Thursday September 24, 2020


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Dan Johnson's
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Dr. Robert Stark's Elixir for Success

Sometimes on those flights, after he had finished snapping photos, a pilot would invite Bob to come up to the cockpit and take a seat at the controls while the pilot took a break in the back. Consequently, Bob picked up some bootleg time flying airplanes.

Returning to Honolulu after one of those aerial photography excursions, Bob was offered the controls, and both of the pilots retired to the rear. As the plane neared the island, the pilots hadnít returned. When Bob looked back, he discovered both of them were asleep. He tried several times but he couldnít rouse them.

By that time the plane was nearing the airport and the tower operator, perhaps with the attack on Pearl Harbor in the back of his mind, asked over the radio what was the pilotís intention. Bob tried one more time to rouse the sleeping pilots, but when they continued snoring away, Bob picked up the microphone. ďI guess Iíll land,Ē he said.

And thatís what he did: landed the airplane and taxied it to a parking spot. That was Bobís first solo landing -Ė in a multi-engine tail dragger with retractable gear.

As a side note, Iíve speculated about why the pilots fell asleep so soundly and couldnít be roused. At first, my suspicious nature suggested they might have been under the influence of, say, too much pineapple juice from the night before. However, to be fair about it, I suppose thereís a perfectly reasonable, alternate explanation: they were simply lulled to sleep by the comfortable surroundings. After all, who wouldnít fall naturally into a sound slumber when cradled in the comforting confines of a military grade DC-3 with those thundering engines, the air howling through leaky rivets, and all the while being rocked by lifting, plunging, two-thousand-foot-per-minute ocean-induced thermals? And with those fold-down seats in the cargo section of the plane, I'm sure anyone could curl up on one of those and be just as comfortable as an Indian fakir napping on a bed of nails. Yes, when I considered it more clearly, I concluded that must have been the explanation.

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