Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Yes, it has been awhile. It's not that I haven't been flying, for I have, but while the kind of flying I've been doing is great fun for me, it isn't the kind that generates an interesting story. 

I've been giving rides. It may seem odd, but one of the most gratifying things I do with the airplane is to share the experience with people that have never been in a small plane, much less having taken control of an airplane in flight and experienced the absolutely unique feeling of being able to control a thousand pounds of metal in three dimensions with no more effort than it takes to stir cream into coffee.  It never fails to elicit the type of uncontrollable smile they haven't felt since they first cuddled with a puppy. Seeing and hearing the utter joy and exuberance in their voices revitalizes my love of flying like nothing else.

Seriously, I challenge you to look at that face and tell me I am exaggerating! 

I'm not going to tell you her real name - we're going to have a little contest to see if you can figure it out for yourself. There are two clues that should lead you to the exact answer. For now, I'll say just that she is a business relationship from the day job that has not only never ridden in a small plane, but also had never visited the Island-Based Frat Party of Put-in-Bay.

She did a fairly decent job of flying us in the general direction of north, but her real value came after landing when she spared my aging back the effort of pushing the plane back into a parking spot.  I'm not kidding: she insisted on it!

I swear, if I couldn't have an airplane I would have to consider something like this boat.

Between it being a Friday and the last weekend before the summer crowds, it was a great day to be on the island if, like me, you don't enjoy the madding crowds. The restaurants were all open, but there were no long lines of hungry people waiting to be seated.  It was a pretty warm day and we had a long, hot, bumpy, and slow (22 knot headwind) ride back waiting for us at the other side of lunch, so we opted for light salads. Well, that and the fact that I'm starting to lose my boyish figure to the ravages of age and, in no small part, a potato chip addiction.

Her? She just likes salad.

If you weren't able to guess her name, just hit the 'Play' button:

The next flight was with a temporary contractor at work. Dave is one of those guys that, again much like me, has struggled to keep up with the not inconsiderable expenses of earning a pilot's license. He saw the pictures of airplanes in my office (in the area I call 'Keurig Corner' chased me down to introduce himself. Having heard his plight, I couldn't help but invite him out for a ride.

It was one of my more routine rides - Urbana for a meal and a quick tour of the B-17 restoration - but he sure did enjoy it. If nothing else, I sure know how to show a guy a good time!

Oh, wait.  Phrasing. Gotta be careful where I say things like that!

One of the coolest things about the B-17 hangar is that they'll let you climb up into the C-47 and pretend to be a real pilot.

The Norden bombsite and Sperry gyroscopic mount are irresistible to me:

Dave was intrigued by the old fella that flew in B-17s in the war. He was describing a unique feature of the B-17 that they're rebuilding. This particular plane was one of only a handful that was equipped with a belly camera - it was used to take back photos of the target to help assess the damage inflicted on the raid.

The machine guns look authentic, but they're actually reproductions built by the guys working on the restoration.

This is the 'before' tail.

It seemingly was deemed easier to just build a new one.

These are the drawings being used to build to replica guns:

There is a Life Flight helicopter based at Urbana too. They carelessly left the doors hanging open and unattended.  Fancy!!

We flew over this field on the way back - I've never seen this before. I have no idea what they're doing, but it sure looked great from the air!

In something of a change of pace, I actually took a ride myself!  I was invited by co-worker to ride over to Indiana to attend the Indianapolis 500, something I've never done before.  Why? Well, madding crowds, that's why. 

It wasn't too bad going in...

We parked in a neighborhood adjacent to the track where nearly all of the homeowners were charging $20 to park in their yard.  We got a bonus at the house we parked at, though: we got to autograph the back of their garage! My name is in there somewhere, as is that of one of my hostess's brothers-in-law.

There were three brothers-in-law in addition to her husband and, as brothers will, there was plenty of lighthearted back and forth. We were in a car following them to the track when the hubby started grousing that they had missed the 30th St. exit. They then proceeded right on past 38th St. too, which did not go without another comment. Finally recognizing their error, they exited at Lafayette St. to head back to 38th.

I mention it only because it set me up perfectly for something that happened later. We were up in our seat in the Turn 3 grandstands waiting for the race to start when the PA announcer called our attention to the approach of the Red Bull Flight Team, who were going to make a flyby. We all dutifully looked out past the short chute between turns 3 and 4, and sure enough, there they were.... turning around and heading back to whence they came, well before accomplishing anything remotely like a flyby.

I simply couldn't help myself: "THEY GOT OFF ON %&(#* LAFAYETTE!!"

Bwahahaha!  I'm still laughing at that one!

Jim Nabors no longer sings Back Home Again in Indiana," but they still release the balloons.

The race got off to a slow start, what with one of the female drivers rear-ending the eventual winner on the pace lap and another car falling victim to an oil fire. It was ten laps before they got down to real racing.

Racing is a lot more fun to watch if you have someone to root for. I had two. One was a rookie whose name I was given as part of a betting pool run by the people at whose house we parked, the other was my old racing buddy, Oriol Servia.

Sure, it was just a video game race, but still...

He seemed to enjoy it, even though he was only able to beat me by a few seconds!

Here he is racing a real car:

It didn't take long for my raffle driver to fall to the wayside.

You know you have good seats if you're sitting by the spotters!

Oriol let me down too. Why he couldn't have done that while I was racing him....

Remember that it was easy to get in? Yeah, not so much on the way out. This was only the start of a two hour trek during which we moved somewhere on the order of ten feet. Oh well, it was sure worth it!!

Here's a little snipped of what it looks like from the bleachers:

All in all, it's been a damn good May.

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