Friday, June 17, 2011

"Launch The Revolution"

“Launch the Revolution”
© 2006, Paul Berge

By afternoon the crowd had grown to several thousand around the airport’s perimeter. Faces turned skyward with eyes shaded against the sun when an official worried, “He refuses to come down.”
Even the guards in the tower protected by concertina wire gazed at the small airplane overhead, unsure what to do. The tower chief ran up the stairs, her footsteps clanging against steel. Breathless, she demanded binoculars although it was clear she’d never see the truth. “How long has that been up there?”
“Ten hours,” a tower guard answered through a smile. “Maybe twelve.”
“That’s impossible.”
“So we thought,” he replied and then indicated the crowd below. “But word spread. This morning it was just a few. Now look at the cars coming from all directions.” Indeed, the roads were packed. More people arrived on bicycles and some on foot to see the man who flew without permission, refusing to come down.
Disgusted, the tower chief pressed the binoculars at the guard and demanded, “Have you ordered him down?” And before he could reply the crowd murmured as the tiny airplane, little more than a butterfly with yellow wings and a green tail, lowered its nose. “What’s he doing?”
“A loop, I think…Yup, it’s a loop.”
“Well, stop him, make him stop that illicit looping!”
The crowd applauded as the little airplane traced a perfect O. And in one voice they gasped when the airplane pulled into what appeared to be another loop but at the top did not dive. Instead, it hung in the air, its silver propeller slicing the blue. Its wings slowly rotated from the torque until they realized they could no longer lift and dropped into a spin. In turn after turn the airplane spun toward the earth. And then as crash trucks lurched and eyes peered between fingers, it climbed again bringing a shout from the crowd.
“I’ll take his license!” the tower chief spat.
“You’ve already taken all the licenses,” the guard noted. “Nothing left to take.” And he, too, silently cheered the pilot.
“That’s...that’s nonsense!”
“Isn’t it, though,” the guard laughed and then pointed toward the hangars where more pilots—without authorization—smashed locks and pushed little airplanes into the sunlight. The tower chief grabbed a microphone and tried to restore order, but her mouth only flapped like a bass sucking air in a fisherman’s net. Powerless, she watched engines start, and without any regard for her authority dozens of little airplanes taxied to the runway. She managed a gagging plea to “Stop…” but stared in disbelief at those who escaped her grasp and lifted into what she’d presumed was her sky, a sky to be jealously controlled.
Slumping into administrative oblivion she vanished amid the sound of airplanes twirling about her head. Soon the guards abandoned the tower to join the mob as it swarmed over the fence and spread blankets on the grass. And long past sunset they watched the power of lift wielded by revolutionaries who refused to come down.

©2006, Paul Berge
(First appeared in Pacific Flyer magazine, March 2007)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

“Old Gray”

© 2009, Paul Berge

Dawn slipped over the mountains and quietly extinguished the desert stars in passing. They didn’t seem to mind. Having kept watch all night it was time, again, for sunlight to rouse earth dwellers from bed. Chuck dwelled above the planet so was already awake and at the airport. After parking his Studebaker Lark he kicked the hangar door to chase out any snakes that might’ve curled beneath the rubber skirt. When nothing stirred, he slid the door open and smiled at the old Tri-Pacer waiting beneath a dusty skylight. She smiled back.

Painted the same light gray of his mothballed West Point uniform, she had pearl white wings trimmed in blue. Piper chevrons raked her tail. She looked as though she’d been awake all night combing the stars for dreams. And, maybe, caught a few. Chuck walked around the nose and patted her cowling. If Piper made Tri-Pacer biscuits he would’ve fed her one. And, yes—he’d tell anyone who didn’t understand—the Tripe was a she. Chuck didn’t give a rat’s butt who thought it inappropriate to think of his old gray beauty as female. Something this pretty couldn’t be otherwise. And he’d stare down anyone who claimed that Tri-Pacers were funny looking. Those same fools turned up their noses at Navions and Apaches.

With one hand on the strut, Chuck ducked beneath the right wing to open the cockpit door. Leaning inside, he inhaled that elegant blend of leather and butyrate dope with a hint of avgas. He wondered why it couldn’t be bottled so all women could smell as good: Eau d’Avion—$1000 per ounce. Chuck was a romantic and a rebel who couldn’t explain his attachment to this airplane. She wasn’t as sleek as those Mooneys that taxied by with their tails on backwards. Nor could she haul the load of a rumbling Skylane. “But so what?” he asked aloud. “I love her.” But mostly he loved the thought of her in flight.

Outside in the cool air with the throttle set, Chuck reached beneath the seat for the starter button. “TSA couldn’t confiscate you if they wanted,” he muttered. “They couldn’t find your starter with both hands.” The white hair on his neck bristled thinking of the country’s worst agency. He shook it off and looked toward the pink desert sky. And by the time they departed all thoughts of fools flushed from his mind, replaced by airplane dreams coming to life. It was their daily routine. Together, they’d wander about the morning sky, the short-winged Piper telling Chuck what she knew about flight. Despite their long relationship, each trip offered new insights into life beyond gravity. And returning to land, he’d let his companion find her way to the runway as she had for over 50 years. There was nothing he could teach her. She wouldn’t listen if he’d tried. And, later, he’d thank her for the visit while yearning for the next dawn when she’d reveal more dreams taken from the desert stars.


"Old Gray" by Paul Berge, first appeared in Pacific Flyer magazine in October 2009. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact author for reprint permission.

Monday, December 20, 2010


by Paul Berge

There’s a place in the Midwest approachable only from the sky. It’s south of Canada and a bit north of Mexico. Draw a line along the eastern edge of the Rockies, and it’s to the right of that and west of Youngstown, Ohio, maybe Columbus. It’s strictly a middle-of-America place, although there have been reports of it north of International Falls, and it was once spotted in California’s Central Valley, and along the Snake River in Idaho, although I suspect those were false sightings. No one’s seen it in New Jersey since 1966.

This place is called Ailerona. It has no ICAO identifier, doesn’t appear on any sectional or airport guide. It can’t be loaded into a GPS database; if you tried, you’d blow the RAIM guts out of the box.

Despite the lack of navaids, Ailerona is supposedly easy to find if you know how to look. I haven’t been there myself, but I once met a pilot in Wagner, South Dakota who knew a guy in Alliance, Nebraska, who’d flown over Ailerona one winter day in a Maule. He said it appeared through a crystalline veil of snow and looked like sunrise at noon. He reported an expanse of green across low hills above which a Super Cub flew in loose formation with a Taperwing Waco until the Cub descended to an upsloping pasture where the cows turned their heads to marvel at the appropriateness of a Cub in their salad bar.

Ailerona appeared briefly in Greek mythology when Icarus tried to fly across the Mediterranean in his waxwing homebuilt in search of this perfect place. He looked too hard however, and his wings melted. Ever since then the FAA has denied Ailerona’s existence fearing that if pilots saw its wooden hangars full of Stearmans, Fairchilds, Lockheed Vegas and Lodestars, if they saw the fuel truck hauling both 100 and 80 octane at 35 and 30 cents respectively, if pilots saw all that, they’d question the way things are.

I thought I saw Ailerona up in Michigan while standing beneath a Husky’s wing during a thunderstorm that looked like creation itself. Another time, it flashed briefly through my old Bonanza while scud running between a low overcast and the flat pine forests of northern Minnesota. I skimmed the trees at 150 knots through a 300-foot wedge of clear air that led nowhere and I hoped would never end. Each time that I thought I saw Ailerona however, it disappeared. I tried to grasp it, to log the moment for spiritual currency and, in the process, the vision said I wasn’t ready and faded away.

Ailerona holds the raw stuff of flight from biplanes to the Concorde. It’s where aviation began and, today, is the one corner of flight where no one can clip your wings. It’s out there, and chances are you’ve already seen it—perhaps in that perfect instrument approach or the beautifully executed crosswind landing. It may even exist outside the Midwest, although what better place to begin the search?

The End…or is it?

© 1981, 2001, 2003, 2009,First published in Minnesota Flyer, Richard Coffey, editor/publisher, later in Pacific Flyer, Wayman Dunlap, editor/publisher. Featured on the audio book, “Ailerona,” Ahquabi House Publishing, LLC, all rights reserved by the author.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Husky Sunset

Jake pressed his left thumb against the throttle’s microphone button and uttered the phrase that makes air traffic controllers smile, “Cancel IFR.”

“Husky 34V, cancellation received,” Center replied. “Squawk VFR.” And even though it wasn’t by the book, she tossed in a “G’day,” like blowing him an ATC kiss. Let the phraseology police write her a ticket; she liked being friendly.

“It is,” Jake said to a voice he’d never meet and changed the transponder code to 1200. He then switched frequencies to CTAF, but after thirty seconds of listening to that mindless clatter—“...traffic in the area, please advise…”— he turned off the radio, throttled back to low cruise and removed his headset. It was Friday afternoon and time to enjoy the commute, something earthbound creatures rarely do.

With controlled airspace behind him, the sky took on a more genteel tone. Suburban highways gave way to steep hillsides of redwood trees. As clouds clicked sunlight on-and-off, the landscape flashed between deep greens and mossy gray. He banked to glide down a shallow canyon where a logging road disappeared into the forest and easing in the throttle, pulled up again. It’s what classy tail draggers with lots of power do best.

As the Husky descended across the last ridge line, Jake slid the side window open and scooped his hand into the wind to inhale the sea air. Sunlight poked from beneath a thin marine layer, smearing his windshield so he had to look to the side to tell where he was going. But, after thirty years flying the Santa Cruz Mountains, Jake knew his position exactly.

He turned southeast bound along the shoreline where farm fields seemed to flow across the sea cliffs and into the surf. The coastal highway twisted like a lazy snake from Half Moon Bay and wriggled itself into the Santa Cruz city limits. Jake gazed across the water where specks of fishing boats floated as though placed there by a sloppy kid who refused to pick up his toys. He then looked inland at thousands of houses plastered up the hillsides and fed by streams of cars. And then, as he always did, he scanned from wing tip to wingtip and banked to watch the sunlight wash against the airplane’s yellow fabric. A hundred churches below couldn’t inspire the reverence he felt for this gift, and he thanked whatever made it possible and had blessed him with the view.

In the old days, as he liked to think of them, Jake might’ve been tempted by any of the beaches inviting a passing airplane to touch a wheel and skim where the surf rolled the sand flat. Often one to give into temptation, he’d have cut the throttle, pulled on full flaps and landed on a stretch of sand hidden among the cliffs. The Husky would make it easy. “Can land it down a chimney,” the seller had bragged, “and stop halfway across the fireplace.” His hand nudged the flap handle, but he’d avoid temptation, today, and continue to the airport.

Time was, Jake—then, a new pilot—thought nothing of landing his Aeronca Champ on an empty beach or along a farmer’s irrigation road in the Salinas Valley. But time, the law and, perhaps, some unexplainable mellowing that comes with experience—he refused to say, with age—caused him to fly a little higher and head home before the sun set. And this, being Friday, he had an appointment to keep at the hangar, one that had grown better with the years.

Ten miles out, Jake switched on the radio and suffered through the chatter of pilots who flew by their microphones and didn’t quite understand lift. Turning downwind, he spotted two Cessnas on final and a Cirrus on a base leg so wide he was tempted to cut inside and land ahead of it. Instead, he throttled back and slowed the Husky to near hovering speed to await his turn. When it came, he dropped on the base leg like a hawk on an unsuspecting mouse. With flaps full, and the runway numbers locked in the windshield, at 200 feet Jake glanced to make sure that Vern, the airport manager, wasn’t watching. And then, he sidestepped to the grass between the runway and taxiway. His wheels skimmed between two blue lights and touched in a gentle rumble. He was stopped and turned off before reaching the intersecting taxiway. But not before the airport manager saw him, and from his pick-up truck waved a shame-on-you index finger and grinned.

It’d been another routine commute across the mountains, and when the Husky stopped in front of the hangar, Jake checked his watch and saw that he was five minutes late. Already his hangar neighbor, Kathy, was seated in a lounge chair outside her hangar, an empty chair beside her and between them a small table, two glasses and, what Jake knew was a bottle of scotch.

He’d put the airplane away later, and walking quickly to join her, he apologized, “Sorry I’m late.”

“Headwinds?” she asked and didn’t expect an answer as she offered him a crystal glass, the lower third glowing limpid gold as though the setting sun had poured their drinks.

“Balvenie?” Impressed.

“Mmm,” she murmured. “Distracted along the beach, again?”

“Momentarily disoriented,” he answered and lifted his glass to touch hers. “You?” He nodded toward the Bellanca Super Viking inside her hangar.

“Had the same problem, only down south around Big Sur.

“Shame,” he said, and their glasses clinked. Then, in silence they watched the sun melt beneath the horizon, expecting it to hiss as it dropped in the Monterey Bay. Together, each in private reflection, they sipped the scotch and felt the warmth of near perfection flood the end of another flying day.

© Paul Berge

All other rights reserved by the author and Ahquabi House Publishing, LLC

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

“Destination Unexpected—Borger, Texas”

from “Aeromancy” © 2005, Paul Berge
In open-cockpit flying you learn to navigate using senses suppressed by a closed-cabin, and approaching Borger airport (BGD) in the Texas Panhandle, I leaned my face into the slipstream to sniff my way toward the refineries in the surrounding hills. It reminded me of being a kid in New Jersey on hot summer days when chemical plant exhaust tinged the sky Dr. Seuss yellow from the stuff that makes modern life possible if occasionally unhealthy.
Borger wasn’t my planned destination. I wondered whose destination it could be outside anyone associated with the petro business. But I didn’t ponder too long as I banked onto downwind leg and pulled the power abeam the numbers to drop the way biplanes do in a slipping descent on base leg to the flare and a burnt-rubber touchdown. It’s a fluid, twisting dive and with all that drag from wings, wires, and the pilot’s wide grin there’s rarely any float. Lacking straight-ahead visibility past the long nose, the pilot feels for the ground and senses drift through peripheral vision. Landings aren’t always pretty, especially on pavement when a crosswind demands stick into the wind and opposite rudder with a nose-high blind path ahead. Tail draggers are made for grass fields and old tail dragger pilots do our best when forced onto the hard stuff. Here, in Borger, the runways were perfect for jets full of oil execs.
The Marquart Charger holds 27 gallons to feed its 180 horses giving two hours range with a puckered-up reserve. At 120 mph that’s about 250 miles, but I plan 150 or so between stops, longer when the winds allow. On this day nothing allowed.
I’d been in the air since somewhere in New Mexico with stops throughout the high plains including West Texas (T27) on the east side of El Paso. It has a long skinny runway that leads to an FBO with a shaded porch where you could sit, drink a Dr. Pepper, and watch ultra lights drag around the pattern in the heat. Free cookies came with the avgas, and after an hour’s stay I slogged off northeast only to be stopped by the rear guard of thunderstorms ransacking Oklahoma. Borger, just above Amarillo, was in the clear, but as my wheels rolled through steaming puddles on the runway I knew it hadn’t been clear for long.
A tall gray man with a leathery face and a silver belt buckle the size of a Volkswagen hubcap waved me into a tie down spot while a second man, younger with a smaller buckle, stood by holding chocks. They treated my dusty two-seater biplane as they might a corporate jet. At the crossed-arm signal to stop, I applied brakes, killed the engine with mixture, and before I could push the goggles off my eyes, Big Buckle called, “Need to use the car? We can bring that ‘round for ya. Getchya hotel room in town should you need it, good restaurants, too.”
“I’m just topping off and heading out,” I answered and unhooked my harness to stand in the cockpit. The buckles clunked on the floorboards. But before I could grab the upper wing handles and drop a leg over the side, Little Buckle had run for the fuel truck, and the other man said, “We’ll getchya turned right around. You can use the weather radar inside and help yourself to coffee, should be a doughnut left, too.” I imagine if I’d asked them to wash the biplane they would’ve dragged out a hose; it was that kind of friendly. Mostly, though, I nodded and waited for the fuel truck.
I never let anyone fuel the biplane because it’s, frankly, a nuisance. The 27 gallons are dispersed among two wing tanks, each smaller than a shoe box, and the larger fuselage tank beneath the upper wing and just aft of the hot engine compartment. All three filler necks were designed for fuel nozzles no bigger than soda straws, so spilling is common. I’d rather swear at myself than pretend to not notice when a helpful line guy shoots a fountain of 100LL into his face.
“Where ya say you’re headed?”
“Iowa, eventually, but next stop Liberal, maybe Dodge City,” I said and receiving no response, I pointed in the wrong direction and added, “Kansas.”
I know where it is, but weather’s not so good up that way.” He pointed in the correct direction. Texans are masters of understatement. "Not so good" meant that anything smaller than a four-bedroom brick ranch house was probably getting tossed at the moment. “Might want to check weather,” he muttered as the fuel truck approached.
After washing the upper wings with avgas and pumping a quart across the cowling around the main tank so it ran into the front cockpit, I handed the hose down and mopped up. All that fuss for fifteen gallons made me feel almost guilty, but when I noticed that the price was lower than anything else I’d found over two weeks, I wished I could’ve held more.
Later, after I’d finished their last doughnut and spilled coffee in the pilots lounge, I strapped back into the biplane and fired up. Warm, sulfurous air from the refineries washed over me like a monstrous baby fart as I taxied past jackrabbits with no sense of adventure.
Opening the throttle the biplane’s nose pulled left, and the prop breeze turned to hurricane force. Tail up and with gentle back pressure the collection of wings, struts and wires popped off the earth, and we banked north toward what I’d planned as my next destination. But, even though the thunderstorms were now well into trashing Nebraska and moving away from me, I knew that when it comes to biplaning cross-country, what I planned was of little value. I’d just have to see what awaited a hundred or so miles away. And, at 500 feet above Texas, as the last whiff of oil refinery was replaced by endless flat green of the western Oklahoma, I was gently reminded of the whole point of open cockpit navigation. It ain't the destination that matters but the almost getting there that counts.
(Next stop: Guyman, Hooker, Oklahoma)

The End
© Paul Berge

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

American Skies

by Paul Berge
Looking down from America’s skies you see a country that spreads itself open like a family album. As a flight instructor with a passion for antique airplanes, I cruise across the middle of the nation between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers rarely above the height of my fellow travelers--the red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. From 500 feet above the cornfields, rolling pastures, and second-growth forests, we literally have a birds-eye view of a country that often forgets to look up.

It’s a country that sprawls itself out like a fat uncle beneath a shade tree after a summer picnic—content and well fed.

It’s a country that loves its parks and scenic overlooks, yet cuts great ribbons of Interstate highways through the glory of the prairie so that those on the one coast won’t dawdle getting to the other.
And from the altitude of the bald eagles that migrate through Iowa each year, I throttle back my 56-year old airplane and drift with a uniquely American wind over small towns that have been missed by the freeways and remain the resting stops of faded souls.

From the Midwestern sky I track the Mormon Trail and can follow the dozens of abandoned railroad lines that once linked countless forgotten prairie towns together so long ago. From just above the noise of the 21st century, seated behind a 65-horsepower engine, with two cloth wings stretching from my core, I fly through this sky that has been the dome of a vast continent since long before anyone envisioned our manifest destiny.
The American sky is unlike any other. When I’m aloft, alone or with a student, with the wind singing through the struts and into the cockpit, I glance at the few ancient instruments on the airplane’s panel and feel the connection with other American fliers who’ve lived in these skies--Lindbergh, Earhart, or Ernest Gann. We’ve shared a sky that’s less than a half-mile above the real estate we call our nation. We who fly on fabric wings live in a stratum that time has graciously overlooked. For the few hours that the fuel tank allows us to stay in that sky we’re the guests of something truly ethereal that so few Americans ever touch. Yet, oddly, this album of beauty is there for the taking. It’s open to all who believe in this country’s ability to amaze, inspire and—inside this old airplane—rejuvenate. It’s there provided we Americans never forget how to fly.
--Paul Berge
© 2002, Paul Berge, all rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Curtis Kelly. Taken over Blakesburg, Ia., (IA27)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Toto's Revenge

Kansas Ain't Flat When Viewed From a Biplane
by Paul Berge.
Best FBO? Hard to say. I’m no fan of metropolitan airports with their Berlin Wall security and prefer, instead, the outback fields where crop dusters fly 200-foot traffic patterns and tick-pimpled dogs sleep beside a broken pop machine with a sign that reads: “Leave money in coffee can. Signed, Betty.”
Million Air at Van Nuys, California surprised me when I’d expected big-city snubs only to be treated like a fat-dollar celebrity. (Some say I’m easily mistaken for Robin Williams before liposuction, so maybe that was it.) Ramp fees were waived after I purchased a skinny ten gallons and swiped the last brownie off the counter.
Guymon (shown below) located in the accusing finger of Oklahoma’s panhandle is an unsung bargain close to a great Mexican diner. And if you behave yourself at Frasca Field (C16) in Urbana, Illinois, you can tour Frasca’s simulator factory. Show a respectful blend of awe and gratitude, and you may get the VIP trip through Rudy Frasca’s private museum of war birds, old birds, and odd birds. Don’t touch anything; you break it, you probably can't afford to buy it.
Salina, Kansas makes any tramp pilot’s Top Ten list. And it’s not just because of the pretty girls in tight shorts who direct transients into tie-down spots and then cause middle-aged men to drop jaw-first from their airplanes watching them bend over to chock the tires. Okay, that might be one of the reasons. The other is the lobby where you’ll eat fresh chocolate-chip cookies and get sworn at by a parrot, macaw, or whatever that foul-speaking thing is that was obviously raised by Navy linguists.
Parked midway between everything hip on the West Coast and urbane on the East, Kansas needs to do something to get noticed. Cookies alone won’t do it, so the state offers a bigger show as I relearned when wandering through on no particular route in something unsophisticated that taxis with its tail in the dirt and no lid over the cockpits. Four wings completed my barnstorming ensemble, so wherever I’d arrive someone usually remarked, “Nice biplane; think you’ll ever learn to land it?” At least in Salina they smile when they say that—giggle, actually.
For those unfamiliar with the Midwest, here’s a quick lesson: It’s not all flat. Iowa even has ski resorts, although, they are a bit silly; my favorite is located near the Boone (BNW) airport, where there’s a homebuilders’ workshop/co-op open to anyone having trouble riveting together a quick-build RV.
Kansas, however, is a flat billiard table stretching to all horizons covered in endless pastures and whatever it is growing below in waving green felt. In the cool morning sky a few hundred feet above all that waving, I could see as far as the earth’s curvature allowed. Beyond that I didn’t care, because the openness sucked my mind dry, removing all remnants of 1970s Rocky Mountain highs and filled the void with a 2-D vision that staggers most viewers but made me want to fly above it forever. Or at least until the afternoon sky warmed and all that green below sweated into the air currents rising to colder heights. Plus, I was hungry and almost out of gas, so taking a tip from a freight dog who knew where to find free cookies, I headed to Salina.
The tower controller wasn’t particularly friendly, and to punctuate my disdain for his indifference, I demonstrated a triple-bounce wheel landing on the 12,000-foot runway.
“If able, turn left at the end,” he said, “And taxi to the ramp.”
I was able and did, following a shorts-clad ramp rat waving parking batons like a KU cheerleader. I think his name was Daryl, and it was apparent that he handled the lesser customers while the biz jet behind me received the full Flower reception. Still, like Odysseus on the Isle of Babes I lingered until the weather soured. Flight Service painted an optimistic picture of the route: “If you hurry and get real lucky, you may survive the line of Level Six thunderstorms forming between Salina and Topeka.” Once in Topeka (TOP) the forecast called for clear skies and sweet siren songs all the way to my final resting place, er, destination in Iowa. So, I departed and, like Odysseus, I must’ve irritated the weather gods, and because I didn’t understand that Kansas could morph into a mountain state I found myself weaving through canyons of vertical development the likes of which gives any sensible barnstormer pause. Unfortunately, every airport where I’d hoped to pause went down the weather toilet.
Smart pilots avoid anything made of water vapor the color of scorched marshmallows growing to 70,000 feet. It was late afternoon, and Kansas having broiled all day in the sun now released its steamed energy skyward. The air was deceptively smooth at the feet of these towering thugs, but as I tuned nearby AWOS frequencies, reports deteriorated from rain, to wind, to blowing frogs.
I monitored Flight Watch (122.0) with the thought of climbing on top, but heard an anxious Bonanza driver several thousand feet above me trying to make the same mistakes only to report that the clouds grew around him so fast that he turned tail for Texas. I decided to do likewise back to Salina only to find my back door closed. Cut off, my plans shifted from reaching Topeka to considering a survivable side road landing. The gods toy with the wayfarer who ignores evidence of his own stupidity. So as clouds boiled around me in unbelievable glory and terror, thumping their vaporous chests, I pressed eastward through a twisting alleyway of narrowing sanity above Kansas greenery, and running just a little faster than the squall line, floated into Topeka. No cookies, no bargain-priced avgas, or Playmate staff, just a guy in a blue work shirt leaning into the wind to help me tie the biplane down shortly before the sky unloaded.
Best FBO? Tough to say, but as lightning chiseled the sky, I was damn glad this one was there.

.............................................................The End
© Paul Berge, all rights reserved.
Cockpit photo courtesy of Curtis Kelly.