Community Comment

Beautiful day in flight preferred to silence of a year ago

Special to the Evansville Courier & Press
Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The logbook entry from September reads:

"Date:  9/11; Aircraft Make and Model: Aeronca TEC-9; Aircraft Ident.- N-7690E/From: 3EV; To: Local; Remarks: 

Perfectly Beautiful VFR; No. Landings: 4."


This time last year, all general-aviation aircraft were grounded due to the terrorist attacks involving airliners.  I can assure you

there is a much more satisfactory way to spend an afternoon. 


Prior to our flight, a wind pattern diagram indicated a maximum crosswind of about 11 knots.  By the time we were ready to

take off from Skylane Airport on the city's North Side, the windsock indicated almost parallel with the runway.


I had thought there would be turbulence at the altitude we were to fly -- the Aeronca Champ can be a handful if there is

any chop -- but there was none. 


Visibility was practically unlimited.  You could see Cinergy's Gibson County power station on the horizon shortly after takeoff.


On the climb out headed north, I could see, to our immediate right, what used to be the Harwood rail yards.  It was there

my grandfather, Hubert Finney, made his living for many years as a repair track foreman for the Illinois Central railroad.


Making a 90-degree left turn off  the runway heading, the pilot, Andy Easley and I could see the parched playfields of

Moutoux Park.   The grass had turned dark brown due to the lack of rain this summer.


Looking to the west, about two hours before sunset, Andy, a local civil engineer, squawked "Gorgeous afternoon" into

the radio headset.  "Where shall we fly?" 


There was a pause.  We were headed toward the Posey County line. On these afternoon excursions, we often will

fly the channel of the Wabash River up to a little above New Harmony and back, at relatively low altitude. 


"Think we could find Camp Pahoka?  I asked.  "Its not too far from the river -- the Wabash of course."


From our altitude, it was amazing to see the degree of damage done to crops by the severe drought.  Hues of

sienna, yellow and tan could be seen in abundance amid the green of healthy soybean plants. 


The cornfields had turned tan, looking at the time rather line late October. 


We found the river a few miles south of the approximate location of the old Buffalo Trace Council Boy Scout camp.

 Last time I was there, it had been transformed into a farm and supported a rather sizable herd of Angus cattle.


Many years ago, the Scout council sold the beautiful old campground amid a storm of protest from many

veteran Scouts and adult Scout leaders. 


Since I had never really looked for the access road to the old camp from such an altitude, it was a bit difficult

to find reference points. 


All of a sudden, in a clearing within the surrounding forest, I could see familiar buildings, a house and other structures

flanking the road which leads to the beautiful lake with a bluff at one end of the dam. 


I showed Andy the place where, in the late spring, some of the older Scouts used to erect the white leather teepee

beside one of the huge council fires laid for the Order of the Arrow ceremonies that were performed every Wednesday

night during summer camp.


As we were flying by visual flight rules (VFR in the log entry) we kept our altitude at a mere 1,600 feet.  Still,

cars looked quite tiny and identifying an individual was impossible. 


After circling the lake, we found a heading in the direction of Poseyville, Ind. Another aviator quite familiar to all

Skylane pilots, Ralph Koch, has a small airfield in the vicinity.


After announcing our intentions via radio to the ground base at Koch Field, we practiced three touch-and-go

landings.  The second one was a bit bumpy, but the pilot was proud of the last one.


Returning on the downhill portion of our flight, I asked if it would be alright to circle Garvin Park lake,

where a group of us had joined Mayor Russ Lloyd, Jr. to plant a tree at a memorial service earlier in the day.


Andy received the radio frequency for the tower at Evansville Regional Airport and dialed it in.  We then

proceeded into the controlled air space around the airport and circled the lake prior to returning to Skylane.


We were soon informed by the tower of some helicopter traffic nearby -- the LifeFlight helicopter from St.

Mary's Medical Center was about to take off.


We soon arrived at Skylane (known as 3EV on navigational charts) and landed from the south, making our

final approach into the wind and over the wires which run parallel to Allen Lane. 


"Looks like we'll walk away from this one," the pilot joshed.  Andy is a fine pilot. 


"I shall remain always a student of this aircraft,"  he says, complaining that he does not have enough time

landing the Aeronca, which is known as a taildragger, compared with the three-wheeled Piper aircraft he

also flies. 


While walking across the runway to chat with Jim Browning about a new ultralight he had bought, I spied

the World War II B-17 Bomber "Sentimental Journey: flying out of the "big airport," as Evansville Regional

is called by Skylane regulars. 


It was almost sunset; no doubt a beautiful ride for a crew of well-heeled veterans.  What a life.


Still I pondered the haunting memory of a year ago, when the sky was silent.  I much prefer a flight on a

beautiful afternoon, with a blue sky, a gusty wind on takeoff and smooth sailing amid God's creation -- in

whatever direction the compass points. 


David Coker is an Evansville free lance writer.