Spirit of Santa Monica in 3D

dc3d.pngDuring our drive to our dentist in Santa Monica, CA, we took a side trip through Santa Monica Airport where I learned to fly. Since the last time I was there, the city erected this monument to the memory of Donald Douglas who founded Douglas Aircraft. His company built many airplanes in Santa Monica.

The airplane is the venerable DC3 which is still in use some places in the world today. The plane sits on three pillars designed to give it a jaunty climbing left turn attitude. A bronze statue of Donald Douglas and his dog “Bar” (short for Wunderbar – German for wonderful).

Click on the image to see the full-sized anaglyph image. If you don’t yet have your free pair of 3D glasses, you can see the 2D image here.

Wright Flyer – 107th Anniversary

wright.jpgOne-Hundred and Seven years ago on this day, the entrepreneurial Wright Brothers launched the age of powered heavier-than-air flight. Coincidentally, my first solo flight took place on this date in 1961 in Santa Monica, California – forty-nine years ago. How time flies (pun intended).

Image – Orville Wright lifting off for the first powered flight. Wilbur Wright watches near the right wingtip. Click on the image to enlarge.

Wickenburg Fly-In

Last month, we went to see the Wickenburg Fly-in and Classic Car Show at the airport on the west end of town. It was a lot of fun and there were over 80 classic cars and many interesting aircraft.

Verna was taking a photo of a Cessna 195 at the same time a Piper Colt was taking off. It’s been a number of years since I flew a Colt. I was in the Navy attending Avionics school in Millington, TN and rented a Colt to keep current. I took one of my school buddies up for a sightseeing tour over Memphis and the Mississippi River.


Click on the image to enlarge.

Treasures Among the Trash

goose.jpgAs we continue to sort through all the old junk in the closets and drawers, we find little nuggets like this ancient photo of me sitting at the controls of The Spruce Goose. It was on a slide when I found it last week so I took it to the photo shop to have it scanned onto a CD ROM.

Image – Bob at the controls of the Spruce Goose – Click to enlarge

The story dates back to 1982 when I and a contingent from the Hughes (Aircraft) Radio Club were invited to take a private tour of the H-4 Hercules in Long Beach, CA, prior to opening the exhibit up to the public. The huge wooden airplane was in a dome adjacent to the Queen Mary.

We got the whole deal. We walked out into the wings of the plane where an engineer was stationed behind each of the eight giant R-4400 Pratt & Whitney radial engines. I even got to climb up on the top of the Goose (covered in plastic tarps) and walk on the wings and fuselage. It was incredible! Everything was there – the 20 passenger seats behind the cockpit, the radio rack with all of the original ARC radios from that era and the cockpit itself in its original condition.

howard.jpgOf course, I wasn’t the only guy to sit in the same seat occupied by Howard Hughes that day, but I was the best looking (according to Verna, that is).

Image – Howard Hughes seated in the pilot’s seat in 1948

My Mom (still around at age 90) says I was present the day Hughes lifted the Hercules off in Long Beach Harbor in 1948. My Dad had taken the family, Mom, me and my two brothers, to witness the taxiing-turned-test-flight. Sadly, I was taking a nap in the car and can’t remember the event. I was five at the time.

Bragging Rights

fraser.jpgBack in the early 1980s, I had the pleasure of serving as flight instructor to primary student Fraser Heston. A mutual friend and former student, Ralph, introduced Fraser to me and wanted to have Fraser take his primary instruction in Ralph’s Piper PA-18 Super Cub, a descendant of Piper’s Venerable J3 Cub. I was one of the few taildragger instructors at SMO then, so I got the job.

Clickable image: Fraser Heston posing by Ralph’s Super Cub (found during the big house cleaning)

One of the big events was when Fraser was to have his first solo flight. His Father, the immortal Charlton Heston brought the family to witness the event. After a few trips around the traffic pattern as dual instruction, Fraser was ready to make his three take-offs and landings to a full stop (touch and go landings don’t count for taildraggers). I got out of the airplane near the gas pit where there was an observation deck. I introduced myself to “Chuck” and his family as Fraser taxied out for take-off.

Fraser’s three trips around the pattern were flawless. His landings were smooth and uneventful – which is a good thing. We cheered from the observation deck as Fraser taxied back for each subsequent takeoff. after the last landing, Fraser taxied to the tie-down area next to the observation deck and we all met him there.

Chuck proposed a toast to the event. The family brought a bottle of champagne and several little plastic champagne glasses. Chuck had to pour the champagne into glasses on the horizontal stabilizer of an adjacent Cessna since Ralph’s airplane’s horizontal stabilizers aren’t horizontal on the ground. We toasted to Fraser’s perfect first solo flight. The family then adjourned to have brunch in Westwood Village.

Verna and I were honored to be invited to the screening of “Mother Lode” a few weeks later. We both met with Charlton Heston, the star of the film, and with Fraser, the writer and producer. On the way out, Verna (literally) bumped into Lou Ferigno, star of “The Incredible Hulk.” That was a fun night.

I am very proud to have these events in my pilot logbook. I still brag about having this experience from time to time. This is one of those times.