30 October 2006
In the DNA?
Thanks Sis, for the memory jog.
That cobby looking airplane is a BT-13 Vultee, a WWII trainer.
The "BT' stood for "Basic Trainer".
Pilots that flew it affectionately called it "the Vultee Vibrator".
It had a big, noisy, radial engine, and an adjustable propellor. It's the first airplane I remember my old man flying. He'd come over our house fairly low, put the propellor in the flat pitch setting, and push the throttle to the firewall.......
The resulting roar announced to everyone in three counties that my old man was "in the 'hood".
Of course I was proud...... that was my Dad flyin' that thing!
Dad had three brothers.
All learned to fly. Two survive, and still fly now and then.
An Aunt surprised me recently with an interesting story-
Dad's older brother washed out of Navy Flight School.
Caught red-handed flying beneath a bridge that spanned a river, he was reassigned to the Battleship "West Virginia", where, on December 7, 1941, he had a front row seat for the morning activities. He swam to safety as the ship sank in Pearl Harbor.
Mom and Dad were both in the Civil Air Patrol after the war.
The C.A.P. exposed them to different people and different airplanes, one of which was that Vultee Vibrator.
As a very young lad, I can remember accompanying Dad to Sky Harbor airport in Indianapolis, an airport long since covered with expensive homes.
It's fun to remember walking toward the flight line and through the gate with the sign that warned:
"Pilots and Passengers only beyond this point."
With my Dad, I was accepted in an exclusive club!
Growing up with Pilot/Father, I assumed I would eventually learn to fly. But I always had six things goin' on at once- I never had a burning desire to start. I guess I always thought I'd learn when it just became so convenient to do, I couldn't avoid it any longer. I also thought, wrongly, that Dad could teach me. Well, he could have taught me many things, but not legally..... he wasn't a Flight Instructor.
We had the typical tense relationship while I was a teenager.
Fiercely independent, but proud of one another, we were both "Macho" guys, and clashed a lot while I lived at home. It wasn't until I was drafted and away from home that I realized how in spite of the conflict he had gently guided my path.......
had always been RIGHT THERE! every time I needed him.
He showed his pride in me when I graduated from Officer's Candidate School...... Grandmother on one shoulder, Dad on the other, they pinned the "butter bars" to my uniform.
He was doubly proud of me when I added a set of wings to that uniform.
That gave us something concrete to share for the rest of our lives...... our love of flying.
We flew together some.... not nearly as much as I would have liked.
We went to OshKosh and other airshows. He knew much about airplanes and shared his knowledge with this ignorant helicopter pilot.
When he was old, he made one trip to California with me to ferry a new helicopter home. It took us 19 hours over a three day period to fly that machine home, and although I never had the time to teach him to hover, he was perfectly comfortable cruising in it within a couple hours.
I think he was on the controls more than I was during that trip.
Friends tell me it was one of the highlights of his life.
It's certainly a memory I will forever cherish.
Dad was good at many, many things, and flying was one of them.
My pride in watching him roar over our house in that BT-13 planted the seed that grew and put me where I am today.
Sis thinks flying is in our blood.
I won't argue with her.