The Surprises Along the Way
An invaluable journey of discovery concludes
I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PERPLEXED AT THE TALES about barnstormers’
struggles with the mighty Allegheny Mountains. In researching
the history of Curtiss JN- 4 Jennys one time (the Army surplus
cheap airplane of choice for those early pilots), I read that an
astounding number of them met their end on the eastern slopes of the
Alleghenies. The woods there are still undoubtedly strewn with little
metal bits left over from all those forced landings and crashes.
Having spent the better part of the last 20 years of my life in Califor-
nia, where anything shorter than 5,000 feet generally gets classified as
a hill, it was hard to understand how a range of “mountains” whose top
peaks were no higher than 4,800 feet could be
so problematic. Until, that is, I attempted to fly
over them in an underpowered Cheetah on a
hot summer day.