"We may have to land in some remote places. But we will be well prepared for any emergency. Our experience is our insurance.”

– R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan

Volume 1

Volume 1: My Beginning

Excerpt: The fire subsided and the tank moved off and I lay right where I was until it was dark. I then cautiously made my way up to the top of the ridge, but didn’t dare move in the darkness for fear I would run into some German soldiers. I finally sat down under an evergreen and got my canteen out along with some lemon powder I had in my packsack and mixed a cup of unsweetened lemon drink. I was soaking wet and very cold, and the lemon drink made me sick to my stomach. This proved to be the longest night of my life. [pg 51]

Excerpt: After an hour of flying, I encountered clouds and snow showers. I maintained a compass course and the snow got thicker. I descended until I was just skimming the ground and hopping over trees and farmhouses. The visibility was so bad I decided that I was probably going to kill myself if I didn’t gain some altitude… I was now looking for the ground to appear when suddenly I saw a dark object ahead and above my left wing. I immediately added power and leveled the airplane and went up over a clump of trees. I now thought for sure that I was going to crash and wanted to find a place where someone would find me. I found some railroad tracks and started following them, when suddenly a large building loomed out of the snow directly in front of me and I banked away from the building and nearly hit a water tower. [pg 90]

 

Volume 2

Volume 2: Journals from my Adventures • 1957-1983

Excerpt: In the evening, Tony, Reub, and I went out looking for some camp meat and we spotted some impala. I shot one and Tony called to me to shoot another. I shot again and another dropped. We picked up the first, and when we drove over to where the second one was, we discovered that there were two there. The second bullet passed completely through one impala and killed another behind it. Three bucks with two shots, just what I needed to improve my average. [pg 26]

Excerpt: We left our camp on the island at 12:42 PM and flew to the outlet of Dubawnt, landing at approximately 1:00 PM. We took movies of setting up the boat and started fishing around 2:00 PM. In one hour when we quit for lunch, we had one thirty-five pounder, one twenty-eight pounder, and one twenty-three pounder. After lunch, we fished one more hour and caught five more fish. We had caught eight fish all over twenty pounds within two hours of fishing. We caught very few fish under twenty pounds. We then flew back to the island, took pictures of the fish, gilled and gutted them, and buried them on permafrost. We finished eating dinner at 1:00 AM. [pg 46]

 

Volume 3

Volume 3: Journals from my Adventures • 1986-1991

Excerpt: Early in April, I took the Savoia-Marchetti to New York for the Italian Aerospace Show. The Italians had a large display on the aircraft carrier Intrepid at the 47th Street Pier. Because my airplane was the oldest flying Italian airplane, the Italians wanted me to participate in the show… That morning the weather was cloudy and cold, but Gary Underland and I suited up in the warmest clothes we had and took off from the soggy grass runway at Somerset bound for New York City!

We were escorted by two police helicopters. The New York Police were extremely cooperative because the S-56 was the first aircraft used by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). They were most anxious to get pictures of their oldest and newest equipment in the air!

I flew very low over the Verrazano Bridge and then north up the Hudson River close to the Manhattan shoreline. Three press helicopters joined us as we approached New York City. I flew low past the World Trade Center, past the Empire State Building, over the flight deck of the Intrepid, and up the river to the George Washington Bridge… I proceeded downriver to the Statue of Liberty and made several circles around the statue for the benefit of the photographers. The pictures were spectacular! We then flew back over the Verrazano Bridge and back to Somerset. [pg 63]

 

 

Volume 4
Volume 5

Volume 4: Journals from my Adventures • 1992-1996

Excerpt: The Loftleidir is famous among ferry pilots flying regularly across the Atlantic, and many of them time their flight to take advantage of this wonderful buffet. One of the appetizers for which the Loftleidir was famous was the fermented shark. Because we didn’t see it on the buffet, Jim asked our waiter if it would be possible to try some. Soon the waiter appeared with a bowl, which contained a dozen pieces of fermented shark and a tumbler filled with a special brand of aquavit called Black Death. The aroma from the bowl filled our corner of the dining room. The waiter cautioned us not to breathe while putting the fermented shark in our mouths. He said you must very quickly put it in your mouth, chew, swallow, and then have a shot of Black Death.

Because the waiter had placed the tumbler of aquavit in front of Jim and because I had a terrible head cold, I elected to wash mine down with Scotch. Holding my breath, I quickly put the fermented shark in my mouth and started to chew. The texture was rubbery (so you couldn’t swallow without chewing). The taste was that of pure ammonia! My sinuses opened up immediately so I could fully appreciate the overpowering bouquet of the rotten fish! I quickly swallowed and grabbed for my Scotch. I was completely dismayed to learn that Scotch was no match for fermented shark. Those Scandinavians must have invented Black Death as an antidote to fermented shark; at least Jim managed to get three pieces down by quickly taking a shot of aquavit to get the taste out of his mouth. One piece was enough for me, Betty, and Maryalice. The entrees were wonderful, but for some reason no one was very hungry after our appetizers! [pg 74]

Excerpt: Our route of flight was directly over the country that I had traveled on foot as a soldier in Patton’s Third Army. It was at that time that I decided I would learn to fly—if I survived. Now, here I was fifty years later flying my own plane over land where we had fought many difficult, bloody battles. [Pg 81]

 

 

Volume 5: Journals from my Adventures • 1999-2002

Excerpt: Sunday, November 28th

We awoke to a beautiful day, and the first realization that it was Betty and my fourth wedding anniversary! We celebrated with a big breakfast, and then packed our bags and moved to a different hotel… Betty and I walked down a dusty road toward town and found a little neighborhood restaurant where we had pizza. We were hopeful that our parts would arrive on schedule so we could resume our flight north. In the meantime, Betty and I continued to celebrate our anniversary and gave thanks for good health, good friends, a wonderful family, and each other!

I just discovered that our anniversary was tomorrow the 29th. When we woke up this morning, Betty informed me that it was our anniversary, so we had been celebrating all day. Now she was going to want to celebrate tomorrow too! I was not sure I was up to celebrating two days in a row! [pg 65]

Excerpt: This had been a long and difficult trip. We saw over forty countries and were exposed to a broad spectrum of climates, temperatures, bugs, animals, people, languages, living and flight conditions, and governments. It was a great educational experience for us, and we had hoped it was interesting to everyone who had followed our adventures.  I thought that anyone who had an opportunity to travel outside the United States would inevitably come home with a greater appreciation for all of the benefits we enjoyed in our country.  It was easy to become pessimistic about the negative happenings we were exposed to in the press and on TV every day. There was no doubt that we had many problemas of our own, but they paled by comparisons made with other countries. When we had arrived back in Key West, I was sorely tempted to kiss the ground and shout “God Bless America!” [pg 108]

 

 

Volume 6

Volume 6: Memories from Family and Friends

Excerpt: Buzz had a good sense of humor. He was a big hit one day during Vikings training camp practice in Mankato, Minnesota. He took his helicopter and came to our practice and lit right in the middle of the field. It was a big hit. Everyone was wondering “Who is that yo-yo?” I said, “That’s a good friend of mine.” That is the kind of thing Buzz liked to do. –Bud Grant [pg 60]

Excerpt: I always thought that Buzz would have been a great explorer. If he were born in the 1800s, he would have explored the world. Every new experience was something he looked forward to. He was always up for anything. Anything you wanted to do, Buzz was ready to go. Just give him a new idea, and he would run with it. –Bud Grant [pg 61]

Excerpt: As children, Buzz and I were inseparable. He was my mentor—(and tormenter)—and friend. I idolized him, believed in him—and I shouldn’t have! I did survive his “teachings,” and from him I learned much about the world around me.

He taught me about electricity—“Put your finger in this light socket while I turn on the switch!”

He taught me about metallurgy and physiology one day when the thermometer hovered around zero. “I dare you to put your tongue on the turning pole.” I very quickly learned about the properties of metal and weather, and I also learned that blood is salty.

He taught me about nature—“See the wasps in the bird house? You climb up the trellis and hold the hose nozzle in the hole and I’ll turn on the water.”

I learned about gender differences. Little boys can pee on lamp posts just like dogs can, but little girls wind up with one yellow stocking when they try!

And I remember his childhood generosity. He shared his rusty skate key, his broken and taped bat and tattered softball. He also shared his chicken pox, measles and seven-year itch. –Lonabelle Kaplan Spencer [pg 93]