Saturday, May 31, 2014

How I Almost Got a Pilot’s License - By Don Lewis

By Don Lewis 
May 30th, 2014  

I had a little bit of a rough time trying to get through college, which meant I was pretty much a regular in summer school. One summer, while at Waynesburg I decided to take flying lessons. There was a doctor living in Waynesburg who owned a Cessna 173. I did some work around his house and he asked me if I wanted to fly up to Blairsville with him to visit his son who was in a hospital up there. I went with him to visit his boy on more than one occasion. I was taken with the flying and decided to take flying lessons. The doctor paid me for the things I did; cutting grass and bushes, washing windows, other general work around the property. For whatever I did he would pay me enough for one flying lesson. 

I went over to the Waynesburg Airport and spoke with Bill Stockdale. He ran the airport and was a flight instructor. I don’t know what flying lessons cost now, but back in the early 60s each hour long lesson with an instructor was $10. Once you solo the cost went down to $8 per hour.

The biggest problem I had was learning how to take off. The reason is that you have to put a little pressure on your right rudder pedal because the torque of the engine tends to pull the plane to the left. Then, if you put too much pressure on the right pedal the plane begins to drift over to the right. Let up too much and it moves back to the left, back and forth until you get the hang of it. They call that “walking the pedals.”

While trying to get the hang of it one day I almost ran into the hangar. I was with the instructor and if I had gotten too close I’m sure he would have taken over the controls. The plane was an Aeronca Champion, a two-place tandem, single engine, high wing airplane. I was told that this particular plane had already been in one crash. I was 19 years old and that kind of thing didn’t bother me.

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