I had just finished letting model club members know I would be absent from our meeting that night but the meeting room would be open for them, when Horizon Aviation’s all-around nice fellow and aircraft maintainer whiz kit Rusty, let me know that Chuck and Keith were pulling the AC-47’s props through, a sure sign it was time for me to grab cameras and “do the hustle” out to the ramp. Engine start was imminent.
The Lincoln Land Community College Aviation School students were watching flight prep as I approached and boarded “Spooky.” A minute later the intrepid captain and first officer boarded, closed the door behind them and settled into their “front office.” I was buckled into a metal bucket seat on the left side of the airplane when I took this picture of the airplane’s interior looking back.
Then before the first engine start I photographed the students watching from a safe distance by the fence.
This was my second ride in “Spooky,” so everything was routine — but still a thrill — as engines were started, warmed and Chuck and Keith made arrangements with the control tower for departure on Runway 31. Because I didn’t know what would be waiting in Urbana, Ohio’s Grimes Field, or how much my small camera’s battery had charged, I was extra conservative with picture taking. This was my home airport, I had taken many pictures from this flying machine last year, so there was no need to duplicate earlier work. Still, the view of the State Capitol building, as we turned onto 31 as irresistible . . . . . .
As was this glimpse of the control tower during initial climb above the runway.
I expected that as we gained altitude we’d gently turn from the initial heading off the runway of northwest to east, maybe a little southeast. So I was surprised as I saw downtown Springfield through the windows on the other side lf the cabin. The view indicated Chuck had continued the turn to a westerly heading. For a few seconds I wondered if there were red lights glowing on the panel up front, even though the engines were running at close to maximum power . . . . Then I realized the gents had decided to make a low pass down Runway 31 for the aviation school students watching where we had left them down below! I also realized I was on the wrong side of the airplane to photograph that scene! I was on the control tower side of the airplane, and with us pulling moderate “g” during the continuing turn, it would have been totally UNSAFE for me to lung across to a waiting bucket seat on the other side! Even if I had maintained my balance during that antic, I could not have buckled in and taken pictures during a unique opportunity that would have lasted probably 30 seconds! I was disappointed, but I was also thrilled. It was clear Chuck has added some power during his low pass, and it was great to be aboard for the ride! . . . . THEN the course was set for Urbana, Ohio.
To ensure maximum safety in flight, I determined I would remain seated on the left side– pretty much the north side — of “Spooky ” for the entire flight instead of crossing, reasonably safely, to the other side — the south side — for pictures for two reasons: Every picture taken would be taken looking the same direction for future reference, AND the sun was perfectly positioned in the sky at this time of day to provide the best light for the pictures I would be taking from that side of the airplane. Again, I was playing conservative with camera resources. Even so, I could not resist distant airports and a “cloud shot” or two. The first picture was taken at our maximum altitude during the flight, about 9.000 feet. Later Chuck asked me if I had been a little chilly in back, and I replied I had. He explained he and Keith became the same, so he reduced cruise altitude later in the flight to warm us up. The lower picture was taken after our descent.
If I had been better prepared, or understood what I’d find after landing in Urbana I would have taken a few more in transit.
Since I considered it only natural that if I took my cell phone with me to Urbana I would manage to leave it there . . . I left the device in my airport office. And I regretted doing that for the same reason I sometimes regret not wearing a wrist watch. With my NON-aptitude for anything electronic, I consider my cell phone more of a pocket watch. I probably make use of three percent of what it can do for me. Net result: I had absolutely no feeling for TIME passing as we flew east. I have not flown enough to estimate distance from flight. Though I had visited Urbana, Ohio’s Grimes Field a few years ago, I had traveled there by car from a motel in Springfield, Ohio. I did not know how far Urbana is from Springfield, Illinois and had not discussed this kind of thing with Chuck and Keith.
I had, at least folded a piece of blank paper and put it into my shirt pocked for making notes during the flight. Of course (for me) I had not remembered to put a pen into same shirt pocket! Since the air was relatively smooth, I unbuckled and visited the cockpit, asked Chuck if I could borrow a pen. He passed one to me, and I returned to make some notes. THAT’s when I realize there was no reason to make notes. I had left my “pocket watch” back at the office. By that time I had no idea what time it was, hadn’t noticed what time we took off, and had not the foggiest idea of when we’d likely touch down at Urbana/Grimes. I had no feeling for time, the way I feel it on the ground. In the course of a busy day, I have a knack for silently “guessing” what time it is, and when I look at a nearby clock or “cell watch,” usually find my estimate was within 10 minutes of actual time, sometimes exactly on the minute. I wondered if this is now an insect “feels” time . . . . and has no concept of time. He is what he is, does what he does until a hungry sparrow or bat devours him to oblivion. For that flight I was what I was, enjoyed the view of the passing countryside below, wondered how it would have looked, say in 1816, if the lay of that land away from cities, remotely resembled the land as it would have been when James Madison was president. “Spooky’s” engines, in the capable care of the the crew, droned steadily on, timeless in their steadiness.
In my early rush out the door, I had also forgotten to bring earplugs which are free, right next to the door by the Horizon counter that exits to the ramp. Just forgot to pick up a sealed two-pack! Early into the air I decided my recently-acquired hearing aids, which had been functioning as designed and AMPLIFYING the 47’s engines, would better serve me if I turned them OFF, which I did. Then I determined my ears would be better served if I took them out of my ears and put them into my shirt pocket with my useless writing paper and Chuck’s pen. THEN I realized I should put SOMETHING into my ears to lessen the audio from the engines. I had no tissue; figured small pieces of wadded note paper would help little if at all. Solution: I tore off some thin plastic from the grocery bag where I was carrying AeroKnow Museum literature (to share at Grimes) and crammed as much as I could into my ears. I believe they helped. Later I DID REMEMBER to remove the protection as soon as power was cut after parking.
Then, for the record, I unbuckled and moved forward to photograph Chuck, Keith and cockpit.
on the way back to the cabin I sat in the navigator’s and radioman’s seats directly behind the cockpit and photographed the astrodome from standing below it in the aisle. There was no way to take a picture from inside the astrodome because there were no steps nearby to allow me to ascend that high. NOT a big deal.
When I could tell we had commenced descent to destination (the landscape began getting larger) I began paying very close attention to the view. I soon recognized Grimes Field as we approached though I had seen it only from ground level a few years earlier. SomeHOW I felt like I was coming HOME. I can’t explain the intense sense of fraternity that came to me like a spring breeze.
Waiting outside the door after it was opened was Lou. He explained he was the airport manager. He explained that “Spooky” would need to be re-positioned slightly to optimize aircraft movement from nearby T-hangars to the apron. Chuck explained he needed to do that pretty FAST before the engines cooled off . . . . and he did. “Spooky” seemed somehow happy to feel grass under his feet during the short taxi.
We had arrived!
Part 3 of this saga will describe our time of the ground at Grimes and my brief return visit to the FABULOUS Champaign County Air Museum at one end of the airport. I had visited the incredible facility a few years before and only one thing would get in my way.
That thing was lunch.
Thanks for reading this post.