September 1947 QST
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL
for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
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.
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 $96/hour
in 2016 ($116
in 2022). 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 $213/hour (wet, or $258 w/instructor) for
their least expensive airplane (Piper Archer PA-28-181). That is why I only fly small model airplanes these
War Comes!, January
1942 QST; Editorial re FCC Potentially Shutting Down Amateur Radio During WWII
November, 1940 QST;
News Items from F.C.C., December 1940 - January 1941 National
Hallicrafters Radio - End of War in Sight, November 1944 Radio
Painless Reconversion, September 1947 QST
Establishing Hobby Relations on a Firm Footing
By Chester B. Cunningham, W3MHW
Are you a ham ... and married? Do you even
contemplate such a step? If you can answer "Yes" to the above questions, read on,
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
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 June 3, 2022
(updated from original post