said, unsmiling. "I'm Paul Clark, Mickey's husband. I'm waiting for
I had forgotten
she came from St. Louis.
Out of St. Louis
at sunup of the fourth day there was one hope of catching the race. Reading,
Pa. was a mandatory stop, and there was a chance that most of these delicate
little creatures who fly thunderstorms on dry tanks would rest up there for the
grand dash to Massachusetts in the morning. It meant I had to bend the throttle
for almost a thousand miles, but my masculine honor as well as my story was at
stake. The Tri-Pacer had been waiting for this, and we made first-class time to
Dayton, where I heckled the gas boy for speed until he looked to see if I had a
skirt and a number on my plane. He'd been putting up with this stuff for a
couple of days.
But it was too
late. The thunderstorms started early, and worse, you couldn't spot them in the
thick industrial haze. I landed at Columbus and took an airliner. The whole
area through eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania had an epidemic of
thunderstorms that afternoon, and Genevieve Brown from Los Angeles, flying a
Cessna 140, with 3,500 hours in her book, a Commercial license, Instrument
rating, Commercial Helicopter rating and Glider rating, crashed in West
Virginia, demolishing her ship. A farmer's wife came upon Genevieve bleeding
from a cut on her forehead, tearfully searching the bushes for belongings
thrown out, and muttering, "My beautiful plane, my poor, beautiful
airplane." Considering the terrain, she had made a first-class landing.
When I sneaked into Springfield that night I found hardboiled contestants who
had snapped at Genevieve's heels all the way in tears about it. Numbers 17, 24
and 32 never got in, due to mechanical trouble, No. 22 was disqualified for
stopping overnight at an unauthorized field, and No. 40 didn't arrive until the
race was officially over.
This time, it
turned out, results were heavily in favor of the professionals, as if making up
for Genevieve Brown's tragedy. First place, by a wide margin, went to Frannie
Bera and her Cessna 180, whose par she topped by 25.91997 mph. This means that
she averaged 175 mph for the trip, including time spent by Edna Bower, her
copilot, racing around on foot with the logbook.
incidentally, doesn't fly, but she often rides with Frannie in races. I didn't
have time to check her school track record.
The team of Alice
Roberts of Phoenix and Iris Critchell of California, in No. 4, a Bonanza,
proved that you can be first across the line and be a big winner, after all.
With an average of 18.27672 over the par speed of the Bonanza, which at cruise
is the hottest single-engine, four-place private plane in production, they
streaked across the country in near-airliner time and spent three days in
Springfield catching up on their sewing. Mrs. Roberts has 350 hours and Mrs.
Critchell is a 3,500-hour professional, with multi-engine ratings, whose
husband is an airline pilot. These two ladies were pointed out to me at the
beginning of the race as the most serious-minded contestants of all. "Why,
they won't even dip a wing when they pass you on a race," I was told.
"It would change the angle of attack momentarily and upset their
calculations." This was said in tribute as much as jest. It is a high skill
and fanatics are valued.
To get back into
subsonic speeds and show that the slower ones get in the money, third prize
went to a Bellanca Cruisair, No. 19 in the race, whose pilots, Esther Gardiner,
of Connecticut, and Clarissa Holcomb, from Massachusetts, topped its par speed
of 133 by 14.07124.
There was some
excitement at the end, and I was able to move about unobtrusively interviewing
winners; but then Mrs. Olive McCormick, of Muncie, Indiana, who made sixth
place in a Tri-Pacer, commented on my miraculously timely arrival. I had been
putting this off as long as possible, but here it was.