posted by Terry Moore on January 27, 2009 at 7:50am
When I was a young boy, before even Oliver & Rachel had the idea for a TJEd, I lived in Texas. We didn’t have much money. My Dad and Mom both worked to make ends meet. Many times, my brothers and I would ride in the back seat, trying to sleep, but not being real successful, as my Mother going on to midnight shift at Texas Instruments, traded us to my father, who was coming off swing shift at Central Airlines. Wasn’t often, but it happened.
My father loved aviation. He gave up an OK job, driving around north Texas sampling cow’s milk for the city of Fort Worth, to follow his passion in aviation. He took a job with Central Airlines as a cleaner, the person who goes on the airplane between flights and cleans up so the next group of passengers has a pleasant experience. During that time, he started a program to become an A&P mechanic. He eventually finished that school, got his license, and began repairing the DC-3s he had been cleaning only a few months before.
On weekends during the warm months, an exciting day was when Dad took us all out to Texas Soaring Association(TSA). They had a small grass strip about a mile west of the resevoir. (They’ve come a long way since then and have a really nice strip now!) We would pull up by the ditch next to the road which paralleled the “runway”. They had a Cessna L-19 Birddog that acted as a towplane. We would sit in the car, on the grass, and sometimes, on the car, watching all afternoon. The sailplanes, Schweitzer 2-22s, TG-2s, and even a Minimoa (one of only 2 in the US at the time) from Germany would be pulled out, the towplane would be hooked up by a long cable, and the two of them would amble down the runway and magically lift into the air in unison.
This is a picture I found on the internet of the Minimoa glider. I don’t remember where I found it, and I must state it is NOT my picture. I just wanted to show that the Minimoa was quite unique in the sailplane world. Wikipedia has a little more about it here
Dad never did make it to the point where he could afford to fly. He got friends to take him up when he could afford it. He once took an hour of aerobatic instruction in a Citabria at Centennial Airport in Colorado. But he never even got close to enough hours to get his pilot’s license.
He did give my brother and I a few hours in sailplanes at Black Forrest Glider Port, north of Colorado Springs. I later saved up my money and earned my own pilot’s license, “glider – Aero tow only”. (And started at the Air Force Academy only a week later. I didn’t have time to take my own father up for a ride, we could never get schedules straight in that last week before I started the Academy. No sweat, we’d catch a ride once I came back home after the first semester.
During my last week of Basic Cadet Training (Officially known by the military acronym, “BCT” and affectionately known as the pronunciation of that acronym as “beast”!), I was called into my commander’s office. My father had had a heart attack. I was let out of school for about a week to go see him. I did, and the one time I got to see him while he was awake, we held each other’s hands and I told him he had to get better ’cause we still needed to go flying together. I still owed him that flight in a sailplane.
He was getting better. I went back to school. I made it back to the Academy just in time for what’s called “Field Day”. All the BCT squadrons get together and compete in multiple team sports like tug of war. My squadron won the entire competition! I was elated. When I got back to my dorm room with my squadron, my commander asked me over to his office again. My father had died that day.
Fast forward a few years, a wife, two kids, a divorce, a remarriage, an assumption of one kid, and three more of our own. They all grew up and many of them have their own children now. (Cyndy being a shining example, in spite of me!) My brother called one day. He ended up buying an old Stinson that needed work. We finally had an airplane! This is a desire sewed into our souls on those hot Texas summer days sitting next to the TSA glider field watching sailplanes leave and then return twenty minutes after doing endless circles overhead, flying, gliding, and most of all, soaring. It still needed fixing. We all helped. And it did get up once with my brother and an instructor. 1.2 hours of pure bliss. It hasn’t flown since. But that’s another story.
The hangar was an open bay with about 20 planes of various shapes and sizes all ordered in their own connected “T” hangar space. It was magic for my brothers and me! We could walk up to these airplanes and look at, but never touch them. We looked and looked. We watched the planes and noticed changes as they left for an hour, a week, or sometimes even a month. But one just sat there. A Quicksilver Ultralight parked next to a Citabria. Both plugs were out and hanging by the plug wires. And it just sat there, and never changed. It was an older one, with some newer mods and without others. It had a square horizontal stabilizer, which hadn’t been produced since the late 80s or so. This being the 21st century, this thing was old! It did look taken care of, but it was like someone just had to quit working on it.
One day, my brother stuck a sticky note on the seat. “We’re ready to buy if you’re ready to sell”, is all it said and gave his telephone number. Later that week, he got a call! The guy who owned it shared the hangar space with the guy who owned the Citabria. He had taken the note to the owner of the ultralight. The owner decided that it was time to sell. He had owned it for 10 years, but had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around the time he was getting it ready to fly. The tremors and ticks just kept getting worse and his condition made it too dangerous to fly. He had never gotten to fly it. But he sold it to us! Thank You, Sir! I am eternally in debt to you!
We rolled it down and put it with the Stinson, which still had issues itself. It took us about an hour to get it in there the first time, necessitating removing both planes over and over, and repositioning them to fit in our hangar bay. Later that week, we got smart, and one of my brothers bought some furniture dollies! Then both planes fit easily in the same hangar space after that. I bought an ordinary blue spiral notebook and wrote “Hanger Log” on the front. We used it to keep track of which lead went to which contact in the electrical system of the Stinson. We used it to write down the names of other hangar residents and airplane owners as we met them. We wrote notes to each other, what we did that day working on the planes, what still needed to be done.
The Stinson only flew that one time. We kept working on it, but weren’t getting very far, and certainly not very fast. But after a couple of hours of tinkering, we got the old Rotax 377 engine running. After a few other fixes, we began taxiing up and down the row of hangers at night with no one else around. It was EXCELLENT practice, since we needed lots of it to know how to control an ungangly craft on the ground with no brakes except the soles of my tennis shoes.
And I began to write in the “Hanger Log”. I think I have now found a place I’d like to transscribe that log. This is that space. I hope you can find a use for my story and you get as much pleasure reading as I get writing it!