Monday, December 22, 2008

Flying

This is a response to and explanation of Margadant's comment on the Dec 17 Fish Camp posting:

The Old Man was taught to fly by John Vasey from Hollandale. Gene Fynbo was the one who certified him, but it was Johnny who taught him to fly, which is ultimately the reason for your adventure on your first plane ride.

When I met Johnny he was a spray pilot and truck driver for Ulland Bros. One Sunday we're at the airport, the Old Man talking flying and gravel with Johnny. He got his mischievous smile, you know the innocent one, and said, "Why don't you take the kid up for a ride?" So Johnny and I climbed on board. I don't remember the type of plane for sure. Probably a Stearman, which I know he flew some years later. It would be a better story if I could remember for certain, but it gets a little fuzzy about then. We flew straight up until it stalled and he just dropped it back around and went nuts - completely nuts. He gave me the most terrifying experience of my life. Just terrifying. He did a series of low passes, snap rolls or slow rolls with the wing tips 3 or 4 feet off the ground. And I swear, if you're in the plane, it looks like the wingtips are hitting the ground, it looks like you are going to die - die being pushed against gravity like you're on the devil's rollercoaster. You are going to hit the ground and become as one with the wreckage. You are going to die!

A lifetime later I got my feet back on God's good earth and eventually located my misplaced spine. It wasn't one of my better moments. I was not cool. I found out I was at the wrong end of a really bad practical joke, or maybe a good one, depending on your viewpoint. In his previous life, Johnny had been a barnstormer and a stunt pilot. His gimmick was that his whole routine was typical stunts, except done right over the ground so people could see - up close. Eventually the barnstorming days dwindled down and Johnny went driving truck. But he sure enjoyed taking the cockiness out of a punk kid. It also helps explain the Old Man's skill and his urge to bend airplanes in unnatural directions.

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