Tuesday, August 19

Back to Shelbyville

Blake and Gene :Two buddies doing what they love most
The latest adventure of the merry band of Flagship volunteers started in Shelbyville, TN where the plane has been resting for several weeks. On Thursday, August 14, Gene and Sheryl Christian drove up from the Atlanta area to find Zane Lemon who had flown in from Dallas. Gene and Zane immediately started working on the three take offs and landings that Zane needed to be current in the airplane. Meanwhile Sheryl drove into town to the accountant's office to pick up the latest tax return for our records.
Before long, Blake Butler joined us. Blake had signed up about 19 new members and we were to treat them to their membership flight that afternoon.  Sheryl changed into her "stewardess" uniform and started signing folks up as they arrived. Just before 6PM we took these people up for the time of their lives. We split the members into two flights due to weight limits.  A wonderful flight on a day of perfect weather with an uncharacteristic coolness in the air.
Upon landing we discovered that David Gorrell had arrived from Utah, as well as Jim and Evelyn Skelly from Tampa. Everyone worked on putting the plane away for the night. By this time it was almost 8PM. We stopped and picked up fried chicken and sides in town and then adjourned to Blake's charming home for dinner.  He graciously put two couples up for the night while the other two people bunked in George Dennis' log cabin next door.
Bright and early the next morning, we were up and out. We stopped for breakfast as with the Flagship, one never knows when the next meal will be and sure enough our next meal was after 8PM that evening. Next stop Chicago, where Deanna Lemon and Jane Gorrell will join us.
It was a lovely flight and as we reached the mid west
we could see green, green squares of land delineated by light colored roads. In each square would be a home place and several outbuildings. The heartland and bread basket of America.                                             

Friday, July 11

Dayton Air Show 2014

Testing engines prior to Dayton Show

The Dayton Air Show is one of the oldest in the country and also one of the best run. We are, after all, in Orville and Wilbur's home town, a fact that is evident from the art work on the concrete lining the interstates to the art work and displays in the hotel. This is an aviation city.
Intrepid travelers Steve Jacobson, Jim Skelly and Peggy Fairchild found their way to Tulsa by various means on Thursday last and launched for Shelbyville, TN on Friday morning,along with Jim Gentry. Meanwhile, Gene and Sheryl Christian had driven to Shelbyville and Tony and Judy DeSantis had flown up from Stuart, FL in their own plane, packed to the gills with Judy's sound equipment. The group was rounded out by Blake Butler and Lisa Loague. Lisa is our newest member and lives in Bowling Green, KY. She is a tireless worker and a  real asset to the group. We left Tennessee in late afternoon and arrived Dayton in early evening to find lots of eager volunteers just dying to help us.
Dawn in Tulsa before leaving for Dayton

We were issued two large autos and headed to our hotel where there was a patio party going on with live entertainment. For air show participants there was also free food and beer and wine. Many of the show participants know each other from years on the circuit and so there was a lot of visiting and camaraderie. The air show provided free lunch each day and parties each night with free food and entertainment. After the first night, we opted to dine on our own as the air show parties were outside and we were dying for air conditioned comfort after being out all day.
While we were not overwhelmed, we had good crowds most of the day which largely evaporated during the actual air show. Nevertheless, they were very appreciative of our airplane, knowledgeable about aviation and generous with their donations. Many children got their photos taken with Captain
Judy on top of the world
Tony in his period uniform. And Judy entertained with her singing interspersed with history lessons tirelessly. Her efforts were appreciated by all. The skies were mostly overcast, but other than two brief sprinkles, the rain skirted the field. During the breaks the crew reorganized the set up box, the galley and the cargo space.
Show headliners were the Blue Angels and we enjoyed their show both days. The Aero Shell Team was also there and they always put on a good show. We were visited by a three star General from Wright Patterson on the second day.
Jim Gentry left on Sunday morning to return to Tulsa. On Monday morning Jim Skelly, Peggy and Jake all took the airlines to their various destinations. That left six of us to fly the plane back to Shelbyville where we were met by George Dennis. The plane will remain in Shelbyville at least until the middle of July to do some membership flights and a couple of check rides.
Jim Gentry, Jim Skelly, Tony and Judy DeSantis, Blake Butler, Lisa Loague, Gene and Sheryl Christian, Steve Jacobson and Peggy Fairchild

Sunday, June 22

Going through her paces

The Flagship spent a hard week being put through her paces as several of her pilots gathered in Tulsa for recurrent training. Also in attendance were Matt McNamara and Mike Carriker who are new to the Foundation and were there for initial training.
 Pictured above are the happy band of Devin Hassel, Bill Brown, Jim Gentry and Ben Jarvis tending to the Flagship after her hard work this past week. Many of these folks were treated to a flight to thank them for their dedication to the airplane.
Pictured below are Gene Christian, Bill Brown, Rich Boom, Jim Skelly, Mike Carriker and Jim Gentry. 

Thursday, June 12

Can you believe it?

Our dedicated maintenance volunteers in Tulsa have been going over the Flagship with a fine tooth comb. Here are some photos showing them working and the results of their efforts. What a shame it will be to crank the engines next week and mess up that engine and get dirt on the fuselage. Many of our pilots will gather in Tulsa next week for recurrent training.  Thanks so much guys, you have really gone above and beyond. These photos were taken by an American Airlines photographer, Byron Totty.

Wednesday, April 30

Livin' on Tulsa Time

Do you see the pride on their faces?
( This piece was written by Flagship Captain Steve "Jake" Jacobson.)

Last night Jim Skelly, Peggy Fairchild, and I returned from a short trip Tulsa and a static display event at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. It was one of the most impressive examples of teamwork and aircraft maintenance expertise I have seen since joining the Flagship Detroit Foundation.
The Tulsa Maintenance "Terrific Ten" team members are Jim Gentry (Team Leader), Bill Brown, Jim Ballard (avionics wizard), Devin Hassell, Patrick Mitchell, Rich Boom, Ben Jarvis, Stan Locker, Riley Carpenter and  Tommy Jones.
When we arrived, the cowlings had been removed for engine cleaning and oil leak sleuthing. The cowlings were polished to a level of shine that we have never seen before on our DC-3. The engines, props, gear boxes, and wheel wells were spotless. It was like looking at a Smithsonian restoration !  
When we were ready for the engine runs prior to replacing the cowlings, the left engine starter was not getting power and would not engage. Jim Ballard, the wizard, traced the problem down to a relay in the left wheel well. After years of faithful service, this little WW2 vintage relay finally died. We only had a couple of hours until show time at the TASM's Gala and no replacement relay, plus the airplane could not taxi on one engine in the 20-30 knot winds. It looked like we were going to be a no-show, but the TUL Team towed the Detroit for an hour in order to get the airplane to the Museum on time on the opposite side of the airport and around a massive runway construction project.
While the Detroit was on display for the guests of the Aviators' Ball, Jim Ballard and the TUL Team located a substitute relay that would start the engine and installed it during the Museum's Gala festivities. This allowed us to start both engines and taxi back to the AA Maintenance Base to avoid towing for an hour in the dark. The gentlemen on our TUL Maintenance Team are some of the finest in the business and a real asset to the Flagship Detroit Foundation. Some of them  have indicated an interest in attending the DC-3 ground school. I hope that we can schedule a ground school and recurrent landings in Tulsa during the coming months.
On Saturday we did walk around inspection training, and on Sunday we did engine starts and run ups. I recommend that the Board consider designating Jim Gentry qualified to do engine maintenance runs on the DC-3.

Tuesday, April 15

Sunny Florida

The Flagship Detroit recently appeared at the Florida International Air Show in Punta Gorda. Because she has a large following in south Florida, she had plenty of folks to attend to her needs and show her off as you can tell from the dinner photo below. As usual, she was a real hit.
 Following that she moved to Lakeland, FL for the very large and well attended Sun and Fun Fly In. This is a weeklong event and various crew members were in and out during the week including Peggy Fairchild, Steve Jacobson, John Thatcher, Matt McNamara (his first show), Dave Buffington and David Gorrell. She left Lakeland a bit earlier than planned due to weather concerns. John Thatcher, David Gorrell and Matt McNamara flew her to Shelbyville,TN and made their way home, leaving her in the care of our founder, George Dennis. Later in the week, Bob Gross and Scott Main came from Florida and flew her to Tulsa where there is a large American Airlines maintenance facility and Flagship fan club. She was to have wintered in Tulsa, but a number of minor issues prevented that. She will stay there, where she can be hangered until her next event.

Monday, February 17

The Snowbird Flies

Take off from Covington
On Saturday, February 8th, Captain Blake Butler drove down to Covington, GA where the Flagship resided from his hilltop home in Shelbyville, TN. He and Captain Gene Christian then prepared the Flagship for a flight. She had not been off the ground in almost three mon
On Sunday morning, off they went. She was a little slow to start to taxi and I had to wonder if she had grown roots into the tarmac after so long in one place. But no, once she began to roll, it was no time at all until she was in the air, such a lovely sight.
Captain Bob Gross
The men were met in Fort Pierce, FL by Captains John Thatcher and Bob Gross. That is Bob at the controls with the big grin as he worked to renew his currency after having heart surgery last June. He is glad to also be back at the helm at American Airlines. Bob offered his spacious home in a fly in community in Jupiter as a bunkhouse for the men.
Bill Brooks washing engine cowlings.
The plane is in Fort Pierce to undergo its rigorous six month inspection being preformed by Missionary Flight International.This company operates DC3s in support of missionaries in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. Since all of their pilots are also certified mechanics, they are the perfect fit to do out inspection.
On Monday the men were joined by Bill Brooks one of our most dedicated non-pilot members to clean and prepare the airplane for the inspection. The more our volunteers do, the less the cost of the inspection.
Several other members plan to travel to Ft. Pierce in the coming days to continue the work of spiffing the plane to ready it for the 2014 air show season.

Sunday, February 2

Margaret Davis Jacobson

Margaret Davis didn’t plan on taking to the skies when she graduated from high school in Silver City, New Mexico in 1936.  She began her studies at New Mexico State Teachers College, but after one year decided to switch to nursing.  Her family lived adjacent to the nurses’ residence at a remote Veterans Bureau hospital and she was strongly influenced by the nurses and the work they were doing.  That led her to Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, where she received her diploma in nursing in 1940, making the highest recorded score in the state on her board exams. She had to work at Baylor until she was 21 and could be licensed. She then worked with a pediatrician in Dallas.  In the meantime, her sister, Kay, was working for Southern Air Transport in El Paso. This was the time when C.R. Smith was in the process of gathering up small air line companies and organizing them into what was to become American Airlines. 
Kay told her that American was hiring nurses to be stewardesses in this new and exciting world of air transportation, and arranged an interview for Margaret with Newton K. Wilson, who was then supervisor of stewardesses, and later became president of Sky Chefs.  Wilson was known as a tough interviewer, and Margaret remembers not being particularly interested in the job initially.  She says she and Mr. Wilson didn’t exactly hit it off.  “What if we decide you’re not what we want?” he asked.  Margaret was taller than the average stewardess, at 5’7”, and she supposed that’s what he was referring to.  “Well”, she replied, I already have a job.” Despite that, Margaret soon received an offer to attend stewardess training in New York, in a letter signed by Wilson himself.
Most of her friends thought she was "very brave" to embark on this new career as there had been a series of accidents about this time including when "Johnny Martin set one down in a peach orchard in Ft. Worth on the day of my interview." To counteract the negatives, C.R. Smith took out a full page ad in major newspapers across the country entitled “Why Dodge this Question: Afraid to Fly?”  Other executives in the airline industry felt it was a mistake to address the issue so directly, but with characteristic insight, Smith thought if he wrote an honest message and entrusted potential passengers with the facts, fears would be allayed.  His strategy paid off, and the public headed back to the airports. Margaret remembers C.R. Smith as a “very friendly, outgoing and charming man, who always remembered everyone’s name. He was an amazing person.”
She was soon off to her new quarters at the Sanford Hotel in Flushing, New York, to be bussed to classes at the new LaGuardia Field. She excelled in training, receiving a 94 on her final exam.  As she stated, all the trainees were already nurses, so were expected to know how to handle people and difficult situations.  
 Margaret’s first base was Chicago, where it was so cold that she wore red long johns under her uniform skirt.  She was mostly successful in keeping them from showing, a challenge on the windy Chicago ramp.  As the most junior stewardess at the base, she was frequently assigned the “night owl”, between Chicago and New York, where one of her  frequent passengers was Jose Iturbi, a popular pianist and actor. He had a reputation for being somewhat temperamental, and he was often the only passenger on the flight. She distinctly remembers it was obvious that he did not want to be disturbed. He even brought his own lunch with him and worked on his music the whole flight. She said it was often hard to stay awake with nothing to keep her busy. Once when counting heads for meals from the back of the plane, she missed New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as his head did not show above the seat back due to his short statue. In a panic, she told the pilots not to eat their meals until she checked with the Mayor. To her relief, he was to go to dinner on arrival and she and the pilots were saved. Later, while flying transcontintal on the DST Sky Sleeper, she met  the dashing actor Errol Flynn.    He was given the “sky room” berth, which was private and roomier than the others. She remembers him waking up in the morning, looking not quite like his glamorous image.  She asked if he would like some juice.  “I’ll take a cute little nurse on the half shell”, was his reply. “I’ll bring you juice and coffee,” Margaret responded.
Weather and mechanical cancellations were commonplace in those days, and the stewardess was responsible for accommodating the passengers, often booking train tickets when a flight was cancelled.  One time she remembers having to care for an unaccompanied child, taking the little girl with her to her layover hotel.  She opened the child’s suitcase to find only a doll and a hairbrush. Having slept on the plane from New York to Nashville, the young girl was bouncing around the room all night long, wanting to look out the window which had no screens.  “I was exhausted,” Margaret remembers. The next day all the passengers boarded the L and N railroad, popularly known as the “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and headed off to their destinations.
 Travelers have long complained about airline food, and apparently this originated during the DC3 days.  Although some meals were good, a favorite being a fried chicken box lunch which was prepared in home kitchens and delivered to the airport by the cook herself, (before the advent of Sky Chefs), many were not so popular.  Among the most notorious was Chicken a la king, served from a wide mouth thermos jug.  Margaret remembers opening the jug one summer day while flying over the New Mexico desert.  “Here it was, hot and bumpy, and that’s what we were serving for lunch—It looked like it had already been eaten.” She said she just couldn’t bear to serve it.  A lot of times over the desert passengers chose not to eat.
America’s entrance in to World War II greatly changed the airline industry. The mood was somber and serious, and everyone felt a great sense of duty.   Margaret remembers full fare passengers being bumped for military personnel, often at the last minute.  She also remembers flying a plane load of signal corps recruits, on an early morning flight from Ft. Worth’s Meacham Field, with all the window shades drawn. The soldiers had started in New York and  were not to know their destination. She thought they all looked extremely young and many were airsick.  When they made a fuel stop in Tucson, and the airplane door was opened for a few minutes, one of the young soldiers excitedly realized he was in his home town, and announced to the group, “Hey, I went to high school here.”  He was quickly reprimanded by a very stern sergeant, and hustled back to his seat.
Margaret had transferred to American’s Ft. Worth base by then, to get out of the cold. She soon met and began dating a first officer named Dick Jacobson.   Their relationship grew, and one day Margaret was called in to the flight administration office and asked for her resignation. She was shocked, and when she asked why, was told that one of the secretaries had seen a notice in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram. Turns out that First Officer Jacobson had applied for a marriage license, and his intended was Margaret Jane Davis. (He had not yet proposed.) Stewardesses were not allowed to be married,  so Margaret did resign and she and Dick were married in June, 1942.  At the time many other R.N. stewardesses resigned to join the military as there was a great need for nurses.  This was when American and other U.S. carriers dropped the requirement that stewardesses had to be registered nurses.

Their first base as a married couple was
Fort Worth and then El Paso, where Dick was one of the first pilots to fly American’s new route to Mexico City.  There was a brief time in Burbank and then back to Fort Worth, where their son Steve was born.  Dick then transferred to Nashville, where daughter Mary Clare was born five years later.  Margaret continued her nursing education while her children were growing up, earning a Ph.D. from Peabody College in Nashville.  She also taught at Vanderbilt while finishing her Ph.D.  Dick transferred to San Francisco and Margaret and Mary Clare joined him there. Steve was by then beginning his service in the U.S. Navy.  Margaret continued her nursing career, serving on the faculty at Stanford and the University of California at San Francisco and later was recruited to start the graduate program in nursing at San Jose State University. Both children followed in their parent’s footsteps, with Mary Clare earning her M.S. in nursing and Steve becoming an American Airlines and Flagship Detroit Captain.  Steve’s initial interest in the Flagship Detroit was sparked by his father’s logbook, which showed that Dick had flown NC17334, occasionally with Margaret as stewardess.
Margaret lives in Los Altos, California, near her daughter, son in law, and two grandsons.  She has a lively wit and it is a privilege to be around her and hear her fascinating stories about an exciting chapter in the history of American aviation.

Saturday, November 16

Let Them Eat Cake

Dirty Flight Suit Party Friday Night

It was a celebratory weekend in Stuart, Florida for the last air show of 2013.  This  was one of the largest gatherings of Flagship crew members in recent times, so it was a wonderful reunion. Lots of good food, fabulous hospitality from Tony and Judy De Santis, a wedding AND birthday party...the fun never stopped.

A Toast to the Newlyweds
The star of the show, the Flagship Detroit herself, arrived in Stuart on Thursday from Covington, GA, piloted by Dave Buffington, Zane Lemon, and John Thatcher.  She was met by Bob Gross, Jim Skelly, and the Stuart crew..Dennis Pugsley, Nigel Jardine and Bill and Michelle Brooks. She was cleaned, spiffed and readied. The following day more crew arrived, just in time for the much anticipated annual "dirty flight suit" party sponsored by the Stuart air show. Tom and  Marti Taff flew in from Dallas, and were hosted by Gary and Donna Noviski.  Steve Jacobson and Peggy Fairchild drove up from Jupiter, and George Dennis flew down from Nashville. The only disappointment was that some of the flagship wives, notably Deanna Lemon, Lynn Buffington, Audrey Thatcher, Evelyn Skelly, and Kay Dennis were not with us due to prior commitments and non-rev constraints.   They were missed.  The party was great, as always, and the fireworks and night air show were spectacular.

Saturday was very bright and sunny, with an enthusiastic crowd all day.  Judy De Santis and Dick Grady entertained with their medley of big band favorites, and again the Flagship earned many new friends.  With so many crew members on hand, everyone had time to enjoy the air show. Saturday evening, Tony and Judy De Santis hosted their annual show party at their gorgeous Palm City home.  This year, a very special highlight was a champagne toast and beautiful surprise cake honoring Scott Main and his bride Gladys, along with a serenade from Judy and Dick; their own rendition of "I Love You Truly". There was hardly a dry eye.

On Sunday, we had Captain Tony, looking very dapper in his uniform, and three stewardesses; Gladys and Peggy wore the "summer brown" uniform and Alyce Grady looked elegant in her blue uniform.  Nationally known air show performer, Julie Clark visited the flagship on Sunday afternoon.  Zane Lemon gave her a tour and she spent about 30 minutes sitting in the right seat.  Since she holds a DC-3 type rating, the hope is that she will join our crew on a couple of legs in the not too distant future.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that President Eisenhower also stopped by.
Happy Birthday, Marti!

  With so many hands on deck, "taking down the show" was a breeze, and we were all packed up and ready to go just after 5 p.m.  The final event was a wonderful farewell gathering at Rancho Chico Mexican Restaurant in Stuart, where many toasts were offered and stories told.  And speaking of cake, there was another reason to enjoy one as Marti Taff was celebrating her birthday the next day. 

It was a perfect way to end the air show season. We have one more event with the Polar Express, an organization that treats the children of fallen or wounded soldiers, in Nashville on Dec. 12.  Then the Flagship Detroit will go to winter quarters in Tulsa to be cared for by Jim Gentry and company.

(written by Peggy Fairchild)

Friday, October 18

How We Do It Part Three

The air show is over, but there is still a lot to accomplish in the week to come. Blake Butler is here to prepare for and take his oral exam and check ride for his DC-3 type rating on Wednesday. Dave Buffington is testing for his Certified Flight Instructor rating that same day. Gene will teach ground school on Thursday to meet requirements for recurrent training and on Friday we will travel to Augusta for the show there.
Blake and Gene after successful checkride.
On Monday, October 14, Gene leaves early to take Rick Smail to the Atlanta airport for his trip back home. Sheryl takes Dave, Blake, Gladys and Scott to Covington airport. Scott and Gladys are returning to Ft. Lauderdale. Dave and Blake will pre-flight the airplane and training will start when Gene returns.
Monday and Tuesday are long days in the air followed by late nights going over material for the oral exam. It is hard work. Blake is a good student, but very nervous, as all our candidates for Captain before him have been.
Late Tuesday afternoon the word comes in that the Augusta show has been canceled. Due to the government shut down, they have failed to receive their paperwork from the FAA sanctioning the show. This is a deflating moment for everyone. Because the plane is already in position close by, that show would have been almost pure profit for the Flagship.
On Wednesday about 7AM, Gene, Dave and Blake left to meet the examiner for the check ride. They expected to return around 4PM or so. Sheryl and Gene had invited everyone to their house for dinner that night. Tony and Judy had flown in from Hilton Head where they spent a few days and Steve Jacobson had come from Ft. Worth. We were also being joined by our newest pilot member, Allen Murray. Just before four, Steve and Sheryl went to the airport with a cooler of beer for the road weary crew. Shortly after arriving, Sheryl received a text from Blake that he had passed his exam but Dave's had not yet started.  Leaving the cooler in Gene's truck, Sheryl and Steve returned to her house. It was 7:30 PM when the fliers finally returned. What an ordeal!!
Corks popped, toasts were made, dinner served.  The wine flowed along with the never ending flying stories accompanied by uproarious laughter. Folks started dropping out to return to hotels. However, two of the crew who shall remain unnamed stayed up until 3AM still celebrating. They heartily regretted it next morning.
Dave, Blake and Gene after long day testing.
Thursday was a little later start as ground school had been scheduled for mid day to allow for any folks who might fly in that morning. It was another long day as they were at it until well after 6PM and then a three hour dinner.  Meanwhile, Sheryl and Judy had a Ladies Day Out touring the historic towns of Covington and Madison and meeting Carol Jones for lunch at the Madison Tea Room. Many thanks to Carol for suggesting that delightful place! It was no surprise that everyone turned in early that night.
Friday morning, Steve and Dave left for the Atlanta airport. Gene and Blake left for the Covington airport, where Blake would fly his Bonanza home and Gene would start training Allen. Judy and Tony will stay in Covington until Sunday visiting friends and sight seeing.
Hopefully these last three posts show that although the crew of the Flagship love what they do, the times spent together with the airplane are long hours and hard work.

The next gig is Stuart Air Show in Florida the first weekend in November. This is always fun and well attended.