A blast of rain and cold weather swept through California at the end of the week, and I awoke Saturday morning to clear, crisp flying weather. I drove out to the airport and put some preheat on the engine while I waited for the old man to show up. My dad and I were heading to Paso Robles (PRB) for brunch to get the weekend off to a good start.
As my flight instructor when I was just a boy, and as my primary rivet bucker during the build of N898W, my father would be the first passenger to fly in the Dove
since the canopy repair. At nearly 82-years old, the 1961 Cal Berkeley
graduate climbed into the back seat and strapped in. Soon enough, we were airborne.
My father told me that he didn’t even notice the repair while we were flying. He called it patina, something that came naturally with age and time, and there was still so much clear visibility beyond and outside of the repair that, mentally, it soon ceased to exist in his mind.
After biscuits and sausage gravy at Joe’s One-Niner Diner
, we taxied to the departure end of Runway 31 and shut down at the Estrella Warbirds Museum.
An icy breeze whipped through the static displays as we walked through them. I saw my father look over the weapons of war with pause. They looked all too familiar to him from his days in the U.S. Army following the Korean War.
Memories from his T-33 ride many years ago came flooding back.
After spending our morning together, we flew back home to Merced (MCE). My father drove back to the house to be with my mom and to stay warm for the rest of the day. I decided later that, since it was unusually cold for California, now would be a good time to complete the flight testing of the repaired canopy. I strapped back in and flew out toward one of my aerobatic practice areas to perform a few 3.5-G maneuvers.
Then I climbed up to 17,500 MSL and saw the OAT gauge registering -58F.
I still needed to re-calibrate the OAT gauge. Judging from the National Weather Service estimates, it was probably about +10F at that altitude. Nevertheless, it was some of the coldest air I had flown through in the Dove
, and the repair remained unfazed. The view from up there was spectacular while it lasted.
I descended over Los Banos (LSN) for $4.10 fuel. The visibility looking southeast down the valley was nearly limitless.
The canopy was robust enough to send back into battle. I topped off the tanks. In spite of its scars, I was grateful to have a plane that I could count on, that the Dove
would fly on to see another day. As the sun began to descend in the chill of an approaching darkness, I wondered when that day would come.
Then I climbed in, cranked over, and took off. It came soon enough.