Every now and then… Blog (when I’m feelin’ gabby)…
March 23, 2020… Some indications that the anti-viral medications show promise and that there will be some actual testing in NY tomorrow… Sure do hope that gives positive results or that someone comes up with a fix soon! I am anxious to get back to talking about airplanes fer goodness sake!
March 21, 2020… As with most of my fellow American’s, Cheryl and I are snuggled in at home with hopes and prayers that the global pandemic will not be as prolonged as the experts expect but that a medical breakthrough will stem the exponential expansion of this terrible virus.
March16, 2020… A perspective — My Mother was the oldest. She was five with two younger brothers. They lived in Casper WY. It was 1918 and the “Spanish Flu” was exponentially becoming epidemic.
March 15, 2020… Cheryl has graduated from feeling conflicted to her experiencing a strong pull to travel to Lynn MA. Her motivation is understandable given Alice, her sole surviving sibling, has been in the hospital. The COVid-19 makes travel too great a risk. Please add Alice Allen to your prayer list!
PLEASE check out this link:
Also: https://captainbillywalker.com/uncategorized/plains-airways-wwii-cptp/ where my Mom’s presentation to the OX-5 Aviation Pioneers looked back at her early days in aviation… I hope you n’joy this!
March 13, 2020… N’joying the rain! …and catching up with mail and the aircraft sales updates.
March 12, 2020… Yesterday I coulda used a boat! Uncommon heavy rains driving from Ahwatukee to Scottsdale Airport for our Knights of the Round Engines group. Small turnout but we were blessed with our oldest member, Bob Larson (100) and our senior member, Ole Griffith (99) who is the sole surviving member of the Knights founded by the late-great Joe Foss. Our name came from the Round Engine Room at the Thunderbird Hotel at the Scottsdale Airport. Those at the far end of the photo below are seated around the Round Engine table which is a round glass top over a WWII Stearman engine that was used at Thunderbird Field (now Scottsdale Airport) during the war!
L – R: Dr. Mike Pfleger, KJ Summers, Ole Griffith, Mark Larson, Bob Larson, Jim Haxby, Billy Walker, Dan Todd, Walt Seaton
March 5, 2020… Buddies Dan Todd, Ken Lambert and I head for Falcon Field t’day to take photos and check the logs on Dan’s Cessna 170. Look for this nice 4-place on my Aircraft For Sale page tomorrow.
February 21, 2020… From the February 2020 Stearman Flying Wire:
SRA president, Mike Rutledge, flew N-29XF for some three hours. Here’s what he had to say:
“One of Falcon’s (KFFZ) more interesting Stearman residents is Larry Dustman’s R-1340 equipped “Ghost Ship.” The Ghost Ship was built by John Pike and his Crew at Big Sky Stearman using model 75 bones as a basis to fabricate the likeness of a 1930s Curtis F11C-2 “Goshawk” fighter. I have a well-known affinity for wanting to fly one-off planes. I suppose the Schiffer’s “Beast” Duster was the catalyst. Who doesn’t want to fly a 600 HOP Stearman? After a brief discussion with Larry and a call to my insurance agent, Larry gave me the keys to the Ghost Ship along with a ground checkout from local Stearman elder “Captain” Billy Walker. This too probably warrants its own future article, but I won’t keep you in suspense, flying the Ghost ship isn’t for everyone. It handles like about 70% golden age fighter with enough common Stearman characteristics to claim the heritage. It’s fast and immediately puts a smile on your face when you push the throttle forward as you look through the gun ring. Heck, I was smiling just taxiing. I’ll chalk those 3 hours in the Ghost Ship as the highlight of my trip to Arizona.”
February 4, 2020… I had some great flying opportunities over the weekend. I flew with Mikey in Roger’s Stearman (832). I flew it like I hadn’t flown in months! Safe, but ugly! The next day I flew with Joe in 386, the Stearman we used to own together with Joe Anderson. That went better. We flew a two-ship formation flight over Laveen Days parade. My neighborhood was treated to a smoke-on flyby as we headed west to Laveen.
I then had a chance to fly Joe Sottile’s beautiful little Meyers 145. It is not only pretty it’s a treat to fly! Then we flew 386 back to Stellar leaving the Meyers in Joe’s Chandler hangar. I still haven’t wiped the grin off my face.
Below: Roger Parrish & Fred Gorrell in 832. Dr. Mike Braegger owns 832. It’s FOR SALE: $71,500.00. For details go to https://captainbillywalker.com/aircraft-for-sale/aircraft-for-sale/
Below: Joe Sottile’s Meyers 145. FOR SALE $69,900.00
Yesterday I was invited to Russ Gilmore’s presentation by the FAA honoring Russ with the Wright Brother’s Master Pilot Award. Then Russ hosted several of his former America West colleagues for lunch at Olive Garden’s. Six of us all trying to top one story after another. Deeeelightful!
Russ Gilmore is one of the Black Bears Squadron members. The Black Bears Squadron is exclusive. To become a member the applicant has to have been expelled from a CAF Unit or the CAF nationally.
Currently, there are just five qualified members of the Black Bears Squadron:
Jim Swanke (the first to fall victim to CAF leadership skulduggery)
All of us were volunteer members of the Commemorative Air Force. Each of us were charged by the local and national leadership as having violated the CAF Policy Manual and Code of Conduct. When asked for specifics as to which particular policy and/or code of conduct was violated none of us were given specifics.
The current unit leader of Airbase Arizona, Travis Major, was installed (NOT ELECTED) by Hank Coates. Coates is the current President and CEO of the national CAF organization. Coates, Major and the former Unit leader of Airbase Arizona, Campbell were/are the ones manipulating the Airbase in a malevolent way themselves ignoring the CAF Policy Manual and Code of Conduct.
The Coates/Major/Campbell conviviance is one devoid of what should exist with leadership. Apparently, my assessment of these three is shared by a growing number of individuals. They are not our kind of people.
However, what happened to me pales in comparison to what these three did to Ed Newberg, Russ Gilmore, and Alan Ripa. I was expelled from Airbase Arizona (ABAZ) last year. My expulsion, while outrageous, left me active with the national organization.
I was improperly expelled at ABAZ. And I was expelled out of spite! I had already announced that I could not abide the lack of forthrightness and would no longer volunteer until there was a change in leadership.
I pointed out the error in the ABAZ staff’s expulsion. I was then offered an opportunity to appear before the staff. I did and was expelled a second time. Again, unnecessary and only a shabby act of spitefulness and a disappointing failure on the part of leadership to follow policy and ethics.
With Ed, Russ, and Alan, they were tossed completely out of the CAF with absolutely no hearing or warning, no nothing! I immediately recognized that the CAF organization was not one I wanted any part of. I resigned!
I miss many of the ABAZ volunteers. I miss flying Stearman 964. Someday, I hope I can return to a refreshed CAF that no longer tolerates leadership as we’ve seen throughout 2019.
The aforementioned touches on a sad chapter of CAF history. I will be writing more of an exposé and will publish it as a story on my website. Stay tuned!
January 27, 2020… I was able to move The Ghost Ship. I didn’t fly but felt really good to be able to clamber aboard to perform a run-up then to The Warbirds Hangar for a static display as part of a Aviation Kids Day. Nice!
Don’t forget to check out my Aircraft For Sale page. I will pay you a finders fee for anyone you point my way that buys! I’ve expanded my site some. In addition to several nice airplanes, I have a motor coach, a sports car, and some F-15 600 gal. drop tanks! They work with the A-10 and F-16 as well…
January 21st 2020… Boy Howdy! This “crud” doth persist! I don’t know what is making me sicker, the respiratory issue or the news about the Dumocrat’s mordacious excoriation of the President of the United States. They are like a mangy pack of coyotes trying to bring down a healthy bull buffalo.
January 17, 2020… Instead of a Daily Blog I seem to lean towards a 10 Day Blog!
My L shoulder replacement recovery has been a tad slow but it’s coming along. Then, a few days ago I contracted a horrible upper respiratory infection that has me feeling my age! Living thru chemistry helps as the antibiotic and cough medicines seem to help a great deal. I hope you escape dealing with this stuff!
I hope to get back to the airport in another few days. See you around!
January 7, 2020… Nice gathering at Falcon Field t’day. Lots of activity except at ABAZ where things are conspicuously quiet!
It was a beautiful 70º day under azure skies. I’m getting anxious to crawl back in the cockpit. New shoulder needs a few more days of re-hab…
Hurrah! Brother-In-Law, Norm Tisdale, is now home from his stay at Banner Heart Hospital’s ICU. He’s doing much better and even did a session with the physical therapist this morning.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
2020 is off to a GREAT start! I woke up with no toe-tag! I knew it’d be a GREAT day and a GREAT start for the New Year! Cheryl & I wish you all the BEST!
Please put Norm Tisdale in your thoughts and prayers! Norm is still in ICU at Banner Heart Hospital (5008). They still do not have his A-fib under control. My sister, Martha Jo, is at his side. We’d ask you add her to your prayer list as well!
New Year’s Eve Day 2019… This day brings a close to a year that coulda/shoulda been better! Many good things came out of 2019, but a few aspects have an aroma such that no amount of lime can ameliorate! The rankness emanating from the offices of the CAF both nationally and locally has been particularly egregious. Hopefully, one day those who have denigrated those once proud halls will be a dim memory with newness and freshness reborn…
Yesterday we toasted our son, Preston, who turned FORTY SEVEN! I look at his mother, who looks young enough to be his sister, and I’m absolutely amazed. Yesterday, Cheryl and I ran Preston’s “record” backwards enjoying, again, the many special moments he’s brought us. Now we get a repeat performance times three watching our grandkids grow into adulthood. Gianna, the oldest turns twenty one January 6th. She’s just returned from her scholastic trip to France. She gave us all a scare with a medical issue but seems to be fully restored as she returns to her studies at Loyola University (MD).
Kaylie will begin her second year of college attending Duquesne University on an academic scholarship. She is in the doctoral program for occupational therapy. Interestingly, one of the therapists for my shoulder replacement re-hab is a doctoral graduate from Duquesne! He speaks very highly of their DPT program!
Dylan graduates from high school this spring with a fist full of academic and athletic honors. He’ll attend his great-grandfather’s school, Colorado State University, on a full-ride athletic scholarship. Of course back when my Dad was there, they were the Colorado Aggies! Now, CSU has a very impressive campus acclaimed academically.
Over the past few days, brother-in-law, Norm Tisdale, has been in ICU at the Banner Heart Hospital. His simple medical procedure had complications. Hopefully, he’s now on the mend and will be moved to a regular room and then home🙏🏻
We have new next door neighbors. We look forward to getting to know them. Both are acclaimed musicians with eye-popping credits. Cathal Breslin and Sabrina Hu have two young sons. Cathal is a professor at ASU Cheryl’s and my alma-matter.
If you are unable to bring up the video linked below, Go to YouTube.com and search for DannyBoy/The Derry Air/Londonderry Air. Beautifully performed!
Cheryl and I wish you all a Happy New Year!
December 17, 2019… I’m real tardy updating my “blog.” Still recovering from my L shoulder replacement. It has not been the “non-event” that my R shoulder replacement was (seven years ago). But, I am getting there.
IMPORTANT! Please put Captain Larry Guthrie on your prayer list🙏🏻. AND, consider helping out by contributing to a Go Fund in his name to help with his enormous financial challenge which is no where near his tremendous health challenge>
Just when I thought Larry was finished meeting serious health challenges here he goes again! Holy Smokes!
Larry, a captain with American Airlines was forced to go to Medical Disability fifteen months ago for was was initially diagnosed as a stroke. A few weeks ago he was diagnosed with an aggressive type of stomach cancer known as adenocarcinoma with signet ring cell feathers. A Laparoscopy indicates the cancer to be late Stage 2. Larry is undergoing chemotherapy now and the doctors are looking at other treatment considerations.
Money is needed to help with immediate out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by insurance. Please help if you can via the link above!
December 2, 2019… Actually, I’m lookin’ forward to my shoulder replacement surgery t’morrow. My LEFT one. I had my right shoulder replaced 7 years ago. My left one has been making sleep difficult let along getting in/out of the airplanes. A different surgeon this time. Ty Collins, a TOCA surgeon as was Sherwood Duhon, who did my right one back in 2012. My last one was a non-event. After having two knee replacements I figured the shoulder would be a bitch!
Regrettably, I will not be accepting any arm wrestling contests for a couple of weeks. I’m most anxious to getting it all behind me and being able to clamber aboard an airplane or two. My CFI certificate needs reinstatement. As soon as possible I’ll fly with Joe and get that renewed.
BTW: I’ve updated my Stearman Training Guide (eliminating references to the CAF). If you’d like a .PDF copy lemme know. Or, simply go to the link on my website!
Blue Skies & Tailwinds…
November 26, 2019… T’day would have been my Dad’s 108th birthday. He was here for 81 of ’em. Most of us have been blessed with superb parents. None more than my sisters and me. So, even though they are no longer physically here, their presence is felt especially on their birthday. In just a couple of days we will celebrate Thanksgiving and those who’ve made us reflect on our blessings… If you are reading this I wish you the same!
November 22, 2019… We had a couple of issues with our pool surface along with a settling crack in the tile. CDC Pools had updated our entire pool nearly five years ago when Tim Gissel was here to contract us for the work. You may not have heard of this “Uncommon Hero!” You should, and here’s a link to his story:
After reading about Tim it’s easy to see how he would work for a great company. We called CDC to tell them we had a couple of concerns with our pool surface and tiles. One of the CDC folks came out to inspect and take a few photos.
Right away they called to set up a day/time to return to fix the problem all under their 10 year warranty. They did and it looks GREAT! Yup! We strongly recommend CDC and if you need any pool work, give Tim a call:
(480) 539-7700 Office
(602) 402-2729 Cell
November 17, 2019… Nice breakfast at Biscuits this morning. Almost all of our Arizona Stearman Squadron was there. Always there’s an empty chair honoring our departed Flight Lead, Col. Roger Parrish. This morning Joe Sottile was conspicuously AWOL.
Great stories evoked this morning. Terry opened the ball mentioning the upcoming Allen Airways Fly-In being planned for May 2020. Of course, some wonderful memories were conjured up of past flights to interesting places with good fellows bonded together in a comradeship as right itself and as lasting as humanity. Special!
Before signing off, I ask you a look at some exciting aircraft I have for sale:
November 15, 2019…
CONGRATULATIONS TO: CAPT. GEORGE MADOX. HE FLEW HIS NEWLY RESTORED STEARMAN (N-58210) TO GALESBURG AND FLEW HOME WITH HIS BAGGAGE BIN STUFFED FULL OF AWARDS!
November 10, 2019… UPDATE: My letter of resignation from the CAF follows. First, I want to say that I am sad for what was and what could be. However, I am relieved to have removed myself from the cancer caused by the Coates/Campbell/Major connivance!
Apparently, I should have spelled out what Skulduggery and Connivance means and how it applies to the malfeasance ongoing at CAF Headquarters and Airbase Arizona.
Skulduggery by definition: is the underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; trickery by a person of low moral character.
Connivance by definition: is one’s willingness to secretly allow or be involved in wrongdoing, especially an immoral or illegal act.
There is plenty of evidence/examples that both of the aforementioned definitions apply to the President/CEO of the CAF and the Airbase Arizona Leader along with certain members of the elected staff. NOTE: this does not apply to former XO (Russ) or the Financial Officer (Jim).
So far, there’s but a handful of CAF members/former members who have challenged the Skulduggery and Connivance. Too many seem to just accept things, shrug their shoulders and move along…
My letter titled “SKULDUGGERY AND CONNIVANCE” follows:
As the first of the year approaches, I’m looking back at 2019 as a year of disappointments and damn few bright spots.
My greatest frustration is realizing that, for these past many months, I have been swimming up-stream in a river of skulduggery. As discouraging as this has been I’ve remained hopeful that the Headquarters Leadership would recognize the skulduggery going on at Airbase Arizona. Any hope evaporated with the underhanded classless act dealt by Coates to two long serving volunteer members, Gilmore and Newberg. Just prior to the ABAZ election, Coates kicked Alan Ripa out of the CAF. Corruption runs rampant within the CAF.
Alas, it is even worse! While I have, until a few days ago, had the utmost respect for the Headquarters Staff, I now find my respect limited. The president/CEO Hank Coates is undeserving of any respect. His malfeasance, in handling my appeal of expulsion from ABAZ, has been an unbelievable sham. I do not want to deal with him ever again.
Therefore, I want nothing more to do with the CAF organization until, perhaps someday, another Bob Stenevik comes along to put the CAF back on track. I herewith resign.
My own situation pales compared to what the the Coates/Campbell/Major collusion has done to Russ Gilmore and Ed Newberg. The Coates/Campbell/Major connivance is like a page out of Mein Kampf (precedent to the Nazi takeover in 1933 Germany). Gilmore with 23 years of volunteerism, Newberg with 24 years volunteering along with having made a huge investment in museum displays. Many of the aircraft Newberg acquired was at the request of previous Unit Leaders.
You as a HQ Staff and members of the BOD should be ashamed letting something such as this happen. As of now I wash my hands of this once great organization. The CAF has become a festering suppurate place with little to no character shown by those who have been entrusted with leadership. CAF leadership is fraught with corruption!
The latest sickening collusion is Coates having personally prevented the possible election of Alan Ripa. This action is beyond belief. Not qualified? Not allowing the Ripa candidacy? Who is kidding who?
My heart aches for those many wonderful volunteers who have put so much time and effort to the mission. The CAF mission itself has become less than secondary to the subversive “mission” going on behind closed doors. Bob Odegaard must be restless in his grave…
Billy Walker Ex-COL # 35970
NOTE: T’day Coates is here with Jim Lasche to make “an announcement!” I will pass this “can’t be a good thing” announcement to you sometime later today. This “announcement” should happen within the hour. It is now 1505 local time…
October 17, 2019… It’s been a few days since my last posting. Frankly, I’ve been really bummed-out after the totally rotten action by BOTH local and national leadership of the CAF.
Ed Newberg had near a quarter-century as a CAF volunteer at the Arizona wing. At the request of prior local leaderships, Ed made sizable investments in historic aircraft to display in the airbase museum. The onerous current leadership has totally ignored his past dedication and investments ignominiously kicking Ed out of the CAF.
If you know Ed you know him as a good fellow who will do anything he can to help out. His talents are so far reaching it becomes difficult to condense. He flies, he fixes, he orchestrates airplane movements, he sings, plays the guitar and harmonica to everyone’s amazement.
Russ Gilmore had over two decades of service and held several important positions. A GREAT aviator, he was arguably the best Ops Officer in history according to many long-time members. Of late he was the Executive Officer (XO) and had been elected by a very high margin. However, as soon as Russ was elected he was effectively neutered by onerous behind-the-door actions of the Leader, Campbell, and current Ops Officer, Major. I am amazed at his having put up with the abuse he suffered through while seemingly waiting until a change in leadership could come about in the October 27th Election. Russ is a retired American Airlines captain. He is an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner and authorized to administer type ratings in numerous aircraft.
What happened to me pales by comparison to what happened to Ed and Russ. I was expelled by the local leadership but am still a member nationally. I’ll fix that right away. I want nothing to do with an organization who condones a serious lack of forthrightness – especially in those entrusted with leadership roles. The airbase has become a terrible neighbor to others sharing space at Falcon Field. I had hopes that electing a new leader would begin a healthy turn-around. Apparently, that will not happen!
The absolute crap these malfeasants are pulling to manipulate the up-coming election is something totally sickening! I will expound on this after it becomes fact in 10 days…
I’ve learned who my friends are and who aren’t. I’ll miss those of you who feel saddened about this and who’ve offered me emotional support. Thank you!
October 9, 2019… NOT a good day for the CAF nor the Arizona Airbase. Two long-time volunteer members, actually stalwarts, were summarily kicked out of the CAF entirely today. More to follow!
October 7, 2019… I enjoyed a nice lunch with Michael Beale at Durants, a wonderful old steakhouse, on Central Ave, that has been there nearly seven decades. Great food and ambiance made for an excellent choice for a place to visit about old pilots and old airplanes.
Michael, a lawyer, flew with me sometime ago in 964, the magnificent Stearman I restored and sold to the CAF foundation. Michael saw a story I’d written about a college buddy/fraternity brother, Larry Duthie, who’d been shot down and was, we wrongly thought, KIA (Killed In Action).
Michael has loaned me a book “Dead Men Flying” by “Mule” (Mike Mullane) one of Duth’s squadron mates who, later, became a lawyer. Mike & Michael were with the same firm and have remained good friends since.
I feel like I too know “Mule” from all the stories Duth has shared about his Navy experiences and those intrepid Navy aviators he shared combat extremes with…
Also, if you are an Vietnam era aviation historian, check out this link to an absolute TREASURE:
October 5th, 2019… The rumor mill is working fast and furious at ABAZ! Apparently, some of the “leadership” at the airbase are spreading rumors that I have sued the Airbase and the CAF. NOT TRUE! Certainly, the potential is there for that to happen, but I hold on to a slim thread of hope that the wrong-headedness will go away and that our differences might still be resolved.
If you have heard this rumor, please tell the person spouting it that he/she is wrong!
October 2, 2019… Please take a look at this link to Alan Ripa’s website. It tells his story and speaks volumes as to his ability to lead Airbase Arizona back to a happier and neighbor–friendly place:
ABAZ Election is set for 27 OCT!
Below: the late David Voplait with Mac McCauley lost in “Nine-O-Nine’s”crash. Mac had over 7000 hours flying the B-17!
April 22nd, 2019 David was lost in the crash of the Northrup N9MB “flying wing”
NEWS FLASH: B-17 “NINE-O-NINE” CRASH! My long-time flyin’ buddy, Mac McCauley was the pilot (PIC). Great guy, excellent pilot.
His co-pilot, Mike Foster was a highly experienced former Navy Captain and retired Northwest Airlines 747 captain.😢
On a happier note, here’s up to 11 Corsairs in formation recently:
September 30th, 2019… As of t’day I am 18 years old with 60 years experience! Just like the fellow who fell off the 33 story sky scraper. …as he fell past the 21st floor he hollered to a lady on her balcony, “So far – so good!”
No real complaints, it’s been an amazing experience, this life I’ve been blessed with. The good people, I’ve come to know, far outweighing the bad. I’ve had to deal with a few (5) not-so-good folks lately. I’m hopeful that will be a thing of the past by January 1st.
So, if you are not one of those 5 (who know who they are) thank you for your friendship…
September 8th, 2019…
Three days from now we will be seeing remembrances of the horrors of 9/11/2001. Horrors for sure!
Here’s my perspective from that time:
Cheryl & I stopped by to check on N-29XF currently in hangar PP1 at Falcon Field. I had not exercised the airplane for nearly 10 days. So, I pulled this amazing airplane out and ran up the engine. All systems checked out great. Next trip to the airport will have me exercising the duster to remove the remains of a recent dust storm. If I was just 20 years younger this would be MY airplane! It’s YOUR’s – just a phone call away!
August 27th… We had an absolutely wonderful time with our nephew Kurt Garbin (my sister MJ’s oldest) at his stunningly beautiful mountain ranch near Steamboat. Lots of wildlife abound with deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, bobcats, and some marmots that he is trying to discourage. Kurt has HD motion camera’s so, day or night, he never misses a visitor!
Talk about difficult leaving serenity… Kurt is one of Caterpillar’s best salesmen. Below: why we limit our visits to Kurt’s to summer weather…
This afternoon we rolled into Red Cliff Inn on the Colorado River NE of Moab. We have stayed here many times. Something about this place keeps drawing us back.
Below: Sunrise August 28th – taken from Suite 204 Red Cliff Lodge, Utah a few miles up the Colorado River from Moab. Serene comes to mind…
Tomorrow we’ll head for Ahwatukee (perhaps one more stop given it’s an 8 hour drive!) If all goes well for the next 497 miles we will remember this as a really delightful trip resplendent with enjoyable people, scenery, and weather. 👌
August 24th... Lotsa fun sharing stories with the few surviving classmates from the Class of ’59. 7 were expected (out of the 15 classmates). 6 showed up with Merle Oxford (Ft. Collins, CO) having to cancel. We gathered at Post 54 American Legion last evening. Later, 5 of us plus our support group went to the Firewater for a nice dinner. T’nite we meet at the historic Wolf Hotel.
Thanks to Clyde Thrasher and Donna Mae Nordin for their efforts setting up this epic event. Jody Wilson Saba and Phil, Kenny and son, Jordan, Caroline Henderson Browning, have n’joyed the opportunity to catch up with a sixty year look-back!
Classmate Kenny Carpenter has written several books with one now being made into a movie. KUDOS Ken!
During the day t’day, Teense & Sandy Willford took us on a lovely driving trip to the magnificent Brush Creek Ranch, Medicine Bow Lodge, by 10 Mile Inn and past my folks Cedar Creek Ranch at the foot of Old Baldy mountain.
T’morrow, we’ll depart for a scenic drive over the Sierra Madre’s to Steamboat Springs for a visit with nephew Kurt Garbin at his mountain chalet. This trip has been GREAT so far! We’ve seen a lot of animal life on this trip. Deer, antelope, one cub black bear, and we hope an elk or two and, perhaps, a moose will be seen on t’morrows drive as we depart the Platte Valley.
Dawn McBride joined us. She’s the late-great Kendall McBride’s widow. We remembered well our departed class mates, Norm Perue, Marilyn O’Toole, John Verplanke and Kendall. Norm was lost in the crash of a Grumman Wigeon off the Alaskan coast. Marilyn lost her battle with cancer. John apparently suffered a heart attack while operating a tractor. Gone all too soon!
August 22, 2019… Cheryl and I arrived in Saratoga, Wyoming at noon t’day for my 60th Class Reunion of the Platte Valley High School “Panthers!”
I felt it important to attend. After all I was such a strong part of the academia having graduated 13th in my class! OK OK! So there were just 15 in my class…
Coincidentally, there will be about 15 attending our two-day event. Seven surviving class members along with spouses and significant others. In my case, my immediate supervisor…
On the way, we spent a night with Charlie and Patricia Trantham in their beautiful home near Durango, CO. BOY HOWDY did we eat well and nearly as well went the visitin’! Lotsa catchin’ up in a short time.
Charlie and I flew t’gether at Good Ol’ Frontier Airlines. There’s a great story about Charlie and me flyin’ a series of trips t’gether. Charlie, his guitar, and great voice singing as we flew across the “Highline” our route from Great Falls, Montana to Minot, North Dakota and back.
Often we were empty, no passengers and, on occasion, no cargo. In those instances, Charlie would connect a microphone to his guitar and then play and sing into the intercom. It was deeeeelightful! Absolutely!
I remember Charlie playing and singing “Raindrops Are Falling…” The theme song in the Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie “Buch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.” We were on the first day of a three-day trip.
Charlie finished his rendition. Then his said, “Who was that that sang THAT song in the movie?” I could not, for the life of me, remember. Nor could Sir Charles!
At the end of our trip we both commuted back to Denver on the FAL 727. Still, neither of could remember the artist who sang that song! We went to the DEN crew room to take care of the paperwork before heading to the crew parking lot.
Just before we climbed into our respective vehicle and head for home, Charlie said, “I don’t care if it is in the middle of the night, if you remember who sang it, call me!”
Cheryl and I were soundly sleeping at 3AM the following morning when the phone rang. I groggily answered. All I heard was “BJ Thomas!” before the phone went dead!
Here it is nearly forty years later and I still remember who sang that song and I remember Charlie. He made it a pleasure flying the “Highline!”
Tomorrow we’ll meet life-long friends Teense & Sandy Willford for breakfast before the 10 O’Clock Coffee Gathering at the Saratoga Inn.
Below is the co-owner of the O.P. restaurant in Craig, CO. We absolutely vote this place #1 for service, food, and ambiance! Gotta admire the political statement on her t-shirt!
Below: The plaque on the huge bridge spanning across the Platte River. Even the street (Pic Pike Road) in front of the Saratoga Inn Resort is named for my father! His, Mom’s and my sister, MM’s, ashes were scattered there. I could actually feel their presence at t’day’s visit!
My dad, Pic Walker, moved this bridge intact some 18 miles from Cow Creek to it’s present moorings to link the 1st and 9th holes with the rest of his beautiful golf course. …the FIRST all-grass golf course in Wyoming! This was back in 1956 when I was 14 and in the way of this mammoth project…
Boy Howdy has the Saratoga school system changed since the Walker kids went there! Really nice facilities, along with a beautiful football field, are mind blowing to my 1959 recollections! Compared to Frank Schilt’s hayfield it wouldn’t hurt nearly as bad getting knocked around on the blue grass at PVHS now! Below: The sign in front of the high school with Mt. Baldy in the background.
August 14, 2019… I met with my legal team t’day. As most of you are aware, I’ve been expelled from Airbase Arizona. Unfortunately, the CAF’s CEO, Hank Coates, upheld my expulsion. However, in his letter, he based his decision on things attributed to me that I know nothing of! This thing is likely to go “Western” before it is resolved! My attorney(s) include the former Arizona State Attorney General, John A. LaSota, Jr. and Tim LaSota a renowned attorney with some notable legal successes to his credits.
This case is easily termed “bizarre!” Back in March of this year, I had an issue with the current Airbase Leader’s lack of forthrightness. I challenged him on that and announced that I was going on a sabbatical until he was no longer the Leader. Out of spite he “expelled” me.
I appealed to the President/CEO of the Commemorative Air Force. Col. Coates upheld my expulsion but he based it on things attributed to me that I know nothing about. I was accused of making vulgar statements and other unsavory comments that I never made. I feel very fortunate to have an extraordinarily talented legal team to help me deal with this unpleasant issue.
I greatly miss the camaraderie with fellow volunteer members at the airbase. I miss flying the magnificent old Stearman that I restored and sold to the Airpower Heritage Flying Museum (CAF). Hopefully, the elections in October will rid the airbase with the destructive influences presently in control. As General McArthur said, “I shall return!”
August 10, 2019… T’day is Fearless Fred Gorrell’s 78th Birthday! Fred is a pilot with the Arizona Stearman Squadron and all-round Good Fellow!
Sadly, today we celebrate the life of Margaret Pogue (80) who lost her battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Margaret was a special friend to Cheryl and me. We’ll miss her.
August 9, 2019… Check out the nifty Waco UPF-7 for sale on my “Aircraft and Parts For Sale” page. Someone will get an amazingly well restored 1940 bi-plane! Below: WACO N-29926 with N-29XF a Curtis F11C-2 ‘lookalike’ over Firebird Lake, Arizona.
August 1, 2019… I thought you might n’joy an e-mail exchange with some aviation extraordinaries I happen to know:
Thanks for sharing that amazing story ‘Shadow’! (Shadow is a legendary Marine Grunt-turned-fighter pilot)…
See Shadow’s story below in black type…
BTW — I’m still a round engine guy. I fly N-29XF albeit am tryin’ to sell it for a buddy, Larry Dustman. It very closely replicates the Curtis F11C-2 “Goshawk.” It’s fuel injected R1340 has it off the ground at half-throttle and screaming skyward at full throttle. It’s an absolute joy to fly!
17 or 18 years ago, I flew “Puff the Magic Dragon” for 2 1/2 years doin’ airshows around the country. We discovered, after-the-fact, it had been “That’s All Brother,” the lead ship in the Normandy Invasion! Life’s full of missed opportunities! The CAF rescued this venerable ol’ bird, restored it, and recently flew it to France for the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day!
My buddy, Captain Larry Perkins, restored an old C-47 with “Puff” in mind from his USA stint in Vietnam. He wanted to honor those who flew it, and honor those Puff, often heroically, flew to protect those dark lonely nights over the jungles of SE Asia. We saw many a tear shed by former “Puff” vets on board for a very nostalgic flight in skies devoid of anti-aircraft fire! Those 2 1/2 years with Larry & Puff were memorable!
In ’71-’72 I was based outta Pochentong Airbase Cambodia. As I recall, there was just one AC-47 gunship based at PNH albeit it sported 3 .50 Cal guns. So, instead of the long red tendrils of flame, (tracers) unbroken, you’d see dashed red lines moving thru the night as the .50 Cal tracers reached out from the plane to the ground below… seconds later you’d hear this deep… guttural sound similar to an air conditioning compressor failing. This venerable ol’ airplane along with the occasional AC-119 and AC-130 was our night entertainment as we watched from the roof of our villa (Toulecourt(sp) located at the NW section of Phnom Penh). We became expert at discerning the difference between “Incoming and Outgoing!”
The airwar in Cambodia was run by LTC Mark Berent. Mark was on his third tour in SE Asia. F-100s then F-4s where he became “Poppa Wolf” Commander of the Fast FACs.
AMAZING! A LTC doing a 3 Star’s job! You will likely recall that Nixon and Kissinger were telling the world that there were no American’s in Cambodia! So, Mark, as the US Embassy USAF Air Attaché, had this duty dumped in his lap. He grabbed up the challenge and did extraordinary well. He saved my sorry butt twice! After the war Mark wrote 5 books that became required reading at the USAFA and the War College. www.markberent.com. Mark’s books are fact-based novels. Just the names changed to protect the not-so-innocent… Page turners ALL!
Back to “PUFF” — Larry had Dillon Precision (KSDL) build 4 (one spare) 7.62 replica mini-guns of which 3 pointed out the aft windows and doorway. Larry installed a dozen B-747 seats up front for riders. We’d open the top escape hatch and delight in the long-haired girls visiting the cockpit where their hair went vertical! A few baseball caps departed the airplane too!
I had begun my airline career with Frontier Airlines in 1967. The DC-3 was my first airplane there. Like most who flew Her I loved that old “Goon!” Even though we’d need to wear slickers backwards flyin’ thru the rain! It was an airplane most of it’s pilots revered. DANG! I’d sure love to turn the clock back…
From: Roy Stafford
Subject: Round engines saved the night…
Date: July 31, 2019 at 9:55:03 PM EDT
You were a round engine guy… here’s a little story from my Grunt days. Fast movers aren’t always the best choice.
A little background to this… About 12 years ago… one of my Grunt Buds reached out to me. He was my first Company Commander. In an email he asked about one of our Lieutenants who was killed after he’d left to return to the States. He asked me because I was on the same patrol when we got ambushed and Hartley was killed… happened right in front of me. Well he distributed it to others and one night our phone rang and my wife answered and this voice says… “Mrs. Stafford, you don’t know me… but on the longest night of my life… the voice I kept hearing was your husbands… is he there”? Dan (my former C.O.) had given him my phone number. His name was Don Cuneo. What he was referring to was what happened a couple of days after Hartley was killed. We’d moved back to Dong Ha from Cam Lo and left behind a small force to guard what remained of a 105 battery until the last guns could be removed. They also were in the process of breaking down the camp and only had one row of concertina wire left around the perimeter. They were due to join us in a couple of days. Well, the night in question, all hell broke loose. When my wife told me what Don’s opening words were… I. Used it to describe that night. By the way, I recently shared a book with “The Bear” on Heime Aderholt who had a hand in creating “Spooky”… a book we should all read. I found his thoughts and philosophy mirrored my own…. Maybe “The Bear” will give us some comments on his thoughts about it.
CUNEO’S LONGEST NIGHT
Before I start… I was wrong about Hartley’s first name… It was Bill (I knew that)… I just screwed up, but at least I suspected I was screwing up… That’s why the disclaimer.
Two days after the ill-fated patrol… The 105 Battery at Cam Lo was being re-located. As was normal, when we moved out of a place, everything was being broken down, waste and debris buried… wire was being rolled up, etc. The 105 cannons were being helo lifted out as I recall… some may, have been towed.
On the day in question… I believe there were only three 105’s still there, after the last lift. Alpha had removed much of the wire surrounding the perimeter and I believe in most places there was only one strand of concertina in place. We had a section of 81MM mortars out there with them. I think the mess tent was still up, but a lot of others were pulled down in anticipation of moving the next day or so. Thank God the Command bunker was still up and functioning.
As the sun went down, it had been a day like so many others… Much busy work, no contact with the enemy. I’m sure the Company was still thinking about Hartley’s and the others deaths. It takes a while to get such a loss out of your system… You don’t show it overtly… or even talk about it much…. But the thoughts are still there.
As routine as the day had been…. This was to be a night… unlike any other.
I’m gonna use times, based on a thirty some year memory… I don’t have any official logs or any other data to go by… So don’t harangue me if I’m off an hour or two.
I believe it was around 0130 or so, that I received the call that Cam Lo was being hit. Looking to the southwest, we could see the flares from the mortars. In the distance we could also hear the rattle of heavy automatic weapons fire and explosions… Occasionally, we could see tracers ricocheting in the air… It was immediately obvious, that this was not an ordinary probe and mortar attack… like we’d become used to.
I came up on the radio as Permission 6… this was to let everyone know that the Battalion Commander was up on the net. I had rigged my PRC-25 with a speaker when in the rear, so Westerman could hear what was going on as soon as I did.
In the bunker at Cam Lo was Don Cuneo and one other radio operator… There may have been another… I’m not sure. For the life of me I’ve wracked my brain and can’t remember the other RO’s name. I apologize to him for leaving him out.
Their initial reports were startling… The perimeter had been breached and the bad guys were running all over the place.
What we able to glean… in bits and pieces (These guys were running the company net too and were incredibly busy)… was that the attack had started as a mortar barrage. Then sappers, under the cover of their own mortars, came into the wire to blow it up and provide lanes of access. They concentrated on the automatic weapons and machine gun positions. I can’t remember what officer was in the bunker… if there was one… But Cuneo and the other RO were up to their asses in alligators.
Things were getting worse by the minute and they asked for all the help we could give. Westerman… to his credit… asked Regiment for permission to mount a relief column on 6X’s right away. Regiment nixed the idea… fearing an ambush of such a relief in the dark. As horrible as it sounds… Alpha would be on its’ own.
I kept talking to them and trying to assure them that we were doing everything we could… That we’d be coming as soon as possible. We then got word that our mortar guys had burnt up 2 tubes already. They were practically vertical… as I remember… and they would fire two rounds of HE, then one of illum… as fast as they could.
About 45 minutes after the attack started, we got the first good news. The Regimental FAC discovered that an AC-47 Gunship, call sign “Spooky”… was operating not far from Cam Lo and had requested he be moved over to support Alpha. He got approval and help was on the way. I called Don and told him “Spooky” was on the way.
“Spooky” was an old military version of the DC-3… Some genius (I mean that in a good way) had come up with the idea to mount several 7.62 mini-guns (A modern version of the Gatling Gun) on one side of the plane and it would go into a low orbit around a point on the ground and lay down a withering amount of fire. They also carried a prodigious amount of flares. It was the one weapon… that was probably conceived for just such an occasion.
No one… who has ever witnessed one of these aircraft in action at night… will ever forget it… It was not just a visual feast… but the noise assaulted your senses as well… As long red tendrils of flame (tracers) unbroken… reached out from the plane to the ground below… seconds later you’d hear this deep… guttural… brrrrruup, brrrrruup… brrrrrrrruuup… as thousands of rounds of 7.62 went through the Gatlings. The sight and sound were of another world… it was like a hose of fire. And that sound…. It is like no other I’ve ever heard. No wonder it would later become affectionately known by the grunts as… “Puff… the Magic Dragon”.
It was surely an ancient, fire-breathing dragon of mythical proportions… breathing hell fire …on the enemy down below
This next part, once again, I’m relating something I got from a conversation over 35 years ago. So bear with me if I’m a little off.
If I recall correctly, Don Cuneo was the primary FAC radioman… He was used to talking to aircraft. He and the other RO were juggling two different radio nets and trying to keep up with what was going on around them. “Spooky” presented an additional problem… They couldn’t communicate with him from inside the bunker. Now I don’t know whether this was because their outside antenna was destroyed… or not hooked up… or that the sand bags just interrupted their signal… Regardless one of them had to go out into the maelstrom.
I keep thinking… in my mind… that they flipped to see who was going out (That may be legend… but I also think I remember them using something like a C-Ration lid for a coin). What ever… Don got the nod… Probably because he was the FAC RO. What happened next would make a great action movie scene.
The bunker had the typical “L” shaped entry. Cuneo crawls out and sits with his back against the bunker, radio and pistol between his legs, next to the entrance. He gets “Spooky” on the radio and starts directing flares and suppression fire around the perimeter… based on information being yelled back and forth from those inside the bunker. Shit is flying everywhere… By this time, Alpha had been completely over-run.
In the middle of all this, Don is sitting there… when this NVA with an AK-47 comes running around the bunker and stops… about two feet from Don, he’s right next to him. (I’m sure at this point… Don’s heart probably went up into his throat) At the same instant GySgt Weinbar comes running around the other side of the bunker with his M-14 about 15 feet from Don. (Weinbar was a real character, red headed with a handle bar mustache at the time, very well liked by all) Evidently, neither Weinbar or the NVA had noticed Cuneo sitting there… But they had seen each other…
Don was about to be witness to a modern version, of the shoot out at the OK Corral… Weinbar reacts immediately and raises his M-14 and fires an entire magazine (20 rounds) at the NVA, who was standing next to Don. The NVA almost simultaneously, fires his 30 round magazine… at Weinbar… Both of them completely missed at point blank range… In the twilight of the flares they’re staring at each other in disbelief… When Cuneo reaches out and shoots the NVA from about a foot away.
Weinbar nods, reloads and goes off looking for more infiltrators. I’m sure I’ve left out a nuance or two… but again, I’m trying to re-construct a conversation from long ago. The next morning I remember seeing one of the dead NVA near the bunker and he was wrapped in TNT charges… I wondered if this was the guy Don shot, but I never asked
him. But if he was… I’ve often wondered if the whole belt would have gone off if Don had hit the TNT.
The fight raged on until just before dawn, when the NVA finally withdrew… Because of the valiant efforts of Don Cuneo, his fellow RO’s and a whole host of Alpha’s grunts… who kept their heads and wits about them… when it appeared their world was coming to an end… They prevailed in the end.
I hate body counts… But in this case it should be noted… When we arrived there just after dawn… Over 87, enemy dead lay within Alpha’s perimeter… Only God knows… how many lay in the area around them… cut down by “Spooky”. Three Marines died that night, one of them possibly by our own folks because of the way he was dressed… (Shorts and T-shirt with no helmet.) Two of the Marines were from the 105 battery… A sapper had dropped a satchel charge into their foxhole.
In front of one of the machine guns laid 12 bodies, between the gun and the wire… less than 10 feet away. Another group lay on the wire itself. There were other scenes similar to this, all around the perimeter. This was in close, savage fighting.
Alpha requited themselves for Hartley’s death two days before… against an overwhelming force. One lone company of Marines… against a Regiment of NVA Regulars. As far as I’m concerned… They were hero’s all.
A short note about the NVA… Through documents we were able to prove this was part of the same outfit, which had ambushed us two days before. One of the NVA dead was carrying a wooden rifle… just a silhouette of the real thing. We were told this was in punishment for having lost his real rifle… and that to make up for it… he had to participate in the assault and capture a real weapon to replace the one he lost. There were a lot of weapons captured here… far more than normal. Virtually all the weapons were brand-new… some still had preservative on them.
Many of the sappers had blocks of TNT… each was wrapped in oil paper and tied with bamboo in an intricate pattern… They could run along and pull one from their belt and it armed the fuse as they pulled it away. They dropped them in foxholes and tents all over the compound… One can conjure up visions of Jim Brown in the Dirty Dozen… running along and dropping grenades in pipes. Except this time, it was the bad guys doing it.
I’d also like to comment about the mindset of those of us who were watching and listening… from miles away… and helpless to do anything… other than to stay calm, re- assure and try to think of any and everything we could to help. It is an agonizing, frustrating experience.
In reality, we did what little we could… But these men prevailed because they were warriors… They had the mettle, the courage and the will to see it through. I have often joked about the fact that on the longest night of Cuneo’s life…. The voice he kept hearing… was mine… I thank God it was not the last…
I’m still proud of you… Marine. More later… Shadow