My history is intertwined with flight, but there was a time before flight; a time when I didn’t really think about flying as something available to me. I drew ships. I had some fascination with being in moving things. I remember putting a ping-pong table top of a wagon and pulling it around with our riding lawn mower (sorry mom). I had a chair and a small coffee table. This presaged my later purchase of a motor home, and I seem to remember it having the same appeal. Weird.
Flight: Age 13 to 14
It started with that booklet my brother brought home. It was my first inkling that maybe flight was possible, even to me, since it revealed that there was no age limit for hang gliding and that you could solo a sailplane at age 14. I was 13 1/2.
Soon after pouring over this little booklet I went to Mom: “Look at this, there’s no age limit on the hang glider and you can solo a glider at age 14!!!!”. Poor mom.
Old me sometimes wonders how she endured teen me. But she did, probably brushing it off as another passing fad (I had been into ships). She also provided a path–giving a friend’s telephone number, who she knew was into sailplanes. “Lets see if he’s interested enough to call a complete stranger.” Indeed Dr. Robert Tawse had a sailplane and knew of a club. This was, of course, well before Google was there to answer questions.
I ran upstairs, rotary dialed the doctor, and listened as he told me all about the Central Ohio Soaring Association based out of Columbus, OH. They flew most weekends from Marion, OH (MNN) and yes, gave introductory flights. Back down to the kitchen: “Mom, can we go to Marion this Saturday? They fly gliders every weekend?” No doubt I was annoyingly persistent. Thankfully, she was willing.
Going up in that glider with instructor Malcom Green was a life highlight. He let me fly it. Damn. That was sooooo cool! As my Mom tells it, after I got down, she talked to him privately to ask whether it seemed like a passing fad or if I would likely be able to pull it off. Whatever he told her, that was enough, and both my parents elected to support my learning of soaring. It would be no small commitment.
When I think about how many mornings my poor mom woke up on Saturdays to take me the 45 minute drive to Marion Airport, then spend all day there, it makes me marvel at how lucky I was. Of course youngster me had no inkling of all that–it was purely about airtime.
I spent nearly every flyable weekend at Marion, Ohio, sometimes staying overnight in the clubhouse (an end of the hangar) so I could be there first thing in the morning. Of course that wasn’t soarable, but I just wanted to fly. Hey, the takeoff and landing were the most fun anyway although, when thermals started popping, I was in heaven.
Sometimes I would ride with another club member from mansfield. Tom I think. First in his VW beetle then in his 280Z–a ride that gave my fastest land speed in a non-flying craft. I think it was 120 mph.
I wasn’t into drugs (thankfully they didn’t much for me) so I’ll bet she figured this may be easier to deal with. My experience with pot was pretty lame. It just didn’t do enough to warrant its expense. Regardless of why, I’m glad she and Dad relented and supported the flying.
“Breaker, breaker 19, this is ‘High Flyer’.”
Yup, I was fascinated by the 70’s fad known that was CB radio. The idea that of talking with someone through invisible radio was intriguing. I remember when someone was visiting who had one in their car. I snuck out to play with it. Keying up, calling out and, no doubt, sounding ridiculous in my 14 year-old voice, wondering what lurked beyond the microphone. As would repeated many times in my future, I wound up diving into the deep end of CB radio, including a bit of less-than-legal amplification.
There was overlap with flying but I no longer remember the dates. Infatuation with seeing the ground from above AND wanting a strong CB signal manifested in towers, starting with the ones I put up at our house and later climbing one at a nearby water facility. That got me in trouble.
I wanted to get up high enough to see the surrounding area so I climbed the Raemelton water tower one morning. Neighbors called the police who had me come down just couldn’t believe me about wanting to look around. “Where’s the paint can?” they insisted, knowing full well that my ridiculous story of wanting height was nonsense. They called my parents.
When Mom came, she explained it. “Trust me, this kid is into heights in many ways, if you want, come to our house and check out the towers.” Apparently they believed her and I was let go with a warning about trespass. I wonder if they ever did drive by the house because indeed I had constructed two towers, one on either end of the house, each holding a different CB antenna.
The south tower held a “Moonraker” quad-element beam antenna with both vertical and horizontal polarization atop the taller south 60 foot tower. The other was an omnidirectional ground plane on a 40 foot tower.
Writing about this now makes me marvel even more at what my parents let me do. I was quite careful about the whole endeavor, at least in most ways, and had to overcome a powerful fear of open heights.
The towers started off as an extension of a CB antenna business that my friend, Rick Gherky (sp?) and I got into. We’d offer to remove people’s TV antennas that they no longer needed because of cable TV. In exchange we kept, refurbished, and sold to the burgeoning CB community, mostly our friends as I recall.
I’m guessing this started not long after getting into soaring so I was probably 14 years old. I remember spending nearly my entire wad of mowing money on a Kraft 4 channel Digital Proportional R/C kit and Carl GoldbergFalcon 56 Model engine with an OS 20 Glow engine. Can’t believe I remember all that. The radio came out of a basement hobby store in Mansfield, OH.
I joined the local club to get instruction on how to fly it and proceeded to be amazed that something I built was flyable. This was back when kits came as flat pieces of pre-cut balsa and bass wood with some of the requisite fittings. There was a lot of cutting, sanding, gluing, silk spanning and painting.