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Jay Strickland
White City, Oregon

It all started when I was about 12 years old, my RC career that is.

I had been building free flight and control line planes for a few years by then and was the master (or so I thought) of the mighty Cox .049 engine. Along with the Baby Ringmasters, Lil Satans and other what not fairly simple kits, I had even built a few of my own balsa slab wing, profile fuse designs. Apparently I had also become addicted to the smell of Aerogloss dope!

My father was an engineer and a full scale pilot and always expected my work to be of engineering quality and craftsmanship. There was no room in his world for youthful ignorant efforts and I’m quite sure some of my pre-teen creations caused him much distress. It was about this time my dad decided I was ready to build and fly radio controlled aircraft and one Saturday we took a trip to Root’s Hobby Hut in Oakland Calif.

This hobby shop was about the closest thing to heaven I had ever seen (I hadn’t discovered girls just yet!). I could have spent a week in there but after a while my dad selected and purchased for me a Falcon 56, a .15 Rc engine and a used Orbit single stick 3 channel proportional radio. He also bought for himself an already built Sr. Falcon and a brand new Orbit 4 channel radio. I have vague recollections of my mom coming unglued that evening at the total cost of our “toys”!

It took me a few months to build the enormous Falcon, the stab was as big as most of my control line wings. Finally in the late spring it was ready for flight and we packed up the station wagon with our planes and equipment and headed to an orchard in San Ramon Calif. where a local club (It might have been EBRC) had a flying field. While I unloaded our gear my dad negotiated with a couple of expert, older gentlemen and eventually a fellow came over to check out my plane and help me get it airborne. Man was my father proud of what his son had built! After the experienced pilot had gone through my set up and got my engine running well, we refueled the Falcon and taxied out to the runway for the first flight. My dad stayed in the pit area soaking it all up. With the throttle advanced, the falcon rolled true and bounded into the air. It was glorious indeed! The pilot gained altitude, trimmed the plane and at about a thousand feet told me “Your bird flies pretty good”. He then handed me the transmitter and I was flying! I still have no idea if he thought I knew what I was doing or what my father had told him but he then walked away and I was alone flying.

Of course it didn’t take long for me to lose all that altitude and shortly I was coming over the pit area and myself about fifty feet high and at full throttle. I remember hearing some yelling about “who’s watching that kid”, but by then it was too late. I passed my position and made a fairly tight right turn coming back over the runway. My plane was in a shallow dive with the right wing down coming towards me. I needed to go up and away so that’s where I pushed the stick, up and away. The plane did exactly as I had input and went down and in smashing into the asphalt and scattering parts and pieces the length of the runway. As you can imagine I was disappointed but still not quite sure what had happened. I gathered up all the debris and piled it neatly in our pit area

While I was taking inventory and thinking what a nice control line wing the intact stab would make, a couple of men walked up and asked what had happened. Before I could say a word my dad growled angrily “Pilot Err #@% Dammit!” I immediately thought to myself, it wasn’t my fault after all. I was the victim of some Pilot Air, must be some kind of turbulent air that knocks airplanes down and they named it Pilot Air. My father and I never discussed it again and he sold my radio that week.

With a clear conscience for years I told the story of how I got caught in some deadly Pilot Air and lost my plane. It wasn’t until I was in high school and telling the sad story to my science teacher and him laughing and explaining to my horror what my father had actually said, “Pilot Error” that I realized what had really happened. To this day now whenever I do something stupid with my aircraft or screw up a maneuver, I casually and with a wry smile explain, “Of course it wasn’t my fault, I just got into some Pilot Air!”.

Too soon old,
Too late smart!
Jay Strickland





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