Every other month we were issued "flight skins". The skins gave us a 50% pay increase for flying eight hours that month. Of course I loved to fly. I was up every time I had the chance, even without skins.
The Lieutenant in charge of our squadron asked if anyone needed flight time. He had to go up to record extra time in the air. "I do, sir," said Coogan.
He told me to get a chute and helmet. "Meet me at number 124 in ten minutes."
Fifteen minutes later we were gathering altitude. He leveled off at three thousand feet and headed out. I never look at compass headings. They weren't my worry. Let the guy at the controls think about it.
We were up for three quarters of an hour just straight flying when he motioned
in the mirror for me to take the controls.
Ah, beautiful, I didn't have much opportunity to handle a plane when I flew with the cadets (students). It was all mine, but where the hell do I go. As I said, I hadn't noticed the compass headings. I did see some familiar ground areas so I zeroed in on them. Following them for a half hour the, air base came into view.
A beautiful sight, one hundred and fifty yellow perils in a landing pattern at 1000 feet, 180 degrees from touch down. The Lieutenant had made no attempt to take over so I brought it down to 1000 feet and wriggled the stick. When he looked in the mirror I motioned for him to take control. He shook his head No and pointed down.
What!..............I never landed any plane before. An order is an order. Anyway he'd never hear me over the noise of the engine. Since I was able to find the field, he must have thought I had mucho experience
I choose a cadet off my right wing, cut the throttle and followed him around into the wind when he suddenly went up. I looked down and saw the ground coming up fast. I had lost flying speed and this idiot in front would not touch the controls.
I opened the throttle some to regain flying speed and eased her down to the runway.
"If I can just get the front wheels on the ground I'll be happy," I thought to myself.
Again I cut the throttle completely. Then I felt the stick shake. A quick look in the mirror showed me his three fingers and his thumb motioning down.
A three point landing? Hey, give me a break.
I brought the stick back slightly expecting the nose to climb, but it didn't. I brought it back a little more - no climb. I pulled it violently into my lap.
I never felt the wheels touch. There was only the sound of the tires going from zero to forty mph.
I felt him on the rudder bar kicking it back an forth to keep it from ground looping. Those Perils just love to ground loop. I let go of the stick and it went forward. Boy! He yanked it back and shook his fist at me.
When we parked the plane he said, "don't ever let go of that stick. We could have gone up on our nose."
I said I was sorry, but I had never landed before. "When I felt you on the rudder bar, I thought you had it."
"You never landed before?" "I can't get a cadet to do that."
One of our handlers came up to the plane and told me I had a telegram at operations
"Check out the telegram and report back to me", said the Lieutenant.
I went to his office and told him my brother had two weeks leave and asked if I could make it home.
"When did you have leave last", he asked?
"Two month ago, sir."
That presence was again on my right shoulder squeezing like all hell.
"That landing deserves recognition." He gave me a week and travel time.
I was one lucky sonofabitch!
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