For twenty years, I enjoyed flying my completely restored J-3 Piper Cub


By —— Bio and Archives--June 10, 2018

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J-3 Piper Cub
On a cold, clear February day in 1978, my eighty-year-old flight instructor unbuckled his safety harness and stepped out of the airplane.

“You’re on your own, boy,” he said. “Control the four forces — lift, drag, thrust and gravity — and you’ll be fine, but remember what I’ve always told you: If you’re going get killed in a plane crash, odds are it will happen when you first learn to fly. So, don’t do anything stupid — focus on flying the aircraft at all times.”


First solo flight

That discomfiting thought, combined with the absence beside me of the tough old guy who had rapped his knuckles on the back of my head many times when I maneuvered the airplane into dangerous situations, brought on a cold sweat.

Subduing my fear, I said a prayer, gave him the thumbs-up sign, pushed the throttle open, completed the rite of passage of all pilots — the first solo flight — and made “Mr. Fred” mighty proud.

Fred Frazier spent his entire life earning a living at the controls of airplanes, either as an instructor or as a crop duster, and he seemed to have no sense of fear. He taught Army pilots to fly in open cockpit Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplanes, and in North American T-6 Texans. When he wasn’t training pilots, he was spraying Mississippi Delta cotton in a Stearman biplane, which he also used to train countless military aviators.

I once asked Mr. Fred what newly licensed pilots should fear most. Without hesitation, he said, “a simultaneous, complete engine failure and electrical power loss at night.”

When I asked if that ever happened to him, he said, “Oh yes, and my student and I walked away unscratched from the aircraft. You know the old saying: Any landing that you can walk away from is a good one.”

Then he explained. One summer night, he and a student pilot departed the Greenville, Mississippi, military training base in a Texan for a roundtrip, instruments-only flight to Jackson, Mississippi. While cruising at 10,000 feet, the engine quit suddenly and the instrument panel went black.

Realizing that the student was in a speechless, paralytic, catatonic state, Mr. Fred took the controls and searched for a large dark area below, which he hoped was a flat field, and not a lake.

With no instruments, he knew his only hope was “seat of the pants” flying, which meant descending ever so gradually, while instinctively feeling that the plane was flying as level as possible.

“The trip down seemed like an eternity,” he said, “but suddenly I heard scraping on the airplane’s belly, and smelled what we had landed in — a field of lush, green, tall corn. The thick, soft vegetation brought the plane to a gentle stop.”

For twenty years, I enjoyed flying my completely restored J-3 Piper Cub, and because I had been taught by a man who was born to fly, and to teach others how to, I experienced no life-threatening incidents.

In his honor, I nicknamed my little yellow airplane: “Freddie.”


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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.

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Jimmy’s latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.

His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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