Saturday, October 21, 2000

No-Fly for P-51 at Chino!

This is a "supplemental" post about two non-lesson flights that didn't happen, alas. In 2000, I was a member of the Chino Air Museum ("Planes of Fame") in the Los Angeles area, mainly so I could qualify for some war bird flights (you still had to pay, but members got some priority or something - hard to remember as I write this in fall 2009). I was in LA on business, added some weekend time for flying as I sometimes did even for lessons, and booked demo flights in both an AT-6 and a P-51 Mustang! I was psyched! But unfortunately even Southern California can have crappy weather ...

This week I've been in Los Angeles on business, and we've had some of the ugliest non-winter weather I’ve ever seen in LA — I went to Chino and hung around for 4 hours (looking at airplanes, not so bad), but my P-51 and AT-6 flights were canceled because it never got beyond about 2000 foot ceiling and 4 miles visibility.  You don’t want to zoom around at 300 mph if you can’t see better than that.  Bummer!  At least I got to sit in the cockpits for some photos and talk to some of the pilots at Fighter Rebuilders.  These lucky guys fly these war birds all the time, and work on restoring them the rest of the time.  John Hinton was going to be my P-51 pilot, and Matt Nightingale the AT-6 pilot (he’s been working at FR since he was 12!).

I looked over their German Me-109 which is in their shop — Steve Hinton (John’s brother), the head honcho, had the Me-109 in England for a Battle of Britain commemoration, and he lost one of his brake lines on a landing — he ground looped it to avoid running off the end of the runway, damaging the wings pretty badly, but he was not hurt.  It’s so cool the airplanes they have just sitting there, almost all flyable.  On the ramp today were the P-51D, TBM Avenger, P-47B (razorback version), B-25, AT-6, L-5 Sentinel, and Japanese Zero!  In the active hangar just behind the ramp there were two Hellcats, two Wildcats, a Corsair, a Skyraider, another P-51D, P-40, and some I forgot.  Just awesome.  They sent a number of aircraft to Hawaii recently to fly in a new Disney film about Pearl Harbor.  They were shrink-wrapped in plastic and put on a “garbage scow” for a slow two week cruise to Honolulu.  I think the film will be out soon (so this must have been last year).

Sitting in the planes was actually a lot of fun, and I got a few good photos of myself in the planes (and other plane photos too, of course).  The AT-6 has original instruments, while the P-51 has been upgraded to a more modern panel.  I had to be careful climbing in and out of the Mustang not to catch my foot on the landing gear lever—that would have been embarassing to collapse the gear on the ramp—I don’t think I can put a P-51 on my American Express!  So I went zero for five on flights this week—these rides and three C152 lessons I had scheduled at EMT with Bryon.  Oh well—I’ll be in LA again in the next few months.

Tonight I’ve been hanging around the hotel (packing for early UAL flight tomorrow) and feeling sort of overwhelmed about the near future – trying to keep everything in balance with family, work, travel, and flying.  If I don’t make flying a priority, it just won’t happen – weather and travel and kid-scheduling just wipe out most of the chances to fly.  Sometimes it feels like such a rat-race, but a lot of the time it’s fun, and I just have to remember how lucky I am to have all that I do have and to be able to fly at all.

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