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AUTO BIO AVIATION & PERSONAL HISTORY PART FICTION
* * H I S T O R Y * *
The short walk from the end of the trolley line on chestnut
street,to the waterfront at delaware avenue,in Philadelphia
terminated at an iron fence about nine feet high. Such an
obstruction was necessary to keep auto traffic and other
individuals from continuing the remaining distance into the
delaware river. the waterfront of Philadelphia was in
transition. post war. the river traffic still included ferry
boats making regular trips across the river to camden, new
jersey. and, many other types of water vehicles utilizing the
river for commerce and pleasure purposes. the mix was anything
from oil tankers, barges, tug boats, row boats, power boats
and water skiing. even some skiers being pulled by aircraft.
there were few rafts, and much debris. on the street level;
the hustle and bustle of heavy trucks and other cargo handling
machinery, plus the operating railroad train engines and
assorted box cars. all this together with motor vehicle
traffic on the cobble stone street made for a
picturesque scene of the changing times. Philadelphia was soon
to have a whole new face on the very street I was crossing to
get to the seaplane base.
from my vantage point at the high fence I could see the
happenings going on below the street level. there was a long
pier and a gangway leading to a much longer dock which
extended the length of the pier. moored to this floating dock
were seven j-3 piper cubs bobbing gracefully in the murky
water of the river. this small airplane, made by piper
aircraft company in the early 1940'S, was one of many such
aircraft used by the flight schools through out the country.
most of these trainers were the conventional, tail wheel &
main gear land planes. some were even equipped with skis. here
at the seaplane base, of course, the configeration had been
changed from wheels to floats.
watching the activity on both dock and river for some time,it
was evident the procedure was routine. the overhead crane is
used to lower each plane from the dry storage hangar on the
big pier to the water surface. then each plane was moved by
hand to the floating boarding platform. here all the planes
were lined up tail to propeller along the walkway and secured
with mooring ropes. it was from this platform the instructor
and student would board the plane and begin the training
session or other airbound activities.
a few days short of my twenty first birthday; I was peering
thru this square bar fence with mouth and eyes wide open.
discharged from uncle sam's navy only a short while back, I
was eager to flex my knowledge and improve my outlook for
life. after all, I would soon be a `man'. it was time to
consider my future; and my future is now. unemployed, for the
present,i still had a few dollars of seperation pay from the
service to keep myself in cigarettes and chewing gum. so,
let's go for it!
my aeronautical experience was limited to the number of model
airplanes I built, as a youngster, from balsa wood and tissue
paper kits. mechanical know how was gained from high school
teachers, and from uncle sam's instructors. basic engineering,
advanced training in diesel engines and refrigeration were my
claim to fame at this point. hands on experience with a few
automobile repairs and some short circuits, burned wire
cutters; [by the electricity in my learning process]
contributed to my high and mighty attitude of being the hard
head walking into the flight school office of the Philadelphia
seaplane base this beautiful fall day in 1947.
no one was startled when I crossed the threshold and began to
look about like an old pro in the flying business. the little
office was unappealing and untidy to say the least.a few books
and magazines on the table, and pictures of various aircraft
adorned the wooden walls of this make shift lounge for the
future pilots of america. smoke curled from butt filled ash
trays and the smell of gasoline, oil, and harbor flotsam were
the standard aroma OR`odor OF THE day'.
i was ready to do an about face, when some one asked if I was
here to start flying lessons, go for a sight seeing ride, or
to make a delivery. quick as a bunny, I replied in my most
professional manner "yes, I would like to try my hand at
airplane flying; beginning with a `ride'". the balance of this
day was to become one of my fondness memories.
John, my flight instructor, began a long disortation about the
flying machines that were in use here at the seaplane base but
i heard very little. my head was still up in the clouds at the
very thought of climbing into the little plane for my first
ever airplane ride. and first flight lesson, to boot.
trying to inter-act with a pilot is very difficult when one is
totally unaccustomed to being around the flying machines. my
fight instructor, John krueger, of course saw thru my little
playacting but was kind enough to hold back his laughter until
we became better acquainted. a true sign of professionalism.
with the basic formalities over, John escorted me down to the
floating ramp alongside the fleet of seaplanes. he was still
talking as we reached the lead plane. it was now my turn to
become serious. the instructor now began to recite the most
important things i had to know at this juncture. he continues:
" in the front of the airplane is a small engine which will
produce 65 horsepower at approximately 2300 revolutions per
minute. attached to this little power pack is a metal-tipped
wooden propeller. when the engine turns up the proper rpm's,
the prop develops a relative wind which will pull the plane
across the surface of the water. behind the engine is the body
of the plane; known as the `fuselage' which houses the pilot
and one other person. the pilot sits in the rear seat, and the
passenger (or instructor) sits directly in front of him".
"this, is of course", he states,"blocks the pilot's view of
the few gages on the instrument panel necessary to be
monitored from time to time";"not to worry, i will keep you
informed if anything goes astray",he smiles."there, attached
to either side of the fuselage", John points,"is a right wing
and a left wing. you must figure out which is which"."at the
rear of the fuselage", my attention is directed by John,"are
three more surfaces with movable trailing type flaps. one on
each side as the wings up front; these are called the
horizontal stabilizer & elevators. the up right is called the
vertical stabilizer OR `fin' & rudder". "of course", he
says,"the entire assembly is mounted on two very long
aluminium floats. hence, the plane is reffered to as a
seaplane. the counter part of course is a land plane or just
plane. the land plane being one with wheels instead of floats
and also brakes; the seaplane has no brakes". another smile,
"the one extra piece of equipment is the water rudder, there
on the rear of the right float" he concludes.
ed,"do you understand everything i've just gone over?" asks
John. i make a motion with my head similar to the movement of
the seaplane in the water. he grunts...
"another thing", he anounces," this plane as its counterpart
on wheels, has no electrical system". "so, the engine must be
started by hand". "this means pulling the propeller thru in a
clockwise rotation as viewed from the back side of the prop.
from a standing position, on the right float, while holding
the wing strut for balance as you reach to the front of the
plane and force the propeller downward." "okay?, well let's
aviate", my friend.
John directs me how to climb into the aircraft by stepping on
the pontoon, then squeezing into the little chair in the rear
of the cabin. now to secure the seat belt around my pot belly
and spreading my legs around the control stick, (commonly
called the `joy' stick.) on either side of the front seat, my
feet now encounter other control devices called rudder pedals.
the throttle was at my left hand near the window. other
gadgets within the cockpit (that's the cabin) were to be
learned in following lessons.
when i am settled in place, John points to a few other things
i need to know including the ignition switch which he places
in the`on' position. he makes an adjustment to the throttle
and then; from a position outside the plane, standing on the
right float, he reaches to the propeller and gives it a
downward thrust. the powerplant does not hesitate; coming to
life with a steady popping as it expells the exhaust fumes.
John then casts off the remaining mooring rope, and pushes the
plane away from the dock. all this is done in a practiced
motion as he swings his stocky frame into the front seat of
the cub and begins to navigate away from the slip as we head
toward the main channel of the river. wow!, we are actually
as we are taxiing toward the middle of the river for our
take-off, John does a series of turns on the surface of the
water to avoid any and all water traffic. all boats have the
right of way over the seaplane, so it's up to the pilot to
keep clear of everything on the waterways, including debris.
we arrive at the point of departure, the little plane turns
into the wind and we are ready to begin our take-off run.
with the control stick full aft, and rudder pedals in neutral
position, the throttle is pushed to the forward stop. the
plane shutters with the thrust of speed. then, the nose of the
floats begin to rise from the surface of the water. as the
speed further increases, the back pressure on the stick is
released a little. this action allows the airplane to get up
on the center of the floats, called `the step'. the seaplane
in this position will gain speed rapidly. now it is just a
matter of adding enough back pressure on the stick to become
airborne. the transition from seaplane to aeroplane is now
complete. we are flying....
climbing to altitude as we turn on course to the practice area
is a new sensation and i am engrossed. we proceed to a safe
distance above the water as well as all the surrounding
buildings. all things below are shrinking as the pounding of
the horses in the engine carry us upward and onward.
"sightseeing is over for now", screams John, over the engine
noise and air gushing past the entire structure. "it's time
for you to go to work". he then proceeds to earn his daily
bread. instructing is his game; learning is my pain. the j-3
is our plane.
the first hour of airplane flying passed much to quickly. i am
still mentally in the air as John makes the first entry in my
very own pilot log book.
9/8/47 j-3 cub 65c nc2057m 1:00 hour; John f. krueger r.f.i.
this translates to : the date of flight, the type of plane,
the engine horsepower (65) and manufacturer (continental),
total flight time, and varification by flight instructor.
the first day training session covered more things then i
could remember. taxiing, climbing turns, level turns both left
and right, also gliding turns in both directions. all these
manuevers were supposed to be co-ordinated, using stick &
rudder pedals and some power changes. the drills continued on
september 10TH (two hours of flying) practice, practice and
control, co-ordination, awareness when on the surface of the
river and swivel neck when in the air.
september 11TH stalls and spins were added to the itinerary.
by the next day, i was ready to do assisted take offs &
landings. when my birthdate came the following day, my ego was
ready. such ego! John never bad mouthed my progress. on the
other hand, he never gave any indication as to how long it may
be before he would turn me loose on my first solo flight.
september 16TH arrived, not much different from the preceeding
days of september. we did most of the training maneuvers as in
days goneby.today, we (that is i) did all of the flying. after
a few decent landings, John said he needs a smoke. so i descend
to the surface, and head for a beach along the river. i nosed
the plane in very gingerly until the floats were about to hit
the sandy shore and then cut the power. the momentum across
the surface allowed the plane the touch the shore line with a
minimium of force. John deplanes and turns the little bird
around for the out bound flight. i was about to join him for
the smoke break, he pushes me back into place and reaches for
the propeller;"now,let's see if you remembered anything about
flying this machine". John then pulls the prop thru as i did
what i've been taught. he jumps off the float and waves me
away, with his right thumb pointing skyward.
pulling the door closed and adding enough power to get the
tail of the floats off the beach, i am alone in the cabin and
heading for the take-off location. a total of eight hours have
accumulated in my logs book since i first sat behind the
controls of this flying carpet. John already warned me that
the seaplane would react much faster to my commands without
the additional weight in the front seat. he was so right. now
i could see the instruments without craning my neck around his
big frame blocking the view.
doing the preflight check list as i watched for other traffic,
i found that i was in position for my first solo flight. i
looked back toward the spot i had vacated on the shore; John
waved his hand wildly. i nudged the throttle to the forward
stop and waited for the reaction. full back pressure on the
stick, the nose came up; relax slightly; we are on the step;
speed is increasing nicely, add back pressure and we are
the` we' in this case is just me and the cub. climb is fast as
it was predicted, and as i fly around the pattern i have a
wonderful feeling of freedom and power. as i make my first
solo landing, i look shoreward once again to see John waving
as before. so, i continue around the pattern once again. the
same thing happens on the third and fourth landing. by now i
begin to wonder how many times he wants me to do this trick.
because it is time consuming and perhaps John is out of
cigarettes, i head back to the beach where i left him a half
hour ago. i am feeling quite proud as i beach the flying
machine. John is aboard as quick as a wink. "didn't you see me
waving at you when you took off"? he barks. "sure",i said;
"took off each time when you circled your hand over your
head". "i wasn't singaling you to take off",`dummy,'"i was
trying to tell you to raise the water rudder". i shrunk into
my seat lower than i'd ever been. we then went over the take
off proceedure once again. i've never forgotten to raise the
water rudder since.
the following day, friday september 17, was again thrilling
for it was my next supervised solo flight from the beach. when
we returned to pier, John set me free from the dock to do my
lessons solo for the next ten hours of flight. and, fly i did.
my hours of training and practice continued thru the fall and
into the winter. when the weather was unfit for flight, we did
some ground study and a lot of hanger flying. also, my funds
were running low so i had to find a position in order to keep
mom from kicking my lazy butt out in the cold. in early spring
i renewed my flying activities with gusto (and John). on my
cross country `dual' flight; i met a fellow student who was
also doing his x/c but in a different type plane. he had
reached the destination, 95 nautical miles from our home base
at Philadelphia, in a taylorcraft. this was of course also a
seaplane. the difference between the cub and the t-craft was
the configeration. the cub is tandem seating, the t-craft has
side-by-side seating and a pair of yokes in place of the
control sticks. there were a few other things in the t-craft
that made it easy to fly, both pilot and co-pilot have full
view of the instrument panel. however, the slight difference
of sitting to the left or right of the center line in the
aircraft did change a pilot's prospective.
anyway, i talked the other student pilot into switching planes
for the return trip. he agreed as did his instructor and mine.
it was the first time i had flown a dual control side-by-side
aeroplane. i enjoyed it, and John was impressed that i did so
well on the changeover. he endorsed my log book; and i was now
able to choose either airplane when i did my practice sessions.
spring whisked by, and summer reared it's hot weather on the
river. with the boat traffic increasing, i was forced to keep
my schedule to a.m. or late afternoon. flying the airplanes
became commonplace to me, but never taken for granted. John
seemed to loose track of my flying hours until one day he
inquired as to my progress. he was surprised to learn that no
one from the front office had informed him that i should be
ready for my flight test. we set up an evaluation check ride,
and when the recomendation was noted; a flight test was
on july 9TH,1948 after logging thirty hours of solo and twenty
seven hours dual, i was strapped in the rear of nc1443n.
art bowley, the flight examiner in the front, was blocking my
view of the instrument panel. i called "switch off", as the
line crewman pulled the prop thru one time. then, repeating
his call,"switch on" & "contact", he pulled propeller again
this brought the little four banger to life and he cast us off
from the dock.
the flight test consisted of all the manuevers i had practiced
plus a few surprises that i had been told to expect. i must
have learned the right things to do, for art did not exit the
plane at any time while we were doing the exercises.
when we finally secured the cub at the end of the test, art
offered me his hand and congratulated my effort. then, he
endorsed my log book as `privatre pilot ses flight test o.k.'
signed `art bowley ex.#1571.' i was now `unofficially a legal
private pilot.' it would become official when my license was
sent from the c.a.a. (later to be known as the f.a.a.)
c.a.a. was the civil aeronautic administration
f.a.a. is now federal aviation administration
the story has a delayed ending: my hours as a private pilot
continued in the seaplanes that i was trained to fly, but my
total time only increased to 40:35 hours solo and 29:15 dual.
the last entry in my log at that time was april 2, 1949
my intrest in aviation did not change, but my free time had
become premium. i enrolled with the quaker city school of
aeronautics for study to become licensed aircraft & engine
mechanic. now, with part time work, and full time study i just
couldn't get down to the river. so, flying was put on hold.
i did a bit of refresher flying in 1956, and 1957 but it was
not until 1962 that the bug bit me again. it was time to sit
or get off the spot. i was going for broke.
in august of 1962, thirteen years since i left the seaplane
base in Philadelphia and long since its demise, i found myself
at the seaplane base in essington, pa., delaware co.
the boat basin and seaplane base is owned and operated by
mr. bob miles. super pilot and instructor with many hours of
flying both military and civilian flying machines. i made my
intentions known and bob took me in tow. we did some refresher
type maneuvers and some take-offs & landings. he was satisfied
with my abilities to operate his cubs; so gave me the go ahead
to solo. it was great to once again spread the wings over the
river and churn up the wake on the way to the wild blue
yonder. however, flying had changed quite a bit since i took
my leave. i had to find a better base of operation and a less
expensive way to learn the new procedures. also, i wanted to
become a wheel plane pilot.
my search came to an end when i read an ad in the local paper
advertising for a share of a tri-pacer in a flying club.
the tri-pacer is also a piper built airplane. the designation
is pa-22/150. `pa' of course means piper aircraft co. the 22
is the model number and the 150 is the horsepower of the
engine. quite a jump from the j-3'S measley 65 horsepower.
the term` tri' is reference to the wheel configeration. prior
to this model built in 1948, most airplanes were made with two
main gear wheels and one tail wheel- reffered to at that time
as `conventional gear'. the original piper pacer was also of
the conventional type. however, the gear arrangement was in
later models moved to have the airplane with the main wheels
slightly aft of the cabin door, and the tail wheel removed to
be replaced by a nose wheel under the engine. thru linkage, it
was also possible to steer with the nose wheel while on the
ground by the rudder pedals. in flight the nose wheel steering
would disengage and rudder control was gained thru the rudder
pedals as designed. other mechanical linkage made it possible
to do turns in the air by using only the rudder pedals or the
yokes. flying is getting easier...
11-03-62 piper j-3 cont.65 2225m 1:00 refresher flight/W cfi
total time to-date 39:09 (dual) 44:35 (solo)
this became the final entry in my log for piper j-3 seaplanes.
a restart in my aviation history; the transformation from play
time to serious flying begins with the next log entry:
12-08-62 piper pa-22 (tri-pacer) lyc.150 n4850a aircraft check
out and familiarization flight.
the flying club is known as `delaware valley aviation,inc'. it
IS A closed corporation with limited membership per airplane.
at the time i buy a share, there is only one airplane and a
total of twelve members. the top limit would be fifteen. the
group is very friendly, and i am quick to become acquainted
with a few pilots willing to show me the ropes. i fly quite a
lot with jim gaffney, the club secretary. jim teaches me the
use of aircraft radios, and vor navagation, and even gives me
my first taste of hi performace airplanes. this is a plane
with fully retractable landing gear and controlable
propellers. more of this many years later. rudy jandris,cfi,
is associated with the club, giving instruction and check
rides to new members.
he and i get together often for advanced airwork in both the
tri-pacer and later the pa-24 commanche 180.
my experience continues until i reach the point of flight test
and rating for single engine land. if i thought i was king of
the sky when i did my first solo in the j-3, then i must be
beside myself when i first took to the sky in the land plane
and the high performance airplanes that were to follow.
most recent entries in my seven log books show a varity of
flying machines and over 2000 hours of logged time. it has be
lots of fun, with a few scary moments. but, i wouldn't trade
one of the hours of flying for five minutes in a boat or other
modes of transportation.
the 'flying bug' that bit me long ago has since left many
scars of repeated nibbles over the years. just proves one
thing; flying is not for the birds...only.
PRIVATE PILOT. SELS / A&P MECH