more enjoyable was that he wasn't alone. Far
from it. Oodles of future aviators had the same
woozy longing to climb into a cramped single
engine airplane and put a mile or so between
themselves and the continent's sandy crust.
There was Tom Montemayor, who learned to
fly at Bird's Nest about the time Dave Mandot
arrived on the scene, and who also spent a
four-year stint as a flight instructor and, with-
out jumping too far ahead in our story, who
later landed a prestigious pilot's job with Con-
tinental Airlines flying 737s. There was Tom
Bigger and Chuck Walters (who I met in the
1970s while attending Boeing 727 flight train-
ing), now a senior captain with Southwest
Airlines, and Dwain Ideus, who made captain
with US Airways. There was Sandy Salibo,
who turned flight instructor for the Seventh
Wonder (Boeing's 777) with Continental Air-
lines; Rick Skinner, another Continental pilot;
and Mike Fooshee, one of the original good
guys, who started flying at Bird's Nest in 1966
and retired forty years later a captain with
Southwest Airlines with more than 27,000
hours in the pilot seat.
shuffling around in worn jeans and striped
pullovers and blue Nikes. When he wasn't fly-
ing, he shadowed Ray asking questions until
Ray had enough and needed to tend to some
niggling crisis, or use his clearheaded voice to
politely ask the parachuters across the ramp
to stop whatever they were doing at the time,
or he just got the urge to repair some broken
JB and gazed over his shoulder as he yanked
the seats out of a Cessna 150 and pulled back
the carpet and methodically removed the two
inspection panels in the seat pan. All this and
more just to look at the main landing gear. Or
he'd get right up next to JB, rubbing shoul-
ders, as JB bent forward inspecting an engine.
Dave didn't know what it was made of but he
saw the box and reached out and touched it
with the tip of a finger.
"Right here's your SCAT hose connecting
way over and twisted his head and looked up
into the underside of the engine and motioned
Dave to do the same. "You know what that
is? No this here, behind the baffle. Higher.
Above the air filter box. Don't guess. It's the
fuel injection pump."
"It's driven off the bevel gear--"
"Let me finish...the bevel gear from the
wall mounted the way it is so this SCAT hose
can bring in cool air from top side."
"Here's your coil block. I could go on all
valves, while Dave soaked up every bit of