Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Junior Birdman

I have spent the last forty years being a professional pilot, eight with the U.S. Marines and thirty-two with Continental Airlines.  During those years I have amasses over 25,000 flight hours, most at altitudes above 18,000 feet and at speeds in excess of 250 knots.  But for the next three days I will travel from Kinston, North Carolina to Fort Worth, Texas in the back seat of an O-1 Bird Dog going about 100 knots at not much over 3,000 feet.  I will be totally out of my element in an airplane type I have no experience with, a tail dragger.   

If I was traveling alone I would be concerned, but I will be with a friend and experienced O-1 pilot, Fred Mooney.  Together we will recover a cherished little piece of history for our museum collection, made possible by the generous donations of some people who once trusted these little birds with their lives, U.S. Air Force Forward Air Controllers and a few others with close ties to the O-1.  

When the call went out for support over Valentine’s Day weekend, these people opened their hearts and wallets and made it possible for us to add this missing piece to our collection of warbirds.  Because of this, we have nicknamed the airplane "Valentine." Maybe not a very macho name for a warbirds, but there is a lot of heart in this one just the same.  

I am going to try an experiment with this little journey of 1,300 miles.  I will try to chronicle the adventure and share that with you over the next few days.  So ride along with Fred and I as I take a step back and become a Junior Birdman to bring a treasure back home to Texas.
First Look April 28, 2011, Kinston, NC
April 28th
Made it to North Carolina just fine and Steve Wilson, former AF O-1 FAC was here to meet us and give us a ride to Kinston. Found our airplane sitting on the ramp at the Delta Jet Center. Problem is, lots of bad weather in the area. We saw evidence of tornadoes all around. We may have to hold up in the local Holiday Inn Express till tomorrow. Pictures to follow.
Steve Wilson & Fred Mooney
Challenge for the day.
April 29th
Today has been an exceptional day. The weather has been great with unlimited visibility, the ride was smooth most of the time and our little plane has functioned flawlessly. We put over eight hours on our Bird Dog today without a hitch. Considering that it hasn't flow that much in two years, says a lot for this little veteran. Two and a half more hours and she will be safe in Fort Worth. We made stops in Clemson, South Carolina, Corinth, Mississippi and Texarkana, Texas. I have been surprised at how few people know what an O-1 is. I am having trouble getting pictures up on the blog, so that may have to wait until I get home. I have plenty.
Fred feeds the Dawg at Clemson

Fred at work
OBA Member Roy Pitt met us in Texarkana (before being a Marine OV-10 Plane Captain, Roy had been trained on the O-1.
Oh, by the way, our radios have been marginal, we have no navaids and out transponder is intermittent. We have mostly been navigating using iPads. Very interesting experience and remarkably accurate. Oh, yes, and taxiing one of these machines is a bit tricky. This is a great adventure.
iPad is my co-pilot
Crossing the Mississippi
 On a sobering note, we have seen a lot of the tornado damage and flooding. My heart goes out to all those who have suffered losses the last few days.

April 30th
Left Texarkana under special IFR.  The iPad charts were invaluable finding our way through all the towers west of there.  Low overcast for at least an hour after takeoff.  I really gained a sense for what the O-1 guys did flying low over farms, fields and forests.  We even scared a calf here and there and got a friendly wave from people on the ground more than once.  It got busy making our way through the Metroplex as we approached Dallas and Fort Worth without altitude reporting to the controllers.  Two and a half hours after takeoff, we landed at Meacham Field at 1027, after a couple of welcome home passes.  We had put 10.5 hours on our bird dog and she performed without a hitch.  Our reception committee applauded our arrival and we put our prize in the petting zoo with our other treasures.  There will be more to come, a lot more, but for now this was an amazing trip for me and I would do it again in a heart beat.  Best airplane ride in years.  Bravo Zulu to all who made this possible.
The G.I.B.
 Recovery crew at Veterans Memorial Air Park, Fort Worth, Texas.

The DAWG's in the yard!

1 comment:

  1. Jim, Our O-1's in Vietnam only had an ADF for NavAid. Very useful for tuning in Armed Forces Radio AM at Saigon, listening to rock and roll music and always knowing the general direction to Tan Son Nhut.