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Early Years

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fun!


Part of the fun of flying at Butler was going where our passengers were going.  The possibilities were many and various.

The best was going to the Steeler's first Super Bowl in New Orleans.  One of the guys who worked for his father's company owned a really nice Navajo CR (Counter Rotating Props.) He wanted to fly to the game with his wife and wanted one of the gunslingers to go with him.  For some unknown reason, I was the lucky guy.

The weather was lousy and we had strong head winds all the way down.  We had to make a couple stops on a flight we should have been able to do in two legs.

This was the game that was supposed to be the first event at the Superdome, but it was not completed, so the game was played at Tulane Stadium.  This was a really old stadium and I remember seeing guys lining up under the stands to urintate, because the facilities were not adequate to deal with the size of the crowd.

This game was against the Minnesota Vikings, who had played in the Super Bowl before and lost.  The conventional wisdom was that a team had to play in the Super Bowl at least once before it could win it, but the Steelers were 3 point favorites at game time.

It was a low scoring game and the Steelers were leading 2 - 0 at the half.  Jack, the guy I flew down there was upset because the Steelers were not beating the spread.  I told him not to worry, because you could see that the Steelers were just beating the hell out of the Vikings offense.

The weather was lousy, cold, wet and windy.  I got a sore throat and a cold from all the yelling.  I did not enjoy the post game celebrating in New Orleans.

Probably the next best fun, was when we were flying politicians.  I flew lots of trips for Bill Green, a Democrat for Philadelphia, who was running against John Heinz for his first senatorial campaign.  I got to attend several rallies which were kind of fun and I got to eat the rubber chicken.

Green was a congressman and I stayed at his rented Georgetown home one wintery night.  We put in long days and I remember flying his family into Johnstown on a nasty winter night, with low visibilities in fog and blowing snow.

This was 1976, the year Jimmy Carter was elected and probably the point where I figured I had better start getting up to speed on what was going on in national politics.

There were some other politicians I flew for.  One was the Republican leader of the state senate.  Another was a judge who was running for the state supreme court.

I flew a furniture store owner and some of his employees to a convention in North Carolina.  They were some wild and crazy guys.  There were some guys from a nearby Buick dealership who chartered two planes to go to the auto show for new Buicks in Detroit.  Dave flew one and I flew the other.

One of our biggest customers was an electric company who had us fly electricians around the eastern US to power plants.  These guys maintained the very bright strobe lights on the stacks.  They had to climb the ladders to get up there and I climbed a few times myself.

Once, I got half way up there and started getting an upset stomach and muscle cramps.  For a while, I couldn't go up or down and was having unpleasant thoughts about falling.  That passed and I completed the mission.

On another trip, they were working on one of those big concave cooling towers at a nuke plant.  When you climb one of those, the first part is facing the tower, but as you near the top, you have to turn outward and are climbing a ladder facing away from the tower.  It almost looks like you are just out there in open space.  

When I got to the top, there there was what looked like a big, secure and stable railing along both sides of the walkway around the big opening.  I kind of nonchalantly reach out and put my hand on it and it moved much more than I had anticipated.  In fact, I had not expected it to move at all.  It freaked me out and I had to sit down for a minute to get my head right.  The electricians laughed about that, but I got even with some slightly unusual attitudes on the flight home.

One of the coolest flights for me was the time I took my dad with me, flying the Twin Comanche to Shelby NC.  We did this flight frequently and were just taking stuff, not people.  He had been a little reluctant to fly in small planes, but I invited him and my mom to an open house we had and they took a ride with Dave.  I told Dad to observe all the planes taking off and landing without having a major crash.

On the way to Shelby, we were in the clouds, but it was a very smooth ride.  In fact, it was so smooth and boring, the old man fell asleep.  I jiggled the plane a little to wake him up and when we looked at each other, he realized that my message was that it was no big, scary deal to fly in small planes.  

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