The Earl E. Myers Story
Chapter 8 Primary Flight Training
|Now back to my new assignment after completion at Maxwell. I was assigned to Camden, S.C. for primary flight training in Stearman PT-17s. Right off my flight instructor said to the five of us who were assigned to this one instructor, don't get too well acquainted because all of you will not be here on graduation. We all graduated on schedule and he received some kind of recognition for being the only instructor to graduate all five. I don't remember his name but he was a roly-poly type individual, short and stout, with a good sense of humor. Very thorough with flight instruction.
|The first two rides I got air sick with all the maneuvers that he demonstrated. We only logged 23 and 53 minutes. I was really green and after a flight it took some time to recover to where I could be useful. I soloed the PT-17 in 13.5 hrs. Man, here came the old proverbial "HOG" again and was I on cloud nine. At 36.9 hours total time, I had an engine failure at 500' doing s-turns.
|All was going fine and all of a sudden it was real quite, like a glider. Hot oil was all over the windshield and my helmet, goggles and face. All I had been taught was to land into the wind. I did just that by lining up 90 degrees to a cotton patch with rows about 3 feet deep. I just knew I would flip on my back, landing. On contact with the ground I pulled back on the stick so hard I thought it had bent 90 degrees. It didn't flip and when I stopped I remembered I had seen a farmer in the field. He was an old timer negro gentleman. He ambled over to the Stearman and said “I saws that yo was in deep trouble an ah prraayyeedd to the ‘Good Lord’ thaa yo would get down OK.” In about 3 minutes there were about 6 little kids that were all over the airplane. One even crawled into the baggage compartment.
Just a few minutes after the landing, another PT-17 flew over and I waved my red scarf and indicated I was OK. In about 15 minutes two staff cars and a 6X6 came roaring in. My flight instructor, plus medics, the C.O and Ops officer. I just knew this would wash me out, but it was determined almost at once that it was failure of the crankshaft. It had rust marks about half way through the shaft. I was taken to the base hospital for a checkup and was back flying the same afternoon with a flight instructor check pilot and all went well.
During my mid-point Army Check Ride I had a Ist. Lt. who was a combat vet in Europe flying P-51s. He was tough and the information about him spread throughout the cadre fast. Most did not survive his evaluations regardless of what the previous grade sheet's indicated. He briefed me on the maneuvers that he wanted me to complete and said that he would not repeat them and if even one was missed the check ride would be failed and a washout was in order.
The walk around preflight was completed and we climbed aboard.... Switch off, gas on, throttle closed, altimeter set, safety belt fastened, pitot tube cover removed, (you had to show him you had it in your possession) brakes set and baggage compartment locked. Then the ground crew would wind up the crank starter system and the engine would start. All went well and about half way through the check ride it was time for aerobatics with the loop next on the agenda. Just as we came out on top and were on the way down I saw a parachute blossom. No Instructor. He had forgotten to fasten his seat belt and fell out. I cut the throttle and circled him on his decent until about 500'. I continued circling him after he landed to be sure he was OK and I could see that he was. He had gathered up his chute and laid down on it and he was giving me the finger. He had also given me the finger on the way down.
I hightailed it back to the Air Base and landed, taxiing up to the assigned parking spot. The crew chief noticed that the instructor was not on board. I told him what had happened while, at the same time, the Commandant pulled up in his staff car and asked why I was back early? I told him what had happened. He took off his uniform coat, grabbed a helmet and goggles from the front seat, and off we went to where the instructor was located. I hadn't even gotten out of the airplane.
He flew in on the deck to the area where the parachute had landed. We could see the instructor laying on his chute, with his middle finger extended, not knowing it was the commandant operating the airplane. I guess he thought it was me thus the finger. After returning to the base, I had to undergo a physical at the Base Hospital. Returning to duty at 1300 hrs, I was told that I was scheduled for another Army check ride in about 30 minutes. I hadn't even had lunch yet. So off we go and I was sure this was a washout ride. I performed all the required maneuvers and the instructor motioned for me to return to base, which I did. I was shaking in my boots, even though, in my own mind, I thought that I had performed all of the maneuvers the way I had been taught. At the debriefing. SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL I passed, and the evaluator complemented me on my ride.
I saw that same Army instructor on two occasions and he avoided me. It was the same for me, and I stayed away from him, even though I wanted to give him the finger.
All ground school and flight training was completed on schedule and after the last Saturday morning inspection and drill was over we were dismissed until 5 p.m. Sunday. I had broken my thumb playing volley ball and had to have a cast put on about a week before transferring to Bush Field Augusta, Ga. We all raced to town to relax a bit. I went to a scary movie. It was dark inside, after coming in from the bright sunshine. I found a seat about 3 seats in. In comes a heavyset lady and she starts through our row of seats and stopped in front of me and started to sit down. I had my right hand in my lap with the thumb up and she sat down on it. It was a real tense part of the movie and the theater was as quiet as a church mouse. When she made contact with my thumb and the pain that it caused me we both screamed out, me in pain and her in surprise. She kept on screaming that she had been violated and I was still in intense pain. The show stopped and the lights came on and the manager was Johnny on the spot for investigation. It was determined by other patrons who stated what had happened and that it was not my fault. She left and so did I, after about 15 minutes, as the pain was to much and I was so embarrassed. I also wanted to be sure she had left the area. I went to a bar and had a couple of beers and went back to the base, my weekend in shambles.
End Chapter 8 Go to Chapter 9