, Max Sagunsky (Appleton Airport manager
and founder of MAXAIR), or with Lyle Grimm, manager of the
Wausau airport.
November 17, 1960: Received ground school and meteorol-
ogy ratings. Those ratings were kind of like the medal, heart, and
diploma given to the lion, tin man, and scarecrow in the movie,
"Wizard of Oz." They didn't allow me to do anything I wasn't
already doing, but they made me feel better, I guess. Anyway,
those ratings were the end of my formal, but not the practical,
education in flying.
Other airport activities kept me so busy I didn't have time to
miss our departed seaplane. During the post seaplane period, we

127
had many talented pilots who did some very interesting things
with their airplanes.
* * *

Some became experts at handling wind prob-


of our pilots
lems while taking off and landing, and one of the best was Mel
Buchholz. Mel was my prize student who went on to get his
private license. He owned a dairy farm twenty miles south of
Nicolet, and I always referred to him as a "Flying Farmer,"
although he never got around to joining that organization.
One day, after I had given one passenger a ride, another
wanted to go. But after strapping him into the back seat of the
Champ, I realized I didn't have the time. saw Mel standing
I

nearby and asked if he would give the man a ride. Mel said
"Sure," and climbed into the front seat. I had seen a squall line
approaching from the west during my flight and suggested that
he keep a close eye on it.

Mel taxied out and took off into the south before turning
north towards the bay of Green Bay. I went into the flight shack
and temporarily forgot about him, but my ten year old son,
Keith, had been listening to our conversation and remained
outside. He watched the approaching dark clouds and strained
his eyes northward for a glimpse of the returning Champ.
Suddenly, he saw it~losing altitude and coming straight at the
airport.
Mel told me later that he didn't bother entering the traffic

pattern properly, because he could see that the edge of the front
was already over the Fox River, less than a mile to the west. He
said that even was only mid-day, it was so dark that all
though it

cars on Green Bay streets had turned on their lights. I hadn't


realized the front was so close until I heard Keith scream through
the flight shack door that Mel was in trouble.
Eight of us ran outside in time to see the Champ making a
straight-in approach for a landing into the south. Bluish-black
clouds rolled and boiled as they rapidly approached the airport
from the west. By the time we reached the north-south runway,
the near-gale winds began shifting and blowing debris every
which way. Mel told me afterward that he saw us running out
to meet him just as the windsock shifted towards the west, and

128
realized he had to turn east for an approach to the other runway.
Within seconds, the airport was hit with forty-mile-an-hour
winds, with gusts up to fifty. Mel said be became alarmed when
he saw a tractor on the runway pulling a mower, but was relieved
to seeit move off as soon as the driver saw him coming in. Mel

saw us standing near the intersection of our two runways as he


was descending on final approach, and quickly added enough
extra power to carry him to the sixteen outstretched arms,
anxiously awaiting him.
The shifting winds had become so gusty they caused the
Champ's wings to flap like those of a hummingbird, and we
could see the ailerons fluttering to counteract the wind changes.
Mel was doing a masterful job as he approached us with cruising
power, but backed off on the throttle as he maneuvered the plane
exactly between the eight members of our group. We quickly
grabbed the wing struts, and he chopped the throttle the second
the plane touched the ground. He was safely down, and the eight
of us "walked" the plane into the quonset hut hangar.
I didn't remember it, but Mel told me years later that after
we got the plane into the hangar, the passenger emerged and
handed me cash to pay for the plane ride. As he walked away,
I yelled to him that hehad some change coming, but he yelled
back over his shoulder to "Keep the change," evidently in
appreciation of the wonderful job Mel had done in getting him
down in one piece.

* * *

In 1961 Caleb Chapelbought a Piper Tri-Pacer and soloed.


Norb Szprejda soloed before buying a Champ of his own and
moving it to Pulaski. Don Lyndahl soloed and bought a Cessna
140. Dick VanDenHeuvel soloed and bought a pre-war, open-
cockpit Fairchild. Bob Harris, Jr., soloed and went on to get a
commercial license and instructor rating before becoming the
Sturgeon Bay airport manager. Dr. Keith Downey got a commer-
and kept on being a veterinarian and our president.
cial license

Jon LeDuc soloed and became a politician.


* * *

I once heard that one out of every ten landings anywhere


other than an established airport resulted in an accident. Stan

129
"Monte" Montevideo and a couple of other pilots purchased a
pre-WWII, two-wing, open-cockpit, Meyers OTW plane. He was
flying it east of Green Bay when he decided to land in a farmer's
field near a friend's house. Evidently he didn't realize that the
un-cut hay presented a problem as he attempted to
field of tall,

land. The minute the plane touched down, the tall grass imme-
diately wrapped itself around the axles, causing the wheels to
stop so suddenly, the plane went up on its nose and flipped over
onto its back.
As soon as I heard about it, I jumped into my car and drove
to the scene while they were still trying to figure out what to do
next. We inspected the plane and found the damage to be slight,

but when I asked Monte anyone was hurt, he said he was the
if

only casualty. When 1 asked how and where he was hurt, he


sheepishly lowered his head and said that after the plane turned
upside down, he unfastened his seat belt to get out, and fell
headfirst onto the ground.
* * *

A few years after Monte sold his interest in the Meyers, he


read about a Cessna 120 for sale in Trade-A-Plane newspaper
and called the owner. He worked out a deal to buy the plane,
even though it was out of license. He was told that a ferry permit
had been issued so it could be flown to one destination. Because
FAA regulations stated that neither student nor private pilots
could fly a plane out of license, even with a ferry permit, we flew
to Milwaukee in our Cessna 140. 1 flew Monte's newly purchased
120 back to Nicolet while he flew our 140 alongside.
Here's an interesting sidelight to that one hour trip. After we
took off from Timmerman Field in Milwaukee, in order to set a
good example for my student, I deliberately followed fence rows
to make sure I was flying an exact, straight-line course, and
watched the sensitive altimeter closely to make sure I held an
exact altitude of 2000 feet above sea level.
Monte was flying alongside of me one minute, then a mile
away the next. He was above, then below me. There was really
nothing wrong with that, but I was proud of the example I had
set until we landed and he came over to me and said, "Can't you
fly a plane straight? You were all over the sky!"

130
I guess it was just a matter of perspective.
* * *

Monte soon took Dale Borell and Tom Jorgensen in as


partners in hisnew Cessna and they immediately recovered the
top of the wings before calling Fred Stroebel to relicense it.

Monte, Dale, and Tom continued flying the 120 until they all got
their private licenses, but when Monte bought a Super Cub, Dale
bought him out and Harry Richter bought out Tom.
Lots of partnerships were formed in those days, and lots of
other interesting things were going on:
* * *

Private pilot Bill Fritche brought his wife Lola out to the
airport with the intention of soloing our Stinson while she was
taking a lesson in our Champ. Many pilots' wives took lessons
to add to their enjoyment of flying and, in some cases, to be able
take over the controlsand land the plane in an emergency. (It has
happened, but not to any of our pilots.)
It was a cold, wintry day. Bill pulled the Stinson out of the

hangar, set the brakes, and started the engine. I untied the
Champ, put chocks in front of its wheels, and gave it a prop. We
then went into the flight shack to warm up while the airplane
engines were doing the same.
Ten minutes later, someone looked out the window and
said, "Where's the Champ?"
We all ran outside and started looking up into the sky
because we had just heard Ken Muller's story about his Champ
disappearing after it took off by itself in Maine. Finally someone

got smart enough to follow the wheel tracks in the light snow.
They led us around to the rear of the small hangar. There was the
Champ, trapped between two fence posts, with yards of barbed
wire entangled around the propeller. It was the barbed wire that
finally stopped the engine. That was the day I learned always to
tie down a plane before propping it.

Incidently, when I was giving lessons to Lola, Bill bet me a


steak dinner for ourselves and our wives that she would never
solo. A few weeks later the four of us dined at Manci's Supper
Club, and he picked up the tab.
* * *

131
Pilot Dawn Burkhart of Haines City, Florida, received a call

from her partner one night in 1960. He had started their Cessna
150 at the Franklin, Indiana, base to go night-flying. The wheel
chocks gave way because of too much throttle, and the plane
taxied off without him. Because he had left his flashlight in the

plane and couldn't find the Cessna in the total darkness, he told
Dawn to bring her husband and an extra flashlight.
Like Lola's Champ, Dawn's 150 also stopped when its

propeller became tangled in a barbed wire fence. (Maybe we


could suggest that the U.S. Navy put barbed wire at the end of
a carrier's runway. Seems to be effective in stopping airplanes.)
* * *

And there were extracurricular activities. We had socials

every Wednesday night and ground school on Thursday nights.


Weekends were for rides, bombing contests, socializing, and
parachute jumps. I was reminded of a parachute jump a few
years ago when I was traveling through Texas. There was a
distant mountain range on each side of the road, and was 1

having a difficult time judging just how far away they were. I am
sure it was because I didn't have a reference point for compari-
son. Some people say that they can' t go up in an airplane because
they are afraid of heights, but there is no illusion of height unless
there is an object to refer it to.

From an airplane, a farm below looks much like a child's toy


farm would look on the kitchen floor. Sometimes large lakes look
like big water puddles on the ground. Climbing an airplane to

10,000 feet doesn't bother me because there is nothing up there


between the plane and the ground, but if I climb on top of a
building and look down, I am as bothered as anyone else; I would
be absolutely ill if someone made me sit on top of a radio or TV
tower.
One summer day I was hired by a parachute jumper to fly
him to a location thirty miles north of Green Bay. His jump was
the feature attraction at a motorcycle race. Before we took off, I

removed the door of a Champ to make it easier for him to get out
with his chute on. I told him to say "Go" as soon as he was on
the step and ready to jump, and I would then tip the plane on its
side so all he had to do was let go.

132
I found it open door created so much
interesting that the
profile drag during our climb-out that it took nearly 30 miles and
45 minutes to reach an altitude of 3,000 feet. This caused us to
arrive a little late, but hundreds of spectators were looking up
and waiting as I leveled off and slowed the plane down. The
parachutist then stepped out on the first pass and let go.
I have done spins, lazy-eights, chandelles, and loops with no
problem, and I don't know if it was seeing his body get smaller
in relation to the plane, or seeing it get smaller in relation to the
ground, but that visual illusion caused my stomach to go down
with him.
* * *

I didn't get sick that day, or the night I spent in Chattanooga.


Will Wiese and had chartered our Cessna 170 for a
two friends
trip to Florida to look at property. It was late fall in 1961 as we

passed over Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky before setting down


at the Tennessee airport.
We weren't loaded with money, so we agreed to stay at the
local YMCA. The assigned room had four beds and no bath but,
on the way up, we noticed a toilet in the hallway nearby.
We hadn't eaten since leaving Nicolet, so the desk clerk
steered us toward the nearest restaurant, which just happened
to serve beer. While eating, someone suggested we spend the
evening having just one beer in each tavern along the length of
Chattanooga's great-white-way. That way, we could see it

without drinking too much.


None of us was a big drinker. We had one beer where we ate
down the street for another, and by the time we
before starting
decided we had had enough, we were surprised to find our-
selves only a short distance from where we started. Disap-
pointed, we went back to our room where I slipped into my
pajamas before going down the hall to the bathroom. That was
when realized that had drunk more beer than I had intended.
I I

I went back to theroom and crawled into bed, and it was


nearly midnight before I got to sleep. Around one o'clock, I

awoke sick at my stomach. When I realized the bathroom was


way down the hall, found myself wishing that I had passed on
I

the beer drinking venture. I had to go anyway, and I took several

133
walks down the hall before the night was over, but I survived.
* * *

We left Chattanooga the next morning and headed south.


The weather was clear and we easily could have flown non-stop
to Florida, but we had a problem that only a die-hard Green Bay

Packer fan could appreciate. One of our passengers suddenly


realized that it was Sunday and he had not missed a Packer game
since he was a kid. When I moved to Green Bay a few years
earlier, I had never heard of the Packers and they certainly

weren't into my blood. I considered myself a Packer Fan, but I

thought this guy was some kind of a Packer nut. Fie absolutely
insisted that we land in Atlanta and watch the nationally tele-

vised game, which we did. (A few years later Vince Lombardi


came to Green Bay. Then I became one of the nuts myself.) After
the game, we continued on to Clearwater, Florida, with no
problem.
While Will and his friends did their business, I flew over to
the Tampa International Airport. I had been stationed at Drew
Field near Tampa during WWII, but I couldn't find it on my
sectional map. I taxied over to a base operator's office and asked
a man he could tell me where I could find Drew Field. He
if

laughed and said, "You're standing on it."


I had been stationed at Drew Field for six months during

basic training in 1 942, bu t nothing looked familiar now. All of our


old barracks had been torn down, and I couldn't find any sign of
the camp movie theater where I first saw the movie, "Holiday
Inn," in which Bing Crosby introduced the song, "White Christ-
mas." It was my first Christmas away from home, and I shed a
tear along with many other soldiers.
* * *

men finished their business and


Several days later, the three
we we headed up the west Florida coast,
took off for home. As
I noticed a problem had never had before. Although we were
I

heading north, the magnetic compass was reading "South." No


matter which way I turned the plane, the compass always
showed the same heading. It didn't really bother me at the time
because the weather was beautiful, and I figured that I could fly
home by pilotage without a compass.

134
As we continued northward, the visibility started dropping,
and a high overcast developed. By the time we passed the
northern Florida border and entered Alabama, the visibility had
become so poor that we had to rely only on check points we could
recognize directly below us. The ceiling had progressively
dropped until it was down to 1,000 feet above the ground. Then
the snow squalls started.
The Cessna 1 70 we were flying certainly wasn't equipped for
instrument flying. The only navigational instruments we had on
board were the magnetic compass that wasn't working, a ven-
turi-operated artificial horizon and needle-ball, which 1 consid-
ered no more reliable that the gyro compass which constantly
strayed off its setting, and a rate-of-climb that was working. The
important thing was that I wasn't qualified to use any of those
instruments under the present conditions, even if they did work.
A pilot once landed at Nicolet as bad weather was approach-
ing and asked if he could sit out the poor weather conditions. I

said of course he could, but asked about his instrument situation.


He said the plane was fully instrumented and he had an instru-
ment rating with over 2,000 hours of flying under instrument
conditions, but he didn't feel qualified because he hadn't flown
on instruments for nearly six months.
That conversation convinced me that my type of instructing
and flying wouldn't allow me to put in the necessary time under
instrument conditions or under the hood. I always felt that once
a pilot has the rating, like that man had, he should exercise it

regularly to keep it current. I never got an instrument rating,


and because our planes were not properly
partly for that reason,
equipped. Because of that, all my flying had been restricted to
VFR (Visual Flight Rules). That meant I had to see the ground at
all times, including this trip.
As we worked our way forward, and I deliberately avoid the
word northward because we really didn't know which direction
we were going, I started looking for a place to land. By this time
I had come to the conclusion that there wasn't a flat piece of land

in the state of Alabama. I wasn't even sure we were still over


Alabama. As we continued for what must have been a couple of
hours, became so disorientated that if anyone had told me we
I

were over Texas, I would have believed him. I knew how Rose

135
must have felt when she saw the buffalo and believed she might
be over Wyoming.
The problem of the compass kept gnawing away in the back
of my mind, and I was at a loss to explain it. Suddenly it came to
me. Before we left Wisconsin, the engine of the Cessna received
a major overhaul and the crankshaft was magnetized to check for
cracks. It should have been demagnetized before reinstalling,
but someone must have goofed. What we had was a great big
magnet in front of our compass, and its little needle was stuck on
it. I hadn't noticed the problem flying to Florida because it read
"South" as was supposed to.
it

We had managed to fly around the light snow showers, but


the ceiling had dropped to less than 500 feet. Visibility was
getting down to a mile. Suddenly, we were completely engulfed
in a heavy snow storm, and I could see nothing below us but a
farmer's field inhabited by livestock. Finally, I had no choice but
to land in that field among a bunch of startled horses and cows.

Evidently the farmer had been watching us, because he ran


over to our plane as soon as we touched down and guided us
between two lone fence posts. While we were tying it down, he
told us we were near Clarksville, Tennessee, and gave us a ride
into town.
We spent the evening watching the only movie in town,
"Your Cheating Fleart," the life story of songwriter Hank
Williams. After the show, we settled into a motel for the night.
•i*

The next morning we returned to the Cessna and took off for
home. The weather was clear and we arrived back in Wisconsin
later in the day.

After landing back at Nicolet Airport, we had the Cessna


engine torn down and the crankshaft demagnetized. That cor-
rected the compass problem. When examined the rest of the
I

plane carefully, however, I discovered a strip of cow and horse


manure under each wing, directly above the wheels. As soon as
I realized what it represented, I wouldn't allow anyone to wash

it off for weeks.


Every new student who signed up for lessons was taken out
to the plane and shown that strip of manure. Also, at each ground

136
school, I paraded all of our old students out to show them that
their instructor wasn't too proud to admit he had had a problem
and had set his plane down in a field to safety. In a later chapter
of this book you will read about a student pilot who was so
reluctant to admit that he had made a mistake, it turned into a
tragedy.
* * *

Instructors aren't immune to having problems. Phil


Roshong
was visiting Nicolet Airportone day and told me about the time
that he and three friends had flown to Chicago. He was ready to
touch down at Midway airport when a control tower operator
screamed, "Your wheels are up."
added power, lowered the wheels, and
Phil said he quickly
landed. Of course, Phil was an instructor, and so were each of his
three passengers. More proof that instructors aren't God.
* * *

Phil's wife, Marg, told us this story:


"I flew with Phil on many of his flights shortly after World
War II. We were flying a Norseman out of Louisville, Kentucky,
when he got a charter to fly 10,000 baby chickens down to
Arkansas. The chicks had been packed in small boxes with
removable covers before being stowed onto the plane.When an
approaching thunderstorm forced us to make an emergency
landing in Advance, Missouri, we quickly moved the plane into
a huge, empty hangar.
was a very hot day, and Phil thought it would be a good
"It

idea to remove the crates from the plane to cool off the little ones.
The young hangar attendant said it might help if he turned on a
huge fan. It seemed to be a great idea until that tornado-like fan
blew the lids off all the crates. The chicks started running every
which way, including through the open hangar door and out
onto the runway.
"The three of us spent the next several hours running after
the little fellers before scooping them up and jamming them back
into the boxes.
"Evidently we on one of the crates
didn't get the lid secure
because, after loading them back into the plane and taking off the

137
next day, Phil had to navigate with many of them perched on top
of the instrument panel."
* * *

One more chicken story: Forrest "Rocky" Sawyer of Lake-


land, Florida, told of theday his friend, Dewey Funkhouser, took
off from Pig Patch airport near Lakeland in his 1940 Interstate
Cadet. Fie was only 50 feet in the air when a chicken left her nest
of eggs in the baggage compartment and flew forward to roost
on top of his head.
Forrest said Dewey did a quick, low-level circle and landed
before throwing the hitchhiker out. (I forgot to ask what hap-
pened to the eggs.)

* * *

One more Pig Patch story: Rocky couldn't remember the


name of the pilot, but he saw an overloaded Luscombe use about
1,500 feet of the 2,000 foot runway to take off on a very hot day
The pilot got the plane airborne, but it couldn't gain
in the 1970s.

enough altitude to clear the fence at the end of the runway. When
the wheels hit, chopped the throttle as the fence started
the pilot
stretching without breaking, and slowly brought the plane to a
halt without flipping over. There was no damage. (Maybe the
U.S. Navy should consider that kind of fence for carrier
landings.)
* * *

Back to Nicolet Airport, some of our students who were


active during those years included Cliff Anderson, private pilot

Bill Barton's wife Joan, Jim Bichler, Cal Brehrer, Mary Campbell,
Bob and Don Conrad, Art Davis, Jim Englebretsen, Mike Gage,
Flarry Hill, Maxine Mattern, Owen Monfils, Ron Pahlow, Jim
Pressentin, Father Reinke, Joe Taylor, Mel Umentum, Dr.
Warpinski, Father Weber, A1 Withbroe, John Wood, and Dr.
Andy Lanier from Kewaunee, who owned an Ercoupe.
Dr. Lanier's flying career came to an end after his partner

flew their Ercoupe to Detroit and parked on the ramp without


tying it down.The sudden prop wash from a commercial airliner
caught the tiny plane and flipped it over on its back. The damage
was so severe the plane was junked, and Dr. Andy quit flying.

138
* * *

When we reopened Nicolet, Jim Mulva was not a


first

member of our original group, but as soon as he heard about our


endeavor, he immediately came around to see if he could help.
He was a commercial pilot with a flight instructor rating, and
had been instrumental in bringing many young people into
aviation with his work in the Explorer Air Scouts. Iremember
several students, including Grant Dieck, telling me that it was
Jim who gave them their first few lessons.
Jim loved airplanes and flying, and was most helpful to me
and many others throughout the six years I was at Nicolet. It was
soon after I left the airport that I learned he had lost his life in an
airplane accident just east of De Pere after taking off in a Cessna
150 from Nicolet Airport. He had planned to purchase a share of
the plane from Armand Ullmer. I have never learned the official
cause of the crash, but 1 was told that he had been under a

doctor's care and had taken medication earlier that morning.


I went out and viewed the accident scene within an hour of

the crash. A paper boy who witnessed it said it looked as if Jim


was doing loops, but my guess is that he was practicing lazy 8's.
That is our favorite maneuver for getting the feel of an airplane.
It may have been the constant motion of the plane during that

maneuver which stirred up the drugs that he must have thought


had worn off. The plane had hit the ground on its belly, which
indicated that he had been trying to recover and gain altitude.
Jim was an excellent pilot and a good friend to aviation.
* * *

139
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Private Planes
Many of our students bought their own planes after receiv-
ing their pilot licenses.As soon as Don Lyndahl received his, he
purchased a Cessna 140. It had rained for several days before the
morning he decided to "Go take a Fly," as we used to say, and
there were water puddles along the length of our 4,000 foot
runway. We always taxied alongside the runway, and Don
didn't notice any puddles deep enough to be of concern as he
taxied out for takeoff.
After reaching the end of the runway and going through his
checklist, Don turned the plane around and started the takeoff
run. Unfortunately,one of the water puddles in his path was too
deep and, when the plane wheels hit, it was like hitting a concrete
barrier. The plane went up on its nose and flipped over on
its back.
Don was alone and fortunately not hurt. A group of pilots
quickly ran out to the runway and helped him get the plane back
on its wheels before pushing it all the way to the ramp and into
the quonset hut hangar.

140
After removing the badly bent propeller, Don shipped it to
Minneapolis for straightening. He then spent the next few weeks
repairing the minor damage to the wings and tail section. By the
time the propeller returned, all repairs were finished. Several of
us assisted mechanic, Fred Stroebel, as he installed and tracked
the prop to make sure there was no damage to the crankshaft. It
tracked perfectly; so we all assumed that no damage had been
done.
* * *

Don flew his plane often during the following year with no
problem, but then he decided to fly it to the Seattle World's Fair
with a friend. The flight across Minnesota, North Dakota, and
Montana was uneventful, and everything was fine until they got
within twenty miles of their destination. Don was
still over the

mountains, but in contact with the Seattle control tower, when


he heard a terribly loud noise. He said that the whole plane
started shaking so violently he thought it had lostan engine
mount. He throttled back immediately and placed a Mayday call
to the tower operator.
Don explained the problem, the operator gave him an
After
emergency clearance to land on any runway, from any direction.
The Cessna was losing a thousand feet a minute, however, and
couldn't make it another twenty miles. A quick look around
determined that there was absolutely no place to land in the
mountains below, but Don saw a ridge straight ahead.
With the engine shut off, he carefully stretched his glide and
cleared the ridge by only a matter of feet, and he must have had
the same feeling of euphoria I experienced when I was lost in
California mountains and suddenly saw Travis Air Base directly
below me. Don couldn't believe what he saw after crossing that
ridge. There below him was a highway that looked as inviting as
any runway he had ever seen, but as he approached it to land, he
saw a 4,000 foot, recently-cut alfalfa field alongside, and made
a bumpy, downwind landing.
Luck was literally a lady that day. She not only owned the
property he landed on, she knew a neighbor who was an aircraft
mechanic at the Seattle airport. Don gave him a call, and while
he and his friend were spending the next five days enjoying the
World's Fair, the mechanic was giving the Cessna engine a
141
complete major overhaul. As soon as the engine was dismantled,
it was discovered that the crankshaft had broken in two.

When Don got back home, we talked about his trip and the
accident a year before. Although it hadn't shown signs of a
problem when the prop was tracked, we figured the crankshaft
had probably cracked when the plane went up on its nose. We
were all surprised that he had been able to fly the plane for a year
without a problem.
* * *

I would like to deviate for a moment and comment about


Don's landing. Because he had learned on sod runways, he opted
to land in the alfalfa field instead of a hard-surface highway
alongside. A Green Bay pilot once destroyed his beautiful small
plane when he hit a ditch alongside a paved road. As he stretched
his glide to reach the road, he passed over several flat farmer's
fields on the way.
Most pilots today not only learn to land on hard surfaces,
they are instructed not to land on any sod field, even if it is

another airport. If 1 were instructing on paved runways today,


I would insist that my students put in some "sod time."
* * *

Don wasn't the only private pilot who had problems. This
next problem didn't get solved:
Dr. Gordon Van Der Wegen got a private license from
Armand and purchased an amphibious Republic Seabee. He
took Will Wiese with him when he flew to Saddle Lake in Canada
one day, but they had to come home by other means. According
to what Doc told us, when they were ready to come home, he

took off into the wind toward the bluff at the far end of the lake,
but quickly realized that the Seabee wasn't gaining the altitude
necessary to clear it. The second he definitely knew he couldn't
make it over and attempted a 180
the bluff, he lowered the nose
to land back on the lake, but the turn was too sharp and the wings

stalled. The plane hit the water on a wing tip and cartwheeled

into the lake.


Doc said his seat belt broke and probably saved his life, and
he remembered traveling upside down through the air and
seeing the blue sky above him before he hit the water. He also

142
said that he felt like Moses when he hit the water with his
shoulders and saw the waters part as he went into the lake. Doc
also felt that Will's life may have been saved because his seat belt
didn't break.
The only personal injuries in the accident were to Will's leg
and Doc's ego. Doc said he didn't feel so bad when he learned
were three other Seabees at the bottom of that lake,
that there
because they all had hit a down draft from that same bluff.

However, he was mad as the devil at the resort owner for failing
to warn him about it.

* * *

Harry Hill and Carl Verboomen were former students of


mine until they each got their private licenses. Harry tells this
story about a trip they took together:
"My wife, Vicki, and I decided to visit my parents in
Memphis, Tennessee, one winter day. She was apprehensive
when I told her that my friend Carl said we could take his
Aeronca Sedan and share expenses, but she settled down as we
were driving out to Nicolet early the next morning. I took off and
flew the first leg to Decatur, Illinois. After we gassed the plane
and grabbed a sandwich, Carl climbed into the left front seat and
we took off for Memphis. We were cruising at 3,000 feet, just four
miles short of our destination, when the engine sputtered and
quit. We were amazed when we looked out at the wing tank

gauges and found that they were still indicating more than a
quarter full for each tank.
"We looked down and saw a huge cotton field below, so Carl
established a glide and made a circular approach. Just as he
flared-out to break the glide, we passed over two field hands
who were crouched down, probably scared to death that we
were going to set down on top of them. We quickly looked ahead
and noticed that the entire field sloped slightly downhill. When
the plane started floating, Carl realized that it might not drop by
itself, and started fishtailing by using and cross-
the rudders
controlling with the ailerons to swing the plane sideways to
create as much profile drag as possible. But the doggoned plane
still kept floating and floating untilwe ran out of cotton field.
"Here is where Carl did a fabulous job of flying. He lifted the
plane over a fence, underneath a string of high-tension wires,
143
and into the adjoining cornfield. There was very little wind to
slow us down, and we continued to fishtail and float until we
heard the click, click, click of cornstalks hitting the wings before
we finally set down at the far end of the field. He hit the brakes,
but they failed to stop us. All we had ahead of us was a large
clump of poplar trees, so Carl maneuvered the plane between
two of the larger ones, and they took the brunt of the impact,
tilted the wings back at a 45 degree angle, and caused the plane

finally to come to rest in a nearly-dry creek bed.

"The two field hands dropped whatever they were doing


and ran over to the plane, evidently thrilled by the unexpected
interruption of their daily chores. The little guy's name was
George and the huge, jovial man said his name was John Henry.
When everyone realized no one was hurt, the forced landing
suddenly turned into a festive affair. John Henry, who had never
seen a small airplane close up before, stepped forward laughing
and pointing and 4 inch venturas on the side of the
to the 2 inch
fuselage and asked, 'What are those things?'
"Carl laughed back and said, 'Well, this little one here is the
city horn and the big one here is the country horn.'

"By this time everyone had become relaxed and we figured


we had to get help. As if Vicki hadn't had enough excitement for
one day, while we were slogging our way through the muddy
cotton field, she saw a cow and thought it was a bull, so we
quickly sprinted on to the farm house where I called my brother.
He came out and picked us up and drove us into Memphis,
where we spent the night with our folks.
"Early the next morning, we rented a huge Ryder truck and
returned to the airplane. John Henry and George were kind
enough to climb the two large trees and attach the ropes we
needed for removing the wings and hoisting them into the truck.
They were laughing and yelling and having a ball, until the
farmer threatened to 'cut the trees down with you in 'em if you
don't hurry up and get back to work.'"
After they drove the truck up to Nicolet, I remember watch-
ing them unload the fuselage and roll it into the quonset hut for
repair. Carl and Harry then trucked the wings over to Monte's
motorcycle shop on Broadway, where they were completely
rebuilt. It wasn't long before the Sedan was reassembled, and it

144
flew many more years.
One more thing. The FAA's investigation found that there
was a history of incorrect wing tank readings on Aeronca Sedans
and this accident prompted them to issue a bulletin on the
problem. It had something to do with the lining in the gas tank.
Oh, yes. Carl paid the farmer for the damage to his corn.
I once read an article written by a veteran pilot who gave this
piece of advice: "In an emergency, stay on the controls and never
stop flying your airplane, even on the ground, until comes to
it

a complete halt." Afterward, I taught that in my ground schools.


I think it was good advice, and Carl exercised it masterfully that
day when he guided his plane over the fence, under the high-
tension wires, and between two trees.
* * *

Many pilots did unusual maneuvers when the occasion


called for it. Here's one I hope I never have to perform:
Mechanic and private pilot Jim Smith, of Ocala, Florida, was
asked to correct a faulty seat-adjustment rail on the left front seat

of a Cessna 206. Before taking off for his Dunnellon Airport


repair station twenty miles west, he seated the seat-control lever
firmly before doing every conceivable body-gyration, trying to
get to slip out. He then added full throttle.
it

The plane surged forward, but the seat flew backward to the
very end of the rail, taking Jim with it, just as the Cessna left the
runway. His feet couldn't reach the rudder pedals at all, but by
straining to the limit, he was able to touch the stick with one
finger tip on his left hand and the trim tab on the console with a
finger tip on his right hand.
Because of the sudden backward change in the center of
gravity, the plane was making a steep, climbing left turn, just
above a stall. Slowly, Jim managed to level the wings with his left
finger tip and gradually level off at 400 feet by trimming forward
with the right finger tip.

He still was unable


to reach the rudder pedals until he
trimmed the nose for a dive. Suddenly, he found his face jammed
into the control stick after the seat flew forward, but in seconds
he had the plane under control and completed his mission.
* * *

145
would be nice if flying could be nothing but fun and games,
It

but unavoidable accidents do happen. Sometimes little inci-


dents, like the one that Jim ran into, could have resulted in
mishaps, but didn't. Here is one I witnessed:
Roger Gryboski learned to fly in Appleton, Wisconsin, thirty
miles south of Nicolet, and purchased an Aeronca Chief. After
soloing, he moved it up to our airport. One day, when the wind
was from the south, he took off into the wind on the north-south
runway. An hour later, was standing in front of the flight shack
I

when he returned and made an approach from the north to land


back onto the same runway he had used for takeoff.
I stood and watched as the plane appeared to be coming in

quite fast. When Roger realized he wouldn't be able to set it

down before running out of runway, he pulled up, gave it full

and went around for another approach. The same thing


throttle,

happened on the second attempt. On his third try he still


appeared to be going too fast, but he managed to set the wheels
down near the north end of the runway. When the plane reached
the south end, it was still rolling very fast, but he was able to
ground loop and stop, just before hitting the fence.
After Roger taxied in and got out of his Chief, he stood and
watched as our president. Dr. Downey, approached and landed
his Stinson on the same runway, but in the opposite direction.
When Roger saw him land into the north, he turned to me and
asked, "Who just landed downwind?"
"You," I said.
Roger learned that day that just because the wind was
coming from the south when he took off, it didn't necessarily
mean that it would remain that way, even for a short flight. He
didn't forget it either, was a
because he also learned that it

custom to buy drinks for all pilots who were present and
witnessed a downwind landing. He was lucky it was a weekday
instead of Sunday, because only a couple of us were there instead
of the usual weekend crowd of dozens. He was also lucky that
we had a soft drink only policy, which cost him less money.
I talked to Roger a few years later and he not only remem-
bered the incident, he laughed and was okay to tell here. said it

He also told about the time he "buzzed" the home of his


girlfriend (now his wife, Kathy). A neighbor wrote down the

146
number on the side of his low-flying plane and reported it to the
FAA. A few months later, when he went to Milwaukee to take his
private written exam, the safety agent looked at his name on the
application and said, "So you're the guy from Green Bay that did
the buzz job?" At a time like that, I imagine Roger would have
preferred a name like Jones or Smith instead of Gryboski. The
FAA was kind and took no action.
* * *

Now that am older and


I look back on it, some of the things
I thought were "cute" at the time were dumb. I
just plain
mentioned earlier that when I flew the boss' son back to his army
camp in Texas, I asked if he wanted to see a loop. That wasn't the
only frivolous thing I ever did with an airplane:
It was sunny day as I was giving a flying lesson to
a bright,
a student three miles north of Green Bay. As usual, I was sitting
in the back seat, taking in the scenery, when I noticed we were
over Bob J ones' house, a cou pie of miles north of Bay Beach Park.
Bob and I had been friends for years, so when I discovered that
he and his four kids were playing touch football in the front yard
3,000 feet directly below us, I decided to give them a thrill.
Because my student was new and had never been in a spin,
I asked him if he would like to try one. He quickly nodded yes,
so I pulled back on the throttle and went through the procedure
of causing the Champ to go into a tight spin to the left. As the
plane started spinning straight down towards my friend and his
children, they all stood and gaped upward. But when we got
down to 2,000 feet, they started scattering into the neighbor's
yards, and by the time we recovered at 1,000 feet, they were
nowhere to be seen. I saw Bob a few days later and he laughed
and said, "We knew it was you." have often wondered what I

he meant by that.
* * *

There's an old adage that says, "The first guy to tell a story
hasn't got a chance." Norm Petersen read my Bob Jones story
and topped me with this one:
"I approached my old home town, Tyler, Minnesota, in my
STARDUSTER TOO open-cockpit acrobatic airplane one day
when I decided to give the hometown folks a thrill.

147
"AT 1,000 feet over the heart of downtown, I executed a
four-sided cloverleaf with four consecutive loops in four differ-
ent directions before doing two slow rolls and finishing with two
snap and a hammerhead turn. I then headed
rolls for the airport
on the edge of town and landed.
"Before I could get out of my plane, I saw a cloud of dust
coming down the airport road and the village police cruiser
causing it. It flew through the parking lot and skidded to a halt
beside the STARDUSTER TOO.
"Thinking to myself that I had really done it this time, 1

mused 'Boy, I have really put my foot in the Doo Doo.' However,
as the policeman walked up to the airplane, I regained my
composure and blurted out, 'Well, what do you think?'
"With a big smile on his face, the officer said, 'That was the
most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Where in the world did you
get a STARDUSTER TOO?'
"'How do you know about STARDUSTERS?' I asked.
"'I helped a man build one in Alabama,' he replied.

"I didn't have to ask him twice if he wanted to take a ride!"

* * *

On an earlier trip to a Mosinee, Wisconsin, fly-in, Alex Smith


from Madison, Wisconsin, told this story about another police-
man coming to an airport:
"Pilot Clayton Walker and I became good friends while
attending Spartan College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When he wanted
to visit his parents in Cameron, Missouri, we rented a Cessna
172. Because I was the more experienced, I climbed into the left
seat and took off.
"As we neared our destination, Clayton said that the airport
was five miles from his home and we should just buzz the house
so his mom would come out and pick us up. When he pointed out
his house in the distance, I backed off on the throttle, lowered the
nose, and picked up airspeed as we lost altitude during the
approach. I had a terrible feeling we were too low when I saw a
Missouri State Highway Patrol car sitting in front of his house,
and I knew I was too low when I saw the squinting features of
the patrolman standing beside and looking up.
it

"My heart started racing when I saw him jump into the

148
patrol car and start following us to the airport. We had no sooner
landed and secured the plane when the cop pulled alongside. I

was in a state of panic until I heard Clayton starting to laugh.


"Clayton then introduced us, and I shook hands with his father
(whom he had neglected to say was a Missouri State Highway
patrolman). He had driven out just to give us a ride home."
* * *

Here's a story told by one of our private pilots:


"I was flying into a large airport with two passengers one
day, and had just broken my glide and flared out while passing
I

the airport boundary. Just before we passed over a crossing


runway, the stall warning horn went off and startled one of my
passengers.
"A short while later we were seated in the terminal building
when the passenger said. That sure was thoughtful of you.'
'"What are you talking about?' I asked.
"'Honking your horn when you came to the intersection of
those runways,' he replied."
* * *

Nicolet Airport always had sod runways. After a student


pilot has progressed through the stages of learning basic maneu-
vers, soloing, and getting basic instrument and cross-country
instruction in preparation for becoming a private pilot, two of
the last things he has to do are to get checked out for using the
radio to talk to a control tower, and landing on a hard surface
runway.
All pilots had to learn how to use a radio to talk to control
towers. One beautiful day a student pilot and I headed across the
Fox River from Nicolet Airport to put in an hour of practice at
Austin Straubel Field. They had radio facilities and hard surface
runways. As soon as we neared the controlled zone, had the 1

student pick up the mike and call the control tower for landing
instructions.
It was not a busy day, and we had runways to ourselves.
the
Each time we would routinely say,
landed, the control tower
"Cessna 58 Victor, cleared to land." This went on for forty-five
minutes of the one hour lesson. Then, just after we had taken off,
five minutes before they would be giving us another "Cleared to

149
land," we heard this conversation coming from the tower:
"North Central, you are cleared to land on runway 18—
Beechcraft 27, you are number two to land behind North Central-
-Boeing 74, you are number three to land behind Beechcraft-
Cessna 77 Tango, you are number four to land behind the
Boeing"— and the control tower had forgotten about us. Because
we had turned around and were heading back for our landing,
I picked up the mike and frantically tried to get a word in
edgewise had been talking constantly.
as the operator
When 71, you are number five to land
he said, "Air Force
behind— No, Air Force 71, you will be number three to land
behind the Beechcraft-No, No, Boeing, you are still number
three to land behind— No, No, Air Force"~I pressed the mike
button and interrupted him as we were now on final approach
and ready to land. I said, "Green Bay Tower, this is Cessna 2058
Victor on final approach. Where do we figure into your plans?"
"Well— 58 Victor, you are number two to land behind— No,
no, you will be number three to-No, no, you are cleared to-no,
no,"— I then interrupted him to say, "Forget it Green Bay Tower,
we are making a left turn here and are leaving the control zone.
Have a nice day." We then flew the seven miles back to Nicolet
Airport with its grass strip and no control tower— where we
belonged.
^

Control towers have been a source of many funny stories.


This one was given to me by one of the fire-rescue men at the
Mosinee, Wisconsin, airport, but he left so hurriedly I wasn't able
to get his name. Here's what he said:

"We constantly monitor the control tower frequency to be


able to respond immediately to any emergency, and one day we
heard the control tower operator inform a pilot that the wheels
of his plane were not down and that he should execute a go-
around. The pilot pulled up to traffic pattern altitude and began
circling as he attempted to remedy his problem.
"After the pilot completed a couple of circuits and the
wheels were still up, he informed the tower that the gear's
hydraulic system was low on fluid and that even the hand pump
didn't have enough to enable him to lower the gear manually.

150
"We then heard the tower operator ask if he had any coffee
on board.
"When the pilot confirmed that he had, the operator sug-
gested that he drink all he could hold and then circle the field

until he got the urge.


"Half an hour later the gear came down and the pilot landed
safely."
* * *

This last control tower story was given to me by designated


airman's physical examiner, commercial pilot Dr. Roland Matson
of Spring Valley, Minnesota, after I recently passed my examina-
tion:

"My wife, Marilyn, a private and my co-pilot. It was two


is

o'clock in the morning, and we were just concluding a night


flight from my private Spring Valley airstrip. We had tuned in
the Rochester, Minnesota, control tower frequency to monitor
any local traffic.
"We had no we only listened. The
contact with the tower;
only conversations we heard were between the operator on duty
and the pilot of a cargo plane, and it was evident that the two men
were old friends. They kept a long, drawn-out conversation
going about the weather, having a safe trip, personal matters,
and on and on. Marilyn and I were really getting quite bored with
their chatter when they started saying goodnight as if they
would never see each other again. They didn't just say goodnight
and quit, they went back and forth, back and forth until we
nearly puked.
"Finally, I told Marilyn that she ought to say something
appropriate for the occasion, and immediately after the tower
operator again said one of his goodnights, she picked up the
mike, lowered her chin to deepen her voice, and in the sexiest
voice I had ever heard her use, said, 'Well, Goodnight to you too,

Rochester Tower.'
"She sounded like Lauren Bacall telling Humphrey Bogart
how to 'Pucker up your lips and blow,' or Mae West saying,
'Come up and see me sometime.'
"Suddenly, there was dead silence for a long time before the
cargo pilot asked, 'Have you got a girl up in the tower with you?'

151
"'No/ the operator said, 'How about you?'
"'No/ and again there was dead silence until we were out
of range and landed."
* * *

It was mentioned earlier that three of our members built a


Mini-Plane in the basements of their homes. It just wouldn't be
right to talk about individuals who built and re-built airplanes
in the Green Bay area without mentioning Bob Parmentier. Bob
was a student pilot going back into the 1930s. He worked only
on basket-case airplane wrecks. He worked exclusively out of his
west-side Green Bay home and completely rebuilt two Wacos
and dozens of his favorite Aeronca Champs. Bob was still
working on a Tiger Moth when he died in 1980. According to
Mrs. Parmentier, the Tiger Moth was sold to a man in Ohio. Wish
I knew who he is.

Possibly the reason Bob never got a private pilot license was
because of an incident he witnessed in 1934, shortly after he
He was going with beauty operator Cleo Sprague
started flying.
when he decided to take her to the old Brown County Airport on
Green Bay's west side to "see the airplanes." A few minutes after
their arrival, a Pennsylvania pilot landed with the intention of
purchasing an old Eagle-Rock airplane from the local operator.
After the owner gave the Pennsylvania man permission to
give the Eagle-Rock a trial flight, someone suggested that Bob

and Cleo go along for the ride. After Cleo climbed aboard,
however, it was determined that Bob couldn't go because the
man's luggage had already been secured in the back seat.
The pilot took off and had no sooner gained what he thought
was sufficient altitude when he started doing a series of violent
maneuvers. Suddenly the engine quit while the plane was too
low for recovery and, before it could be brought under control,
it crashed on top of another plane tied down on the airport ramp.

The pilot was killed instantly, but Cleo, thrown clear of the
wreckage, was covered with hot oil after the engine landed
partially on her. Bob ran over and picked her up, but she died in
his arms before an ambulance arrived.
Bob renewed his student pilot license and flew every year for
the next forty-six years, but he never took up a passenger.

152
* * *

Many other aircraft owners worked on their own planes at


Nicolet, and I did most work on ours. None of us was an
of the
A&E (aircraft & engine) or later A&P (aircraft & powerplant)
mechanic, so all of their work, and mine, had to be inspected and
written into the aircraft log book by a certificated mechanic. At
one time or another, we had two mechanics on the field on a part-
time basis. Gay Otto was with us for several years; Mel Kobes
helped out part time.
Our greatest help, however, came from our good friend
from the Appleton airport, Fred Stroebel. In addition to being an
aircraft mechanic, he was a designated inspector and could
license airplanes. Nicolet Airport couldn't have survived with-
out outside help, and without Fred, we definitely never would
have made it.

One day I walked into our quonset hut hangar to find Fred's
legs sticking out below the engine of Pat Martin's Beechcraft
Bonanza. As I got closer, I could see that both of his hands were
stuck way up into the engine and his head was tucked under his
armpit. There was no way he could see what his hands were
doing. After a moment said, "Hey, Fred. Bet you sure could use
I

another hand!"
"No," he said. "But I sure could use an eyeball on the end
of one of my fingers."
Fred Stroebel left Appleton and his boss. Max Sagunsky, to
become the fixed base-operator and manager of the Shawano
Airport until he recently retired.
* * *

Incidentally,I guess one of the reasons all work done on

planes, by other than certificated mechanics, must be inspected


and approved by one of them, can be summed up in a conversa-
tion I had with an FAA safety agent one day. After seeing a small
item I had installed, the agent asked if I had changed the weight
and balance figures in the log book. When I said, "No, because
the weight and balance change was insignificant," he blurted
out, "There is no such thing as an insignificant change."

* * *

153
over).

flipped

Monte

one

(The

biplane.

OTW

Meyers

1939

his

inspects

Stroebel

Fred

as

atches

Montevideo

Stan
AWWV-'-^^.u'

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Experiences
Diane Wiese was my editorial assistant and did the mimeo-
graphing and distributing of our monthly newspaper, NICOLET
AVIATION NEWS. 1 have managed to keep a few copies of
them. The headline for one edition reads, "FLOAT PLANE
LAUNCHING SOON," and under that, "OR THE CASE OF
THE CROSS-EYED PILOT." The article explains that we were
becoming cross-eyed trying to watch the activities at the airport
while keeping an eye on the spring breakup of ice on the river.
Other stories in that issue were "140 GETS LANDING
LIGHT," "NICOLET GETS RUNWAY LIGHTS" (twenty-five
new flare pots), and "CHAMP TO GET INSTRUMENTS." In the
next issue, Ken Newbury flew to West Virginia; Alan Kane, Dan
Newhall, Larry Koeppen, Dick Matzke, and Jim Halbrook all
soloed; and Grant Dieck flew Bob Conrad and Les Sturmer to
Des Moines. Also that month, Bob Walters and Jim Masse flew
their Cessna 140 to Las Vegas.
I mentioned earlier that Barbara Bultman became my

155
assistant at the airport after she started writing up orders and
making appointments. Well, she did a lot more than that. She not
only ran the office while I was giving instruction and working on
the planes, she did a lot of odd things that weren't exactly her job.
I called her recently and asked if she could recall any stories from

the "good old days," and she told me one I hadn't heard before.
She said that one afternoon she got a phone call informing her
that a plane was coming in after dark. This was before we
installedrunway lights and were still using smudgepots to show
the outline of the runway. The eight-inch pot worked much like
a kerosene lamp without a glass chimney. The large wick
provided enough light to outline the runway, but none to light
the runway itself.
After the phone call, Barbara said she rounded up a half-
dozen pilots, and they frantically spent the next couple of hours
putting out the pots along our 4,000 foot runway. She added that
because of strong winds that afternoon, they had a terrible time
keeping them lit until the plane arrived.
When I told her I didn't remember the story, she said she
remembered I wasn't there. Then remembered why I didn't
I

remember— I was in the airplane. I had just returned from flying


student pilot Cal Brehrer, his brother, John, and a friend, to
Atlantic City, New Jersey, in Cal's Cessna 172. 1 remember my
feelings of apprehension as I approached from the east and made
the final to the runway, because I had never used those pots to
land at night before.
Making a letdown for a landing on a runway in total
darkness, except for those few flickering smudge pots, was like
walking very carefully down a stairway in total darkness, except
for a few candles outlining the room at the bottom. It's impos-
sible to know exactly where the last step is, and when you think
you are on the bottom step, you stick your toe out trying to feel
the floor. I sure would liked to have been able to stick my toe out
the plane door that night. pulled up and went around several
I

times before getting enough guts to get the plane low enough to
actually touch the runway. I never did see it until the landing
light showed a small spot on the grass. Let me say this about that.
Never again!

156
When I think back on some of those hair-raising episodes, it
is a comforting feeling to come back to reality and have the
security of the present surroundings. It's like stepping out of a
dark alley into the bright lights of a busy street.

* * *

Several days before Barbara put out those smudge pots, I

had flown the three men to Atlantic City for a buyers' conven-
tion. I had nothing else to do while we were there, so I attended

the affair to kill time until they wanted to go home. In order to


get into the convention hall, I had to have an official pass made
out and pinned on my jacket. As I stood in line, I heard each man
ahead of me said that he was a "buyer," which was promptly put
on his pass. When I got to the table and they asked what I was
doing there, I told them that I was a "buyer-pilot."
1 soon learned that the people in the booths didn't associate
the word "pilot" with airplanes; they thought I was the forerun-
ner of the buyers who would be coming later to spend the big
bucks. No one appeared to be receiving more attention or more
gifts than came to a sudden halt when someone finally
I, but it all

asked, "Just what does a buyer-pilot do?" When told him I was I

the pilot who flew the buyers down there, he was furious and
took away the gifts that he had just bestowed on me.
* * *

Green Bay's Mike Gage was part owner of a Piper Clipper


with Cletus Cisler. Because 1 had so many other students during
Mike's early days, I really didn't pay too much attention to his
post-solo activities, but he shared the fact that he was building
up flying hours by visiting all the nearby airports after being
checked out for cross-country. I just recently learned from him,
now thirty years later, that he didn't share one incident with me
at the time it happened. Mike will tell it now:

"I knew that the Oconto Falls Airport (thirty miles north of

Nicolet) was closed when I circled the field, but I decided to land
anyway. Except for a swamp area at the junction of the northeast-
southwest and the northwest-southeast runways, everything
looked just fine.
"The wind direction favored landing into the southwest, but
that necessitated my passing over power lines at the north-east
157
end. As soon as I passed over them, however, I realized I had to

slip to be able to get down to the runway quickly in order to stop


before hitting the swamp. And I did.
"My plane had just stopped rolling at the edge of the swamp
when saw a car heading in my direction. I shut the engine down
I

and got out to talk to an old high-time pilot who reminded me


that the airport was closed. To finish our conversation, he
suggested I take off on the other runway, but after the swamp.
"The surface winds had shifted to the northwest, so I agreed
with his idea to change runways, but I didn't like the looks of the
buildings at the northwest end. So, instead of taking off after the
swamp as he suggested, I taxied over to the extreme southeast
end, before the swamp, pointed the nose into the wind, held the
brakes, and gave it full throttle.

"When the engine reached its maximum RPM, I released the


brakes and the plane surged forward. I immediately held back

on the stick low as possible for a soft-field


and kept the tail as
takeoff procedure. I hit the swamp simultaneously with liftoff,
but as passed just inches above the water, I could feel "things"
I

hitting the wheels and landing gear before climbing out and
heading back towards Nicolet Airport.
"I remember seeing you approaching as I taxied over to my

tie-down after landing. I got out and we both looked at the slime
and wrapped around the wheels. Your only words to me
cattails

were, 'Have you been somewhere?'


"'Hell no!' said. And you kindly walked away."
I

* * *

Here is a story I called "The Case of the Expert Witness:"


A man approached me at Nicolet Airport one day and said
he wanted to receive more flight instruction. He said he had
recently soloed at another airport, but wanted to have a different
instructor evaluate his flying. That is all he told me before
making an appointment to start his lessons the following day.
There was nothing about the man that made me suspicious
of his motives when we took off the next day, but he immediately
convinced me that he knew nothing about flying, and that he
certainly had no business soloing any airplane. After his second
session, I was completely bewildered. I kept asking myself how

158
it was possible for a person to have received ten hours of flight
and still know nothing about operating an
instruction, solo,
airplane. There was no third appointment, because he never
came back, and I completely forgot about the affair until I
received a subpoena to appear in court as an expert witness for
him a few weeks later.
The mystery began unraveling a few days after that when I
received a phone call from his attorney. This pilot, whose name

I remember, had taken lessons at an airport near Green Bay.


can' t
After his first solo, he continued flying by renting a Champ from
his instructor, who was also a fixed-base operator and the airport
manager. The information given to me was that on one solo
flight, the man was coming in too high on final approach for

landing and evidently never saw another airplane that was


landing directly below him. Before he knew what was happen-
ing, he had landed on top of the other plane, severely damaging
both of them. The manager-instructor promptly told him he
would have to pay for the damage to both aircra ft, because it was
pilot error; that is, he didn't look where he was going.

The student refused to pay, claiming he was not properly


instructed to cope with that kind of situation. The operator filed
suit against the student, and that was where came in. The 1

student's attorney asked me about his flying ability, and I told


him the truth. His flying stank. He asked me if would testify to I

that effect in court, and I said I certainly would.


That is the way it stood until the day of the trial. I had several
weeks to think about the whole affair before appearing in court
that day. The jury, other witnesses, and I waited past the time for
the trial to start before the judge finally came out and made an
announcement. He said that he appreciated the trouble all of us
had gone toand he regretted to say the case had been settled out
of court. He added that he was especially sorry because it was
one of the more interesting cases to come before him.
I tried in vain to find out how the case was settled, because,
after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that the student had
deliberately set me up. found out that the student had come to
I

me for instruction AFTER the suit had been filed against him,
and I believe he deliberately flew poorly so I would testify to that

159
fact. It was probably agood thing for him that he did settle out
of court, because my testimony might have caused him to lose
the case.
* * *

What would you do if you had been in Rube LeFevre's place


when the following incident happened? We'll let him tell it:
"It was 1941 when my brother Joe and I owned a 2 cylinder,

36-HP Aeronca C3. That was the model that had guy wires above
and below the wings for support, instead of struts. We lived in
Lena, Wisconsin, but based the plane forty miles south in
Appleton because I worked and because Lena didn't have
there,
an airport. One day, Joe flew our plane home and landed it in a
nearby farmer's field while I rode my motorcycle.
"The next day, although I was still just a student, I not only
took my girlfriend Bernice for a ride, I put her through a series
of maneuvers before finishing with a spin. After landing, Bernice
got out as I sat in the cockpit with the engine still idling.
may have been dizziness created by the spin that caused
"It

Bernice to start working her way through the wires under the
wing before stepping into the turning propeller. The impact
stopped the engine, but not before the propeller cut into her
head, cut and dislocated her shoulders, knocked her flat on the
ground, and caused lacerations requiring thirty-two stitches to
close.
"The CAA heard about the accident, and because I had
illegally flown a passenger gave them further reason to want to
find me. When they couldn't locate me, they even put the FBI on
my trail. Finally, they caught up with me at the Appleton airport,
but after several meetings letme off with a tongue lashing and
a six-months suspension of my license."
What would you do you had been in Rube's place? What
if

did Rube do? Well, he kept on flying, of course, and he also got
married. know, because sixteen years later he was one of our
I

twenty original members who reorganized Nicolet airport, and


his wife Bernice was one of our most faithful volunteers at our
social affairs. Oh, yes! Rube and Bernice had three boys and three
girls.

* * *

160
Since I retired, most of my time has been consumed by
writing true stories about my life. But a couple of times I strayed
a from the absolute truth. This next story contains a lot of
little

truths and possibly a little fiction. It's up to you to tell the two
apart:
I would like to tell you about a "'Little Devil" who has
plagued me all my life. I'm sure many people can identify with
a devil like him, but this one is mine. He didn't really show his
hand until one day when I was flying through unfamiliar
territory.

During the 1930s, many businessmen and farmers painted


circles on top of their buildings and barns with an arrow pointing

to the nearest airport.Water towers of small towns had their


names printed on them so pilots could tell where they were. In
those days, few planes had radios, and radio-navigation equip-
ment was almost unheard of among small plane pilots. Early
pilots flew by the seat of their pants and relied on ground
markings to tell their location.
Because many markings stillremained during the 1950s,
when I did most of my flying, I also used them for navigation.
But, I had an arch rival, the "Little Devil." What he'd do was wait
until I got "temporarily displaced" (that's pilot talk for getting
and then he would go ahead of me and erase all the names
lost),

from water towers and all the airport markings from roofs of
buildings. can't count the number of times I got lost, only to find
I

the next town had no name on the water tower. Then, after
cleverly checking all the railroads, highways, lakes, and rivers,
and finding out where I was, the "Little Devil" returned and
replaced all the signs. They were always there when I was not lost
and did not need them.
I thought when I quit actively flying he would leave me

alone. But no. When I see there is no traffic on an otherwise busy


street, and decide to cross before the traffic gets there, that

"Little Devil" runs up and down the street telling all drivers to

come. Then the traffic becomes so heavy I can't make it across.


He also follows me into stores. When I notice there is no one
at a checkout counter, I run and grab an item so I can get checked

out quickly. But the "Little Devil" sees me and yells, "He's
here!" for all the people in the store to hear. By the time I get to

161
the register, there are ten people ahead of me.
I forgave him for most of those things. But when my store

was empty and I had to go to the bathroom. I'd look up and down
the street to make sure no customers were coining. Then the
minute I closed the door, he ran out in the middle of the street
shouting, "O.K. folks, come on in, he's in the bathroom now."
For that, I can't forgive him.

* * *

I met private pilot Rodney Smith of Jonesboro, Arkansas, at


the EAA convention, and after I told him about my little devil,
he told of the time he got somewhat lost while flying his new
"Fly-baby" home-built near sunset in 1972. When he came to a
small town and started circling the water tower looking for a
name, he discovered that my little devil also had been there when
he read "SENIORS OF 72" on its side. Fortunately, he was near
an airport were the manager saw he was in trouble and turned
on the runway lights.
* * *

One when things were quiet around Nicolet


winter day
Airport, phone call from my student, Don Love. Don was
I got a
director of a local TV news department, and he asked me to
warm up the Cessna 140 with skis and have it ready to fly him
over to a lake near Clintonville, Wisconsin, to photograph a news
story.
A week prior to his call, a Wisconsin Department of Trans-
portation researcher had gone through the ice with his vehicle
while running tests on a Wisconsin lake. The two men who were
with him at that time managed to get out safely, but the
researcher was still in the auto at the bottom of the lake. Don was
prompted to give me a call when he got word that they were

bringingup the body that morning. It was necessary for me to go


with him because he was still a student pilot and not allowed to
use an airplane for commercial purposes.
By the time Don got to the airport, I had the Cessna warmed
up and ready to go. It took less than an hour to fly to the lake and,
after landing, Don jumped out with his camera before the plane's
skis stopped sliding. Our timing was perfect, because after
running over to the hole in the ice, Don was able to get his

162
pictures just as the body emerged.
Meanwhile, I shut down the plane's engine and walked over
to stand with a group of onlookers. I watched as the rescuers
placed the body on a stretcher and covered it with a sheet before
two men picked it up and started walking towards the ambu-
lance.As they approached the spot where I was standing, I
noticed that the sheet was starting to come up, very slowly, as if

the corpsewere still alive. The men noticed it and set the litter
down right in front of me. One of the men then took two fingers
and gingerly lifted one corner of the sheet and took a quick peek
underneath before dropping it quickly and pushing the victim's
legs back down.
The men again picked up the stretcher and proceeded
toward the ambulance, but before they could take a step, the
knees started coming back up again. Once more they lowered the
and pushed the knees back down. However, when the legs
litter

came up the third time, the men ignored them and left them up.
They put the body into the waiting ambulance and drove off. It
sure was spooky!
* * *

The title of this chapter is "Experiences." The next story


could have been placed in one called, "I learned about flying
from that," or "Dumb things I did with my airplane," or "Never
again." It is about an experience we're sure Dave Denil of Green
Bay, Wisconsin, would just as soon forget, but he was kind
enough to share it with us. We'll let him tell it:
"About fifty of our Rotary Club members from the Green
Bay area were having a picnic at a small cow-pasture-type
airport a few miles out of town, when 1 decided to do a little
showing off by giving my fellow members a thrill.
"I climbed into my Sonerai airplane and took off with the

intention of doing a low-level, modified version of a chandelle.


After circling the field, I turned onto final approach before
lowering the nose and picking up speed. By the time I was
directly over the runway and in front of my friends, who were
standing and watching, I was only 40 feet above the ground. The
Sonerai had full ailerons with large control surfaces, and was
extremely sensitive to stick and rudder movement.

163
"Suddenly, too suddenly, I pulled back on the stick and gave
it and rudder to make a 180 degree climbing turn, but
left stick

the damned plane did a snap-roll instead. That left me with only
a few feet altitude and visions of telephone poles and wires
directly in front of the windshield. I couldn't miss the wires, but
made a quick 45 degree left turn to miss a pole.
"The wires jerked the plane another 45 degrees to where we
were then going parallel with them. When I looked out of the
canopy and saw a wire just below the left wing, I pulled back on
the stick to lift and fly away. But then I became horrified to see
that another wire had hooked onto the landing gear, and it not
only kept me from gaining altitude, it was quickly chewing the
propeller from 32 inches down to the hub.
"My greatest concern, as if I hadn't been concerned up to this

point, was that the next telephone pole was coming up at me fast,
and when I realized I couldn't go over it, I ducked my head as
we went through remember the plane flipping over on its
it. I

back and, according to what spectators told me later, the plane


not only stopped its forward movement, it actually came back-
ward a few feet as if shot out of a slingshot, hung motionless for
a few seconds, then dropped upside down about 20 feet into a
cornfield. Also fortunately, my head was tucked down into the
cockpit when we hit. The impact disintegrated the canopy and
my head was actually touching the ground when we came to
rest.

"I was afraid of fire, so I unfastened the seat belt, pushed the
fuselage up a few inches, then slid out from under it. had come I

out of the plane so fast one shoe in the cockpit, but I quickly
I left

got up and ran away from the plane as fast as I could. I was
scrambling through the corn stalks when I ran smack into my
friend Mike McDonald, who exclaimed, 'I can't believe you're
still alive!'

"Until that moment, ah I seemed to be thinking was, 'I

wonder if anyone noticed?"'


* * *

A postscript to that story:


Dave added, "Someone rushed me where we
to the hospital
discovered I had only two small scratches. When the nurse asked

164
if I had had a motor cycle accident. I said, 'No.'
"'A car accident?'
"'No/ I said, 'It was an airplane accident.'
"'An ultralight?'
"I was so embarrassed, all I could think to say was, 'Yeah.'"
CHAPTER FIFTEEN
World War II

Nicolet Airport pilots learned about a very important aspect


of aviation shortly after joining our flying club. They were
introduced to the supposition that there was a nudist colony a
few miles east of the TV towers. never believed it,
I but in all

fairness to our new members checked it out— many


I times.To
this day I still haven't heard anyone say he actually saw any
nudists, but I'll bet the farmers in that area got dizzy watching
the small planes from our airport circle their farms.
DaleBorell checked it out and said he didn't see any nudists,

but he recalled the time during his Army Air Corps training, that
a fleet of small planes from his base was diverted when one pilot
reported seeing a young lady taking a sunbath on a nearby farm.
He said that it had only been reported to him and that he never
really checked it out. Sure, Dale.

* * *

Dale said this next story happened when he was taking early
aircraft flight instruction in preparation for his Army Air Corps

166
glider training:
"Much
like our Nicolet students after solo, our Air Corps

traininggroup was permitted to fly only in the local designated


area and were not allowed to go cross-country before being
checked out. The only definite order we received was that in the
event of a forced landing, we were not to take off, but were to call
the base for an instructor to come get the plane and return it to
the field.
"I don't remember which pilot made the first 'forced land-
ing,' but shortly after he landed, the town's people treated him
like a king and made him a local hero. Within days, other
students were having 'forced' landings everywhere. Each of
them just happened to be near one of the small towns surround-
ing the base, where they were wined and dined in royal fashion.
This caused the base commander to issue orders stating that a
student had better have a darned good reason for any future
'forced' landings."

* * *

Dale belonged to a really fun group. After the emergency


landings were stopped, pilots amused themselves by tree-top-
level flying and scaring the daylights out of the local farmers'
cattle. Several planes actually returned to the field with fence
wire wrapped around the landing gear. The end of the group's
fun and games finally came after two planes flew beneath a local
bridge, prompting the C.O. to crack down by threatening a court
martial for any pilot committing any future antics. Of course.
Dale didn't do any of those things. Sure, Dale.
* * *

Dale wasn't the only pilot to tell of his service experiences.


In 1942, Mel Pliner of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, was taking
lessons in a J-3 Cub in preparation to starting glider training
during WWII. Here is what he
told me:
"Although my friend and
had just soloed, one morning our
I

instructor told us to go out and practice the maneuvers we had


been taught so far. He was talking about lazy-8s and chandelles,
but as soon as the instructor was out of earshot, my friend
challenged me to a dogfight. We agreed to meet about 20 miles
out where we wouldn't be seen by our superiors, and we had no

167
sooner arrived at our rendezvous when I looked back to find him
right on my tail.

"Without thinking about my altitude, I pushed the stick

forward and dived down and picked up a lot of airspeed before


p ullin g the stick back and starting a loop to shake my friend.
"The loop went fine, but as I came back to level flight at the
bottom, the Cub's wheels were nearly touching the ground. I
then saw a huge haystack right in front of the windshield.
"I literally jerked back on the stick, but it was too late to pass
over the stack, and the hay really flew as I passed through the
upper part of it.

"When we got back to base, some of the hay was still jammed
into the landing gear, but fortunately no one else noticed."

* * *

Most of the instruction for my commercial license came from


Phil Roshong. Marshall Smythe, instructor and mechanic at
Green Bay Aviation, gave me the last hour of dual before signing
the recommendation for the flight test. I ran into Marshall at a
Pulaski, Wisconsin, fly-in recently, and he told of several hap-
penings when he was an Army Air Corps instructor at
Owensboro, Kentucky, during the war. He said that the pilots in
his group also buzzed nearby farms and that one farmer said, “\
can always tell when you guys are grounded for a few days-our
cows start giving milk again."
•I- ^

Marshall had other tales to tell:

was giving a student instruction on 8s around pylons (a


"I

figure 8around two points on the ground) and had just flown
around a highway intersection before completing the circle of a
huge pine tree. When the student tried it, he flew past the tree as
though it wasn't there. I took the controls and circled it a second
time before asking him if he saw the tree this time. He said, 'yes'
but again flew past it as though I had never pointed it out. I was
thoroughly disgusted and again took the controls, but this time
I flew the plane almost straight down at the pine tree like a
Japanese kamikaze pilot heading for an American battleship.
"When we got down to within a few hundred feet of the

ground, we saw a huge, fat woman standing in the middle of the

168
road near the tree. She was holding the hand of a small child until
she saw us coming straight down at her. She then let go of the
youngster's hand, put her hands in front of her face, and started
backing up. It was as if she thought we were going to crash right
into her.
"The woman was as wide as she was high and looked to be
about five by five as she backed up, and evidently she didn't
notice that there was a
thirty foot landfill behind her. As I pulled
back on the and started climbing, we saw that poor woman
stick
back off that cliff, and she bounced and tumbled all the way
down that hill to the bottom like a huge basketball. I thought she
was going to be dead, but we looked back to see her get up,
apparently unhurt, and climb back up to her child at the top of
the hill.

"When my student and I got back to the base, I said to him


in a very stern voice, 'Now do you know where that pine tree
is?'"

"'Yes,' he said, 'but I didn't see that woman go off the cliff.'"
* * *

Marshall said he was giving instruction in a primary trainer


one spring morning when the engine quit. "We made an emer-
gency landing in a cornfield and then walked to the nearest farm
house and asked to use the phone. The man invited us in, but
when I started to place the call, I discovered I didn't know how
to wooden crank phone.
use their old,
"An old woman sitting in a rocking chair overheard me ask
the man to explain what I was to do and said, 'Hee! Hee! Hee!
You youngsters know how to fly those Air-E-O-Planes, but you
don't know how to use a Tell-E-Phone, Hee! Hee! Hee!"'
^ ^ ^

Marshall said that his Commanding Officer got a call from


a hysterical woman who claimed that an Air Corps plane had
landed on the roof of their tobacco barn and caused two scared
workers to fall out of the hayloft. When confronted on his return
to base, the pilot said, "Nah, I just did a touch-and-go on its tin
roof."
* * *

169
"The C.O. got from another woman who said, 'One of
a call

your pilots has my husband pinned under his tractor and won't
let him out. Every time he makes a run for it, the pilot dive-bombs

him until he crawls back under it/ and she held the receiver out
the window so he could hear it. The C.O. sent someone out to call
him off."

* * *

That reminded me of the time one of my students


last story

was landing into the west on our long runway when our farmer
neighbor was cutting hay along the north side of it. I didn't pay
too much attention to what was going on until a slight left

crosswind drifted us in the farmer's direction. Before I could


correct the situation, he threw his arms on top of his head and
dived off the tractor. I looked back to see him quickly get up and
run to catch it.

* * *

Any pilot who says he hasn't strayed off course at one time
or another is either lying or hasn't yet flown cross-country. I

always say, "There's no disgrace to getting lost as long as


eventually you find out where you are." However, there is
straying off course, and there is STRAYING OFF COURSE. Jim
Ostern of Spring Grove, Minnesota, strayed. ..well, we'll let him
tell it:

"I was stationed at a western Arizona air base in 1944 and,


although I had soloed a Cub back home before the war, I never
got checked out for cross-country. As soon as my instructor
signed my ticket out there, I took off on a three-legged trip in a

J-3. The first two legs were uneventful, and I had just turned onto
the last leg when 1 heard a strange droning sound. My first

thought was that the engine was low on oil or needed grease
somewhere. Because the noise disappeared as quickly as it had
come, I looked back to my map to determine the heading I should
take to get back to our base.
"Before I could figure exactly which way to point the nose,

the sound came back. But again it quit before I could locate its
source. The second my eyes got back to the map, however, the
droning sound became very loud, sending shivers up and down
my spine as I suddenly recognized what it was. I quickly leaned
170
forward and looked straight up through the windshield. I nearly
frozewhen 1 recognized a whole squadron of B-24 bombers
directly overhead. Since was in the air force, I knew exactly
I

what they were up there for, and I quickly looked straight down
to see huge pockmarks in the ground left by block-buster bombs.

"Should I end the story here, or is it necessary to mention


that I did an instant 90 degree left turn and got the hell out of there
fast, unable to believe I had drifted five miles off course."

* * *

EAA associate editor, Norm Petersen, related this story that


happened to Don Dwiggins, noted aviation author and flight
instructor:
Don was taxiing out for takeoff with a brand new student in
the front cockpit of a Vultee BT-13 "Valiant" during the war
when he picked up the mike and gave the student complete and
detailed instructions on how to use the pilot relief tube in the
front cockpit. The second he finished the explicit details, the soft,
feminine voice of the control tower operator came over our
speaker and said, "Excuse me, Sir, but you are tuned into our
control tower frequency— not your intercom."
* * *

We all have difficulty understanding "radio talk" at times,


but sometimes we pilots are guilty of adding to the confusion. All
Harold Miller of Aurora, Illinois, wanted was to pass through
the Reese Air Base airspace at his 8,000 foot altitude in his
Bellanca Viking. When he called the flight service station, how-
ever, he made the mistake of identifying his plane and altitude
as a "Viking" at "eight ZERO thousand feet."
An air base operator monitoring the conversation, evidently
feet, suddenly broke in and
visualizing a strange object at 80,000
stammered, "Viking— understand your intention— landing at
Reese?"
Realizing his mistake, Harold quickly said, "Negative on
landing— requesting permission to overfly Reese."
After a hesitation, the operator said, "Say again altitude!"
"Eight thousand feet," Harold said.
"Oh— EIGHT thousand," the operator said with a sigh
of relief.

171
Permission was granted.
* * *

My very first ride in an airplane of any kind, was in an Army


Air Corps C-47 Transport. I was a radio-telephoto operator in
Brisbane, Australia, at the time, and had been reassigned to our
I

station in Hollandia, New I remember being both


Guinea.
thrilled and scared at the prospect of being "suspended" up in

the sky with nothing concrete to hang onto. Within minutes after
takeoff I became relaxed and really enjoyed being "up there."
The first leg of that trip ended when we landed at Nadzab
Airstrip in New Guinea, and we were only halfway to our
destination. Our original orders were to stay on the plane while
it was being gassed, but a sergeant came aboard and informed

us that we were being bumped because of "priority" cargo. We


got off to learn that the cargo was lumber designated to build

General MacArthur's new house on top of the Cyclops Moun-


tains near Hollandia. (I learned later that his beautiful home was
less than one mile from where I spent six months sleeping in a

pyramidal tent with a dirt floor. When I mentioned that to a

friend, he reminded me that I was no general.)


After we were told there were no other planes we could
catch that day, we settled down to playing cards until another
plane could arrive to take us on to our destination. During the
four days of our hiatus, we heard repeated stories about an
American Liberator bomber which had crashed into the side of
a mountain after takeoff, killing the entire crew only four days

before our arrival. We saw no evidence of the crash, but for some
strange reason, the details of it stuck in my mind for the next few
years.
After the war, I returned to my hometown, Macon, Mis-
souri. Jimmy Riley had been my best friend during our high
school days, and I hadn't seenhim since our graduation six years
earlier. We weren't just good friends— I had nominated him for

our senior class president, and he had been elected. Because we


had worked at his father's Rexall Drug Store after school,
weekends, and summers, I thought I could learn Jimmy's where-
abouts from him.
What his father said left me in a state of shock. He told me

172
right off that Jimmy had been killed while piloting a Liberator
bomber in New Guinea in 1944. We then went on to compare
notes about the exact day, and we determined that my good
friend Jimmy had been piloting the plane that crashed just four
days before my arrival at Nadzab Airstrip.

•I* ^

I had a frightening flying experience in the Philippines


during the war:
After 1 became quite ill on Leyte Island, the army sent me to
the Santo Tomas hospital in Manila where I was told I had
contracted amoebic dysentery. I didn't know at the time, but it

was considered fatal. They immediately put me on a hospital


ship bound for Biak Island on the equator. Treatment was started
the day I arrived, and several weeks later the doctor told me I was
cured. I was then abruptly discharged from the hospital and told
I could return to my outfit in Manila.
walked over to the transportation office and inquired about
I

passage, but was told that no reservations had been made for my
return and that I might have to wait several weeks before
leaving. At the time, 1 thought maybe no one knew about the new
cure, and that everyone had thought that when I had left my
outfit in Manila, I was making a one-way trip to Biak with a fatal
disease.
A soldier standing nearby overheard our conversation and
suggested that I hitchhike a ride on an air corps plane. I had no
ideahow to go about that, but had no sooner stepped out the
door when I saw five men carrying their gear towards the
airstrip. I ran alongside and asked the lieutenant-pilot if they
were going to Manila. When he said they were, I asked if I could
go along. He said I were no extra seats;
could, but that there
either would have to stand, or sit on the floor. I grabbed my
I

duffel bag and followed them to the airstrip.


The plane was a B-25 Mitchell bomber, known to pilots as the
"flying rock" because its wings were so short and the motors so
big. If the motors quit, it would come down like a rock. I was

anxious to get back to my unit, so I climbed aboard.


General Jimmy Doolittle and his squadron had used B-25s
for bombing Tokyo after taking off from an aircraft carrier. They

173
chose the B-25 because it had been used successfully in the Pacific
islands for many low-altitude bombings, and they wanted to

keep low as they approached the shores of Japan to avoid radar


detection.The B-25 often flew so low that they had to use
parachutes on the bombs in order to give the plane enough time
to get out of the way before their bombs exploded.
My job during the war was to transmit official Army, Navy,
Marine, and Air Corps pictures by Signal Corps radio-telephoto
from Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippine Islands, to the
Pentagon in Washington D.C. One morning we received an Air
Corps photo of one B-25, taken from another B-25, after the two
of them had hit a Japanese ship in the Pacific, and it clearly shows
just how low they flew. I was fortunate to be able to bring home
a copy we never used. Our commanding officer gave it to me as
a souvenir.
After taking off and heading north, guessed that our B-25
I

pilot, a first lieutenant and a "hotdog," flew only a few feet


above the water either for practice, or as a matter of habit. When
we came to a small Pacific island, instead of climbing over a
coconut palm tree, he just lifted one wing over it, and I looked
back to see it swaying and nearly touching the ground.
When we got to the island of Peleliu, in the Palau group, we
were going to land and spend the night, and 1 was standing
behind the pilot as he made the final approach to the runway. I
wasn't a pilot then, but I sensed something was wrong when I
noticed the airspeed increasing, and by the time we reached the
runway, we were traveling over 250 miles an hour.
After he gave the strip an illegal buzz job, he pulled back on
the stick and we went straight up. should say the plane went
1

straight up. went straight down, hit the floor, and stuck to it like
I

glue. tried to raise my head to yell something, but it wouldn't


1

budge until he recovered from the maneuver, which I now know


was a chandelle.
We made a normal landing, and just as I was getting up, the
lieutenant-pilot noticed me and said, "Oh, my God, Corporal, I
forgot you didn't have a seat and weren't strapped down." He
knew he would be in trouble if reported him, so he kept
I

apologizing to me all the way into the flight office. It was the only
time I ever saw an officer humbling himself to an enlisted man.

174
Photo.

Corps

Air

--Army

6-25.

another

from

Taken

WWI1.

during

ship,

Japanese

strikes

bomber

“Mitchell

B-25

A
but I kept my mouth shut, because I was still only halfway home.
Our flight to Clark Airbase in Manila the next day was
routine and very boring. The lieutenant had called me corporal,
but I learned on my return to my outfit that I had been promoted
to sergeant while I was gone.
* * *

Here is a chilling side to that story:


Dr. Downey was in the Philippines when I got amoebic
dysentery. At the hospital on Biak Island, I was told there had
been no cure for the disease up to that time and that many G.I.s
had died from it. My doctor told me that the University of
Chicago had just developed a cure and that the first shipment
had just arrived. I don't know if it's true, but he said I was the first
person in the Pacific and, except for someone who may have
received it for the experiments, possibly the first person in the
world to receive the treatment.
Dr. Downey and became I close friends upon my arrival in
Green Bay and have remained so for the past thirty-five years.
When we compared different events of our lives, we discovered
that at the time I caught the disease, he was also on Leyte. But he
was assisting the doctors who performed autopsies on G.I.s who
had died from it. What really chilled me was the thought that
neither he nor his colleagues knew of a cure at that time, and that
we might have met in a Leyte Island morgue, instead of ten years
later in Green Bay.
* * *

176
Ned Powers
By now you know that Ned Powers of Grand Rapids,
Minnesota, was my instructor and lifelong friend. He started
flying more than half a century ago after soloing a J-3 Cub in 1938.
Since then, he has been instrumental in teaching thousands of
pilots, not only just to fly, but to obtain every type of aviation
license and rating possible.
With Ned's instruction, his son Doug went up the rating
ladder until he became an airline captain; he was flying 727s for
Northwest Airlines at the tender age of twenty-four. Doug's son
Dan took lessons from Ned and is now a private pilot. Ned
soloed his only daughter, Gloria, and she is an excellent pilot. He
also instructed his three brothers to become private pilots.
Ned instructed his other son, Ron who subsequently got his
commercial pilot license before going to South Dakota where he
earned enough money crop-dusting to put himself through
electrical engineering college. Ron surprised his dad when he
went back to crop-dusting after getting a college education.
When Ned was appointed America's first overseas civilian

177
examiner in Khartoum, Sudan, Africa, he asked Ron if he would
like to go along as his chief pilot and flight instructor. Ron

surprised him by agreeing on the condition that he could bring


along his new wife, Sharon.
On a recent visit to Grand Rapids, I visited Ned, and he
related the following incident that happened in Sudan, Africa:
* * *

"Because of the terrible heat and isolation in the desert, we


never went anywhere without two planes, and we always
carried lots of water and emergency rations. One day, however,
my wife, Lauretta, and I decided to fly over to Ethiopia by
ourselves to pick up groceries and supplies. Ron was busy
instructing that day, so we took just the Cessna 185. After
arriving in Addis Ababa, we called Ron and asked him to fly over
and join us, but told him not to bring any supplies so we would
I

have room to bring back more groceries. I did tell him to be sure
to bring plenty of water.
"It's not hard to imagine what happened. With only water

and no emergency supplies, Ron and Sharon took off to join us.
Sure enough, when they neared the Ethiopian border, the engine
quit. Ron did a fantastic job of setting that plane down in the

Stonebush Jungle, between two mountain ranges, and without


hitting anything.
"Ron immediately radioed a Mayday call. It was picked up
by a station in Aden, Yemen, which quickly relayed the informa-
tion to a U.S. Air Force plane that just happened to be flying from
Cairo, Egypt, to South Africa. The Air Force crew couldn't see
Ron and Sharon because of an overcast between them, but they
got an exact radio bearing on their location. The Air Force plane
quickly landed in Addis Ababa, where we were, and the navi-
gator showed me Ron's exact location on a map. wanted to 1

jump in my plane and leave immediately, but the weather was


so bad I just couldn't get out.
"Ron disconnected the plane's battery to conserve electric-
ity, but reconnected Aden each morning at seven o'clock
it to call

and each afternoon at three o'clock. Three days after he went


down, the weather cleared just enough for me to take off with the
Cessna."

178
1 interrupt Ned's narration of what happened because of his
modesty in describing what he did next. Ned merely said he just
flew to the spot that the navigator had pointed to on the map and
that Aden had called Ron to tell him his dad was on the way. The
truth is, after flying all the way above a solid overcast to Ron's
exact location, Ned heard a voice on the radio coming up from
below saying, "You're above me right now, Pop." Can you
imagine the thrill of hearing that voice. 1 pictured my own son
being down there under those conditions, and it sent chills up
and down my spine.
Ron told Ned that he had a 2,000 foot overcast and that he
could make a let-down through it, but he wouldn't be able to
land. Ned continues:
"Well, made the let-down all right, but when I saw the 60
1

foot wide, 600 foot long path they had made while waiting, I set
the plane down. We were told that a detachment of soldiers had
been sent out from Khartoum to make a runway for us, but it
would take them five days to get there. We didn't want to wait
for them, so we backed the plane as far back into the jungle as
possible, pointed the nose toward the makeshift runway, and
took off with no problem. I worried about their health for a while,
but besides being hungry, they were just fine.

"It was so hot over there that we were constantly flying with
the temperature gauges in the red; later we learned that a gear
in the rear of the engine of Ron's plane had crystallized and
broken because of the tremendous heat."
When asked Ned what Ron is doing now, he said that, like
I

his brother Doug, Ron is a captain flying for Northwest Airlines,


but flying 747s. Ned added that his grandson, Ron Jr. (affection-

ately known as R.J.), is a commercial pilot with an instructor


rating, and does acrobatics in a home-built plane. Ned, Ron, and
R.J. had been scheduled to be the first three-generation acrobatic
team ever to perform at an air show, but one of them got the flu
and couldn't make it. They still hope to perform as a team really
soon.
^ ^ ^

Ned hired R.J. and flight instructor Joel Peterman to give

acrobatic lessons in his Bellanca Citabria. One quiet day, Joel

179
suggested that they "go take a fly" together to break the
monotony. He had other plans for the flight, but didn't tell R.J.

When they reached cruising altitude, Joel asked R.J. to put


the Citabria in an inverted flight position. As soon as they were
upside down, Joel startled R.J. by pulling out a battery operated
vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming the ceiling, which was
now the floor.
Joel explained later that he was tired of being showered with
dirt from the floor as it spilled down on his head every time he
put the plane in inverted flight. He added that vacuuming the
floor the conventional way never got up all the dirt.
* * *

Ned did a lot of stunt flying. He owned a midget stunt plane,


which was the smallest acrobatic bi-plane in the world at that
time. It was only 13 feet long and had a total wingspan of just 13
feet. The 85 HP plane had NED POWERS printed upside down

on the fuselage so spectators would be able to read his name right


side up as he passed an air show crowd upside down only a few
feet above the ground. I was fortunate to have Ned locate an old
1950 photo and allow me bring a copy of it home.
I saw Ned perform in the midget, was pictured, several
as it

times while taking lessons in 1953. But for some strange reason,
he replaced the 85 HP engine with a 150 HP, and then hung a
huge propeller on it, which I felt was far too long for a plane that
small. I didn't know much about airplanes at that time, but I

remember urging him not to use that prop.


I joined hundreds of other spectators at the airport the day
he started the and we were all horrified to see the
first takeoff,

tiny plane fail to make


air. The second the wheels
it into the
started to leave the ground, the torque created by that huge prop
caused the plane to rotate until the left wing tip scraped the
ground, and the plane cartwheeled over and over. Ned's face
was black and blue when I visited him in the hospital the next
day, and that plane never flew again.
* * *

When reminded Ned


I of that story, he told about the time
he was flying a different plane at an air show and, for the grand
finale, came in upside down only 10 feet above the ground. When

180
Powers.

Ned

of

courtesy

Photo

--

world

the

in

biplane

acrobatic

smallest

the

was

it

when

1950,

in

Midget

his

and

Powers

Ned
he pushed the stick forward to gain altitude after passing the

crowd, the tail started scraping the runway and the nose couldn't
come up until the tail came down. Friends told him later that they
were sure he was a goner, but he finally was able to get the stick
far enough forward to gain just enough altitude to clear the fence

at the end of the runway by inches.

* * *

After receiving my private license, I left Grand Rapids


without appreciating the extent of Ned's accomplishments. The
only memories I had of him were of the stories he told. Now, after
doing a little investigating, I would say that, without a doubt,
Ned Powers is not only the most fabulous pilot and instructor I

have ever known, he is also the best flying-story teller I ever


listened to. Here are only a few of the many, many stories I've

heard him tell:

* * *

"The weather was clear and 1 was bored as I was flying alone
over Georgia on my way to Florida to pick up passengers. was I

just sitting, staring out the windows, when I noticed a hitchhiker


standing and waiting for a ride on a lonely stretch of road. The
blacktopped road was straight and there were no cars in sight,

so I throttled back, made a long sweeping turn, and landed. I

taxied up to the young man and asked where he was going.


"'Florida,' he beamed.
'"Hop in,' I said.
"He got into the plane and we had a nice chat on the way. But
this happened many years ago, and I'll bet he has been telling

everyone since then about the time he was hitchhiking in Georgia


and was picked up by an airplane. And, you know what?
Nobody would ever believe him."
* * *

Another time Ned told me he was flying a small plane when


the winds became so strong he was afraid to taxi the plane in
from the runway after landing. He said he flew the plane over the
tie-down, pulled back the throttle, slowed the plane down to the
speed of the wind, and then was able to come down into the tie-
down like a helicopter. There, he said, his friends grabbed the
wings and fastened the ropes.
182
When Ned told me that story, I had just started flying and
I really didn't believe Now, after landing in a 50 mile
it, at first.

an hour wind in Casper, Wyoming, and seeing Mel Buchholz


land in a similar wind, I know that it could have happened just
as he said. And nobody could land a plane better than Ned.
* * *

I day he was flying for


also believe the story he told about the
an company, looking for power line insulators that
electric

hunters had broken while target practicing. It started snowing so


heavy and fast that he lost his bearings and couldn't find any
landmarks to tell him where he was. He said he found a highway
to follow but couldn't determine its identity. To his surprise, he
passed over a small airport, and promptly landed.
When he went into the flight office and asked the first man
he saw where he was, the man stared at him in disbelief and said,
"What's wrong with you, Ned Powers?" Ned had become so
disoriented by being lost that he never recognized one of his best
friends or the airport where he had landed many times
previously.
* * *

Ned has often said that when any pilot, especially an expe-
rienced pilot, has done something stupid with an airplane, he
should pass it on to his fellow pilots. We all make mistakes in
both our actions and our judgments, and if we will just share

what happened and show the results, it may help others fly a
little safer.

% 't*

Here is a sample of what he's saying:


Early one very cold January morning in 1951, Ned decided
to start the engine of an Aeronca Champ trainer in a closed
hangar while waiting for his student to show up for a lesson.
After chocking the wheels and priming the engine, he stood
between the closed door and the plane as he pulled the prop
downward.
The instant the engine started, the chocks started slipping on
the floor and the plane began moving forward. Before he
realized what was happening, he found himself backed up to the

183
door, trapped between two vertical door beams, and unable to
move left or right.
Fortunately, Ned was wearing very thick mittens that morn-
ing, and he did the only thing he could do. Like a football running
back trying to get past a tackier, he held out his right hand and
stiff-armed the propeller hub. Oh, yes, there was something else
he could do— and did. He yelled. And he yelled— as he pushed on
the nose cone to keep from being chewed to pieces by the
propeller.
Finally, Gene Voigt heard his screams and ran over and
turned off the switches, but not until the cone had burned a hole
in the mitt. (Wasn't Ned lucky the plane had a nose cone? Only
one of our Champs did.)

Here's another:
"I was wearing a thick leather jacket one day when I

propped a plane before giving a lesson. After the engine started,


the propeller was turning over about as slowly as was possible
and still be running. It was going - tick - tick - tick - and almost
pausing between ticks.

“I wanted add some throttle so the engine would warm


to
up a little faster, and I must have ignored the prop as I walked
straight for the door of the plane to get to the throttle. As I opened
the door, I felt a pressure on my shoulder and removed my
jacket.
"I couldn't believe had walked through that slow
it. I

turning prop, and one propeller blade had passed in front of me


while the other had come down behind me. It skinned the leather
right off my jacket.
* * *

When Ned was an FAA safety agent in Moline, Illinois, a


tower operator called him to say a pilot had radioed in a Mayday
to say he was lost. When they asked if he knew his exact position,
he called back and sarcastically said that knew that, he if he
wouldn't be lost. They then asked him where he was when he last
knew his exact position. There was a hesitation before the pilot
called backand said, "In a coffee shop in Rockford, Illinois."

They subsequently located and got him in.

184
* * *

While Ned was still a safety agent, he and Lauretta had just

arrived at an airport when they saw a small plane going straight


up, hanging on its nose and shaking violently near the ground.
Ned said, "Holy fright, he's going to crash!"

"He did crash!"


Lauretta said,
Ned stopped the car and ran to the plane and was the first
one there. He helped the guy out of the airplane and said, "I'm
Ned Powers with the FAA."
The poor guy was in shock as he said, "Boy, that's REAL
service!"
* * *

Another time Ned told of flying a fur trapper into Canada.


It was winter, and the plane was equipped with tubular skis
which enabled the plane to take off more easily than with flat

He landed
skis. beds or anywhere else he could find
in creek

enough room to get in and out. Each time he landed, however,


the skis would sink into the snow and stop the plane so suddenly
that the tail would come up and the prop would come close to
hitting the ground. One day the nose went down a little too far.
It hit a stump, shattering one end of the prop.
Ned got out and looked over the situation and, after realiz-
ing that they were in such a remote part of Canada that it would
take months to walk out, he asked the trapper if he had a saw.
You guessed it. He sawed off the splintered end and, after

making a calculated guess, sawed off the same amount of the


other end before taking off and flying home safely.
* * *

Although these next two stories are not about Ned, they also
show the ingenuity of a couple of other pilots who had problems
in remote northern areas. Dick Smith, a pipeline engineer from

Kenai, Alaska, tells them:


"One of our welders, Ron Prather, landed on ice-covered
Cook Inlet, a couple hundred miles southwest of Anchorage, to
hunt caribou. There was no problem until he started the takeoff
run to return home after possibly overloading the plane with
game.
"When he heard a noise and felt a jerk during the takeoff run,
185
Ron realized the tail wheel had hit something, but he took off
anyway. A couple of hours later, he got the urge to relieve
himself and quickly set his plane down on a gravel strip near a
cabin by a river. But as the plane was coming to rest, the unusual
angle of attack indicated that the tail wheel had broken off.

"As soon as he saw the tail wheel missing, Ron knew he


would have difficulty taking off with the spring digging into the
snow, so he headed for the cabin with his hunting saw. Ron was
a welder and very clever with his hands, so, when he found a
moose horn, he made two calculated cuts before shooting two
holes in it in strategic places with his .30-06 hunting rifle. He then
used two spare bolts to fasten the horn to the spring, and flew
home with his new tail skid."
* * *

Dick also said "On another occasion, a friend of mine, flying


:

an Aeronca Chief, landed on Cook Inlet after running out of gas.


Unfortunately, the snow was too deep, and the impact broke off
one of the landing gears.
"He walked over to Drift River and radioed me about his
predicament, and I promptly flew a gear over to him with a
friend in a Taylorcraft. We landed alongside his plane and
learned that nothing else had been damaged, so the two of us
held up one wing tip while he removed the damaged gear.
"He got the two main bolts installed in the new gear, but
when he started to position the third bolt by the fuselage, it

slipped out of his hands and dropped into four feet of snow. We
looked and looked until it started getting dark. Then I got an
idea. I took the long bolt out of a pair of vice-grips I carried in the
Taylorcraft and ran it through one side of the hole in the gear
before putting the vice-grips on the other side and tightening it

down.
"We all shook the plane every which way, trying to get the
grips to come loose, and when we were satisfied, he took off and
flew home.
"I saw him and the Chief a month later, and the vice-grips
were still in place in the landing gear."
* * *

Back to Ned. He said that the last thing he always told a

186
student pilot before taking him or her on a cross-country check
was, "All done? O.K., go to the bathroom."
One day in California, he had a very, very proper female
school teacher who had prepared her maps and made her
calculations before handing the materials to him. When he asked
if she had finished the wind triangle, she said, "Oh, yes, sir, Mr.
Powers."
When he asked if she had figured the gas consumption and
estimated their time of arrival, she very formally and properly
said, "Oh, yes, sir, Mr. Powers."
Then Ned told her, "O.K., go to the bathroom." She promptly
turned around and obeyed.
A few minutes later she returned, and when she said, again
very properly, "I'm ready now, Mr. Powers," Ned said it
absolutely cracked him up.
* * *

The last one of Ned's stories is about the pilot who had spent
most of his career flying float planes into and out of lakes in the
northern bush. He had been sent to Wichita, Kansas, to pick up
a new plane which had wheels instead of floats. On his return,
he forgot that it didn't have floats, and the plane promptly sank
when he landed in the middle of the lake.
* * *

This is not one of Ned's stories, but is about what he did in


a very unusual circumstance. He was at the airport one day when
a radio distress call came in over the speaker. It was from a pilot
who was "caught" on top of the clouds and didn't have the
ratings, knowledge, or experience to let down through the
overcast. Ned ran outside, jumped into a plane, and climbed up
through the clouds. As he flew alongside the troubled pilot, he
explained that he was going to make a let-down through the
clouds and that the pilot in distress was to follow alongside,
keeping his left wing tip next to Ned's right wing tip. Ned had
turned on his navigation lights soit would be easier for the pilot
to see. Of course, Ned got him down safely.
* * *

It's unfortunate that aviation hasn't nationally recognized


Ned Powers as one of the great aviators of our time. I wrote a

187
Ned Powers and liis Bellanca Citahria. The genuine
Stetson Cowboy Hat became his "trademark.

letter to the Grand Rapids Herald-Review newspaper remind-


ing them that Ned not only has over 40,000 personal flying hours,
he has also taught thousands to fly, as well as created hundreds
of flight instructors who have taught many more thousands
to fly.

I also said that Ned has achieved every rating the Federal
Aviation Administration has to offer, including: student, pri-

vate, commercial, flight instructor, airline transport, helicopter,


jet, free balloon, hot air balloon, single engine land, single engine
sea, multi-engine land, multi-engine sea, instrument, FAA ex-
aminer, FAA Safety Agent, advanced ground instructor, and A
&P mechanic. He was also the first overseas civilian examiner
in Khartoum, Sudan, Africa. At the time, he was, and probably
still is, the only person in the world to hold all of those ratings.
In that letter I suggested that one of the two streets leading
to the Grand Rapids airport be named NED POWERS STREET.
So far I haven't heard any response.

188
A couple of years ago, Ned had a medical problem and lost
his physical. That means that none of his flying licenses are valid
anymore, and that he can never fly with a person holding less
than a private or commercial license. Although he can no longer
be the "Pilot in Command," he overcame the problem by
purchasing a Citabria acrobatic plane, and now he is teaching
acrobatics to private and commercial pilots who fly in from all
around the country.
Ned is a fabulous aviator and a good friend.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
And There Were Tragedies
This is another story about the Ryan PT-22. A year after it

was flown Grand Rapids for Ned to perform in the air show,
to

Bill Wogsland, Ardo Mariucci, and Jerry Seroogy sold it to a


former WWII fighter pilotfrom Appleton, Wisconsin.
Ardo had a commercial pilot license and had studied for a
flight instructor rating and, although he never received the
rating, I always felt he was qualified The new owner
to teach.

knew this, and because the plane was known for dangerous
flight characteristics, he called Ardo and made an appointment
Ardo told him to fly the plane directly to Nicolet
for instruction.
Airport and warned him not to do any acrobatic maneuvers with
it until he received proper instruction.
Bill Wogsland was a volunteer for the Ashwaubenon fire

department and knew of Ardo's plan to give instruction to the


new owner. The afternoon of the appointment, Bill was at work
when he was informed by telephone that an airplane had crashed
ten miles south of Green Bay. He rushed to the scene and was
sickened when he recognized the tail section of his old PT-22. It

190
was the only part of the plane not consumed by fire.

Bill then became horrified when he saw two bodies lying


near the wreckage, one burned beyond recognition except for his
coal black hair. Ardo Mariucci was of Italian ancestry and had
coal black hair.
While this was happening, I was routinely doing my duties
at Nicolet Airport. I didn't know about the appointment or the
plane crash. Suddenly, a car came speeding down our gravel
road and slid to a stop sideways in the parking lot. Through the
north window, I saw Bill running towards the flight office with
panic on his face. Between sobs, he related the whole tragic story
about the crash and then asked me when the PT-22 left Nicolet
Airport.
I was stunned. I had been day and told Bill I never
there all

saw the plane arrive. When had seen Ardo, I said,


he asked if I

"Yes, I saw him about an hour ago, working on your Mini-Plane


in your T-hangar."
We both ran as fast as we could and threw open the door.
There sat Ardo on an overturned pail, working on the engine.
When he said, "Oh! Hi, Bill. What are you doing here? I thought
you had to work today," I had to catch Bill as his knees buckled.
We found out later that the new owner did exactly what
Ardo had told him not to do. He had brought a friend with him,

Ryan PT-22 before its tragic accident. Jerry Seroogy in


the back seat, Ardo Mariucci in the front. Dr. Van Der
We gen's ill-fated Republic "Seabee" in the background.

191
and a witness said he saw the Ryan give a farm house a "buzz"
job before pulling up too sharply, stalling the wings, and causing
the plane to fall 500 feet, nose-first into the ground.
* * *

Suppose I told you that a friend of mine got mad at me and


simply disappeared. Suppose that two years later, after not
hearing from him or even knowing where he went, I decided to
try to find him. Then suppose hired a pilot to fly me over a
I

remote jungle where I parachuted out of the plane and


in Brazil
descended down through the trees. So far, you might believe me.
But what if I said that after disengaging my parachute that had
caught in the trees, I fell downward and landed on top of a man.
At this point you would start to question what I was saying; but
if I told you that the man turned out to be my old friend, I would

lose you completely.


Please don't let me lose you now, because the odds of this
next story actually happening are as astronomical as the farce I
just told, and no one could ever figure the odds on either of them
ever happening. Every word is true and documented, except for
the pilot's name. I'm sure he still has living relatives, and I do not
wish to upset them. The events started only one month after I
received my limited flight instructor rating:

* * *

A flight instructor is required by law not only to sign a


student pilot's log book, but to keep a log book of his own
showing the date, name, and evaluation of each lesson given. All
the details of this story are logged in my first instructor log book
and began when John Smith walked into our flight shack and
wanted to resume his flying lessons. The fact that he said
said he
"resume" is important, because it infers that he had taken
lessons before. He continued by saying he had just moved into
our area the previous month and that he had taken eight hours
of flying lessons before leaving California. He quickly added that
he was ready to solo.
When I asked to see his log book, he said that he had lost it,

but repeated that he was ready to solo. I told him that he would
have to purchase a new
book and start from the beginning,
log
but that I would advance him as fast as he could do the necessary

192
maneuvers. He agreed, joined our club, and purchased a log
book. Because 1 had no appointments, we climbed aboard an
Aeronca Champ trainer and started his training.
There was nothing unusual about John's first lesson. His
reactions and knowledge were about average for a person taking
his first lesson, and that should have been a clue as to what was
to come. According to him, this was his ninth lesson, but he flew

as though was his first.


it

My log book shows that John took six more lessons within
the next ten days. They involved the basics: turns, climbs, glides,
climbing turns, gliding turns, stalls, and all maneuvers leading
up to starting takeoffs and landings. He was a good, average
student.
John's problems came on so gradually that I didn't recognize
them until he started showing irritation at my instruction each
time I corrected his mistakes. His troubles began with the third
lesson and got progressively worse with each succeeding one.
It was common knowledge among student pilots that the

average student soloed at eight hours. One of my students


soloed in six hours while another took eighteen. There is no set

rule, and the exact time to solo is left entirely to the discretion of
the instructor. It may have been John's awareness of it being his
eighth lesson that caused him to react as he did.
The first thirty minutes of the eighth lesson were spent
reviewing the various maneuvers which would lead to making
takeoffsand landings. We then went back to the traffic pattern
and started a long final approach to the 4,000 foot runway. The
approach was started at an altitude of 1,000 feet, instead of the
usual 400 feet, to more time to get the plane lined up
give John
with the runway properly and get him used to being close to the
ground.
We were landing into the west and had a light left crosswind
which was causing the plane to drift to the right of the glide path.
There are two corrections for this. One is to "crab," or point the
nose slightly to the left, into the wind; the other is to lower the
left wing slightly with the left stick, but right rudder must be
applied at the same time to keep the plane lined up with the
runway. That constitutes "cross control" and is usually a diffi-

cult maneuver for a beginner to learn.

193
For a beginner, all aircraft maneuvers become more difficult
as the plane gets closer to the ground, but John had practiced
both methods at higher altitudes without difficulty. As he
continued his descent from 1,000 feet, he drifted more and more
to the right of the glide path. I'm sure I told him several times to

make a correction, without results. Then I must have raised my


voice and said something like, "For God's sake, John, do some-
thing to get us over where we belong!"
All aircraft are manufactured with dual controls, and I had
a complete set of them in the back seat behind John. I don't know
if it was a conditioned reflex against an authoritative voice or just

his own frustration, but he jerked his stick so hard it nearly


pulled my stick out of my hand. This put the plane in a very
awkward position less than 200 feet above the ground and only
seconds from hitting the runway.
I it — let go." Fie let go, and I straightened out
yelled, "I've got
the planeand recovered only one second before we hit the
runway. There was no damage to the plane, but I kept the
controls as I taxied toward the flight shack where John's wife
and
two small children were waiting. The lesson was over, so there
was no more conversation until after I had taxied up to the gas
pump and we got out of the plane.
We stood in silence for a moment before I told John that I
could no longer fly with him. I said that I believed he should quit
flying before he either hurt or killed himself or someone else. He
said nothing as we walked slowly towards the flight shack.
Fortunately, John's wife and kids were the only ones in the
building as he related to her what I had said, but he didn't tell her
why I had said it. She immediately started crying and saying

"Why, why, why?" John looked at the floor and said nothing.
After a minute of her pleading, I told her what had happened.
She reacted by begging him to apologize to me and assure me it
would never happen again.
After an agonizing thirty minutes, John finally apologized
and they both started working on me to allow him to continue.
At one point she said, "John just has to keep flying because he has
failed at everything else he has ever tried to do, and learning to
fly will prove he isn't a failure." It was the most pathetic situation
I had ever witnessed. Her pleas worked and, against my better
194
judgement, I agreed to continue his lessons. We then made an
appointment for a few days later.

On his next lesson, John appeared to be a different person


and there was no more trouble. Two lessons later, he successfully
soloed and followed that up with three more solos during the
next few weeks.
Two months after his first lesson, and before he got checked
out for cross-country flying, John came by one morning and said
that hewas being transferred out of the state. I was busy and I
don't remember where he said he was going, but he picked his
log book out of the stack and, after I wished him well, he left . . .

. . . Two years later, I received a call from a man who owned an


electric company with They were both
his brother in Appleton.
student pilots and wanted me to fly their Cessna 180 on a
business trip and give them instruction on the way. I agreed, and
the following Monday we flew to Paducah, Kentucky, where we
stayed five days. On Friday, we took off for home.
Three hours after takeoff we decided to land for food and
gas, so we circled the small airport at Lacon, Illinois, and landed
on the grass runway. An hour later, as started to taxi out for I

takeoff, a Piper Tri-pacer pulled in front of us so suddenly I had


to hit the brakes to avoid a collision. The Piper continued on, and

we followed it to the active runway. After his preflight, the pilot


started his takeoff run and we pulled into position on the
runway. We waited until he was in the air before starting our
takeoff run. Just as we lifted off the runway, the Tri-pacer
suddenly disappeared into the overcast.
By the time we had reached an altitude of 800 feet, I realized
the weather had deteriorated to the extent that we could not
continue on to Wisconsin that day. We discussed whether to turn

around and land back at the Lacon airport or to continue on to


the larger Peoria airport that we had passed earlier. They chose
Peoria, so I turned the controls over to the brother in the front
seat andhim to follow the Illinois River below us and under
told
no circumstances lose sight of it. When we were half-way there,

I called the control tower and got clearance to land. After landing

and securing the plane, the brothers took a cab to a motel, and
I walked to a nearby hotel. We had started our trip late that

morning and I was tired, so I went to bed early.

195
1

The next morning, I got out of bed and dropped a quarter


into the slot of a bedside radio. When it came on, the station was
in the middle of a local newscast: "Student pilot— John Smith-
killed in small plane crash."
A chill ran up and down my spine as slipped my trousers
I

on over my pajamas and ran down to the lobby where grabbed I

a morning newspaper. The headline read: LOST STUDENT


PILOT DIES AFTER CRASH. He was identified as John Smith of
Pekin, Illinois . and was killed after taking off from the Lacon
. .

airport en route to Waddell airport north of Manito.


According to the newspaper, John's wife said that this was
his last cross-country flight to qualify him for a private pilot
license and that it was his first night flight. The paper went on to
say that after John had become lost, he was in radio contact with
the Waddell airport for two hours as they tried to "get him to
orient himself with the navigation needle in the plane." They
were probably referring to the omni radio.
I was in shock as I read the details. There was no question

that the dead pilot was none other than the John Smith to whom
I had given lessons two years before. I made a few phone calls to

confirm my belief. I realized that the odds against my witnessing


his last take off, two years after telling him he was either going
to kill himself or someone else, were incalculable. If we had

decided to leave five minutes earlier or five minutes later, I

would have missed him. According to the paper, after he


disappeared into the overcast, he didn't follow the river as we
had done. He became lost and crashed fifty miles from his
destination.
I had no idea where John had moved. Even if I had known,
the airport where he made that last take off was fifty miles from
his home base— and this was two years later.
That happened in 1960. Twenty-four years later, in 1984,
stopped by the Lacon airport and talked to Art Blase. He was the
airport manager and had been a flight instructor for more than
thirty years. Art recalled the incident and added, "I warned the
young man not to take off that day because the weather had
turned bad."
* * *

196
Later, I received a September 23, 1960, Pekin Daily Times
newspaper article which said that John was supposed to have
followed the Illinois River (as we had) from Lacon to the Manito
airport. The article also said that when rescuers reached him, he
had said "Help" and answered "Yes" when they asked if he was
hurt, but were unable to understand him when he tried to give
his name. Because they could find no identification on him, they
traced him through the plane's "N" number.
Although the sky had been relatively clear at the time, the
visibility was extremely poor over the river as we flew to Peoria.

Evidently John lost sight of it.

John couldn't take my instruction, and he didn't take Art


Blase's advice either.
* * *

197
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
Time To Go
Friends have often asked me just why I left Nicolet Airport,
and I have told very few the full story. The truth is, there were
several contributing factors. After six years of working very long
hours, six and sometimes seven days a week, sometimes twelve
hours a day, had become quite weary.
I I made very little money,
and a bad back didn't help the situation, either. I had seriously
considered quitting as early as the spring of 1963, but the
demand for student pilot instruction continued to increase, and
I really hated to quit. By the fall of '63, 1 found myself dreading
the thought of spending another winter at Nicolet. Then, a
couple of things happened that sped my departure.
During my last summer at the airport, I noticed some
unusual activity on farmland adjacent to Nicolet. Within weeks
it became apparent thatsomeone was constructing a runway in
a direction that its use would necessitate taking off and landing
aircraft to cross one of our runways. 1 found out that several of
my students were involved in the project, and when I talked to
the owner of the property, he confirmed that they were building
198
such a runway. When I mentioned that it would be extremely
dangerous and that he should stop, he said it was none of my
business and continued preparing the strip for use. I then told
him that I would have to report it to the FAA, and he told me to
go ahead. I did, and the FAA made him stop.
I forgot about that incident, but a few months later, some-
thing else happened:
It was dusk
as the setting sun disappeared over Webster
Avenue. had been a long, hard day, and I found myself sitting
It

alone on the bench outside the flight shack. Although the sun was
gone and the airport completely in shadows, it still wasn't quite
For pilots, sunset is the time all airplanes without
official sunset.

running lights must be on the ground. It was just about that time
of day in the fall of 1963.

As far as I knew, Bob Harris and his son were the only other
pilots still at the airport, and they were busy checking out their
Cessna 170 for a local flight. 1 watched as they turned on its

navigation lights before taxiing out to the active runway and


taking off. As the sound of their Cessna engine faded into the
night, the fieldbecame dead silent, except for the chirping of a
few was alone with my thoughts.
crickets. I

Suddenly, was startled by the sound of another plane


I

engine starting up, and realized wasn't alone. Although it was


I I

too dark to make out its identifying numbers, I could tell by the
direction and distinctive sound of the plane's engine that it was
an airplane that belonged to a student pilot who had given me
a hard time on a number of previous occasions. Our disagree-
ments usually came as a result of his violations of our airport
rules and of the civil air regulations. Because he was not my
student, he must have thought that anything he did at Nicolet
was not my concern.
I once saw his young children "helping" him do a repair job

on his plane. He never had a mechanic inspect his work, and I

nearly fainted when saw his five year old using a large monkey
I

wrench to tighten a small 3/8 inch nut on a jury strut that helped
to keep the wings on. When I called it to his attention, he told me

to mind my own business, and the boy continued tightening the


nut.
The engine RPMs accelerated, and the silhouette started

199
moving in my direction. A minute later the plane stopped at the

gas pump and the pilot filled the tank before entering the flight
shack to pay his bill.

"You're not planning on going flying now, are you?" I asked.


none of your damned business," he said.
"It's

"The sun has set and you don't have lights on your plane,"
I replied.
"Go to hell. I'll do as I damned well please," was his

response as he headed back toward his plane.


I followed him and continued the argument. When he gave
the propeller a spin and climbed into the cockpit, I gave him a last
shot, "I warn you. I'll have to report this to the FAA if you
take off."
"Go to hell," he repeated as he taxied out to the east-west
runway for a takeoff into the west.
I immediately called the weather bureau to confirm that the
sun had officially set. I identified myself and asked the weather-

man his name before relating what had happened, and I re-

quested that he make a note of it because I was going to report


As I was talking to him, I looked out of the telephone
the incident.
booth and observed that the student was in the air and leaving
the traffic pattern.
At that moment, I and yet sad, because in
was quite angry
my six year association with the airport, had never had occasionI

to report a pilot for a flying violation before. I hung up and called

the FAA Flight Service Center and repeated the story, and asked
them to report the violation to the Milwaukee office.
As soon as I left the phone, I heard a plane entering the traffic
pattern and went outside to see Bob Harris's plane on final
approach for landing. He taxied in quite fast, and the second his
plane reached the gas pump. Bob shut off the engine and came
running towards me and charged, "Who in the hell is up there
flying with no lightson the plane?"
After I told him, Bob was absolutely furious, and he told me
how he had barely missed a collision with the other plane. I told
him that I had already reported it to the FAA, and he promptly
told me to have their agents contact him, and that he would
verify the facts. At that moment it seemed as if the student pilot
was in a lot of trouble.

200
Several days later, an FAA Safety Agent stopped at the
airport and talked to me before making out a report. He said that
he would contact the student and Bob Harris and get back to me
in a few days. The following day, however, he was back and told
me that the student pilot had produced three witnesses who
swore he had not been at the airport at that time. He added that
although Bob Harris had corroborated everything I had told
him, it was our word against the three witnesses, and that there

was nothing he could do about it. Before he left, he told me the


names of the three witnesses. found it hard to believe that three
I

of my students would lie for that man.


I told the Safety Agent that if the FAA believed the violator

and his so-called witnesses who had lied, instead of Bob Harris,
a former Navy Air Corps flight instructor, and me, I was through
with the aviation business. He repeated saying that he was sorry
and that there was nothing he could do about it.
Now that I look back on it. I'm sure that the construction of
the runway and the illegal night flight (and my reporting both of
them to the FAA), were related. I probably would have left soon
afterward anyway, even if these things hadn't happened. More
than six years of lifting the tails of our aircraft to pull them into
the hangars at night, plus the other physical activities necessary
to run a small airport, had taken their toll on my bad back. I may

have used the violation incident as a convenient excuse for


quitting, but I kept my word. According to my log book, Jim
Kirsten received my last instruction at Nicolet Airport the day I

left on October 3, 1963.


* * *

It wasn't long after I left that A1 and John Garrity sold the
airport property to real estate developer Eben DeCleene. Eben
started flying and kept the operation going for several years
before turning the property into a residential development.
Because ofmy back problem, my first priority was to get
some was service-aggravated, so I was permitted to
relief. It

enter the veteran's hospital in Milwaukee. They immediately put


me in pelvic traction for three weeks, and that temporarily
solved my problem. I spent the following two months working
in a small engine repair shop in Green Bay while I thought about

201
my future plans. I remember it vividly, because President

Kennedy was assassinated during that time.


In November, I started selling for a company I had repre-
sented in Minneapolis a few years earlier. After a few months of
working around the Green Bay area, I was offered (and ac-
cepted) the managership of the Madison, Wisconsin, office. My
wife Joyce hadn't been feeling too well, and after considerable
discussion, we decided she should stay in Green Bay while I set
up aMadison office and commute.
The minute my new office was under control, nosed around I

for flying activity. There were three airports in the Madison area,
Truax Field, Middleton, and Waunakee. I visited each of them
often, but there were very few planes for rent that interested me.
Besides, once a person owns his own airplane, it's difficult to be
satisfied flying anything else. It would be spring before did any I

more flying.

* * *

had subscribed to Trade- A-Plane newspaper for years, and


I

one morning I found an Aeronca Champ listed for sale. By


phone, I learned that it belonged to an aircraft refinishing

company Milwaukee which had converted it from a 7AC to a


in
7DC by installing a dorsal fin. The fuselage tubing had been
repaired and chromated, and all woodwork was in place and
varnished. Evidently the fuselage was ready for re-covering.
The company was planning to rig it for floats, but changed
its mind. When the work stopped, the plane had no propeller,

fabric, windshield, cowling, or hood, and the engine needed a

major overhaul. The wings were severely damaged and had not
been repaired, but new ribs and spars had been purchased. I
figured that it really was a basket case and that I might be able
to pick it up at a good price.

I drove to Milwaukee and haggled a while before buying the

Champ on my terms, but as is. Afterward, employees lifted the


65 HP Continental engine into the back of my station wagon
while I strapped the wings on top. I replaced the tail wheel with
a trailer hitch and attached it to the ball on the back of my wagon,
then towed the plane backwards a hundred miles down the
freeway to Madison.

202
Iremember playing a little joke on a service station attendant
after stopping for gas. He was in the back room when I walked

in and told him there was an airplane parked by his gas pump.
He didn't believe me until he got outside.
After the two hour pushed the plane into my garage,
trip, I

where I spent the following twelve months completely rebuild-


ing every inch of it. The Milwaukee company not only had
replaced all the woodwork, it had also installed all new pulleys
and cables. Because the fuselage was essentially finished, I
turned my attention to the engine and the wings.
bought a second 65 HP Continental engine and dismantled
I

the two of them before choosing the best crankshaft, camshaft,


pistons, etc. After grinding the valves and installing new valve
guides, rings, and main and rod bearings, the engine major
overhaul was completed.
I located a bent metal propeller on a wrecked Taylorcraft in
Stoughton, Wisconsin, and had a Minneapolis firm straighten it

before mounting on the Champ.


it

I was fortunate to have the chief mechanic at DEC Aviation,

Dan Spach, put me in contact with Wally Watson, who was both
a pilot and a mechanic for the Dairy Equipment Company in
Madison. He had produced several home-built planes in his
basement and was considered an expert. We completely rebuilt
the wings while he furnished all the technical information
necessary to properly line them up. I would have been totally lost
without him.
It was late summer by the time the engine overhaul was

completed and the wings finished, and since the fuselage was
already done, I covered the entire plane with fresh Irish linen and
butyrate dope. The plane then sat in the garage until the follow-
ing spring.
The first warm, sunny, windless day we had in late April, I

again re-connected the fuselage to the trailer hitch and towed it

out to Madison's Truax Field and installed the engine, wings,


ailerons, and elevators. By the time the entire project was
finished, I had replaced every nut, bolt, and screw in the

airplane. The assembly took a couple of weeks, and then it was


ready to move outside for taxiing to break in the newly over-
hauled engine. A week later, examiner Dan Spach inspected the

203
completed plane and signed the log books.
I felt no apprehension as I taxied out for takeoff, because it

was the sixth rebuilt airplane I was to check out. I did, however,
have a strange sense of awareness that this was the first one that

belonged solely to me. If I had to describe my feelings on takeoff,


I would say that it was like giving birth to my first baby and,
according to my log book, she was born that day, May 10, 1965.

* * *

We were watching television recently when we saw an eagle


that had been captured and held for observation and study. As
a man's firm hands gripped the huge bird in a launching position
prior to releasing it back into the air and freedom, 1 could see a
look of panic in the poor thing's eyes. Then, with a swooping
upward thrust, the man catapulted the eagle high over his head
and let go. The majestic bird started flapping its beautiful wings

and soared high into the sky.


had that same feeling of freedom as I lifted my new Champ
I

up into the world knew so well, and I would have flapped my


I

wings if it had been possible. Like the eagle, was no longer 1

earthbound, and I was closer to God where I could play tag with
His clouds.
When I finally came back to earth, 1 did so with the realiza-
tion that was not immortal, but merely a salesman who had to
I

sell to a living. Sometime, somehow, in the year since


make
leaving Nicolet Airport, flying had gradually slipped from being
my vocation to being my avocation. Business dictated that my
flying was to be restricted to evenings and weekends, so I

decided to continue my worldly activities by accepting several


offers from friends who wanted to learn to fly. One of them was
my Madison friend, Gene Manthe.
* * *

There wasn't a cloud in the sky the day of Gene's third


and we were practicing turns by following country roads
lesson,
twenty miles north of town. He was doing just fine with his
flying, so I just sat in the back seat enjoying the rural countryside.
After thirty minutes of little conversation, I became aware of the
shadow our airplane was casting on Interstate-90 below us.
Because our Aeronca Champ trainer cruised at 80 miles per

204
hour and was heading directly into a 20 mile per hour wind, the
plane's shadow was going only 60 miles per hour down the
freeway. The speed limit was 65 at that time, and I noticed that
none of the cars was passing the shadow. They must have
thought we were cops.
I told Gene to let me have the controls for a few minutes so
we could have a little fun. I pulled back on the throttle and
slowed the plane down. By the time our speed was down to 50,
had formed a line behind our shadow. We could
at least ten cars

have slowed the plane down another 10 miles per hour, but after
fiveminutes and having backed up about thirty cars, we turned
offand "let them go." That was over twenty years ago. I sure
hope none of them remember.
* * *

I still maintained my home in Green Bay and rarely missed


returning for the weekend. Joyce's condition was diagnosed as
anemia, but on each trip I noticed she was getting worse. I always
flew home when weather conditions permitted, but half the time
Ihad to drive. One weekend while I was home, I had a discussion
with Keith Downey about a problem he was having with the
Franklin engine in his Stinson Voyager. Because I had done most
of the service on his plane while we were at Nicolet, he asked if
I would take a look at it. I agreed. From his description, it

sounded as if one of the cylinders would have to be removed


from the engine to get at the source of the problem, but the
Stinson would have to be flown down to Madison for me to do
the job.
A few weeks later, I flew to Green Bay for a weekend and tied
my Champ down at Austin Straubel Field. Keith told me he had
made arrangements for someone to pick him up and bring him
back Green Bay after he flew his plane down to Truax Field in
to
Madison. Keith had his son, Roger, with him when he picked up
my son Keith and me, and the four of us headed for the airport.
We were on the outskirts of Green Bay and had just pulled onto
the highway that led to both the airport and Madison, when we
saw two university students standing alongside the road hold-
ing up signs reading "Madison."
Someone said, "We got room, let's give 'em a ride."

205
Keith pulled over and I said, "Want a ride to Madison?"
They grinned and said, "Sure!"

After they climbed into the car, we laughingly told them that
we weren't going to drive to Madison in the car, but were going
to be flying down there in our planes. When the shock wore off,
the students settled down and got to liking the idea.
My plane could carry only one passenger, so Keith took three
in the Stinson. The hitchhikers were overcome with excitement
after we landed in Madison an hour later and, like Ned Powers'
passenger in Georgia, I imagine that for years they told their

friends about the time they were hitchhiking for a car ride, but
caught a ride by air instead-and probably no one believed them,
either.

* * *

Most of the lessons I gave during the remaining years were


to my Madison friends, like Roger Krueger, Larry Williams, Jim

Roberts, and Gene Manthe, and on weekends in Green Bay to Dr.


Karl Krause, Harry Richter, Eben De Cleen, John Aerts, and my
son Kenneth. When my flight instructor rating expired on April
18, 1967, I took a flight test with an FAA Safety Agent from
Milwaukee and renewed it for the last time.
My selling territory was being expanded about that time,
and I was required to do considerable traveling. quit flying in I

the winter and found little time for it in the summer. I gave final
lessons to a few more students before writing the last entry in my
log book for flight instruction given. It was to my daughter,
Joyce, on July 30, 1968.
* * *

206
CHAPTER NINETEEN
Back to Green Bay
Extensive traveling out of the Madison office created more
problems than it solved, so I returned to Green Bay in 1969 and
opened a vacuum cleaner shop in an abandoned filling station.

Joyce still wasn't feeling very well. We took her to a doctor who
diagnosed her illness as anemia, and we treated it as such.
Meanwhile, my Champ remained tied down at Nicolet Airport,
and I did very little flying.
In the fall of 1971, 1 again replaced the tail wheel with a trailer

hitch and towed the plane backward down Libal and Baird
streets inGreen Bay. This time, however, I left the wings on.
When I came to a railroad overpass, I had to stop and measure
the clearance of the wing tips. Each wing had less than one inch
to spare on each side until I removed the wing tip lights and

gained another two inches. I then barely managed to inch


through before continuing on to the garage at my business. My
plan was to remove the fabric, inspect and bring everything up
to date, then re-cover it.

207
Because I anticipated Joyce's illness would be long and
costly, and would be needing the
I money, and because my
instructor rating was no longer valid, I felt I wouldn't be using
my Champ enough to justify keeping it. So I sold it-as is. One
month later, I rushed Joyce to the hospital where her doctor said
he had goofed on his diagnosis and that she had a virile case of
leukemia. She died two hours after admission.
* * *

Most of my activities outside business and home were at an


all time low for the following two years until I met and married
Nancy. At her suggestion, we purchased our first of three
Airstream travel trailers and started traveling extensively. For
some strange reason seemed to be pulled toward
the trailer
airports like a magnet. had already begun writing accounts of
I

my life for a possible future book, and many of the stories were
about the exploits of the many pilots I talked to around the
country.
* * *

On one trip 1 talked to Elmer Wisherd, flight instructor and


longtime manager of the Lake Flambeau Flying Service in
Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Fie told of the time an eighty year old
pilot decided to re-license and sell his Cessna 175:
"Fie kept it in its hangar next to mine for more than a year
without flying it. After rolling it out to begin the inspection, he
chocked the wheels, and the engine started on the first revolu-
tion. Then he made a series of mistakes.
"They began when he left the cockpit without turning off the
switches to stop the engine. Then he removed the chock from the
wheel before walking around the tail and removing the chock
left

from the right one. When the plane started moving forward, he
tried to enter the right door but found it locked. He quickly ran
around behind the tail again, but when he tried to climb into the
cockpit to shut off the engine, his foot came down in front of the
left wheel. When the wheel passed over his foot, it caused the
plane to make a sharp left turn and head straight for my Aeronca
Champ, parked in my open-doored hangar.
"Before the episode was over, the Cessna propeller had
chewed into and completely demolished the Champ's right

208
wing. The original price of a brand new Aeronca Champ was
about $1,200, but the total repair bill for replacing just the wing
was more than $4,000. Oh, yes! The damage to his 175 was over
$7,000.
* * *

I saw on EICHORN'S HILL LAKE AIR


the following sign
FORCE hangar in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and on Joe Araldi's
hangar in Lakeland, Florida. I wish I knew who wrote it, because
I'd like to give him credit:

PILOTS WEATHER FORECASTING STONE

CONDITION _ FORECAST

Stone is wet Rain


Stone is dry Not raining
Shadow on ground Sunny
White on ground Snowing
Can't see stone Foggy
Swinging stone Windy
Stone jumping up & down Earthquake
Stone gone Tornado

Not approved by NOAA


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
* * *

Another trip with the Airstream took me back to the love of


my life. Grand Rapids, Minnesota. While there, Ray Koski of
Nashwauk, Minnesota, said that all he wanted when he went to
the Grand Rapids airport in the winter of 1960, was to change the
oil in his Cessna 180. If he had gone to a rodeo and rode a wild

Brahman bull, he wouldn't have gotten a greater thrill, but he


says he could have done without either experience that day.
Here's the way he described what happened:
"Well, I untied the tail wheel tie-down rope, but left the wing
tie-downs secure before starting the engine. My plan was to let
it warm up before draining the oil. After setting the throttle for

209
a very slow idle, I walked into the main hangar to ask chief
mechanic Gene Voigt what grade of oil I should use. Gene cocked
his head for a second, then said it sounded like the RPMs on my
180 engine were increasing rapidly.
"When we stepped sounded as if someone were
outside, it

slowly pushing in the throttle, so I dashed over to the nearest

door on the passenger side, only to find it locked. While I was


running around the back of the plane, the RPMs were getting
near full throttle speed, and just as I reached the left door, the
right tie-down rope broke.
"I left wing strut and hung on as the plane
grabbed the
started turning around the left tie-down. After two circuits, the
left rope broke and the plane started heading for the runway.

"As it moved along, I kept jerking on the strut in order to


steer the plane where I wanted it to go. I wanted to climb inside
to operate the controls and get the throttle back, but the prop-
wash was keeping the door tightly shut.
"As the plane proceeded across the runway, I successfully
steered it between runway lights, but one light caught my foot

and broke my hold on the strut. The 180 then left the runway and
made a big circle in the middle of the field before turning and
heading straight for the hangar.
"The big hangar door was wide open and it looked as if the
plane were going inside, but the wheels hit a ditch, breaking off
the left one and causing the plane to veer to the left. It then
continued on between the coffee shop and the ramp where
planes were tied down.
"Fortunately, snowplows had left a huge pile of snow in the
180's path, and when the plane slammed into it, it was going so
fast that it went up on its nose, killed the engine, and slid all the

way through.
"Meanwhile, I got up from my spill and ran after the plane,
yelling for help. No
one in the coffee shop heard me, but
evidently airport manager Gordy Newstrom did, and came
running out with Gene Voigt right behind.
"Gene started laughing when he saw me, because when I
fell, my head slammed into the snow, and the top of my head was

literally snow white. Gene said he thought I was so scared by the

episode that it had turned my dark hair white."

210
* * *

was a museum volunteer at the "Sun 'n Fun" fly-in one


I

year in Lakeland, Florida, when the phone rang. After taking


care of his reason for calling, I identified myself and told the
caller, Glasair home-built owner, Charles D. Mason, of Nokomis,
Florida, that I was looking for funny stories for this rewrite. Here
is what he told me:
"I had a habit of changing seats while soloing my J-3 Cub
around the Boston area in 1945. 1 was only sixteen years old the
day I was climbing from the front seat to the back seat when the
crotch of my pants got caught on the back stick. The Cub
suddenly went straight up, throwing me all the way back into the
baggage compartment.
"Fortunately, there was sufficient time and altitude for me
to 'climb up' into the back seat and recover before any harm
was done."
* * *

Charles Mason also told of how he went about finding the


right wife:
"1 had liked airplanes more than girls until was about I

eighteen, and it was in the 1940s before I finally decided I liked


girls a lot. I didn't want a wife who didn't like airplanes. So, each

time I met a new girl, I took her up in a J-3 Cub. I then put her
through a series of loops before stalling out on the last one and
dropping down into a six or seven turn spin, just to judge her
reaction.
"After a number of bad experiences, I finally found Elsie
Pickard, who came out smiling, and now we have been married
thirty-eight years and still fly together."

* * *

Charles Mason's third story took place in Billerica, Massa-


chusetts, just after receiving his private license:
"I started giving rides to a young man who got airsick on
each flight. He was very persistent and wouldn't quit, even after
the day I reached back, took off his baseball cap, and held it while
he filled it with vomit. When he asked me what do with it, I told
him to throw it out the window. He did, but when we looked
down, I realized we were over downtown Lowell, and imagined

211
what someone down there must have thought if he saw it hit.
"That young man would not give up, and a few years later
he became a pilot for a major airline."
* * *

My greatest source of pilot stories came on my visits to the


EAA in Oshkosh. Associate editor for the EAA magazines.
Norm Petersen, was most helpful and encouraging by giving me
some book so far.
of the stories related in this
Another was told to him by well-known aviator and aero-
batic pilot, the late Howard Sevdy of Worthington, Minnesota.
Howard related the following two stories about close calls he
had had a few years ago:
"One day I was flying my Stinson 'Gull-wing' when the
aging fabric tore loose by the windshield and ripped itself open,
all the way back to the tail. With the torn fabric trailing some 20
feet behind the tail, and the cold wind swirling inside the 'open-
top' fuselage, I tried to slow the plane down enough to attempt
a landing. But the Stinson began to stall each time the airspeed
got below 100 miles per hour. I then made a straight-in approach
and aimed for the end of the longest available runway, where I

made a 100 mile-an-hour wheel landing— and safely coasted to


a stop."

* * *

Howard related another:


"In 1946 I bought a surplus Stearman PT-17 for $500 in
Kansas City and was flying it home from the normal (rear)
Somewhere over Iowa, the false (sponge rubber) instru-
cockpit.
ment panel in the front cockpit became unhooked and fell down
with one of its holes going over the front control stick— locking
both control sticks in neutral— and I couldn't move my stick in
any direction."
Norm interrupted the story to say that Howard was wearing
a parachute and easily could have gone over the side to save his
neck. But he had a (at that time) huge $500 invested in the
Stearman and he wasn't about to give up without a fight!
Howard continues: "I way back and
rolled the trim all the
the Stearman started to climb. Approaching 6,000 feet, the nose was
quite high as the airplane began shaking at the impending stall.

212
I quickly un-snapped my seat belt, crawled out on the wingwalk,
worked my way forward to the front cockpit, then shoved the
false panel up against the panel. I then climbed into the front
cockpit and flew the Stearman home!"
Norm added that the Stearman would be worth $100,000
today!
* * *

Speaking of money, Howard told this third story about an


experience in 1968 when he flew his newly finished Pitts "Spe-
cial" aerobatic biplane to the EAA convention in Rockford,
Illinois. Shortly after arriving, Howard was securing the pretty
red and white biplane with tiedown ropes when a man ap-
proached in a pin-stripped suit, white shirt, and tie.

"Is this airplane for sale?" he asked.


Somewhat surprised, Howard replied, "Everything I have
is for sale!"
"How much?" asked the stranger.
In those days, a good Pitts sold for around $5,000, but
Howard thought a minute before blurting out, "Couldn't let her
go for less than ten and a half ($10,500)."
The stranger reached into his pocket, pulled out a long
checkbook, wrote out a check for $10,500, and handed it to

Howard. Slightly taken aback, Howard looked at the check and


sheepishly said, "You know, if you had offered $8,500, 1 would
have taken it."

To which the stranger replied, "Don't feel bad. I was


authorized to go as high as $25,000."
Norm said he was glad he wasn't there because, "I hate to
see a grown man cry!"
* * *

One Sunday morning at Nicolet Airport, one of my students


with six hours instruction informed me that he was going to solo
that day. When I told him he wasn't quite ready, he insisted.
When I still said"No," he turned around and pointed to a dozen
relatives leaning on the fence whom he had told to come see
him solo.

My student never realized that sometimes its better not to


have one's friends and relatives watching, as this next story shows:

213
Jim Lyon of Waterloo, Iowa, told me this story at the EAA
convention:
"It started when my friend Jim Salyer asked for an airplane
ride. I was a private with 500 hours then, but told him I hadn't
flown in fifteen years. He said he would pay for my license
renewal, but I said it wastoo much trouble. then forgot about
I

it until a few days later when he approached me with our two


friends, Joe Nutting and Rod Giest, saying that they had decided
to form a flying club with me as a fourth partner.
"It sounded like a good idea, so Jim and 1 were elected to
hunt for a plane. We soon purchased a white 1 946 Aeronca Chief
with bright red trim, and called our new club the R Jays.
"They started training with instructor Ed Schoolcraft, while
Ileft on a two week vacation. The Sunday I returned, Jim called

to say they had made an appointment for me to take a check ride

with Ed that day.


"Rod, his girlfriend, Joe Nutting, Jim, and his wife arrived
at Nicols Field and parked by the active runway. They all had
ringside seats as they sat high in Jim's convertible to watch.
"I had no problem with upper-air checkout, so we came in
and I shot two landings. They were satisfactory, so Ed said that
if the next onewas as good as the first two, I should taxi over by
the convertible and let him out.
"The third was smooth, but during the roll out, the plane
jerked and veered toward the convertible. I applied both brakes,
but it didn't help. I told Ed I couldn't hold it and that we were
going to hit the convertible. At the last second, I let off the left

brake and rudder, gave it full right brake and rudder, and added
a blast of power.
"We missed the car as the plane ground-looped, and sparks
flew when the wings hit the barbed wire on top of a nearby fence.
The barbed wire also damaged the prop and stopped the engine,
but our momentum carried us into a fifteen-foot-wide cattle gate.
The Chief's nose knocked the gate wide open and exposed a ditch.
"The wings passed over the two poles on either side of the
gate— then the wheels dropped down into the ditch. When the
plane dropped, the two poles went up through the fabric,
spearing the wings.
"Ed and I jumped out to discover no structural damage
214
except for the prop, but we had two huge holes in the wing fabric.
Then we discovered the cause of our problem. The left tail wheel
spring had unfastened on the last landing.
"Funny thing, though. Before takeoff, Ed had told me that
the left door latch was damaged and wouldn't open from the
inside, and that I would have to follow him out the right door.
After the accident, however, I didn't remember what lie had said
and went out the left door anyway-but fast."
* * *

I hesitate to relate this next story, which developed at the


EAA, because it's kind of a dirty trick to play on the reader. So,
I'll apologize now and tell it anyway:
I had parked my Airstream trailer in the convention camp-

ground and, when I wasn't signing books, I was walking around


campsites with my tape recorder, asking for new stories. One
EAA volunteer said he had a story about two guys who were
flying cross-country:
"They had to go to the bathroom, and when they saw an old,
abandoned, sod airport below, they quickly circled the field and
landed. One of them ran back into the woods while the other
headed for a rickety old outhouse. He had no sooner stepped
inside when the rotten wooden floor gave way and he fell

through— up to his armpits."

Just then, a man ran up to us and told my storyteller that

he was on duty and that they had to run. As they were running
away from me, he yelled back over his shoulder for me to return
later and he would give me the rest of the story.
I wanted to ask him how the man got out and how he got

cleaned off when there were no facilities available. But although


1 made a half-dozen more trips back to where we had been

standing, never could locate him again. Sorry!


I

* * *

Marv Hoppenworth of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told this story

at the EAA:
"Before putting my J-3 Cub away for the night, I decided to
circle Livingston Airport in Waterloo, Iowa, just one more time.
It was quite windy, so as soon as the wheels left the ground, I

pulled back on the stick and climbed just above a stall to gain as

215
much altitude as I could in the shortest distance possible.
Actually, the angle of the wings to the horizon showed I was
climbing at about a 45 degree angle, while my airspeed was in
the 30s.
"Just as I reached 300 feet, the engine quit, and the wings
stalled instantly. In a fraction of a second, the Cub was heading
straight down.
"It's funny now that I recall the only thing I was thinking at
that moment was about scrounging around T-hangars trying to
find a new nose for my plane, which visualized being smashed I

to pieces next to the tetrahedron I was heading for.

"I was halfway down when I felt the controls starting to


become effective, so I pulled back on the stick and rounded out

just as I hit the ice and snow-covered ground. Enough ice flew
out from under the plane to fill martini glasses for a year.
"The Cub bounced only once before coming to rest. I got out
and was amazed to discover that there was no prop or landing
gear damage. After restarting the engine and taxiing over to my
hangar, I suddenly realized what had happened and became
completely paralyzed. I couldn't get out of the plane and had to
just sit for minutes.

"Finally, after giving thanks to God and Bill Piper that I

didn't get busted, I climbed out, put the plane away, and
went home."
* * *

Instructor Gene Turney of Magnolia, Delaware, told this to


me at one convention:
"I noticed that my new student was leaning away from
turns in the Cessna 150 we were flying, so I decided to try letting
him fly a Stinson Voyager.
"As soon as the student was secure in the left seat, we took
off and climbed straight out to 500 feet. When we started a left
turn to leave the pattern, he suddenly panicked and leaned over
to his right and lay down, grabbed my left leg, and held on for
all he was worth. He just wouldn't let go.

"My left leg was paralyzed, and I couldn't use the left rudder
or reach the flaps. I spent several minutes trying to pull him off.

I was having a terrible time trying to keep the plane under control

216
at thatlow altitude, but finally was able to use the ailerons to level
the plane. I screamed and screamed for the terrorized student to

look out the window and see that we were level before he finally
obeyed and let go."
* * *

On one of my Airstream trips to Minneapolis, I stopped in


at the Stevens Point, Wisconsin, airport and asked a pilot if he
had any interesting stories I could put in this book. It turned out
that the pilot was instructor Mike Feltz, and the following story
resulted:
Suppose you were a flight instructor and had just taken off
with a student when came on the radio saying, "MAY-
a voice
DAY! MAYDAY! Help me--my pilot's dead and I don't know
how to fly this airplane!"
What would you do?
Here is what Mike Feltz of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, did on
the morning of February 27, 1987:
"I picked up the mike in our Piper Tomahawk and asked, 'Is

this a joke?"'

'"No! I'm not a pilot, and the pilot just died! Please help
me!"' he yelled.
"Later I learned that he was Ralph Flanders, an insurance
salesman out of Tomah, Wisconsin, on his way to a meeting in
Sheboygan. His pilot had just taken off in a Cessna Cardinal RG
(retractable gear), and was still climbing when he died. He said
he knew from watching television that he should pick up the
mike and call 'Mayday.' I was giving a lesson to Dick Kirkland
when the call came in.
"When I asked Ralph for his present location, he said he
didn't know, except they had just taken off from Bloyer Field
when the pilot quit talking and slumped over dead. Fortunately
the pilot fell to his left instead of forward into the wheel. Because
of our altitude and type of radio, I knew he could be anywhere
within sixty miles, and I knew the first thing we had to do was
to teach him to just keep the plane under control.
"'Grab the wheel in front of you and steer the plane like a car
as you look out the windshield, and keep the plane level by
pushing in and out on the control wheel. I'm going to leave you

217
for a second, Ralph, and make another radio call. I'll be right
back/ and I quickly tuned to Stevens point Unicom and asked
them to locate Bloyer Field.

"When I was told that it was near Eau Claire, I switched back
to Ralph and told him I was on my way, as was turning in that
I

direction. Fortunately, when Ralph called back and said that he


was over a very large airport and saw a 747 on the ground, I knew
he was over Volk National Guard Field at the Fort McCoy base.
I didn't want to give him any landing instruction until I could see

the plane, so I told him to keep circling and don't lose sight of
the field.
"My flight instructor Joretta Graves was listening in on our
conversation, so I asked her to talk to Ralph while I contacted the
Volk control tower. Tower operator Major Young confirmed
that a small plane was in their pattern, causing a ruckus, and that
two helicopters had been sent up to investigate. They hadn't
been able to talk to Ralph because their radio used only military
frequencies, but they quickly located a proper radio and joined
Joretta and me in the action.
"As soon as I arrived and located Ralph's plane, I saw that
it was climbing, probably because the pilot had given it full

throttle and trimmed for a climb before he died. I had Ralph


locate the throttle and pull it back, but he pulled it back too far
and a warning sound went off. I didn't recognize it because I
hadn't flown a Cardinal for a long time, but Major Young did and
said it was the retractable gear warning and suggested that he
lower the gear at that time.

was a good idea, and Ralph followed our instructions


"It

and down. I saw it lock, but Ralph's plane had started to


let it

dive. He quickly obeyed my instructions, added more power,


and gradually got the plane under control. We were making
large oval shaped patterns as I tried to get closer to him, but I was
afraid of getting too close. We then spent the next 30 minutes
making minor adjustments for level, but turning, flight.
"Finally, the time came to start a landing approach. We got
Ralph lined up with the runway and he started the descent as all
of Volk's emergency equipment lined up alongside the runway.
My instruction to Ralph was to locate the mixture control knob
on the instrument panel and pull it all the way out to kill the

218
engine the second the wheels touched the runway. Unfortu-
nately, he was under so much stress, that instead of pulling the
mixture control knob all the way out, he pushed the throttle all

the way in, and the plane shot straight up from the ground to 300
feet in seconds.

"I yelled, 'Get the nose down! Get the nose down!' and Ralph

pushed the stick forward and leveled off. I never heard from him
after that because, I learned later, that violent maneuver caused

him to drop the mike and it landed in a place he could not reach.
"After that first 'practice' landing, I talked Ralph around for
another approach, and this time he did everything right. But he
hit the runway too hard, collapsing the right gear on impact. The
engine stopped when the propeller hit the runway, and the plane
skidded 500 feet off to the right.

was still a few hundred feet above him when I saw a figure
"I

jump out of the passenger side and run like a jackrabbit while the
plane was still sliding. After the plane came to a halt, the
ambulance pulled alongside Ralph, but evidently he was all right
because it continued on to remove the body from the plane.
"Major Young gave me permission and I landed. The base
commander then treated Dick and me to lunch while Ralph was
being examined by their medical people. It turned out that Ralph
was and his blood-sugar count was off after little more
diabetic
than one hour of excitement.
"Later, the FAA presented me with a commendation, as did
Governor Thompson for the Wisconsin Department of Trans-
portation, and also the city of Stevens Point. After the ceremo-
nies, 1 fixed Ralph up with a log book and signed it with one hour

of instruction by radio, and his two landings were duly


recorded."
* * *

This next statement anyone reading this book who is


is for

not a pilot. I map and determined that the


checked a Wisconsin
Volk Air Base was 100 miles from Mike's location when he
received that first Mayday call. It took an hour for him to
determine Ralph's position and to fly over beside him. That
means Ralph's airplane literally flew itself for that hour.
When was instructing, told my beginning students
I I that

219
when they finished their pilot training, they would not be flying
airplanes, because an airplane is made to fly itself. You, as a pilot,
will simply activate the controls to tell the plane when to start

and where to go. That is why small airplanes are so safe.


One of the students recommended for a flight test with Don
I

Woods once asked Don to explain the difference between flying


an Aeronca Champ and a commercial airliner. I always liked
Don's answer: "There is you do
no difference," he said. "All
with any airplaneis just get in, push and pull things until you get

where you're going. Then, when you get there, shut everything
off."

* * *

The winter following my story-gathering tour throughout


Minnesota and Wisconsin, I decided to make an Arizona-Texas-
Florida tour to promote my original Piper Cub book.
I had just pulled off highway 10 onto Kolb Road in the
southeast section of Tucson, Arizona, looking for the Pima Air
Museum, when I missed a left turn. As I continued straight ahead
past the massive Davis-Monthan Air Force Base sprawled off to
my left, saw row after row of old fighter planes, tied down and
I

deactivated.
When I lookedacross the road to the right, I was shocked to
see hundreds of old military, airline, and civilian airplanes
literally being chopped into little pieces. I had stumbled onto a

national airplane graveyard. It was a sad sight for a person like


me who loved old airplanes and who had devoted much of his
flying career to rebuilding, restoring, and repairing them. With
a heavy heart, I estimated that billions of dollars had been spent
in the manufacture of those wonderful flying machines.

turned around, headed back, and made the Valencia Road


I

turnoff I had missed. A mile down the road, stopped at the huge 1

Pima Museum where I met Deputy Director for Operations,


Tom Swanton, and spent the following ten days autographing
hundreds of my Piper Cub books in the museum's gift shop. By
the time I was ready to leave, the upbeat spirit of the museum
personnel had completely altered the depressed feelings I had
had when I arrived The day I left, Tom supplied me with the
.

following information:

220
The idea for the museum was conceived by a group of
military and civilian enthusiasts in 1966, and construction au-
thorization came within a year. It started with 30 fenced-in acres
and increased to its present 75 acres. The number of aircraft has
grown from 75 to the more than 200 it has now.
The Pima Air Museum is the largest privately financed air

museum in existence, and its aircraft collection is one of the


largest in the world. Outside, over 180 vintage and current
aircraft (some so rare they can be seen nowhere else) are on

display, including helicopters, drones, an SR-71 Blackbird, a B-


52, B-29, and a B-17 on loan from a USAF museum.
The 24,000 sq. ft. "Hangar Three" is dedicated solely to
aircraft restoration, while the 20,000 sq. ft. "Hangar One"
protects the more fragile fabric-covered planes. (I should say
that they protect MOST fabric-covered planes. Their only Cessna
120, similar to the one I flew to California, is tied down just

outside Tom's office, and I somehow felt the urge to go out each
cool night and cover its wings to keep it warm.)
* * *

After leaving the Pima Museum, I worked my way south


and east until I arrived in Lakeland, Florida. Since I arrived a
month early for the EAA "Sun 'n Fun" fly-in, gift shop manager
Jeanne Parker suggested I become an early-bird volunteer.
I agreed and spent the four weeks in the "Sun 'n Fun"
museum working with Arthur Henderson, Debbie Johnson, and
Milton Voight. Pilot John Kvale from Norway was also a volun-
teer,and he was responsible for mounting hundreds of model
airplanes for display.Working there gave me a lot of time for
gathering new pilot stories. Here is one:
"My name is Robert Miller and I live in Kennesaw, Georgia.
A few years ago I was figuring the weight and balance of my
Cessna 172 in preparation to taking my father, mother, and sister
on a flight from Orange County, California, to San Diego. My
mother and sister were already a little apprehensive about the
trip before I asked for their weight.
"A few minutes later they returned and asked why I wanted
to know how much they weighed. After carefully explaining that
the plane would carry only so much weight and had to be

221
properly loaded to ensure a safe flight, mother just said, 'Oh,'

and left. I then told the line boy to 'Fill 'er up.'
"After they again returned and 'fessed-up' that they actu-
ally weighed fifteen pounds more than they had told me, I had
to ask the operator to remove six or seven gallons. He was quite
upset until 1 told him the story, but after everyone within earshot
finished laughing, they complied."
* * *

Another told by Earl Wiley of Raleigh, North Carolina:


"I had just glided down to 2,000 feet in my Schweizer 126

by a Cessna 1 72 tow plane at 3,000 feet,


glider after being released
when suddenly I got a updraft. I also got something else-
terrific

-a companion. A beautiful red-winged hawk flew alongside me

so close I could have reached out and pulled his tail feathers.
"I kept saying, 'Hello bird! How are you?' and a lot of other
small talk until 1 leveled off at 3,000 and he kept on going up."
* * *

joe Araldi of Lakeland, Florida, flight instructor, and builder


of the "Little Rocket" airplane replica he loaned to the "Sun 'n
Fun" museum told me this one:

"l was at 700 feet on final at a small airport in Alabama in the


early '60s when
huge owl suddenly appeared in front of us
a
carrying a large rabbit in his claws. The owl let go of his prey and
flew over us, but the poor rabbit smashed into the co-pilot
windshield.
"Too bad he hit the windshield instead of the engine. I would
like to have seen the report of the tear-down, listing cause of
destruction, "ingestion of a rabbit."
* * *

222
On a recent trip through Missouri, I found myself ducking
into every small airport along our way. We were returning from
the Truman Library in Independence when I discovered the East
Kansas City Airport, a few miles east in Grain Valley and just

across the road from our campsite.


During my three hour visit, I recorded a number of interest-
ing stories, but the following was the one I best remembered. I'll

let George tell it:

"My name is George Me Laird. My most startling story


began when an old man of ninety came into this office and said
he had learned to fly during World War and, although he hadn't
I

flown for seventy years, he wanted to start taking lessons to

resume his flying. I found it incredible, but I started his lessons


that day. He amazed me with his skill and it wasn't long before
he actually soloed.
"Then I began thinking about the consequences that his age
might cause, and told him that he could no longer solo. I thought

223
he would be upset when I revoked his license, but it didn't seem
to bother him and he said that he wanted to continue his flying
with me in the plane. That was fine with me.
"We went right out to the airplane and took off cross-
country towards the Butler, Missouri, airport. He seemed quite
alertand enjoying himself until the airport came into view. He
then seemed to have difficulty locating it, although it was in plain
sight. Suddenly, he asked me to take the controls because he
didn't feel too good.
"1 took over and was turning back towards Grain Valley
when saw the old man's head starting to droop. A minute later,
I

when I saw his shoulders slowly slouching down in the seat, I


quickly pickedup the microphone and radioed ahead for an
ambulance to meet us at the airport. I made a straight-in
approach and fast-taxied to the spot where I saw the medical
people waiting. I down and threw the door open
shut the engine
as the men remove the man from the front seat. They
arrived to
carefully carried him in here and laid him on that couch, right
there where you're sitting. A few minutes later they told us he
was dead. They said that apparently he had had a heart attack
in the plane, but had lived just long enough to get back here.
"He was ninety-one years old when he went out that day-
doing exactly what he wanted to do."
* * *

Another instructor at Grain Valley told of the day his dad


brought him out to this airport when he was a kid, and he got to
see Charles Lindbergh land in an old Ryan. The instructor
described the plane in detail and said that Lindbergh took off in
that plane and did a series of loops, chandelles, spins, snap-rolls,
and many other maneuvers. "Most people never knew that
Lindbergh was one hell of an acrobatic pilot," he said.
* * *

Of course Charles Lindbergh was a fabulous pilot. But who


ever heard of Charlie Fower and his wife, Marie? The answer to
that question is— lots of people— during the roaring twenties.
After leaving the Grain Valley airport, we reconnected the
Airstream and drove over to my old home town, Macon,
Missouri. While I was there, the Macon Public Library made

224
several pictures available to me including one showing Marie
hanging by her teeth while Charlie sat in the rear cockpit doing
The printing on the tail read, "I say she
the flying. is." That
probably meant that she was a "real daredevil."

Marie Power hangs by her teeth from the undercarriage of

a "Standard" biplane, while Charlie pilots from the rear


seat. It was all in a day's work for Charlie and Marie

Fower. — Photo Courtesy Macon, Missouri Public Library.

225
I thought the plane was a World War I Jenny, but recently I

talked to Charlie's mechanic. Miller Hogan, who now lives in


Minneapolis, and he corrected me by saying that the circus
planes were "Standards," and that Charlie actually owned three
of them.
Miller also said that he was with Charlie when they met
Marie in St. Louis in the early 1920s. A short time later Charlie
and Marie married and moved back to Macon where they took
over a flying circus that had belonged to Marie's father. They
re-named it, "The Marie Meyer Flying Circus." Charlie did the
piloting while Marie did the daredevil wing-walking stunts, and
they barnstormed all over the Middle West during that turbulent
decade. Charlie was a real aviation pioneer, and a whole book
could be written about the accomplishments of both him and
Marie.
My brother, Chris, was a reporter and photographer for the
Macon Chronicle Herald newspaper during the 1930s and he
knew Charlie Fower well. Chris told many stories about Charlie
and Marie during my childhood, and now wish I I had notes or
tape recordings of them to refresh my memory.
Chris was nine years older than I, and I remember seeing him
build a four-foot model airplane when I was only five years old.
That must have had some influence on me
I had built because
more than 200 small wind-up rubber band models for myself and
another 100 for other kids by the time I was ten.
* * *

I often search my mind, trying to remember the very first


time I ever saw Charlie's airplane, and I keep coming back to a

vision of leaflets falling from the sky. Local merchants hired


Charlie to fly over town and dump thousands of multi-colored
advertisements, enticing us to buy their products. I don't re-
member ever looking at the wording, but it was like a circus as
we kids ran all over the neighborhood trying to see who could
collect the most.
Nearly thirty years young man approached me at
later, a

Nicolet Airport with a plan to drop two thousand little handbills


advertising an upcoming festival at St. Norbert College in De
Pere. The childhood memories it brought back enticed me, and
Ioffered to drop them just for the thrill of it.
226
A week later the leaflets were delivered and we loaded them
into a Champ. I took off and flew over the college, and as I

released them, I thought of Charlie and how he must have


enjoyed the spectacle of tiny bills fluttering downward like

thousands of colored snowflakes.


It was quite windy that morning, and I never realized the
wind would have on the leaflets. Fortunately, most of
effect the

them drifted past the college and landed in the Fox River beyond,
because a De Pere Police squad car arrived at the airport before
noon with an officer who demanded to know, "Just who dropped
all that litter?"
After I confessed, I was issued a warning that if I ever did it

again, he would make me crawl all over town on my hands and


knees and pick them up, one by one. Evidently there was no
romance in that man's soul, and I quickly realized that another
colorful era of aviation history had come to an end.
* * *

Back to Charlie Fower. him many times when I


I talked to
was younger, and can't remember exactly what he said, but I
know it made me want to get my hands on the controls and take
an airplane up into the clouds. It must have been his influence
that induced me to go down to a Skelly service station each week
in 1930 and pick up the "Jimmy Allen Flying Lessons," when I
was only eight years old. The Skelly Oil Company made the free
lessons in flying available at all their filling stations around the
country, and they were meant to teach kids to fly. I anxiously
walked to the station each Saturday to get the next lesson, and
by the time I had finished the course, I was POSITIVE I could take
an airplane off and land it with no further instruction.
The Jimmy Allen lessons were written by World War I pilot,
Captain Frank Hawks, and I remember him saying in one of the
lessons on takeoffs, "Never take off in a crosswind." It was
he was later killed while taking off in a crosswind.
ironic, because

Planes were made differently in those days and had many


dangerous characteristics.
During my visit to Macon, I talked to Claire Linn, whose
mother was a close friend of Marie Fower. She told me that all
the time Marie was doing her daredevil feats she had one

227
constant fear— riding in automobiles. Claire's mother was in the
car with Marie when a drunken driver entered on a their lane
highway in Arkansas, and— you guessed it— Marie and Claire's
mother were killed along with a friend. Marie had performed all
the daredevil airplane stunts without mishap, but she didn't
survive that car wreck in May of 1956.
* * *

My memories of Charlie do not include his old


earliest

Standards because I never saw them, but I do remember another


plane which linked him to Charles Lindbergh.
I'm sure few people in the world know that during the 1920s,
the Ryan Aircraft Company in California manufactured at least
150 "Whirlwind-Brougham" airplanes, and that one of them
was later modified and called "The Spirit of St. Louis."
Almost everyone knows about that one, but I was surprised
to see another "Spirit" in the Ford Museum in Dearborn,
Michigan. At first I must have been the original, on
thought it

loan from the Smithsonian, but I learned that more than one of
that model existed.
Hollywood's Paul Mantz and Jimmy Stewart lo-
In 1956,
cated two of the aged and disintegrating Brougham models and
had them rebuilt to Charles Lindbergh's personal specifications.
After Lindbergh declared that the exteriors were exactly the
same as the famous one he flew to Paris, the two planes were
used to film the movie, "Spirit of St. Louis," starring Jimmy
Stewart. The were different, however, because it was
interiors
necessary to use a movie camera inside the plane.
Henry Ford was interested in many things besides cars, and
the day we walked into the museum my attention was immedi-
ately grabbed when I saw the "Spirit" in the aviation division.
It was parked near the Ford Tri-motor airplane that Admiral

Byrd used at the South Pole in the 1920s. I remember seeing a


movie newsreel which showed how Admiral Byrd completely
buried the Tri-motor in the snow for protection before returning
to the United States for a The plane was in perfect shape
visit.

when they dug it out after he returned to the South Pole.


During the 1930s, the Ford Motor Company developed a
small airplane called "The Flivver." Henry Ford had planned to

228
mass produce it and to put one in every garage, much like his

Model T. But he cancelled the whole project when his test pilot
was killed in the third one manufactured. One of the prototype
models of the Flivver is hanging over the aviation section at the

Ford Museum.
When I was a kid in Macon, Missouri, 1 was told that the
plane we saw flying up in the sky was a sister ship to the Spirit
of St. Louis, but now I know it was just another one of the 150
Broughams that were built. Charlie Fower had flown a Brougham
for the Robertson Flying service in St. Louis, and then purchased
it from Robertson before he left to go back to Macon. The
Macon
library also gave me a picture of Charlie Fower's Brougham at
Lambert Field in St Louis before the purchase.

Charlie Fower's Ryan "Brougham" at St. Louis, just


before he purchased it in 1925.

— Photo Courtesy of Macon, Missouri Public Library.

While I was going through the microfilm issues of the Macon


Chronicle Herald newspaper, I came across an article dated
October 25, 1931. The front page headline read "AL CAPONE
GETS 11 YEARS," but directly below it, a smaller header read
"THE BIG PLANE WAS OFF AT 6:22." That was in reference to
229
the day Charlie flew four men in the Ryan to Washington, D.C.,
when Charlie applied for a broadcast radio license.
I was told as a child that a sad end came to Charlie's Ryan
one day in the late 1930s. Although he was popular with people
interested in aviation, there were a few people in Macon who
weren't too happy with him. Someone sneaked into his hangar
near the Macon County fairgrounds with a shotgun one night
and blasted his beautiful airplane to pieces. I was about fifteen
years old at the time and never understood the politics of the
town, but I sure was sick when heard
I the news. To the best of
my knowledge no one was ever accused or found guilty of the
crime, and no motive was ever discovered. When I talked to
Miller Hogan, he went on to say that the shotgun blasts de-
stroyed both wings, the gas tank, and the instrument panel. He
said Charlie junked it after that.
It was during the time Charlie was flying for the Robertson
Flying Service that he met Charles Lindbergh. A third picture

Charlie Fower (left) and Charles Lindbergh at St. Louis, in 1925. -

- Photo Courtesy of Macon, Missouri Public Library.

230
from the Macon library showed Charlie talking to Lindbergh in
St. Louis several years before Lindbergh's historic flight in 1927.
Lindbergh was wearing a parachute when the picture was taken,
and I may have been getting ready to do
guessed that either he
aerobatics or had just come down from doing them, but he flew
open-cockpit mail planes during that period and possibly wore
a parachute for that. I'd give anything to be able to step into that
picture and ask questions.
Charlie was still living in 1940 when I left Macon after
graduating from high school. He died in bed February 2, 1967.
If you and decide to fly to Macon, Missouri, you
are a pilot
will land at the Fower Airport, which was dedicated to Charlie's
memory. I'm sure that observing Charlie's planes, and his flying,
had a lot to do with my becoming a commercial pilot and flight
instructor more than thirty years later.
* * *

While was going through the Macon Chronicle Herald


I

newspapers, I came across an article which had nothing to do

with Charlie, but it was so funny I just had to copy it:


The headline read, "AIR TRAP FOR PLANES BLAMED IN
THREE FALLS." The January 2, 1925, article was from Croton,
New York. "Recalling that two other airplanes had fallen in
separate accidents in Croton a short way from where Sgt. Samuel
Turner, U.S. Army, fell 2,000 feet recently, Judge Anderson and
other residents expressed the opinion that Croton has an 'Air
Trap.' Like Turner, the other aviators escaped with minor injuries."
* * *

Three days of researching the life of Charlie Fower in the

Chronicle Herald's microfilm department put quite a strain on


my eyes and neck, and I was able to make it only from 1925 to
1 935 before throwing in the towel. For a change of pace on the last

day, I drove out to Fower Airport in time to see a Cessna 1 80 land


and pull up to the gas pump.
I watched a man in uniform emerge from the pilot seat and

stop under the right wing. A few seconds later, a civilian climbed
out of the plane and the two men began removing a strange-
looking tubed structure from a jury strut. My curiosity got the
better of me, so I ambled out to the ramp and inquired, "What

231
the heck is that gadget?"
The men were most friendly and happy to explain what they
were doing. They were with the Missouri Department of Conser-
vation and had just returned from a flight on which they had
been monitoring a herd of female deer. During earlier ground
trips, the men had tagged the deer before equipping them with

tiny radio transmitters. The rigging they were removing from


the plane's wing struts had been installed to hold a small high-

frequency receiver which received the signals transmitted from


the does. This enabled them to pinpoint the exact locations of
the deer.
After the man in the uniform took off for Jefferson City, I

walked alongside Kevin Dixon as he continued to explain their


mission. "We've tagged seventy-eight does so far. Our reason
for tracking the deer is to determine their position, number, just

how many fawns they have, where and when they travel, how
long they and what they die from. We do the same for birds
live,

and other wildlife, and it's a year-round job."


One never knows what he's going to learn when he visits an
airport and asks questions.
* * *

232
1991.

in

Airport

Fower

Macon's

at

Airstream

Bev's

233
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
The Final Chapter
The final chapter of this book is significant for several
reasons. One is that this may be my last endeavor at writing a
Cub Era" book was published in
book. After the original "Piper
April, 1991, my second, "REFLECTIONS from the BACK ROADS
of AMERICA" was published in April, 1992, and the third, "GO
IN BACKWARD and they'll think you're leaving" in December,
1992. Now, because the original Piper Cub Era book did very
well, a second printing is needed. Rather than just reprint that
first edition as it is, I decided to expand and create this revised
edition.
My wife, Nancy, had always traveled with me to fly-ins and
shows to promote the book and record flying stories, and she
air

was my editor and best critic. In April, 1992, however, she died
from thyroid cancer. Because she always encouraged me to keep
my pilot license current and continue traveling, I devoted the
summer to touring the midwest talking to pilots. This revised
edition is the result and, appropriately, dedicated to her.

234
To begin with, here is the final chapter of the original book
with updates:
* * *

During my inactive days after selling my Champ, I still

visited Nicolet Airport to see old friends and meet new ones. In
1970 1 young lady who was a visiting member
met Noel Clark, a
of the Civil Air Patrol. She had just received her commercial
license and flight instructor rating, and although I never had any
further association with her at the time, I remembered her
because she appeared to be quite young to be holding those
ratings.
Twenty years later I was visiting airports around the Green
Bay area, trying to locate Nicolet pilots from the old days. When
I walked into the flight shack at Carter Airport in Pulaski, Noel

was the very first person I saw. During our chat, she informed
me that she was a full-time instructor there when she wasn't
flying co-pilot in a Lear-55 Jet for the Fort Howard Paper
Company. She said that she had enough hours for a jet rating, but
hadn't taken the flight test. Update: Noel passed!
* * *

I gave Ardo Mariucci a and got an update on his Mini-


call

plane. He said that after he, Jerry, and Bill flew it around the
Nicolet Airport area for a few years, Jerry sold out to Ardo and
Bill. Later, they flipped a coin. Bill won and bought out Ardo.

Two years after that, Bill sold the plane to George Chandler, Jr.
in Barre, Vermont. George replaced the 85 HPContinental en-
gine with a 100 HPLycoming engine and changed the cowling
accordingly.
George sold the Mini-plane to a crop duster in Alabama,
who in turn sold it to retired naval pilot. Bill Schute, in Jackson-
ville, Florida. Schute flew it for six months before putting it in

storage for two years. At that time, he decided to donate it to the


City of Jacksonville to be mounted at the entry to the "Air Wing
Search and Rescue Unit" as an attraction. To make it more
presentable. Bill decided to re-cover it.

When he removed the old covering. Bill discovered Ardo's


name and address written in indelible ink on a label attached to
the tubing near the rear of the fuselage. That prompted a long

235
distance call to Ardo and began one and a half years of negotia-
tions. Ardo finally talked Bill into trading the beloved Mini-
plane back to him for the Sonerai, (a low-wing, 2-place, tandem,
metal -wing, fabric-fuselage, VW engine-driven airplane) that
Ardo then owned.
Update: Ardo has rebuilt the Mini-plane and it is still flying.

* * *

My interest in flying gradually diminished and finally


dropped to zero when we started RVing. It started coming back
after Carter Airport manager and instructor, Ted Baxter, flew a
test flight with me torenew my license in 1975, but the absence
of an airplane of my own caused it to dip again. In 1985 I drove
up to Grand Rapids and passed the flight test to renew it again
before driving over to a Brainerd, Minnesota, seaplane rally.

In 1989 I drove back to Grand Rapids for more stories and


information from Ned. While we were sitting alongside his
Citabria and Roland Matson flew in from southern
talking. Dr.
Minnesota in a Cherokee to take an acrobatic lesson in Ned's
plane.
Dr. Matson is an FAA designated physician and, after a short
discussion about my flying status, I made an appointment for
him to give me an airman's physical upon his return home. The
following Monday drove 300 miles south to Spring Valley,
I

Minnesota, and passed before returning to Green Bay and taking


the flight test in a J-3 Cub with Noel Clark at the Pulaski airport.
Once more, I am a licensed pilot for the next two years. Yippee!
Update: In 1992 I again drove over to Dr. Matson and, after
he gave me the story about his wife, Marilyn, talking to the
Rochester, Minnesota, control tower, I passed my physical and
returned to Green Bay to take the flight test with my old friend,
Armand Ullmer in his Taylorcraft. I'm now licenced until 1994.
Yippee— again!
* * *

The inside of the Airstream looks exactly like a DC -3, so I felt


right at home when we started traveling extensively, and since
then have traveled more than 150,000 miles throughout the
United States and Canada.
While driving between campgrounds, I was able to tape

236
record many were happening as we traveled, as
incidents that
well as occurrences I recalled from my past.
When 1 wasn't driving, I was typing out the recorded
messages and gradually was able to put together the autobiog-
raphy which led to three books, including the first edition of this
one.
Update: With Nancy's help, my Piper Cub book was ac-
cepted for sale by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington,
D.C. The Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh not only
accepted it, they invited me to sit in the author's corner at the past
two conventions. Also, the book is now in the Pima Air Museum
in Tucson, Arizona, and the "Sun 'n Fun" gift shop in Lakeland,
Florida.

Rev in Author's Corner - 1991 EAA photo by Bob Miller

237
Space Shuttle goes up between Mercury and Airstream in 1984.

238
* * *

During our travels, Nancy and I visited many airports


throughout the country, including the Confederate Air Force in
Flarlingen, Texas.On one trip to North Carolina, we stopped at
Kitty Hawk and saw the field the Wright Brothers had used for
their historic first flight.

* * *

Thismay hearten some of our "older" pilots. I was seventy


years old when visited my niece, Ruth Ann, in Niceville,
I

Florida. Her husband, John Carroll, is a former Navy carrier pilot


whose license had expired. My license was current, so we went
to a small nearby airport where I could get checked out in a
Cessna. Although I hadn't flown a 172 in more than thirty years,
after just two takeoffs and landings, instructor Bret Frey, got out
and told me to take it.

* * *

Although it isn't exactly an airport, we have toured the


Kennedy Space Center in Florida several times. In 1984, 1 arrived

in that area just prior to the launching of one of our space vehicles
and fortunate to get a series of twelve pictures of it going up from
Cape Canaveral before it passed out of camera view.
* * *

We have attended the EAA convention in Oshkosh many


times, and one year I nearly got hooked on ultralights-but not
quite. never actually flew one there, but I did go so far as to make
I

an appointment for a trial flight. (The man didn't show up.) I


even considered getting into the business by opening an ultralight
airport.
UPDATE: I flew Jeff Hudson’s RANS S-12 AIRAILE during
the 1993 "Sun'Fun" fly-in in Florida.
* * *

When am not RVing,


I I stick close to home. It's pretty quiet
out here in rural Maribel, Wisconsin, most of the time, and I

break the monotony by making a few phone calls to some of my


old students. I really got a surprise after calling Cletus Cisler, one
"dumb farmer" incident in Milwau-
of the pilots in the so-called
kee. He informed me that Nicolet Airport lives again! More than

239
Bay.

Green

of

south

miles

20

strip,

farm

liis

on

it

lands

Buchholz

Mel

Champ.

..My

Baby.

My
twenty years after our old Nicolet Airport had dosed, Cletus
bought property a few miles east of Green Bay on Humbolt Road
and built a brand new airport. He got FAA approval to name it

Nicolet. It is now listed as such on Green Bay sectional charts.


* * *

I had a pleasant surprise the other day when our local


Maribel flying farmer, Norman Knuth, dropped by. He flew out
of Nicolet Airport after I left in 1963. Norm got his private
license, constructed a runway on his farm less than two miles
from our house, and bought a 1965 Champion Citabria. Ned
Powers' model Citabria was made by Bellanca. Norm
later

called the other day and asked if I wanted to go flying. After I


drove over to his farm, we took off and did an hour of chandelles.
It was the first time in twenty years that had sat in the back seat
1

of a plane and instructed, and it really felt great. It was like riding
a bicycle again after many years. One never forgets.

* * *

Since my retirement in 1984, besides writing, much of my


time has been devoted to rebuilding and painting the house,
planting and harvesting the vegetables from the huge garden,
picking and canning apples, pears, cherries, and plums from the
trees, and in keeping the huge lawn under control. I had almost
forgotten about my old Champ until one day, while working in

the yard, I I looked up to see the


heard a very familiar sound.
N84171 number on the side of Champ's fuselage as it passed
a
over our Maribel property. It was my baby! My plane!
Upon investigation, learned that my former student, Mel
I

Buchholz, the flying farmer who made that fantastic landing in


a 50 mile-an-hour wind more than a quarter century ago, now
owns my old Champ and has a landing strip on his farm only five
miles from my house. I have been over to his farm and flown with
him many times. On my last visit, we started him out on lazy 8's
and chandelles.
Last summer Mel took my two visiting grandchildren up for
their very first airplane ride in my baby. I took a picture of them
just as Mel was setting the plane down, and when looked I

closely, I could barely see the tiny heads of Cody and Ashley
through the rear window.

241
When I am not traveling, most of my leisure time is spent at
the computer, writing. Occasionally, I invite old pilot friends
over for a cook-out and to talk over old times. Mike was out
recently, and while we were sitting in the den, we heard that
unmistakable crackle of its 65 horse. Continental engine, and
someone yelled, "It's Mel!" We ran outside to see old N84171
losing altitude and heading straight for us. As it passed over our
heads, we waved as if to say, "Hello, old friend."
After two more passes, my old Champ, my baby, the one I

gave birth Madison many years ago, dipped its wings as if


to in

to say, "Goodbye, old friend," turned westward towards the


setting sun, and passed out of sight.

THE END

Or, then again, maybe not ....

* * *

When I gave the original manuscript for the first edition of


PIPER CUB ERA to JONES PUBLISHING, it was turned over to
editor David Sakrison to do whatever. . .

When I saw that he had added "or, then again, maybe not"
after THE END, I felt as if he may have had a premonition.
He had. And here's the "maybe not":
* * *

David and I worked closely during those months, and we


have become very good friends since. He was still a student pilot
at that time, and I lost no opportunity to keep needling him to get

his private license so we could go "Take a fly" together. Recently


I received the following letter from him:
* * *

"Dear Bev,

Well, I finally did it! On July 30, I took the flight test and
passed on the first try. The reason I didn't let you know right
away was because of a special ride I had to give first— to my Dad.
"It was September before we could get together and, as I was

242
flying our club's Cessna 150 over southern Wisconsin toward
Madison to pick him up, I was overcome with thoughts of Dad's
flying days during World War II.
"It was 1942 when Dad became a C-47 pilot and instructor,

and by 1944 he was dropping parachutists and towing gliders


over France and Belgium at St. Lo, Bastogne, crossing of the
Rhine, and during the airborne Invasion of Holland.
"Now, here I was, a mere private pilot son, giving this
aviation 'giant' a ride in this tiny airplane.
"Dad was a good passenger and enjoyed it for what it was.
Back on the ground, he made a few kind remarks and gave me
a tip on traffic patterns before getting in the car and leaving.
"I was going through my preflight for takeoff when I saw
Dad's car returning. I quickly searched the plane for an item he
may have forgotten before getting out and meeting him halfway.
"'Here, son. I want you to have these,' he said as he opened
his hand to reveal his Army Air Force sterling silver wings.
'There are 900 hours of C-47 time on them. Wear them proudly.'
We put our arms around each other, and without another word.
Dad turned and walked away.
"I had just completed my REAL check ride, and passed."
Eight months later, David's dad died. He is now in good
hands - so are his silver wings.
* * *

Taking David's lead into the "maybe not" before bringing


I think we should address the question, "Is
this edition to a close,

the Piper Cub Era really over?" I've talked to many dozens of
pilots from throughout the country about it. Most agree that, as

I knew it during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, definitely, the Piper Cub
era is over.
Manufacturers are no longer making the small Cubs, Champs,
Cessnas, and Taylorcrafts that we saw overhead nearly every
day. We rarely see any of them anymore, except for an occasional
one heading Manitowoc, Madison, Green Bay, or Oshkosh
for

for a fly-in. Gradually, they are all becoming museum pieces to


be looked at, not flown.
But, like Norm Petersen said on the back cover: "Perhaps
it does continue today in a slightly different form and we are just
too blind to recognize it."

243
* * *

That different form may very well be with the experimental


and the ultralight. One of the most encouraging signs I saw in my
travels came on my visit with Phil Lockwood and Jeff Hudson
at Lockwood Aviation in Lake Wales, Florida. They have been
in the ultralight business for twenty years and are in the process
of opening a new and complete facility in Sebring, Florida, where
they will be selling engines, parts, ultralight kits, and completed
planes. A complete service department will be set up for all
phases of the operation.
An ultralight flight school will be established with two-
seaters for instruction. When the instructor feels you're ready,
single seaters will be available for rent for solo flights. Now, if we
can just get schools like that set up around the country at all of
our little airports, it might start a new "Ultralight Era."
* * *

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Federal Aviation Administra-


tion officials would sit down with a blank map of the United
States and redo all controlled areas and zones, giving military
aircraft and airlines the space necessary for taking off and
landing at larger airports, in addition to the necessary climb-out
ALL
corridors and air lanes at upper altitude-then designating
ABSOLUTELY uncontrolled under 5,000
the rest of the country
feet-where we could fly under VFR rules with no radios or
transponders? THEN LEAVE US ALONE?

THE END

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this book, take that joy and

mul tiply it times 1 00 and you will have a fair idea of the joy I ha ve
received writing it. It was a labor of love.
Arranging and editing the copy made it necessary for me to
read and re-read it at least forty times. But I am not through. I will
read it again and again to relive the most wonderful period of my
life during the glorious Piper Cub Era.

Much love,
Bev

244
Ifyou enjoyed Bev's style of writing, you might be interested
in reading his other two published books.
* * *

"REFLECTIONS from the Back Roads of America," originally


called "RV WITH ME, but laugh at my name and I'll hit you with
my purse," is about Bev traveling around the United States and
Canada in an Airstream trailer, recalling his life, and describing
what he sees along the road.
* * *

"GO IN BACKWARD and they'll think you're leaving" is a


hilarious book about Bev's trials and tribulations as a door to

door salesman during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

Personally autographed copies of any of the three, with any


name included, may be mailed anywhere in the world. Order
direct from:

Bev Butler
Maribel, WI 54227
(414) 863 8245

"PIPER CUB ERA" $14.95


"REFLECTIONS" $14.95
"GO IN BACKWARD" $14.95
Any two $25.00
All three $35.00

Add $2 for postage and handling

All of Bev's stories are true.

Attention Pilots!

I am still collecting funny and unusual stories about flying. If you


have one you wish to share, please send it to me and may I

include new book called "More Stories from the Piper


it in a
Cub Era." Stories may be written or on cassette, but must be true.

245
PIPER CUB ERA
at Nicolet Airport

By Mr. Beverly M. Butler


Between the covers of this book, author Bev
Butler has captured the upbeat mood and spirit of
adventure of one of the most memorable periods in
aviation history - The Piper Cub Era.

That glorious age started in the 1930s when Cessnas, Stinsons,


Aeroncas, Taylorcrafts, Luscombes, Fairchilds, Pipers and, in fact,
ALL small airplanes were CALLED "Piper Cubs."

In this book you will readmore than 260 true adventures about
real pilots. Some were hilarious, some were down-
of their antics
right stupid and, unfortunately, some were tragic.

Is this era is over? As Bev knew it during the 50s, 60s, and 70s,
perhaps. Then perhaps it does continue today in a slightly differ-
ent form and we are just too blind to recognize it.

One thing for sure-here, with words, Bev has captured that
wonderful era as it existed then. Today, the EAA is striving to
preserve this American Phenomenon in reality. It's the envy of
aviators world-wide.

As you enjoythis book, savor its contents. You


are tasting history. I was'dbsolutely unable to put
it down.

Norm Petersen
Associate Editor
Experimental Aircraft Association
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
ISBN 1-879825-01-5
$14.95