Forty-Seven Years in Aviation: A Memoir; Chapter 14: The Ohio State University Airport


[AVweb‘s reprint of Dick’s memoir began with the Introduction.]

In 1942, The Ohio State University purchased 1,412 acres of flat farmland and forest 10 miles north of campus, the purpose of which was to develop an airport. Only those administrators with expansive imaginations could have envisioned that parcel of land becoming a significant part of the air transportation system serving central Ohio.

From two hangars (still in use today) and two runways the OSU Airport has grown into a four-runway facility (longest runway 5,000 feet) with several instrument approaches and a full range of services for local and transient aircraft. As general aviation activity peaked in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the airport became the third-busiest airport in Ohio; it currently ranks among the state’s top 10 busiest airports.

Much of the airport traffic is generated by the OSU flight training program, which has been in continuous operation since 1945. The current fleet includes Cessna 152s and 172s, several complex singles, a state-of-the art Cirrus SR20 and a Cessna 310 for multi-engine training. One of two training devices is used primarily for instrument training, the other is a full-motion simulator with the capability to portray a Cessna 172, a Piper Arrow with a glass cockpit, or a Beechcraft Baron equipped with a G1000 avionics suite.

To date, over 5000 students have earned pilot certificates and ratings through the flight-training program. The airport has functioned as an aviation laboratory since its inception: Students who acquire flight-instructor certificates may choose to enhance their knowledge and experience by taking jobs as CFIs working with student pilots. By any measure, the most important achievement for these young people is a degree from The Ohio State University; aviation students can earn BS and BA degrees with an aviation specialization in the Engineering, Social & Behavioral Sciences or Business Colleges.1967 was a busy, satisfying year for me. In addition to teaching several classroom courses I was flying on a near-daily basis in a challenging variety of civilian and military aircraft.

The Piper Aztec accounted for most of my pilot time that year, with various single-engine OSU trainers not far behind; I also flew the Air National Guard C-54 and the Helio Courier on frequent, if irregular, schedules. Three of my weekends were spent “on the road” for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) conducting flight training for general aviation pilots. I acquired a flight instructor certificate with ratings for single- and multi-engine airplanes, instrument instruction and advanced ground instruction; I also upgraded to instructor pilot status in the C-54.When we moved back to Columbus from the Pacific Northwest in 1965 we bought a home located near the OSU Airport (at the time I had no idea I’d be working there a year later). In August 1967, a year into my tenure at the university, several neighbors and friends expressed interest in learning to fly; we formed a small group (after a few beers and much discussion regarding combinations of names and initials, we named it simply “The Ajax Flying Club”) and subsequently purchased a Cessna 140, well-used but in good condition. (See “Flying the 140” at right.)

At the end of our aerial adventure three Ajax members went on to become pilots; mission accomplished, we sold the Cessna in 1969. My investment was pro bono flight instruction, making the 140 the first and only airplane in which I have had a financial interest, so to speak; there were always friends’ airplanes available to me for personal use.As 1967 entered its final quarter I experienced yet another aviation adventure, this time something that had lived in the recesses of my mind for 14 years with no reasonable expectation that it would ever be realized. In the summer of 1953, during ROTC summer camp at Turner AFB in Albany, Georgia, I was strapped into the back seat of a Lockheed T-33 for a familiarization ride; it was short and sweet but left me with the strong impression that this was something I would like to do by myself someday. At that time an Air Force career was not a serious consideration, but I thought there might be a way to retain the skills and knowledge I would acquire in flight training. Perhaps when I finished my active duty commitment following flight school I could join an Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard unit with a T-bird that I could learn to fly.The details that surround the eventual accomplishment of that dream are somewhat hazy but a logbook entry in mid-September ’67 records my first ride in the T-33 that belonged to the 121st Tactical Fighter Group, owner of the C-54 I had been flying for the past 18 months. The T-bird was the Group’s utility airplane, used for pilot proficiency training and the occasional miscellaneous mission that didn’t require firing up an F-100-I was added to the list of pilots who were available for those missions.In the competent hands of several high-time fighter-pilot IPs I embarked on a training program in the T-33. You must understand I had neither the time nor the inclination to become a fighter pilot; given my multi-engine background, a lot of training would have been required to make me competent and safe in a combat airplane. I would be satisfied with nothing more than expanding my aviation experience to get a taste of jet propulsion, and the T-33 was the vehicle that could make it happen.

The Shooting Star completed its first flight in 1948 with legendary Lockheed test pilot Tony Levier at the controls. It was a direct descendant of the F-80 (one of America’s early jet fighters) with the fuselage stretched three feet to accommodate two pilots; it was the airplane chosen to train USAF pilots in the nuances of flying jet-powered airplanes until the Cessna T-37 came along (many of my mates in Class 56-I flew the T-bird in basic flight training). The US Air Force was not the only military component that thought well of this airplane; for almost 40 years the T-33 served the air forces of more than 20 different countries.Given its takeoff weight of 15,000 pounds and one Allison J-33 centrifugal-flow turbine engine that generates 5,400 pounds of thrust, the T-bird qualifies as a dirt-sniffer…its takeoff and climb performance is well short of skyrocket quality. If you’re not in a hurry to get there, the T-33 can climb to more than 40,000 feet; its maximum speed is limited to about 500 miles per hour or the onset of “aileron buzz” (an aerodynamic phenomenon that causes the ailerons to flutter rapidly), whichever comes first.There was no one-button, computerized “auto-start” procedure for the T-33’s Allison J-33 engine; working with the fuel switches and the throttle and keeping a close eye on turbine RPM and temperature, you had to supply fuel and air to the engine in the proper proportions and at the proper time to make everything work-hot starts and no-starts were potential results of mismanagement. An airborne flameout was even more critical; several airstart procedures relating to airspeed and altitude at the time of the flameout were printed in red placards on the canopy rails, and if the final procedure produced no fire in the engine room it was time to think seriously about using the ejection seat.

Thanks to some high-quality instruction, I was able to solo the T-33 after 16 hours of dual. A checkride was required, and I was sent aloft with a feisty, gray-haired F-100 jock whose first request at altitude was “show me a Lazy Eight.” I hadn’t done one of those for years, let alone in a jet trainer, so I dug deep into my memory bank and performed what I thought was a reasonable facsimile of that elementary maneuver. When I finished he asked rather sarcastically “Taylor, I presume those were your clearing turns?” followed by “I’ve got it.” I’m not quite sure what he did with that airplane in the next few minutes, but it was a far cry from any Lazy Eight with which I was familiar. However, knowing I would never be required to perform air combat maneuvers, he signed me off to fly the airplane on more normal missions.Following that checkout I flew the airplane at every opportunity; some were local proficiency flights, some were cross-country trips. To be sure, the T-bird was a slow mover during takeoff and climb, but when it reached cruise altitude it motored along at a reasonable speed. One memorable December trip from Columbus, Ohio to Tampa, Florida required only 2 hours and 48 minutes…not too shabby for an old airplane. It was a great way to trade a couple of winter days in Ohio for some Florida sunshine-and get paid for it in the bargain.I had flown 600 hours in nineteen different kinds of airplanes in 1967, had acquired several additional pilot certificates and ratings and had sharpened my skills as a classroom instructor. Like most young men, I had often pondered the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I was 34 years old when I joined the aviation faculty and from the first day on the job I realized the combination of flying and teaching aviation answered that question. I considered 1967 a successful year and looked forward to more of the same for years to come.However, there was a situation brewing in the Far East that would explode in late January 1968 and change the lives of thousands of reservists; my involvement in that situation and its aftermath will be related in the next chapter of this memoir.[Continued with Chapter 15.]

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