The Adventures of Good Ole Carl and the Airplane


In November Corky holds the Parts Peddler Auction and Trade Show at the
fairgrounds in Syracuse.  Thousands of racers from all over the east come to
this big event to meet up with the manufacturers, speed shops and other
racers.  They bring their cars and trailers and parts to sell at the auction.

It was the end of the racing season and for the past month I had been working
for Corky getting everything ready for the show.  This year the weather was
beautiful.  The bright sunny warm days let us keep the large overhead doors
open on this enormous fairgrounds building. I was helping to register the
sellers and their parts as a line of vehicles formed outside, waiting for their turn.

The picture in my mind is still vivid.  An old pickup truck was pulling into
the building towing a small plane.  The plane was shiny in the bright sun and
then became a silhouette once inside the door against the bright background
outside.  The warm breeze swirled fallen leaves in the door behind the
trailer.

The plane was on a small trailer, fuselage resting in the center and the removed wings
cradled in carpeted slots on either side, parallel to the body of the plane. 
It was all aluminum with a bubble canopy over the cockpit like a jet fighter
and a V tail.  Nose to tail it was about 15 ft with wings about the same
length.  The propeller shaft stuck out of the front without a prop.

Everyone looked as the pickup parked and a short stocky man in his 40's
climbed out.  We had gotten a lot of odd stuff at the auction, boats,
machinery, office furniture..., but the airplane was a real attention getter. Little by little
everyone working in the place wandered over to take a look.  Corky walked over and talked to the man and they laughed about the stuff he had brought. 
He had a truck load of construction tools and things as well.  The man had been coming to Corky all summer bringing surplus building materials and used
tools and equipment to sell.  (Pictured are Monett Moni planes the same as the one brought to the auction.)

Corky introduced Carl to me and we began to sign in the plane and the other
stuff he brought.  Of course the question was "what are you doing with this
airplane"?  Carl's appearance was more like a junk yard dog than a pilot. 
His 4 day old beard gave a scruffy appearance to his round chubby face.  He
talked out of one side of his mouth but had a likable personality, contrary
to his looks in the old shabby clothes.

Carl was a scavenger, handy man, junk dealer and he said that this plane had
been traded to him for work he did, along with some other stuff, by someone
who didn't want the plane anymore.  We filled out the paperwork and moved the
plane out into the display area.  Carl hung around and asked if we needed
help and Corky signed him on to work with us for the weekend.

Throughout the auction weekend, the plane was the focus of attention.  It's
clean, sleek appearance magnified the fact that it was so out of place at a racecar auction.  I looked the plane over very carefully.  I thought that when I quit racing that I would like to fly and this little plane would be perfect.  I had only been up in small planes a few times, one time they let me fly it a bit. I really enjoyed it. 

It was an amazing coincidence that while I was working on an engine at Ron Hutter's shop in Ohio a few months before, that I ran across a copy of one of Ron's Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association magazine while getting newspaper to wrap cleaned parts. Ron had a small plane.  The magazine was in the pile of old papers ready for the trash.  The cover had a picture of this very plane on it, classically banked into a turn.  It attracted me so much that I picked up the magazine, studied the picture and started to read the article. 

The plane was an ultralight, that you could buy as a kit for about $8000 (add
another $14,000 to $18,000 to get it assembled).  The company that built these was long
established in Oshkosh.  The plane was a "powered glider" of sorts, a single
seater, with a small two cylinder engine mounted between the pilot's ankles. 
The seat laid back and you sat in the plane like you would in a go-kart.  The
wings were pinned so they could be removed for travel and storage.  The whole
thing weighed less than the maximum 300 lbs for an ultralight so it didn't
have to be licensed.  At 125 knots it had a 300 mile range on a tank of fuel
and could glide with the motor off.  The article described the construction
methods and it was very similar to the way that I had learned to build
racecar wings.  I could build this.

The magazine was for and about real aircraft.  As I read the article it was
clear that Ultralights were looked down upon by the owners of licensed planes
and normally the only mention of ultralights would be derogatory ones in the
letters to the editor.  This article was written about this plane because it
of it's designer, the quality of the design and ease of flight, it was a
stand out among ultralights and reviewed very highly as being more like a
real plane than an ultralight´┐Ż An aviator's toy.  I threw the discarded
magazine in the truck. This looked like a fun and affordable project for
sometime in the future.

I couldn't believe that this exact plane was right in front of me.  I decided
to buy it.  It went through the auction and I bid against someone from Texas.
$4000 was the high bid and it was mine.  I figured that even if I couldn't
afford to keep it that I could sell it and make money at that price.  I paid
for it with stuff I had sold and my work at the show.

Carl worked faithfully all weekend. He wanted to race bad, and now he had
enough money from the plane to buy a trailer and frame and other pieces to
start to put a racecar together.  When the auction wrapped up we helped Carl
load the frame on the trailer and I hooked up to tow the plane home.  Carl
took the license plate off the plane's trailer to put it on his and I headed
the back way home to my parents house, taking my chances on the 15 mile route
without a plate on the plane's trailer.

Within a few miles of the garage where I was going to store the plane I
noticed a county sheriff's car about a half mile back.  I was doing the speed
limit and he was keeping his distance.  I figured he'd come up to take a look
at an airplane on a trailer just for curiosity and pull me over for no
license plate.  I made the turn down another back road.  He turned, still a
half mile back.  Through the winding turns I sped up when he was out of site,
trying to increase the gap.  Stopped at stop signs, turned another corner and
he was still back there, half a mile.  The final turn toward home, my heart
racing, he goes straight on.  I hustled the trailer in the garage and quickly
closed the door.  Disaster averted.

By the end of the week I was back in PA at the racecar shop when I got a call
from Corky.  "Where's the plane," Corky asked.  "In my garage in Brewerton,"
I told him.  "The plane is stolen!" he said.  I immediately thought that
someone must have broke in and stole the plane out of the garage.
Then Corky made it clear, "All that stuff that Carl was bringing me last
summer was stolen from mini-storages around Rochester and that's where he got
the plane.  Two guys are flying in from Rochester in their small plane next
Wednesday to identify it, is it OK?"  "Sure," I said, "I just stored it."  We
talked and laughed about Carl and what good help he had been at the show and
how he looked like the type but didn't act like it.

On Wednesday we met up with the two.  They had heard about the plane from a
friend who had been to the auction and told them "They even had an airplane
there´┐Ż." The owner described the plane in details that would only be known by
a person who had spent hundreds of hours assembling it from the kit.  It was
clear to me that it was his long before we arrived at the garage.  The next
day they drove the 2 hours from Rochester and picked up the plane.

For a week, I owned an airplane.  For a week I had dreams and visions of
learning to fly and soaring over the neighborhood, towing to new areas, being
a tourist in the skies.  A nice pastime, with a beautiful little plane, for
after racing.  My fantasies only lasted a week.

Well, that ended my aviation adventures but not the adventure of Carl.  The
next time I saw him he was sitting on a bench next to a county sheriff
outside of the court room where his trial was to be.  Despite the handcuffs
he waved and said hi with a smile when I walked by.  If it hadn't been an
awkward moment he would have liked to have a conversation, maybe about racing
or what have you been doing or whatever, that's just the way he was.

He had been in jail before for stealing.  This could have been a federal
offense if the plane had been FAA registered.  I was there as a witness.  After about
10 minutes they reached a plea agreement and I was told I wouldn't be needed.
Carl went to the slammer.

A couple of years later, Corky gets a knock at the door and there's Carl. 
Fresh out of jail and looking for work.  After some discussion, Corky hires
him and Carl becomes Corky's right hand man; loyal, trustworthy, hardworking.
Carl had been calling Corky from jail while he was in and asked Corky to
send him any racing papers that he had.  Corky did.  Carl had never stolen
from Corky so for the next year or so he helped Corky load and unload stuff
and run errands.  He would go to shows and races with Corky, and move stuff
to and from an old barn that Corky rented, a few miles away.

A few years after that I had moved back to Brewerton to run the family
business and was working at our hardware store when one day Carl walks in. 
He says "I've gone straight.  I'm not working for Corky but I am working for
a place up the road.  I need to buy a sump pump to install at my sister's
place.  Can you cash my paycheck?"  I called the company name on the check
and they said he worked there and the check was good, so we got all the stuff
together that he needed.  "My sister will reimburse me for the parts she but
won't pay me for putting this in so could you give me a receipt and add $30
to the prices" he said out of the corner of his mouth.

I laughed inside.  Going straight, right.  "Sure" I said.  The guy was too
likable.  I hand wrote a receipt for him.  Two weeks later he was back. 
Needed some more stuff, cash the paycheck and a special receipt.

A week later Carl gets hooked up with a businessman in Rochester who had
recently bought a warehouse.  In the otherwise empty building were 4 or 5
barrels of chemicals.  The company that occupied the building before had been
stripping silver from x-ray negatives to sell to Kodak, headquartered nearby.
The new owner needed to get rid of the chemicals and apparently had given
Carl five or six hundred bucks to rent a U-Haul so that he could deliver the
drums to a toxic waste processor in Buffalo and pay them to dispose of it. 

Carl saw an easy profit in the deal and figured that if he just got rid of
the stuff he wouldn't have to pay the toxic waste processing company and
could keep the money.  Carl headed for Syracuse.  Many times he had moved
truck loads of stuff in and out of that old barn for Corky. It was on a back
road in a rural area, out behind some houses, with fields all around.  Corky had
small trucks in and out of there from time to time so Carl's U-Haul wouldn't
look out of place. The tall grass of a vacant field probably looked like a
good place to hide these drums.

Carl drove in and backed the truck up to the edge of the field.  He rolled
the barrels out off the back of the truck without a ramp.  One of the barrels
fractured and the chemical started to seep out.  The smell must have been
overwhelming and after wrestling with the drum for a few minutes he staggered
back to the cab of the truck to sit down and catch his breath.  He had to get
the barrels out into the field so that they wouldn't be discovered
so after a bit he went back to moving the barrels.  The fumes overcame him
and he fell to the ground, face down in a puddle. 

Whether it was fumes, suffocation or drowning, I don't know.  But when I
heard the report on the news and they said "Man found dead...," Carl's name and
the location, I knew that adventures with Carl had come to an end.  Corky's
brother had found him after one of the neighbors had called wondering about
the truck that had been parked there for a day or so with the door open. 
Carl never got to race.

EPILOGUE
The businessman who owned the warehouse was in big trouble.  They charged him
with illegal dumping, and man slaughter among other things.  After a couple
of years in the courts they must have realized that he was another victim of
Carl's scams and dropped the man slaughter charges but fined him $75,000 for
the environmental violations.

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