September 1947 QST
When the FCC forbade amateur radio operators from transmitting during the years encompassing World War II (with a few exceptions), many Hams who were very active in the hobby went a bit stir crazy and began looking for other pastimes. They could still listen to other broadcasts, but no CW or phone transmissions were allowed. Author Chester Cunningham recounts here his chosen replacement avocation - aviation. His humorous story demonstrates one way Hams, whose curtailed radio activities resulted in equipment that had atrophied as a result of nonuse and hard to find replacement parts (all resources went to the war effort), were able to convince their XYLs of expenditures needed to resurrect the shack.
Note that in 1943 the cost per hour to rent an airplane solo (w/o instructor) was $7 per hour. If my memory serves me correctly, in 1978 I was paying about $18 per hour to rent a Piper Colt solo, and $24 per hour w/instructor at Lee Airport in Edgewater, Maryland. Per the BLS's Inflation Calculator, $7/hour in 1943 is the equivalent of $97/hour in 2016. According to Freeway Aviation, in Bowie, Maryland, they rent a Cessna 150 for $97/hour (assumed 'wet' cost), which is amazingly exactly the inflated cost. For some unknown reason, North Coast Flight School here in Erie, Pennsylvania, charges $220/hour (wet) for their least expensive airplane (a Diamond DA-20). That is why I only fly small model airplanes these days.
Establishing Hobby Relations on a Firm Footing
By Chester B. Cunningham, W3MHW
I, too, am a ham; also happily married. And do I have difficulties with the XYL regarding ham radio? Never! All is sweetness and honey in our little shack. I have half the bedroom devoted to the pursuit of the elusive DX. And when I need a new crystal, the little woman offers to go to town to get same. Naturally, such a pleasant state of affairs did not just happen! It took a little intrigue, plus true ham luck, but I think the results justified the effort. Listen to my story.
Back in '43 when ham radio was practically extinct (with due apologies to WERS) , an acquaintance took me out to the local airport. He was taking flying lessons. Great stuff, this coming age of flying. Besides, there was no gasoline rationing for training planes. Just an instructor' fee for the first eight hours, and then a small rental fee for solo flying. One could be free as a bird. Hot stuff! I made a beeline for the front office.
Taking flying lessons was fine. The instructor and I flew out to Manassas, Va., to a cow pasture, and shot landings. We did stalls. We did spins. (Remember your first QSO? Same feeling!) Then I soloed! Me, I was the hottest thing in the air. Total expenses to date, $100. Now I had to fly by myself. To take my friends up for a thrill required a "private" license, involving at least 30 hours solo. At seven bucks per hour, $210. Think of the surplus stuff that much money will buy today! Then this friend and I decided to investigate buying a plane, believing that two could fly as cheaply as one. (An old familiar falsehood!) We looked over the market. The cheapest beat-up Cub cost $1000. Of course we were assured that we could fly it for a year and get our money back, but that still was a lot of money for a Cub. Then we heard about the big Government surplus-plane sale over at another field. We looked at them, turned in a sealed bid, and suddenly owned a plane. We named it, appropriately, Money Flys! It was one of those open-cockpit low-wing jobs that required a 1/2-inch gas line from the tanks to the engine! It was guaranteed to hold together through everything but an outside loop! Of course, in an open cockpit, at 5000 feet, it's cold. So I had to have a helmet, goggles, a flying suit, and boots. Nothing but the best for me. And why should I rent an old worn-out parachute for a buck an hour? I bought one for $75.
Because this was a larger plane, I practically had to learn to fly all over again. More instructors' fees. By this time my investment amounted to about $700. But I could always get it back. (More hollow laughs!)
First you learn to get the plane off and back on the ground. Then you follow a few simple maneuvers. The instructor showed me just how to spin it. Simple! So I tried it over the airport all by myself. While the little woman watched, I followed his instructions to the letter. Climb to 4000 feet. Fly straight and level, throttle back, stick back, hard right rudder, whoosh, and count the number of times a road whirls by ... one, two, three. Now, hard left rudder, stick forward, and watch the ground come up to meet you. Back on the stick, easy on the throttle, and there's nothing to it. So that's what I did - almost! Fly straight and level at 4000 feet, throttle bark, stick back, hard right rudder, and - hey, the book didn't include this! There I was, on my back, flying upside down, my head out in the slip-stream, my feet in the instrument panel, and the safety belt slipping! Brother, the only thing to compare with that feeling is working that first VK! The plane finally fell into a spin, but not until I had lived ten long years in ten seconds! I landed and staggered to the car, to be welcomed like a man returned from death.
Came the great day. I completed my cross-country solo and went up for my ticket. I passed. I was a pilot! Now I was permitted to take up passengers. Was I mobbed by friends asking to see Washington from 1500 feet up? Not this ham! Only by trickery just short of kidnaping did anyone ride with me. I got the little woman in the rear cockpit one day. I showed her Mount Vernon, our little shack, and the sights around Washington. When we landed, she sighed "Thank heavens, that's over!" By now I had spent $1200.
VJ day came and 2 1/2 meters was opened. It was then that I exercised sheer genius. I said, "Honey, a man offered me $500 for my share of the plane today. Would you let me have a rig in the bedroom?"
I fly no more. I have the bedroom filled with assorted gear dear to the heart of any true ham. I get in from the "radio club" at 2 A.M. and no questions are asked. Occasionally, when there is a slight bit of complaining, I drive the family out to the airport to watch the students shoot landings. I get a dreamy look in my eye. I remark that flying is such a safe and cheap sport! It has worked like a charm.
You, too, can have a ham rig. It's simple, though expensive. But it's worth every cent of the cost. Say, I know where you can pick up a plane cheap - my ex-partner wants to be a ham!
Posted August 22, 2016