Fancy over Indian River Merritt Island, FL

Thursday, July 5, 2007

45th Anniversary of My First Solo

07 22 62 Piper J-3 N21609 1st supervised solo GMD 95275 1:00 solo.

This is the entry made by my flight instructor George M Donnelly on that day. I can remember our first flights in his J-3 Piper Cub manufactured in 1938. I was sitting in the back of course and in the front seat yelling at me almost constantly was this bald headed man who I considered to be very old. He was 43! George was a WWII Army Air Corps veteran pilot. To me it was amazing that someone who was this old could still do this.
Going through my log book the entries read, 06 15 62 stalls – turns, 06 22 spins – cord. Excersizes , 06 23 accidental spins, 06 30 four forced landings, S turns, stalls, spins TO & ldgs, etc. The good old days lots of spins and stalls! Anyway lots of yelling and lots of action. Of course we had no radio or intercom and the only way he could instruct was to yell. It was’nt all friendly yelling either. In fact one time one of the people on the ground said they could hear George yelling at me as we flew around the airport.
Anyway crunch time came after about eleven hours of this abuse. So on July 22, 1962 we flew from our home base of Williamsburg, Pa. to Mount Union about 25 miles away. I made a couple of landings that George approved of so when we made our last landing he had me taxi up to the falling down old wooden building on this airport. There was no one else around and George said he had to take a leak and I was to take the Cub around the patch three times and land to a full stop each time and taxi up to where he was and talk to him. He told me that the plane would feel different without him in it. His last words to me were “don’t you hurt my airplane.” So George headed off to go behind the old building to take care of business and I taxied out to the end of the cinder runway. I lined up on the cinder runway which was approximately 20 ft wide and brought the 65 hp Engine up to full growling power and was quite surprised at how quick we were flying and I was up to pattern altitude before I even got to the downwind leg. That had never happened before! Pulled the power off and carb heat on abeam the touchdown spot as we always did and because the plane was so light I wound up a little high on final and just like George had taught me I slipped her down to the runway and made a great landing. I taxied up to where he was standing with the engine still running and he shook my hand and handed me his half smoked Camel cigarette for me to take a couple of drags from. In those days we all smoked cigarettes and George and I were no exceptions. After the couple of puffs on the cigarette I headed out for two more take offs and landings. I could have flown without the airplane if no one was watching I was so excited! After all of this was over we flew back to Williamsburg and hopped in my 53 Studebaker Champion and talked all of the way home about that morning. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough money to pay George for that day because I was only making about $50.00 per week. When I asked George how much I owed him he said “how does $7.00 sound?” I was relieved because I happened to have enough money to pay him. We probably put close to two hours on the Cub.

In approximately 1994 one summer evening, I had a student fly me to Mt. Union in a C152 as part of his XC training and he found the place. This was not that easy to do! The airport hadn’t changed that much in the 31 years that had past. There was a Beech Sundowner and a C152 tied out there with tall weeds growing around the wheels. No one was there so I asked Rick if he wanted to fly around the patch solo a couple of times and he said yes. It was a beautiful evening and it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling watching him take off and fly over the hills on the down wind leg and land on the cinder runway. He taxied up and there were no cigarettes this time because we are all a little wiser now! I climbed back in the 152 and we departed for our home airport, Blue Knob Valley (7G4), Duncansville, Pa.

Today I looked online at the sectional where the Mt. Union airport was and was saddened to see it is no longer on the map. Blue Knob is still shown but it hasn’t much life left in it either. Sad!


Rodrigo said...

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Franie said...

That was an interesting story about George and your first solo. Isn't it great to be doing still that which we truly love! I know I enjoyed flying with you in PA that one year. Take ahold of life and live it because we only go by once. There might be a few more touch 'n go(s)left in us all.

My friend Ben, with me on our way to Sun n Fun Lakeland, FL