Thursday, May 30, 2013

Off We Go...


 Cal it what you want -  Valiant - Vibrator - I've even heard it called the Vomiter. No matter, it's official designation was the Vultee BT-13. It was a World War Two basic trainer (BT) in both the Air Corps and the Navy. When the war ended a zillion of these planes were a dime a dozen on the surplus market. Well, not quite that cheap, but you could get one for a very few hundred dollars and that how I came to fly in one right after the war  And my father was furious  when he found out I had done it.

I was working for a local news paper and the editor was looking for some special way to recognize our fallen veterans in some special way. There was always a parade. There was always the eleven o-clock Legion salute at the village flagpole. What would be  different but appropriate way to celebrate Memorial Day?

About that time one of our Air Corps vterans came into the newspaper office and the editor rose out of his chair and said, "Eureka - I know what we can do -- we can have a flyover above the cemetery."  It so happened that the vet had just taken delivery of -- you guessed it, a BT-13 and was flying out of local strip.
Then a second light came - let's drop flowers over the cemetery. Since the plane had a rear seat, with a canopy that could be slidopen when flying. Guess who was volunteered to occupy the back seat with a basket (or lap) full of cut flowers.
Memorial Day dawned perfect and we finally bounced into the air and headed for town. Lower and lower we flew heading for the cemetery. Finally the pilot called over the intercom for me to get ready to drop the flowers. With never having done anything like this before, and no bombsight at hand, the drop turned out to be a by-guess and by-golly experience with cut lilacs en doneup all over town - probably everywhere except the cemetery.
Duty done, we hedge-hopped toward where I lived. What an opportunity to give the family athrill  as we buzzed my house on the way back to the airstrip. Landing we connected with the ground
with three resounding bounces. Needless to say, the runway was extremely rough and it had a significant dip half way down.
Savoring my first flying experience I got home to find my father ranting and raging about that crazy flyer who "almost took of our roof" and my mother still quivering with fear.  You can imagine the  reaction when I announced that I was in the plane. It ended up with Dad pronouncing that I was never to fly in that airplane, from that airstrip again with that pilot again.
But it was a Memorial Day experience that still lives in my memory bank.

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