Category Archives: flying

WINGSPREAD Ezine for September, 2021

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

September, 2021                                                                                             James P. Hurd

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  • New story
  • Puzzler of the month
  • Writer’s Corner
  • How to purchase Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information


 New story: “The Unfaithful Wife” 

The big tires skim the six-inch grass as we roll to a stop and taxi up to the houses. I open the side window and inhale the cooler air. Wally and Marg Jank are waiting with the patient, who lies on a stretcher.

Wally translates the loud chatter of the Yanomamo women standing around. “I wonder if she’ll die…? She’s so young… Her husband was really mad… How terrible he cut her leg off…! Serves her right for messing around with that other guy; I wonder what her husband will do to him…?” And sundry other helpful comments. The Yanomamo live in scattered shobonos of about 50 people each. Venezuelan healthcare does not extend to this remote location, and neither does law and order. The men frequently wage war on neighboring villages. The people go completely naked. The men expect their wives to obey them and to quickly accede to their demands . . .

To read more, click here:

(*Please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

Puzzler for the month for September

The Loose Caboose ( from “Click and Clack, The Tappet Brothers”):

Imagine, if you will, a long freight train. Like the kind you see out West with a couple hundred cars getting ready to leave the train yard. The engineer opens the throttle and the train starts to pull away from the yard. Then they realize that the caboose has a problem. The brake is frozen on one of the wheels of the caboose, and the wheel is being dragged so there are sparks and smoke. 

Someone standing there says, “Stop the train.” So, they manage to signal to the engineer, to stop the train. Well, they can’t fix it, so they just cut the caboose loose. They remove it and they give the engineer the go ahead. They wave him. You know. Go ahead. He gives it the throttle. The train doesn’t move.

He gives it more throttle, it doesn’t move. He gives it more and what’s happening in the train isn’t moving, but his wheels are spinning. There’s nothing wrong with any of the remaining cars and there’s nothing wrong with the engine, but there is something wrong with the engineer.

The question is why won’t the train move?
(Answer in next month’s Ezine)

Remember August’s puzzler: “The interchangeable part”?

What part of a car is virtually interchangeable with virtually any other car, whether it’s foreign or domestic?

Answer from Tom and Ray: 

Now, a lot of people wrote in and said things like, “the air in the tires,” “the oil in the crankcase.” But we said it was an actual mechanical part — not a fluid. We did research this for six or seven minutes.

The answer is the Schrader tire valve, the valve that goes in the stem. It’s called that because it’s made by the Schrader Company.

It’s a little check valve that keeps the air from coming out. It allows you to put air into the tire, yet it does not allow air to escape.

You can take that out of any car. In fact, we’ve taken them out of all the cars in the parking lot… and all the cars in the parking lot now have flat tires.

Writers’ Corner

Watch for my upcoming novel: East Into Unbelief (provisional title)

Sean loses his father, his best girlfriend, his life dream, and finally, his faith. How can he be a good atheist, especially when he’s stuck at Torrey Bible Institute? He can’t see it, but grace is coming . . .

Word of the Month:  Developmental editing [as opposed to line editing or proofreading]. A higher-level critique of your plot, character development, scenes.

Tip of the month: Was it Elmore Leonard who said that if you wish to be a published writer, you need to spend lots of time and lots of money? I just contracted for an editor’s critique of my novel’s first 50 pages, plus a critique of my synopsis.

Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  (or order it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.) 

See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying:

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More paraprosdokians!

  • I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. –Groucho Marx
  • He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce, I keep the house. –Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • I haven’t slept for 10 days, because that would be too long. –Mitch Hedberg
  • Standing in the park today, I was wondering why a frisbee looks larger the closer it gets… Then it hit me. –Stewart Francis
  • When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them. –Rodney Dangerfield
  • My husband hates seeing trash and garbage lying around the house – he can’t stand the competition. –Phyllis Diller
  • I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they’d never expect it. –Jack Handey
  • The company accountant is shy and retiring. He’s shy a quarter of a million dollars. That’s why he’s retiring. –Milton Berle
  • I’m a very tolerant man, except when it comes to holding a grudge. –Robin Williams
  • I saw a bank that said “24 Hour Banking,” but I don’t have that much time. –Stephen Wright
  • I always remember my grandfather’s last words: “A truck!” –Emo Phillips
  • Half of all marriages end in divorce—and then there are the really unhappy ones. –Joan Rivers
  • There are three kinds of people in the world – those who can count, and those who can’t. –Unknown

First Solo

I’d washed out of Moody’s flight school two years before, but remained at the Institute’s downtown Chicago campus to take courses in Bible and missions.

All of us students ate in the vast dining hall in Crowell Hall basement. I would look across at the flyboys who ate with us groundlings, but sat at their own separate table. They trained out at Moody-Wooddale Airport two days a week, but they lived here. Most of them wore immaculate, black flying boots. I don’t know how anyone could be a good pilot without black flying boots. Dave explained to me how he would smell burnt leather when he spent two hours burning off the old polish and applying the new. And their aviation glasses—gray-shaded and expensive. I didn’t feel worthy to wear flight boots or aviation glasses.

But I constantly dreamed of flying. I read and re-read the FAA’s small booklets—Facts of Flight, Path of Flight, and Realm of Flight (aerodynamics, navigation, and weather), and Wolfgang Langewiesche’s classic Stick and Rudderstill the best book I’ve ever read on flying.

When summer came to Chicago, several of the flyboys carpooled home to California, and took me along so I could visit my family. As we drove across the Midwest, I imagined every passing field a potential airstrip.

Now it is August of 1961, and fourteen of us enter Moody’s two-week flight camp. This is my final chance. After two weeks of training, I am one of only eight men accepted into the program.

The next day, our instructor, Leo, leads a gaggle of new pilots out to a tiny Cessna 150 sitting on the flight line. “Gentlemen, this is an airplane.” We all write it down. The airplane weighs 1500 pounds, and rocks in a light breeze—you can easily raise one wing and lift a wheel off the ground. It has a 100 HP Continental air-cooled engine that burns five gallons per hour.

Leo says, “Drain a little gas out of the gascolator to check if there’s any water.” I drain. The cold, green liquid overflows the little drain cup and runs down my arm. No water, but the fumes intoxicate me.

I write my Dad about Moody Wooddale airport: “It’s really a pasture—the ‘runways’ are all short-mowed grass.” But we will soon get very familiar with this pasture. After a summer downpour, the sodden field turns into an airplane-trap, sucking at the planes’ wheels. Once I got stuck, and had to get help to push the airplane out of a muddy, watery hole. Mr. Anderson sent me out with boots and said, “You have to stomp around in the mud and smooth out the ruts.”

Once every two weeks, Mr. Anderson has to pull a mower behind his red Farmall tractor, driving round and round for hours. After he mows he sets up bright yellow cones along each of the runways. No other markers and no lights. For night operation, Mr. Anderson puts smudge pots out along the sides of runway 18, the 3000-foot north-south runway. When you take off to the south, you climb out over the houses of Wood Dale, and when you circle back around low to land you head-waggle to look for cars along Thorndale Rd.

Runway 24 runs off to the southwest toward a narrow departure tunnel cut through the woods. On a hot, humid day, a Cessna 150 with two people and full fuel can barely rise fast enough to traverse the tree tunnel. Once, when I forgot to retract landing flaps before climb-out, I thought I would carry some of the tree branches with me.

In winter, the whole airfield turns white, so Mr. Anderson plows the airstrips and opens some taxiways. We put the J-3 Piper Cubs on skis for winter operation. The J-3 works well on the snow, but the skis have no brakes, so you have to plan ahead. One cold winter day I had an engine failure in a J3 Cub (my fault), and almost hit the 12-inch approach lip at the east end of runway 09.

Our tiny airport lies in the shadow of Chicago’s O’Hare International. We have to fly below 300 feet because the huge commercial jets approaching O’Hare airport scream over just above us. Each day, fledgling pilots and their instructors take off and fly west through a narrow, prescribed corridor out to our practice area. We learn to watch the smoke on the ground to determine wind direction. Here, we practice turns-about-a-point, S-turns across the road, slow flight, stalls, and spin entries.

This day, I’ve been flying with Leo for about an hour. After a few practice landings, Leo abandons his instructor’s seat beside me, and says, “Well, take ‘er around a couple of times. Remember she’ll be lighter without me in there.”

Suddenly I’m alone, and the next landing will be up to me. No support, no help, not even radio contact with Leo. I carefully taxi out to the runway.

As I take off and circle around, I notice a tiny dot along the active airstrip—it’s Leo, wearing black flight boots and grey aviation goggles, standing there and staring up at me. I take off and make a shallow bank onto crosswind leg. After reaching 300 feet altitude, I pull the power back and level off. Then I turn left onto downwind leg and begin a pre-landing check—fuel valve on, mixture rich, carburetor heat hot. I turn base leg, start a descent, and add 20 degrees of flaps. The last descending turn aligns me with the runway, and I lower full flaps.

But with Leo’s weight absent, the airplane is too buoyant. I point the nose down, but I’m too fast and too high! I remember my training—add full power, retract flaps, climb out, and circle around to try again. The second approach is a repeat of the first—too fast and too high.

I can’t see Leo’s face, but I imagine he’s wondering if I will get the airplane on the ground before sundown. On the third try I’m still too fast and high, but I determine to land anyway. I paste the wheels onto the ground far down the runway, then stand on the toe brakes to bring it to a skidding stop just short of the end.

When I taxi back, Leo says, “I’ve never gotten back into an airplane after a solo flight, and I’m not going to start now. Try it again. Slow up more on downwind leg, and start your descent sooner.” I take off again. This time I watch the speed, start the descent earlier, and come in for a perfect landing.

My first solo opened up a new world to me and began an adventure of a lifetime. But for the next 6,000 hours of flying I never forget Leo’s advice—slow ‘er up and start your descent early!