Saturday, June 25: Aviation Variety, and the Hell Of A Zapata Retrieve
The morning began with Zapata’s characteristic clouds and a perhaps undue general optimism. With my bandaged leg I had decided to take a mental health vacation, but David and I went to the field to help the others fly. And there were many people at the field intent on various forms of aviation.
Gary finally had a tow plane with which to get his Gemini sailplane into the air, and that is how we began. Russell pulled him up with the new hook on the Scout, and the tow went very well with Gary experiencing a reassuringly strong climb on tow with his heavy glider. While he had found only weak lift, the irrepressible BJ nonetheless soon launched in his quest to maintain an average of six hours a day (yes, that is his average), followed by Davis on his single-surface North Wings Freedom, Mike Barber, and the four Brazilians.
The soft conditions soon began to exact casualties, the first being Davis who decked it some six miles out in the land of locked-gate gas wells. That was the beginning of an epic seven hour retrieval wait that involved two Scout airplane sorties to locate him, two calls to the sheriffs department for assistance (none resulted), and an encounter with a local whom Davis sufficiently surprised to have a gun pulled on him.
The four Brazilieros began launching, but some had trouble getting up and returned to the field for re-lights, while Moikano (Portuguese for Mohican, in honor of his customary Mohawk haircut) returned with a defective vario. Not needing a vario, I loaned him mine and he and the others re-launched successfully before heading downwind toward varied fates. None went terribly far, but one had a quintessential Zapata retrieve wherein poor Louie had to walk in some five miles in hundred degree heat to dig Paulo out of the mesquite.
In between the Brazialian re-launches the local radio control club began flying a number of marvelous 1/3 scale (enormous) model airplanes off the runway. Unfortunately one of them became a victim of gravity when a snap roll put it straight into the ground, a $2,000 mistake.
In the meantime, Mike Barber and BJ were slogging their way northward. BJ’s quest for the six hour average flight has now been upped to a seven hour average. He flew for 7:08. After finally abandoning the long flight he turned around and flew eastward to land at Uvalde airport for some 165 miles. The guy is an animal. At the same time Mikey had been suffering radio problems and the consequences having his instruments set in metric units. Fay was receiving his SPOT locator’s information, but Mike was reporting (when he could) distances that were inconsistent with the SPOT locations. The explanation was that Mike’s distances were in kilometers, and the SPOT’s in miles. Realizing how slowly he was progressing, Mike bagged it near Caterina, about 100 miles out from Zapata. He then landed inside a big new chemical complex where he was promptly greeted by an overzealous midget female renta-cop demanding id. He successfully evaded her and moved his glider off the property whereupon he was greeted by relays of Border Patrol officers inquiring as to what was going on. Zapata flying truly is unlike flying anywhere else in this great Republic.
To conclude the day’s activities, late in the afternoon Russell towed-up Gary who then had a fine two hour local flight. It had been a full and truly varied day of aviation at Zapata County Airport.