Friday, April 11, 2008

@#$*%! - Here They come Again!

Photo: Curley Copeland

Milton Copeland sent the above photo of a North American AT-6 "Texan" he found in his dad's photo album. We are reasonably sure it was made at the old Baldwyn grass airstrip, looking east at the south end of the runway near the hangars. The tree at the right would be at the little pond. The AT-6's (Advanced Trainer-6) basic design was as a trainer, with the characteristics of a high speed fighter, and was well suited to the intermediary task of training pilots before letting them loose in an actual fighter aircraft. Although not as fast as a fighter, it was easy to maintain and repair, had more maneuverability and was easier to handle. It was also very agile and aerobatic.

We will have to assume a related story here. I venture that it was possibly at the Baldwyn airport (which is puzzling due to the length of the runways) when Barry Henderson and Fred Parmenter were still in the reserve after their active duty. They were required to occasionally have a few days active duty and they would have to fly to maintain their pilot status. They would report for that duty, pick up a couple of planes, and fly for the required time.

Picture a hot, humid, lazy day downtown and being stretched out in a poolroom window wishing for a little breeze. Nothing is stirring, the town is quiet. From out of nowhere, just as thunder loudly follows lightning, a thunderous noise is suddenly causing buildings and all the windows in town to shake and vibrate and you are suddenly jolted back into conscienceness by the most deafening roar you could ever imagine.

Fred and Barry have just "buzzed" downtown. The AT-6s with the powerful 550 hp Pratt & Whitney "Wasp" radial engines with no mufflers have already cleared the downtown area, but the reverberation and window rattle is still there. The town is suddenly shaken "back to life".

They will continue to do this and put on an aerial show of dives, loops, rolls, side-by-side maneuvers and stalls in the sky above town for quite a while. Mr. Brooks Prather would get really upset and comment very vocally about it. He was also one that had been dozing on the poolroom bench when they came.

Eventually the show would be over, and everybody watching would see them "wave goodbye" by dipping their wings from side to side as they flew to the west. Then things would return to normal - or so you thought. They would go out of sight and then turn and make another surprise pass over town, rattling the windows again.

At that time you would hear a quiet little guy named Rob Mullins (thanks, JC) who hung around the poolroom seldom speaking about anything, jump up and declare "@#$*%! - here they come again!"

Turn your volume up really loud and play the short video:


  1. The familiar and trademark roar that the Pratt and Whitneys had were not engine noise. The propeller tips were breaking the sound barrier at only 2700 rpm.
    And it was deafening in a climb out...

  2. I think that would be Rob Mullins, Carl. He was quiet but could get his dander up when he wasn't mowing yards.


  3. Me and Arch Young rode with Barry Henderson one time,,note I said one time and he scared the devil out of me..He landed or came into the grass runways,,touched down on one wheel with right wing about and inch off the grass,,went all the way down the runway toward the big tree at the end then pulled it up just clipping the top of that tree..When I got out,,never again I was used to Arch's flying and he didn't want to scare me any more than himself..Wallis

  4. Do you remember the carnivals that were set up at the old air strip? Anybody?? VB

  5. We don't, VB. There were one or more grass airstrips in Baldwyn in later years. can't recall a carnival except by the Caldwell hospital and where they built the dairy bar.
    I have seen Barry fly like they were talking about. He was certainly a dare devil but good.

  6. Don't know how long the airstrip is (or was). The AT6 needed 1200-1400 feet to become airborne at 73 mph in a breezy cond. That is it's length X 40 or 45. After becoming airborne it's power would allow a steep rapid climb or bank to clear objects. Hope this helps.

  7. The a-6 plane probably was from McCain NAS at Meridian. During The War several planes in trouble would land at Baldwyn. A mechanic would be sent up to evaluate and repair.

    Curley Copeland was in the military well before the War started. We lived beside Cousin Andrew (Curley, Doris, Oleta) twice - once in the Prather houses across the (now) highway behind the Christian Church, and where Marjorie Lampkin lives now.

  8. Thanks, Billy Bob - that certainly could have been the case. The photo and others like it pose questions that folks like you can help answer. We appreciate your input.

    My mother always wrote on the back of photos so much later the mysteries could be solved of who, what, when, etc.

    Thanks, Joe C - could not remember Rob's name.

    Kenneth you seem to know your AT-6s well. Thanks for your info.

    Thanks, Wallis - I rode with him once, also and came back with my face blue and my stomach still at 3000 feet.

    VB, I seem to remember a carnival there once, but was much too young to retain any details. I would have had to be taken probably in arms or a stroller!

  9. I paid $3 to go up in a plane my first time with a guy I believe was named McCary or McKerrie. After he took off he dived at some people at the end of the airport and then turned left on its side went around some trees and dived again, and then we did an upright fly around. It wasn't enjoyable after the first minute since he scared me to death on take off.