Blog – When I get ’round 2 it… Began 25 April 2020…

Blog – When I get ’round 2 it… Began 25 April 2020…
Blog – When I get ’round 2 it… Began 25 April 2020…

 

 

September 15, 2021…

Flying Through Water

by Larry Duthie (KIA ‘67)

You don’t forget a leader like Bill Searfus. And whenever I inspect tie-down chains, I see him vividly. That image of him wildly dancing.

I emerge from the ship’s island tower with a cluster of pilots, and we stride down the flight-deck toward our assigned birds. We carry a hint of swagger, and why not? This whole ship and its crew of some three thousand sailors exist to get attack aircraft into the air. We’re not full of ourselves—but close.

We’ve briefed, got it all down. I know where I’ll rendezvous with five other A-4s in my division, how we’ll circle over the ship and join up with twenty-eight more birds on this big strike. We’ve memorized the route that our strike-leader will navigate, where he’ll turn to bring us over our target. Today it’s an old French bridge, a dinky thing spanning a thin brown tributary. We know, too, the defenses to expect. So, yes, we’re up for this.

The morning light, after all that fluorescent glare bouncing off haze-gray paint below deck, strikes me as lovely: bright and crisp. The air, too, is pleasantly warm—not yet humid and tropical. The ship loiters, which is nice, but with no wind across the deck, black smoke swims down from the stack.

I’m assigned AH-415. I find it halfway to the fantail, port side, and begin my preflight inspection. I want to hurry this along because those stack-fumes eddying about have found me. Part of my airplane can’t be inspected anyway.

The aft half hangs out in space, way past the edge of the deck. Nothing’s leaking back there, I can see that. The antennas near the tailpipe look okay. The tailhook and fuselage, they’re good. No way to look closer. Sixty feet of open air separates the rear of my bird and the green water of the Tonkin Gulf. With its main wheels almost at the edge of the ship, 415 appears precarious. No worry, she’s tied down to the deck. Chained securely.

But then Bill Searfus had tie-down chains. Somehow, though, his were removed early. Maybe to save time. A misinterpreted hand-signal perhaps. I never heard. What I do know is that Bill’s chains were off when jet-blast from a turning aircraft swept up under his A-4.

With the heel of my hand, I bang each of the three tiedown chains snugging 415 to the deck. Hard.

I met Bill in training, when we were transitioning to A-4s. To keep the instruction tempo up, nine of us had been dispatched from Naval Air Station Lemoore in California to Nevada for a few weeks. The Navy had thousands of Nevada desert acres devoted to bombing ranges—and there at Fallon we never had weather cancellations. It was late winter, yet we enjoyed day after day of sunny flying.

We’d been sent there to perfect the fine art of dive-bombing, loft-bombing, strafing and aerial refueling. We flew two, sometimes three, hops a day.

All nine of us lived in the bachelor officers’ quarters, where we bonded as a group. Bill Searfus, a Navy commander with a brilliant smile and an upbeat attitude, was the senior officer among us. He was transitioning into A-4s alongside eight very junior officers. The rest of us had just recently earned our wings and would soon receive orders to squadrons, while he already had his assignment. Bill was to join a squadron as its executive officer, the number-two guy. And after a successful year as XO, he’d become the squadron’s skipper.

In the Western Pacific, the Gulf of Tonkin, the fleet was losing pilots, which is why our little detachment was hustled up to Fallon. The WestPac squadrons needed replacements—pronto—so our training-pace became a dash. Fatigue became an enemy. Little mistakes emerged. One of the guys bent a fuel probe on his bird when he came in hot while practicing to refuel behind an aerial tanker. I skidded an A-4 off a taxiway late one night when I hallucinated. Damage to the airplanes in both incidents was minimal, but the safety officer urged us to get as much rest as possible. Yet the hurry-up continued.

After we finished at Fallon and were back at Lemoore, Bill Searfus invited me to his home. A full commander, and he wanted an ensign at his party. I was amazed.

“We need to unwind some,” he said when he called me. It had never occurred to me during all the formalities of my earlier training that pilots would socialize this way, that when it came to flying airplanes in the fleet, rank would no longer be a great divide.

Were all eight from our Fallon detachment invited? I don’t recall. But I remember like yesterday how he greeted me by my first name when I arrived that evening. He introduced himself to my date as “Bill.”

Rock and roll music blasted from his living room. An array of hard liquor lined the kitchen counter, not beer as at our junior officers’ parties. He introduced us to his wife and told my date that she was far too pretty to be hanging around with a guy like me.

During the evening he kicked off his shoes, bopped around with his wife to Little Richard music, danced with her like a kid. And then he danced with my date, bounding around like an ensign. This was a Navy I had not known existed.

You don’t forget a leader like Bill Searfus. And whenever I inspect tie-down chains, I see him vividly. That image of him wildly dancing. The accident, too, the blast of jet exhaust lifting his nose until the front wheel comes up and his bird tips back—so far back that it continues over the side. Six stories to the sea. The carrier’s huge wake tosses his bird like a bathtub toy. I wasn’t there, but I see that.

It is possible, a hydrodynamic possibility, that as his plane was sinking, slipping down into the jade-green waters, it began flying. Gliding. They say an airplane will sail through water just as through air, because both air and water are fluids: Bernoulli’s Theorem.

My thoughts return to my tie-downs, I give the one near me another thump, and then I find I’m wondering how such a fine pilot could so simply be blown into the sea. I play it through my mind’s little theater again.

His airplane at first flutters side to side like a coin flipped into a fountain, and then his bird settles nose-down to begin that glide. Stabilizing, sailing through the warm green shallows, then down and down to the cold black depths.

Bill Searfus, husband, stocking-feet dancer, father and skipper of his squadron had already survived ferocious raids against Phuc Yen, a place closer to Hanoi than our target today, a MiG base massively defended with radar-guided anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles—the deadly SAMs. He survived that, made it through the savagery of defenses arrayed so thickly around Phuc Yen, the flak and SAMs swarming up like wasps, to be trapped inside twelve tons of aluminum and steel gliding through the dark waters of Tonkin Gulf.

I continue my preflight inspection. The plane captain follows me, ready to answer questions. I move forward along the port side of the fuselage to find everything is as it should be, so I climb the ladder and step over onto the wing, open a servicing hatch—okay—the hydraulic-fluid and oil reservoirs are firmly capped. No stray tools have been left inside the bird or the intake. We’re good to go.

Like a valet, the plane captain helps me strap in, locating each shoulder strap from behind and placing it onto my shoulder. I click the straps into steel fittings on my torso harness, then locate the seatbelt straps and do the same. I cinch the straps tightly. If they aren’t snug enough to pinch, an ejection won’t go well. I clip my oxygen mask onto my helmet, flick a switch and … ahh … sweet, pure oxygen.

I run through a quick check of switches in the cockpit. The ladder is pulled away. The air-boss calls for the jets to start. And soon enough the turbine in 415 spools up to idle speed.

Okay. Good start.

Hand-signals back and forth. The plane captain and I begin a choreographed dance with flaps and speed-brakes and control surfaces following his exaggerated moves. Exhaust gasses from running jets join the stack gas and thicken the air. Up and down the line pilots are pulling canopies shut. We’d be wise to leave them open. Go over the side with your canopy closed means water-pressure locks it in place. Yet, those hot fumes—I follow the others. I crank my air-conditioning to full-cold, and tiny balls of ice spit like flak from vent nozzles to bounce off my helmet.

Far back in my fuselage, tucked into a compartment, resides a frosty green bottle the size of a soccer ball. An hour from now that green bottle, source of this sweet oxygen, will nourish a fire that will burn like a cutting torch and kill 415.

Now, though, the oxygen is refreshingly crisp. It clears away the taste of jet exhaust and stack gas.

So, yes, 415 was lost later that morning. A hit, then fire. I ejected. But that’s another story. The events of that day continue to haunt me. I think about it a lot.

But almost as often, I think about Bill. All these years later I’ll find myself weeping in the warm water of my morning shower. Trance-like I’ll see Bill Searfus flying through jade-green seawater.

✽ ✽ ✽

Larry Duthie is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. He also did some freelance work during his writing career. His memoir, Return to Saigon, was published in September. It centers around his years as a naval aviator during the Vietnam War, when he flew 137 combat missions. In July, 1967, as the air war entered its most intense period, he was shot down near Hanoi.

After the war he was briefly a ski bum in Aspen, then using the G.I. Bill, he returned to college.  At the University of Colorado he met his wife and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism, graduating with honors. He now lives on a small farm in Eastern Washington.

Duth, as it turns out wasn’t killed in action, but we thought he was for nearly four decades!  Read my story about him.  Search: Larry Duthie KIA ‘67

 

September 3, 2021…

“They won’t let me fly their jet fighters anymore.  The day after I no longer pulled 5-6 Gs (or more) multiple times every day, my middle started expanding. It hasn’t stopped. First my toes disappeared, and then the equipment in the Nether Regions disappeared except on outstanding occasions. My feet might as well be in China. My toenails are turning into claws.
 
The ladies no longer look at my ass as I walk by.
 
My eyesight has started to fade. I once had the best vision of anyone I ever flew with except Chuck Yeager. He could see another aircraft at 60 miles and I could not see it until 50 miles. And he was older than me. I guess that is why he was an Ace.
 
The music has faded. Twenty-five years in close proximity of screaming jet engines will do more damage to your hearing than a rock band. The VA gave me some very nice hearing aids but I don’t wear the damned things. I don’t want to look like an old man. However, it can be a blessing when I piss off my roommate.
 
My prostate started to enlarge and I have to pee every 5 minutes. Speaking of which: The pressure is too low, the hose is too short, and the nozzle is set on spray. I find it advisable to sit down to pee to avoid getting Wet Foot Syndrome. I know the location of every publically accessible bathroom within 100 miles.
 
My gyro tumbled and I have vertigo. I have had it many times while flying in Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) weather but this is different. This is Visual Flight Rules (VFR) weather all the time. I walk like a drunken sailor. My golfing days are over. My back swing would put me flat of my back. A walker may not be far in the future.
 
If I were to find myself on the ground in the middle of an empty Wal-Mart parking lot, I would not be able to get up onto my feet. The legs are just not there anymore. I would have to crawl to a shopping cart or fence to pull myself up.
 
My cigar smoking days finally caught up with me and I may have emphysema/COPD. I used to cuss while climbing out returning from North Vietnam if I was so high that my Zippo lighter would not light so I could have a smoke to help me come down from an adrenalin high. I have had to go on oxygen in order to have enough to live. It is a real bummer to have to haul a bottle of O2 around with me when I go out of the house. I wear a nose harness at home and drag a plastic tube around and an oxygen concentrator out in the garage runs 24/7. The tube is always snagging on something or someone steps on the damn thing and it almost jerks my ears off. Don’t get me wrong. I like oxygen. I used to really like it after a night of serious partying when I had an early morning mission. As soon as I got into the cockpit I went on 100% O2 for startup, taxi, and weapons arming pit. By the time I had wheels up I was ready to fight.
 
My sex life is 99.9% in my head. But I think that is pretty normal for the male population, which thinks about sex on the average about every 10 seconds. At least that has always been my average.
 
And they won’t let me fly their jet fighters anymore.
Getting old is a bitch.
 
Some after Thoughts:
 
Some people wonder why old fighter pilots (there are no Ex Fighter Pilots) miss flying high performance jets so much. A couple of examples:
 
1.  I start up, taxi out and line up on the centerline of a 10,000-foot runway. I throttle up to full power, release the brakes and go into afterburner. There is a huge shove against my back that pins my helmet against the back headrest. The runway streaks under me faster and faster. At flying speed I raise the gear to get the wheels free of the earth. Flaps up. Sink down a foot or two until the end of the runway and then the field boundary flashes underneath and I pull the nose up to point to the sky and freedom. The horizon rapidly expands and after about three minutes and 6-7 miles above the earth I come out of burner, roll inverted and at zero Gs let the nose slowly drift down to the horizon. I look out the top of my canopy at the earth far below and think about all those pedestrian assholes down there that will never know what true joy is.
 
2.  I complete my mission in North Vietnam and climb out Southeast toward my carrier far away. I have to go to 53,000 feet in order to have enough fuel to make it. Once there, the adrenalin is subsiding and I turn off my cockpit lights to enjoy the view. There is not one light visible on the ground. But above: Oh my God!! It is unbelievable! The sight is not describable. Only God could have created something like this. The stars and galaxies are so bright that I do not need cockpit lights to read my instruments.  This is something that an old fighter pilot cannot forget and it is only one of thousands of memories that only an Old Fighter Pilot can have.
 
And they won’t let me fly their jet fighters anymore.
 
Litning”
 
 
(‘Litning” is my long-time pal and fellow Frontier pilot, Pete Phelps.  Some of Pete’s story was written anonymously and re-written to fit his considerable experiences and what fit into his aging process.   We had lunch t’gether in Alpine a few short months ago.  Pete and Pat, Cheryl and me.  Delightful with promises to shoot for a repeat soon.
 
Pete and I shared the flight deck many many times at Frontier and, more recently, he flew with me, in 964, from El Cajon, CA to Falcon Field, Mesa, AZ.  Pete flew F-8 Crusaders over the skies in North Vietnam during that horrible war.  Later he would be a test pilot at NAS Point Mugu (Naval Flight Testing) flying a plethora of aircraft.  He had a variety of experiences with AIMVAL/ACEVAL (F-14s & F-15s vs Mig Simulators (F-5s) with a year at Top Gun briefing classes and instructors with what he’d learned plus new tactics.  Pete is the real deal and is mostly famous for introducing Cheryl and me to ‘Wing Walker’ beer now nearly impossible to find.  Damn! 
 
I’d like to say that Pete is the worlds greatest fighter pilot, but then that wouldn’t be fair to myself..
 
 
 
 

August 24th, 2021…  I received a copy of an absolutely wonderful tribute to one of America’s Finest.  Here is what Shadow wrote:

This is a great summation of how we all feel about flying and the friendships developed over our years together during and after our flying days,

8/24/2021 

The Gathering….

Last week I drove up to North Carolina to attend a gathering to celebrate a dear friend, mentor and hero’s birthday. Myself and fifty or so other individuals converged on a small Carolina coastal town (Morehead City) from all over this great nation to honor Mike “Lancer” Sullivan. A true “Living Legend” of Marine Corps Aviation from our time.

Most of the attendees were members of Lancer’s famed “Snakes” of VMFA-323 that he commanded back in our El Toro days. But there were also many others like me that where Mike had touched our lives and inspired us. I first met Mike when we were both back in college during the late 60’s after tours in Vietnam. He was on the “Boot Strap” Program to get his degree and I was finishing mine to get ready for Flight Training.

Somehow Mike found out I was headed to Pensacola and approached me and asked if I’d like a ride in the mighty F-4… I of course replied… “YGTBSM! Oh hell yes”! He got me in at Miramar for an ejection seat ride, Pressure Chamber checkout and we were on!

Even though he was a full time student… Mike had managed to finagle a gig at Flight Test, North Island… performing test flights on F-8’s and F-4’s coming out of re-work at NARF. I mean he’d like… leave campus in shorts; drive over to North Island… put on his flight suit and gear and go out and fly at least a couple of test hops each day he was there. One thing was obvious… the man loved to fly… and it was infectious! My first two flights in the F-4, were in Lancer’s back seat.

We did things on those flights that I’d only experienced in my “Walter Mitty Dreams” up until then. I was hooked and could not wait until I could get up front and fly it myself! How’s this for an introduction… Max Performance takeoffs… 1V1 with Boomer in the F-8… Radar Altimeter check between the two little Coronado Islands off Mexico at about a hundred feet and 500 knots. And just for chits and grins, a little fly over of his son’s Little League Baseball Field! The second flight was my first time at MACH II… another Max go… and the stuff of dreams that motivated me for the future. I will forever be grateful for his graciousness and willingness to introduce me to one of the loves of my life… actually our lives.

We kid about it now, but Lancer tells folks he gave me rides in the F-4 when we were in college… and I gave him rides on my three mile, narrated, guided tour of the San Diego Zoo back then. (I had a part time job at the Zoo driving a Tour bus to supplement my monthly Government check while in college). Rest assured, I got the best deal out of that exchange!

Over the decades, I followed Lancer’s career, with pride in his success.

He invited me to his change of command when he turned over MAG-11 and I… along with so many others, were so satisfied and proud when he was selected for General… a recognition he so justly deserved. And as you could expect if you knew him… he probably flew more as a General than any of those before him or after him. He stayed current in the F-4, F-18 and AV-8B! Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but Mike was the high time Naval Aviator in the F-4, with right at 5,000 hours. That’s a hell of a lot of flight time in a Fighter! A feat this current generation will never see again in the fighters of today.

We have stayed in touch over all the decades and every summer for about twelve years we would get together when I would drive up to play in the Annual Purple Heart Classic, golf tournament held in Morehead City.

Something I coveted in that the two Marines that most influenced my life also took part. Dan McMahon who was my first commander in Vietnam and Lancer. Dan and I would play and Lancer would drive the beer cart in his modified F-18 beer cart facsimile. What a hoot! And even more special were the intimate evening dinners with the wives, after the tournament.

Special moments with special friends.

BTW… for those of you who attended the “Fabulous Phantom Foray” in San Diego a few years ago… the genesis of that was the result of one of those dinners at Fred and Julie Bush’s house, when Lancer and I were out back having a cigar and Mike mentioned how neat it was for us to be able to get together and said he thought we should have a get together for us aviators like the “Purple Heart” group did. Think I suggested a MAG-11 reunion… Mike then said he’d look into a reunion and it evolved into a big deal… with hundreds of attendees. Awesome!

Gonna shift gears… The genesis of this Gathering was as a result of an email exchange that Jim “Smokey” Stover and I were having, when I mentioned that Lancer’s birthday was coming up in August. Now the “Snakes” have had some reunions over the years… usually held in San Diego (I think). And Jim opined it might be a good time to have another.

As we communicated, it was decided that this time, everyone should travel to Lancer’s backyard, instead of having him go west. Jim grabbed the bull by the horns and started rallying the troops. Gradually, it all came together. And in the end, over 50 men from all over this country, arrived to pay homage to an incredible human being… Mike “Lancer” Sullivan… a Marine’s Marine and Aviator with few peers. It was awesome!

The event was to be held at Lancer’s favorite seafood restaurant; Southern Salt and Mike’s son Byron, arranged a viewing and info talk on the F-35B at NCAS Cherry Point. It ain’t “Star Wars” yet folks… but it’s close. That airplane can do stuff our generation couldn’t even dream of!

My only fear and concern, is having been a Maintenance Officer, besides being a pilot… is the capability of maintaining all that exotic stuff… might be a bridge too far. Hope I’m wrong. Byron BTW… is a chip off the old block if there ever was one… he’s also the Commanding Officer of VMX-1, the Corps’ research and development squadron at MCAS Yuma.

                    THE ATTENDEES

“Tis the easiest thing in the world to live a quiet and complacent life… But to do so… is to never have really lived at all”   (Jack London)

I’m using that quote because it was something I first read back in my early teens and has stuck with me ever since. For some damn reason, it popped into my mind that first night in the hospitality room of the hotel, as I greeted old friends with new faces (and less hair) for the first time in decades. We may now be; long of tooth and gray of beard… but if there was ever a group of men who embraced the essence of Jack London’s ode to a life of adventure and excitement (even if they’d never read or heard of that quote)… it was the men in that room! Most of us had experienced at least one war… some more… Collectively we were less than 1/1,000th of 1% of this nation. Men who served their fellow citizens, while excepting risks that few others would. We had seen the best and worst that mankind could offer. And we suffered the losses of those who served with us. Yet we maintain their lives in our memory… and they are forever young.

But we also had our rewards… we enjoyed the satisfaction of mastering a fabulous machine… we enjoyed sunrises and sunsets as few have ever seen and we have also seen the works of God’s own hand as he created this globe called earth; with vistas of almost indescribable beauty. We learned the meaning of teamwork, how to work together to accomplish a goal. And we had our ego’s… for we knew we were the product of a meritocracy. Didn’t matter your station in life, what college you went to… how much money your family had or who they were or even the color of your skin… once inducted in the system, it was all about you as an individual, that would determine your fate. Nobody gave us anything, we had to earn it! And yet we also knew that as competent and as exceptional we were… there were a very few among us that were even more exceptional than we were as a group… and that was what had brought us together again; to pay respect to the best of the very best! To show love and respect to Mike “Lancer” Sullivan!

Trying not to be lugubrious… but just let it be said, “We love that man”!

On my way home… I couldn’t help but reflect on that last night. The laughter, the banter, as we shared memories and we were just as irreverent that night as we were back in the day. We had memories, great memories that we shared once again… it was good for the soul. Maybe in our minds, we were young once again. In times like these I always remember one of Jim “Black” Lucas’s favorite quotes… “If it ain’t buckin’… it ain’t rodeo”! Gotta admit… we had a lot of rodeo in our lives! 

We were blessed!

Shadow

 

 

 

August 8, 2021…  FINALLY!  N-280CM, the Navy T-28B I sold last February, departed Stellar Airpark this morning with Chip Lamp at the controls with a smiling new owner, Joe Doll, in the aft cockpit.  Joe Doll has been nominated for the not-so-coveted “Most Patient Person” award!

Seeing the airplane depart with Joe’s big smile was worth the numerous glitches in our effecting delivery.  A very nice airplane with a very nice man to be it’s caretaker.  Irene Bennett, waved goodby to her late husband, Allan’s, airplane as it roared past wings waggling…

Above:  Captain Larry Perkins gives the “All Clear” just prior to the departure.

Here’s a video Kurt Gearhart shot surrounding the departure of N-280CM from P19:

https://u.pcloud.link/publink/show?code=XZb4TwXZDvhoQV49VEBIaBJnbmAtWjqIrMqV

Password:  Stellar

Kurt and Chip were classmates at the USAFA t’gether.  Kurt is a retired SWA captain and a former F-16 pilot at Luke AFB.  Kurt now flies Stearman 955 out of P19.  

 

August 5, 2021 A special evening at Carrabbas Scottsdale.  This restaurant was one of Angelo Daurio’s favorites.  Angelo was a very dear friend who had Gone West one year ago t’day.  His spaghetti was famous and the best Cheryl and I ever tasted.  So, along with missing Angelo, we miss his cuisine too.  So, in honor of Angelo we ordered spaghetti and meat balls.  Really good, but it would not come close to Angelo’s.  Here’s a photo our waitress took commemorating the evening…  Cheryl and I are raising our glass to a photo of Angelo raising his glass…  Sure do miss our pal…

 

 

 

August 2, 2021…  Good morning!  Some sad news to share:  Captain Ray Kelly has Gone West at just 65.  Ray had some cardio-issues.  This caused his career, as a senior JetBlue captain, to be cut short several years ago  

Ray and Mehran Riggi were among the first pilots I trained during the start-up of JetBlue Airways.  Both, proved to be exceptional individuals.  I remember Ray telling me of his love-affair with the Lockheed Constellation, a truly magnificent aircraft in looks and performance (in it’s day).  I can easily envision Ray sitting in the left seat of a pristine ‘Connie,’ gently pulling back on the yoke before lifting off on his westerly flight.  No doubt, in smooth air with warm-soft tailwinds, and a bright star to steer-by…

  Captain Raymond M. Kelly (1956 – 20210

RIP ol’ friend! 

 

 

July 21, 2021…  It is not good to have a blog and not use it.  No excuse, but as the title suggests “When I get ’round 2 it!”

This mornin’ Cheryl had her 2nd Cataract eye surgery.  All went well and she will soon again be all knowing AND all seeing!  Scary!

I just finished a great experience working with Joe Sottile and Gordon Johnson on a Cessna CJ-3 project.  Went well mostly due to Gordon’s unique abilities and Joe’s too.  The T-28B I sold is yet to be delivered, but, hopefully, that will happen this week… 

Still for sale is the incredible Ghost Ship, a Stearman project, Joe’s Golden Eagle, and 68 new (in their original containers) F-16 and A-10 600 gal. fuel tanks.  Also, there’s Jeff Hurd’s Mercedes and Beech C-23 for sale as well as Jim Swanke’s nifty 420 HP Jaguar XK.  Lots of photos and information herein!

Call me (480) 773-2823 for more information!

 

June 3, 2021…  SAD DAY!  My buddy, Dan Todd, has Gone West at 82!  Dan left quite a footprint.  Truly, Dan was a renaissance man.  I know of no one with a more varied list of accomplishments than his.  



Education: Princeton University, 1961.
Universtie de Lausanne, Suisse
Stanford Law School
Married (Barbara de Gaster), six children
Professional training and licenses:
Commercial Pilot, CFIIMEI, SES, A&P
Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award
New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame
USCG licensed Captain OUPV
Certified Mountain Search and Rescue Pilot, Montana
Rural Volunteer Fire Fighter (ex-Chief/training officer)
N.J. Firefighter 1 #172313, member and President of the Oldwick Volunteer Fire
Company

Licensed fishing guide, Montana

SCCA and FIA Competition Drivers License
Misty Blues Sky Diving Team, Jump Pilot
Public Sector experience:
Member, New Jersey General Assembly
Special Assistant to Chairman, Civil Aeronautics Board
Member White House Staff
Executive Director, 1971 White House Conference on Aging
Inspector General of Foreign Assistance, US Dept. of State (PAS)
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (PAS)
      First Chairman of the NTSB as a stand-alone agency!
Governor’s Transportation Task Force (Colorado)
McConnell Professor of Aviation, The Ohio State University
Public Servant in Residence, Monmouth University
Numerous State and National political campaigns
Private Sector experience:
Founder/Owner Princeton Aviation Corp (FAA flight school; approved repair
station; commuter airline).
Senior Director Air Safety, Airline Pilots Association
Senior VP, Government and Technical Affairs, AOPA
Senior VP, Frontier Airlines, Denver Colorado
President, Frontier Commuter Airlines
President, Judith Mercantile and Cattle Company
Qualified Expert Witness in matters of aviation operations
Boards, past and present
Somerset County Library Commission
Trustee, Millbrook School
Trustee, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Trustee, Air Safety Foundation
Member, Committee on Aviation Safety Engineering
Member, Colorado Forum
Trustee, Vice Chairman and Chair of Stewardship Committee Henrys Fork
Foundation (Idaho)
Trustee, Executive Committee, Monmouth Conservation Foundation
Director, NJ Commerce and Economic Growth Commission
Tewksbury Township Agricultural Advisory Board
Member Boards of Directors 70001 Foundation
Member of QB (Former Governor of SOM hangar)
Member and Chairman of the Board, CS/ATC
Member of and Vice-Chairman of the Board NJAA

Of all the things Dan accomplished I know for a fact that his proudest achievements were Barb & his children.  All six of ’em have turned out GREAT.  Below:  Barb, Dan and their three beautiful girls.  

Thanks to my pal, Gordon Johnson, Dan and his family were able to fly in a Falcon 900 from New Jersey to Montana which, even then, was to be Dan’s last trip to Montana.  

Above:  Dan with Falcon 900 having just arrived in Montana

Knights of the Round Engines (founded by the late-great Joe Foss).  We gather monthly from November – March to honor aviation’s stalwarts.  Dan Todd is 2nd from Right

Above:  Dan with N-1240D now being cared for by Mark Braeder KFFZ

FALCON FIELD, MESA, AZ

The Cessna 170A (with a 170B engine) was Dan’s last magic carpet.  He flew many Arizona desert flights in N-1240D with Ken Lambert.

RIP ol’ friend!  Keep the runway clear, we won’t be far behind!

 

May 17, 2020…  Holy Cow!  Almost a month since I shared something eloquent with you!  A lot has taken place too.  We just returned from a 2000 mile road trip to Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.   

We were in Grand Junction, Colorado for my buddy, Joe Davis.’ 80th birthday.  Joe and I were in bassinets t’gether 79 years ago and have remained close friends since.  Almost unbelievable is that we’ve never said a cross word in all that time.  Joe is the calm cool type and very soft spoken.  He reeks with respectability.  Joe and Kippy raised four wonderful kids, Mike, Miki, Mark and Mash.  Those four are making Joe & Kippy great-grandparents. Most of the family showed up for a magnificent celebration.  Cheryl and I were so proud to be there for this auspicious occasion!  

L – R:  Jim Madden – Billy – Joe – Cheryl May 9, 2021

Jim Madden was a USAF A1E “Spad” pilot durning the Vietnam War.  He invented a specialized survival package that is still in use.  Jim’s wife is Kippy’s cousin.  Jim’s brother, the late-great Don Madden, and I hired on with Frontier in 1967 and, later, worked together at America West Airlines in the flight training department.

From Grand Junction we drove to Las Vegas to see our long-time Frontier pals, Jim & Lois Appleby.  We dropped off a box full of Frontier memorabilia for Buck Hawk who lives nearby.  Buck was one of the most popular Frontier agents we knew.  Jim was the youngest Frontier pilot ever hired at barely 20 years old.  We flew t’gether a lot in the old Convair 580.

From Las Vegas we headed for the Allen Airways Stearman Fly-In at Gillespie Field near San Diego.  We’ve been going to the wonderful Stearman gatherings for more than a decade. This was the first one we didn’t fly to.  Since there are Stearman images on my car, I was not “jeered” for having driven there.

Cheryl was invited to take Kendle Hanson’s seat for the “Beach Tour.”  That’s always fun and our friends Jim & Fay Kitchell waved at the gaggle floating by their LaJolla home near the beach.  Cheryl and mutual friend, Fred Gorrell (in 955), waved back!

Above:  Cheryl in Stearman 396 with Mike Hanson

Next, we stopped in Alpine, CA just east of El Cajone to grab lunch with an old Frontier buddy, Pete Phelps and his wonderful wife, Pat.  I had not seen Pat since I took her for a flight in 964 a few years ago.  Back in the 70s Pete and I shared the flight deck on many a flight in the CV-580 “The Mountain Master!”

Pete and Pat at The Tavern in Alpine, CA May 16, 2021

Pete flew F-8 Crusaders from the USS Hancock during Vietnam.  He flew some missions with another long-time pal, Phil Colson.  They got in some hot water once for strafing a NVA Mig base.  Yup, Rules of Engagement sucked!

We finally rolled into our assigned parking spot at 5 PM last evening.  Tired but happy with “Mission Accomplished!”

 

April 20th, 2021…  I’m just now gettin’ rested up from our 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Actually, Cheryl and I are still busily involved in getting moved into our little condo.  You know, “The Blivit Process!”  

Slowly, but surely, we are going through a half century of savable finding a lot to be re-listed as donations to The Salvation Army!  A few more containers, then the hanging of art-work and then we sit back and sip a little wine taking in our newly decorated environment… More later…

 

April 8, 2021…  ‘Zactly FIFTY YEARS ago t’day Cheryl and I began our life t’gether as a married couple.  I coaxed her in to re-enlisting for another ten years with an option that could total 100.  By then we’ll likely have worn out each other’s welcome.  

I have to say that of the many good fortunes life has brought, Cheryl is the bright spot by far.  From the get-go it has been beyond anything I could hope for.  

Soon after we were married an opportunity presented itself in the form of a flying job in SE Asia.  They were offering a boatload of money.  At the time I was a co-pilot with Frontier based at the Salt Lake City domicile where Cheryl was a stewardess.  In those days they were stewardess’ whereas a few years later with the advent of male’s being added to that venue, the airlines changed the stewardess job title to that of Flight Attendant.  

Initially, I had thought that I would head there first to see if it would be a safe enough environment.  After all it was a very active war zone.  I mentioned this to Cheryl.  Immediately she responded, “If you are going, I am going!  Period!”  For the next fifty years that has been our mantra!  This first adventure would become quite unforgettable and one you can read about within this website.  So, just a few months after we married off we went both of us having obtained leave-of-absence from Frontier.

We celebrated our first anniversary in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  That too proved eventful!  We experienced a rocket attack and somehow just nine months later our son, Preston, arrived.  Thankfully, we were back in CONUS by then…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 3, 2021…

I spent a glorious day t’day with a couple of ol’ friends!  Joe Sottile and N-68238, Joe’s pristine 1943 Navy N2S-3 “Stearman.”  Joe’s Stearman (386) was, and still is, the brochure airplane for Pete Jones “Air Repair” where he restored some 145 Stearman’s before selling to Rare Aircraft.  Joe’s Stearman and I are old friends too!  Joe and I, along with Joe Anderson, were partners in that venerable old airplane.  It was a wonderful partnership too.

…until Joe Anderson made his announcement “I’m retiring and will start flying the Stearman!”  Joe Sottile and I kept 386 going strong, another body fillin’ up the calendar wouldn’t work.  So, Joe & Joe bought me out.  That’s where N-47964 came into the picture.  Later, Joe Sottile would end up buying Joe A’s interest.

Joe Sottile and I became friends in 1999 when I had the honor of administering part of his type-rating in the AirBus A-320 at good-ol America West Airlines (the little home-town airline that grew to be the largest airline in the world, American Airlines!  Another amazing story for another time).

Yesterday, Joe called, “How ’bout flying the Stearman to Collidge for breakfast?”  The first Saturday of each month the Coolidge Lions Club hosts a fly-in breakfast.  Lots of folks fly there albeit not for the breakfast, but for home-spun camaraderie.

It took me a nano-second to say, “Boy Howdy would I!”  

I arrived at Joe’s hangar precisely at 0800 this mornin’!  Joe was just e-tugging 386 out the hanger onto his ramp at “The Projects.”  The Projects are multi-million dollar homes at Stellar Airpark, Chandler, Arizona (P19 on AvNav charts).  In honor of my bad back and weak knees, a step was sitting there.  “Up you go Captain,” Joe barked!  “Either seat, you choose!”  

I hesitated before climbing into the front seat.  “Sure you don’t want the back seat?” asked Joe.  “Yup, I’ll be fine up front.  I wasn’t expecting to do the driving.  Wrong again.  After the engine start, Joe announced over the intercom, “It’s all yours!”

We flew to P08 “Coolidge Airport.”  Smooth and so was my landing which had me puffed up some by golly!  The breakfast, greeting old friends, seeing old airplanes, and, finally, deciding to head for nearby Casa Grande to gas-up.  Again, Joe insisted I do the flying.  Nope!  I did not argue, I just grinned!  I ended up with more bugs on my teeth than on the leading-edge of the wings!  

After fueling at Casa Grande again, Joe insisted I fly us back to roost at Stellar Airpark, 386’s home base.  Three legs, three take-offs, three tolerable landings.  I had a stellar Stellar Day!  Thanks to my buddy Joe Sottile and our old pal “386!”

March 6, 2021…


Bruce Haffner is The Chopper Guy and has been THE news reporter for Channel 3 and Channel 5 for years.  We became friends when he did some video work of our Arizona Stearman Squadron flying our Missing Man missions over the National Veteran’s Cemetery.   Then, he was just a Chopper Guy.  With a little work Bruce became a fixed-wing pilot as well.  Now, well rounded, he’s produced some GREAT videos.  With his permission I’m sharing links to the videos below:  N’joy!
 
 

https://youtu.be/b-bXbt0Se3k

 
 
 
 
 

       Blue Skies & Tailwinds….
     

 Billy@CaptainBillyWalker.com
Https://CaptainBillyWalker.com
           (480) 773-2823

 

February 22, 2021…  Two stalwart aviation greats have Gone West.  Both, good friends and both legendary.

Captain Tex Searle 1927 – 2021


Texal Elijah Searle passed away February 13, 2021, in Sandy, Utah. He was 93 and the same age as his mentor, Captain Jack Bering Schade, was when he passed in 2014. Coincidence or providence…

Tex was born March 25, 1927, in Delta, Utah, to Charles D. and Ruth Maxfield Searle, the youngest of ten children. Tex married Esther Knight in the Salt Lake temple on October 18, 1950. They had four children. After Esther died in 2010, he married Mary Gwen Holdaway. She passed away in early 2013.

Tex grew up on the family farm in Delta. At age 17, he joined the US Navy and served onboard the aircraft carrier, USS Antietam. After the war, he farmed in Delta and was part owner and operator of the Bell Hill Mine in Juab County, where they mined fluorspar. Tex began working for the original Frontier Airlines in 1956 and flew for them for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1985. He wrote and published a book, “The Golden Age of Flying, which was a collection of stories from pilots about the early days of Frontier Airlines.

Tex loved to fly, enjoyed hunting and fishing at Fish Lake, prospecting in the west desert, playing the piano, and practical jokes. He relished spending time with his family and his grandchildren. He often put on his old man mask, squawked his hearing aid, burst out in song, or told stories just to amuse or scare his grandkids. He cooked delicious barbecue.

He is survived by his children, Doug (Mona) Searle, Vicki Haight, Shawn (Ariane) Searle, ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren, and sister, Nedra Robison. Preceded in death by his wife, Esther, his wife, Mary Gwen, his close friend, Dora Hill, and his son, Kevin Searle.

Funeral services were held on Saturday, February 20, 2021 in Orem, UT.  

Below:  Tex as a US Navy seaman in WWII.

Below:  Tex’s great book, The Golden Years of Flying, a best seller!

Below:  Captain Jack Schade & Captain Tex Searle 

GREAT X 2!

Below:  Tex with a rare serious look.  He could really spread the joy!

Below:  Tex’s favorite seat, the left seat of a Frontier 737!

 

Colonel Ole Griffith 1921 – 2021 just three months from his centennial birthday.

Ole Curtis Griffith, Jr. passed peacefully into the arms of the Lord on February 17, 2021.

Colonel Griffith was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 22,1921 to Reverend and Mrs. O.C. Griffith. He attended Bellevue High School and Carnegie Institute of Technology, graduating in 1942 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Later he received a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University. He was also a graduate of the US Air Force Institute of Technology and the Air Command and Staff College.

Ole was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1942 and graduated from flying school with the Class of 1943K. During World War II, Ole served with the 91st Photo Mapping Squadron in Central and South America. He served 28 years in various command, staff, and technical assignments. This included a tour of duty on the staff of the Secretary of Defense. He was a Command Pilot, with over 4,000 hours in more than 50 different types of aircraft. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, with Oak Leaf Cluster. He retired from the Air Force in 1970, and then joined the Garrett Turbine Engine Company in Phoenix, Arizona. There, he served in several engineering and program management positions, until his retirement in 1990.

Ole was proud that the B-25 he flew in South America is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Ole’s lifelong passion for aviation began on his 6th birthday, when the United States received word that Charles Lindbergh had landed in Paris, following his transatlantic flight. His love for photography began when he snapped a picture of Lindbergh in 1927, the first photo that he ever took.

Ole was a widely published writer and photographer. He served 2 terms as President of the Phoenix Wing of the American Aviation Historical Society. He was a member of the Air Force Association, the Military Officer’s Association, the Military Order of the Daedalians and the Quiet Birdmen. He was a founding member of both the National Air and Space Museum and The American Air Museum in Britain. His academic honors included membership in Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma, Theta Tau and Scabbard and Blade.

He was a lifelong learner, who was interested in everything. He was an avid reader, a world traveler, and a lover of family, God, and country. Ole never met a stranger and leaves behind hundreds of friends from all generations. He viewed death as an exciting adventure as he looked forward to meeting His Lord. Ole was an active participant at the Beatitudes Campus Retirement Community where he resided for 14 years.

Ole was predeceased by his parents, his wife, Victoria, his sister, Margaret Mooney, and his brother, Reverend John D. Griffith. His survivors include, son, Jeffrey, daughters, Jennifer Cecil (Darrell), Julie Anderson (Brad) and his girlfriend Joyce Stenquist and grandchildren, Audrey Kobsar (Jamie), Hilary Peele (Justin), Brandon Crowe (Brittany), Natalie Bowman (Tyler), Steven Anderson (Kristen), Zachary Cecil and Jodi O’Connor (Paul). He is also survived by 14 great grandchildren, Lincoln, Griffith, Bennett and Graham Crowe, Jaden, Jackson, and Keira Kobsar, Daelen, Easton, and Nolan Peele, Emerson and Cayden Bowman, and Abby Lynn and Hailey O’Connor and sister-in-law, Frances Griffith.



Services — Saturday. February 27, 2021 in Phoenix.  The Arizona Stearman Squadron performing the Missing Man Formation in Ole’s honor.

 

February 15, 2021… Stanley Emmett Shaw RIP

I knew Stan Shaw.  We were good friends until we weren’t!  Cheryl’s mother, Lillian Isman, worked for Stan and Norma Jean at their airport motel.  Mom loved working for the Shaws.  
 
Stan was a wheeler-dealer.  He came with Frontier about the same time I did.  He knew how to impress.  He flew into DEN in his P-51 ‘Mustang!’  Not long after, I sold it for him to my boss, Joe Roach, the Mooney Distributor at Jeffco.  Joe didn’t think he needed a check-out and almost ‘bought the farm’ on his first take-off.  I have a very vivid visual memory watching him somehow getting the nose down before he stalled.  
 
Stan was an amazing fellow.  One time, he bought a used Hughes 264A helicopter, & taught himself how to fly it.   Then he ferried it from SLC to California.  Another time, he bought an old Stinson 108-3 and asked me to pick it up for him at SFO!  Stan told me it was loaded for IFR.  “Even has a flight director,” he said.  
 
Cheryl went with me to fly it back to SLC.  Larry Freer? flew us out in his Dad’s Cessna 182.  I had been instructing Larry for his ATP.  He was very sharp and, later, hired-on with Frontier.  It was an uneventful flight into SFO albeit with low ceilings and visibility.  
 
We pulled in to where the Stinson was tied down.  It was sharply polished.  You could shave anywhere using the brightly polished metal as a mirror.  Nice!  Until I looked in the cockpit expecting to see a nice radio package and the flight director.  The f’n airplane had a Narco VHT-3 “coffee-grinder!” And the Flight Director?  It was a Coffing Industries bubble faced attitude indicator with a tiny plastic airplane hanging down.  The idea was to fly formation with the little plastic airplane.  WHAT!
 
Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 10.03.22 AM.png
 
 
Then I made one of my most absolute dumbest decisions EVER!   There was no way for me to fly AND work this radio.  So, the plan (yup, we called it a “plan”) was for Cheryl and I in the Stinson to take-off in formation with Larry.  No problem, Larry’s Skylane had the 360 view windows and a rear-view mirror.
 
“Larry, just don’t exceed 80 mph and when we pop-out on top, cancel the IFR clearance and we’ll go our separate way.  What started as a very plausible arrangement went to heck in a hand basket!
 
Take-off went fine, then “POOF” Larry disappeared into the mirth.  Just as suddenly, the Coffing Industries “Flight Director” completely failed with the little airplane suddenly at the bottom of the bubble.  Had it not been for all the needle-ball-airspeed training with partial panel, compliments of the excellent training department at good ol’ FAL (Jack Robins, Roy Williams, Jack Gardner, Dave Kaplan, and Elmer Burson), Cheryl’s and my love affair would have ended right there.  
 
Cheryl thought everything was just fine until we popped out thru the top of the clouds and saw sweat dripping off my forehead.  The outside temperature was 28º which caused us to quickly recognize our next challenge.  There was no heater!  
 
We made it to EKO in VFR conditions.  Thank goodness for the FAL/UAL “wet lease” as we were able to thaw-out and then catch the return 836/837 flight to SLC and a strongly worded visit with my friend Stan.  I don’t remember now what happened to that airplane.  For sure, I didn’t fly it again
 
Larry made it back fine and, as I mentioned, later joined Frontier.
 
…here is the story as to how Stan saved the day for me when I went to DEN for my year-end “bet your job” check-ride in the 580 “sim.
 
Being based in SLC I had little opportunity to get to DEN to avail myself of simulator time.  I had good reports from the captains I flew with, but I was a nervous-nelly.  I had heard stories of guys who busted their year-end probationary check-ride and were dismissed.  
 
On the way to DEN in a Frontier 727, I sat in the middle seat between Bill McChrystal and Bobby Bagshaw.  Bill was the SLC Chief Pilot then.  Bobby, one of the best guys ever to share the flight-deck with, said, “quit worryin’ — you’ll do fine.  Bill McChrystal was equally consoling.  Nice, but it did not help.  I was wringing-my-hands-nervous!
 
When I arrived at the sim (then on Smith Road), I stepped into the back where a couple of seats were installed for observers.  I watched Jack Gardner administer Stan Shaw’s check-ride.  I saw Stan make some glaring mistakes and thought, “Oh Lordy, Stan is history!” And, I became more hand-wringing-nervous!
 
Soon, Stan’s check-ride was completed.  Not only did Stan pass, Jack Gardner said little about what I thought were mistakes that would surely produce a failure.  When I saw that Stan had indeed passed, I immediately relaxed and did better than ever before or after.   Yup!  Stan made my day back in 1968!  We would laugh over that story many times.
 
       Blue Skies & Tailwinds….
 
IMG_3913 7.gif
 Billy@CaptainBillyWalker.com
Https://CaptainBillyWalker.com
           (480) 773-2823
 
 February 13, 2021…  Humanity said ‘goodby’ to one of it’s all-time best!  Captain Pete Lamkin has Gone West around 7 PM February 13, 2021.  He lined up on runway two-seven and, after a smooth lift off, is on a smooth westerly flight with warm-soft tailwinds, and a bright star to steer by.  

I found some photos of Pete on my website.  The one with Pete, Billy & Cheryl was taken in front of his residence in Longmont.  What a fellow he was.  Pete was such a great teacher. Just his way of dealing with life showed character of mega proportions.  Most would shake their heads and marvel seeing him trudge to the airplane with a flight bag in one hand and an overnight bag in the other.  A lesser person suffering with raging arthritis would pray for a wheel chair.  Not Pete.  Often someone would ask to carry his bags.  Pete would softly decline.  To say the Frontier folks revered Pete would be a gross understatement.

Before arthritis hit Pete, he was an amazing athlete.  Captain Jim Appleby told me a story when Pete picked Jim up and lifted him over his head as though he was snatching a barbell!

RIP ol’ friend!

Above:  Pete with Billy & Cheryl, Longmont, CO 2019 

 

January 29, 2021…  We no longer own the La Mirada Way home as of t’day!  We are moved into the little condo in Paradise Village.  Still a plethora of boxes to sort thru, but each day a bit better.  

Some nice folks in this utopian environment.  Last evening, Sam Jenkins, brought us a cooked salmon for our supper.  Sam’s from Afton, Wyoming.  So, we weren’t too surprised by his benevolence.  We’ve met some nice folks as our new neighbors.  Still, the neighbors we just moved from are unbeatable.  “Terrific” comes to mind.

Stay SAFE!

January 23, 2021…  WOW!  A month and a day since I scribbled down our doins!  We sold our beautiful home backing up to Pima Canyon and South Mountain Park.  We close on it in just five more days.                            

Cheryl and I lived there nearly eighteen years, the longest, by far, of anyplace we have ever lived.  We loved the home and our neighbors.  Especially, our neighbors, the absolute BEST!   But, with this infernal aging thing we thought it was time to get into the condo living thing.  No stairs, no pool to care for, no yard upkeep.  Yup! I think this will work just fine.  And, we are less than a half-hour from our “old” neighborhood.  We plan on keeping in touch.

We wish you all all well, a safe year, a healthy year.  The last one was definitely a do-over!

 

December 22, 2020…  Still wrestling with the process of selling our home and moving into the Aderra condo we recently purchased.    Hope all is going well with you and that you are SAFE n’ HEALTHY!  And we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

December 10, 2020… We will be celebrating the end of a very bad year soon. But we will also be celebrating our son, Preston’s, 48th birthday (30th). No way can we have a “kid” that old! …and grown grandchildren. No one told us all this would happen so fast!

Hopefully, 2021 will be a year we can look forward to and, hopefully, n’joy!

We’ve been busy having bought a condo 25 minutes from our present home which we’ve just listed for sale. We close on the new place the 16th when the fun begins. GAWD we hate the moving process! In the last 50 years we’ve moved no fewer than eight times. Nuthin’ compared to my Nesbitt grandparents who moved NINETEEN time in their six decades t’gether. Cheryl and I are fast approaching our FIFTIETH anniversary! Some folks thought we wouldn’t make it a year!  So far, so good!

We hope you are SAFE n’ HEALTHY!  And comforted that Pfizer has come up with a vaccine for this terrible Chinese virus!  I have complete trust in Pfizer!  They are the same company that makes Viagra!  If a company can raise the dead, they can certainly cure the living!

 

 

November 30, 2020… OKYDOKY, we are ending the next-to-the-last month of the absolutely worst year in the start of the decade! …can’t go anywhere but up from here!

Cheryl and I are caught up in the busyness of moving preparation. We interviewed several realtors and will sign an exclusive contract t’morrow and be on the multi-list. We’ll see how it goes!

I’ve been talking with John Waggener, archivist, at the University of Wyoming for much of mine and my father’s stuff. I was born and partially raised in Wyoming and my Dad’d aviation career was there. So, it’s a good fit albeit I went to Arizona State University and am a proud Sun Devil.

I had already donated my Dad’s Civil Air Patrol (CAP) items to the CAP. Now, it seems. there will be some sharing between the Arizona CAP, the Wyoming CAP and the UW archives. Nice to know my Dad’s stuff will be available to researchers downstream.

My Dad, W. Dillard “Pic” Walker learned to fly in Colorado as a teenager in 1924. He and a non-flying brother started a flight school and charter business, “Plains Airways, Inc.,” in Cheyenne, Wyoming. During WWII, Plains grew to three bases. Cheyenne was the main base. Laramie was affiliated with the University of Wyoming. Ft. Morgan. Colorado was pre-glider training.

My Dad was one of the founders of the the Civil Air Patrol and Wyoming’s first Wing Commander. During WWII Plains taught more than 10,000 pilots and mechanics their trade. He would be the first one chosen for the new Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame along with his best friend and colleague, Ralph Johnson. There were four inductees in the first celebration of the new Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame. Gen. Sam Phillips and famed airmail pilot, “Slim” Lewis would be the other two. It was 1995 two years after my Dad had Gone West. Ralph was the only one alive out of those four intrepid aviators chosen to start off the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame that Governor Hathaway served as introducer of the keynote speaker. Me. Humbling so it was. From 1995 until 2020 a single inductee has been chosen. This year there will be two.

 

November 21, 2020…

Cheryl and I have been busy. We bought a Condo near the PV Mall. We’ll close the escrow December 16th.

Likely, you know what a ‘Blivit’ is, right? A Blivit is 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound sack! That’s us! We’ve been in our present home for 17 1/2 years. We will miss it and, especially, our wonderful neighbors! But, we will soon be at that stage of life where stairs (we have 15 of ’em) and a pool are less desirable than they were a decade and a half ago. Our new condo has an elevator direct to our door as well as underground parking. Aderra Condominium development has really nice facilities with a very nice Embassy Suites hotel a short walk away for relatives and friends. We had our Air-America annual reunion there a few years ago.

 

November 7, 2020…

 

21 years ago, August 1999, was my last month with good ol’ America West Airlines.  My last duty was to help deliver three Airbus A-319s from Hamburg, Germany to Phoenix, AZ.  Three of us decided we would bring our wives along and make a nice vacation out of the excursion.  Along with Cheryl and me, Capt. & Mrs. Larry Guthrie, Capt. Dale & Kim Churchill made up our fun group.
AWA would pay for the pilot’s tickets and we would be responsible for our wives tickets.  Then, either Larry Guthrie or Dale Churchill discovered that we could fly over on the Concorde using our pass privileges and go positive space!  WHAT!  It worked out to be about $800 per couple, a fraction of the normal fare.  
Boy Howdy!  It all fell together smooth as a pair of silk shorts!  We were treated royally by British Airways beginning with their hoity-toity first class lounge and on-board service.  …you couldn’t blink without a flight attendant refilling your wine glass.
The cabin was tiny compared to a 747, with just 99 seats, all first class, small, but comfortable seats. The cabin windows were about the size of the bottom of a Budweiser beer bottle!    Behind Cheryl’s seat sat George Lucas of Star Wars fame.
We barely knew sub-sonic to super-sonic.  Nary a ripple.  On the cabin display we saw that we were flying at Mach 2.1 (roughly 1612 MPH) at 58,000.’  It took us just 3 hours 12 minutes from JFK to Heathrow!  
The Concorde burned the same fuel as a 747 taking twice as long for the same flight.  We three guys were invited to the cockpit (also quite cramped) but friendly and impressive.   Memorable!
The photo below was taken by an RAF Tornado in April 1985. Photographer Adrian Meredith climbed into a Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado twin-engine after-burning, variable-sweep multirole combat aircraft with a single mission…to capture a supersonic Concorde at altitude, high over the Irish Sea.  This is the only photo of the Concorde flying supersonic!
As expected, the interception was successful, and after expending much of her fuel, the Tornado rendezvoused with the Concorde south of Ireland at over twice the speed of sound (Mach 2.0).  The RAF fighter could only do so for a short time due to the enormous rate of fuel burn.  Soon after joining the white delta winged SST airlines five miles above the ocean, the Tornado fighter jet was forced to break formation and head for it’s base, while the Concorde effortlessly and gracefully cruised faster than words can be carried…on to New York City.

Above:  Earle Morency and I in the cockpit of the first Concorde.  Toulouse, France 2006.  We sat there thinkin’ “ManOMan I’d like to fly this thing!” Earle, a really good fellow, and I flew t’gether at the original Frontier Airlines and, later, JetBlue Airways.
I made 77 North Atlantic crossings with Cheryl going on 36 of them and not counting the fast flight in the Concorde.  Hard to believe I’ve been retired almost twenty years!

 

November 4, 2020... OK so what can I say good about t’day? I’m workin’ on it…

 

October 28, 2020… After enduring a record HOT summer we’ve suddenly switched gears into the low 40’s at night but still nice in the 70s during the day.

Cheryl and I voted early. I hand-carried our ballots to one of the polling places and personally stuck ’em in the slot. Hopefully, our votes will count.

We’ve been busy with our airplane sales on-line and, for the most part, staying close to home. We are hopeful this awful pandemic will end and we can work on adjusting to a new-normal!

I had a deeeelightful call this mornin’ from Captain Owen Clifton, a senior captain with JetBlue. Nearly 21 years ago we worked t’gether. Owen is a check-airman and recently caught a ride on Delta. The Delta captain was long-time friend Mark Holt. Mark has authored several aviation books such as Turbine Pilots Flight Manual. Another example how aviation has shrunk the world. Another case of “…would you happen to know?”

Captain Holt is the very one who persuaded me to write FLY THE WING now in it’s Fourth Edition published by ASA: https://www.asa2fly.com/Fly-The-Wing-P4064.aspx

So, in the past couple of days I’ve re-connected with a couple of ol’ friends. Yup! Deeeelightful!

Then, I heard from UPS captain, Rick Ferrin. I sold Rick N-68832 recently. 832 was my pal, Roger Parrish’s, beloved Stearman that he flew the last twenty or so years of his life. Roger was legendary as a warrior and Commander/Leader of the Thunderbirds.

https://captainbillywalker.com/war-stories/the-chu-lai-incident/

 

Rick has honored Roger’s memory by putting Roger’s name under the cockpit ring. It’s still Roger’s airplane! Rick is now the caretaker and a better one would be hard to find.

N-68832 (Below a smoke pass at 832’s new home base, Rome, GA)

October 19, 2020... T’day is a sad day in the Arizona Aviation Community. Legendary aviator, LeRoy Peterson has Gone West. LeRoy finally succumbed to a long debilitating illness.

LeRoy & Terry with the DGA-15

Here’s a photo of LeRoy and his beautiful Howard DGA 15. DGA = Damn Good Airplane and it is! In the photo is Terry Emig at who’s Casa Grand hangar LeRoy kept his Stearman and Howard for a while.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of having LeRoy and Peggy on board a training flight in the Airbus A-320. This morning we all are flashing back to the many fly-in breakfasts we n’joyed at their fly-in home at Aguila (west of Wickenberg). In the photo below of LeRoy’s home/hangar, if you look close, you’ll see tire marks from Terry’s Stearman on the roof of the hangar! I know, you’ve told me a million times not to exaggerate…

 

 

October 15, 2020… Cheryl discovered a Diamond-in-the-Rough! We’ve lived in The Valley of the Sun since 1987. Actually, I lived here before that having moved here as a senior in high school in 1958. After college I was off on my dream-chase finally moving back after Cheryl and Preston (tired of the snow and cold at our Colorado ranch at 8200′ above sea level) made their demands.

That we had never heard of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation folks, located in the desert northwest of Scottsdale, is puzzling. Now we know about this marvelous place where wildlife are saved and re-introduced to the wild. A number of the animals, not able to be re-introduced, are exhibited in a well-run and organized natural environment.

Put this on your bucket list! You will not be disappointed. The place is teeming with the Mexican Grey Wolf, Foxes of all kinds, Desert Tortoise, Coyotes, Bobcats, Mule Deer, Coatimundi, Mountain Lions, and Black Bears. …and “Goliath!” Goliath is a large non-Arizona species of tortoise and he roams the ground regally.

All-in-all this was a delightful experience for Cheryl and me. …and we’ll return, hopefully introducing friends and family to this special place.

Goliath, a non-Arizona desert tortoise is the official greeter!
A Fox with an auto=imune problem resulting in being nearly fur-less.
Goliath and his new buddy Billy
Cheryl incognito
Feeding two unique Red Fox without any red coloring!
Our tour guides were exceptionally well versed and made our experience delightful!
Tacho the mountain lion
One of several timid Kit Foxes
Numerous examples of the Bobcat
a number of Black Bear examples reside at the Conservatory
The Cotimundi is in the Raccoon Family – several examples to see

Incongruous as it seems, just prior to telling you about our trip to Southwest Wild Animal Conservation Center, I had posted a lion hunting message with photos from nearly SEVENTY years ago. I have never hunted lions albeit I used to be a hunter. Deer, Antelope, Elk, and wild fowl. I don’t hunt anymore. I prefer to see the animals. I still support hunting and the 2nd Amendment. Hunting, helps the husbandry of wildlife.

Being raised on a Wyoming cattle/sheep ranch. We hunted simply because it was in our DNA. My father argued that our family would much rather eat venison or elk than butcher one of our Herefords. We all knew the importance of hunting especially when many of the predators were themselves culled.

I stopped hunting when we had our Rainbow Trout Ranch in Colorado. We had a herd of Elk that migrated thru our place twice a year. Some forty of these magnificent animals. I got to where I could actually “bugle” with the Bulls during rutting season. Once, one large bull came to within 50 yards of me before he recognized my fraud.

We had hunters ask to hunt on our place. My pat response was, “We hunt any hunters on our place!” And, we posted it as no hunting. I ended up giving my 7mm magnum Remington with it’s Redfield wide-angle scope to my mechanic, Lance Winter.

 

October 12, 2020… Sorting thru photos – I came across a couple of lion hunting photos from my days in Saratoga, Wyoming. Here is Len Walker & Win Condict with the lions (later on exhibit in a large and magnificent glassed display at the Rustic Bar).

 

 

October 7th, 2020… The note below comes from Bill & Claudia Allen, Allen Airways (KSEE) Gillespie Field, near San Diego:

“Guys

I have been contacted by the fellows in Galesburg that put on the Stearman Flyin about a project 

They got a 60 year lease on the airport for $1.00 a year and have plans to build a 100×80 hangar for the Stearman organizations & flyins. ( offices, hangar space, museum, meeting facility, headquarters)

Local folks in Galesburg ( 30,000 population ) have put up about $ 450,000 towards the building.

They need to raise another 
$800,000 and want to spread the word seeking any donations – the donation info will be in the next Flying Wire publication

Please pass this around and send them a donation 

Bill Allen 

Ps naming opportunities for larger donations” 

 

October 3rd, 2020… T’day marks a month until the November 3rd national election and our growing concern for all that is happening globally that can and will affect us in America. The President and First Lady are very ill with the awful Chinese virus while, simultaneously, the subversives busy themselves in their attempt to steal the election. A lot for we Conservatives to overcome! Our prayers are with our country and to the President and First Lady🙏🏻

Our nephew, Kurt Garbin, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado was here to spend a few days visiting his Mom (my sister) and Norm Tisdale. We n’joyed a couple of very pleasant evenings together. Kurt is also a pilot with his own airplane & hangar. He also is one of the most successful heavy equipment salesmen in the country as a regional salesman for McCoy Caterpillar Co.

 

October 2, 2020… Amazing! My pal, Larry Duthie, KIA in 1967 and, later, resurrected has written his memoire, a must read! Also, check out the story I wrote about ‘Gruff!’

https://captainbillywalker.com/war-stories/larry-duthie-kia-67/
https://captainbillywalker.com/war-stories/larry-duthie-kia-67/

 

 

September 28, 2020… T’day the T-28B (N-280CM) flies to Goshawk Aviation (KCGZ) for it’s Condition Inspection. This has been a busy week with the airplane sales business. A good thing, right?

I can not say ’nuff about my pal Larry Perkins and all the help he’s been with my airplane sales projects. Thanks to ace mechanic, Lance Winter, for his support as well!

 

Captain Larry Perkins all-around good fellow!

Below:

Ed Duckworth with Irene Burnett owner of N-280CM & Larry Perkins

T’day it was Ed Duckworth’s turn!

September 22nd, 2020… This 5th grader has it figured!

September 20th, 2020… If you’ve had problems reading the Mike Daciek stories, finding that there are no photos populating, we are working the problem. Apparently, the WORD PRESS website program will not automatically populate the photos with the story. Most likely, it is me not yet knowing how…

I just received a copy of a new literary effort by former US Navy CDR Don “Inky” Purdy. Where the High Winds Blow is also the title to a poem he wrote honoring Lady Jesse. I hope you saw the great documentary tribute to Lady Jesse. I’ll hunt up the link and post that as well.

September 13th, 2020… I’ve been in hiding! Cheryl reminded me that I turn 79 the 30th. I’ve been trying to figure out how to avoid more of this aging process. I’ve not been good at avoiding or aging! But, by gosh I’m still on this side of the grass pluggin’ away. I’m still flying some albeit much less than last year when I was flying paid rides in the Stearman.

If you haven’t checked out the cool airplanes I have for sale be sure to click on the Aircraft and Parts For Sale page!

Stay SAFE!

August 26, 2020… Boy Howdy have I been remiss from checkin’ in! Hopefully, the following “Blast from the Past” will assuage you some…

I’m in the middle of going thru “stuff” with the plan of keeping little and tossin’ out a lot of a half-century accumulation. I came across a note from the late Percival Hopkins “PH” Spencer.

PH or “Spence” was an Early Bird (Membership was limited to those who piloted a glidergas balloon, or airplane, prior to December 17, 1916). Spence and my father were friends through Billy Parker (an esteemed mentor of mine) also an Early Bird and one who’s story is located within my website.

What brave and extraordinary men these were. PH was a member of the OX-5 Aviation Pioneers as was my father, my mother and me. PH “Spence” Spencer was born April 30, 1897 and died, at age 97, January 16, 1995 in Torrance, CA.

Mom and I were Historian members of OX-5 as we were not qualified under the then requirements of having flown or worked on an OX-5 powered aircraft prior to 1940. Now, with most of the qualified members having Gone West, everyone is classified with the same membership. They are a great bunch of folks. http://ox5.org. I was the president of the Arizona Chapter for a decade along with having co-founded the Silver Wings of Arizona Chapter with the late-great Barry M. Goldwater, RIP! In Arizona, if the OX-5ers met, the Silver Wingers met too. T’gether, but only in Arizona! I was simply too lazy to hold separate meetings. It seemingly worked great that way as both groups had much in common.

In October 1989 Spence was the keynote speaker of the OX-5 National Convention. He bequeathed me his hand written speech. I will share it with you:

“Greetings to all Early Birds and Early Birds associates and OX-5ers. Especially to those fortunate enough to be here tonight.

I have been asked to tell about my early flying experiences; so I will start with my first flight. What I am going to tell you is fully documented by notarized affidavits concerning my initial flights in my glider.

My first solo was on April 2, 1911 and my friend, Pic, would not arrive on scene for a few more months! I was thirteen years old. I flew a Whitteman Type Glider I had built from plans in Popular Mechanics Magazine. It was a bi-plane with wings 4X4X24 with bamboo wing spars and tail booms. Covering was ordinary cotton cloth shrunk with a cornstarch solution. I made this myself at home on Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford Phil I was going to Grammar School. My school-mates helped me carry it to Look Out Hill in Keeney Park on two or three occasions.

I suffered many bruises and skinned knees and elbows since I was unable to run fast enough, with the wings on my back, after landing. Thus, I learned, real quick, that shifting weight for control was not the way to fly; so I went to Stage 2!

This was a much stronger glider built of spruce and had a pair of floats made of oval stove pipe with soldered joints and internal reinforcement. I fitted it with a Curtiss-Type Shoulder Yoke Control system (3 axis).

My brother towed me behind my father’s boat at about 10 MPH using 300 feet of manila rope. With a 5 to 10 MPH wind I could get airborne but only land and take off. I could not make turns since the crag of the glider was great, and the rope so tight, that the glider followed the boat. I made many flights and felt very comfortable with the Curtiss Controls. All flights were on the Connecticut River in Hartford. This was in 1913 when I was between 15 and 16 years old.

My first powered flight was in a Curtiss Type Flying Boat, May 15, 1914. I was 17 years old. This machine was made in Connecticut and had crashed on it’s first flight when the controls pulled out of the floor since they were fastened with short wood screws. The pilot managed to set it down on the water with relatively little damage. The pilot removed his engine and abandoned the plane on a sand bar.

I got my father to buy the plane and, also, another engine, a 4 cylinder – 2 cycle with 50 HP. I repaired the damage, installed the engine, BOLTED IN the controls and was ready for my first Powered Flight.

I told by buddies to go across the river at the foot of State Street in Hartford and I would taxi the plane over to a sand bar where I intended to keep it. As I moved out into the river I was anxious to see if it would get up on the step and plane. It did that so nicely that I added more power and I was airborne! Since I had made so many take-offs in my towed glider I was at ease, but now that I am flying down the river and I didn’t know how to turn around to get back home. I flew about 5 miles down the river to Wethersfield, landed and turned around on the water. Then I took off headed back to Hartford.

As I approached the city, The Hartford to New York Night Boat had just left the dock; so I gave it a buzz job! The deck was alive with about 400 people all waving everything they could get their hands on. That was a sight and thrill I will never forget.

This was really the beginning of my aviation career for I designed and built nine airplanes in 12 years. The one built in 1919 is now in the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, CT.

Memorable high lights of my career includes a tour flying a Ford Tri-Motor for the Shell Oil Company and my log book show that I carried twelve thousand passengers in one year!” Later I served as personal pilot for Juan Trippe, founder and president of Pan Am. Many of you are familiar with the Spencer Amphibian Air Car which is in production today for the homebuilder.

PH Spencer with his RC-3 Republic Seabee and, above, his prototype Air Car.

 

 

On my 80th birthday I made my first flight on a twin-pontoon bi-plane glider towed by a high powered ski boat. I designed it for a company interested in producing it commercially. Thus my life has been full circle referring back to my towed flight behind my father’s boat in 1913.

In addition to conventional aircraft I developed an ornithoper – which is a machine propelled by beating wings. WHAMO of Hula-Hoop & Frisbee Fame built 650,000 of these rubbered powered birds. I continued the development using model airplane gas engines and an 8 ft model with 4/5 HP is in the Smithsonian as the World’s First! These towns instilled the desire to build a man carrying ornithopter. So, I designed – built and flew an 8 ft. scaled model with radios control which is in the EAA museum along with a video of its flights. At a CAL TEC symposium on beating wing propulsion, it was the consensus that if a man carrying ornithopter was successful, my design would be the one to succeed.

I have complete drawings for this machine including the test equipment. At my age and financial status I am unable to construct it but I would be very happy to work with anyone who would be interested in building such a machine.”

PH Spencer would live another six years. He actually kept his FAA certification current and flew until he was NINETY! Just writing this piece, largely his own telling, has been inspirational.