While many of you were enjoying last years annual fly -in at Galesburg, I  was stealing some of Addison Pemberton’s valuable time for some dual aerobatic instruction. Addison is well known to many of us as the  patron  saint” of Stearman operators since he is ALWAYS ready and willing to assist with all things Stearman.  I ordinarily avoid asking for his time because he is generous to a fault, and usually tied up with donating his services to others, but this time I needed someone with outstanding qualifications. I being a dead foot airline pilot with very limited upside-down time…  And as usual, Addison had volunteered.

Did you know that when you foul up a classic maneuver, (like the simple hammerhead), and it doesn’t even come close to resembling the real thing,  you get to name the new screw up after yourself?  Addison says I have demonstrated some very original “McGraths”, but since I’m so modest, I won’t  bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say, inverted, out of airspeed and ideas is a trademark in my routine.  You think that’s scary?  The rest of  this story will make you recall something that you have heard before, and  should hear again before you get a dose of adrenaline like I did on about  lesson three.

 It’s a crisp, clear day in beautiful Spokane, Washington when we launch in       my stock PT-17 to go use the Scareman, I mean Stearman , for what it was designed to do:  Teach students the FUNdamentals of flight while being screamed at by an experienced airman/instructor. Just kidding…  Addison  never stops laughing long enough to scream.  He says the biggest risk in  performing a loop is the possibility of trimming the tail feathers with the  prop.  Even I manage to get her over the top without stalling inverted or  passing redline, (engine, of course), on the backside.  “Yeeee-Haaaa” says Addison… ” okay Bob Hoover, lets see some aileron rolls and remember:  Pitch it, PARK it…  THEN roll it!”  Approximately five minutes later I  achieved entry speed for the maneuver in the 220 powered drag-master and commenced pullin’ and parkin’!  FULL aileron applied smartly and too much rudder rendered an aileron – slash – snap-at-the-end roll and encouragement  from the front seat to “Try her again… and not so much rudder this time!” One or two more tries and Addison is getting bored with the climbin’ and divin’ necessary between attempts, (HIS PT-17 has a 450 and FOUR ailerons!),  so he says “Let me show you the fun way to reverse course…  its called a split S and boy is it fun!”  Knowing that a brief encounter with negative g is approaching, I reach up to snug up my shoulder harness while Ad does his  clearing turns.  I  have the original military style 4-point harness with the over-center latch that holds everything together.  Do you see what’s coming yet?  When I pull down on the take-up end of the shoulder harness, the slack comes out with ease since the latch has mysteriously come un-done and the lap belts are flopping around on the floor boards!  I puckered up so fast, I  cut a button hole in my parachute pack!  Instead of keying the intercom to  scream WAAAIT!  I found myself reaching over the windscreen to try and slap Addison on the shoulders to stop the maneuver before it starts. Luckily his many, many hours in the front seat have taught him to use the rear-view  mirror constantly while instructing wanna-be Stearman jockeys, so when our  eyes meet in the mirror he is laughing hysterically at my vain attempt to  get my hands far forward enough to get his attention.  When my panic  subsides and I tell him what is going on, he says: “yep, happened all the  time in the Air Corps…  your sleeve caught the belt release when you were  putting in the aileron for the rolls we were doing.”  Then he recommended carrying a cell phone in one of my flight suit zipper pockets so I could  call my significant other on the way down and tell her where to come pick me  up….  or I could just dress my sleeves with elastic cuffed gloves like he  wears.  Well, my airline sized ego was brought safely back to earth in my airplane  vs my parachute, and for my penance, it was suggested that I relate this tale to the membership for posterity.  Between nervous laughter, we mused about having to relate the incident to the local FSDO if the “professional”  pilot had exited his airplane unintentionally.  At least the airplane would  not have been lost since Ad would have brought her home.  It might have  taken a few attempts to land while he wiped the tears of laughter from his  eyes, but he would have eventually gotten her down.  So take heed, intrepid men of the open cockpit!  Dress those sleeves!