CW4 King's Least Successful Flight HOof Prints the Making of Ace....novel by Esteban Erik Stipnieks All Rights Reserved


After Camp a Piper Comanche awaited to take Ace and his father to Boston.  The first hop was from Breakaway in Austin to Austin Executive.  The Comanche Ace had been in and as he undid tie downs he was excited about.  The mission Ace's father had tasked for the bird was the somehow reconcile.  Ace had seen through his would not reconcile but rather provide a peaceful common border. 

The first leg was short...a very quick southeast flight to Austin Executive for a full load of fuel.  The flight was to be 2 days to get to Boston.  While the airplane was getting fueled their would be an outlook briefing do a quick efficient flight plan for 2 leg flight.  There was general direction given.  The publications came from Navy Dallas Army National Guard facility and the whole eastern half of the USA was covered.  It was a game of figuring a front crossing.

Ace had been familiar with departures on fairly large asphalt or concrete strips.  Breakaway was a relatively short grass strip so the departure was unusual.  Breakaway also had two displaced thresholds high cedars marked its periphery.  A combination short and soft field technique was used. 

Before took over the real estate not too far off I-35 to the east of it several miles north of Robert Mueller a small airport existed.  For Ace it had been the place of his first helicopter ride.....aviation had always cut both ways.  The ride was magical but the trouble was the deployments of the father with his dyspraxic son caused stress.  The FBO was the perfect place for a hangar rat which one of Ace's father was.  The arrival of the Comanche fresh from an annual.

 The landing was to the south and with an uncontrolled field with a common traffic advisory frequency.  Austin approach quickly handed off the airplane to CTAF.  Austin Executive had its field of yore with Cessna 150 from a flight school shooting touch and goes.  Ace's dad opted for a rare full flap landing.  The Johnson bar flap system in the Comanche had three positions.  As the 150 was touching down the Comanche turned final.   

Once inside the FBO Ace's father got the outlook.  The decision was to go near great circle.  Little Rock.....Indiana and across the top of the east to Hanscome field.  Ace's father detailed of the flight planning he would do with his son.  A Pencil line was drawn on the sectional and numerous checkpoints were given along with a navigation log.  The E6B was introduced in more detail.  Ace shut up and listened asking some questions as Ace's dad and his friend went through an exercise they had done since 1966.  It was a procedure well practiced with its own checks.  The whole distance between Searcey and Austin was marked and Total distance between check points counted down to 0.  There was also another set of sectionals where the trip from Searcey to Bloomington was carefully marked.  With winds aloft and final figures added their was rough ETA's for the route.  A flight plan was filed.  It was time for a cursory pre-flight and than departure in the summer day

Starting up of the now warm Comanche was interesting with its 180hp engine.  It took a couple tries before the bark and howl greeted.   In aviation the saying attitude is caught rather that taught.  A plastic covered checklist began.  Any military aviator would have felt at home with the rules of cockpit.  The checklist was followed.  Ace's father was in the role of IP.  Ace's father was gong to teach and adapt the role allowing Ace to be more of an asset.  It was time to teach Ace to taxi.

Taxing an airplane meant steering with feet and controlling speed with a hand.  Ace's father having survived many attempts on his life by student pilots was pleasantly surprised at how his son handled the airplane till the run up area.  The Comanche had a run up checklist which meant checking magnetos carburetor heat and propeller controls.  This started with running the engine up to 1700 rpm and looking for specific drops.  Finally it was time to look for traffic and then depart. There was good reason why Ace's father brought a gallon of Gatorade. 

Its called Standard lapse rate.....2 degrees of temperature lost per every thousand feet gain in elevation.  By 10am things on the surface of Austin were already 90 degrees.  The Comanche 180 compared to a Cessna 150 had boat loads of power compared to later Mooney's which were inspired in part by the Comanche 180 the Comanche 180 was under powered and over draggy.  The Comanche 180 climbed at 900 feet per minute when in straight flight.  A turn was called for quickly to crosswind considering a departure to the south rapidly put the airplane near Robert Mueller. 

 East Texas was split between forest and farm it was flat.  The flight began over Texas the southern state.  The winds were from the south east and since the vector was more northerly there was slight tailwind component.  The two men in cockpit while not talking about much were sharing a common passion.  Flying for both of them seemed less an activity and more of a return to natural state of being.  Their was more discussion about learning how to use the sectional as the plane climbed to where things where a nice 76 degrees.  The fact they were heading north also meant things were a bit more cooler.  Houston and Little rock sectionals were used.  Ace learned how to get a ground speed reading.  In two and half hours they were setting foot in Searcey had they done this by car it would have taken 8.  The 130 knot ground speed and the straight lines of flight ate up the distance which would have involved a couple right angles.  The two radios of the Comanche made life easy to activate and close out a flight plan while talking to the Little Rock ARSA.  An ARSA is an area where all airplanes were required to have mode C (altitude encoding transponders) and were requiredto talk to an Air traffic controller.   

Searcy Arkansas was a southern airfield perched just east of the Ozarks.  On CTAF one realized this was a truly southern airport with southern manners.  This was contrasted to the urbane manner of Austin executive which had slightly big city airport kids and tech heads.  The southern element of Austin was too poor for aviation so the western pilots lived.  Searcey was southern.  Ace had learned to Chameleon routine.  Ace while not loving the south loved it more than the northeast.  This was a simple fuel stop which included some vending machine gourmet, water and use of facilities.  The visit was brief.  Searcey left a mark of friendliness manners.  There was a blend of recreational pilots, flight school and ag sprayers. 

The flight to Bloomington lead to the first major event of the flight...crossing of the Mississippi.  The airplane crossed near where Rush Limbaugh had grown up.  The Mississippi was not at flood stage it was not at drought stage.  The farmland of the Midwest was a beautiful sight when viewed from 7,500 feet.  Then beyond the border of Missouri they plane flew near French Lick.  The Comanche offered the perfect speed not too fast not too slow for viewing enjoyment of the beauty of the USA.  From under 10,000 feet the views were spectacular.  Ace was learning about navigation, spotting traffic and getting an invaluable head start which would help him immeasurably. 

Ace's father was calm and methodical the descent into Bloomington was started early and precisely.  Soon it was time to close the flight plan while talking to Bloomington Tower.  There was one FBO at the airport. 

The FBO was a little less formal but every bit as friendly as the FBO in Searcey was.  They were in a University town.  A phone series of phone calls revealed where the cheapest and best lodging was. There was also a steak house  within walking distance.      

 The steak house was borderline fast food but it was nourishing.  The two men had spent six hours in the air that day.  They were tired the brain in dealing with flight required lots of protein and some fat.  Ace's father had flown longer hours in more demanding circumstances but going from Austin to Indiana was still an impressive feat.  Ace indulged in Chicken fried steak.  The idea was not to have caffeine.  After dinner it was a better flight plan to Boston. 

After dinner and walk back it was time to draw the east north east line across sectionals that would take the two men from Bloomington Indiana to the airport near Walden pond.  They would cross the Appalachians south of Pittsburg but first it was time for sleep.

The wonderful thing about flying Ace thought before he crashed in the single bed was realizing that his father was not trying to talk about things that mattered but was happy as a hog in slop.  What Ace's father did not know was the Comanche 180 was totally incapable of doing what his father wanted the issues were far deeper.

Morning came early.  It was time for the free breakfast some coffee, eggs, donuts and then off to fly to meet Ace's mother and sister.  As the sun was rose a courtesy van drove them to the airport with bags and maps in hand.  The FBO really did not make much money off the airplane.  Yet they made money.  Aviation line workers, FBO owners and general aviation people had in common a love of the Midwest and the south it was a mark of fellowship. 

The cantankerous engine of the Comanche started with ease.  The long two flights at altitude leaned out had burned carbon and lead off the spark plugs.  The kind of flying being done was good time.  It did not impose too much stress on the engine and it burned out water that could accumulate in oil which had been recently changed.

They flight was now with the wind behind it in the aftermath of frontal passage the wind at those attitudes and latitudes was tracking very nice west to east.  The first three quarters of flight 1 of the day went smooth.  They were above the Dayton ARSA and crossed midfield over Wright Patterson.  From the vantage point Ace could see the Valkyrie on display at the Museum.  It was hard not to note they were flying over where man had learned to fly.  While the Wrights had shown it was possible at Kill Devil Hill they later flyer flew in the pasture that became Wright Patterson Air Force base.  As Pittsburg loomed Ace's father wanted to show a him a lesson about low level navigation and scud running it involved scaring the crap out of his son.

 They were supposed to land in Pottstown they landed in Johnstown.  This was payback for a navigational error his son had done they drifted too far south previously.  The older warrant officer was serious about teaching his on.  The point was you did not scud run.  Something about 500 agl at 130 knots with inadequate training and no Instrument rating made the point.  Ace knew his father was instrument rated but the lack of real big topographic features and the low altitude decreasing fuel level made an impression.  It was scary.  It also revealed Ace did quietly like it (adrenaline can be fun).  Ace though was mature and realized the dead end of the fun stimulation that the trip meant.

  They landed at a Coal country airport.  They were out of the Midwest and friendliness was gone.  The Free bug wipe off the wind screen did not occur the airplane was merely fueled.  There was a flight plan closed and another weather briefing and some vending machine food.  Soon the last flight plan of the epic journey would be filed and greatest moments would begin.

The low clouds of Pittsburg faded behind.  The Great circle routing took the flight to through the heart of revolution and across a JFK and La Gaurdia arrival route.  Ace was getting really good at looking for traffic.  The high cliffs around the Hudson were as spectacular as the rich farm land on either side of the Mississippi.  The MD-80s and 727s crossing below the Comanche were more spectacular.  Ace knew who had flown he had read Vietnam Above the Treetops written by a FAC and there was a realization that the only thing that separated was to quote Richard Back a small bend in the river called time.  The radios were active the Hudson to Hanscome field hand off hand off TRSA,To the Worchester ARSA, to TCA to tower.

The week in Boston Ace ran regularly but the splintering of family continued.  Boston was a big loud big city that assaulted Ace's senses his sister was becoming like his mother.  A tape Ace had purchased was stolen.  That rubbed him raw.  The pomposity of Boston and its politically correct nature irritated ace.  Ace and his sister grew further apart rather than closer together.  The cease fire between Ace and his parents held but it was costing the very essence of a relationship.

The Comanche had three occupants on the way back to Austin.  The flight occurred over a longer series of shorter hops.  Hop 1 was from Boston to Delaware.  This one flight involved flying Boston TCA, New York TCA, and Philly TCA.  The Comanche offered a commanding view of Long Island sound from the northern side.  In Wilmington Delaware their were looks at V-22 which was being tested.  The visit was with the defacto Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins of Ace's dad.  The Latvian expatriate community was strong in Delaware.  There was also the pleasure of for the first summer since the birth of the Latvian expat community that Latvia was free. 

From The three days in Wilmington 2 days in Middlesboro Kentucky followed.  Colson field while being lower than Kerrville was surrounded by a group of higher Mountains that placed it in bowl.  Cumberland Gap was the route west and the Comanche flew westward through the gap that pioneers once trekked through.  It was great southern hospitality as another near family got together.  Finally it was time for the days journey home and the days journey home went through the scalding hot brutal south.

The hot high nature of Colson field made an early departure necessary for the shorter runway higher elevation and near maximum load.  Their was one generally slowly climbing turn around the bowl before the airplane climbed nigh enough for a departure to the southwest that took the flight through Nashville ARSA and the Memphis TCA. 

West Helena was one just one of many airports birthed in WWII.  The 8th air force alone took losses that were greater than the Marine Corps in the Pacific at the time.  It was hard to travel any real distance in the south without running across an airport that trained allied airmen.  The joke was that Texas was one large military air field with cities and ranches between runways.  The deep south had its own collection of fields.  An AT-6 in private hands had actually been based on the field shortly after it had been born.  West Helena like many World War 2 training bases now was now home for crop sprayers and some richer men's toys.

Ace got in the backseat for the final leg to Robert Mueller it had been an adventure an exhausting one.  The Comanche returned to her home after an incredible journey.  The mission had failed to bridge the gap between father and son.  It did however leave memories that would last a life time.   

  Ace ran regularly the course at Northlakes Park and had helped out with two Denton Bible projects vacation Bible School and mission week which ended with a trip Six Flags Wet and Wild. Ace’s father had promised that after cross-country season 1992 flying lessons would begin. By mid July what was shocking for both Ace’s parents the arguments had ceased.



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