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Friday, January 22, 2016


The last two winters I worked at Graham Aviation were nasty.  One had extremely cold temperatures for more than a month and the other had lots of snow.  I was getting tired of living in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

I had flown all the way to Los Angeles twice in light airplanes and considered moving there.  Florida was another place on my list.  I just wanted to live some place where it was warm.

Tom Jones had tried to get me interested in skiing.  We went to a little ski resort that had been set up at an abandoned coal mine in what is now suburban Pittsburgh.  Then I went to Seven Springs with Tom and Dan Wylie and their girlfriends (eventual wives).  I did not have any fun either time, because I did not know how to ski.  Tom said, "This is how you snowplow, but you want to get your skies parallel, like this."  He demonstrated, then split.  I mostly slid down the hill on my butt.  Seven Springs was even worse, because it was crowded and I kept crashing into people.

You may remember that Dan was flying for a company that moved canceled checks at night.  Prince had started working there also and he and Dan were flying together one night when the weather turned very nasty, very suddenly.  

I had been flying a trip earlier that day and had noticed how quickly the altimeter settings were dropping as the controllers were giving them to me all day.  It was a foggy day and the winds were warm and strong from the southwest.  A big low pressure area was coming with an occluded front.  This meant a wild mix of winter weather was coming. 

The rain started in the early evening and several hours later, I felt the trailer move with a jolt.  It had been hit by a wall of fast moving air.  The temperature began to drop and the rain turned to sleet, then heavy snow.

Dan and Prince were trying to land at Pittsburgh at this time and the sudden wall of wind hit them and made landing impossible.  They hurried to Erie PA to get on the ground safely in front of this condition.  

Next morning, Route 8 was covered with thick ice, that had ruts from the cars that had driven on it as the temperatures were dropping so rapidly.  I don't think I have ever seen anything like that since.

The next winter was the one with lots of snow.  What they both had in common was that Jimmy Carter was president and there was a fuel shortage.  We were having to wait in line to buy gas for our cars, landing at airports that did not have fuel and freezing our asses off every where we went, because everyone had their thermostats turned down.  This was the beginning of my political awakening. 

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