Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Small town, North Kansas City

I grew up in a small town, North Kansas City during the 40's and 50's which is near Kansas City, Missouri. The town was very close to the local airport and it was not unusual to see a variety of many different aircraft. The Kansas City airport was one of the major maintenance, dispatching and planning centers for TWA airlines. Also all of the recruiting and training of TWA's hostesses, now known as Flight Attendants was done at this location. I can remember going to the airport on a Cub Scout field trip to visit the TWA hangers. At the time TWA was operating a large fleet of Douglas DC-3 airplanes. Beautiful and highly polished aluminum outer skin with bright red markings

One summer day, I was walking to a nearby playground that had a really nice wading pool. This was before I knew how to swim and most of the kids my age spent their afternoons keeping cool. I heard a very strange loud sound coming from overhead. I looked up and it was a Kellett KD-1 Autogyro. Autogyro's later on were designated as Gyroplanes. It had the fuselage of an airplane without wings. It derived it's lift from a non powered wind driven articulated rotor system. Little did I know at the time that 30 years later, I would have a brief flying experience with an aircraft called the McCulloch J-2 Gyroplane. I accumulated over two thousand flight hours in this type of aircraft. I'll tell this story later on in the blog. During that same summer, we had an unusually high amount of rain. Northtown, as we called it in those days, had a lot of flat land which was heavily farmed with wheat fields. It would rain for days at a time and left many of the fields with several inches of standing water. In time, this became an ideal breeding ground for Mosquito's. The city fathers elected to have trucks drive up and down the streets spraying a chemical called DDT. Of course now, this chemical has been banned for public use. This was a good start, but it did not work well. So they contracted a helicopter operator from over at the airport to spray the city. They came in with helicopters at tree top level altitudes. I was so excited, that I jumped on my Western Flyer bicycle and rode below the helicopter as it slowly went up and down the streets spraying the DDT chemical. Not very healthy, but I sure got a good close up look at that helicopter. This was a very early model Bell 47D-1 helicopter. The kind that was used during the Korean war and also used in a poplar TV show called MASH. The Bell 47's had wooden rotor blades and a vertically mounted Franklin air cooled engine.

Northtown and the old Kansas City airport was the location an author named John Nance used in a book he wrote called, Final Approach. John Nance is currently a captain for Alaska Airlines and also a former pilot for Braniff Airlines.

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