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Offline rclad  
#1 Posted : Monday, March 12, 2018 4:47:51 PM(UTC)
rclad

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I posted the following story on my blog at RC Groups. I didn't catch the guy's last name. I wish I had a chance to talk with him a bit more. I don't know if he was the real deal, just dreaming of his glory days, or had just snuck out of a nursing home for Alzheimer's patients. Guess it'll remain a mystery, unless someone here knows this guy.

This is one of those moments in life that comes unexpectedly, where the impact doesn't hit you until the moment is gone. In retrospect, I would have handled it differently, had I realized how rare it was. At the very least, I should have gotten a picture of him. Now, all I have is a memory and this story. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Saturday was a gorgeous day for late winter, with blue skies, light winds and temps in the mid forties. I had to make a trip out to Mason at 2 pm, so I didn't get out to the Airmasters field in North Bend until 3:15. The gate was locked, so once again I had the field to myself. I assembled my 87" Extra and just completed the first flight of the day when I noticed a visitor pull up in the parking lot. After swapping out my batteries and getting a drink prior to my next flight, I saw that he was still sitting in his car. I walked over to say hi.

To break the ice I asked if he brought a plane to fly. He laughed through the open window and said, "No." Then he stepped out of the car, his lanky frame rising to my height or more, at least 6 feet. He looked strong and in good health. He appeared to be of German descent with handsome features and salt and pepper hair trimmed neatly on his head. He asked if my plane was an Extra 300. "Yes," I said. He said he was an unlimited aerobatic pilot and was interested in flying one before purchasing an MX... something. "An MXS?" I asked. "Yes, that's it." He said his memory was not that good anymore, but just as quickly he was back in 1952, telling me about his first flight in a J-3. He had an incident where he got into a spin and had trouble getting out of it. He had over corrected with the rudder, and the spin continued in the opposite direction. He went on about his training and the trouble he got into with the other flight instructors, who didn't appreciate the aerobatics he enjoyed doing in their airspace.

We came back to the present and his concern that his neck might not hold up to the G forces in a snap roll on an outside loop. He said he had a couple vertebrae fused together, which tended to pinch the nerve going down to his arms when a side load was applied to his head. I asked if he could wear a neck brace that would allow him enough movement to look around, and he said he has one. I was about to suggest he could sit down while flying, as another club member here has to do because of a balance issue. I said something about the benefit of RC flying is that we get to keep our feet on the ground. I didn't catch on that he was still talking about flying full scale, the real MXS, until he mentioned the purchase price was about $200,000. But the real shock came next. Although he looked to be in great shape - he mentioned he was on his way back from a hike at nearby Shawnee Lookout - he let me know that he was 84.

I invited him over to the pits to check out my plane and watch me fly my IMAC sequence. I told him I was competing in Sportsman this year. We talked a bit about the plane - he was impressed it was electric - and about all the bells and whistles available through programming on the transmitter. He mistook the receiver power on pin with "Remove before flight" tag for a pitot tube cover, and I explained that this plane didn't have an airspeed sensor, but my Super Cub does, along with a "stick shaker" (haptic feedback) programmed into my transmitter, and how that saved my plane many times. He really got a kick out of that and said I must have a lot of money invested in the plane. I explained some IMAC pilots do with expensive transmitters, but that mine only cost about $200 and has worked great. I didn't mention that I had about $2100 invested in the plane.

He watched about half my flight, then said he had to leave. I was in the middle of my sequence and couldn't take my eyes off the plane, so I yelled back, "What's your name?" He said, "Mike", and I gave him my name and said "It was nice to meet you!" And that was it. He was gone.

I hope when I'm Mike's age that I'm doing as well as he is. Meanwhile, I'm going to be looking for an 84 year old pilot flying unlimited aerobatics in an MXS on the International Aerobatic Club circuit, and aspire to the heights that he has climbed

Edited by user Tuesday, March 13, 2018 2:51:39 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Added some missing details to the story.

Greg Hladky
Flying on a wing and a purpose...
and physics, power, practice, preparation, plans...
and pioneers who pushed the envelope!
thanks 1 user thanked rclad for this useful post.
Adi Kochav on 3/13/2018(UTC)
Offline Steve Stanton  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 10:06:57 AM(UTC)
Steve Stanton

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Nice story, thanks for sharing.
For those who may not be aware, we have our own IAC Unlimited champ; Earl Andrews
Offline rclad  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 10:54:38 AM(UTC)
rclad

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Glad to share it and, Yes! I was thinking about Earle when I wrote this, hoping he might know who this guy is. BTW, Earle flew the same 87" Extra I had out on Saturday and shared a tip on making the canopy more easily removable, which I used on my Extra.

I added a few more details that I left out of the story yesterday. (I typed it up at work and was in a bit of a rush to get back to my job.) The current version is on my blog. It gives a better picture of the man and how he got started in aerobatics.

Edited by user Tuesday, March 13, 2018 11:05:05 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Greg Hladky
Flying on a wing and a purpose...
and physics, power, practice, preparation, plans...
and pioneers who pushed the envelope!
Offline Earle Andrews  
#4 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:51:11 PM(UTC)
Earle Andrews

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Greg....interesting story, to say the least!
I have no clue who this might be.....he's got 20 years on me. I know several "older" folks who still fly aerobatics, but not at that level.

If you discover who this gentleman is, please let us know. And IF he is actually still flying competition unlimited aerobatics at 84 years, then I will eat my hat!!!

Unlimited puts one hell of a beating on your body and at 64 years I know I couldn't take one of those sequences for very long, if at all. Even advanced hurts....Crying

Edited by user Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:11:33 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

thanks 1 user thanked Earle Andrews for this useful post.
rclad on 3/13/2018(UTC)
Offline rclad  
#5 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 2:37:08 PM(UTC)
rclad

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After I posted this story on my blog and put my skeptic's hat back on, I began thinking something doesn't add up. Either I misunderstood him, and he plans to fly his MXS for pleasure, not competition, or he just can't let the fire go out while he still is so passionate about flying aerobatics, despite the fact his doctor will most likely not sign off on his medical certificate. He briefly made a reference to the latter possibility.

I can begin to appreciate just how intense the workout is for an aerobatic pilot. I had the opportunity to fly in various jets in the Navy, including the T-2 Buckeye, the A-4 Skyhawk (TA-4J version) and the Cessna Citation (the vomit comet) for low level (300 kts and 500' off the deck) bank and yank training for bombing runs. Even with a G suit, the T-2 and A-4 required a lot of strength (muscle isometrics) to avoid passing out.
Greg Hladky
Flying on a wing and a purpose...
and physics, power, practice, preparation, plans...
and pioneers who pushed the envelope!
thanks 1 user thanked rclad for this useful post.
Earle Andrews on 3/13/2018(UTC)
Offline rclad  
#6 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 3:05:14 PM(UTC)
rclad

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One of the reasons this story resonates with me is the fact that I think often about my own age. At 56 I question whether I have enough time left to reach the Unlimited class - or even move beyond Sportsman - before I get too senile or feeble to handle a fast moving plane that requires good eyesight and split second timing. This motivates me to stay in shape like Mike, the mystery pilot, so I continue to run and row and eat well to stay healthy.

I know there are many guys older than me competing in IMAC, and that is encouraging. Like Mike, I want to keep flying as long as the old body holds up. At least we don't have to worry about what a snap roll will do to our necks!
Greg Hladky
Flying on a wing and a purpose...
and physics, power, practice, preparation, plans...
and pioneers who pushed the envelope!
thanks 1 user thanked rclad for this useful post.
Earle Andrews on 3/13/2018(UTC)
Offline Earle Andrews  
#7 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:23:54 PM(UTC)
Earle Andrews

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Don't worry about getting to Unlimited. To me, as long as I'm having fun and being challenged in the category I'm flying then I'm happy. When I first starting flying IMAC (about 8 years ago I think), I wanted to jump right into the most difficult category.....figuring what the heck, if I could fly Unlimited full scale I should AT LEAST be able to handle advanced IMAC! HAH!!!! Practice proved this totally wrong, so I then tried the Intermediate sequence. Well....that didn't go so well either
Blushing

Refusing to go to Basic (which would have been smart) I entered my first contest as a Sportsman, learned a lot and got hooked. Now I'm finally getting somewhat comfortable in Advanced, although unknowns are problematic. Maybe one day I'll take that final leap....before I literally take that final leap
LOL
thanks 1 user thanked Earle Andrews for this useful post.
rclad on 3/13/2018(UTC)
Offline rclad  
#8 Posted : Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:48:45 PM(UTC)
rclad

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Thanks, Earle, for putting things in perspective. Awesome advice! And funny, too... Laugh
Greg Hladky
Flying on a wing and a purpose...
and physics, power, practice, preparation, plans...
and pioneers who pushed the envelope!
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