Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Someone is Baiting Dreamers

That's me and one of the DC-3s I flew. The number below the cockpit is important. While I'm here I'll point out that this was the first freight operator I worked
for that laughably believed what we wore mattered to those who shipped packages. Some
things never change. 

Sliding off an oily wet wing onto Canadian soil was not my intent. Had it been my goal the ensuing flash of ignited fuel vapor would have signaled my arrival with the fanfare of fireworks. Doing whatever it took was always part of flying “the Three.” Celebrating it as glorious was one of the perks.
A decade ago, the fully story behind the paragraph above became a favorite of readers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have it backed up and when the service I was using went kaput it was lost to time (If any of you have a copy, I would love to have it). However, among the long lost details is one that stayed with me. The N# was N141JR.
If you were hauling cargo in the grand old Douglas at the turn of the millennium, count yourself among the last. The dot.com bust brought the on demand freight market to a crawl, 9/11 took its breath, and the government took the heart.
During the summer of 99, I logged 130 plus Douglas hours a month for three months straight. At the time, Rhoades was among a dozen or so companies still using the DC-3. Half of them were large operations. These had anywhere from two planes to more than a dozen. The other half, the small operators, had two or less. The number two is present in both because some were single aircraft businesses with another flying parts plane, while the others had two good aircraft and parts. There is a world of difference in the two.
By 2003, the DC-3 freight business was a thing of the past.
Some will point out there are still operators in Canada, Alaska, and other parts of the world. Others will think of “those guys down south who had one in the mid-2000s.” Yet, the reality for those who do not wish to debate minutia is that in 1999, in the middle of the night, airliners routinely used us as weather bird dogs, you routinely crossed paths with other DC-3 operators, and being the #8 plane in a line of jets flying approaches into Newark was quite common. By 2004, many of the “regional pilots” where I worked didn’t know what a DC-3 was.
I remember when I heard the last two Rhoades DC-3s sold. Word on the street was that they were going to Missouri to be roof top attractions for marketing purposes. The story was almost as ludicrous as the guy, or group of people, trying to kickstart(er) another old airplane back in the air by making it about kids or righting some wrong. I could never do that. All my ideas involve the unpolished truth and that never works on those sites. But, if I were to lose my mind and try, here’s how I would do it.
I would let folks know the only reason I was putting this DC-3 back in the air would be to take it to as many events as we could and have fun with it. We’d string lights from the tail to the wingtips, put out speakers for music, open some giant coolers, hand out bee… - six packs of soda, maybe hang a disco ball from the nose, stand up the big screen that would play really bad B-movies and run instant messages across the bottom, pass out T-rex suits, stick some Tiki torches in the ground, point a searchlight to the sky, fire up the Honda generator, and invite everyone to have fun with it. For the national anthem openers we’d tow the largest American flag on the airshow circuit and illuminate it with lights on the wing tips. Elsewhere, for the hell of it, we’d tow the world’s largest inflatable sex doll; a giant rubber chicken in Baptist country. Nothing more, nothing less.
As a bonus, on occasion we’d use the big screen to show videos I made while hauling freight in the plane, how we hung hammocks in the back (enroute), loaded it so full we had to get in the through the hamburger hatch, pulled up to go over boats on Lake Erie, did full performance take-offs and stalls for kicks and…      [Wait a minute - you in the back - what was your question?  Yes, I said while hauling freight in the plane. Yes, I meant this plane. No, not a DC-3 – THIS DC-3. Yeah, seriously.]           Ok folks. I guess I should clarify something. Start with this paragraph and count back three. The last three sentences of that paragraph, ending with “All my ideas involve the unpolished truth.” Are you there? Good.
Late last night, for thirty minutes, I was that guy with the ludicrous idea to put a “three” back in the air. Why was I thinking of how it could be done? An old friend, Darin Kerber sent me a photo of an ad in Trade-a-Plane. He and I used to fly together at Rhoades and he knew I would want to see what he found. That’s the photo below. As you can see, it brings all of these ramblings full circle.

You have no idea how bad I'd love to have this plane on
the field at Lee Bottom. But...

#Douglas #Rhoades #DC-3 #Pilotshortage #aviationrefuge #LeeBottom #N141JR

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Feudal Moon

Image - Wallpaper Studio 10

Note for context: This was written September, 2018, when the movie "First Man" was in theaters and its deleted scenes were hotly debated.

Apollo XI delivered man to the moon and cast opportunity aside - a massive leap forward erased with one small step. Soon thereafter America planted a flag. Why?

Today debate rages about a scene deleted. Pundits point fingers, signaling virtue with words. Should the flag be there or should it not? The question is silly. It also masks the true tragedy.

Every generation believes its time is unique and each new chapter in history proves otherwise. Different actors and props do not change the play but merely the era to which it plays. Apollo XI is one such example. Mankind’s greatest accomplishment belies our greatest opportunity lost – an interplanetary existence.

The moment America claimed the moon for all of mankind it was over; our path forward dead. It was a progressive coup. The Moon belonged to government(s).

No property rights, no realization of gains, and no freedom offered; “the New World” replayed in vain. Daring to cross an ocean of darkness, throwing caution to the wind, man reached out to discover a new horizon then smothered it in failed ideology. As the original European settlers of North America found, communal law carries with it disaster.

Within the New World the fortunes spent conveying brave individuals from possible to impossible, to supply and secure them, vanished in the fog of incidents uncertain; so did most of the people. Without incentives the colony went feral; the few remaining souls guaranteed to perish. Then a new leader arrived, Sir Thomas Dale.

Dale changed everything. Observing the situation, he identified a solution to correct the course of the colony – private property. Issuing three-acre plots to settlers set the wheels of private industry in motion. For the first time in the New World real opportunity existed. Production rates flourished, trade developed, and the population grew.

With the promise of possibility came those willing to risk it all. Some sought glory, others were after profit, and a percentage merely wanted a new start. Private property was key. It made the new land livable and spurred the societal base camps necessary for expansion.

The ensuing discovery and development of resources meant more of everything made the crossing. Initially, though, the real profit was in the journey. Technology improved to make it more so. Yet, one thing was missing; a reliable method for finding longitude at sea.

So important was the needed discovery, every major force on the planet offered a prize for the solution. Again, opportunity and profit changed history. The answer was a reliable clock; technology still critical today. From cellular communication to space travel, the ability to precisely mark time drives it all.

In 1969, another fortune delivered men from possible to impossible. Benefiting from accurate chronometers, the men of Apollo XI crossed an ocean of darkness, turned their eyes from risk, threw caution to the wind, and reached out to discover a new world. Then, by their orders, they smothered it in failed ideology.

Had our country’s leaders led with the knowledge of history and conviction of American greatness they would not have sent our men to the moon to win some back-room geopolitical game of chicken. Instead, upon touchdown, having never signed the Outer Space Treaty*, our men would have claimed the Moon as sovereign American land, not to keep others away, but to entice everyone who believed in freedom to develop it for the future of mankind.

Lunar sections of latitude and longitude offered to any “homesteader” improving the land would’ve created opportunity and made profits possible, risks reward-able. Celestial wagons constructed for pioneers would have beaten a path to Earth’s pale companion. Looking back, we’d see the Moon Rush as a repeat of history. Some would even ponder it from a base on its surface or a ship en-route to Mars. Driven by opportunity and freedom, mankind would exist beyond this planet.

Unfortunately, the small minds of our government, perceived to be huge, set us back fifty years. Believing in new world orders and global law, not only did they deny opportunity they squashed it.

Believing only government(s) could handle such endeavors, only government(s) could accomplish such feats, leaders abandoned the hard New World for tasks within easy reach. That decision brought us here; seven years into a space program crippled by the feudal kings of bureaucracy.


Today, NASA relies on the Russians to deliver Americans to space. Soon, private American industry will assume that role. And although I find great pleasure in seeing business rescue government from itself, I am saddened by the thought of where we could be had our leaders embraced the New World lessons of property, opportunity, freedom and profit half a century ago.