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Taildragger Tales: My Late-Blooming Romance with a Piper Cub and Her Younger Sisters

Taildragger Tales: My Late-Blooming Romance with a Piper Cub and Her Younger Sisters

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Taildragger Tales: My Late-Blooming Romance with a Piper Cub and Her Younger Sisters

2/5 (1 rating)
46 pages
46 minutes
Jun 29, 2016


Dan Ford learned to fly at the age when most men are well into retirement. In this short book, he tells how it was to have a flight instructor one-third his age, to make a Sentimental Journey to the Pennsylvania airport where the Piper Cub first saw the light of day, to practice spins and aerobatic turns in a Great Lakes biplane, to fly low and slow in New Jersey, to make a leisurely tour around Lake Winnipesaukee and into his past, and to have a close encounter with the National Defense Emergency of September 11, 2001. A delightful read for anyone who ever dreamed of becoming a pilot. About 11,000 words (44 print pages).

Jun 29, 2016

About the author

Daniel Ford has spent a lifetime chronicling the wars of the twentieth century. He lives in Durham, New Hampshire, where he is a recreational pilot and writes for the Wall Street Journal.

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Taildragger Tales - Daniel Ford


Roger, I Have the Controls

Sentimental Journey

Unusual Attitudes in Arizona

Low and Slow in New Jersey

A Little Plane and a Big Lake

Meeting the National Defense Emergency


Copyright - Author

Also by Daniel Ford


Cover: Ron Wilcher’s Cub in flight

The basic Piper instrument panel

Low and slow for a short-field landing

Self-portrait at two thousand feet

Taildragger Tales

My Late-Blooming Romance With a Piper Cub and Her Younger Sisters

Daniel Ford

Warbird Books

Warbird Books 2016

Roger, I Have the Controls

I began by taking a few flying lessons in January 1998, in order (as I justified the expense to myself and Sally Wife) to enrich the military aviation books and articles I was writing at the time. My first few hours were in a Piper Colt at Skyhaven Airport in Rochester, New Hampshire. Alas, Skyhaven was in the process of closing its flight school, and it seemed that every time I drove over there, I was faced with a different airplane or a different instructor. So I ventured down to Hampton Airfield, on the seacoast, where I was smitten by a Piper Cub with the name of Four One Victor, short for its tail number of N1141V. When I signed up for lessons, I was paired off with an instructor named Brian Boudry, who had quit the Marine Corps because it didn’t allow him to fly as much as he wanted, and who was now accumulating flight hours in hopes of becoming an airline pilot. I wrote this essay for the University of New Hampshire magazine that September.

BRIAN IS MY flight instructor. He’s twenty-four years old and I am sixty-six, though I don’t think he has entirely grasped the magnitude of the difference. Like most young people, he still believes that people over thirty are mere extras in the documentary film about his own thrilling life.

We are walking back to the shingled airport building after seven wobbly takeoffs and seven bumpy landings – my quota for the hour. Well! he says cheerfully. We cheated death one more time! Brian is full of little quips like that.

Not everything comes as easily at sixty-something as it did at twenty-something, and in consequence I have accumulated more flight time than any other student pilot at Hampton Airfield – perhaps in the nation. A reasonably competent student can solo in fifteen hours. With twenty-five flying hours behind me, I’m still trying to make my first really good takeoff. Never mind the landings, which generally send our Piper Cub leaping into the air, as if reluctant to leave its element.

But the joys of flying are many, even for the incompetent. In a 1943 Cub built for the U.S. Army, with a skeleton of thin steel tubes fleshed over with fabric, with a sixty-five horsepower engine and twelve gallons of gasoline, we cruise over the New Hampshire seacoast with the door and the windows open. (On the starboard side, the window swings up and the door swings down, like the halves of an open clamshell.) Summer air blows through the cockpit, along with the smell of hot motor oil and, sometimes when we

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