Biographical Notes re

Charles A. (Chuck) Stone

Page 1 of 2 Pages, of Chapter 5,


My ride on the airliner from Chicago to the Dallas/Fort Worth area was a thought-filled trip — a lot of reminiscing and a lot of forward-looking. Night had fallen as we passed from Oklahoma into Texas. The sky was cloud free and full of stars. Looking out the window at the array of community, isolated ranch and connecting highway lighting combinations, mixed in with the variety of oil well gas burn-off flames, I was searching for a torch to pick up that would light the way for myself and my young family. I found a bus that would carry me on to Perrin AFB and was soon checking in.

I was not the only newly arrived pilot. There were a few new check-ins at the BOQ that made me realize I would have company in this transitional process. I acclimated to the base layout and support services rather quickly, but found the BOQ a much more isolated environment than the hotel lobby I had become so used to. That was OK though, as I had a lot of stuff to catch up on.

We were not immediately rushed out to an airplane and sent off into the wild blue. There was obviously some sorting out and planning going on to move us into the system in an organized and safe manner. When there was time to kill, I followed the procedure that Earl Myers has described in his story. I became friends with the enlisted staff that operated the Link Trainers. Whenever there was a trainer open, and time permitted, I was sitting in that box, recalling and honing my instrument flying procedures. The sound of the dots and dashes from flying the beam would ring in my ears as I fell asleep at night.

On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, I had seen an F-80 enter the pattern, land and park in front of Base Operations. As it turned out, an ex student pilot had returned to show his wife, whom he had met there while in Primary Training and later married, and her family, what an F-80 looked like. On Easter morning I heard the jet firing up and stepped out on the small back porch of the second story of the BOQ. That porch faced the runway overrun where the jet would pass over on takeoff. I stood there, looking forward to see an F-80 rise from the runway and quickly disappear enroute back to its home base, Williams AFB, Arizona. From my vantage point, one could look down the ramp and see the family gathered to see their new family member in his new career environment.

The takeoff went according to plan and I was duly impressed with the sounds and sight of an F-80 roaring off the runway into the waiting sky. Without meaning to, my mind tried to read the emotions and thoughts that were coursing through this young, new pilot at that very moment. Instead of climbing out and heading back to his destination, he stayed fairly low, making a 180 turn to fly down well below the other end of the runway. It was then that I realized he was going to make a low, high-speed pass down the runway where his family could see what that machine could do. As he passed in front of the control tower, I could almost read his thoughts “I wonder if I should show them a slow roll maneuver.” The answer must have been “yes.” He lifted the nose slightly and began the roll. As he passed the 180 degree mark, the aircraft began to buck and go very awkwardly out of control. By the time it had arrived directly in front of where I was standing on the balcony, it was flopping around and headed almost straight down. The airplane and pilot crashed right in front of me with a mighty explosion and ball of fire. In an instant, his dreams, his aircraft and his new family, were shattered beyond repair. What I had observed, left an impression that stayed with me for a long time.

After a period of time, it was announced that the accident investigation team had learned there was an unsecured bolt in the elevator mechanism. When the aircraft was fully upside down, the bolt dropped out and the pilot lost all elevator control. That made for two mistakes, that of the pilot and of the maintenance man. The celebration of the Christian Resurrection Day, 1951, had a ready candidate waiting at the golden door.

As my life on base became more routine, it was obvious that I needed to make a move to fill a major hole in my life. My Nell and daughter, Sandy, were still in Park Rapids, hoping for marching orders. Nell had made a major effort to shape up the flat top house to make it ready for occupancy upon her departure and in many ways had overexerted herself in the process. Looking around Sherman and Dennison,Texas, for accommodations, I found an older couple in Dennison that had a soon-to-be vacated over-garage apartment that would serve us well. I began to pay the rent as soon as it was vacated, and helped organize a plan for Nell, Sandie, and Nell’s sister, Margaret, to load up and head for Texas. It wasn’t long and they rolled onto the base. Margaret stayed a couple of days and then headed back to Minnesota. Nell, Sandy and I settled into our new apartment, happy to be together.

Our garage apartment in Dennison, TX. You can just see Nell and Sandie looking over the fence. Note the luggage carrier on the car.

By the time we were settled in, I was notified that, along with a small group of additional recalled pilots, I would be sent off to Pilot Instructor School in Alabama. Our supervisors were very considerate, in that they arranged a C-47 to fly us to the school and about every other week would bring us home for R & R with our loved ones. Our training program took about six weeks. I was quickly at home in the T-6 Trainer, now the trainer of choice for Primary Flight Training. New pilot trainees were now starting flying training in an aircraft we used to finish up our training program with during WW II.

There was a period of training at the school where instructor trainees paired up and strived to demonstrate how to fly to each other. It just so happened that we were in training with a batch of Portuguese pilots who were briefly in the U.S. for special training. There were about six of us who were paired up with the six of them to become partners for this part of the training. They knew very little English and none of the American pilots had a clue as to the Portuguese language. We found them a very relaxed, friendly and rather daring group of pilots. They seemed to love trying to do turns while flying upside down and were always testing the limits of both man and aircraft. The pairings initiated a number of friendships that caused some international correspondence for a number of years. A few years later, we learned that some of these same individuals were killed in a demonstration event in Portugal. Their formation of jets was dropping down through a layer of clouds to put on their show. There was some miscalculation on location, and they all plowed into a mountain ridge, killing all hands.

Participation in the instructor training program was a great way to get our feet wet back in the air and in the new Air Force. We were soon back at Perrin where we whetted our skills by assisting some of the cadet students do make-up work with some of their training. During down time, I again spent time in the Link Trainer at every opportunity.

The month of June brought on conversations relating to fishing. The Base Operations Officer offered to fly a group of us to Park Rapids in the Base Flight C-47 to see if I was really telling the truth. The Base Chaplain, William Boyce, decided to come along. I alerted the folks at the Rainbow Inn to save a few rooms for our special guests and after enjoying favorable weather on our trip north, we landed at the Park Rapids Airport late on a Friday afternoon. Mom and Pop Stone gave them a warm greeting, bedded them down and fed them lots of home cooked food. We had success fishing on Saturday and some of the group went fishing on Sunday. A few of us, including Chaplain Boyce, went to church where it had been arranged for him to preach the sermon for that Sunday. His sermon was just great and I had the opportunity to introduce many of my old friends to the crew from the Texas Air Base.

We departed at mid-afternoon with a box of well ice-packed fish and very warm hearts.

Above: Results of our fishing trip to Park Rapids in June, 1951.

Below: Preparing for departure. Mom and Pop Stone in the center of the group, looking in the entrance door.

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