Another flying story was requested. The picture is for Murphy’s Law. That’s Frank Tillman in that twin Beech.
Building flying hours when you don’t have a lot of money is always a challenge. In the late 1960’s, my solution was to live off my savings and become a pilot for Dick Nolan in Greeley, CO. He advertised in Trade-A-Plane, “Dick Nolan has $2,000,000, buys airplanes”. He sold, and financed, airplanes over the telephone. He used a Michigan bank and would finance anyone with a down payment as he guaranteed the “paper” to the bank. He needed airplanes delivered, picked up, and repossessed. His deal with his pilots was he paid for fuel, oil, and a bus ticket back. His restrictions were VFR only and no night flying. What an education as I built a few hundred hours with him. There were many nights in some hanger in a sleeping bag. I learned to fly in a conventional gear airplane (Piper J-4) and did most of his single engine conventional gear trips. I didn’t have much retractable gear time so I rarely flew them unless he didn’t have anyone else.
I hated flying with him. He was the most careless pilot I ever met. Once saw him takeoff in a Cessna 150 with a rudder gust lock in place. Another time I picked him up in Kansas in a Luscombe 8E. Two big men are “snug” in a Luscombe. We headed West with me flying and him reading. Occasionally, he would glance up and motion me to go lower to lessen the effect of a headwind. He wasn’t satisfied until we were at crop duster level.
He did pay us when we repossessed an airplane. One trip saw us in the South, his “chief pilot”, and two dummies. We would find the plane, grab it, and stash it at a Mississippi Delta airport. One we found hidden on a farm in Georgia. Bob, the chief pilot, rented a car and we drove to the farm. No one was home. The plane, a Piper Pacer, was out of fuel with a dead battery. Off we went to the nearest gas station for ten gallons of gas. Back at the farm, we “proped” the plane and let it warm up. There was no runway, only a field planted in, kid you not, peas. A true “pea patch” story. The field was about 500’ wide with a downhill slope. The peas were about to the top of the wheels. “No problem.” Bob said, and sent me off. The takeoff roll was rough but was going well until I saw the fence we couldn’t see from the top of the hill. Managed to bounce the Piper over the fence without stalling it and staggered along in ground effect until the airspeed got in front of the power curve. Landed the Piper in Tullahoma, TN for fuel. The entire underside was green. Bob told me later there was a green cloud behind me. Then he said, “Yah, maybe we should have pulled it out to the road.”
In the industry, Nolan was known as, “Dirty Dick, the junk dealer.” Some of the stuff we flew should have been in a junk yard. Still, it was one hell of an education, mainly in what not to do. Ah, youth, testosterone, ambition, and determination; how did we survive it? For me, it was a grand adventure, and I’m glad I had (and survived) the experiences.
Who knew, back then, a television series would be made called Airplane Repo?