Friday, March 26

The First Leg(s)

We bound(?) out of bed at 4:30 AM and head to the airport. Just as the sun is coming up, they fire up the radial engines. White smoke billows and soon there is that familiar rythmic roar that is music to the ears of DC3 fans. At 7:30 in the morning, we land in Smyrna, TN to pick up 11 golfers ( and new Foundation members) for their annual outing. We being John Thatcher, retired AA pilot, Lewis Drake, who landed for fuel one day in Shelbyville, spotted the Flagship and fell in love, Gene and me. Foundation member, David Moore, has put this trip together. Who knew golf bags take up so much room? The baggage compartment is filled almost to the ceiling. Suitcases are in the forward compartments. This airplane has been restored to its 1937 splendor. It does not have a working bathroom, nor heat, nor air and the seats are tiny. One of our passengers ends up in the jump seat as he just cannot fit in the regular seat. These folks have paid a bit more than the usual membership fee in order to take this longer flight. On the flight to Myrtle Beach, Gene pilot, Lewis is co-pilot and John is Stewardess. He gives a pre-flight orientation and continues with commentary, questions and answers during the flight. He even hands out pretzels and water and collects trash near the end of the flight. It starts out being about 40 degrees in the cabin, but gets a little warmer as we near the coast. I am freezing but some of the guys are in short sleeves and short pants, and seem comfortable. There was snow on the mountains as we flew over.
We land in Myrtle Beach, where it is warm and breezy. The men stampede for the restrooms and stand in line complaining that they have to stand in line. We munch on popcorn provided by the FBO. Luckily I had brought a couple of protein bars and Gene had a cinnamon roll in Smyrna. We are on the ground just long enough to load all the men, luggage, and golf bags into three rental vans and wave goodbye. Too bad, because this place looks interesting. On take off, we briefly go out over the ocean and it looks blue and inviting. Oh, well, we are not on our own time.
For this leg I ride in the jumpseat and Gene is also in the cockpit for most of the flight. The view is panoramic from here. Being down low means a much better view of things on the ground and the same view as the pilot on landing. A mere 36 miles later we stop for gas in Marion County cause their price is low and this baby burns 90 gallons per hour!! We bought over 500 gallons...and you think your buggy burns gas! Everyone gapes as we taxi in. A young man is there in a tiny, very red plane with "U.S. Aerobatic team" on the tail. He is headed to Lakeland, FL to practice for Sun and Fun fly-in which starts April 13. The Flagship may be there too. We admire his ride, he admires ours. Everyone admires ours. The staff of the FBO takes a tour, the aerobatic guy, another guy who wanders up and six Civil Air Patrol guys who have just landed. Oh, I forgot the UPS lady and her sidekick. They are all so excited that I dig out brochures and hand them all one. The FBO lady is going to frame hers and hang it in the terminal. The plane does not have reverse, so we recruit all bystanders to push us far enough from the fuel farm to turn around. And off we go again. This time John is pilot and Lewis is co-pilot. Gene is watchful mother-hen...he has a hard time taking off his instructor hat.
Like our camper, this plane goes slower than normal and so the 45 minutes to Greenville stretches into an hour. George's good friend, Charlie Ingram, has put together an event here for Sunday and Monday. Just come out and see the plane and maybe we can sell memberships. We also have some merchandise, but not much since the cargo space was full of golf clubs. It is almost 5 PM when we arrive and there is a small but enthsiastic greeting party. Most are friends and relatives of Charlie. Again everyone comes out of the FBO. Then a woman comes up and says, "You flew right over my house. I heard those engines and told my husband to run look as something interesting was going over!" Turns out her father was born in Porterdale, a suburb of Covington. And she is friends with Ray and Bernadette Smith, two Covington artists. All these folks immediately pitch in unloading our luggage and doing all the things one does upon landing. Chocks, gear pins, aileron something or others. They then roll in coolers full of soft drinks and beer and submarine sandwiches. "Anita, these folks have not eaten all day! Fetch the coolers!!" Charlie and his friend-since-6th-grade, Randy Mayfield, are helping turn the props through to prevent hydraulic lock, up on the wing with Gene adding oil, and they get rags and start cleaning the props and landing gear. One of the line boys joins in the endeavor. George has donated a Suburban for our use and made a reservation at a motel that is within walking distance. John keeps mentioning things we were unable to bring due to space and one or another of our hosts say, "We got it, we'll bring it!" Wow!! These are go-getter, enthusiastic people.
In our rooms we are so tuckered out that we all order room service rather than going out. I feel guilty being tired as all the guys have worked so hard. You really have to FLY this plane...not like so many that Gene flies where you turn dials and push buttons. This one requires manhandling. It takes two people just to start an engine. Luckily, we do not have to be at the airport until 9 AM tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment