A Jewish Pilot in the Land of Milk and Honey — Part 18

The last 3 trainees which were washed out by mid-May were still in Bakersfield. Elynor was being very careful and refrained from sending back to NYC more than two on the same airline flight. Now that she knew that I would only stay on until I finished the Advanced Flying School syllabus she thought up a flight that would combine the safe dispatch of the 3 washouts with the last part of my training on the Cessna AT17: She decided to send the 3 washouts to NYC with the Cessna AT17, flown by Jim Kenealy and add me on it, flying east as observer and back west doing all the flying myself with Jim acting as instructor and checker.
Early on the 29th of May we took off from Bakersfield.  Our Cessna had two 245 hp Jacobs radial engines with variable pitch steel propellers, a range of 750 miles and a cruising speed of 175 miles. The winds were westerlies and gave us a good ground-speed. We made 4 intermediate landings for refuelling and reached Newark, New-Jersey the next day. We took a cab to Manhattan. Jim and I took leave of the others. Jim went to a hotel and I surprised Benny Cohen when I appeared at his place on 103 W. 91st Street.
We spent 2 nights in NY and early on the 1st of June we took a cab back to Newark Airport, New-Jersey. Jim Had already told me on the flight east that I would have to carry out the entire flight to Bakersfield by myself: Planning, checking the weather at the airport weather bureau, making out the flight-plan, checking the airplane prior to boarding and then flying it from point to point, using radio-navigation (Non-directional-radio-beacons and Radio-Range) doing all the radio communications and using major City Airports which serve Airline traffic as well as smaller airfields as necessary. Jim wanted me to do short legs of 3 or 400 miles each so as to get as many departures and arrivals at these airports and airfields.
I made my first landing at Columbus ,Ohio and then landed at Saint-Louis, Missouri. My next landing was at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and then, early in the afternoon I landed at Amarillo, Texas. I had to make this southern curve so as to circumvent the Rocky Mountains. Our small plane was not pressurized and we did not have oxygen.
I planned my next stop to be Albuquerque, New-Mexico but soon after my take-off from Amarillo the weather started deteriorating and we met a violent warm-front laden with storm-clouds pouring heavy rain and hail. I was flying on instruments. Being inexperienced I decided to climb to 10000 feet (which is the highest flying altitude allowable to pilots without oxygen) hoping that I would then be above cloud but it was even worse. I managed to get the Albuquerque Airport weather and found out that it was beyond my limits. This was my test. Jim was watching me carefully and asked me what I proposed to do. I told him that I was going to turn to the alternate airfield which I chose before departing from Amarillo and which was Tucumcari, New-Mexico. I received the Tucumcari Airfield weather which was also rainy and stormy but still above minima. I made an instrument approach to Tucumcari. We were tossed about but I managed to control the airplane and stick strictly to the approach procedure. Imanaged to make a smooth wheel-landing. I was completely exhausted. Jim was satisfied and told me that I did a good job.
We went to the Weather Bureau and found out that the weather to and at Albuquerque got worse and we could not get there. Both I and Jim decided to spend the night in Tucumcari and go on flying next day. Tucumcari at that time was a small town. Its streets were not paved and on both their sides there were wooden sidewalks, one foot above street level. The street turned to a wild river in the heavy rain.The cab which we took at the Airfield almost sunk in this flood but we somehow managed to get to the best Hotel in town. It looked like one of the hotels in the wild-west during the 19th century but was very comfortable, dry and clean. We had one-pound steaks for dinner and Jim phoned Elynor and explained. After dinner I fell into my bed and was asleep instantly while the storm was having a ball outside.
Next morning I flew to Albuquerque,New-Mexico and from there to Prescott, Arizona from which I took-off directly for Bakersfield. We arrived there at noon. I was debriefed by Jim who told me that he was very satisfied with my performance. This entire flight took 18 hours and 8 minutes of flying. I was then asked to see Elynor who also told me that I went well  through the entire course and that I take next day off flying.
I flew 3 more flights after that and when I landed after the last one Iwas asked to Elynor’s office. Jim Kenealy and Paul Calisi were there with her. They were all smiling and told me that I completed the flying-course successfully. In my log-book Ihad 11 hours and 7 minutes which I flew in Palestine prior to my arrival at Bakersfield and 202 hours and 45 minutes flying there: A total of 213 hours and 52 minutes. At that time the IAF did not have Pilot’s Wings and Jim pinned on me the tiny Bakersfield-Airpark metal wings. Elynor told me to go pack my belongings. Next day, June 7, 1948 I was going to leave Bakersfield.

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