Meet our beloved grandfather. Known to us as Gigi. Known to his friends as Dub. He is the one second from the left. He is the centerpiece of our family and one of my favorite people in the world. He is full of life and love. He has always lived his life full throttle, no holds bar. When Joshua was given the assignment to interview a relative and write about them, Gigi immediately came to my mind. He has lived an adventuresome life, surviving the Depression, two wars and even a plane crash. I hope you enjoy the following true story as much as we enjoyed recording it.
Interviewed by: Joshua Grogan
Written by: Joshua Grogan and Mom
Written by: Joshua Grogan and Mom
“Dub’s Double Trouble”
It was a beautiful, sunny day in November in Murray, Kentucky. The year was 1965. I had just left church service and was on my way to the Murray Airport. While I was driving to the airport, I thought back on the past four years. I had spent those years working tirelessly on building a two-winged bi-plane. I had built the entire thing from scratch. It had taken hours of my time and had seemed like an endless journey. Finally, though, I had finished it. Even though I was forty-five years old, I sure didn’t feel like it. I felt like I was twenty again because accomplishing such a difficult task as building an airplane made me feel like I could do anything.
When I got to the airport, I opened the garage door. I stood back for a moment to admire my bi-plane. What a beauty! There she stood in all her glory, white with red stripes. The body was built out of metal tubing while the wings were made out of wood. It had an upper wing and a lower wing. ‘Double Trouble’ is what I had named her. I would soon find out that her name fit her well.
I got in my bi-plane and started it up. I drove it out onto the runway. I wasn’t quite ready to take her up yet. I wanted to get some more practice handling her and get a feel for her attitude before flying her. I did this by driving it down the runway and pulling the joy stick back a little so the plane would get some feet off of the ground. I had already spent some afternoons driving her up and down the runway practicing with her. Recently, I had installed a new propeller and was anxious to see how she flew with it.
I started down the runway, going about 80 miles per hour. Then I pulled the joy stick back a little and the plane went straight up in the air. “Whoa!” I exclaimed. I didn’t know that the propeller was going to give it so much more power. Instead of lifting off the ground a little, the plane went full force straight up into the air. I was going to be flying this plane today whether I liked it or not! I continued to pull back the joystick so the plane would keep climbing upward and gain altitude. When I climbed to about 500 feet, the plane could not gain any more altitude and the plane went into an air stall. An air stall is like driving a car up an icy hill with your tires spinning and not going anywhere. When a plane air stalls, it literally quits moving because it doesn’t have enough speed behind it to push it up. The only way to get out of an air stall is to pull your joystick forward and go into a nose dive. I did this, hoping I could get enough speed behind it to lift back up into the air. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough air space to bring the plane back up. As I was quickly approaching the ground, I realized the plane was going to crash. I said a quick prayer to God and said bye to my wife because I thought my life was over. Right before the impact, the plane cut left making it hit the ground upside down. It hit with such force that it dug a two foot hole in the ground. I felt like I had been in an explosion. I couldn’t believe I was still alive! Hanging upside down, I noticed that my legs were stuck in the crushed metal. I jerked and pulled, finally cutting loose. I had not been wearing a seatbelt (later I found out that had I been wearing one it would have cut my body completely in half upon impact). I was soaked head to toe in gasoline. Then I saw people running towards me from the airport.
“Dub, are you all right?” they shouted.
“I’m fine!” I assured them. They looked at me doubtfully, pretty sure that I was not telling them the truth.
“I’m going home,” I said, starting for my truck.
“No, don’t! You don’t need to drive!” they yelled after me.
I wasn’t listening to them though. I ran to my truck, jumped in and drove home. I don’t remember much about that drive home (later, I would find out that my body was in shock). When I pulled up into my driveway, I forgot to hit the break and drove right into the side of my house. I am sure not too many people have been in a plane wreck and car wreck all in one day and lived to tell about it!
My wife took me to the hospital where they determined I had a fractured ankle, a broken leg and several scratches and cuts on my face. I ended up staying in the hospital for three days.
I was thankful to be alive but remorseful that I had crashed my beautiful airplane, ‘Double Trouble’. Sadly, I never got to experience flying this plane that I had worked so hard to build. I sold the salvaged parts to a man in Alabama, who rebuilt it. He said that she was a mighty fine plane and had many adventuresome times in the sky with her.