Saturday, November 25, 2006

AIRPLANES

reading AIR&SPACE magazine this evening, i was provoked to reminisce on my dad and his/our relationships with airplanes and flying.

there are some things i know about my dad only from what he told me.

for instance, in the summer of 1938, after graduating from harvard, he went to savannah, georgia to work for his uncle who had the ford agency. having been born and raised in columbus, ohio, schooled in cap d'antibes and saltsburg, pa, i can imagine that savannah was quite a shock.

i know that at some time after working for his uncle, he was hired by mills lane, who owned the citizens and southern bank. my dad always said that mills, a yalie, hired him because he enjoyed rescuing yankees from harvard.

sometime during this georgia sojourn, he fell in love with a woman who lived in augusta. he told me that he used to make that drive from savannah to augusta in his model a after work on friday, then back to savannah late on sunday to be at work on monday. i think he said that it was a killer of a drive.

so, he said that is what caused him to take up flying. an airplane would allow him to see his girlfriend with considerably less hazard than the drive.

eventually, after getting his ticket, he bought a luscombe. and flew routinely to see his girlfriend.

he never told me her name. he did tell me that flying with him caused her to become bitten by the aviation bug. that she eventually got her ticket and became one of the original WASPs. and i know that after he became diagnosed as terminal in the late 1980's, he made a very private trip to georgia to see her for the first time in decades, and to say good-bye. i think i identified her from a history of the WASPs, but she too is no longer with us.

in 1941, the flying bug had really captured him, and he resigned from mills' bank and went to miami for training to fly for PANAM. that is where he was in december, 1941. a right-seater for another yalie employer, juan trippe.

if i remember his story, accurately, after pearl, the usg offered panam pilots two options: either a commission in the usa or a position of a contract civilian pilot.

my dad told he how ashamed he was that it took him 3 days to decide what to do. he accepted the commission and doffed the uniform. i always told him that he made the wrong choice.

joe mackie[sic], a columbus, ohio, guy was forming the air transport command. virtually all those commissioned from panam were taken to be tinpushers.

and that is where my dad ended up. flying c87's[cargo version of the b24] from homestead. his routes were out of the range of hostile fire. on the other hand, i think that he did some tough, long-distance flying. as i recall his missions, they went like this....

miami-belem, brazil - recife, brazil - ascension island - dakar/accra/monrovia - benghazi/tripoli - cairo - tehran - karachi - delhi. then back to miami.

i know he told me that he was spared flying over the himalayas into chunking because of some rare aircraft qualification that he had that none in his group had. and that he was the only pilot in his group spared that hazardous bit of air transport flying.

i know that towards the end of the war he was transferred to flying the north atlantic in the cargo version of the B25. he told me that this was his favorite plane for flying. on the other hand, he told me that it was deafening.

he checked out in 1946 as a captain. from war surplus, he bought a bamboo bomber and converted it to civilian status[yellow with blue accents].

one night over stingers at the piano bar in the fairfax hotel in dc, my mom told me that i was conceived in that plane. knowing the lack of room in that plane, i think that she was pulling my leg. i think that what she was saying was that plane was part of what won her heart.

somewhere, i have this great photo of that plane with my dad and mom standing beside it, with me in their arms.

3 years later, in the fall of 1950, my sister was born.

at that time, we were living in an apartment on moneypenny street in columbus, ohio.

coincidentally with my sister's arrival, the hangar rent bill arrived while my dad was out of town. my mom opened it. she had a small cardiovascular event...the hanger rent was higher than the apartment rent.

shortly after this discovery, the bamboo bomber was sold. the hanger lease was terminated. and they bought their first house.

and my dad quit flying for over a decade.

[to be continued]

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