The year was 1940, a time when the world was still enthralled with airplanes and the people who flew them. Legendary airmen like Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and Roscoe Turner were celebrities, like rock stars today. Although only 23 years old at the time, I was working as chief pilot for Queen City Flying Service, a flight training outfit based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Life could not have been better. George Wedekind, my boss, was hard-nosed but fair. The pay was modest but steady. The airplanes were well maintained. And best of all, we got to fly almost every day.

One of Queen City's contracts was an aerobatic standardization course for inspectors with the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the forerunner to today's Federal Aviation Administration. I especially liked this assignment because I was a pretty good aerobatics pilot back then and maybe just a bit cocky.

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