One of my inspector-students was Dick Divinia. (I'm not sure of the spelling, but it's a
name never to be forgotten.) An Army Air Corps veteran, Dick was a fine pilot who handled
most of the curriculum maneuvers just fine. Midway through the course, while we were flying
at 2,500 feet, I demonstrated a half snap roll, that is, I'd snap roll to the inverted
position and then continue flying straight and level but upside down.
Dick followed my lead. He stopped the roll just fine, but he had the nose too high, and we
stalled. I showed him again, and then turned the airplane over to him. Once again he ended
the maneuver with the nose too high, and we stalled again. "Follow me through once more,"
I shouted into the gosport (that's a rubber tube that served as the intercom in open-cockpit
biplanes) and went through the maneuver again.
Dick took the stick again. He began the roll sharply, and the airplane quickly twisted onto
its back, and suddenly the world got rearranged. The back seat of an open-cockpit Waco is a
noisy place, but now everything was unbelievably quiet. That was confusing. Even more
unsettling was the realization that the cockpit was gone. In fact the whole airplane was
missing! I was no longer a pilot, but rather a falling object heading straight for a patch
of Ohio farmland. It was time to take action.