SkySurfer

There are many payoffs from writing this weekly news and history column known as Vintage News—the pure joy of learning about our remarkably varied and fascinating aviation heritage; the pride in capturing stories that likely would have vanished into the miasma of disinterest; the visceral thrill of writing both technically and creatively and the double creative magic of working in both the written and graphic forms of expression. The greatest of all the returns for my many thousands of hours spent at this passionate task is the friendships I have made and the men and women I have come to know because we, at Vintage wings of Canada, care enough about aviation to bring it to life.

I count, among my hundreds of Vintage Wings-fostered friends, an American Mosquito pilot who took part in the famous Shell House raid, an Aussie Kittyhawk pilot who fought over the jungles of Papua New Guinea, a commander of the International Space Station, a Royal Navy pilot who trained here at nearby St. Eugene, the son of a hero, the sister of an ace, the Father of the modern Canadian Air Force, a doctor who flew Hurricanes, Spitfires and Meteors, a young kid from Tilsonburg, Ontario who knows everything there is to know about the Yale, a Dutchman who lives to honour fallen Canadian aviators, as well as historians, collectors, recorders, experts, builders, aces, airmen, heroes, curmudgeons, complainers, supporters, and not just a few spell checkers.

Most of these friends I communicate with weekly, some I have never met, others have since died. In another age, these would have been called pen pals. Two such friends are a Kansan by the name of Brian FitzGerald and his alter ego, The Sky Surfer. The son of a Second World War P-47 Thunderbolt pilot and F-105 Wild Weasel pilot in Vietnam, FitzGerald, a professional film producer in Wichita, is a keen observer, a warm storyteller, a vibrant photographer and videographer, an erstwhile historian and an inveterate, incorrigible romantic.

As The Sky Surfer, with super powers of observation and a taste for the exquisiteness of the ordinary, the simple, the honest and the pure, FitzGerald saddles up his fabric-winged Quicksilver MXL ultralight aircraft, loops a camera around his neck, selects a small prairie town on his map of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma and takes to the sky in search of the perfect day, the good folk, the welcome hand.



On many of The Sky Surfers weekend “fun flights”, he is, like all of us, loath to wake and get to the hangar before the sun comes up. Sometimes the weather does not look promising either, but as he says: “The act of rolling the plane from the hangar completely changes my outlook. Like Clark Kent donning the Superman suit, I mental-morph into The Sky Surfer and quickly transition into Flight Mode. I decide to at least get airborne and see what type of headway into the wind is possible.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald



Brian FitzGerald, The Sky Surfer, operates from Selby Aerodrome near Haysville, which is about 6 miles south and west of Wichitas McConnell Air Force Base. The Selby grass strip runs left to right in the relative centre of this photo. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The Sky Surfer, Brian FitzGerald, shoots a photo of himself at about 1,000 feet. He sports goggles for want of a windshield and sound attenuators because the Quicksilvers two-stroke engine sits just behind his head. Clearly, there is always the possibility that he might drop his camera and since there is no cockpit floor to speak of, he ropes the camera around his neck. Other than the goggles and ear protection, The Sky Surfer enjoys the total open cockpit feeling on a cool summers morning wearing just a t-shirt and board shorts. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Every flight radiating out from his Wichita grass strip is recorded in the simplest of terms—elegant and non-pretentious words combined with simple images of what he sees, what he does, who he meets, where he visits. To be honest, I had no image of Kansas in my mind before The Sky Surfer flew into my radar screen but, thanks to his numerous stories and adventures, I feel I know it well... or at least I feel I would be welcomed there. There are endless, endless fields of new wheat, small towns with proud high school sports teams, independent men and women, stampeding mustangs, water towers and grain elevators every ten miles, oil pumps, mile-long freight trains, coyotes, cattle, blue skies, dry river beds and terrible storms.

Without The Sky Surfer, I would never have visited the wheat and oil towns of Waldron, Beaumont, Caldwell, Perry, Tonkawa or Valley Center. Without The Sky Surfer, I would not know about the Oklahoma Salt Flats, the Flint Hills, Cherokee Strip or the Tonkawa POW Camps. I consider these things and these places as important and as central to my life as knowing about Paris or London or Dubai.

He lives somewhere between 20 and 2,000 feet off the ground, diving down to flush out a coyote, climbing to clear a wind farm, always photographing, always circling. He travels slowly. He wears sandals, a t-shirt and shorts. He thinks walking a small town on foot is part of the aviation experience. He’s a “meeter of people. Dogs follow him. People open their hearts to him. He is The Sky Surfer.

I will continue to follow his exploits as he roams the Midwest like an eagle, watching over his beloved land and I invite you to sign on to his blog and start looking through his eyes at a part of the world we all take for granted but do not know. Here now are just a few of the thousands of photographs found in his quirky and humorous stories of a wonderfully ordinary, spectacularly beautiful part of the world where pride and independence is a way of life. There’s a reason they call it America’s Heartland.

Dave O’Malley

Not every flight in Kansas can be enjoyed wearing a T-shirt and shorts. In winter months, the open cockpit can be pretty darn cold, warranting a snowsuit and a full-face helmet. Photo: Rick Gerrard

The Sky Surfer has rolled his Quicksilver from his hangar at the Selby, Kansas Aerodrome prior to another of his Fun Flights. Ground fog, a rarity in Kansas, is just burning off in the background. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

With ground fog all but gone, The Sky Surfer leaves the Selby Aerodrome pattern, climbing through 700 ft AGL (above ground level). The golden early morning light and the green of a strong early summer growing season make for a verdant image of Kansas... one many of us non-Kansans imagine when we think of that prairie state. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Brian FitzGerald, aka The Sky Surfer, sets out on yet another of his “Fun Flights”, radiating outwards from his home aerodrome, and not always in fine weather. Turning to the east with the Ninnescah River and the pass between Derby and Mulvane, Kansas ahead, visibility seemed to be threatening to end this particular flight to Beaumont, Kansas. “I like to start a Fun Flight early in the morning heading into the wind so I can fly home with a tailwind. If I start early enough, most of the time the wind near the surface is nil. This general operating principle makes for the best ending to a Fun Flight—a tailwind home. Of course, the best of all flights is a tailwind in both directions. I have had that happen three times so far but obviously it is an exceedingly rare event.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

On the same flight as the previous photograph, The Sky Surfers persistence pays off with a short break in the weather over the Flint Hills, but the misty conditions would persist through much of The Sky Surfers trip that day. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Arriving overhead the Beaumont, Kansas airport, and his final destination... breakfast at the historic Beaumont Hotel and Restaurant (centre). Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The interior of the Beaumont is classic diner, with a welcoming nod to aviators. Photo: Brian FitzGerald


In Beaumont, The Sky Surfer landed and paid a visit to the historic Beaumont Hotel. While there may no longer be horses tied up in front of the old hotel, the Texas-plated pickup out in front had a bed full of tack for a cowboy. Photo: Brian FitzGerald


The Beaumont Hotel and Restaurant has a direct connection with the hamlet of Beaumonts airfield, and in the park adjacent to the hotel, The Sky Surfer found a 1949 Beech D-18S formerly owned by McClung Aerial Spraying Inc. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Suddenly Some Action! In the early morning light, on his way to Perry, Oklahoma, The Sky Surfer spooks a group of deer out of a tree line and into the open. “Inexplicably, but not uncommonly, says FitzGerald they head toward my line of travel.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

A small herd of deer stampede in all directions through a field of newly sown corn, panicked by the large and noisy bird of prey. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Downtown Tonkawa, Oklahoma, looking east. One of the great pleasures enjoyed by The Sky Surfer is to set out for a distant and yet unvisited town and to land there and do a little exploring on foot. So many of the small towns, like Tonkawa (seen here) are centred around massive white grain elevators, towering over the city like a lone apartment building. During the Second World War, Tonkawa was home to Camp Tonkawa, a German Prisoner of War camp. Tonkawa is about as far from the Vaterland as one could imagine. Camp Tonkawa remained in operation from 30 August 1943 to 1 September 1945. Built between October and December 1942, the 160-acre site contained more than 180 wooden structures for 3,000 German POWs as well as 500 U.S. Army guard troops, service personnel and civilian employees. The first prisoners, consisting of German troops from the Afrika Corps, arrived in August 1943. During their internment, prisoners laboured at local farms and ranches. In November 1943, a prison riot caused the death of a German soldier, Johannes Kunze. Eight prisoners briefly escaped, only to be recaptured. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Out on the Oklahoma prairie, oil and gas share the landscape with crops and cattle. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Who says there arent any tree huggers in Americas heartland? Near Tonkawa, Oklahoma, a farmer has long ago decided that the tree stays, the farm goes around it. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

On a lake in Kansas, in what looks like pretty windy conditions, The Sky Surfer captures a lone fisherman casting a seine net into Cheney Lake, Kansas. Cheney Reservoir was constructed in 1965 and its contained lake consists of 9,600 surface acres of water. Cheney Lake State Park consists of 1,913 acres in three counties on the south end of the lake. Photo: Brian FitzGerald



Heres something you dont see every day in America's Heartland. On the outskirts of Wichita, The Sky Surfer comes across a cricket pitch and club! At first I thought they were out doing some type of model airplane competition. I have seen guys years ago set up on a similar strip and try to cut ribbons off the other guy’s tail. But, the closer I got, I realized it was a cricket match. I didn’t want to get too close as that is not cricket but they waved and I shot these pix. All of them had on proper uniforms and I was able to see a couple of pitches before I left the area.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Near Haysville, Kansas, The Sky Surfer finds a collection of 1970s gas-guzzling cars and trucks, protected from prying eyes and thieves by a high fence. The Sky Surfer has found that this type of collection is quite common throughout his flying range and is only viewable from above. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The water is low on the Ninnescah River, an important stream of southern Kansas composed of two branches. The main stream flows southeast and empties its waters into the Arkansas River near the town of Oxford, Sumner county. The Sky Surfer says: “Every few years the Ninnescah River fills up to the limit of its banks. As seen in the photo above, though, it is about as low as it gets. Things have been dry around here for the last two years and the river reflects that situation.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Flying over Frog Holler Paintball Field near Derby, Kansas, about a mile from his home aerodrome. Down below, three groups of players gather to plan or debrief. The Sky Surfer tells us: “I rarely have flown over The Holler when it isn’t Rockin’ and Rollin’. These guys are dedicated! I have seen teams hustling, manoeuvring and crawling through the grass in 105 degree heat during the summer. They have a little town, wooded areas, big tire areas, fortified positions, all that stuff. It is a major facility. I NEED to try this.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The Sky Surfer loves to set out on flights to visit old friends, like Lawrence Alley, seen here at the door of his new hangar at the end of Alley Field, Kansas. The Sky Surfers Quicksilver MXL cools down on the background. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Wherever you go in the United States, or Canada for that matter, buildings that look simple and even ordinary from above often contain remarkable collections that speak to the passion for automotive and aviation history embraced by so many. “After I deplaned, said The Sky Surfer “I learned that Lawrence had just finished showing his brothers Chevy to a prospective buyer who had driven out from Kansas City to look at it. I believe he told me it only has 44,000 miles. The engine starts right up and there is no rust on it. If you are looking for a classic like this, give him a call. I think it is a 1953.” FitzGeralds ability with the camera captures many simple, yet telling, portraits of all that is great about America. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

After a flight to Doug Molers High Point, Kansas airfield fly-in, The Sky Surfer decorated his Quicksilver MXL with some celebratory streamers, reminiscent of the days of the First World War when flight leaders streamed banners behind them in order to be clearly identified. Photo: Doug Moler

Another beautiful shot from the High Point Aerodrome. Photo: Doug Moler

The Sky Surfer in all his glory and pageantry. Photo: Doug Moler

Flying high over the airfield at High Point where Doug and Sabrina Moler host a fly-in, The Sky Surfer shoots Breezy owner Dave Blanton giving rides. “The first time I saw a Breezy was at a Fly-In at Woodland, California back in the 1960s. I thought they were cool then and they still are. Like the flying I do, aviating in a Breezy puts you out in the air where you can really feel it.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The High Point Airpark, where the Molers hold their annual fly-in, is part of Valley Center, Kansas, a pleasant, small town on the north side of Wichita. Overflying downtown Valley Center during another visit to High Point a year later, The Sky Surfer arrived overhead during a parade, part of the 51st Annual Fall Festival. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Not all the sights below bring joy, but they all bring a new perspective. Here, a fire has destroyed someones dreams. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The patterns seen from the air offer constant wonder to The Sky Surfer. Here, he takes a photo of cattle which, to him, seemed like “fleas on a rhinos back”. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

On one particular flight, The Sky Surfer headed south to seek out the famed Oklahoma Salt Flats, just below the Kansas-Oklahoma border. In this stunning shot, the verdant green plain gives way to the toxic uplifting of an ancient sea bed and its salt residue. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Coming home from the same outing as the previous salt flat photo, The Sky Surfer overflies an entirely different scene, one with greenery, life-giving soil, and the man-made Anthony Municipal Lake, outside of Anthony, Kansas. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Large homes on the outskirts of Wichita provide a more urban pattern. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Flying all over the area near Wichita, The Sky Surfer has a good handle on development and new construction. Here he flies over a new retail development with plenty of parking space near Mulvane, Kansas. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The Sky Surfers home base at Selby Aerodrome is near this sand pit, one of his favourite aerial subjects.  Photo: Brian FitzGerald

A traditional round milk house caught in the late afternoon sun makes an historic subject. With mechanized dairy farming the norm, sights like this classic architectural icon are mostly a thing of the past. Photo: Brian FitzGerald



Many of the small towns of the American Midwest are built around massive grain elevators and a rail line. This is Waldron, Kansas, where Tammy Faye Bakker, of streaming mascara fame, is buried. Tammy was born Tammy Faye LaValley in International Falls, Minnesota, but divorced and remarried after the fall and imprisonment of Jim Bakker. Her second husband, a Kansan from Waldron, Roe Messner, fared about as well as Bakker, filing for bankruptcy, being convicted of bankruptcy fraud and then imprisoned. Tammy Faye is laid to rest in the Messner family plot in Waldron. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Bound for either Harper or Anthony, Kansas from his home field at Selby, The Sky Surfer got a little disoriented and put down in Wakita, Kansas to take some bearings. The town beckoned and he made his usual reconnaissance on foot. “I stepped out on Main Street and there was no one around except the town greeter Buddy (in street above). He introduced himself by coming up silently from behind me and nudging my right leg as he swung past me wagging his tail. He really caught me by surprise. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Though I love the photographs The Sky Surfer takes from the air, I have to admit it is the images of ordinary Americans on the ground in small-town Kansas and Oklahoma that I love the most. They exude a simple, wry and welcome image of a country I love very much. The Sky Surfer relates the background behind this shot: “Inside Farmers Grain Company (in non-bustling downtown Wakita) I met Jerry Reese and Herman Conrady. Jerry had seen me fly over and asked me if I was flying a Quicksilver to which I replied in the affirmative. He knew quite a bit about ultralights and asked about the motor and such. I invited him to come over and look at it but he was too busy working and obliged not. Both were intrigued that I had flown all the way from Wichita.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Sometimes, The Sky Surfer has a less than ideal field to take off from. This one at Wakita, Kansas with long grass is not uncommon. Of this takeoff, he says: “The view from my sparse cockpit just before popping full power. NOTE: In case you Sharp Observer Types are looking at my altimeter and thinking I must have landed below sea level—not quite. I always set my altimeter to be at 0 feet at my home field. I am only interested in AGL (Above Ground Level) altitude. Thus from the picture above we deduce that Wakita is approximately 90 feet lower than Selby Aerodrome. Takeoff was uneventful. The big wings of my MXL allow for excellent soft field takeoffs. Within moments I had cleared the field and was climbing like a banshee.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

A large holding pond on a farm near Anthony, Kansas. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Near Harper, Kansas, The Sky Surfer grabs a photo of an auto wrecking yard, something one rarely sees from the ground as they are usually bylawed into having a high fence surrounding to lessen the visual pollution. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Sometimes, like many NORDO sport aviators, The Sky Surfer navigates using the highway version of the old “iron compass” trick of following rail lines to an eventual destination. Here he navigates along Kansas Highway K-15 heading to Udall, Kansas. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Low and slow over new wheat doing well in the sun en route to Caldwell, Kansas, the Border Queen, southwest of The Sky Surfers home base at Selby, a suburb of Wichita. With his pusher prop behind him, The Sky Surfer can draw in only the smells of dew-laden wheat and the morning sun. The uniformity of the wheat can give great joy to a man out looking for simple pleasures. Of that morning, FitzGerald said: “Not just acres of wheat—MILES of Wheat!” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Bales of feed hay pepper fields next to the Chikaskia River with the white grain elevators of Caldwell, Kansas on the horizon in the distance. Known as the Border Queen, Caldwell is but a few kilometres from the Oklahoma border. The Chikaskia River is a 159-mile-long tributary of the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma in the United States. Via the Salt Fork and Arkansas rivers, it is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River. The water The Sky Surfer is crossing here will eventually make it all the way to New Orleansthe Big Easy. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Flying low over an endless stretch of newly sprouted wheat, The Sky Surfer approaches Caldwell, Kansas. Typical of almost every Kansas town, nothing is evident on the horizon save the white grain elevators, looking like a condo tower rising above the prairie. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The Sky Surfer circles Caldwell, Kansas, flying at 400 feet north to south and looking west over the big grain elevators on North Arapaho Street, next to the rail line. Like many of the towns that The Sky Surfer visits in his Quicksilver, Caldwell beckoned to be walked at ground level. “One thing I like about many of the small town airports”, says FitzGerald “is that they are close enough to town that I can walk to downtown from the airport. That is a real plus. Caldwell Municipal [airport] is only a mile from town. Besides being close, Caldwell Municipal features a perfect tree line/wind belt at the south end of the field. There were excellent tie-downs for my ultralight as well!” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The corner of Main Street and Central is looking pretty deserted, but then, its still early in the morning. The gift of flight extends to the streets of the towns The Sky Surfer explores. The website for Caldwell shows us that it is very proud of its Wild West heritage: “Caldwell was founded in 1871 astride the then new Chisholm Trail as an economic adventure of a group of Wichita entrepreneurs. The trail, running from Texas to the Intercontinental Railroad in northern Kansas, guided over a million longhorn steers and their guardian cowboys through Caldwell. This vintage cowtown—a place of cowboys, saloons, gambling, and violence—boasted a longer cowtown period (1880–1885), a higher murder rate, and loss of more law enforcement officers than other more famous cowtowns. Being the first town north of Indian Territory, cowboys went wild in this untamed Border Queen City after months on the dusty and treacherous trail. Gunfights, showdowns, hangings and general hellraising were commonplace. From these true stories came the romanticized American cowboy and the love of the Wild West. In 1893, Caldwell was also a starting point for the famous Cherokee Strip Land Run, when Oklahoma Territory was opened for homesteaders to stake land claims.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

FitzGeralds abilities in the air and with a camera are equalled by his innate ability to make friends in a short time. His photographs of the men and women of the small towns of rural Kansas make his website far more and far better than just an aviation site. Feeling hungry and in need of a coffee, he stopped in to the 1-Stop Café...“Pretty soon I was in conversation with the group of gentlemen pictured here—Bob Burns, Richard White, Don Schmitz, Gary Ginn and Jack Hajek. Most of them were farmers—retired or active—in this area. I told them how wonderful the wheat looked from the air and how I appreciated their town. They informed me I had every right to be impressed with the wheat crop as this county (Sumner County) is known as The Wheat Capital of the World. I don’t know if my observation makes me really smart or really dumb. Mostly I liked the fact that Wheat Capital would be another great hook for this story already replete with Chisholm Trail and Cowboy references. As I learned about wheat from The Masters, Richard White cautioned me that beautiful fields of wheat can be turned to junk this time of year if the hail falls. This brought to mind the plight of the folks of Norman, Oklahoma who had been devastated by a tornado a few days earlier.

The realization of how quickly things can change in life reminded me it is good to laugh, tell stories and drink coffee with friends while you can. And that we did. I drank my limit and told them I would take off and make a couple of circles above the field to the south of 1-Stop so they could see what I was flying. Bob Burns offered to give me a ride to the airport.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

The Sky Surfers hangar mate, an Air Bike owned by Wayne Clevenger, sits out on the grass of the Selby Aerodrome with the Quicksilver. The weather seemed OK for some ultralight flying, though stormy looking clouds were gathering on the horizon. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Hailstorms and ultralights should never mix... under any circumstances. With this nasty looking Wizard-of-Ozian storm approaching, the men worked to get their fragile aircraft to the relative safety of their hangar. Photo: Brian FitzGerald



The Sky Surfer, Brian FitzGerald (right), and his pal Don Force, hold the evidence in their hands of a true Kansan hailstorm, something we would never see in these Canadian parts—hail stones the size of squash balls... only heavier and travelling at terminal velocity. The damage these could do to a fabric covered ultralight like a Quicksilver or an Air Bike would pretty well be total on the ground and deadly in the air. Photos via each other

Following the rail line through the towns of Caldwell, Corbin and Perth, Kansas en route to Wellington, The Sky Surfer comes upon some railroad work. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Wheat is still carried out Americas breadbasket in rail cars, so the road beds have to be maintained. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Another paintball park on the outskirts of Wichita with Highway 400 in the background. It seems that paintball is a sport much embraced in the Midwest. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Sometimes, I think it is a wonder that The Sky Surfer gets anywhere at all, given the amount of time he spends circling landmarks and points of interest en route. From the air, ordinary things like paintball parks, ponds, field patterns, railways and more take on a new perspective and a new life, one that is worthy of a few minutes of contemplation. Here, he simply liked the way these hay bales cast shadows at the end of the day... I do too. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Fun Flights involve getting up early, but the payoff is seeing the world and the weather in all its beauty when most folks (at least the city folks) are still warmly tucked into bed. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

En route to Bartlesville, The Sky Surfer encounters the rolling hills of the Oklahoma Badlands and more trees than one would find in Kansas. Of the Badlands and their increasingly poor choices for landing possibilities, The Sky Surfer says: “It is important when flying an ultralight powered by a two-stroke motor to be on the constant lookout for landing spots. As I came closer to the Oklahoma Badlands, this became more challenging. Not only were forested areas increasing but the ground surface was becoming much rockier.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Out in the Oklahoma Badlands, The Sky Surfer comes across an abandoned homestead, slipping quietly into ruin. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

En route to Bartlesville, The Sky Surfer follows one of the symbols of Americas untamed West: “I popped over a ridge and saw the rising dust of a commotion ahead. Upon further examination it was a herd of wild horses—mustangs—running wild in the Badlands. Very picturesque, even if I was the only one to see this. I took a few shots so you could witness them, too. While viewing this, the thought occurred to me: Is something beautiful if no one is there to see it? (I know my answer to that question).” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Constantly on the hunt for emergency landing areas, The Sky Surfer always tries to have a plan. “At first, I meandered in order to cross over meadows. Then I stayed over any of the pickup/4 wheeler trails I saw below. I figured they would be possibly smoother should I need to land in a hurry.” Later in his flight to Bartlesville, The Sky Surfer decided to “drop down for a minute and look at the map to get a more accurate fix of my position. Whenever I decide to purposely land out in the country my technique is to make at least 2 and as many as 4 passes over an intended landing spot to get a close look at the ground. If you examine any pictures of my MXL you can see there is very little ground clearance to the axle. The Quicksilver has no suspension either. The only give in the system is from the softness of the tires. I can land on a fairly bumpy grass surface but surface rocks that are other than mostly flat (like near Sedan, Kansas) must be avoided.

My candidate landing zone for that morning is shown below. After making 3 passes over the grass part of it I did not have high confidence there were no rocks hiding within. I decided to put er down on the service road. In my flying I have always avoided landing on County Roads because they have ditches on either side and usually feature barb wire fences next to them. As low as my plane sits on the ground, these are hazards I don’t need to invite. Mowed hay fields work just fine as landing fields so that’s what I use. Since there weren’t any around here the service road looked like a good alternative. From now on I will always use these service roads. This one was ideal.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

On another flight, this time to Hominy, Oklahoma, The Sky Surfer puts his Quicksilver down on an oil access road in order to consult a map, before pressing on. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

En route to Hominy, The Sky Surfer comes across a spooked herd of wild mustangs and follows it for a while. Nothing speaks to the image of the Wild West better than running wild horses—an image of independence, freedom and open land. Photo: Brian FitzGerald



On most of his visits to distant communities in Oklahoma and Kansas, The Sky Surfer lands at small municipal airports and it is here that he runs into like-minded Americans with a love of aviation and all the independence it brings. In nearly every airfield, there exists a wonderful vintage aircraft find and the man or woman whose passion it is to keep it flying. Here, Hominy resident and former professional pilot in the petroleum sector, Jerry Jackson takes the tarp of his prized possession, a well-loved 1946 Ercoupe. Photo: Brian FitzGerald




Power lines, the bane of an ultralight pilots existence, make for a beautiful shot at the end of a long day of flying to and from Hominy, Oklahoma. Of his visit to the small Oklahoma community, Sky Surfer says: “Even though Hominy, Oklahoma is not the Home of Grits, it has an interesting heritage. I discovered a pleasant town where people appreciate the small town life. I liked it a lot and will return!” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

“About 5 miles northwest of Bartlesvilles Frank Phillips Field, I saw these striking, dramatic patterns of rock interwoven with grass. There are quite a few of them out that way. I can’t remember having ever seen anything like them before. From the air it appears that a huge stone set at the surface has been fractured over time by exposure to cycles of hot and cold. It is interesting that the fractures are very evenly spaced and mostly parallel. They give me the impression of Scottish Tartans.” Photo: Brian FitzGerald

If there is one thing that can be drawn from all these collected photos, it is that Kansans and Oklahomans are independent people, willing to conduct free and strong lives far from the consumerism that besets urban life. Here, out on the vast Kansan plain, a lone white trailer hides as far from the grid as possible. Perhaps it houses a budding Unabomber, but more likely a welcoming person who talks slow, never badmouths anyone, speaks only to the facts, gets by without government and loves to hunt. Heres to The Sky Surfer and his fellow Americans. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

Not every moment on The Sky Surfers day is rich with the joys of free flight, open space and clean country air. Here, at a place called Cherokee Strip, The Sky Surfer thought he would make a shortcut across a dry field. After getting about halfway across the field, the ultralight Quicksilver came to a slow and heavy stop so, thinking it was simply the grade that caused the slowdown, he gave her more power... lots more power. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

After rolling through the heavy mud, the wheels and tires then collected an outer skin of gravel. We call this aggregate concrete where I come from. Photo: Brian FitzGerald

No worries though... The Sky Surfer had his friend and sidekick Brian FitzGerald scrape the whole mess off. Photo: Tommy Randall

Search
The complete Warbird U Calendar for 2012
© 2013 Vintage Wings of Canada, all rights reserved. Vintage Wings of Canada, Warbird U., Gray Ghost, Gray Ghost 2, Hawk One and Vintech Aero are trademarks of Vintage Wings of Canada