Me & the Beeve were at 700′ AGL, having just blasted off from Kirkby Field. We had no particular place to go. There was no one to meet, no appointments to keep. Just a blue sky and light, warm winds to dance around in all afternoon.
I decided to head south toward Indus and see if anything was happening there. But one of my character flaws is that I’m so easily distracted, this time by Bailey’s Field. It appeared a few miles away, looking pristine and gorgeous, as it always does.
Bailey’s Field holds a special fascination for me. It’s a beautiful 4500′ strip in the middle of the prairie about six miles north-east of Indus. There are a few hangars on the property and a huge house with a swimming pool in it. In fact, you can see right into the pool room when you do an over-shoot on runway 16. I’ve seen a few airplanes on the strip, but the one that stands out is an old Beech 18 done up in RCAF colors. It’s a beautiful round-engined bird that looks like it could tell lots of great stories. In short, Bailey’s Field is the airstrip of my dreams.
So it seemed only fitting that I shoot a couple of circuits there on my way to Indus. I crossed over the field and entered the left hand downwind. The runway was covered with a skiff of snow completely untouched by aircraft or man. I landed long, the Beeve’s wheels settling gently onto the endless white ribbon of runway. As soon as the nose gear touched, I fire-walled the throttle and raced off for another circuit. I noticed on the downwind leg the runway seemed spoiled now that it had gear tracks on it. But to any passing aviator, those gear tracks would tell a little story of their own.
I was on my way again after one more circuit. The Beeve felt wonderful in my hands, quick and nimble, responding without a moment’s hesitation. We wheeled and turned and laughed our way through the sky.
Indus looked shamefully deserted from a couple of miles away. But as I got closer, I could see people and airplanes moving around down there. I crossed over the field and started doing circuits on runway 28. I have to tell you, my landings that day were some of the best I’ve done in a long time.
The runway had been well used since the last snowfall, as was evident from all the gear tracks. But there was a small area right at the button that had no tracks in it anywhere. This was my target. It was a great way to practice spot landings. After every touchdown I could see my tire tracks in the snow and improve the next landing. Shooting circuits is a great way to spend your time, isn’t it? There’s nothing like the feeling of greasing an airplane back to earth. The type of touchdown that, if you didn’t hear the rumble and rattle of the gear, you might not know you’d landed.
I wasn’t alone in the circuit though. Fred Wright had waited for an opportune moment and taken to the sky in his green Chinook. Wayne Winters had done likewise in a miniMAX. We three shared the airport for a while until I noticed Freddy peel off to the south. I turned the Beeve to follow him, just to see what he was up to.
About a mile south of the field, Freddy turned to the east, went about half a mile, and turned back west. Suddenly he was pointing straight at me. Now, Freddy’s not blind, so I took this to be just what it was. A challenge.
I maneuvered easily out of his way, but before I could say “Holy hammer-head, Batman!”, he had jumped me. That sly dog was going for my tail like a puppy goes for puppy chow. But he didn’t have the angle to get his nose pointed at me. I racked the Beeve into a hard left turn and lost sight of the Chinook. I kept looking back over my shoulder but I still couldn’t find him. I was pretty sure I was out-turning him, because there ain’t much that can turn with the Beeve.
After about two and a half 360′s, I levelled out heading west. I spotted Freddy about 600′ away, at my 9 o’clock, going the opposite direction. I yanked the Beeve left at the same time Freddy saw me comin’. He put everything he had into a tight left turn, but there was just no escape for him from that point on. He was as busy as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest as he tried to get away. But I just sat up about fifty feet higher than the Chinook, throttled back, and followed him around. Whenever the moment was right, I’d dump the nose, roll onto his tail from six-o’clock high, and waste him. At least that’s the way I remember it. Freddy might have a different version of events.
After the carnage was over, we formed up and headed back toward Indus. I followed Freddy in and made a full-stop landing on runway 28. He was all smiles and charged with adrenaline as I climbed out of the Beeve. We spent the next few minutes re-hashing the dogfight over and over again, like pilots have done for decades.
Then I met Knute Rasmusen, owner of the mimiMAX that Winters was flying. The three of us chatted as we watched Winters in the circuit. After a few minutes of hangar flying, Freddy decided he wasn’t going waste anymore of the day on the ground. I liked his attitude so I invited both guys to fly back up to Kirkby’s with me. They thought that was a splendid idea.
Winters was on his last go ’round so Knute said he’d join us after he fueled up. Freddy and I decided to wait upstairs shooting some more bump-and-runs, and when Knute was ready, we’d head north together.
Freddy and I took off and by the time we’d shot two circuits Knute was pulling onto the button of runway 28. I turned north for home and slowed so my wingmen could catch up.
Knute quickly established himself off my right wing. Freddy perched a little further back, forming on the miniMAX. I could almost see the smiles on their faces as we coasted along up there. Occasionally I’d lose sight of Knute as he wandered toward my six, and I found myself trying to make like an owl to find him again. My neck muscles got a good workout.
All too soon the shiny sheet metal of Kirkby’s hangars appeared and I set up for a long, straight-in approach to runway 34. I touched down and slowed just in time to make the turn at mid-field. I taxied the Beeve to the hangar and jumped out to watch Freddy and Knute land. But they decided to drag the field first.
I wheeled the Beeve into the shack as the Chinook and the MAX set up their approaches. Freddy put down first and taxied clear. The two of us watched closely as Knute hung the miniMAX on the fine edge and brought it in slower than I thought possible. He’s a guy who knows his airplane.
“Ain’t this the life, Freddy?”, I asked as Knute taxied in.
“Man”, he replied, “I could do this forever.” I nodded agreement and silently wondered what the rich folks were doing.
Once settled, Knute graciously showed us around his airplane. He even let me sit in it. I have to admit, I’m quite impressed with the design. Think I might get one.
After about half an hour Freddy was getting understandably restless again. So the two of them saddled up and bugged out, taking off the same way they’d landed. As they turned south Freddy’s words kept running through my mind. And I thought, I too could do this forever.