Frank was assigned to Taipei Air Station but he worked in town at Taiwan Motors, the local Ford dealer and garage that repaired US Air Force vehicles belonging to Taipei Air Station.
How many of you have thought of flying? I have.. Unfortunately, most of us just don't follow through...
Frank was the exception.
I spoke with Frank and asked him how he found out about flying lessons in Taipei..
I never heard anything about flying lessons, I was there 1965-1968. Perhaps it was a well kept secret or maybe it was closed by the time I arrived.
The # 1 mechanic at the Taiwan Motors garage (where Frank worked) was Mr. Chiang. During a conversation one day, Mr. Chiang mentioned his friend, Mr. Lee who was an instructor at the Flying Club out at the airport. Frank was skeptical of flying, but had always kept the idea of flying in the back of his head.
Frank made contact with Mr. Lee, signed-up and soon received his "Flying Club Membership Card. Within the week he was out at "Taipei Airport" to begin flying lessons.
Mr Lee, Flying Club Instructor
Frank's Flying Club Membership Card
After some schooling time in the basics of flying, safety, equipment and other subjects, it was time to take to the air.
Frank recalled that the "Flying Lessons" were, one hour and cost NT$20. I told Frank the cost amount did not sound correct, but Frank believed, that was the cost.
Mr. Lee, had been a Nationalist Chinese Air Force Pilot in the Flying Tigers stationed in Burma during WWII.
One wonders why Mr. Lee only charged a small amount of money to teach flying lessons.
Add to that, the fuel consumed each hour the trainer aircraft was in the air or moving about the airport.
Perhaps someone will know the circumstances and details of Mr. Lee's position. Was the government involved? Probably. And, you know, it may have been something associated with "Special Services" down at HSA.... Anyone know?
This is the aircraft Frank trained in, a PT-17 Stearman, also used by the ROCAF as a trainer.
Thank you Wei-Bin Chang of the Taiwan Air Power Web site for your help with this story on the Stearman aircraft.
Fueled-up and ready to fly!
"Click" for a Link to more about Stearman Aircraft
The rules were, the aircraft would maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet except when taking off or landing.
Frank said they could fly over Taipei, and he does not recall any Restricted Air Space.
Hanging down from the upper wing was a glass gauge indicating fuel tank levels.
Frank said that there were few gauges in the aircraft, and he was taught that when the struts begin to vibrate, you are approaching "Stall" speed and it's time to immediately give the motor some additional power.
I guess that procedure is most often encountered when on final approach to landing.
Because the aircraft had no radio communications, the pilot would watch the roof of the Control Tower looking for a "Green Light" which indicated that there was no immediate traffic on or approaching the landing runway, and the aircraft could land.
Frank told me a story about the first time he was given the stick to taxi and take off at Taipei Airport.
Frank was moving his aircraft down a taxi way toward the take-off runway. He and Mr. Lee both saw a green light atop the Control Tower, which indicated that Frank was allowed to enter the runway and take-off.
As Frank approached the one and only runway, which is still the only runway at Taipei Airport, which runs East-West, he is looking over the side of the aircraft to the left and then to the right to make sure his aircraft is centered in the taxi-way. As he approaches the runway, a speck catches his eye.
He looked back to see what his eye caught and sees a China Airlines aircraft on final approach to land on the runway just in front of Frank's aircraft.
Frank said he was frightened, he hit the brakes, the aircraft lifted-up, the propeller just skimmed the cement, and the aircraft fell backward onto the tail wheel as it came to a stop.
Both men looked back at the Tower, the green light was still on atop the tower!
Frank said he was shaking in his seat, and was too rattled to go farther. Mr. Lee taxied out to take off.
Sometime after that incident, Frank lost his Log Book. When you are training for a Pilot license, you have to maintain a Log Book, where everything is written down as you practice and pass check points. The Log Book is submitted as one of the documents when applying for license.
Frank said he had about 9 hours of training, not an enormous amount, but he "kind of lost interest" in going for his license, after his Log Book disappeared.
Here are some of the photographs Frank took from the Stearman as he flew over the Taipei area.
This photo taken by Mr. Lee
Frank in the front seat, the mirror above to watch the rear seat pilot for instructions, etc.
Frank tells the story of the aircraft's parachute for trainees.
The flying lessons came with a cloth helmet, goggles and a parachute.
Frank said the parachute was old, had a dirty cover, and he was sure that it had not been opened and re-packed for Years.
He told Mr. Lee that the parachute was "Boo-how"
You jumped up onto aircraft wing, stepped-up and got into you seat and sat on your parachute (for additional height) to look over the sides of the cockpit onto the ground to see exactly where you were in relationship to the taxiway sides, you don't want to get into the grass. You can't see the ground in front of the aircraft.
The parachute was the old style which hung down off your body. You've probably noticed those in old films, the pilot walking with a bag hanging down from his backside...
Not sure where this is, close to Taipei, but nothing I recognize.
Frank cruising around, getting his hour of flying in the books.
Many people take this same photo from their aircraft. You've probably seen a similar one before.
What else is out at Taipei Airport?
Could be here in Taipei for any reason, could even be one of the "Milk Run" or Stars and Stripes delivery aircraft.
Another day, same aircraft back in town.
No dates on either photo, but it was between April 1961 and July 1962.
No markings on this PBY, resting at Taipei Airport, 1961-1962.
This could have been the aircraft Frank flew to Clark on his PCS move to Taipei, he flew in a Pan Am Aircraft. Don't recognize the service van.
It must be a Boeing 707.
Beautiful day at the Taipei Airport, clear and clean air!
Looks like two or three Lockheed Electra aircraft off to the left here.
They remind me of Emelia Earhart who flew an Electra on her last flight.
Forgive me if those parked on the tarmac are another type of aircraft. I guessed they were Lockheed Electra aircraft.
Here's a ROCAF C-119, probably in town from the south, most likely Tainan AB,
commonly called the "Mayo Quanchi" flight.
Have you ridden on a white knuckle flight? Lot's of GI's have over the years.
Back in the early days of MAAG, if you were assigned to the south, it would take many hours to make the railroad ride to Taipei.
So, many folks opted for the Mayo Quanchi flight north and back home.
Another look at the same aircraft, I suspect on a different day from those above.
I wanted to close with this unusual photograph.
It appears that the aircraft is "probably" out of Barbers Point, Hawaii, carrying the
Commander-in-Chief, US Naval Forces Pacific and his party including his spouse.
The tarmac is full of Taiwan Naval personnel.
There is a very large band with their wet instruments.
A Taiwan Color Guard.
Lots of Taiwan Military personnel squatting down for some reason.
On the left, just outside the aircraft, is a group of Naval Officers, I would assume US Officers in their "Whites" standing at attention, probably for the National Anthems of both the US and Taiwan.
Next to them, closer to the steps, you can see one or two women.
Women would only accompany their husbands if the trip an official visit of some sort.
Looks like it poured rain out at the Taipei Airport, and maybe even coming-down as the photo was taken.
Typical day in the winter and spring.
Many thanks to John Quinn for his help in identifying what we" think was going on, when the photograph above was taken.
Keep checking our blog, we have many more nice photograph from Frank's assignment in Taipei.
Including a few "clean and clear" aerial views of Taipei Air Station, in Color.