Turns out that an old airline buddy had brought a group to Cincinnati to see the airplane. These were pretty astute guys who were interested in the VLJ concept and Roger was their aviation expert. He called Bob, who drove over to Million Air and they visited while the suits talked to salesmen. I'm a hopeless hero worshipper ("hero" being anybody who can fly better than I can). So it was pure delight when these two old Skygods insisted I join them at a table in the hangar. Their stories go back 50 years, when Lake Central Airlines operated DC-3 routes through the Midwest. Bob came to Cincinnati from Hazard, in the southeastern Kentucky coal country, after a stint with the army in Germany. He learned to fly on the GI Bill and instructed for a while until talent, tenacity and a healthy dose of luck put him in the right seat of a Lake Central DC-3. I love the description of his pre-employment DC-3 check ride at the airline when the chief pilot finally suggested, "Find yourself a number you like, son, and try to hold onto it." It probably wasn't unusual for the time, but within three years he was in the left seat. I guess my big sister introduced us about 40 years ago. Mary and I learned to fly in the early '60s at Lunken. To the horror of our parents, who still hadn't recovered from the flying lesson experience, Mary then left teaching and joined Lake Central as a stewardess. I quit a small Catholic college to become a TWA hostess. Mary stayed for several years but I came home after eight months, claiming I missed flying and wanted to finish college. The real reason was I was 19, homesick and missed the airport. I did finish school, got the necessary certificates and ratings, and started instructing. I remember the kick of flying Mary over to CVG in our Ercoupe for her DC-3 flights with "Leaky Central." I remember her pulling on long undies and fur-lined boots for winter flights in the 'Goon'. And I remember that, like every gal he's ever met, she was just a little bit in love with Captain Strunk. A couple years later, I was running a struggling flying school. Bob was nagging at me to get an ATP because the airlines were serious about hiring women. Well, I got the rating (anybody remember K. T. Boyd?) but then ignored his advice and got married. My husband, a socially prominent, dashing, longtime boyfriend (and hero), dangled that promise of a rating in his Lockheed Lodestar. What else would any girl do? Old memories, the events that weave the fabric of our lives, are always there, I guess, playing below the surface. But on this night at Million Air I was just happy to be in the moment. Comfortable with treasured friends, laughing with them and watching their faces as they told stories. Somebody kept the wine flowing and the stories kept coming, mostly about Lake Central when Bob was captain, Roger his copilot and, occasionally, my sister the stewardess. I've spent 25 years messing around with DC-3s, mostly doing FAA check rides, but I'll never know the old gal the way they do. Both men went on to major airlines and turboprops and then jets, but the best stories, the ones they tell when they're mellow, are about the 'Goon.' "Remember the chicken? Oh, my God, yeah. How could I forget?" OK, here's the chicken story: These two had a DC-3 trip to Evansville, originating in Cincinnati. The stewardess, Judy, was a pretty, very young gal with a soft southern drawl and a sweet personality. Judy was a favorite with all the crews. And knowing how much Captain Strunk liked fried chicken, she usually showed up with a sack of the warm, deliciously greasy, southern fried variety. Of course the bag had to be stashed in the cockpit immediately and the door closed. Lake Central passengers, if they were lucky, got a paper cup of Tang and a pack of crackers. Off the ground and Bob, in one fluid motion, signaled "gear up" and retrieved a drumstick from the sack. "Help yourself," he said to Roger who dove in as they climbed out for Evansville. Roger, a rookie copilot, found himself reading the checklist, closing the cowl flaps, adjusting the mixtures, recording the times and making the radio calls with greasy fingers clutching chicken bones. Bob gestured to the copilot's side window, which Roger gratefully slid back and, sure enough, the bones were sucked out. Somewhere beyond Louisville, they'd munched through most of the chicken. At which point Miss Judy came forward to say there was a strong smell of chicken in the cabin and some of the passengers were asking when the food would be served. The three of them had a good laugh about that and Judy returned to the cabin. But she was back very shortly. The smell was stronger. A lot stronger. It smelled like burning chicken and everybody's eyes were watering. What was going on? Do something! Roger was dispatched to the cabin and returned to report that it sure did smell awful but there was no indication of fire. In the cockpit the instruments were fine, engines were purring, no fire bells or lights, no smoke inside or out. Could it be from something on the ground? Lake Central crews and passengers, flying low over Indiana, were well familiar with l'eau de manure and pig farm aromas. Within a few minutes they were on the ground at Evansville. The passengers scattered and the crew huddled with the mechanics. Well, there's an intake just aft of the copilot's side window in the '3. It's an air scoop for the Janitrol heater which, when it works, keeps the cabin much warmer than the original muff heater (which doesn't keep it warm at all … ergo my sister's long underwear). The chicken bones with shreds of skin and fat had been sucked out the window and right into the heater intake where they were refried to a crisp. The passengers were breathing the fumes of cremated chicken. Note: Freight dogs and anybody else who's spent a lot of time around DC-3s will likely have a similar story. There were other tales that night - some raunchy, some chilling, some hilarious, some sad. But the stories and the way they were told conveyed a genuine love for the airplanes and the airlines. Beyond the nostalgia, the wine and the comedy there ran a deep sense of pride. These were pros - skillful, capable, disciplined (well, at least when they were flying) and with an almost sacred sense of personal responsibility. They loved to fly and worked at being the best they could be. Flying airplanes was, to them, as much of an art as a science. Bob reminded Roger of a check airman who taught him a lot and who demanded perfection. "I hated the little bastard," he said, "and I owe him so much."