Saturday, March 16, 2013

All About Timing

This is a strange post but it was something I wanted to share with the folks who frequent my blog.  I guess it's aviation related, but more about life in general and the path we travel each day. With that pre-flight info complete I'll move on to the story.

Mary and I had plans to do some house cleaning today. Just to set the stage, I haven't missed a sick day for me since my hip replacement in 2009. Fast forward this week and I was flat out for two days this week with a hacky cough, sinus infection and that got hit by a truck feeling.  I awoke this morning at my normal 5 am and took care of Maggie then figured on getting a head start on my chores.  I checked in on my lovely Bride around 8am and she informed me that she had what I had and was a no-go for cleaning.  Hmmm, not liking that but I can knock it out. I made sure she was comfy and had something cold to drink then headed downstairs to attack the house.

Vacuum cleaner, check. Vacuum cleaner bags, zip, none nadda.   Ok I'm out the door and off to the store.  I figure I'll pick up my Brides prescriptions enroute and make one big haul. Best laid plans and all that stuff. This is where the timing fits in.  I'm headed off to the local grocery store for a few items and type c vacuum bags, with a slight detour to get my SUV washed.  Ok, back on track and walking down the isles for a small order ($126) and back out to the SUV. Can you tell where this is going? As I head towards the house I remembered the bags and that I did not pick any up...Crap!

I detour to the local farmers market thinking it's early they might be open and the parking lot will be empty.  Well it was empty, got a front row parking spot and hustled in only to find the the vacuum store closed up tighter than dicks hat band. Plan B, a good pilot always has a plan B, or in this case a plan C.  I travel a short distance on the back road where the market is located out to the main highway. I figured why not get the truck washed while I'm out here tooling around like a lost comm victim.  I swipe the card for a $7 fee and my ML320 is all clean and shiny, Gary is a happy camper.

I still haven't found vacuum bags so I point south and cross back into Delaware from Pennsylvania and head to the local mall, I despise malls.  Off to sears, one of the anchor stores and again a front row spot, clean living I guess.  Doors opened at 9am so I am in the store and headed to the second floor.  I see a man with a back pack vacuum cleaning, very cool and easy to handle. I best not stop, I can't find bags for our canister let alone some contraption like that. A cool toy none the less.

This is the part of the story that makes my day. An older gentleman asks if I need some help. I respond, yes sir, since it seems they moved the department that had all the vac's and now sits the bedding department. Yes he said, always changes, follow me.  I said you can just get me close and I'll make my way as he moved slowly with a cane. No problem he replied as we walked a few isles together and pointed to the bags, asking what type I was looking for.  Type C sir, and there sat every bag one could ever need.

I had my AOPA pilots hat on and the man asked if I was a pilot. Why, yes I am, thanks for asking. He stood upright lifting the cane from the floor and said I flew in Korea and Vietnam. I switched bags from my right hand to the left and extended my hand to shake his while I thanked him for his service. I asked, if you don't mind me asking what did you fly?  He said the L-19, I said a birddog? He smiled yes, you know of the plane? Yes sir, I sure do.

The Cessna L-19A/OE-1 Bird Dog was a four-seat, single-engine liaison and observation aircraft used by the US Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force, the ROK Air Force, and the British Royal Air Force during the Korean War. In June 1950 the US Army awarded a contract for the L-19A, a military version of the Cessna Model 305A, which was based on the highly successful Cessna Model 170 that was first produced in 1948. The first L-19As were delivered to the Army in December 1950. Production of the L-19A continued until October 1954 with a total of 2,486 being delivered to the US Army and Marines. The 60 Marine Corps aircraft were designated OE-1s.

Cessna Bird Dogs arrived in Korea on 16 February 1951 and were used in during the last two and a half years of the war for artillery observation and utility and liaison work, replacing most of the L-4s and L-5s previously in use. US Army L-19s served with various divisional headquarters companies and divisional artillery headquarters batteries. The Marine Corps Observation Squadron 6, VMO-6, began using OE-1s in May 1951. Six L-19As were delivered to the ROK Air Force, which flew them from April 1951 through January 1953. The Bird Dog proved so popular with some British pilots that the RAF No. 1913 Light Liaison Flight acquired one through unofficial channels to supplement its Auster AOP 6s.

The L-19A proved to be so successful that additional versions were produced after the war. The US Air Force procured many additional Bird Dogs, which were re-designated the O-1 in 1962, and considerable numbers were used during the Vietnam War for forward air control.
The man went on to tell me of some of his missions and the day he got shot down. He had spotted a convoy and marked the lead vehicle. When he radioed for a strike he took a round through the bottom of the plane into his right leg and through the top of his plane. His rudder cables were severed and he explained how he managed to cross lines to a safe area and ditched in a rice paddy. I said it took some steel to fly those birds with no protection or fire power. He said we had smoke canisters,marking rockets and our .45's. We chatted for a while as he told me he also flew Bell 47's while in Korea. As if Korea was not enough this man also flew the O-1 the redesignated L-19's that he flew in Korea but now in Vietnam.

Maybe there was a reason for me to forget the vacuum bags this morning and maybe, just maybe all the other side trips happened just so I could meet this man at that given time in Sears. Who knows? I'm glad it all worked out the way it did and I enjoyed some history he was kind enough to share.  The man was nice enough to ask about my plane and where I keep it, how much flying I do and some of my destinations.  I'll have to wander through that department again soon and say hello.


Chris said...

Kindred spirits can be found in the strangest places! Cool story.

I have a lot of respect for the guys who flew those unarmored, unarmed liaison aircraft. When I used to give tours at the air museum, I used to preface my spiel on the L-birds with, "now here's what the really brave guys flew."

Gary said...

You're right Chris...Flying that little thing around with real bullets coming at you and all you have is smoke....Brave or crazy! or a mix of both.

I would need to be packing something to shoot back.

Chris said...

There are definitely stories of Allied L-bird pilots exchanging handgun fire with German liaison pilots in WWII. By some accounts, one such example is credited as the final aerial victory for the Allies, when an Allied pilot in an L-4 wounded a German liaison pilot, causing him to lose control and crash.

Steve said...

Quite serendipitous, for sure. A great reminder that we all need to slow down sometimes - you never know what you might miss in a rush to get something seemingly important done.

As to the vacuum, I love our Dyson! ;-)