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Parker Fly-In (1-11-03)

Story and Photos
By Ron Kilber

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Things are going perfectly while I'm on final for Runway 19 at Parker, Arizona, but only until the wheels of my Cessna 150 hit the pavement. That's when a jet strafes along side me so close, I actually think something crashes into me. The noise and vibration is that violent.

As I clear the active runway, the Sentimental Journey comes into full view. I soon forget about the jerk-off who just scared hell out of me.

Sentimenal Journey
The venerable Sentimental Journey, one of a handful of B-17 Flying Fortresses still flying.
Click photo for high-resolution image

This magnificent B-17 warbird is one of a handful of Flying Fortresses still in the skies today. A few years ago I was a passenger on this beautiful lady. I had the best seat in the house -- the front gunner's chair -- as we ferried her home from an airshow to Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona. The experience then and seeing her now prompts me again to imagine what it must have been really like for those WWII aviators who used ships like these to change the course of world history. It also reminds me of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who paid the ultimate price to pay for the freedom we all enjoy today. We must always fight for our freedom whenever it's under attack, otherwise it would mean their lives were lost in vain.

The City of Yuma

City of Yuma
The City of Yuma
Click photo for high-resolution image

Incredibly, the City of Yuma is here today. In October, 1949, their "City of Yuma" (N1156H, an Aeronca Sedan, AC-15, 145-hp Continental engine) went on to set the world endurance record -- more than 46 days aloft! The distance traveled was equivalent to circumnavigating the world roughly every thirteen days. No one ever in all of human history stayed aloft longer.

I haven't seen her since 1999 when I wrote an article about the incredible people and story behind this beautiful airplane. Learn more about the City of Yuma and the incredible feat that put the world spotlight on the people of Yuma.

The Gooney Bird

The incredible Gooney Bird. Still flying after all these years.

There's likely to be a DC-3 Gooney Bird still flying at most airshows. According to "McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920" (by Rene J. Francillon, Putnam, 1970, London, UK), more than 10,600 DC-3s in all variations were produced. The first unit rolled off the California assembly line in 1935 and made its maiden flight on December 17, which was the thirty-second anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. The last DC-3 was produced in 1945

If you like this ship as much as I do, read my 1997 account of a DC-3 Skytrooper, including fascinating details about the airplane that Eisenhauer and the Allies needed to win the war in Europe.

When there's less than one hour of daylight left, it's time to pack up and get ready to fly home. But a mid-air collision occurs less than a mile east of mid-field, forcing the airport manager to close the airport. A Hellcat (Gruman F6F-5) allegedly sheared the wing from a Cessna 182, which crashed to the ground in an area in full view of spectators. The Hellcat makes it safely to the ramp, where I can see that it's wing tip is obviously damaged. Emergency vehicles can be seen making their way to the crash site.

It doesn't take long for the field to reopen, after officials determine that use of the runway does not have effect on access to the crash site.

Five minutes later, I'm in the air on my way back home to Indian Hills Airpark.

Given my harrowing experience when I arrived at the Parker Airport, an accident does not surprise me. Mid-air collisions occur when pilots forget the "see and be seen" rule. When we hot-dog, like the jerk-off who strafed me, it's virtually impossible to look for traffic while we're concentrating only on precise control of our airplane. And the very definition of an airport means the odds are not in our favor because there isn't the safety of three-dimensional air any more. When everyone is at pattern altitude, for example, it's only two dimensions -- the same as for cars on a road.


Copyright (C) 2003 Ron Kilber You may reprint this story for non-commercial use provided this copyright notice is left intact. Permission will not be unreasonably withheld for all other uses.

7:52 PM 1/4/2003

Crash Update
10:38 AM 1/13/2003
According to an unidentified source, two area residents were killed when their C-182 collided with the Hellcat at 1600 hours. No other information is available, except that the pilot and female passenger were siblings.

© Copyright 1996 - 2003 Ron Kilber All rights reserved.