A trip back in time

I’ve been working on a book about my newspaper career. A major portion of my time in the business — more than 50 years in total — has been spent in the world of aviation. As I ventured into different aspects of my life in aviation, I tried to recall what airplanes I had flown and when. That’s when I dug out my logbooks, going all the way back to my first lessons at a strip in Wink, Texas (look it up on a chart), where my initial flight instructor was Nancy Brumlow. Back then having a female instructor was really something different.

Going back through my logbooks was a wonderful trip back in time and helped me recall a host of wonderful memories…and a few that made me shudder again. Thank heavens, most of my flying experiences were dull and boring.

If you want to spend a few hours delving into nostalgia, get your logbooks and let yourself drift back in time. One word of caution, however: Don’t expect to spend just a few minutes perusing the records. My planned work session on the book quickly fell by the wayside as I read and recalled the planes, the instructors, the airports visited, and the weather experienced.

When I pulled out my stack of logbooks, a trusty old E6B flight computer fell out. That’s another interesting device. I wonder how many pilots — old or new — can use one efficiently today? Not me!

My first entry was dated Jan. 7, 1963. It was in a Cessna 172. The entry under remarks reads as follows: taxiing, pre-flight, familiarization, straight & level, turns. I flew a total of 9 logged hours over the next couple months.

Unfortunately, the last entry was March 22 of that year and I don’t show any more flying until Aug. 5, 1967 — that’s about 4.5 years. I recall that my flying instruction in Texas came about because I had an interest and fortunately the publisher of the newspaper where I was working, Nev Williams, had been a pilot and airplane owner. When he learned of my interest, he pointed out that the FBO at nearby Wink, Texas, owed for some advertising. If I could get the FBO to give me flying lessons for the amount owed, it would be just fine with him. Perhaps the advertising credit ran out or, more likely, changes in the newspaper staff limited my time.

At any rate, I moved to Edmond, Okla., in 1965 and was able to get the time and money together to resume my flight instruction a couple years later from Soc Nelson in Guthrie, Okla. My logbook shows I started flying there in a Cessna 150. I continued lessons on and off for a couple of years and soloed for the first time on Aug. 10, 1967.

That first solo was an experience unlike any other I recalled. When I arrived at the airport that day, Soc was flying with another student. The plane taxied up to where I stood and the student got out, walked over, and said Soc said I should get into the plane. They never shut down the engine! I got in and we made a few touch and goes, then Soc got out and told me to go around three times.

While on downwind I remembered looking at the fuel gauge for the first time. It was all the way on empty. Not a little down — all the way down, sitting on the empty mark. I just knew I was going to run out of fuel and crash. Obviously I didn’t. I made it around and pulled up to the office. Soc came out and said, “I told you to make three landings.” When I told him the plane was out of fuel, he suddenly remembered he had forgotten to tell me the gauge had gone out earlier that morning and the plane really had full tanks! Things were a little different back then.

Shortly after that I started flying at Oklahoma City’s Wiley Post Airport in a 172. I continued flying 172s until September 1969 when I had the opportunity to fly a friend’s 210.

The next different aircraft was a Cherokee 180, then a Cherokee 160. A flying club in Oklahoma City that I joined owned both. The club had the two model Cherokees and a 172, I recall. The 160 had manual flaps and a hand brake and no one liked it, so it was almost always available for me to fly.

In 1970 we acquired what is today General Aviation News and a Cessna 150 was included in the deal. Another friend let me fly his Bonanza later that year and in November 1970 we bought our Piper 250 Comanche.

With the exception of flights for pilot reports, my flying continued in the Comanche for many years. I bought a Cessna 172XP later, then an ultralight and a Piper J3 Cub. A Piper Seneca we acquired was on leaseback a lot of the time. After the Seneca came a Beech E55 Baron and finally a Cessna 205. I didn’t compile all the planes I flew so I could write pilot reports, but there were a lot of them.

Looking at the logbooks and recalling the planes has been great. I guess I’m going to have to recall some of the incidents and write about them next.

How about you? What kind of training did you go through and which airplanes did you own or fly? Let me hear your experiences by writing me at: Dave@GeneralAviationNews.com.

Dave Sclair was co-publisher from 1970-2000.

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