DC-3 Trip Diary April 1998

This is kinda rough. It was written while I was on the road, and touched up very lightly a few days after returning. Those of you who are are professional copy editors... please cut me some slack here...

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14-Apr Tuesday

Baron flight, Falcon Field to Arlington. Fast (4h) due 30Kt tail winds. Stayed night at Rodney's. Visited Bill Thursby's office. Saw Carl (who used to work for Alisa).

15-Apr Wednesday

Arlington to Fresno.. Very rough, slow (120Kt) -- that great tailwind from yesterday was still going, even stronger, and we were going the other direction! Made stops in Abilene and Deming, NM. I flew for at least 5 hours that first day as I seemed to be the least affected by the bumpy air. I loved it! Truly wonderful! Very windy at Deming, surface wind probably 30Kt, gusts to 40. I was introduced to the wonderful ways of the '3 right away. We got a ride into town for lunch at a typical small-town coffee shop. Rodney got air-sick for the first time in his life. Chris was feeling queasy. We got Dramamine at Deming and all but me popped a double dose.

The weather from Mt. Graham through the Colorado River was a bit dicey, lots of cumulus and virga, the bases were uncharacteristically low, probably below 8000 ft. We climbed into it and got a temporary IFR from about Mt. Graham to the Phoenix area. At that point we descended back down to 6500. We had finally passed through the coldfront, and the weather cleared at the Colorado river. We went across at Blythe, then flew to Twenty Nine Palms, Palmdale, Tehachapi, and finally Fresno. At Tehachapi there was a nasty layer of rotor-laden cumulus all along the ridge line, tops at 11,000. We climbed to 12,500 to clear all of that. Later I talked to Stevie and found out that the night before so much snow fell on Gorman that they closed the Ridge Route / I5 ... in April! All those mountains were covered in snow (which we could see through breaks in the clouds). It was so beautiful, we were flying into the sunset. As we made the turn towards Fresno, after crossing the ridge at Tehachapi, the sun was going down.

That night, Greg and I both felt like we were still in the airplane in the bumpy air... I noticed that I got "that feeling" when the dinner table rocked and rolled slowly. Now I know the true meaning of the "DC-3 shakes". When I got back to our room, I took off my clothes, fell into bed, and went to sleep. I was bushed!

16-Apr Thursday

Fresno to Oakland, parked at Kaiser Air (old stomping grounds). We needed to fix two problems, an oil leak on the left engine and an exhaust leak on the right engine. They were all nervous about the oil dripping out of the engines and soiling their ramp. We talked to Brian at the Otis Spunkmeyer DC-3 maintenance base and he offered to let us pull the airplane over to their ramp and work on it.

We completely uncowled the left engine and pulled the accessory cowling off the right one. The exhaust leak was the most critical. It had burned out the cowling behind it. There was a pretty good size hole behind the clamp on one of the exhaust tubes. We would have been screwed anywhere but Oakland. Brian took Rodney to an old parts boneyard in one of the hangars at Oakland. They had a DC-3 exhaust clamp! Rodney fixed it by putting the second clamp on behind the original one, covering the hole. We flew the rest of the trip with that burned out cowling piece.

The left engine had an "ohl leak" on one of the pushrod tubes. I went to a local Pep Boys store and got some Permatex form-a-gasket stuff that Greg used to patch the leak. We used all of the Stoddard solvent in the "bug sprayer" and filled it with avgas. That worked a lot better for cleaning "ohl" off the cowling and other stuff that got covered in oil.

Our English passengers arrived in the middle of all of this, and were very patient while we patched up our airplane. Finally, we thanked Brian for his hospitality and assistance, loaded our passengers, and headed off to Coalinga. The flight to Coalinga was quite nice, via Watsonville and Salinas. We circled the Harris Ranch, where our passengers were going to stay, then landed at the New Coalinga airport. When we got to the Coalinga airport, a couple of the local farmers showed up in their pickups. Eventually, they rode us into town and recommended that we stay at the Cambridge Inn, one of the "hot spots" (ha ha).

17-Apr Friday

Breakfast at the Cambridge coffee shop. We got hooked up with an old one-eyed New Zealander named Russ who more or less lives at the airport and was n the process of moving from the old (now closed) airport to the new one. He also ran the town's only cab service. He gave us a ride to the airport.

It was a very pretty day! The mustard weed was blooming bright yellow and he wheat fields rippled in the gentle breeze. One of the guys that came out last night in his pickup turns out to have leased land around the airport and was dry-farming that wheat. It was already heading, and would be cut in another 4 weeks or so.

We spent basically all day working on the airplane. The oil leak fix at Oakland was only 80% successful, so we needed to put some more stuff on the one pushrod tube, plus a bit on another one. We again completely uncowled the left engine, and fuel-sprayed everything in sight to wash off the oil. Same for all of the underneath where oil had blown over the belly, the flaps, etc. Chris and Greg worked on the left engine leaks, and also "repaired" the left generator. The generator back cover, which supplies cooling via an air hose, had broken off. Chris duct-taped it back in place (!)

The other big project was washing most of the plane. Rodney and I did that, taking turns with the brush and the hose. It took a long time, and definitely made you realize how big that airplane is!

Evening, dinner at Harris Ranch as guests of our passengers. I called Harris ranch and asked if they could come and pick us up. I spoke with "John". He said no, there was no attendant available to do that. Rodney called them back and spoke with someone else, told them we had brought 11 people to stay there, that we were going to spend money there, etc. They made John pick us up and take us back!

18-Apr Saturday

Back out to the new Coalinga airport to get ready for the trip to Palm Springs. As we tidied up the airplane, Chris fell off the left wing, hit the ladder dropped a glass jar he was holding which broke, and he landed on a piece of it, cutting his hand badly. We called 911 and they came out and took him into town to suture it. It cut the muscle as well as the skin. We decided to fuel up there to avoid the $2.50/gal rate at Palm Springs.

Our flight from Coalinga to Palm Springs was stunning. The southern San Joaquin valley was really green from all the rain they had that Spring. We crossed back over Tehachapi and Palmdale. We could see all the snow we only glimpsed a couple of days before. I've never seen that much snow this late in the year. Then we went along the northern edge of the San Bernardino mountains, then through the Cajon and Banning passes. Mts. San Antonio, San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto were all beautiful, covered in snow.

When we arrived in Palm Springs, late afternoon, Chris decided he wanted to go back home. He was really depressed, we felt sorry for him. So we put him on a plane for Dallas.

19-Apr Sunday

In the morning, we went to the Palm Springs Air Museum, which we all enjoyed. We ran into our passengers there. I noticed that Bernie Kreitzer's name was on the board listing the museum's charter members. I worked for him when I was in high school, as a human spreadsheet calculator doing aircraft structure analysis. I also was first exposed to computers by his partner, Stan Rasmussen. I eventually got his number, and called. His wife Rosalie answered, and told me that Bernie had passed away three years ago from kidney cancer. We talked for a while and I got her number for my Dad. I also found out that Stan Rasmussen is living in Glendale, and I need to call her back to get that number. Meanwhile, Rodney got to talk to Bob Pond and offered to take him flying in the DC-3.

Afternoon was quiet. I worked on this document mostly, napped.. We had a nice dinner at Stuart Anderson's in Rancho Mirage (10 mi south of Palm Springs).

20-Apr Monday

We got out to the PSP airport at about 9AM and looked over the airplane. I was set to make the takeoff this morning, so Rodney went over the basic stick-n-rudder stuff for that. Our guests arrived about 10:30 and we were off. I made the takeoff, which went really well. We flew east-ish down to the I-10 grade so the passengers could see the Salton Sea, then swung northwest to Lake Havasu, where we landed for lunch. At 3PM, we left Havasu and flew to Laughlin/Bullhead for the night. The weather was beautiful.

21-Apr Tuesday

We left Laughlin/Bullhead for a flight to Falcon Field, Mesa, AZ (my home field) via the Grand Canyon. I flew right seat for most of the way, except for Gaynor Luckett who flew right seat for about 45 min. The flight went well, though it was a bit rough over the high country.

After landing at Mesa, I got out my truck and took myself, Rodney and Greg to the Champlin Fighter Museum, then on to my home. There, my wife served a very nice dinner and we all enjoyed a relaxing evening in the back yard.

22-Apr Wednesday

Before our passengers arrived, I got a chance to take the DC-3 around the pattern at Falcon Field, flying from the left seat. I made the takeoff and landing. It went well except I bounced the landing (my first) twice before finally three-pointing nicely it on the third contact :).

Then we flew from Falcon Field to the University of Arizona's Maricopa Agricultural Station. They have a dirt strip near the town of Maricopa. Rodney made the landing, and just greased it on. We went to a local native American casino for lunch and then I joined the British farmers for a 3 hour tour of the U of A facility and projects. I found it very interesting.

Finally, we flew to Tucson International Airport, where we stayed until Saturday. We found out later that our hosts has made the mistake of standing behind the DC-3 for our takeoff at that dirt strip... you can imagine what happened! Rodney, Greg and I stayed with my parents. We sat around their back yard and swam, etc. Then we went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant nearby.

23-Apr Thursday

Today we went to Davis Monthan Air Force Base to try to walk through the "boneyard" there. We weren't permitted to do that. Our next objective was the Pima Air Museum, which both Greg and Rodney enjoyed very much. We ran into our passengers there, as they were completing a guided tour. Then we returned to Robert and Margot Denny's house for a barbecue dinner and "telling lies under the stars". Rodney really got my father going on old stories.

24-Apr Friday

Red letter day! After dropping Rodney off at the commercial terminal to return to Arlington, Greg and I flew the DC-3 out to Ryan Field west of Tucson to do some takeoffs and landings (full stop) under "adverse conditions", namely a fairly stiff gusting crosswind. I shot a few takeoffs and landings, and did quite well considering my inexperience. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to fly the Gooney under those conditions, a rare treat!

After my series, we taxiied to the ramp for a break and to hunt for bulk oil, and a guy walked up to us and announced that he used to own the airplane! He pointed out a brass inlay on the door handle that still (faintly) bore his engraved name, Henry Oliver III. What are the chances of that??? We talked for a while, and the he took us to the hangars of an outfit that flies DC-4s for air attack tankers, and we met Megan and Gary... a real pair of characters! I got pictures of them. They gave us 8 gallons of oil (thank you!!) and let us look at one of the DC-4s they have. I asked Gary if he knew Bob Dentice (no) or Vern Shindelli (sp?) and he did know him well. He didn't seem to know where he was recently though.

May 12, 1998 - I just had a nice phone conversation with Harry Oliver today. I had called Meegan at Ryan Field to tell her I was going to send some pictures to her, and Harry (who lives in Santa Fe, NM) just happened to be there again! I happened to ask him where he was going for the summer... Jackson Hole, WY. Oh? That's where my grandfather's cattle ranches were, and it was flying back and forth to them for the summer in his old DC-3 "The Full House" (N66699) that "imprinted" me for life. I told him that I worked as a hand for a guy named Clifford Hansen, and he chuckled and said that he bought his ranch from Cliff! Then Harry asked who my grandfather was, and upon learning that he was C.C. Moseley, he really started chuckling! The company at Ryan Field that Meegan and Gary work for, ARDCO, was started by one of my grandfather's test pilots, Kenny White. I clearly remember him as a child, along with another guy Don Cates, as the pilots that most often flew the Full House with us kids in it. Unbelievable! Kenny White was test pilot on a Korean P-51 Mustang refurbishment program in the early 50's at my grandfather's overhaul shop in Glendale, CA. Then Harry asked me if and how I am related to Blake Chapman, who lives up the road from him in Wilson, WY. I told him that Blake's wife is my mother's sister; he is my uncle (both women are daughters of C.C. Moseley). We both had quite a chuckle about of all of those coincidences.
Then it was Greg's turn for his takeoffs and landings. The wind was up a bit but not as far off the runway heading as before. He did well for the most part, but bounced a couple of his landings enough to go around ("bounce-and-go"). Then we flew back to Tucson International and had a big lunch, then came back to the Denny residence where I crashed for an hour and Greg crashed for 3 hours! That evening we had a quiet dinner with my parents.

25-Apr Saturday

More wind. We departed Tucson International for Dona Ana / Santa Teresa airport near El Paso, where the War Eagles Flight Museum is located. We stopped in Deming to buy fuel at their great price. The wind there wasn't too bad (considering what was coming!), except as we descended to the runway a dust devil wound in from the left and hit the runway just as we went by. I was ready to goose it, but Greg just let it balloon and drifted it back down afterward. Wow. At least we had the wind at our backs.

On to Santa Teresa... More wind. We had flown back into the cold-front/dry-line combination that passed through Tucson yesterday. This time, 190 at 20 gust 30 and the only runway is 28 and a 90 degree crosswind. Good thing we went out yesterday and practiced! We decided to make two attempts and then bag it and go to El Paso International. Greg really redeemed himself for yesterday's bounce-and-go landings, but it definitely took both of us to make this very challenging crosswind landing. I controlled the throttles, giving Greg a good dose of differential thrust, he did a beautiful landing, then things got a bit more hairy. As the tail came down it took both of us on the rudders and brakes.

We went to the museum, then I got talking to the guy there about A-26s and he informed me that there was an On Mark Marksman parked out on the airport! There were only two made, according to my Dad's best recollections. This A-26 mod has a completely scratch-built fuselage, pressurized and stand-up cabin., the DC-6 engines, propellers, brakes, etc.

The departure was even hairier than the landing. By now the wind had increased to 25 gusts to 38, still 90 degrees to the runway. Our first challenge was taxiing downwind to reach the runway. It took both of us on the rudders to keep ti straight. At one point I had both feet on one rudder pedal, and Greg asked if I had removed the rudder lock! It was really wild. I thought for sure we'd weather-vane like hell turning the corner to join the parallel taxiway, but between both of us we managed to keep it straight. For takeoff, we worked together to keep it straight, with me running the throttles (again a huge split), Greg on the controls with me also on the rudder pedals. It was really wild, Greg had to use a couple of stabs on the right brake to straighten the plane out after getting hit with a gust, and as the tail came up we both were on the rudders to keep it straight. Once the tail came up and we accelerated to blue-line, I added in the rest of the right throttle, as the rudder was plenty effective by then.

We flew on to Midland, Texas where we spent the night. The landing there was once again in wind, but not nearly as bad as in El Paso. Plus we had a runway 22 and the wind was 210 at 15 gusting to 20. I had to laugh, because Greg started his final approach with the throttles split... I reminded him that this time we didn't have much of a crosswind. We both laughed at that one..

How in the hell could I ever have imagined that I could experience the Gooney Bird at its best like this? And from the cockpit as a participating crew member at that! I must be the luckiest guy in the world, except Greg who will continue to do this :). No way any other DC-3 operators would fly in those conditions! The only way it happened for us was that Chris and Rodney had dropped out, and we are both basically fearless and confident aviators. I have developed an immense respect for the DC-3 (and for Greg as a DC-3 pilot) in a way that I could never have expected!

26-Apr Sunday

More wind. Now the cold-front / dry-line combination had caught up with us again. After a very interesting visit to the Confederate Air Force Museum, we departed for San Antonio. The winds had picked up to about 25 knots gusting to 35 from 250 degrees, splitting the runways 22 and 28 available at Midland. Right before we departed, they gave a low-level wind shear warning. Hey, we were in an old DC-3!

When we departed Midland, the weather at San Antonio was really dicey, low ceilings, rain, thunderstorms, etc. We decided to go VFR and follow airways, then file if needed a we approached San Antonio. I flew virtually all of the leg, and backed off on the throttles to reduce speed for turbulence and give that thunderstorm system time to move off to the east. The plan worked well, and we arrived to a basically cleared out area. On the way, though, I heard my first tornado warning given as a center weather advisory. It was for an area to our northeast, though, so we were only going to skirt the area. The turbulence was pretty bad, but our passengers kept a stiff upper lip and claimed to have enjoyed the flight.

27-Apr Monday

San Antonio, basically an "admin day". We cleaned up and completed partial logbook entries, visited the local pilot shop to get requested charts for our English passengers, took naps, did email, etc.

28-Apr Tuesday

Last leg of the trip, San Antonio to Arlington. This was a really nice flight! There were scattered cumulus clouds with bases at 3000 ft, and we stayed below them, skimming across the Springtime-green Texas heartland. There are an incredible number of ranchitos out there! I flew the first and last 15 minutes, and two of our passengers flew 20 minutes each. They loved it. I was a bit sad to see the Arlington airport.

But I had one last bit left. After we ate lunch with our passengers, Greg and I returned to the airport to fly the DC-3 over to Spinks Airport to gas it up. Once we did that, I took the left seat and made three more takeoffs and landings there. Once again, we had crosswinds, but this time only about 10-15Kt component. I greased all three landings with just perfect speed and approach slope. It was an enormously satisfying way to wrap up a dream-come-true 2 weeks!!

Incredible Facts Revealed!
I stayed the night at my long time friend and business associate Bill Thursby's home. That evening, he pointed out to me some incredible facts:

Donald Douglas was a descendant of a William Douglas, a real Scottish rebel Highlander. The Highlanders were led by Robert the Bruce, after whom I am named, and William Wallace (maybe you've seen Braveheart). By the way, my namesake never betrayed Wallace! Robert Bruce was the Highlander King and was responsible for bringing the Scottish warlords together against the English. Ok, anyway Robert Bruce so admired Douglas's courage that, when he was on his death bed, he asked Douglas to carry his heart to Palestine. William Douglas set out with Robert Bruce's heart in a silver box, but alas, the Moors got him in Spain. He died short of his goal.

Donald Douglas admired and respected his ancestor, and created the original Douglas Aircraft Company logo as a set of wings with a heart in the center. The connections are amazing to me. Douglas, hearts, me, Rodney and his Douglas DC-3. Oh, and Don Douglas was a very close friend of my grandfather Corliss C. Moseley. My great uncle David Moseley worked for Don Douglas on the DC-3 design team. Whew!

29-Apr Wednesday

I made the flight from Arlington back to Mesa in my trusty "mini-DC-3", Baron N300AS. It took about 5 and a half flight hours, plus a stop in Deming for fuel. Once again, the weather was superb and very beautiful. Clear weather becoming scattered to broken drifting cumulus clouds based at about 12,000 ft with virga and some rain reaching the ground from El Paso westward. When I got to Mesa, I saw the Confederate Air Force's Lockheed Constellation take off for a San Diego air show, yet another beautiful sight and sound experience.

 Aircraft Registration Mark   : N5106X
 Aircraft Serial Number       : 9058
 Aircraft Manufacturer        : DOUGLAS
          Model (code)        : DC3C-S1C3G (3021458)
          Type                : Fixed wing multi Engine
          Year Manufactured   : 1943
 Engine   Manufacturer        : P & W
          Model (code)        : R1830 SERIES (52020)
          Type                : Reciprocating
 Registration Type            : Corporation
 Owner Name                   : DAVID NICKLAS ORGAN DONOR AWARENESS 
                              : FOUNDATION INC
 Owner Address                : 5070 S COLLINS ST STE 101
                              : ARLINGTON, TEXAS 76018-1134
 Region / Country             : Southwestern / UNITED STATES
 Registration Date            : 1996-08-15
 Last Action Date             : 1999-09-02
 Airworthiness Classification : Standard
 Approved Operations          : 
 Status Code                  : N-Number assigned
 Aircraft Transponder Code    : 51462257

Robert B. Denny