We checked the weather forecast for our departure and decided to leave Moraine for our westward journey home on Wednesday. It took us 24.3 flying hours to get from Port Townsend, Washington to Moraine Airfield in Dayton, Ohio. Due to prevailing headwinds, we suspect it will take even more time on the homebound leg.
After a nice late breakfast, Susan drove us by the Wright brothers grave. It was so strange to stand at the final resting place of the fathers of flight, their grave markers lying on either side of their sister Katherine’s. Pennies lay on each marker and Susan told us that people placed them there for good luck. Jerry produced three pennies from his jeans and I put mine on Katherine’s marker. I figured that she was probably the glue that held the family together, and provided the stability thus supporting her brother’s efforts. Chrissy followed suit and Jerry laid his penny on Orville’s marker. We each took an acorn from the tree near the grave for a keepsake.
The Prince and the Cub were freshened up at Andy and Susan’s hangar today. Both had their oil changed and the Prince had it’s propellor torque checked, valves adjusted, the front control stick removed, rockers greased and Chrissy cleaned the bugs off the leading edges of the wings, propellor tips and wiped the windscreens. Andy and Brad spoiled me and did the majority of the work while I dropped washers, got everything greasy and got in their way. They did a good job in spite of me, but they had a little fun too. I sauntered into the hangar after I had been gone for a bit with Susan and Chrissy on a visit to Sneaky, Susan’s horse. Andy and Brad started the valve adjustment while I was gone. When I returned, they had all of the rocker box covers pulled and a sheet over the place where the number two cylinder resides. Looking serious, they pulled me to the side and explained to me that they had found a broken valve and that due to the damage incurred, a new cylinder would have to be found. I felt my blood turn to ice and my heart drop as I tried to focus on their words while looking at the ruined cylinder on the table. I knew I would be leaving the Prince at Moraine Field for quite some time. Everyone else in the hangar, Chrissy, Jerry, Susan, Sophie’s dad Mike and others wouldn’t meet my upset gaze. I was so distraught but trying to breathe and maintain my composure. Suddenly Andy and Brad began laughing and it took me a few seconds to realize that I had been had! Those pranksters, I didn’t know if I wanted to punch them or kiss them, or both. Everyone found it most amusing. And the “damaged” cylinder on the table? Not even from a Kinner, but a dusty, paint chipped cylinder off a Continental. I had been so upset that I didn’t even notice the imposter. Hanging around Susan and Andy’s band of merry pranksters is not for the light hearted.
With the oil still needing to be changed, I had the opportunity to fly and heat the oil. With the sky putting on its evening colors, it was time for some fun. I took Patrick the hangar comedian and chief griller for a ride. Fond of riding his motorcycle up to the hangar wearing nothing but his goggles, a cape and Superman briefs, Patrick kept us in stitches all weekend. He also chefs up a mean steak and he is nearing his first solo in an Aeronca Champ. It was fun taking him for a ride. We flew formation with Susan in her Waco while she took Jerry with her. Then it was Brad’s turn to solo the Student Prince. Brad is a very competent aircraft mechanic, antique airplane lover and all around nice person. Since we’ve arrived, he’s been extremely helpful and welcoming. I briefed him and off he taxied in the Prince making a graceful takeoff. Andy told me it was my turn, and as Susan stepped out of her Waco, leaving the engine running, I stepped in. Susan briefed me, sat on the wing walk to make certain I was comfortable with the hand brake, and then off I went, alone in a gorgeous Waco RNF biplane into an evening sky. The airplane was as honest as it is beautiful, climbing smartly. I spotted Brad in the Prince and flew off his left wing. Brad and I had huge grins on our faces and gave one another thumbs up. It was such a treat for me to fly next to my airplane flown by my new friend, while I myself piloted an amazing gift of wings myself. After landing the Waco, I left the engine running for Andy to fly, gave Susan a quick hug and ran over to an ecstatic Brad taxiing the Prince up. His beaming face said it all. He left the Kinnner running, we swapped, and then Chrissy loaded Mike, Sophie’s father into the front cockpit. One more flight of the day, formation with Andy in the Waco, in for a low pass and then one final landing. An exuberant crowd of people laughed and ribbed one another in front of the hangar as the Waco and Prince rolled up and shut down. People who have become firmly embedded in my heart. It’s going to be hard to say “until soon” to them. Not goodbye, because as Mr. Richard Bach wrote:
“Don’t be dismayed at goodbye,
A farewell is necessary if we are to meet again.
And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes,
Is certain, for those who are friends.”