At the Controls over Manhattan

At the Controls over Manhattan

While I was at Rutgers, I joined Alpha Chi Rho (AXP) national fraternity during the second semester of my Sophomore year. Of course, this meant many new friends and experiences. One of these was a senior that year named Walter Karpowich (see “Walter Karpowich and the Water Pistol").

Walter was in the Air Force ROTC program and he accepted a commission after graduation and served two tours in VietNam. He eventually rose to the rank of Major before he retired.

Many guys in AF ROTC who planned to fly, begin while in college to get their flying licenses and by the time I knew him, Walter had a solo license but needed flying hours to finalize it. Of course, renting a plane and flying was not an inexpensive proposition and many guys were hampered by the lack of funds.

As a young teen, I had flown with my friend Jack Bouvier’s older brother, Ed, while he was trying to amass hours and those of us who went with him helped share the cost. Ed had flown us over our homes in our hometown of Pedricktown and I had found it exciting even though it lasted only 45 minutes or so.

Walter also needed help in sharing the cost, so he approached a couple of us and asked if we wanted to go up with him. I didn’t have a lot of money, but didn’t want to miss out, so I agreed (maybe I cut down on cigarettes or something to pay for it, I’ve forgotten now). In any case, Walter and three of us went out to a small airfield near New Brunswick, NJ and got into a small single engine Piper.


I started out in the back, but since Walter also needed to have a certain number of take offs and landings, our plan was to land in Newark, NJ, change seats, fly over New York, land again in Newark, change seats and then finish back in New Brunswick. That would give each of us an opportunity to be up front! Walter would get about an hour of flying time, three takeoffs and three landings to add to his requirements for a full license.

At this point, many of you may be questioning the sanity of flying with a fairly inexperienced pilot and well you may. But, remember, we were all between 19-22 years old and of course, believed in our immortality. Besides, a Piper will glide for miles if the engine stalls and can be landed on any piece of flat ground within a quarter mile or so. In any case, I don't think any of us were concerned in the least.

After our change over in Newark, we were now flying over Manhattan, when Walter said to me okay grab the wheel, watch this horizon dial and keep it level! For the next, five minutes, I was actually in control of the airplane over Manhattan. I’m sure if the folks below had known, there would have been general panic!

We did have carburetor problems on the way home which was cleared up in Newark (the company sent a guy by plane from New Brunswick) and the good news to that was half our money was refunded for our inconvenience!

I never went up with Walter again and it was nearly 11 years before I flew again, but I have never lost my fascination or excitement over being up in the air.

Davdan @ 2008-2018