disclaimer - I am old so this may not be exact and someone might have been left out ------sorry
After a huge vintage airplane flyin at Gillespie Field that saw over 70 airplanes on display and many flying including most of the Stearmans and Ryans that came to our field on Thursday for the Annual Western Pacific Regional Stearman Flyin at Allen Airways, a small group gathered for a week long venture to Watsonville. (Special note: the Stearman 4E had to return to Reno NV due to GM dumping Ben Scott's 80 year dealership).
Tuesday morning departure from Classic hangars began with a briefing of pilots lead by Addison Pemberton. Those involved were Donny Prim and Wally Dier in Wally's Boeing Stearman PT-17; Joe Pribilo in his Luscombe; Bill and Claudia Allen in the Steve Mc Queen Stearman; Larry Howard and Addison's son Jay Pemberton in the 1930 Laird LBC300(Spokane); Jeff and Martha Hamilton in their perfect North American T-6( Spokane); Steve Byers in his Super Cub on Floats; Bob Simon and Chris Reily in Steve Byers' Cessna 180 ( Bob's recent back surgery prevented them flyin Bob's Stearman; and Addison Pemberton in the 1928 Boeing 40C mail plane, with two passengers - Elin Pemberton, Jay's wife, and Larry Tobin owner of the oldest flying Stearman - 1927 C3B.
The flight departed Gillespie Field (SEE) at approximately 10:30 am for the first leg to Chino. This was a special flight for Donny, Wally, Bill and Claudia as they were in formation with the FLIGHT LEADER in the Boeing 40 and the Laird for the one hour weather perfect one hour plus flight. Just hearing Addison's voice over the radio was magically nostalgic!!
At Chino all parked at Les and Susan Whittlesey's new hangar facility and were greeted by throngs of excited people including Les's dad Neil Whittlesey, Captain Kirk McGowan, Marty Metzger, Lloyd Stearman's great nephew, and Mike Walsh of Stearman fame who also flew the Collings Foundation's B-24 and B-17.
The Whittlesey's provided a great lunch feed which immediately put Bill Allen to sleep while the rest of the gang went to Planes of Fame and Yanks Museums for a visit.
About 3:30 all departed for Santa Paula except Wally and Donny Prim who returned to SEE. Arrival at Santa Paula 1.1 hours later was very nostalgic for the McQueen Stearman. There to greet us was the late Sammy Mason's family. Sammy taught Steve Mc Queen how to fly and his son-in-law designed the paint scheme for Mc Queen's N3188 Stearman. Also there were Bruce and Janice Dickenson, Al Ball and his Menasco expert son Brad Ball (with their dogs) and many others. The press was also on hand to record the stories of these great planes arriving. Of course the Boeing 40 C was the hit at all stops because of it's history and pure size. Such fascination with this airplane was created by each arrival that people were everywhere crowding to get pictures. Some even standing on their bike seats to get a shot over a fence.
That night, after Brad Ball showed Bill and Claudia their Menasco C4S motor on the tests stand, all had dinner at the Airport restaurant and were joined by our hosts, the Dickinsons, and JR and Sally Richards. JR has a couple of hangars at Santa Paula with a beautiful Ryan STA and a PT-22 in them along with his sprint cars. JR has many distinctions, but most recently he received a call from Al Unser congratulation him on being the oldest rookie to win a major sprint car race. JR and Sally also road a BMW Motorcycle all the way to the tip of South America. There is more but you get the idea here...
Wednesday morning the Stearman was pulled out of Actor Cliff Robertson's former hangar, now owned by Brad Ball, and prepared for the flight to Santa Ynez. Upon hearing the rumble of a huge engine, we all went to the runway side to see Mr Dickenson take to the air. As it rose from the runway it looked like it was climbing about 3,000 feet a minute. Then the two passes at well over
200 mph - wow - we had been in the hanger with Bruce the night before and most of us crawled into the spacious cockpit for a look. This is an amazing airplane.......
Not sure what time we departed but all of us went north to Santa Ynez except Steve Byers who went back home for work. Oh yes, we lost the Hamiltons in the T-6 who returned to Spokane. So we were down to the Boeing 40 C, the Laird, Bill and Claudia's Stearman, Joe Pribilo in the Luscombe, and Bob and Chris in the 180.
Santa Ynez was fun. We were greeted by the Local EAA Chapter members, Jack Olson, an 88 year old dear friend of the Allen's who flew a Ryan PT-22 for years, Don Noonan of Travelair fame, Garth Carrier who restored the Stearman C3R the first time, and Shy who used to manage the airport. There were others but we cannot remember everyone.........we did get a call from Eric Libby who is a corporate pilot with a beautiful Cub at Santa Ynez. He called us twice in two days in the air as he passed by us when we were going to Santa Paula and then again coming into Santa Ynez.
After lunch at the Burger Barn in downtown Santa Ynez we were driven to Don Noonan's house to see his Gipsy Moth project and his Travelair under repair and restoration. Don is an amazing guy with wonderful talent for restoration. His shop was organized and exciting to see. Walls were covered with aviation movie posters and cool stuff, as was the former Cliff Robertson hangar in Santa Paula.
We finally had to leave for the airport due to the Public Display schedule we had at Paso Robles.
Back in the air we buzzed Dunn School in Los Olivos, where Bill Allen just celebrated his 45th High School Reunion, and then flew over Michael Jackson's Never Never Land, and several good wine vineyards like Firestone ( now Foley) and Zaca Mesa..
The flight to Paso Robles was perfect at 4500 feet. Addison wanted his kids to see the ocean so they went over by Pismo Beach where he and Windy stayed years ago. Barry Branin of Waco fame lives there. Once on the ground at Paso, we were greeted by our first hosts, Dennis and Susan Lyons. Also there was Bob Laughlin, who moved to the valley several years ago from San Diego and has a Granny Smith Apple orchard and also grows great wine grapes. Bob had a Ryan PT-22 at MYF that he instructed Bill Allen in which later turned into a partnership in the airplane as well as the mortgage business. Great reunion of pals. Joining our display aircraft were Les Whittlesey's Lockheed and Dennis Lyons' Howard.
That night we gathered at Chuck Wentworth's hangar for dinner. All the planes were moved over to the hangar so that they could be fueled and placed inside. Bill decided to fly his over there and managed to dump a lot of smoke over the hangar on the way. Dennis Lyons had his Howard there as well. Dennis's wife, Susan and relatives served the dinner!
Inside the Wentworth hangar we found about every WW1 Nieuport Airplane built and a vast array of engine for WW1 planes from LeRhone Rotary, Gnome, Hisso, Mercedes, etc... Amazing eye candy.
After dinner Addison gave a presentation on the Boeing 40 Mail plane, including it's history. Then off to bed so we could get an early start on the event filled day to come.
Morning arrival at Chuck's hangar at 8:30 then we were driven to Javier Arrango's secret WW1 Aerodrome to see the rest of his WW1 Aeroplane collection. This was incredible, Spads, Sopwiths dating to 1913, Bleriot, Fokker D-7, a couple of Triplanes, Eindecker, and on and on. The Crew there pulled a 1913 Sopwith out of the hangar along with a 1918 Camel. The early Sopwith sported a 80 hp LeRhone rotary motor while the Sopwith Camel was powered by a 160 hp Gnome rotary that sounded like a machine gun and had so much power it lifted the plane off the grass in seconds (2 or 300 feet) and climbed like a scared rabbit.
Both planes took the air, one with Chuck Wentworth in it and Javier himself in the older Sopwith. Wow, it smelled like a model airplane contest with caster oil everywhere. They gave us a thrill with several passes and turns over the grass and trees. A photographer's dream for sure.
The airdrome is on a mesa with beautiful white fences along the grassy field. The five hangars are bowstring meaning they have rounded roofs and look like WW1 hangars.This property is very private and only accessible by invitation.
Next stop - group split up, Bob, Chris and Joe Pribilo flew directly to Pine Mountain Lake. Addison and the Laird went to Firebaugh, near Fresno to see his cousin. Bill and Claudia heard Addison point out Harris Ranch so they decided to drop in for lunch there. Bill forgot how narrow the runway was but managed to keep her straight. This stop proved to be a good one since their GPS was out of juice. But it also turned out to be more than that. Claudia remembered that they had stopped here with Bill's mom and dad 13 years ago to the day and nearly to the hour on the way to a nephew's wedding in northern CA.
After lunch it was a great clear flight to Pine Mountain Lake and the Kent and Sandy Blankenburg show. Arrival was interesting with a crosswind, but all got in and parked, hit the head, grabbed a water and then watched Alan Buchner in his Waco come over with a Travelair 4000. Apparently the Travelair got down without getting a wing but did manage to visit both sides of the runway rather abruptly.
Speaking of this and knowing what stress it puts on those 30 X 5 wheels, forgot to mention that the 30 X 5 guru Dick Fisher was with us at Chuck Wentworth's hangar. Also a lady pilot who flew in the Steve Mc Queen Stearman years ago with Chuck Bail at Wings and Wheels in Santa Ynez...
The Blankenburg's, et al, did a number on us by hosting, housing and feeding us at their wonderful hangar facility. Great time there with Wayne and Karen Handley, and many others.........that night Addison was sleeping on a futon in the hangar and managed to roll over too far and ended up on the concrete floor. We told him it was a warning to not attempt a roll in the Boeing.
From Pine Mountain Lake Joe Pribilo decided to go back to Gilespie so that left Bob and Chris who flew to Hollister, the Boeing and Laird followed and then the Stearman later after visiting friends on the airport. At Hollister we were hosted, along with crews from over 30 vintage planes, by Earnie Persich and his wonderful bride for lunch at their Vintage Wings and Wheels shop. The wind was blowing about 20 + and it was cold.
When we took off, it was announced that the airport at Watsonville was closed. The 180 had already left and made it in, the Stearman started to come back to final and the Boeing and Laird turned around on the taxiway. No sooner did had all this happened when we got the word that the airport was open again - so we all gathered in the air and flew over there in trail. Over the hill it felt like we flew into a freezer. It was so cold !! Soon the Stearman was on the ramp and parked, tied down and the crew off to register. At registration they would not let us pay for anything. Apparently the EAA guys all pitched in and paid our $ 20 fees - then they told us that we were their guests and would provide anything we needed. This was a wonderful surprise as was the gas price of $ 2.99 a gallon off the truck.
One of the EAA fellows wanted our three planes and the Autry Travelair parked together so the McQueen Stearman repositioned with the group.
Watsonville was fun, the folks could not have been nicer and more accommodating. They have made a huge improvement and should be supported since it is really the surviving Flyin in the State. The weather was cold and lousy but the crowd and the folks running the show made up for it.
We all saw many friends and enjoyed the two days. Saturday night the banquet was attended by the Pemberton gang. Grand Champion for the Boeing 40 C and the number two award to the Laird, and the McQueen Stearman won Best Neoclassic Biplane. Note: Chris Reily said that Steve Byers' 180 won best gay 180. There might be a reward for the person finding the Cowl Flap that blew off of it on the way home.
Sunday departure saw us off at 10:45 - the three ships departed to the east over the cement plant towards Hollister. Fortunately the ceiling was enough to get through the pass. Once over the pass we all saw blue sky, said our goodbyes and the Boeing and Laird headed north east towards Oregon and the Stearman headed south east to Paso Robles for the first fuel stop. Funny how we all experienced tail winds on the way home.
The Stearman, less Claudia who opted for a ride in the 180 with the airline pilots - one of whom had to pee in a zip lock bag on the way home when desperation set in, flew at 3500 feet to Paso Robles, landed, fueled and took off for Santa Paula. Upon arriving at Santa Paula there were four members of the Condor Squadron doing a missing man flight along with several other planes flying including Mr. Dickenson. Fortunately by the time the Stearman arrived most had landed. Got fuel, and two quarts of 50 wt oil from Brad Ball, and took off for the two hour flight to Gillespie. Arrived at the hangar at 4:30 Sunday. The Boeing and Laird landed at Spokane Monday at 2:30 thus ending a wonderful couple of weeks with friends and great airplanes....
What is next?
Bob Simon called attention so we are off to Hemet Saturday for their flyin with perhaps three Stearmans if Wally Dier and Don Prim get with it...