Howard "Hard Times Earl" Hollinger

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Lowflynjack, Sep 12, 2018.

  1. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack Pattern Altitude

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    Jack Fleetwood
    The first time I met Howard was at Kittie Hill, a remote grass strip outside of Leander, TX. With his thick mustache, cowboy hat, and cigar, I recognized him before he even said hello. He was somewhat of a legend on the field. He had heard I had a Luscombe and came over to meet me and talk about my new plane. He looked it over and had some advice for me as well and we became friends.

    The last time I saw Howard was in a hospice a few weeks ago. He was in good spirits and his memory was still razor sharp. He was tired and at times he drifted away and I waited for his eyes to open again and we would start a new topic. We lost him last Thursday to liver cancer that he fought so hard. I'm sad he's gone, but so happy I got a chance to know him for so many years.

    Howard lived in Dallas when he met Cynthia, who lived in Austin. She also had a Luscombe and they started dating. He flew his Luscombe back and forth so often that he decided to paint WSA - World's Smallest Airline on the side. It was a symbol of their love and what a love it was! They got married at Blakesburg, during the Antique Airplane Association Fly-In.

    Like anyone who knew him, I have a lot of stories about him. What I can tell you about most though is how he cared about others. When I crashed my Luscombe, I refused to go to the hospital. He was not happy with me at all. He kept telling me I might have internal bleeding, but I refused to go. So, he called me every night to see how I was doing. If nothing else, he liked making me laugh with my broken ribs! Even my family didn't check up on me this much!

    Love ya Howard. It won't be the same without you.

    He was one of the biggest supporters of my photography. From Howard about two photos I shared with him:
    I really like those photos!
    You have captured the spirit of flight.
    The pilots, the whirling propeller, the motion through the air.
    Both of them are "cover ready" in my opinion.
    Keep up the good work.
    Someday, perhaps soon, I will see "cover photo credit Jack Fleetwood" on the big rags.
    And I will set back and think... Yep, Jack has got it down. I know Jack. He's got the eye. An artist. My friend.
    Hardtimes

    I also want to share a story from him. The way he could tell a story...

    A moment of inattention, the ball a bit out of center, airspeed sinking and angle of attack increasing. With enough altitude one of the best of the genre of vintage/classic aeroplanes can bite you, and you may live to tell about it. Other times, with everything centered and the world is just perfect, circumstances can occur that would not be anticipated, and the definition of pilot, and the definition of passenger, blur in an instant. These things are not a fault of the Luscombe by any stretch of the imagination. Nor are they a fault of the pilot. They just are. Yes, these machines can kill you. And still, we love them.

    Returning from Blakesburg this year, Cynthia and I were heading south, our usual two hour legs (personal desires, not aircraft limitations) shortened a bit by a slight five-knot tailwind. She in her 8E, and me in my 8A, our first leg from Blakesburg was the usual top-off at Centerville, having kept the airplanes light of fuel for flying in and out of Blakesburg.

    Centerville to Fort Scott KS with full tanks found us bouncing along under puffy popcorn cumulus, a bit irritating, so we both climbed on top and enjoyed a smooth ride above the thermals to Fort Scott. An hour into the leg, Cynthia had pulled ahead of me by a couple of miles, the loose in-trail formation lost, she became a mere speck on the horizon occasionally visible against the white clouds. Smooth as glass we were cruising along, very much enjoying the ride. Cynthia pulled up the Fort Scott AWOS and reported light winds; three out of the north.

    Descending to pattern altitude, I kept the boiler stoked and caught up with her on downwind, entering the pattern number two behind her as she announced “flight of two” on the CTAF. It was definitely a bit bouncy, but nothing to write home to Mom about. Cynthia noticed radio controlled model airplanes flying near the threshold, and I verified AMA pattern ships by their swept-back leading edge wings with straight trailing edges, and the long fuselage tail moments. Loops, Cuban eights, Immelmann turns. Electric powered, as there was no tell-tale stream of castor oil following their maneuvers. Looking at the airport, it was green trees, green grass, paved runway and taxiways, and metal hangars. The wind sock was limp, having rested in a position indicating the last little puff was out of the north. Perfect.

    Short final, and Cynthia set herself up for a wheelie, while I slowed for a three-pointer so as not to risk overtaking her on roll-out. She squeaks it on, and I follow with a nice double chirp. We’re rolling along, each smiling at one of the best landings we’ve both made on this trip, and I see Cynthia’s right wing go up, way up, then up even farther and she’s swerving back and forth wildly across the runway. About the time I think through the “the” in “What the Hell?” it hits me. Right wing lifted way up and a slam 45° to the right. I’m pushing full left rudder and right aileron when the tail wheel breaks loose and starts to castor. No sooner than that, I was heading 90° to the left. Left wing up, tires squealing, and going off toward the left side of the runway. Full right rudder and a blast of the throttle and I’m coming back across the centerline in the opposite direction. Again.

    As soon as it hit, it was over, and we were both ticking along straight ahead down the runway to the first exit, as if nothing happened. Yes sir, we always land like that. It’s a Texas thing. Keeps you on your toes, so to speak.

    I key the mic. “What the hell was that about?”.

    “I don’t know…is somebody running-up a jet engine or something…did it hit you?”

    “Damned sure did, I really thought I was going to lose it for good”.

    We taxied back on the deserted airport at about two miles per hour…maybe one. It was a slow taxi. Very slow.

    We secured the planes, talked about what just happened, and headed to the restrooms. Definitely not in that order.

    The adrenalin started to kick in and we were babbling to each other and scratching our heads, looking around for what hit us.

    Limp windsock, model airplanes happily doing aerobatics, deserted airport, quiet as a tomb…the Twilight Zone.


    Epilog: In Texas we call them Whirlwinds or Dust Devils. They are thermal-generated mini-tornados that occur when thermal activity is high. Over arid land, they can be seen, and avoided, by the tan soil that is sucked up and spun around in the vortex, much like the dark debris that makes a tornado funnel visible. In Phoenix, I have personally seen them swirling along and moving across a galvanized steel fifty-gallon trash can, lift the lid off, suck out the garbage, and happily twirl it all around upward through the sky…steel lid and all, never to be seen again.

    We encountered a perfect storm of conditions at Fort Scott. Thermal activity was high, there was great contrast between the green trees, lush grass, and hard (hot) pavement of the airport, and there was no wind to interrupt or dissipate any thermal activity. Those conditions rendered the whirlwind invisible, as no dust, bare soil, or debris could be seen. Compounding our situation, we were both in that no-mans-land between being “too fast to drive, and too slow to fly”. We blindly rolled-out into an unseen whirlwind, and damned near paid the price of an NTSB report: “VFR, winds calm, failure to maintain directional control (I gotta laugh at that one!) on landing”.

    Live and learn.

    Hardtimes Earl






     
  2. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack Pattern Altitude

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    Jack Fleetwood
  3. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nice story Jack, sorry for the lost of your friend.
     
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  4. Crashnburn

    Crashnburn Pre-Flight

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    I've never mastered a tailwheel, but did ab inito training in one. They say you have to fly a tailwheel aircraft until its tied down in the hangar, and the door is closed. After this story, I believe it.
     
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  5. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sorry for your loss,RIP.
     
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  6. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Old dog w/o new tricks
    Sounds like a great guy to have as a friend. Sorry for your loss.
     
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  7. GaryV

    GaryV Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Sorry for your loss Jack but this was a great way to remember him.
    Gary
     
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  8. N659HB

    N659HB Pattern Altitude

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    RIP from one 8A lover to another. Fair skies for your friend.
     
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  9. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Sorry for the loss of your friend. Judging by his storytelling, he was one who understood life.
     
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  10. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    Sorry for your loss.
     
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  11. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack Pattern Altitude

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    Thanks for the condolences. Though I miss him a lot, I'm glad I met him and have the opportunity to miss him. Great guy and we're going to have a party to celebrate his life soon.