Flying Time

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia.

It’s October in the South and it’s flying time. There are more fly-ins, air shows, gatherings, events, happenings and visitations than you can shake a stick at, and we’re trying our best to see and do them all!

So far, two weekends have passed with beautiful fall weather, and the Old Man and I have flown as much as our pocketbook will allow. The first event we attended in this glorious month was just a short hop of 68 miles to the Flying M, a grass strip nestled along a ridge in northern Alabama just south of Ft. Paine. The home of John and Joyce Myers, each year this generous couple hosts a feast of feasts, the Flying M Annual Catfish Fry.

With the help of some dedicated friends, they invite the locals and their flying friends to enjoy the hospitality of their home and to sample some fine local cuisine. Grass, food, and airplanes are a wonderful combination. Add light winds, smooth air and clear skies and you have heaven. Two out three wasn’t bad as the smooth air was a little hard to find, but a little chop is a small thing to suffer for such a gathering.

We flew over in cool morning air as a flight of three: Lester, Lucy and Funnel Cake. More Front Porch Gangers flying Puff and Money Pit joined us at the event. Hmm…you can’t tell that the people who come here are just a tad fanatical about their airplanes, can you?

In spite of a few bumps, our flight home was just as enjoyable, especially with a full tummy. I usually forgo dessert in an effort to make myself feel less guilty about my growing girth, but I just couldn’t deny myself the last serving of this luscious pudding, whipped cream and raspberry concoction. I was ready to land and head to the hangar for a little nap.

The nap did not happen.

Instead, the heavens aligned perfectly for a historic event. Puff is a Cessna 140 and her owner is Tom Gray, who was once a fighter pilot and is now a captain with Delta Airlines. Lucy, the Old Man’s Luscombe, held a passenger, and his name is Jim Williams. Tom and Jim had talked earlier in the week about a possibility — the possibility being that if Tom was handy and Jim was around and if the wind and weather cooperated, then maybe, just maybe, Tom could test fly Jim’s newly completed Thatcher CX-4.

Tom was handy. Jim was around. The day was bright and sunny. The wind was calm. The airplane was ready. This was exciting and it was no time for a nap!

Tom is known around the airport for his excess energy. He is always moving, lots of times talking, and most times joking, but when he sat in that airplane, we saw the professional. He was the cliché: Calm, cool and collected. He asked pertinent questions and expected pertinent answers. There was serious consultation between builder and pilot.

Tom taxied the airplane, testing controls, brakes and such. When Jim adjusted and corrected each item to his satisfaction, he was ready for takeoff, and Jim was ready for a nerve pill. The rest of the onlookers, myself included, were just excited to witness the birth of a new flying machine.

Test Flight

Jim Williams thanks Tom Gray after he made first flight in Jim's CX-4

The CX-4 took off without a hitch and propelled itself into the air smoothly and straight into Tom’s heart. Tom flew around the field several minutes, performed turns and stalls and such, and then returned to earth to ask Jim if the airplane was for sale. Jim beamed, but just for a moment as Tom gave him a report of the airplane’s characteristics. One aileron needed tweaking and the right brake needed adjusting. It was back to work for him.

It was a most satisfying October day at the airport.

The second weekend in the month started on Friday for us. A gaggle of six departed JZP early in the morning bound for the 43rd Annual Thomasville Fly-In in Thomasville, Ga. The weather was CAVU and was supposed to remain that way for the weekend. What joy!

Our gaggle consisted of two groups of three with similar speeds. Henry’s 8A can fly 100 mph, so my 8E and Mike’s C-150 (Miss Funnel Cake) had no problem throttling back and flying along with him. The second group was composed of three Champs: Lloyd in his L-16B, Eric in an L-16A, and Steve in another 85-horse model.

On the trip down, it took our two Luscombes three tac hours with one stop to make the trip and three tac hours to come back with two stops. I flew both trips almost entirely hands off. I had to hold the stick north of Atlanta as the terrain changed due to some bumpiness. Lester has a tab on every control and is probably crooked as a dog’s hind leg, but when those tabs are set right, he’ll fly straight and true. Since I used the same rpm setting that Henry did, he and I burned the same fuel per hour: 4.2. What economy!

The Gang's all here at Thomasville.

The gangs at the Thomasville Fly-In

I talked and talked and talked at the fly-in. My tongue is still recovering. I talked to Luscombe owners. I talked to old friends. I talked to new friends, and I talked to fans, which is a humbling experience. It’s nice to know that folks actually read and appreciate what I write.

The most interesting experience for me at the fly-in happened just after we landed. Some of the Front Porch Gang were interviewed and filmed by a local TV crew. Unfortunately for me (and those who later watched the clip), they included a rather embarrassing shot of me bending over at my airplane. Mooning the world was not something I thought I would do during this event, but it is October after all, a month well known for its large full moons.

I guess I fit right in.

Deb McFarland can be reached at


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