Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
President Jimmy Carter was scheduled to visit Fort Hood. The First Cavalry Division [my old unit in Korea] was to stage massive war games and tank maneuvers and culminate the affair with a chemical substitute for a battlefield tactical nuclear weapon. Because the President was going to be there, FAA closed down the airspace over Fort Hood for civilian air traffic.
Pissed my old buddy Phil Washburn
and me off something awful. We were taxpaying citizens. Who the hell did they think they were telling people they couldn’t fly around not bothering anyone watching how our tax dollars were being spent?
So when the day arrived we gassed up the old Cessna …. 100+ F on the runway, and began the long climb outside the forbidden airspace. Burned up a lot of avgas and an hour getting up to 8000-9000 MSL. Clear day though, and the temperature became comfortable somewhere above 5000′.
We circled at the edge of the airspace boundary watching the specks of gathered tanks and massed troops a few miles to the north waiting for the show to start. Suddenly, hundreds of roostertails of dust obscured miles of landscape as the tanks charged forward. Then the sky below us filled with helicopters. Wow! Wowowowowow!
I gradually eased us north until we were almost over the action, but still far enough south so’s we weren’t trying to see straight down, kept circling. Powered back enough to hold the altitude, savor the cool, and watch what a major wartime battle must be like viewed from the air.
Finally, toward the north beyond all the tanks the substitute battlefield nuke sent up a heluva pile of smoke and fire into the sky, rising rising rising until we were looking up at the top. It kept rising.
Turn off the lights. The party’s over. The roostertails behind the tanks had all faded, everyone down there was taking a break, having a drink of orange KoolAid or something, we reckoned. The helicopters were headed away where ever helicopters go when the shooting stops.
Time for us to get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge before the high sheriff and POLice come gunning for us.
I pointed us back toward the Killeen airport and as we neared the edge of forbidden territory I shut down the engine, pulled up the nose to stop the propeller windmilling. The old Cessna had a 20:1 glide ratio, so we were a long while circling over the airport just listing to the whisper of the wind over the surfaces of the plane.
I’d intended to push the nose down to re-start the engine when I got on final approach, but I’d never landed dead-stick and figured this was as good a time as any to do it. Got the numbers and came to a dead stop 50 feet beyond them, restarted the engine and taxied over to the FBO under the admiring stares of everyone who never landed an airplane dead stick on a public air strip.
Naturally we did a lot of bragging at the FBO, and a lot of people were shaking their heads in various attitudes of disapproval, horror, and awe.
Hell of a fine day to be an outlaw. I recommend it.