An Old Kingsbury Afternoon

Roger Ritter

One fine Sunday in June, I had an afternoon free. I could think of no better way to spend it than by flying to Old Kingsbury Aerodrome to see what I could help with. Rocky and I launched from New Braunfels about 2:30, and twenty minutes later we were over OKA. I made my usual pass over the field to check out the winds and look for traffic, and saw that runway 14 would be preferred. No airborne traffic, but I noticed a couple of planes on the ground. They looked smaller than they should, and I realized that they were R/C models parked near a runway marked out by cones. I decided that it would not be a good idea to use that runway, so I turned and set up to land on runway 14.

We squeezed between the fence and the tree, and rolled out to where we could easily turn off the runway. I taxied up to the fenceline near the modellers and shut down. As I was climbing out of the plane, a couple of teenage boys walked up, and one asked what kind of airplane Rocky was.

I answered, "A Luscombe", and the boy turned and yelled, "Hey dad! You just lost a buck!" Dad responded, "Guess who's walking home today!" I surmised (correctly, as it turned out) that Dad had thought Rocky was a Cessna 120. That was an expensive lesson, and one he'll not soon forget! I walked over to check out the models, and found out that I had missed a model Cub fly the day before. They had had several scale Cubs, and also had a couple of full-scale Cubs along with a Porterfield. Next year I'll have to remember the last Saturday in June!

I walked over to the main hangar and found Roger Freeman (the owner). He was shifting some boxes from the hangar into the office, so the two teenagers and I pitched in to help. Roger decided that the two very large garden spiders who were clinging to the boxes could stay in the hangar, though, so we shifted them off the boxes before moving them.

After the boxes were moved, we chatted for a bit. Roger's Cub was now on its wheels, and the elevators had been hung, so some progress was being made. The Jennies were proving recalcitrant, though. One top wing had had to be covered three times to get it right. Roger's doing them in linen (using a linen from Belgium still processed as it was in 1918), and he says it's just barely acceptable.

Meyers OTW

With the moving out of the way, it was time to go flying. We went over to the other hangar and pulled out the 1939 Luscombe 8A and the Meyers OTW. A couple from Houston had come up to get a Meyers ride, and the two teenage boys were still hanging around. Roger asked if I'd mind taking one of the boys up. I didn't mind at all, but I did regret leaving my Young Eagle forms home. Once the Meyers was out of the hangar, Roger started gently turning the prop and watching the oil drool out of the engine. Mostly it was coming from the intake manifold this time, which was a bit surprising. Apparently the cylinders usually drain through the exhaust. Once the trickle of oil slowed, Roger began pulling the prop through to clear the remaining oil from the cylinders. This resulted in some very interesting sucking and burbling noises, but after a few cycles things quieted down.

Roger offered to let me fly his Luscombe for the ride I was to give, so I preflighted it as he topped off the fuel tank. It was pretty much the same as Rocky, except that it has bungee trim instead of the trim tab I'm used to. Instead of a crank on the floor between the seats, the trim is a knob on the panel just below the throttle. You push it in and twist it until you've got the trim you want (or can't twist any more), and then pull it out to lock it in that position.

Bulmaro (the boy) and I climbed in, and Roger swung the prop to start the engine. The kid looked a bit nervous as we were taxiing out. It turned out to be his first airplane ride, ever. I had explained the seat belt and door latch as we were getting in, so as we taxied out I went over the controls and pre-takeoff checks. With everything ready, I advanced the throttle and we headed down the runway. Once in the air, I let Bulmaro take the controls and helped him feel out the plane's responses. We flew east from the field, and went over his house. We did a turn around that and headed back to the field. I noticed that this plane flew about 10 mph faster than Rocky. I'll have to check next time and see what prop he's got. I'll bet it's pitched an inch or two higher than mine.

After landing, we waited for the Meyers to return. Roger had taken the woman up first, and when he returned she got out and the guy got in. During their flight they made one low pass from behind us, and it's certain that anything powered by a Kinner radial will never be able to sneak up on anybody. We heard them coming a good 30 seconds before they were overhead! After he returned, it turned out that Roger wasn't done, so I got to go. I strapped in to the front cockpit (a tight squeeze) and put on the cloth helmet with headset. As we taxied out I noticed that the long-stroke oleos on the Meyers did a much better job of soaking up the bumps on the runway than the short little oleo on the Luscombe.

The Meyers has a 5-cylinder Kinner radial engine, and there may be no finer engine for playing Walter Mitty behind (if for no other reason than that it actually goes 'pocketa-pocketa'). About three hundred feet up Roger turned the plane over to me and I started to enjoy myself. The controls were a bit heavier than the Luscombe, but well-enough balanced. I want to get checked out to solo this plane some day, so I was doing my best not to be too ham-handed in front of Roger! We climbed up to about 1000 feet and leveled off. I did some turns and played about seeing how it handled, and by then we were in position to do a low pass down the runway. So, down we went to give the folks a fly-by. I hadn't flown in an open-cockpit plane since I was a young lad, so this felt very new and very fun! After climbing away from the field, Roger took over to land so he could give the remaining teenager a flight.

I waited until that flight was over and helped put the planes away. By then it was getting late, so we adjourned to the main hangar for a drink (Gatorade for me). After that, I went back out to Rocky and headed home. I was hot, tired, sunburned, and very happy.

Contact me:

Roger Ritter
930 Days End Rd.
Wimberley, TX 78676
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