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(Book Selection) Dulce - II

Sailor Dave was ready for semi-retirement.  It was 1980 and he was 40 years old.  10 years of drug running had been profitable but you just don’t see many old drug runners unless you are visiting them in the Federal penitentiary.  He figured an extended road trip around the Southwest looking for a new location to call home was just the ticket.  After the split with Marian, he had returned to the Catalina to live and had finally given in to an urge he had had for quite some time.  He had decided to sell the 30 year old Cessna 140 that he rarely flew these days and replace it with a 206;  same-same  plane that he flew routinely at ‘work’.

18 months ago, Sailor Dave had finally located a 1977 Cessna TU206G that he thought would suit him perfectly.  The plane had been confiscated by the DEA when they shut down a major South Florida drug smuggling ring and was being offered at auction along with the other confiscated assets of the smugglers.  He knew of a Miami plane broker who was a friend of a friend of a friend and would inspect the plane prior to the auction.  It had proved out to be the exact plane he was looking for.  The ’77 206 had been heavily modified to serve its’ role as a drug cargo plane.  The nose wheel suspension had been beefed up along with the main landing gear and a short take off / landing package added to handle operating with heavy cargoes from primitive air strips.   It had been updated with a more powerful turbocharged engine and the interior had been stripped down to where only the front 2 seats remained.  It was also fitted with permanent auxiliary wingtip fuel tanks to extend the flight range and had the latest avionics.  He had purchased the plane for $395,000 using a proxy bidder based in Idaho. After several rounds of paperwork – some due to bureaucratic red tape and some to muddy the water as to who actually owned the plane,  Dave finally had the ownership paperwork in his hands 6 months after the purchase date.   Over a year of sitting at FT. Lauderdale Executive Airport while the wheels of government turned and the paperwork was shuffled  had not done the 206 any good.

Sailor  had ended up spending another $67,000 on the plane.  The gutted interior had been completely replaced with a luxurious gray leather package that put the plane back to its’ original 6 seat configuration.  He had upgraded the avionics to current standards and the plane had been inspected from the tip of the tail to the spinner on the prop.  Anything that was not absolutely 100% was repaired or replaced. He had yet to actually see the plane in person but it was finally ready for him and sitting inside a hangar at FXE Ft. Lauderdale.   He had packed a single bag and booked a flight to Ft. Lauderdale that same week.  The morning of his flight out of San Diego,  he made one call to Mexico from a pay phone at the airport terminal and told them he had personal business to attend to and would talk to them in 30 days.

It is always good when something purchased exceeds expectations when you lay eyes on it or the first time.  As Sailor’s eyes adjusted from the glare of the airport tarmac to the cool shady interior of the hangar, he couldn’t help grinning ear to ear.  It never crossed his mind that the plane sitting in front of him had cost north of $450k;  it was worth it.  He slow walked around the outside of the white airplane with dark blue stripes and silver colored accents.  He opened the pilot side door and let out a low whistle ” God, this thing is sweet!”   He threw his bag onto the co-pilots seat and left to find the FBO office and settle up the hangar and fuel bill.  3  hours later, he felt sufficiently comfortable  with his new toy to start his pre-trip and exit South Florida for good.  Dave had officially logged over 600 hours in the Cessna 206 type.  Off the books, he estimated he probably had well over 6 times the 600 hours.  Settling in to the leather pilot’s seat shouting “Clear!”  out the window;  he switched on the ignition in familiar and well rehearsed actions.  He felt at home in the ‘new’ 206 cockpit and now it was time to find a new home base as well.

The search for his home base was not a complicated quest.  He planned on flying to Corpus Christi, Texas and then hop scotching across the Southwest.  He was looking for a small town with an accessible airport close by.  The location must be within easy driving range of a mid sized private aviation facility as well.  Sailor was only semi-retired.  He still expected to work occasionally when a lucrative run came up and he never conducted business out of his home base airport. He had a 5 year old Ford LTD that he would drive to the airport where his ‘work’ plane was hangared.  Most of the smaller private aviation airports he utilized had a courtesy car or two available to out of town pilots who flew in and needed transportation. 9 times out of 10 the locations were owned by the city and the courtesy car was a former city police vehicle which was of course, in most cases, a Ford LTD.  Adding his  older LTD to the parking lot for several days at a time never rated a second glance from anyone.  His only other criteria was a location where he could easily blend in and not be bothered with busy bodies all up in his business.  Three weeks later he had worked his way across South Texas and  Southern New Mexico and he was just flat give out.  He had landed in Lordsburg, New Mexico two days earlier and decided it was time to stand down for a few days and catch up on laundry and some minor plane maintenance which should be nothing more problematic than tightening a few hoses here and there.  He didn’t decide to layover there because he loved Lordsburg, he actually did not care for it at all.  They did have a decent airport with a competent mechanic for a city of that size,  adequate motels and a decent selection of chain restaurants. Good a place as any to lay up for a few days but he knew it was not a suitable spot for his permanent home base.

One of the first people Sailor had met on his arrival in Lordsburg was Captain Jack.  Captain Jack had inserted himself into Sailor’s world almost as soon as he walked into the FBO office.   Sitting on the couch , drinking coffee and reading the latest copy of Popular Aviation, Captain Jack had said in a clear and carrying voice “Son, you best be getting your fuel and moving on.  We want no part of your kind around here.”  Sailor looked over and recognized the type right off though they were generally not so outspoken.  Every small airport had one or two — older retired men who had nothing better to do than hang around the FBO office most of the day.  A goodly portion of these airport busybodies were or had been pilots and many were ex-military on top of that. Sailor looked at the older man and said  “And what kind would that be mister?” “Drug runner, son.  Knew it as soon as you taxied up on the apron.”   Sailor removed his Raybans and locked eyes with the old man as soon as they spoke and neither one had averted their gaze yet.  “Tell me how you figure that Grandpa.”   “Well, boy, there ain’t no weekend flyer that greases the landing like you just did in the crosswind we got blowing today.  That’s a T Model 206 and them turbocharged engines don’t come cheap.  Your front strut looks like it came off a B-24 bomber and you are carrying oversize rubber on all 3 wheels. I do believe I saw some fuel filler caps out on your wingtips where they ain’t got no business.   Not to even mention those 3 NAV radios inside.”  Sailor grinned for the first time and said “Gotta love it old man.  Step outside and I will prove it ain’t no drug runner’s plane.”  15 minutes later they returned back inside the office talking like they had known each other for years.  Once Captain Jack had taken a better look at the general condition of the 206 and its’ lush interior, he knew his assumption had been wrong.  Sailor didn’t tell him just how close his original statement had really been.

The two men spent the rest of the afternoon talking and telling stories.  Captain Jack was a veteran of both WWII and Korea,  flying P47s over Europe during the World War and then transitioning to the swept wing F-86 Sabre jet for the Korean War.  He had retired to  Lordsburg with his wife after founding a successful plastic manufacturing company in the early 60’s.  He was still an active flyer and owned a Mooney M20F Executive. Over the next two days,  the two veterans developed a strong friendship and Sailor learned the Captain was well respected there in Lordsburg.  At some point Sailor told him the reason he was in Lordsburg was to find a suitable location for a summer home where he would also eventually retire from his “air charter” business in San Diego.   Captain Jack pushed hard for him to look around Lordsburg but soon gave up on that idea because of Sailor’s total lack of enthusiasm for the entire area.  On his last night in town, Captain Jack invited him out to his house to eat and after dinner, sitting out on the deck with a bottle of good whiskey at his elbow, Captain Jack said “You know Sailor,  I’ve been thinking your situation over and I may have a solution for you.  A bunch of us go hunting up in Northern New Mexico every fall and you just might like it pretty good up there.  I have a buddy up that way that might just help you out.”

Early the next afternoon, Sailor landed at the Jicarilla Apache Nation Airport 10 miles south of Dulce, NM.  As he was getting out of the 206, he saw a man walking across from a house  a few hundred yards from the airport office.   As he walked up. the man said “Can I help you?” “Maybe so” Sailor said. “I’m looking for the guy that runs this place, Charlie Notsinneh.  You know him?”  The man’s eyes narrowed as he looked Sailor’s plane up and down.  “Depends on who’s asking I reckon.”

“Well, let’s just say we have a friend in common down in Lordsburg name of Captain Jack.”  A big smile creased the Indian’s face “Well, I reckon you found him.”  He extended his hand  “Thought that might be you. Charlie Notsinneh, what can I do for you Sailor?  Captain Jack called me this morning and said you might be headed this way.  He told me to give you a hard time and hide all my good whiskey.”   Now it was Sailor’s turn to grin as he warmly shook Charlie’s hand.

 

 

 

Previous installments of the book are HERE.

Disclaimer:  This is a work of fiction.  None of the characters are real.  The events depicted may or may not be historically true or even remotely factual.  Locations and descriptions may or may not be actual.  This is my original work and you DO NOT have permission to copy more than a short excerpt which must point back to my original document. This work and all work in this series is Copyright © 2013 MyOldRV.com.

 

 

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