Action Report by Al Casey
“We got on the road at 04:30 Friday morning, Val and I in the Freestar and Bob following in his Jimmie. The trip was uneventful and, after stopping for breakfast at Chiriaco Summit, we headed on the remaining 2-hours to Chino. Austin Goodwin caught up with us in his yellow Corvette and joined the caravan as far as Riverside where he diverted down to March AFB to get pictures of the Bell P-59 Airacomet they have in the museum there. We arrived at Sam’s hangar just about noon straight up. Probably would’a made it about a half hour earlier except for delays near Riverside caused by traffic and construction (and more bad directions from Sam – but we won’t go there..Hah!). Sam told us on the phone to let ourselves into the hangar and enjoy a longneck or three ‘til he got there which, of course, we were more than happy to do.
With the help of a feller’ named “Pancho,” who occupies the hangar next door, we entered the hangar and opened the main door. There sat, without a doubt, the most beautiful P-51D Mustang we’d ever laid eyes on. I’d heard that this was one of the nicest Mustangs currently flying but that was a gross understatement; this one, “Lady Alice,” is absolutely immaculate! We devoured this beauty with our eyes, trying not to drool all over it, while consuming a few beers from the fully stocked fridge in the corner until Sam arrived about 45-minutes after we arrived.
Let the Party Begin
Sam pulled the Mustang out with his little tug and parked in outside where we were welcomed to look it all over in the sunlight, climb into the cockpit ant take pictures, etc. We all got into that act and pictures will no doubt hit the OEAF website soon as Val gets ‘em all sorted out. About 16:00 (4:00pm), we went and checked in to the motel, cleaned up a tad, then returned to the hangar 18:00 (6:00pm)when the “official” hangar party began. We were well primed already but another surprise awaited. Sam had conned.., er.., convinced one of the barmaids from the nearby Airport Lounge, a buxom young lass named Kim, to attend in the role of bartender (as if we needed one). This well endowed young lady, the offspring of hippie parents, wore a plunging neckline and was not the least concerned about putting her “assets” on display. Bob had to be resuscitated three times after swallowing and/or stepping on his tongue!
Sam BBQd up a batch of wings, finger foods and, of course, more longnecks (served by Kim, of course) and the hours flew by until, later than we’d intended, we dragged ourselves back to the room and collapsed into a deathlike sleep.
Meet You At Flo’s
Much too early, Austin rang the phone and we dragged ourselves awake, washed the sleep out’a our eyes and drove back to the airport for breakfast at the world famous Flo’s Airport Restaurant, arriving at 07:00. At the table was Bob, Val and myself, Austin, Kenny Kear, John Geyer and Jerry Wright. Well, I gotta’ tell ya’ the food’s great the portions immense and the biscuits and gravy simply terrific. No one left the table hungry.., except for Kenny, perhaps.
From there, we drove the 4-4.5 miles to the Prado Dam flying field. The field consists of a 75’ by 800’ runway sitting in the middle of a large, well manicured, gravel covered expanse.., and little else. No tables, no shade. I’m guessing that the PVMAC club’s use agreement doesn’t permit erecting any structures. Fortunately, Sam was really thinking of us and provided us reserved parking and the loan of two pop-up tents and a collapsible table. We were treated like visiting royalty! Thanx a heap to Sam Wright, Randy Wilbur, Jim Reid and Gordy Truax. You guys outdid yourselves in our behalf and we really appreciate it!
Shortly after getting all set up, who should poke his head around the back of Bob’s Jimmie but Dave Linne’. He’d driven over solo Saturday morning with the big Hurricane he bought from Carl Ramsay and finished up, in hopes of selling it. Flying commenced and there was some really interesting stuff there including the giant scale Heinkel HE-100 and the Giant Scale Balsa USA Sopwith Pup of Adam Gelbart. I’d never seen this airplane modeled before and it was impressive, flying as good as it looked. There were two Great Planes Gee Bee R2s there, one gas powered and one electric. Val got in a flight, then Bob got in two. Meanwhile, I was feeling sort’a puny (probably due to having too much fun the night before) and put off any flying until, after the noontime runway lineup, the wind came up stronger than I cared to deal with and I decided to stand down ‘til the next day.
Let the Party Begin – Again
We packed up and retired to the motel, showered, changed duds and arrived back at the hangar about 18:00 again. This was the official $1500 cookout. Many had arrived before us, including ol” Col. Bob Thacker. It was great seeing him again after some years and he’s still as ornery and funny as ever. “Lady Alice had been pulled out to make room for the festivities and the owner, Dr, Ken (Wags) Wagner as well as Gordy and a mechanic were climbing all over it. All the cowling sheet metal had been removed for an oil change but they’d been advised to pull a 25-hour inspection and had found a few minor “squawks”, like a cracked head nut, and were hustling to get everything back together.
Sam again donned his apron and BBQd up some absolutely mouthwatering lemon chicken and baby back ribs. The man really knows his well around a grill and everyone really enjoyed his efforts. Mmmmm, yummy!! Of course, the seemingly bottomless fridge in the corner continued to beckon us to help it from overflowing and we complied but, perhaps, with a little less gusto than the night before. ;^)
The highlight of the evening was when they fired up the Merlin in the Lady Alice. The sight, the sound, the feel of it was simply mind numbing and I think all present went home with a new appreciation for the raw power and throaty, one-of-a-kind sound the Merlin produces. Watching the blue flames walking up and down the stacks at idle was, well, just INCREDIBLE!! When they ran the engine up to 30 (out of a max of 60-62) inches of manifold pressure, the supercharger kicked in with an ear-splitting whine audible over the exhaust note and the combined sound became almost unbearable but, WOW! What a display of horsepower!!
Unfortunately, my Sunday morning dream flight in Lady Alice now seemed not to be a doable thing. I’d deliberately forced myself to go over with low-to-no expectations just In case something like this was to happen and, to my chagrin, it did. But, I wasn’t all that disappointed due to all the other mind blowing stuff that’d occurred that night.
Back to Flo’s
Naturally, we again got back to the roost a bit later than intended but, having gained our party-legs a bit by now, we were more willing to rise and head for Flo’s again Sunday morning. Another great breakfast was consumed and it was back out to the model field. We’d, of course, met Doc “Wags” Wagner the night before but hadn’t wanted to distract him from the business of working on Lady Alice so we hadn’t spoken to him at any length. But, he showed up at the model field and proceeded to wring out a Kyosho [I think] electric powered P-51 (What else?). We had a very nice conversation with Wags, during which he said he was gonna’ get a coupl’a flights in on his model, then head back to the hangar and start buttoning all the sheet metal back onto the Mustang. Not flying and having nothing better to do, Dave Linne’ volunteered to go back with him and help out. I WANTED in the worst way to offer to help out too but I simply couldn’t go off and leave all my stuff there.., not to mention leaving Val stranded as well so I kept quiet.
I should interject here that Doctor Ken Wagner is one of the most highly respected orthopedic surgeons in the western states and is frequently called as an expert witness in malpractice suits. More than that, though, he’s truly one of the most non-self assuming, genuinely nice guys I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet! He feels he’s fortunate to own a piece of history and is dedicated to sharing it in any way possible. You just gotta’ applaud the man for that!
Probably about 13:30-14:00 hrs, Sam announced that the Lady Alice was airborne and would be making a low pass about 500’ over the model field. We spotted him banking in from the west and began hearing the familiar throaty but mellow sound of the Merlin growing in intensity as it drew nearer. Then it was there, right out in front of us at maybe 200’ and 220mph. What a beautiful sight…, but I noticed there were two helmets under that sleek bubble canopy. You guessed it, as a thank you for helping him get all the sheet metal buttoned back onto Lady Alice’s nose, Wags took Dave up in the back seat and he got about a full 1-hour ride. Was I Jealous? Of course. Angry or disappointed? Well I wanted to be but just couldn’t because there was nothing I could’a done about it and I was truly tickled for Dave. He’s now wearing a permanent grin wider’n Rosie O’Donnell’s backside! Add to that that Wags and Sam have assured me that my time is coming, most likely when it cools off here again in the Fall.., just possibly in October, and maybe during the OEAF Fly-In at the AMPS field. That all hinges upon Wags’ schedule. I have only to be patient. I’m totally confident that IT WILL HAPPEN!
Val got in another flight on Sunday, as did Bob as things wound down, during which time I managed to get in a fairly decent flight with the Midget Mustang (with 5-airplanes up at once – not my favorite thing) before the wind again kicked up, which the locals say is an everyday occurrence. Incidentally, models fly noticeably different over there; the air’s a lot more dense making the controls a lot more sensitive. You get used to it quickly enough but it gets yer’ attention for a little bit. Anyway, with the wind cuttin’ a rusty again, we all decided to pack it in since the raffle drawings and awards ceremony were coming up shortly.
John and Val both won raffle prizes and Bob won first in Military and Best Detailed ARF awards with his P-47. An extremely nice Balsa USA giant scale Ercoupe got best civilian and the electric Gee Bee R2 got best electric. Adam Gelbart won Pilots’ Choice. There were several other awards but I don’t remember them all. Hell, I’ve slept a coupl’a times since then.., gimme’ a break.
Let the Party Begin – One Last Time
After getting everything packed up and policing our pit area, it was back to the hangar, arriving there about 15:00 hrs for one last hurrah. None of us planned to hang it out very late this time. Indeed, John and Jerry hit the road for home shortly after saying their goodbyes and conveying their thanks. Kenny and Bob were going to caravan back together until Sam fired up the grill one more time and began slinging burgers for all of us, including Wags who’d already put Lady Alice back to bed in the hangar. Seduced by the aroma, Bob opted to stay for a burger so Kenny bailed and headed back solo, as did Dave, still wearing that enormous smile, just like that “Bob” guy in the “Male Enhancement” commercials. Wags eventually left and soon after, it was down to Sam, Randy, Val and I. More longnecks from the bottomless fridge were consumed, then Sam said he had to go gas up his Expedition and we should meet him at the Airport Lounge, just a coupl’a hundred yards away. Since Val and I were staying over Sunday night, and didn’t want to miss out on the “total experience,” Val, Randy and I did as we were told and staked out a coupl’a stools in said lounge where Sam joined us a short time later.
BS flowed like water, we laughed until we hurt and, before you knew it, time had slipped away again and it was nearing 23:00 hrs.., that’s 11:00pm, y’all. Conveying our final thanks to Sam and Randy, we fell back to the motel, got a good night’s sleep, a fresh shower in the morning, gassed up and were on the road at 08:00. We stopped again at Chiriaco Summit at 10:00 for breakfast, then came on in from there, arriving home at 14:25 hrs.
To those of you who could’ve gone but chose not to, all I can say is, if the above doesn’t have you eating yer’ livers, check yer’ pulse. You’re either dead or simply don’t enjoy a fantastically good time.., and shame on ya’s if the latter is true! Hopefully, this will become an annual event and if you STILL choose not to partake of one of the best times you’re ever likely to have at a modeling event, wellll, I guess there’s just no hope for you! Honest to Pete, guys.., start right now thinking and planning to attend next year. I guarantee you won’t regret it. And, if you don’t believe me, just ask any of us who went this time!
One last sincere thanks to Sam Wright, Randy Wilbur, Jim Reid, Gordy Truax and all the other Scale Squadron and PVMAC guys who bent over backwards so far to accommodate us and make us feel so welcome. I know I speak for all of us who attended when I say WE HAD A BLAST and will definitely be back!!!
Adios, y’all…, Al Casey
P.S. to Sam: Please pass on our thanks and appreciation to any/all I may have missed in the Squadron and/or the PVMAC.