|...and I got to fly in a WW2 trainer|
What a great stop! After getting settled they took us over to the Villages for some Rock, Blues, and Soul with Rocky and the Rollers. The place was packed! Standing room only, while several hundred people danced the night away. The Villages has three town squares, each with music every night of the year. We stayed to the end and zig-zagged between the careening golf carts back to our car for the short drive back to the house.
We had two tentative plans for our last day with Beth, Dick and their friend Mary. Shawna wanted to see manatees, and Dick wanted to show me the private airport where he spends just about every day helping with projects and hanging out with his neighbors. I was interested because of the eclectic mix of aircraft at the field. I have many memories of spending time with my dad talking to pilots, he called it "hangar flying." The manatees turned out to be quite a drive and since we were expecting a long drive the next day we decided to save it for our next visit. So while the ladies went antiquing, Dick and I headed out to the airport where I was greeted with a big smile by Chris, the owner of the property with the runway. Chris is a Delta pilot who truly loves to fly.
When we arrived he was busy with the construction of a mother-in-law unit on his property. Oh and by the way, he casually mentioned that the BT-13 hadn't been up in a while and would I care for a ride if the cloud cover burned off; this after I had known him for about two minutes. I am constantly amazed by the friendliness and generosity of the people we have met on the road.
|Our friend Dick with the BT-13|
A BT-13 is a WW2 trainer similar to an AT-6 Texan with a slightly smaller Pratt and Whitney radial engine and a fixed landing gear. I immediately took him up on his offer and started praying for the overcast to clear. The overcast cleared, Chris finished his project and it was time to go. I loaded myself into the aft seat and put on the five-point harness. We taxied to the end of the grass strip and after a mag check he poured the coal to her, I felt every one of the 450 horses as we sailed down the runway. What a rush! A couple of low passes over the runway so Dick could get some photos, and we were off for a tour of the area.
As we were approaching one of the many lakes in the area Chris let me take the controls. I've got to say it wasn't the most coordinated turn I've ever made! On the Cessna 152's I'm used to flying when you start a turn you have to pull back on the stick a bit to keep the nose up. With that big Pratt and Whitney up front, not so much. I think I gained about 1000 feet! Chris kindly pointed out the artificial horizon and told me to "step on the ball" meaning use my rudder peddles to keep from "skidding" through the air.
After a turn around the lake he took the controls back from me and did a wing over and some high-G turns as well as a low pass over a neighboring runway. One perfect landing later I was back on the ground. The whole flight I've been trying to be "in the moment" but as a blogger I felt the need to document this with some photos and video. I managed to get a great video of my knee and some totally unusable photos, so there's that.
This has to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life (sorry kids being born ;-). Life on the road isn't all fun and games, it can be hard sometimes but I gotta say "This Too Doesn't Suck!"