Back when the Commemorative Air Force was here in New Orleans in late October of last year for the WWII AirPower Expo, I was so impressed once again by their amazing variety of warbirds and the wonderful displays they had that I decided to join.  I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything with it until I finished my commercial multi-engine rating.  But I looked up where the closest wings were and found there was one with a good variety of planes in West Houston, a nice two hour flight in my Big Chief.  I would use going there as my reward for finishing my rating.

I’ve now been there twice, and I can easily say that joining the Commemorative Air Force is one of the best choices I’ve ever made! The pilots and volunteers at the West Houston wing, just as the ones at Lakefront were the day I signed up, are welcoming, friendly, and as crazy about flying as I am.

I have to put in some volunteer time before I can start flying, but so far it hasn’t felt like any kind of burden or work. Quite the opposite: I’m having a blast!  I’ve spent some time helping fix a nose gear issue on another member’s T-28, and even getting bathed in hydraulic fluid and grease was a joy.  I always think of those as wet kisses from the plane.

T-28

T-28

After we finished the nose gear, another member said “I’m gonna fly the T-6.  You wanna ride?”  Did he even need to ask?  I tried to play it cool and contain my excitement, but there may have been a few giddy jumps in the hangar.

 

Big Chief, meet Ace in the Hole.  Ace in the Hole, Big Chief.  (Photo by Nate Hand)

Big Chief, meet Ace in the Hole. Ace in the Hole, Big Chief. (Photo by Nate Hand)

A pretty plane on a pretty day!  The AT-6 "Ace in the Hole".

A pretty plane on a pretty day! The AT-6 “Ace in the Hole”.

The "Ace in the Hole" fuselage art

The “Ace in the Hole” fuselage art

She wants to go fly!

She wants to go fly!

I had been admiring that very T-6 when I had arrived that day in my Seneca. They pulled it out of the hangar soon after I parked, and I had taken some pictures of it since the sky and light that day were perfect.  I also dig seeing the names and art on the planes.  This one was named “Ace in the Hole” and had cool art on the side.  I had no idea as I took these pictures that hours later I’d be sitting in back giggling with delight.  My friend took me on an awesome tour of some private grass strips just west of Houston where he lives, used to live, or otherwise knows everyone who lives there.  People heard the radial engine and came running out of their houses to take pictures and wave.  And I’m positive that what will show up most clearly in their pictures is my smile.

On the takeoff roll (photo by Nate Hand)

A zoomed in view of my huge smile and double shaka (photo by Nate Hand)

A zoomed in view of my huge smile and double shaka (photo by Nate Hand)

Our shadow just after lifting off from West Houston Airport

Our shadow just after lifting off from West Houston Airport

Our shadow passing by the Vietnamese Buddhist temple just off the airport grounds

Our shadow passing by the Vietnamese Buddhist temple just off the airport grounds

My view from the back seat

My view from the back seat

Landing at one of the airport communities near Houston

Landing at one of the airport communities near Houston

Landing back at West Houston Airport

Landing back at West Houston Airport (photo by Nate Hand)

End of a great flight!  (photo by Nate Hand)

End of a great flight! (photo by Nate Hand)

A close up of my smile that lasted for days!  (photo by Nate Hand)

A close up of my smile that lasted for days! (photo by Nate Hand)