COMMENTARY / TOWER FREQUENCY
AFTER MONTHS OF PLANNING and
relationship leveraging I was able
to schedule a meeting with the Boy
Scouts of America at Scout headquarters in Dallas, Texas. My plan
was to fly to Cincinnati, meet with
Hal Shevers and Mark Wiesenhahn
of Sporty’s Pilot Shop on Thursday
for a planning session, then fly
with them to the Dallas area early
Friday morning for our 11 a.m.
appointment with Bob Mazzuca,
chief Scout, and Dr. Diane
Thornton, executive director of
Learning For Life.
That’s right, the meeting was
scheduled for 11/11/2011 at 11 a.m.
I’m not really the superstitious type,
but the date and time did catch my attention. Nonetheless, I
launched from Oshkosh in my North American T- 6, IFR into the
cold Great Lakes clouds on the back side of a passing low pressure
area that was generating a welcome tail wind for the route. About
30 minutes into the flight I encountered moderate turbulence fol-
lowed by freezing rain. The T- 6 is not the kind of airplane that
handles ice well, so an immediate call to center and a 180-degree
descending turn was in order. After about 100 degrees of turn, I
popped out of the clouds into a large “crevasse” that had excellent
visibility all the way to the ground. I circled in clear air for a minute
developing the escape plan and realized that I was surrounded by
enormous cumulus buildups, presumably with the same meteoro-
logical conditions—meaning lots of ice—of the cell I had just exited.
Other aircraft started calling center about ice encounters, and
the sector controller that I seemingly had to myself was getting
busy. Time to be on the ground, so I flew a circling descent to the
good VFR conditions below and asked for a vector to Rochelle,
Illinois, to begin Plan B. Well, Plan B ended at Greater Kankakee
Airport (IKK) with winds at 24 knots gusting to 45. Shortest landing rollout in the history of my airplane.
Another unexpected, though this time pleasant, surprise
awaited as only they can in aviation. Blair Wilson-Chesnut, the
airport manager at IKK, is one of 15 young people who has earned
a pilot certificate through the assistance of EAA Chapter 274 of
Decatur, Illinois. Since 2000, the chapter’s
Train-A-Pilot program has selected one or
more high school students each year for a
single annual scholarship that pays 100 percent of their flight training to private pilot
certificate. Blair is one of those students
and obviously is living her aviation passion.
I also met longtime EAA member Ken
Giroux, EAA 271801, who is the son of World
War II P- 38 fighter ace William K. Giroux,
who had 10 kills to his credit. William’s airplane was named Whilma after his wife,
Ken’s mother. Another American story of the
greatest generation; you can read about
William’s exploits in the terrific book
‘Twelve to One,’ V Fighter Command Aces of
the Pacific War by Tony Holmes. You can
find it on Amazon.
Everyone was entertained as I searched
for the nearest airline service to Dallas.
The next morning I met Hal and Mark
for a tour of the Boy Scout museum next
door to scouting headquarters in Irving,
Texas. It is an excellent museum, but the
really surprising discovery was the collection of 53 of the 59 original Norman
Rockwell paintings depicting Scouting
scenes. These paintings are wonderful and
will impress you beyond your expectation.
Bob Mazzuca and Dr. Diane Thornton are
impressive and accomplished people. Both
have a positive perspective of aviation and
believe that the mission of EAA’s Young
Eagles program is an outstanding example of
progressive life experiences as is the Boy
Scouts’ co-ed education-based program
called Learning For Life. The meeting could
not have gone better and resulted in the signing of a memorandum of agreement to
develop a collaborative effort between BSA,
Learning For Life’s Aviation Exploring program, and EAA Young Eagles. I’m very
excited about the possibilities of this collaboration and can’t wait to share with you
details as they develop in the coming months.
A special thank you to Hal Shevers, himself a Distinguished Eagle Scout, Jeff Skiles,
and Mark Wiesenhahn for bringing EAA
and BSA together for this historic step forward. In the meantime you may want to
educate yourself on Aviation Exploring at
www.Scouting.org, and of course, our Young
Eagles at www.EAA.org.