Last week, our pilot group held an early evening, July fly-in at a member’s lovely 3000 X 200 “smooth-as-pavement” grass strip.
I was invited to accompany my dear friend Bill Bohannan (SRA #158) to the festivities in his Stearman. Bohannan The Elder, whom I have heard was the project engineer on the Egyptian Pyramid Project, is the proud owner and rebuilder of a beautiful Stearman with a 450 Pratt & Whitney radial engine swinging an enormous prop.
We flew in from Bill’s grass strip some 30 miles distant in clear air, visibility out the ying-yang, and a stiff wind from the NE.
On our arrival at the party we did the required “one low pass and haul ass.” We then swung around and entertained some wild forest creatures with a X-wind dance-and-prance landing.
The food and fellowship was fine, as usual.
About 2200 hours we decided it was best to head home to Bill’s unlighted grass strip that closely resembles a Vietnam drop zone; often harder to find than the truth in a politician’s speech.
After a “lets show those bastards how this great crate climbs in cool, evening air,” we headed East, kinda.
With a wiggle of the stick he transferred authority for plane management to me, in the front hole. With a 110 MPH wind and the noise of nine cylinders blasting away just a few feet in front of me, the intercom was close to worthless. After a few tries at communication, I soon realized that Plane Commander Bill couldn’t hear ANYTHING I said.
The whisky compass had a 40-60 degree error depending on which way you were going and the airspeed indicator has always been in doubt, (another story), so I was flying and navigating using the universally accepted ITM Method, (I Think Maybe…).
Banging along at 600 feet off the deck, I swung North to find Highway 42.
The evening was S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R. Long shadows dressed the flat Ohio farm land in a bunting of deep, almost black green. New mown winter wheat of molten gold mixed with verdant green corn fields; a patchwork of pastoral-like peace. Deer stood in fields watching the old biplane lumber along. It was like riding a Harley-Davidson in the sky.
I was now deep into trying to find our way home. The shadows were getting longer. The sun hung just a smidgen above the Western horizon. Using the buildings of downtown Columbus some 25 miles off our starboard quarter, the sun angle, and occasional glimpses of Highway 42 as visible way points, we came up over a heavily populated area of new homes and apartments. “Where the hell are we?” came the voice from the back hole. I gave him a “thumb’s up” which meant I was reasonably sure I thought I knew where we were … maybe.
We came up right over his airport, dead nuts. Circling to see the sock and to make sure no deer were planning our demise, the guy in the back hole took it. Down we went between the trees, rolling gently to earth on the dry grass as we rumbled to a halt.
In the bean field off to our left stood a magnificent buck, watching the humanoids make an awful racket. More rumbling during the taxi back to the hangar. Tug and tow bar and a bit of grunting soon had the beast back in its cage.
We stood in the evening stillness as dusk softened a scene of Midwest magnificence. The sounds of the huge radial engine pinging and chinging as it cooled down in the chilled evening air were the only man-made intrusions on the Grandma Moses living canvas that hung before us.
My buddy told me that he had forgotten to take his hearing aids out and never heard anything I said. Our handshake spoke worlds about good friends sharing a very special time.
I drove home in peaceful silence.