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


Ken Bittner said...

Your escapades and your ability to bringbthem to life again thru your words never cease to amaze and entertain me.
Thanks for taking your time to share.

Bill Dougherty said...

Rich, If you start a GoFundMe / Kickstarter I’d like to contribute. It won’t be 4 digits but I want to dream too. Bill Dougherty

Anonymous said...

I used to work the tower at Columbus before then and always enjoyed the DC3 going in and out. One of these days I will make it down there from Michigan in my archer and say hello again. Jeff Bishop

Unknown said...

Amazing the things you find when googling Rhoades Aviation. I worked there as a mechanic 1990-2000 but mostly on the convairs. Great memories of some interesting experiences. I’ve been at the same MRO since leaving Rhoades, it’s been a secure job but I don’t have as many stories in 19 years as I got in 1 at Rhoades.

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