Wednesday, May 5

Scottsboro Fly In

Friday, April 30 is such a pristine day that it is hard to believe the dire weather predictions for Saturday as we drive from Covington, GA to Scottsboro, AL through scenic Mentone, AL. Our host, Mike Womacks has arranged for a gaggle of Russian Yaks to escort the Flagship in this afternoon and we are rushing to get there to see it.

We arrive in time for Gene to help Mike get his Yak out and to watch Mike and son, David head out to rendezvous with the others. In a golf cart on the tarmac, we squint and squint into the perfect northern sky until finally....a glint of silver on metal...then...OH! What a sight!! The grand old lady lumbers into view with four Yaks off each wing in formation. They make a low pass down the runway-a breathtaking sight (look for video soon), then sweep over town to bring out the crowds. This is repeated once more, then each Yak does an individual fly by and lands followed by the Flagship.

We find that Blake Butler was in left seat, with John Thatcher riding "pucker," and Lewis Drake as third crew member. The fly over has brought some folks out and the guys set about spiffing and securing the plane while taking time out to give tours.

This show is a treat to work as Mike and his fellow volunteers treat us like royalty, constantly seeing to our every need. When the work is done the crew trucks over to Mike's hanger for liquid refreshment and appetizers. We are joined by Yak drivers and some fly in volunteers. Shortly David delivers copious amounts of Pizza Hut pasta and bread sticks. His mom, Carol Womacks, arrives with gourmet salads, all the accouterments plus dessert. After a great meal and some hilarious tale swapping the Flagship crew loads up into our Suburban and heads out to well appointed (that means the fridges come with beer) trailers at the county park for the night.

Saturday morning there is a lot of anxious weather watching as we chow down on breakfast at the airport provided by our hosts. The prediction is 7 to 9 inches of rain, but a look at radar makes us bet it won't happen, at least for a good while. Today the volunteers are decked out in tee shirts the exact color of neon yellow hi liter.

We open the plane to the sweet scent of "Malathion in the Morning" and set up shop under a wing in case of rain, an extra folding table makes the display more effective. Skies are grey and winds go from breezy to "catch that tee shirt," but we only get a smattering of sprinkle during the day. Everything is weighted down with Foundation coffee mugs. Our son, Richard, arrives from Birmingham for his first look at the DC3 and in no time is running the store like a pro, having quickly picked up on our spiel. When we set the donation jar out, lo and behold, there is the same orange I put in it for weight in Greenville several weeks ago. In remarkable shape, I might add, but nevertheless it is replaced with a stone.

For the people of Scottsboro, the Flagship is a really big deal and, for many, the first plane they have been inside. They declare it "huge" and we wonder what they would think if they saw a triple 7. Neon shirters come by regularly to offer assistance and refreshments. They are grilling burgers and dogs in a nearby hanger for volunteers and we partake later in the day. The Yaks are giving rides, other planes are treating children and a Stearman is selling them for $50. Our lines get so long that the guys start doing the briefing on the tarmac to save time. When we go back to use the terminal facilities we see video of flooding in Nashville, but we have dodged the bullet.

A bright yellow modern reincarnation of the stagger wing Beech called Lion Heart thrills the crowd with high speed maneuvers. The high pitched whine of a jet engine draws everyone's attention to the sudden appearance of an L39 which puts on a daring show before landing. Anita Bates (see photo), a postcard collector, presents us with 3 cards from her collection to add to our memorabilia. One shows a flagship at a terminal and John is going to look up the tail number to see which one it was. Thanks, Anita!

Tonight's party is in the main hanger. Folks are serving up steaks, baked taters and trimmings and we have live music served from the bed of a pick um up truck. The guy is pretty good serving up some Willie Nelson and John Denver before being joined by a pretty good imitation of Hank Williams. We just cannot hold our heads up though and are back in camp before 10.

On Sunday, it is all about the weather. The mission is to get the plane to Mena, AR for a paint touch up before Oshkosh and they have an opening for us on Monday. Blake and John head out in our Suburban. John will be dropped in Huntsville to catch a flight back home and Blake will leave the car at the airport in Shelbyville. The front has actually backed up a bit and sits to our west still taunting us. We hope for a late afternoon opening but it doesn't happen and finally we check into a motel just as the rain starts and continues most of the night.

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