I love getting outdoors. My wife and I regularly ride motorcycles, both dirt and street. We explore out-of-the-way places in our Jeep. I have over 5,000 hours as a pilot in small airplanes with extensive experience at “bush flying” in the backcountry. So when my editor at Oklahoma Living Anna Politano asked me to write a story about outdoor adventures, I didn’t even have to leave my desk. I just pulled from my huge archive of images and stories to write this piece titled “5 Outdoor Activities in Oklahoma”. We wanted the story to be about unusual activities rather than the normal golf or tennis.
In the summer of 2013 I did a project for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism where I photographed people at various state parks across Oklahoma. One of those projects was to photograph golfing at Lake Murray State Park. The Tourism Department provided me with models. I am not a huge golfer, although my wife and I play every now and then, but not all that well. We love the exercise and usually like to walk the course while playing. The course at Lake Murray is beautiful with rolling fairways, wooded areas overhanging the course, and well maintained greens. The Lake Murray State Park Airport is adjacent to the golf course, so it is easy to fly a private plane into the park, play a round of golf, eat at the nearby restaurant, then fly home.
Back in 2005 I flew my Maule to Johnson Creek (pronounced “crick” by the locals) to camp, do some backcountry flying and hang out with other pilots. My friend and fellow pilot Alex Weeks went with me on this particular trip.
While hanging around the campground one hot afternoon, I noticed a celebration happening at a nearby home. A line of cars approached and out spilled a bride, groom and a bunch of friends and family. They proceeded to walk across the grass runway and up to a beautiful T6 Texan WWII training aircraft. I grabbed my camera and fired off photos without trying to get in the way of the wedding photographer. The groom loaded his bride up in the T6, fired the plane off with a belch of grey smoke, taxied out on the grass runway, took off, then turned and made a couple of VERY low passes over the wedding party. What fun!
Only later I found out that the groom was an Air Force Caption who was tasked to the Navy to fly F-16 fighter jets as an “aggressor” in training Navy fighter pilots in F-14 and F-18 jets. He had flown to Johnson Creek in his home-built Vans RV-8. His bride was actually the owner of the T-6! She had inherited it and a couple of other airplanes from her grandfather and flew it regularly. Two active pilots getting married!
I guess the advertisement worked – “Air Force fighter jock looking for wife. Must clean, cook, and own an airplane. Send pictures of airplane.”
Last week I was asked to help recover a Maule airplane that had landed on a sandbar on the Cimarron River near Cashion, Oklahoma. A couple of guys I knew were landing along the river and ended up nosing the airplane over in the deep sand, resulting in a prop strike. Luckily the only thing seriously damaged was the propeller. The aircraft mechanic who works on my Maule had taken care of the repairs, replacing the prop blades and doing a runout check on the engine crank. After obtaining an FAA ferry permit, we all flew up there in a Robinson R44 Raven helicopter to see if we could get the airplane to wet hardpack ground and then fly it out. Luckily a Oklahoma Department of Agriculture guy just happened by on his 4-wheeler and helped us drag the airplane to the wet hardpack sand. From there it was a simple matter for me to fly it out and back to Wiley Post Airport. I was asked to fly the airplane because of my fairly extensive bush flying background. The flight out ended up being a piece of cake and 15 minutes later we touched down at PWA safe and sound. I didn’t get a chance to shoot many pics or video, most of the video was shot on my camera by someone else, but still pretty cool.