Mr. Murphy and his laws

I didn’t make the Lady Taildragger Fly-In held in Savannah, Tenn., the first weekend in June, and from the comments on the website and the texts from my friend and fellow pilot, Sharon Tinkler, it was a roaring success. Kudos to founder and organizer of Ladies Love Taildraggers, Judy Birchler, and Savannah-Hardin airport manager Montille Warren for their hard work.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” In my case, Murphy’s Law should be modified to “Many events that you want or should attend will be scheduled the same weekend as far apart as possible in order to cause as much stress as possible.” I don’t like this law and I don’t have much fondness for Mr. Murphy either.

I have enjoyed the Ladies Love Taildraggers website since its conception. You can feel Judy’s energy and enthusiasm throughout the site. I like reading the posts and seeing that younger women make a lot of them. This gives me hope that the love of flying is alive and well in the next generation of pilots.

I have been married to a pilot for 30 years. I have been a pilot myself for 15 of those 30 years. We have been to a lot of fly-ins. In the years after the kids left home, we did a lot of flying and camping. Then one day, the man who loved flying and camping just about as much as anyone said, “I’m done. My back can’t take sleeping on the ground any more.”

Well, I didn’t argue with that! Flying and staying in a nice hotel is just as pleasurable. No more weight and balances. I could take more clothing instead of just a change of underwear and a toothbrush. After a while, we adjusted our fly-in habits to just a few a year, particularly those where we enjoyed reuniting with old friends as much as admiring airplanes.

Learning that this year’s Ladies Love Taildraggers Fly-In was going to be held in Savannah, Tenn., really piqued my interest. That hotels were available added to my excitement. Immediately, I plotted a course from JZP to SNH, 248° for 190 nautical miles. Two tach hours in a Luscombe 8A — it was doable and not a budget buster. For the first time in a long time, I was excited about a fly-in. The event was put on our calendar that hangs on the refrigerator, and the Old Man was informed of our plans for that weekend.

Then Mr. Murphy started his shenanigans. Almost immediately Henry got a call that a former work associate was retiring. Would he be interested in attending the retirement luncheon and speaking a few words? Of course he would. We held that person in high regard, and we both worked with him during a very interesting time on a memorable project. To top it off, our attendance was going to be a surprise, as we would be traveling a good distance.

When is this going to be held? We’ll put it on the calendar. The end of May. Hmmm. Let’s see. The Lady Taildragger Fly-In is the first of June. The retirement luncheon is the end of May. Both require travel in different directions. Okay. We’re retired. We can do this. We decided to drive to the luncheon, which would allow us to have the budget to fly to Tennessee. Since it is a lovely Victorian hotel, I wanted to stay at the Windsor Hotel (pictured below) in downtown Americus, Ga., not far from the town where the event was to be held.

We could drive down, enjoy dinner and a night at the Windsor, attend the retirement event the next day, drive home and have a day to recoup before flying off to Savannah-Hardin. Wow. We’re such planning dynamos. That is until Henry’s cousin announced on Facebook they were hosting a family reunion at their pavilion on their lake and that family as far away as Colorado was coming. When is this going to be held? June 3. I’ll just put that on that calendar that hangs on the refrigerator.

Wait! The Lady Taildragger Fly-In is June 1-3. Tell them we can’t make it. Henry told them maybe, and as that date drew nearer, the excitement of the reunion grew and we really didn’t want to miss it. Change of plans. We’ll drive down for the luncheon. Enjoy our evening at the Windsor. Make a nice speech. Drive home with a day to recoup before flying off to Savannah on Friday. We’ll come back late Saturday afternoon and then attend the family reunion on Sunday. I can make my dish to take on Sunday morning. Phew. We can do this.

The Old Man on the hotel verandah.

Two old folks having too much fun on a road trip often lead the best-laid plans astray. We enjoyed our stay at the Windsor. We really enjoyed happy hour on the veranda. Dinner was divine and so was breakfast in that grand old dining room. So we changed our fly-in plans to accommodate the new budget. We would fly one airplane to the fly-in.

Then the monkey wrench was thrown into my rather chaotic plans: Henry’s back. It decided to act up. A compressed disc doesn’t really like driving or riding in a car for long periods two days in a row. I know for a fact that the worst scenario for such a condition is flying a Luscombe, which is not known for comfort and can require considerable rudder usage if the air is not smooth. Amendment to the plan: Schedule appointment with the chiropractor on the recover day and hope he works his magic.

He did, sort of. Henry’s back was now tolerable as long as he didn’t sit, ride or drive. How was I to get him to the fly-in? Strap him to the belly of the airplane? Right about now, you’re probably wondering why he needed to go. It was a “Lady” Taildragger Fly-In after all. Two years ago, I wouldn’t of thought twice about jumping in Lester and flying away. But since my Old Man has been retired, all of our adventures have been shared. I wanted to share this one as well.

So the plan was changed once again. We’ll forego the Friday departure for a Saturday only trip. It would give him another day to rest. I would fly us so it would not be necessary for him to use the rudders, which tends to aggravate the condition. It would mean four hours in a Luscombe, but maybe by Saturday all would be well.

It’s just as well the plan was changed, as Friday was stormy and the ceilings didn’t lift until late in the day. The weather brought on another consideration. The drop in high temperatures from Friday in the high 80s to Saturday in the low 70s indicated the passage of a strong front, which usually means wind. Such wind usually means turbulence. Not good for an ailing back. Mr. Murphy was in rare form.

My husband is a very sweet and generous man. He offered to stay home. I refused that offer outright. He insisted he could take it. I didn’t want him to, so on Friday evening I told him the trip was off. Yes, I really wanted to go, but I didn’t want him to suffer. I didn’t want to pilot a flight where I was worried if he were suffering. Personally, I didn’t want to be bounced around either, and I certainly didn’t want to pay $6 a gallon to do it.

At daybreak on Saturday, I picked up my phone that lay on the bedside table and checked the weather. The red circle that encompassed north Georgia in an Airmet for light to moderate turbulence told me all I needed to know. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Saturday was not without aviation perks. We spent the day at the airport chatting on the porch, lunching with pilot friends and decided to start the annual on my airplane. This year we are removing Lester’s tail feathers to check for cracks, internal corrosion and for painting (some parts are a bear to polish). The promised gusts to 30 mph came, but I do believe the wind nearly died to a breeze as soon as the Old Man took that rudder off.

That Mr. Murphy really likes to annoy me.


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. She can be reached at



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