Some of the pix Greg Koontz
took while standing up in the sun roof of Jim's Mercedes. They
were yelling and honking through the entire escapade.
On takeoff. Ernie showed me a little of the clown
act he's done for awhile, about 40 years to be exact. As we stewed
sideways back and forth across the runway and the grass. his voice
boomed from the back scat. "Boy. doesn't that say something about a Cub!" He
was having a helluva good time. I was beginning to wonder.
As we climbed to altitude, I could see Jim positioning the truck on
the runway numbers. He wouldn't start rolling until I was already on
final and waggling my wings. Then he would accelerate
to about 48 mph and hold it, probably praying I wouldn't get sucked
into the downwash of the truck and centerpunch him in the rear or fall
off the front and get run over. At that point we were having the same
On final, I gave him a 300-yard lead and waggled my wings. As he started
rolling, I could almost hear myself say out loud, "Ah, come on,
guys, give me a break!" Not willing to leave me alone, there was
a car running on each side of the truck with the afore-mentioned grinning
faces leering at me.
To make things worse, Greg Koontz was sticking out of the sunroof of
a Mercedes running along shooting pictures. Did I mention
that it's not a good idea to go clown to AeroSport if you have a fragile
As the truck's speed stabilized. I began to get some feel of the spatial
relationships and found myself jockeying the throttle to
keep closing the distance, while at the same time trying to fly down
to a spot several feet above the truck. A bulb went off in my mind, "Hey,
I'm actually doing it!" Easy, easy, a little more throttle, whoa,
not too much. here it comes. Then, I was looking down out of the open
door of the Cub at the top of the platform. It was so close I could
almost throw up on it, and the thought occurred to me.
Ernie had been talking non-stop since we came down over the runway,
but I had been so absorbed in watching that little spot turn into a
truck that I didn't hear him. Then, as we hung over the top of the
truck, his voice broke through "Move it over. get it over the
truck. Move it over!" I had forgotten that the platform was only
about 18 inches wider than the Cub. If I saw more than a foot of platform
past the right, I wasn't in the middle and the other wheel would fall
off, taking me with it. At that moment, at least three feet of that
platform was on the other side of the wheel. All of this was happening
while the Cub danced above a truck going 45 or 50 mph down the middle
of the runway. with a Mercedes and a Corvette running close
formation with it. "Davisson," I thought, "this has
got to be the absolute peak in the stupid things you've done."
The runway was being eaten up fast, but Ernie's words finally worked
their way into my partially paralyzed brain. I made my move. "Son
of a ... !" The world went crazy the second 1 applied a little
aileron to move the airplane over. The truck that had been on my right,
vanished, as I appeared to peel off in the other direction. My mind
was definitely not keeping up with what was happening. Just the slightest
bank had been enough to yank me yards off to the side and I found myself
sec-sawing back and forth over the top of the truck, trying to gauge
the amount of movement needed. I was astounded!
Since I had never been in a position where I could judge an airplane's
movement right clown to the last inch, I didn't realize how much it
moved when you used a little aileron. 1 pendulumed back and forth,
each swing getting smaller, but so was the amount of runway ahead,
and I finally had to yank it up and go around. By this time Ernie was
doing a tattoo on my head at about a thousand words a minute. I caught
about every third word. I had flown the approach right. but when it
got down to pinning the Cub on the target. I hadn't been able to limit
my control to that which was needed.
Second approach. nose down, truck and escorts moving, me sweating.
This time I was careful about what my hands were doing. Rather than
banking it to move that last few inches. I found myself skidding just
a little with the rudder, inching the gear over until it was just about
right. "Nail it. Push it on!" Ernie prodded. I did just that
and felt the wheels thunk on to the plywood. I relaxed a little, I
had made it. My second major mistake! I had been so fixiated on the
seemingly motionless platform below me, that I had completely forgotten
that we were doing 45 mph and the airplane was still flying even though
it was touching the platform. Without thinking, I started to retard
the throttle, which set off an explosion of words from the backseat.
I didn't need Ernie to tell me that I was doing wrong. It was obvious.
Just dropping the power a few hundred rpm was enough to start the Cub
rolling towards the back of the truck. The tail was still in the air,
so it was hanging off the back while the entire airplane moved gently
backwards. I quickly inched the power back on, picking the airplane
up in the air a few feet, convinced, if I didn't, I'd fall off the
back and give Greg in the Mercedes a hell of a picture for his scrap
(or is it scrape'?) book.
This is one of the most fun
things I've ever done in an airplane .
I struggled to get back onto the platform but was losing out to the
rapidly approaching trees. Up and away! Time for round three. I'll
freely admit to being behind the power curve on this little adventure.
I thought I had worked out most of the problems beforehand. but when
I got right over the platform and was actually touching it, a few unexpected
items popped up which scrambled my thought processes. Theoretically
the plan is. once you've wheel landed on the platform, you taxi forward
into two deep notches or wells in the platform that are only about
six inches from the leading edge. That sounds simple except it goes
against much of your common sense. For one thing, you have to force
the gear onto the platform and then increase, not decrease, power.
So there you are, gear down on a moving truck, trying to taxi forward
to the gear wells. Further complicating all of this is the
fact that, when you are rolling into the platform notches you suddenly
realize that the entire nose of the airplane hangs off the front of
the truck and you are depending on the notches to stop you. It looks
like the slightest miscalculation and you'll go bounding
over the notches and plop off the front edge. T had this vivid image
of the truck running down the runway with the Cub stuck
to its windshield like a squashed dragonfly.
Approach Number Three found me running down to the truck like I was
on wires, no problem getting to the truck, now the problem was getting
on and into the gear wells. This time I got the gear on but was off-center.
Rather than picking it up again. I did as Ernie suggested (rather strongly)
and kept the gear forced against the platform but skidded it sideways
with rudder. A quick glance told me we were going to run
out of runway soon, but I'd he damned if I was going to take a waive-off
again. I think I almost closed my eyes, as I jockeyed the throttle
forward. Whoa, not too much, back off a little, jab it a little more,
easy, the gear's rolling forward. Here come the wells, ease off' the
power a touch, jab it. Jab it! Plunk and we were in the gear wells!
I felt like I had just made my first carrier landing (hadn't I?). but
I didn't have much time to enjoy it.
The end of the runway was rushing down on us and there wasn't room
for Jim to gradually slow the truck thereby keeping the Cub on board.
He was going to have to get on the brakes hard, and I had the squashed
dragonfly vision again. All of this was happening at 45
mph, so the Cub was still perfectly happy to fly. I eased the power
up and twitched back on the stick at the same time. The gear popped
out of the wells and the truck fell away below while I banked around
for another run at it.
The fourth time was no sweat. I guess t had gotten over my fear of
falling off the AeroSport Cub Carrier so I just drove it down, nailed
it to the platform and taxied forward like I was headed for the gas
pumps. This time Jim had half the runway to use in slowing down. All
I had to do was remember to reduce the power at the same rate he was
slowing down, so I could keep the Cub solidly stuck in the platform
wells. If I had killed the power and dropped the tail, we would have
lifted off but wouldn't have had enough speed to fly. The truck would
drive out from under us, leaving us on the runway like a flattened
It wasn't pretty, but I finally
I took a reasonable amount of razzing from the rest
of the guys. "Hey,
what was that first approach, we thought you were going to get sea
sick." But I felt good. It had been much more of a challenge than
I had expected. but not so much that it was even remotely impossible.
Besides that. it had been a hell of a lot of fun.
The real kicker came later in the day when I drove my wife and kids
out to the airport. The Cub was still on top of the truck, which was
parked by the AeroSport terminal. When we pulled in my wife turned
and asked, "How'd that airplane get up there?"
"Oh, that?" I replied with nonchalance running
out my ears. "I landed it there!"
Then followed a rapid fire you're-kidding-no-I'm-not-I’ll-ask-somebodyelse-goahead.
She asked Jim and her next comment had to do with an invitation
to an impending catered divorce. (Ed Note: when we finally did get
divorced, the Cub had nothing to do with it and it definitely wasn't
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