Monday, June 8, 2015

Mongoose VI, the End

Apologies, readers—those who are left. My dad's health took a bad turn a few months ago, and I have had little motivation or time to write. He passed last month.

AirVenture 2014 is old news now and I won't dwell on it much. After the recovery of the mass formation I joined the ranks of the spectators and hung out with my old Air Force friends. I bade Mongoose so-long. He had to get back to work.

The highlight of the week was the Thunderbird performance. I never grow tired of it. They played “God Bless America” during the bomb burst maneuver and I damn near went to tears. (It’s hard to believe the nauseatingly politically correct USAF would allow that.)

The next morning Mike and I mounted up and joined up with Lefty and BJ, both CJ-6 pilots, and set course for home. We enjoyed another round of great cross-country weather for the run down south. Lefty broke off at Nashville and as BJ led us to Windward Pointe Airpark I started to get antsy again. You’ll need to read “Flyin’ Miss Daisy” to understand what I was up against. Windward was a short grass air strip with a dog leg in it. It was narrow and had a host of obstacles at its ends and along its sides. My departure out of it the prior week in the heavy Nanchang had given me the jitters. Now I had to land on it.

I remembered that first and only landing I had made there a few weeks before. I had dragged in over the high tension wires and the cut the power, hoping not too soon, and dropped the Chang onto the grass, seeing the guy-wire on the right flash by, hearing my back seat instructor—BJ—yell, “Watch the fire plug on the left!” which I never saw, then braking to a stop right before the narrow part where the trees come within a few feet of your wing tips. I felt lucky, not skilled, and did not look forward to doing it again.

But I had to—Windward was Alabama Girl’s home base. I wasn’t about to end this fantastic journey by depositing Mike’s Nanchang at the municipal airport.

Yet things looked different as I turned in on the runway. I saw the orange balls on the wires. I spotted the guy-wires and the fire plug. I checked my airspeed and approach angle. Everything looked good. I even felt comfortable. This was going to work out okay. Suddenly I realized why it felt better than before. It was Mongoose, again!

On the way up to Oshkosh Mongoose had looked over at me, pressed his mic button and said, “You look like you’re sitting too low in that cockpit. Raise your seat.”

The Yak-52 that I had been accustomed to did not have an adjustable seat. It simply didn’t occur to me that the Nanchang—a very similar aircraft—would have one. I did as he suggested and suddenly it was like flying in another plane, one where I could actually see the world.

I glided in over the wires, and landed between the guy-line and the fire plug and rolled to a satisfying stop. My break-out trip into retirement was a resounding success.

I owed Mongoose for another save.

I flew Alabama Girl in an airshow in my home town in March. Some of the other pilots
in the show went with me to visit my dad in his nursing home. The old WWII Navy vet insisted
on saluting each one of us.  
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