Re-Living The Thrill

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

I was out shoveling snow again (imagine that) when a low flying single engine airplane buzzed over the wilderness retreat.

The moment brought back the couple of times that I was airborne in a small single engine plane.

The first time was in the late 1970’s when I was working at the Scott County Journal and Chronicle (before the Crothersville Times came into existence). It was Scott County Fair time and the late Stan Harrod asked this reporter if I would like to get some aerial photos of the fair. Sensing an adventure and getting some unique photos for the newspaper, I heartily accepted his invitation.

Stan was an accomplished pilot and aerial photographer who lived in rural Scott County. He had a small two seat (one in front of the other) plane and a grass runway at his home.

He put me in the front seat then grabbed the tail of the plane, picked it up, and walked it around so the plane was pointing for take off. (I said it was a small plane.)

Then he told me to put my foot on the brake while he started the engine.

What?!?!?

“When it starts, flip this switch,” he said pointing to the one of the few controls, “and make sure to keep your foot on the brake otherwise you’ll be flying solo.”

That brake pedal has never been pushed so hard as Stan went to the front of the propeller, slowly spun it until he could feel compression, then, just like we’ve all seen in the history movies, gave the prop a big heave.

The engine fired right up, I flipped the appointed switch, and Stan climbed into the seat behind me and took the controls which I gratefully relinquished.

He then told me to keep my feet off the pedals and not interfere with the stick while we were taking off and in the air. He didn’t need to tell me twice.

The takeoff was noisy and bumpy on the grass runway but quickly smoothed out as the wheels lifted. He banked the plane and headed towards the fairgrounds.

The sense of speed of take off and air speed all seemed to vanish as we left the tree line and horizon below us.

He told me to set my manual camera at the widest open aperture, at 500th of a second shutter speed and to focus the lens at infinity.

“You’ll get some fine photos that way,” he instructed

When we neared the fairgrounds, he told me to slide open the side window so I could snap my photos and he would tip the place on its side.

What?!?!?

All the while I was concentrating on not falling out that tiny window and getting my pictures, Stan was clicking away with his own camera while flying. We made a couple of circles around the fairgrounds then headed back to his runway.

“You want to fly?” he asked giving me a quick in-air, on-the-job instructions of the pedals and stick. I got us back…generally… but was not the most efficient pilot flying nose up and plowing through the air rather than flying level.

Back on the ground, Stan said that was no doubt due to my concern with flying downwards too quickly. (He was so right).

While the newspaper that week published my photos of the fairgrounds and the rides on the midway, I had, by far, the best fair week thrill ride.