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Fly High and Fast – Vol. II Chapter 1: The Thrill of Learning

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JJ Meehan
The Meehan Family

In the beginning my desire to fly was nothing more than a dream.  When I finished college and started working for Collins Radio in 1966, I found out that they had a Flying Club – Skycrest Flying Club. They were training in a 1947 Cessna 140 and then using a Mooney M20C for members who could fly.  The Cessna-140 was a beautiful 2 seat aircraft with a 90 horse power engine.  I was able to fly for $6.00 per hour (Wet) and when I needed an Instructor he was only $5.00 per hour.  By the way (Wet) means that the cost of the plane includes the fuel.

The Cessna N140JJ and I spent a lot of time together.  The instructor was Chris Fedde.   Chris was an engineer at Collins Radio and had been a B-25 Instructor in the USA Air Force.  Over the next 30 years we would become very good friends and I would later instruct with him in another Flying Club.  Needless to say, N140JJ and I had more than our share of experiences . . .

Learning to land was always fun.  Later when I was a Flight Instructor, two or three instructors would get together to discuss the best way to teach landings.  We all agreed that the best thing anyone could do was spend hours in their best chair at home with their eyes closed going though the procedure.  N140JJ was a tail wheel aircraft so you also had to learn how to do “Wheel Landings”.  Most landings are what they call full stall landings.  This means you hold the aircraft off the ground as long as you can and it will finally stall and settle to the runway which you hope is only a fraction of an inch from the wheels.  In a Wheel Landing, you need to force the airplane on the runway by pushing the noise down.  This is done in Crosswind or very windy conditions.  The result is similar to a bouncing ball.  If you don’t do it just right the plane will start to bounce and each bounce will be a little higher.  I can still hear the Controllers at the Cedar Rapids Airport laughing as I bounced down the runway more than once.

Cross County Flying consisted of flying from one airport to another with a distance of over 25 NM.  You need to accumulate 3 hours of cross country time with one cross country of more than 50 NM.  Chris and I believe that the student should be able to navigate on at least one long cross country of over 100 NM per leg.  In my case the Cross County was from Marion (C-17) Iowa to Omaha Nebraska.  I also wanted to stop in Denison on the way home to visit my aunt – Clare Meehan.  By the way C-17 is FAA designation for the Marion Airport.  I would plan to refuel at Omaha Epply International Airport.  On the day I was planning to depart the weather was forecasted as excellent.  The Directional Gyro was out in N140JJ but Chris and I felt comfortable with me navigating via the Magnetic Compass.  I was airborne for no more than 15 minutes and I managed to get lost.   The weather which was forecast to be good turned to cloudy and the visibility was reduced to 5 miles.  About 40 miles into the trip I managed to reach the Des Moines, Iowa Flight Service Station (FSS).  FSS were located in several key points around the USA to give weather information to pilots.  I found out that there was a Cold Front that was not forecasted in western Iowa and that hail had been reported with visibility down to less than a mile.  Now I was lost and heading for bad weather.

It was now Crunch Time, I had to figure out where I was so that I could plan an exit plan from the storm.  I located a road which was running east and west and I followed it to the next town which was Marshalltown, Iowa.  Comparing the roads on the map to those in Marshalltown I was able to verify that it was Marshalltown which was about 45 NM west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  I was about 15 NM off course.  Based on the forecast and the conditions in western Iowa, I decided to return to Cedar Rapids and check the weather and refuel.   The trip to Cedar Rapids was very easy since it was US Highway 30 all the way.   After landing, checking the weather and refueling, I decided to head back to C-17 (Marion Airport) and schedule the flight for a later date.  About 2 weeks later I was able to make the trip and have dinner with my aunt in Denison.  About 2 months later I passed the FAA Private Pilots Test.

Enjoy more blogs on flying at “FLY HIGH AND FAST”.


Written by jjmeehan13

January 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Flying

One Response

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  1. Nice work JJ. Flying must be quite a thrill for you.


    January 3, 2010 at 7:01 pm

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