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Winging It! With Dr. Paul

Powder Blue Champ

The last lady pilot we'd had around these parts musta flew straight up from hell. An old witch of a woman with a big hawk nose and the voice of a screech-owl, name of Avalon Eden. Used to give flying lessons outa the hayfield east of town, in a powder blue Aeronca Champ that'd bug your eyes. I mean powder blue like a diaper truck or a bakery wagon, not Piper-Cub Yellow or O. D. Green like any sensible trainer oughta be. No sir, a gleaming, spotless powder blue - old Avalon was always goin' on about respect for the machinery. Anyways, there she'd be in that hayfield, six AM of every Saturday and Sunday rain or shine, putting the fear of God and the love of the sky into all who dared (or all who cared twelve bucks a lesson worth), 'til she and her rolled-up sectional chart, the one she used to whap you on the head with when you got the controls crossed, just kinda dropped outa sight. That musta been maybe eighteen, twenty years ago, and she'd not been heard of since. The old girl had been on a self-renewal kick about then, but word had it she'd run off with a soap salesman from Missouri.

So you can imagine my surprise Sunday last, on seeing that self-same powder blue Champ slip over the fence and ease down into the hayfield east of town, and spotless as ever. It was Airshow weekend, and I kinda figured old Avalon had dropped back in for a visit. But the lady I saw swinging the tail around was an angel of eighteen, all tall cool blonde and easy graces, not hardly the witch of a flight instructor I'd been expecting. I guess others was thinking the same, 'cause pretty soon a crowd of twenty, thirty fliers was all bunched around the Champ, just gaping, and all with the same question frozen in their gaze: how'd she come by Avalon's machine?

And then the damndest thing happened. This vision of spring slung herself down onto the new mowed hay, and started in on the crowd, drumming like a pro. Sayin' what a sight we all were, not takin' proper care of our planes and ourselves. I mean, she laid into Claude Banner something fierce, over the grass stain in his jeans, about how no self-respecting pilot would come to fly-in looking like that. Then it was Barry MacNeill's turn. She went on about the cuffs of his old Navy flying jacket, all crusted in rocker box grease. She strode over to Mel Abernathy's Stinson Voyager with a white kerchief in her hand. Dipped down low under the cowling and brought it up dripping oil, with a frown and a shake of her head and nary a word. The wing of Jim Holley's T-craft was next in her line of fire. She harped about that patch in the fabric, the one that's all faded and curling up at the edges. About the time she tousled my hair and chided me for the white flakes flying off every whichaway, I'd had just about enough. And so had the rest of the crowd, I reckon.

But before we could organize ourselves into any sort of a lynching party, she broke it off short. Back to the Champ, and out she comes with a case of plastic squeeze-bottles, and damned if she didn't start handing out samples! Plane-Re-Nu, she told us, the universal cleaner/wax/preservative. Makes everything young again. Use it anywhere. Metal, rubber, leather, faces, fabric, fur, or flying togs. Only five bucks the bottle, she said, at airfields all across the State. Try it, she offered, on our planes and on ourselves. Take pride, she urged, in ourselves and our machines. And then of a minute she was back in the Champ. Called out "Mags on!" and someone gave her a prop and she was bounding down the turf. Raised the tail at twenty, flew it off as pretty as you please, cleared the fence by fifty feet and was gone. And all I had left of the day's encounter was a little plastic squeeze-bottle full of soap.

It wasn't 'til Tuesday Noon that I really took an up-close look at that bottle. There in the corner of the label was a powder blue Champ, and below it in a fancy script, said "Plane- Re-Nu, The Airman's Universal Cleaner." But it's the small letters at the bottom that got me to thinking. The ones I can't read without my specs on. Way down below the Directions, if I squint just right, I can barely make it out: "Mfg. by Avalon Products, Eden MO."

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