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Have you ever spent the night in Corsicana, Texas?


Registered User
Granbury, Texas
I wasn't in a Super Cub but I went to see Super Cubs.

Have You Ever Spent the Night in Corsicana, Texas?

By Chip Mull

The fourth weekend in October is the annual fly-in at Reklaw http:www.reklawflyin.com or 7AT7. That’s Walker spelled backwards. I know, I had never heard that either. Steve Pierce of Pierce Aero in Graham called and asked if I was going to go. Since Steve’s son is my favorite 4 year old and he was begging his dad to take him, I had to see what the attraction was.

The schedule is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with camping on site. I figured I would go early Friday and be back Friday before dark. I don’t have an electrical system and Berni (my wife) and I had planned on attending the Texas Country Reporter event in Waxahachie, Texas on Saturday.

I prepped the aircraft the night before. I packed my GPS, handheld radio, and a thermos of coffee and I was off to Reklaw. As an old helicopter pilot, I was thinking the whole way, “Where would I land this thing if the engine quit”. Being the reliable machines they are I was never forced to land a helicopter before reaching my destination. Notice I didn’t say off field. Most of my landings in a helicopter were never at an airport. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Reklaw is about 140 miles away in East Texas just south of Tyler. As I got closer and closer to Reklaw I realized East Texas is similar in a lot of ways to flying in Alaska. There aren’t many places to land in an emergency. Just a lot of swampland, plowed fields, large lakes, or very high power lines, none of which seemed very inviting.

Reklaw is carved out of the East Texas pines and is a little difficult to find. Oddly, they seem to be proud of this fact. If you aren’t lined up with the runway, it’s very hard to see. If you have ever driven to Glen Rose and have seen that golf course with all the rolling hills, that’s very much like the Reklaw runway. It’s 4000 feet of rolling hills.

The landing was interesting but uneventful. I had heard that last year they had over 600 aircraft. After parking in the north 40, I walked over to the Super Cub guys and found Steve and his son Lee. They were surrounded by Pipers of every description, J-3 Cubs, Super Cubs, Tri-Pacers, you name it.

The only thing Lee loves more than the Power Rangers are airplanes, big planes, small planes, just planes. I was explaining to Lee that after Halloween comes Thanksgiving and then Christmas. He needed to start planning what he wanted from Santa. He was way ahead of me. He wanted Power Ranger this and Power Ranger that and a Power Ranger fishing pole. I said “I didn’t know Power Rangers fished”. And with a look only a four year old can give and it automatically said of course they do, they’re Power Rangers. Well, Excuuuuse me!

I needed to go grab some lunch so one of the guys loaned me his car and gave me directions to Sacul. That’s “Lucas” spelled backwards. Now I am not a Texan but what’s all this backwards stuff. I thought it was a joke but NO. There is a place called Sacul and if you don’t blink, there’s a great little hamburger place on the right as you enter Sacul.

It was getting late and I don’t have lights so I grabbed some fuel and launched the Chief for 0TX1. Again, I was planning for the worst as I flew westbound. Why is it when you’re solo, every vibration and every noise is amplified? Was that gauge like that the last time I looked? Yeah probably. Then there are those large lakes, lots of huge power lines and POW! There was the noise I didn’t want to hear. I had lost about 25% power and I was going down. Not very fast but it was obvious, I was going to land!

Fly the plane!

I had seen an airport on the top of the GPS but could I make it? To my right was a small town, Ennis. I set up a glide at 68 mph. Where did I get that number? Probably something I read by Bill Pancake. Tried the carb heat, but NO. The vibration was still there. I tried switching the mags and NO! I was still going down!

Fly the plane!

I saw a complex of Soccer fields and baseball fields. Next to it was a cleared area large enough to plant the Chief. I circled and then the flood of thoughts started flowing through my pea brain. Damn! I’m going to be on the six-o-clock news. My goal in my aviation career was to NEVER be on the six-o-clock news!

Then I noticed I wasn’t descending any longer. I was holding about 2600 feet and 70 mph. Still running rough but I thought it sounded better. Maybe I just wanted it to sound better. If there’s no mechanical damage maybe I can make it to that airport I remembered on the GPS! I know it’s a stretch but I really don’t want to make it on the news, “Experienced pilot lands in the mud. NTSB is investigating”.

As I circled to the left the airport crosses my screen again. I scrolled the pointer over the airport and voila, it was Corsicana. I highlighted and selected the airport and then selected the “go to” feature.

Ten miles and ten minutes it said. Do you have any idea how long ten minutes is with a rough, unknown engine problem? About a week!!

I’m used to a flat screen that pops up a checklist and a soft voice that enunciates “the waffle valve that supplies the fuel control has failed”. Failing that, I have a bag of emergency check lists and a book of “what to do’s” provided by the company. Hell, I’m solo with a big problem here and there’s a huge lake between me and the airport.

I was NOT into swimming that day!

Fly the plane!!

Nine minutes to go.

There doesn’t seem to be a fire. Carb heat didn’t help. Then I flashed on the many demonstrations I have done on fabric aircraft. The one where I light the piece of doped fabric and it goes up with a big WHOOSH!

Now I have visions of me hanging onto this burnt airframe going down like the Hindenburg. Why didn’t I recover this thing with Poly Fiber already?

Eight minutes to go.

I am over the lake and maybe I can at least glide to the other side. How deep are these lakes anyway? Can they find me if I crash out here in the middle of nowhere? Well, they found parts of the shuttle out here. But then again I’m not that important.

Seven minutes to go.

Fly the plane!

Why isn’t this thing burning? Oh well, I still have oil pressure, normal oil temp and it’s still running. 2600 feet isn’t bad either. It’s a pretty good view up here.

Six minutes to go.

Should I be yelling on the radio? NO, remember the news teams! PAN PAN PAN! No, I’m not going to do it!

Five minutes to go.

GPS is GREAT! Lindberg would have loved this stuff! He was my hero as I was growing up. WWLD! What Would Lindberg Do?

I switch my frequency and announce “I am five miles to the east of Corsicana with engine problems”. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone with a disabled aircraft on the runway. Wonder if they have news teams in Corsicana?

I had better stay high in case when I pull the power I have altitude to make it to the runway. They always say power changes are when the engine quits completely.

“Aeronca 86314 left base for runway 14 Corsicana”. No one answers. Is there anyone in Corsicana?

“Aeronca 86314 final for Corsicana”. Really final, this is it! I pull the power off and trim for landing. IT’S STILL RUNNING!

As I land and roll out I realize the engine is rough but still running. I taxi off the runway to the ramp and shut down. There is no one around. Thank God, no news crew!

Now let’s see what precipitated this event. When I inspect the engine for missing parts, the only thing that isn’t there is one spark plug in the left rear cylinder! There is a small dent in my lower cowling where it departed the fix. It just had an annual and was double checked and triple checked. How did this happen?

Why didn’t it catch fire?? Oh well, no news teams.

I walked around the hangars until I found a lady in a small SUV, Sarah Farley. She ran the FBO and gave me the keys to the courtesy car. What a break!

I drove to the local convenience store where I could look for a tooth brush and comb for the next morning. The guy with the turban behind the counter was very kind.

“Do you have any combs, tooth brushes, toothpaste and stuff like that?”

With a wave of the arm he invites me behind the counter. “Jess, dake whatever jew lie.”


“Help jouseff”.

Oh, “OK thanks a lot”.

Now to find the Corsicana Inn, call Berni and keep her informed.

The next morning was another experience for this Non-Texan. I went to the Waffle House for breakfast and there were cowboys with spurs. I haven’t seen spurs since I was in the Cavalry. Only the gung ho guys wore them for decoration. I have a feeling these guys did too.

The next morning Henry Ehrlich brought me a plug with a tool kit put together by Andy Shane. What a crew! I was so happy Berni had help locating a 3/8” & ¾” end wrench and a plug wrench. So was she. We installed the plug, visited the museum, had a cup of airport coffee and left for 0TX1 again.

What a trip back to basics. I was thinking to myself what great friends we have in Pecan when my GPS died. I didn’t bring my charger. I had only planned on a day trip. Is this ever going to end? I drag out my terminal chart, figure out where I am and where I need to go. Just 40 minutes to go. Like Lindburg said “the only thing wrong with dead reasoning is the name”. Back to basics again. Wish Jim Crain had this story to tell the Boy Scouts last week end.

Well, maybe not. All in all I wish I didn’t have this story to tell at all.
Chip, glad you made it back OK, what a trip. What I hate is that I missed you at Reklaw, What a fly in. Glad it was only a missing plug and that you didn't mess in the airplane. Sure makes you think though. Keep on trucking and keep the plugs tight.
Corsicana, Tx.

World Famous Fruit Cakes... and a few two legged ones too!

I dated one once......
Chip thanks for sharing!

I love, "Fly the Plane!" Some thing we all need to have emblazoned in our minds!
I had that happen in a C152 2 hrs after a 100 hr inspection. Blew the guts out of a plug but left the body screwed into the cylinder. It also blew the end of the plug wire off. Full throttle gave 2000 rpm and level flight at about 70 kts got me and the student back to the airport. Sure glad it did not happen on take-off.

I love that story Chip, thanks for posting it. Lee liked it to. You have to camp out next year and have three days of fun.
Great story Chip. Thanks for sharing. Very glad it all worked out! Glad you didn't make the news. I've done that a couple of times, only once with an airplane :roll: (that's enough!)

Hmmm... Corsicana... anacisroc... Anna kiss rock? I bet there's a story there too!

Lynne :angel: