Maybe it was the desire to do something that was relatively peerless.
Maybe it was some inner desire to do something that cheats death.
Maybe it was in my Barcus genes.
Maybe it was the idea of a real discipline.
Maybe it was because Nick Smith knew how to fly a plane.
Probably won’t ever know for sure, but I did have some young experiences with my Uncle Jess Barcus that put the seeds of desire in there. Remembrances of some plane rides when I was about twelve lay dormant in the back of my mind.
One day in 1965, Uncle Jess asked mom if it was okay to take me to an air show over at Tulsa Riverside airport. She was okay with it and of course I was, too. What was crazy about it was we drove to Pryor to get his plane and flew back over Claremore on the way to the air show at Tulsa Riverside airport. Even at that young age, I knew that this wasn’t the best use of resources—a lot of back tracking—but it was the way it was to happen. Uncle Jess in so many words let me know that it was way cooler to go to an air show in a plane rather than in a plain sedan.
Regardless of what started the flame, I decided one day in the fall of ’76 to give it a try. Someone told me that there were planes for rent and instructors for hire over at Gundy’s Airport by Owasso. I drove into the airport and just kept going farther in trying to find the place—expecting a fairly nice facility. Finally I found a shack at the back of the airport that had a sign that said “Neil Hartman Aircraft Rentals” and a couple of ugly Cessna 150’s setting next to it. Once inside the homely shack, I inquired if the owner knew anyone who was currently instructing and he gave me the name of an instructor who was looking for students. Planes $12 an hour. Instructors for $6 an hour.
Edgar Paul Forehand was a teacher at Spartan School of Aeronautics. A young man in his late 20’s with a wife and a kid (whom he called E.P.) seemed like a good match for me. I had heard horror stories of ex-WW2 pilots that were instructors with heavy-handed teaching manners that would leave anyone frustrated, humiliated and wet with sweat. Paul was none of that. He was soft spoken. He explained and demonstrated all the maneuvers he expected me to do and never tried to show off or intimidate me.
On my third lesson, Paul had demonstrated a few stalls and told me it was my time to perform the maneuver. Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of slowing a plane down to a speed where it quits flying was a little scary. As Paul explained, just keep pulling back slowly and surely –bringing the plane to that point where lift quits and gravity kicks in. The little Cessna had a stall warning horn that went off just prior to the impending break with flight. Eeeeeeeee….e.eeeeee.eeeeeeee….Once the plane stalls, the nose drops and maybe one wing drops a little and then it is time to release backpressure on the yoke ( go forward). With the nose pointed down a little, the Cessna would resume normal flight almost immediately.
Okay. Let’s review. Throttle off. Pull the yoke back slowly and bleed off speed. More backpressure….slower…..more backpressure……slower…..stall horn sounds…more backpressure…..buffeting….and the break…..nose drops…..forward with the yoke and you’re flying again.
I ran that through my head over and over while getting ready to set up for my first go at the procedure. My mind said repeatedly—when the plane stops flying, just push forward immediately. I really didn’t like the idea of the plane not flying (and the spin gremlin lurks in the back of your head), so my mind came to the conclusion that if a little push on the yoke forward was what it took to regain flying mode again, then pushing forward a lot would get it flying faster.
Paul had me go through the standard clearing turns to make sure no other flying objects were encroaching on our part of the sky and told me to go ahead.
Slower….more back pressure….slower (50mph)….farther back…slower (40 mph)…..stall horn is screaming…more backpressure and buffet…..STALL….push forward hard and fast on the yoke.
As they say, that was when the stuff hit the fan. Except in this case, it was everything that had accumulated on the floorboard of that old 150 since the day it rolled off the line in Wichita! Pencils…Gravel…Dirt…Flight ruler… We had pulled a hard negative G which means you pull against your seatbelt and the force tries to take you through the roof of the plane. As this all happened in less than a couple of seconds, the normally quiet-mannered Paul voiced out, “I HAVE THE PLANE,” in a tone that while still not yelling, was 3 or 4 levels above his normal utterances.
My mind thought—no problem—to Paul’s order to turn control of the plane over to him. Then I saw the next problem looming in the ole Cessna’s crazed and scratched windshield. Terra firma and cows. We were flying again all right—just straight down.
Of course, by about 10 seconds later Paul had gathered the plane up and returned to normal flight. At that point, he let out the first real emotion that I had seen from him in the few hours we had shared in the cockpit.
Edgar Paul Forehand laughed hard and loud and told me “I’ve got 1100 hours in planes with a lot of students….and I ain’t never seen that happen before!”
On the aircraft maintenance ticket, Paul noted—Vacuum aircraft interior.
In my logbook, I noted—Clean out pants.