There’s Emily on the left and in the last nanosecond behind the blue arm is Donald. They’re officially a part of history!
“I’ve been waiting all morning to say that.” It’s Chuck Yeager talking about his record setting cross country speed flight of five hours and fifteen minutes from Edwards Air Force Base in California where in 1947 he became the first human to break the sound barrier to our own First Flight Airstrip where the Wright brothers conquered the mysteries of flight in 1903.
“We didn’t have nothing to fight,” Yeager said. “We laid down one for them to shoot at…You’ve got two significant places in aviation. We’re going to let someone else shoot at it.” Averaging a speed of 450MPH in a Piper Cheyenne 400LS twin-engine turboprop, Yeager landed at 7:05AM on December 17, 1986 the 83rd anniversary of the first flight and the 50th anniversary of Piper Aircraft.
We know he is coming to town. We figure that we can catch his landing and still make it to school on time. We plan our strategy. I have the three little people to wrangle. We are lucky enough to find a parking place at the airstrip. Emily is in charge of the camera. Donald is her back-up. I stay in the car with the boys. We put the windows down so we can see and hear better.
There are surprisingly few people. It’s crowded but not overwhelming. Mostly professionals looking for their story. The kids elbow their way to the front and get some photos. Chuck answers questions and then states that he is going to get breakfast before the official ceremonies start in a few hours.
We’re in the car headed to school when I have an inspiration. I tell the kids I’m going to swing by the Ramada where Chuck says that he is headed and see if they can get his autograph. So what if they’re slightly late for school. This is history. I park. We all get out of the car and head into the lobby and upstairs to the restaurant. Only a few people are there. No one has recognized Chuck drinking coffee with his pals. We have nothing to get an autograph on with us. I spy a newspaper rack and buy a paper. Donald takes it over to the table and politely asks for the autograph. Chuck smiles and obliges, glancing over at Emily, me and the three waiting nearby. We’ve done it. We saw history made and got an autograph to prove it.
Imagine my surprise when Mary Dyal Nelson recently posts a video of her lovely and talented mother singing the National Anthem at the First Flight ceremonies and there in the prequel are Emily and Donald with Chuck Yeager and the reporters. They really did become a part of aviation history!
While I was running in circles at the monument today there was a small plane attempting landings and take offs. I say attempting because there was much screeching of tires and unnecessary revving of the engine. Now a pilot I will never be but my Dad was and as I painfully listened to the learning curve being applied I developed a new respect for his chosen career. To do the thing right you have to have confidence, complete and total confidence in yourself and your machine. You have to commit and mean it.
When I was a teen, Dad decided to take us to Florida to visit friends and his oldest sister and her family. In a Piper Cub. This Piper Cub. A four seater.
From Ohio to Florida. And back. It was on the way back that the story takes place. Completely true and not embellished at all. (I actually thought I had already blogged about this but must have been a FB post only and you know how those get lost in the beast never to be seen again.)
We were at some small air strip in Georgia. Or South Carolina. There was a tiny visitor center, sketchy at best. We had probably mostly stopped for gas. We were miles from any type of civilization at all. A storm was approaching. One of those wall cloud type dark thunder storms. We were going to let it pass but then Mom saw the hand writing on the wall. Hours in this hell hole. My sister had already found rat poisoning in the bathroom and tried to eat it. “We’re not staying here another minute, Starke.”
Right. We loaded up. Dad was in his element. He headed us into the wind which was also into the coming storm. There were power lines at the end of the runway. Small low strung power lines. It was a short runway. Very short. Actually I don’t think it was even a runway. Just well packed ground. The plane was shaking and shimmying. We picked up speed but were not lifting up as quickly as we should have because of the storm. We were running out of
I was riding shotgun which I switched out with Mom depending on whose turn it was to entertain Suzanne. Mom was surely saying prayers and covering my sister’s eyes. I could not close my eyes. We were going to hit the power lines or get taken out by the ferocious storm. I could see no other option.
And then just as we reached the end of the world, just like that we lifted up, cleared the lines, cleared the storm, and headed home. Dad knew how to commit. He really was a master pilot.