A New Deal

When the depression hit, the Rankin brothers gave up barnstorming and hunkered down in Oregon. They operated a flying service out of a tin hanger on a small dirt field located in the lowlands of north Portland. They called it Rankin Field. By this time, along with the SPAD, they owned a Nieuport 17 (another WWI surplus fighter), plus the 1929 Ford Trimotor.

They scraped by—doing some engine repair work, taking sightseers up for a spin, handling photography assignments, plus occasional out-of-town air racing, stunt flying and air show exhibitions. Anything to pay the rent, the fuel bills and stay alive.

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At take-off, the Ford Trimotor was probably the world’s noisiest aircraft. The buzz-saw rasp of three uncowled engines, the vibration, and the external control cables slapping against the grooved metal sides, all combined to scare the hell out of Agnes and my mother as the “Tin Goose” lumbered down the field, picking up air speed. For me it wasone, big, heart-stopping thrill. I sat there gripping the seat handles, with a silly grin on my face.

Once in the air, the howling engines and continued vibration still made so much noise it was impossible to hear anybody talk. I hooted and hollered for the fun of it.

Dick Rankin flew us over the hills and towers of Portland and then up the Columbia River gorge, all the way to Mt. Hood and back. Looking down at the top . of Mt. Hood up close, through the “Tin Goose’s” large windows, was awesome.

Dick sat at the controls. Emma sat in the co-pilot seat next to him. My mother and Agnes sat in the cabin on each side of the narrow aisle. And I bounded from one side of the plane to the other with pure delight, checking out the fabulous views.

By the time that old “Tin Goose” flapped in for a landing on Rankin Field’s dirt strip, I had once again changed my mind. I had decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be a pilot.

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A few weeks after that memorable flight, Dick Rankin took Emma along on a flight to Kansas City, where the two brothers were entered in an air exhibition. It must have been a captivating trip. Upon her return, Emma told us that romance was in the air and that she and Dick were moving in together. He had an apartment across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington.

When the time came for her to move, we helped her pack. There were a lot of hugs. We all kissed her good­bye. And that was it—the end of a brief but intriguing interlude in my life, when I lived on the eastside in a Taylor Street flat with three women.

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