A V I N G .S O P H
|07 / 22 / 03 :|
|Well, Mike left Tuesday for Tel Aviv. The last communication I had with him was a garbled cell phone exchange... something about saving money by replacing all their North Atlantic Survival Gear with "Water Weenies". If he can figure out his e-mail I should hear from him soon and will post the updates then.|
|07 / 24 / 03 :|
Got an email
from Mike Galster today:
|07 / 25 / 03|
The more I stay in Israel the more I love it. It is all at once an ancient country and a completely new country. The history surprises you around every corner and you can visualize it in many of the faces from the streets. 5,000 years old and growing! This city of Tel Aviv is Israel's jewel on the Mediterranean. It is a vibrant city with plenty of business centers and cultural activities. The beach rivals any I have ever been on, and you know I know my beaches. The warm waters and breezes of this deepist blue sea lulled Mike & Mike & Sam into an afternoon nap interupted by a kindly old Jewish woman who told me my two friends were overcooked! I had to agree with her. So about twenty minutes later I awakened them and told them what she said. I can't tell if they are mad at me or are just naturally going to be that color for a few days.(Those white folks sho look funny layin in de sunny) A little bit of indian in the old family tree goes a long way!
I said the country is old and new. The young people make it new. They are everywhere. The mean age is about 24. Immediately after high school the young men go into the military for 3 years and the girls for 2. After that most take a full year to vacation around the world and see the sites and then they are on to college if they are academically qualified. Marriage comes at some point after that. It is a great system which helps maintain high morale, national pride and strong family connections. The crime is extremely low and there are almost no teenage mothers. Oh, and the women! (You knew I would come to that).The women are beautiful and proud. Some of the most striking and colorful women in the world. The Jewish, Arab and African influences are all evident and the young girls walk with a self assurance that lets everyone know they are just as important in this country as the men.
We toured Jerusalem yesterday with a young man who is one of the most famous tour guides in Israel. His name is Zvi and he is the guide for Clinton whenever he is in the neighborhood. (It really thrilled me when at the end of the day he compared the two of us)He is also a wonderful pilot and will accompany us home as co-pilot for "TuTu". She is our sistership(#022) and will fly formation with us all the way back to Pine Bluff.
Jerusalem is a must see. Absolutely put it on your list of things to do before you die.(Or if you're Hebrew,Muslim or Christian you can do it after you die) Which makes it great...see it now...see it later! Everything is so close, physically tight. The entire Via Del Rosa is only 900 yards long. Of course as we walked along Zvi reminded us that we didn't have a 150lb cross on our backs. Not to mention the weight of the sins of the world!
So by the time we came to the Church of the Holy Seplechur all the smart comments had evaporated. Wow, what an experience, to put you hand in the hole in the limestone which held the pole of the cross of Christ! And only a few hundred yards away ...to touch the Wailing Wall, the West wall of the foundation of the Second Temple. The place where all Jews spill their prayers out to God, begging for his redemption and the rebuilding of the temple which is now occupied by ...You guessed it...the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim's holy place which sits squarely in the middle of the site of the original Temple, only 200 yards above and east of the Wall. ....News Break: Hey you guys back in Arkansas! There is no peace in the Middle East! There will be no peace in the Middle East. Tell em Big Mike was there and said so! A tour guide was knifed to death less than a kilometer from us while we were in the old city. Two terrorists pulled him from his bike near the old market and stabbed him in front of several witnesses. History comes alive here and history is being made and will continue being made here.
In Israel they value service, partnership and history. This is why so much of the historical and religious sites have been preserved and this is why the men of the Israeli Air Force were the last in the world to finally retire the C-47's who had served them so well for so many years. For the same reasons this is why the old girls are in very good shape. TuTu and Sophie are the last and the favorites of the IAI and there will be many wet cheeks when we lift off tomorrow.
|07 / 26 / 03|
Recieved 07 / 26 / 03
|07 / 29 / 03|
today from Mike
|07 / 30 / 03|
|Got a call
from the Galster today.
They're in Greenland and are currently lodged in the Hotel Narsarsuaq. Things got interesting when upon landing "TuTu" blew a tire. If anyone knows where you can get a used tire for a C-47 email us! By the dumbest of luck (is there any other?) they strolled around the city of Narsarsuaq, (pop. 100) and stumbled across a museum dedicated to the memory of the World War 2 USAF base located outside the town. And what was set as a monument to the air crews that lived there over 60 years ago? You guessed it: the landing gear, with tire, of a retired C-47! I believe the museum is currently accommodating them in use of the tire, though I haven't heard what shape it is in.
|07 / 31 / 03|
This just in from Mike Galster. Click on the link below, it's a moving tale that explains his love for the C-47s.
|08 / 02 / 03|
in from Mike, they're in Goose Bay Canada with another flat tire.
Hope all is well there. We are still In Goose Bay Canada, but have scavenged another DC-3 wheel and tire from an old plane sitting off the runway at this airport. I know it is hard to believe but we keep limping by. We called the owner and he said to take what we need and pass it on to someone else someday. Took all day to change it out once we got it out off the other plane.The weather ahead today looks really bad, but I think we'll head more west and come in through Toronto. Will probably be coming in to home tomorrow (Sunday). We're all looking forward to the US, Mcdonald French Fries and $2.00 a gallon AV Gas. We have paid as much as $3.25 per liter! I'll try to call later today.
|08 / 03 / 03|
Talked to Mike today(Sunday). They are in the States (Michagain) and are stuck in customs. Sent plenty of photos this time.
We are all well, although temporarily detained. Will tell you more as I have time to sit and type. I may have plenty of time while in detainment. I’ll start back at the beginning.
Mark Hathaway is our sleepy eyed operative in Israel. He is the one who spied these two beautiful old planes and decided that they must be saved from the Israeli Military’s junkyard, where they would be turned into soda cans. His only problem was that he needed someone else as crazy as he to take the other plane across. That’s where we stepped in. (You may not know this but there is a "crazy man" database that you can turn to when you have a really weird project) After many heated emails and hotly debated topics we decided there was a high probability that we could make the trip and get them back but damn if we knew exactly how we were going to do it. Mark is seldom seen without his cell phone stuck to his ear and he hangs out in airports a lot. He was really tired of waiting on us by the time we finally made it to Tel Aviv.
Sophie and TuTu were made in 1943 and 1944 respectively. They served in the American war effort although we have not tracked down their exact assignments as of yet. There is a good chance that they were sent across to Ireland or England via the Northern Route, or Over the Top as the soldiers and pilots called it back during the war. After the war they were given to France and were used by the French during their war in Indochina, the Frenchies Vietnam Campaign. They were most likely used for troop transport and paratroop drops. They later served in South Africa. About thirty-five years ago the Israelis bought them and used them for many famous missions. In the last few years they were used for some highly secret missions and were finally decommissioned last year.
THESE ARE THE LAST TWO DOUGLAS C-47’s TO HAVE BEEN IN OFFICAL MILITARY SERVICE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!
Mark originally purchased three of these planes and then donated #40 to the museum there in Tel Aviv as a static display. She has been lovingly restored and painted and will be dedicated soon at a special ceremony there in Israel. I hope to be present for that dedication. I think the Prime Minister is to be present.
You’ve probably read my bit about C-47ís so I won’t bore you with that again.
To say the least we spent a few days getting ready with gear and parts and paperwork to get out of Israel. We thought for a while we had lost our chief pilot, Mark Borqhorst (little Mark), but after two nights spent in the New Jersey airport, they finally got him to us.
We did make time for Zvi Harpaz, TuTu’s co-pilot, to take us for a quick tour of Jerusalem. This guy is the best. It is one of the many things he does as a professional tour planner, comedian, pilot, businessman and goodwill ambassador in Israel. He got upset when I wrote that he was the guide for Bill Clinton. In reality he has guided the King of Spain, the King of Tonga and the President of Argentina. While Sam and Big Mark worked out the problems with the radios the rest of us visited the Holy City and relived some of the history of the Holy Lands. Therein lies one of the first problems. After a hard day’s work in the arid climate we had to quench our thirst in the cool evenings. Tel Aviv is the ultimate city for the bar scene and Sam, our resident flight engineer, had already scoped out the best ones for us.
Luckily we had good cab service and Sam didn’t have to navigate us home at night. By the way, our hotel, Aviya, was one in which they held Scud Missile watching parties during the first Gulf War. One hit a service station about a block away during one of the partys. Don’t you know that was exciting! This is Sam doing an imitation of a Scud Missile hit.
Then the next day we had to sweat the impurities out of our bodies and we chose to go to Tel Aviv’s beautiful beach. Not too bad! Sam and Little Mike left the beach looking like they had been dusted with paprika. Lots of paprika.
The big day finally came and several of the mechanics that had taken care of the planes through the years came down to see us off. There were several wet eyes in the group. Isaac had been with these planes for over thirty years. Due to airport and national security when these old planes took off with all of us Americans at the wheel, we could not decide to turn around and come back. Dat’s de rules! So the next problem is to liftoff, head out over the Mediterranean Sea toward the isles of Greece and hope that all systems work well. No test flights and no crybabies. And that is exactly what we did. Eland, a young friend of Zvi, came with us as an extra interpreter for the first leg of the journey. He kept us calm while we looked for one another in the afternoon haze after take off. We found one another after about 50 minutes into the flight and made the crossing without any real problems. That might have something to do with the fact that we were asked by the Israeli Military to remove the Star of David from the tail sections of the planes before we left. I personally wanted to keep them.
Rhodes is the former site of one of the eight wonders of the world. The Colossus stood over the entrance to the harbor of Rhodes. She is an enchanting city with clean volcanic beaches as well as ancient structures. As we approached our anxiety lessened and we became aware of how unique and historic our formation must appear to folks in the villages. We irritated the air traffic controller with our initial approach and our request to land as a formation so she kept us circling over the water at 2500 ft for about 20 minutes. I think she just wanted to look at us. We were mighty pretty!
Sam walked up to a nice lady who was trying very hard to help us and asked her if we were in Turkey! It was like we had pooped in her punchbowl! Sam didn’t realize that the two countries have been in bitter conflict for about a million years and she let us know that we could be left dangling at a critical time. Sam was disorblinated (this is a Skinny Weatherford term and it ain’t in this spellchecker) because we had been flying along the coast of Turkey for three hours, but we forbid him from talking to the handling agents from then on. We had to arrange for a hotel on our own.
After every landing we have a procedure we go through. We check the oil in each side, fill with oil, fill with fuel and make sure parts (like wings) haven’t fallen off. Little Mark is the smallest so we can throw him up on the wing with the least effort. Big Mark was not allowed on the refueling crew. For you algebra fans out there this was our formula for calculating the fore mentioned decision…(BM=LMx3)
The jet set of Europe come here to play but we were too tired to do anything other than get into the rooms of our Hotel Rhoda and try to get up at five the next morning. I know that at 2:30 the next morning, Sam was still trying to get room service delivered. There was a Big Fat Greek Wedding going on and we fell asleep listening to the folk songs accompanying their dances. The Greek folk songs have more lyrics than The Irish songs: a little known fact that I thought impossible.
We were pretty excited about how well the planes had run and very little sleep was had by anyone that night. At 5:00 the next morning we were up and arguing with the fuel crew about how much they were charging us per liter for AV gas. We were charged $175.00 for air for our tire, etc. We put Zvi on that job because he likes to argue and he quickly became our point man when we needed something negotiated. They were glad to see us go. No one waved bye-bye.
Croatia was a six-hour flight away. As we banked over the upper extremes of the Adriatic we could see the neat little villages all with their clay red roofs and cobbled streets. We landed at Split and marveled at how responsive they were to our planes. People came from all corners of the airport to welcome us. We even had several groups of flight attendants come and tour the planes. We got them inside for a picture and everything was going our way, but they kept screaming and beating on the walls until we unlocked the doors and let them out.
A hot night was spent at the Medena Hotel. Air conditioning is something they haven’t prioritized as of yet. This resort town is nestled in a protected bay and at the heart of the town is a medieval city partially built by the Crusaders. Its streets are only as wide as a small wagon and lined with tall ancient stone walls. It is hard to believe these beautiful spirited people were in the grips of war only a couple of years ago, but we could see the mortar holes and the pock marks of rifle and cannon fire everywhere.
The next morning we were up and fighting with the airport manager about landing fees. Zvi was on him like a dog with a bone. They had given us fair prices on the fuel but gigged us on the handling and landing fees. I don’t think we won any concessions but we tried.
The formation takeoff was particularly dramatic with the sharp rising hills on one side and the cobalt blue sea on the other.
Then we were off across Austria and headed for one of my ancestral homes, Germany. (My other ancestral home is Sav-A-Bundle in Benton, Arkansas) We encountered some stormy weather along the way and it was a welcome site to see the runway in Nuremberg spilling out in front of us. We found the cheapest fuel at this airfield so we stopped in for a quick fill up as the first leg of the day.
When in Germany we dropped off Eland, our friend and navigator for the first part of the trip, and he headed back to Israel. We decided to surprise the Germans, buy their fuel and then leave. The longer they eyed the old planes the more they might think of a form they might need to fill out! Within 30 minutes tour buses began driving across the tarmac to give the ever-present German vacationers a view of the plane so helpful in the restoration of their post-war country. Sam was standing around in his Crocidile Dundee hat and I think they thought we were part of a movie set. They stared, we waved and it was Katie bar the door. We were outa there.
The next leg for the day was from Germany across to Holland and then across the northernmost part of the English Channel. Holland still has a wealth of windmills but they are now of the modern type. They are big, tall and white, generating electricity instead of turning a mill wheel or pumping water. The Dutch are still reclaiming parts of the sea for farmland.
We called ahead to Wicks, Scotland and talked to an old friend of Big Mark by the name of Andrew Bruce. He runs the FBO in Wicks and is quite a character. Wicks is one of the northernmost points of Scotland and is ripe with ancient history. There is a medieval castle on the coast as well as a manor house from the 17th century. Sheep, cattle and fish provide livelihood for most residents. Since Wicks is the common jumping point for going over the top to Iceland, Andrew is accustomed to seeing crazy planes and nutty crewmembers. Andrew was the youngest flight instructor in the world back when he was seventeen and has taught hundreds of students since. He runs a tight operation and rents survival gear for the north crossing.
Andrew is very active and fastidious and by dusk he had made provisions for us with a comfortable Bed and Breakfast run by a nice lady named Liz. We had supper down at the village pub that night and walked around the town a bit. The temperature was finally cool and crisp, providing a bit of relief from the heat we had suffered since the start of the journey. It finally got more or less dark by12 midnight, which didn’t help our sleep deprived bodies. However the Guiness from the village pub did help our sleep deprived minds.
The next morning we had a wonderful Scottish style breakfast, the little white sausages that pop when you bite them, the fried tomatoes and eggs, all lovingly prepared by Liz After goodbyes we took pictures, since we were her first ever (and maybe last) guests. We departed early to the airport to ready the planes for the crossing. A full North Atlantic crossing is something only a small percentage of the flying community have made in a piston engine aircraft. You want to be very sure of your aircraft and flying skills. The margin for error is about zero. Each leg of the jump is about 700 miles. The winds and weather can be the most unforgiving on the planet and the water is always near freezing. Life expectancy after a water landing is about 5 minutes without a survival suit and life raft. So it was with great care that we prepared the aircraft with the placement of the gear and each of us ran through our emergency routine.
In a plane the size of a C-47 you would most likely have time to get into your gear if you lost an engine. The small planes making the same hop have to plan ahead by donning the bulky and hot suits and by making sure they don’t drink too much coffee or water before the trip. Which brings up another C-47 fact that a lot of people don’t think about. The pilot and co-pilot positions both have a funnel and tube fondly called "piss tubes". In the rear of the plane is a urinal and all three run out to a tube in the tail of the plane. So when I tell you not to look straight up when you hear the tell tale sounds of a Gooney Bird overhead, you can imagine what I mean. And I don’t want to hear from you tree huggers out there, it is biodegradable and Little Mike tells us it is sterile and you can drink it! I don’t want to know how he found out.
So off to Iceland! You can’t make this trip without thinking about the history of the next two islands we were to encounter. The shear bravery or madness of the early Viking explorers Eric the Red and his sons Leif, Thorwald and Thorstein (who always made me think he was the Jewish brother??). They explored these areas before and during the turn of the first millennium! They had no charts with which to sail and certainly no instruments for their bearing. So what did we have to be worried about? We had two Garmin handheld GPS Navigation units and hundreds of Eveready AA and nine volt batteries. We should have called this trip "Around the World in Ten Days On Double A’s". These Garmin units are a phenomenal piece of equipment, able to guide us directly to all of our destinations during the entire trip. It is amazing what Garmin can pack into a tiny unit that you can hold in your hand.
A third of the way across you lose radio contact with the shore based Flight Operations. We listened to soft static for about 45 minutes. Then came a voice from a plane heading the opposite direction. It was a man flying a brand new Cessna 182 to Germany for a client. His name was Tony Ayres and we visited for a while about how foolish it was to fly a small single engine plane across the pond. Then he visited for a while about what kind of folks would fly 60-year-old warplanes across the pond. It turned out that he and Sam were flying in and around Africa at the same time and knew each other. It was like old home week. Later Sam said, "Isn’t that a hell of a coincidence, that we would run into that guy out here?" After I thought about it for a minute I explained," Sam, there are just so many crazy people in the world and a much smaller number make up the crazy pilot category. They tend to float to the top and we are at the top right now, so in reality you should have expected to run into Tony before now."
There was no response for a few moments from Sam over in TuTu. Kind of
like the night before we left Israel for the first leg of the trip. We
were all sitting around rehydrating the way pilots do so well. I asked
the group," How many of you would go down to an auction and buy a
60 year old automobile and set off on a trip across Texas?"…. Yep,
it was the same kind of silence.
Sophie and TuTu flew just fine and as we approached Iceland the traffic control folks made us change our plans of flying into Reykjavik. We were told to land in Keflavik and they didn’t sound too happy. After a beautiful approach into this treeless landscape we battled an unexpected crosswind during our roll out. The right brake on TuTu locked up and by the time we rolled into the FBO area, the tire was on fire! Little Mike and I jumped out of Sophie with fire extinguishers and doused the tire and wheel. Two Gestapo looking agents from Iceland’s equivalent of the FAA immediately met us. It seems that Andrew of Wick was unable to fax our flight plan ahead to Iceland. In typical Scottish fashion he decided to contact the Reykjavik flight office and lecture them about their work ethic and sloppy administration and "why can’t you people keep your phone lines open for a simple fax?". (Yes, that went over like ham sandwiches at a Bar Mitzvah).
After four hours of interrogation they finally decided we were okay to stay, however we had to leave a credit card number on their file with at least $14,000.00 of credit room on it. This was in case we went down the next leg of the trip. Without this guarantee the Icelandic rescue teams would not even crank up the helicopters! Nor would they come to look for you if they knew that you did not have survival equipment on board the plane. Hey…Life’s tough up here in the North!
During our extended stay in the reception area of the airport Dr. Mark Green from "ER" landed in a Lear Jet with his beautiful young family. Yes…you heard it here first! Dr. Mark is not dead! It was all a terrible hoax! We had a nice visit with him and assured him that we would not take pictures and divulge his secret. Our old girls out on the parking area fascinated him and his little girls. He was very approachable and after he saw Sam’s stupid hat he asked me if we were with a movie crew. "I bet you’re with one of those Croc movies, right?"
That night we stayed in the Fludz Hotel and had an enormous seafood dinner at a harbor restaurant. Iceland makes 80% of their money on seafood and that night we contributed heavily to reducing the national debt. The next push was very much on our minds(Those of us who still had one).
Greenland is one of the places that I admit to know nothing about. After we had committed ourselves in the flight the following morning, we were forced to attempt to climb into questionable meteorological conditions. We separated from our normal tight formation so that we would not run a risk of collision in the funk. The further we proceeded the more severe the conditions became. We started taking on dangerous ice on our wings and tail. The crew in TuTu decided to climb to see if they could get out of the ice. As they ascended they encountered even heavier icing and had to make a quick descent in order to shed the load of hundreds of pounds of ice! Sophie and her crew were having problems as well. We descended to about 400 feet above the sea. We lost our ice at that level but after a few moments Mark Borghorst asked me," Just how tall are those North Sea oil rigs up in this area?" Duhhhh. We started back up immediately and although we gathered some ice on the way back up, it did not get as severe.
As we approached Greenland we were talking to French and German airline pilots and they observed that the clouds cleared out over the polar icecap of the country’s uninhabited zone.
We proceeded in Sophie at 13,000 feet in order to clear the mountains and hoped to see the ground soon. After a tense few moments and 30 miles inland the clouds suddenly opened and there in front of us was blue sky, pastel blue sea with icebergs, a glacier, and best of all, a runway!
We made a classic paratrooper’s plane descent and squeaked onto the field at Narsarsuaq, an airport carved out by the US at the start of the war. What a beautiful and rugged place. As soon as we landed we radioed TuTu and crew and advised them of the weather they could expect. Next piece of business was to get out of the plane and kiss the ground.
Narsaruaq is a tiny village at the end of a fjord in the south end of Greenland, It was carved out by the US military in 1941 as a response to the war buildup. It was a refueling and logistic site for the planes and personnel going over the top to Europe. As I said earlier, there is good evidence that Sophie made this exact route early in 1944 on her way to England for D-Day preparation. The barracks and military buildings long ago were turned over to the Greenland government, which until a few years ago was an extension of the Netherlands colonial effort. Now there are a few private residences, a nice hotel and youth hostel, a small part time museum and the airport. Everyone in this village works for the airport. The people are either Dutch, Inuit (Eskimo) or a beautiful blend of the two with fair skin, wide cheekbones and blue eyes.
TuTu and crew arrived about 40 minutes after we landed in Sophie. Her experience with the icing had been much more harrowing than ours and it was with shaky legs that the crew disembarked. During their landing the right tire, which had been partially cooked during the Icelandic landing, finally gave up the ghost. Everyone congratulated one another on making it, but we all knew we had a major problem concerning getting another tire and tube for such an unusual plane.
Most of us sat down on the tarmac under the wings of our planes. Some of us did our dirty laundry.
But Zvi, our wandering Jew, headed off into the village. Later while we were making calls to Canada and Holland to check on replacements, Zvi came striding back into the airport. "I’ve taken care of the tire problem", he announced. Of course we ignored him. We were really discouraged. "Did you here me?" he was adamant.
"Okay." I gave in. "What’s the punch line?"
You see Zvi is a professional comedian. To me that is a person who either makes a paycheck doing standup comedy or a person to whom others will pay money for them not to tell jokes. It seems that Zvi wandered down to the local museum and right out in front of the clapboard building was an old airplane engine and the landing gear, tire and wheel from an old C-47!!
We ran down to see if he was pulling our leg. He wasn’t! The museum wasn’t open and after discussions with some of the locals they convinced us that we could go ahead and disassemble the wheel in order to exchange our dilapidated tire and tube for the ones here in front of us. Even though these were from a wreck back in the forties, they were still in pretty good shape. (Sam removed a bullet from the tube) The climate here is particularly good for rubber. Halfway through the disassembly the owner of the museum showed and he wasn’t too damn happy about what we were doing with his relic. It took Zvi and Mark several hours to get him on the bandwagon and I must say that we owe him a great deal of thanks! His contribution was crucial and we must send back pictures for him to hang on the museum wall.
It is now time to talk about our two official mechanics. Mark Borghorst is not only an excellent pilot but he also is a talented aircraft mechanic and owns his own DC-3. Sam Baggett, my old buddy from Pine Bluff, grew up working on airplanes and then spent many years in Africa working and flying on big planes and big contracts. Although they argued every repair point and technique, they were invaluable to the project.
So while Sam and Little Mark were arguing the fine points of tire tube repair and installation,
Mike and Mike bribed some native Greenlanders into taking us across the fjord to the site of Erik the Red’s first settlement and the place for which he named this ice laden island, "Greenland". Part of the Gulf Stream currents keeps this southern tip of the country almost temperate. There are a few thousand acres, which are green enough to support the grazing of sheep. This site is one of them. It is a beautiful little village this time of year with a sweet little harbor. During the winter they drive trucks across the fjord to Narsarsauq and become part of that slightly larger community.
During the ride I told our guides, through advanced sign language(Which includes waving a twenty dollar bill around), that the two Mikes really always wanted to climb onto an iceberg. They told us that we were crazy (using the universal crazy hand sign) because icebergs were very slick and we would bust our butts and fall into the water. Well you can see the pictures below and see who won.
The rest of the day and part of the next was spent taking care of the repairs and readying for the leg to Canada. We spent the night in the Narsarsauq Hotel and bought neat little trinkets fashioned from reindeer parts by the local residents. They did have beautiful coats made of baby seal skins (No, my tree hugger friends, we did not buy them!), which were quite expensive.
Just before takeoff we reassembled the display in front of the museum, paid for our expensive fuel, waved goodbye to our new friends and headed for Goose Bay.
We got a late start but thanks to the land of the midnight sun, we made it with plenty of daylight.
Goose Bay is a huge airstrip that was also fashioned by the US during the war effort. The country up here is wild, rolling hills covered with evergreens and thousands of glacier formed lakes. The sandy rivers are full of trout and salmon. The only highway into this region was only recently built. It is made entirely of gravel and spans nearly 600 kilometers! Air and ship traffic have always been extremely important to Canada and especially this region of Labrador.
The crossing was easy but upon landing the new but ancient tube in TuTu’s right tire gave way. As she coasted up beside me it sounded like a jet was attached to her. Another flat! But at least we had made it to Canada where we might be able to receive shipments. Big Mark and Zvi had spied an alternative at the opposite end of the runway and were off on a quest as soon as the doors opened.
Here’s Galster travel luck popping up again. They found an old DC3 with weeds growing up around the tires. After locating the owner’s phone number, Big Mark gave him a call. He said if we could move some things around inside it we would find a couple of spare tire/wheel setups. He told us to take what we needed and pass it on to someone else somewhere down the line. What a guy! After several hours of moving old snowmobiles, cables, tools and massive fuel tanks we stole away with our second scavenged spare.
Insert pics Wish I’d Eaten My Wheaties
Once again we spent two nights due to the flat, but by Saturday morning we were off to the southwest. Before we departed we did find a nice little plane, which had been confiscated by the local Sheriff’s office. Seems that some Russians failed to pay a couple of fuel bills. If Mark and I can have a rummage sale and scrape up a few bucks we’re going to bid on it.
We randomly chose a small airport at Val d’Orr, Ontario for a refueling stop. To our absolute surprise this was the headquarters of the nice guy whose plane we robbed in Goose Bay. He had two C-47’s in various stages of repair parked in his hangar. We were able to drop off our flat tire and leave a check to pay him for the exchange! This was really proving to be a strange trip. The nice folks at Val d’Orr fed us, fueled us and sent us on our way. Sophie and TuTu were soon to be back in their country of origin for the first time since the war!
We called the US Customs office as we winged toward the US/ Canada border. There were mixed-up communications but we finally arranged to meet them at a Sault St. Marie, Michigan airport. It was a small strip and as we made our final approach we saw a Learjet with six customs officers standing beside it. Trust me, this is enough to make a pilot pour the coal to his plane and just keep on going! What in the hell had we done to make them swarm? To make a long story short, they had come in SUV’s and the jet belonged to someone else. WHEW. But they had decided to run us in because we did not have an official US Customs Agent. DUHHH.
As soon as we stepped out of the planes, two of the officers took our Israeli friend in for interrogation. It didn’t sound too good. They were quite serious. We told them to do us a favor and keep him. But apparently they hadn’t heard all of his jokes. Within an hour they threw him back amongst us.
We begged for our plane’s immediate freedom but they wouldn’t budge. It was Saturday afternoon and we would have to wait until Monday morning before we could even touch the planes again. The guys were actually pretty good guys just doing their jobs, but they did tape our doors up and told us to head for a hotel. We grabbed a few pictures before we left, which proved to them that we weren’t the average drug smugglers.
We spent Saturday and Sunday nights under house confinement, waiting on Monday morning. Everyone was more than ready to get fully into the States and back to our homes. This is when I began this monologue and as you probably have concluded this effort took me several days.
Monday morning Mark met with the officials and worked his magic. He had both planes inspected and released, paid the customs due and called us at the hotel to speedily prepare for takeoff. One of the agents insisted on having his picture taken with the planes before he would let us leave. The "girls" have that effect on people.
We headed for Terry, Indiana which is Mark Hathaway’s family home and were honored to get to meet his mother and some old childhood friends. We didn’t know the boy had friends!
He had not been home for two years and it was soon evident that Sophie was going to have to make the last leg of the trip alone. Mark wanted to visit with his family a few days and he was trying to set up an ATP test flight for Zvi. As much as I hated it, we loaded the two Mikes, Sam and Little Mark (now the only Mark) into our plane and slipped into the Southern skies of Indiana, hoping to make it on to Arkansas.
The skies had other plans for us. Heavy thunderstorms hindered our progress and almost stopped us at the Missouri/Arkansas border. We made a 100 mile detour and finally called in our position for final at our last destination, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. This airport, Grider Field, is not only my home field but is also where I took my first flight training lessons.
It was a primary training base during WWII for the Army Air Corp and has had a colorful general aviation history in the past 60 years.
To our surprise there was a welcoming party waiting for us in front of
my hangar. It was comprised of friends and family and a few bookies who
had large amounts of money riding on our demise. So as you can imagine
there was crying and celebration. We were about two hours late from our
original ETA so many had already joined the bookies in a premature celebration
and were feeling no pain, but we embraced one and all and soon joined
in the revelry. Many of my grandchildren had been dragged by their parents
to the homecoming. Soon there were American flags and banners and before
long the aisle of Sophie looked like a scene from The Wizard of Oz; with
little Munchkins running all over the place.
It was great to be home! Even Mark Borghorst, from Florida and Mike Luers, from Park City, Utah were glad to make this final landing in Pine Bluff. We had come about halfway around the world together, united in a common goal and trusting our lives to a trusted and proven piece of equipment.
Mark Borghorst, as pilot in command, had kept Sophie out of trouble and babied her through some tough flying. Mark Hathaway had done the same with TuTu. Each of the crew members had performed delicate and critical functions
and I don’t think there was a single cross word uttered. (Other than my critical comments about Sam’s hat)
I think I can seriously say that this trip will be something each of us will recall fondly for the rest of our lives and I hope this little slide show will help portray our zeal for the preservation of these historical aircraft. The future of Sophie and TuTu is not certain at this point, but I can assure you that many people will get to see them and hopefully fly in them over the next several years.
I would like to thank each of you who followed our progress, offered prayers for our safe return and supported the idea that a bunch of middle-age-white-boys can still have a wild adventure. A special thanks to all of you C-47 pilots retired, and otherwise, who really wanted to be with us but had better sense. We felt you there just the same and drew strength from that kindred spirit. And I will make a special offering to Thor and Oden for keeping us out of harms way over the frozen North.
Please feel free to send emails to this website or to me in the future and I will try to respond ASAP.
Mike Galster email@example.com
MRS. SULLIVAN’S THIRD GRADE CLASS AT SAM TAYLOR SCHOOL- PINE BLUFF, ARKANSAS AUGUST 1961
Mrs. Sullivan: "Now class, you remember that this morning’s assignment
is to stand up and tell us what you actually did during your summer vacation,
not what you wanted to do or what you dreamed about doing. Most of you
have done exactly what I asked and have done a very good job. But I think
what Michael has just told you is what he wished he had done this summer.
Isn’t that correct Michael?…Michael?…Answer me dear…"
End of Transmission