Dairy of a Mentor


By: Harry J. Perez

Chapter 1


On a dusty road somewhere in the Texas Rio Grande Valley back in the mid 1950’s, a young boy, maybe a mere 9 years old, while riding in the back seat of his dad’s car, caught a glimpse of something in a field. He begged his dad to stop. What he had found was an old, dilapidated World War II airplane. His Dad stopped and the young boy ran to the plane, climbed up into the cockpit and at that moment sparked a lifelong passion for flying. (This an intro to an article published in the Texas Aviator Magazine in the October of 2012 issue and is posted on this website; www.threelightsgreen.com under the published articles section, titled - CAF/For Love of Flying.)

For me, I am convinced that something in the human DNA sparks wonderment in our spirit, to reach out beyond ourselves, to grab onto a star and to ride it for all its worth. To ride it not only for the thrill of the flight, but the challenge to be more than just an average Joe, and I think you will agree is what also drives our obsession for aviation.


Photo by Dana Lynn Perez (my daughter-who is a Corporate Pilot)


 Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things.    (High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr.)

Most of us search for the meaning of life; who are we? What are we? Why are we here and where are we going? We develop a passion to achieve something in life, hoping that we can answer these complex questions and arrive at some conclusion. Our skills and abilities lead us in a variety of directions, some find hope in teaching others how to, others are driven by wealth and power, yet others find their solitude in helping their neighbors. Aviators just want to fly, and to insure that we all are able to continue doing, for as long as possible, what we love.

Many never find that magic needed to be a whole person and find them selves wondering aimlessly through life just wishing.

The vast majority wants a mission to accomplish, and most want to follow a dynamic leader, someone who will teach us how to be, how do the things we want to do. We are constantly looking for a Mentor to emulate and perhaps become one with the other.


Photo by Jon McClinden, San Antonio, Texas

Oh, by-the-way, remember that young boy, so many years ago, sitting in an old abandoned airplane in the middle of a field – his dream of flying came true and I am still flying to this day. Yea I recall that when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old looking up into the sky at an airplane directly overhead. It was so shiny and silvery and it had two engines, it may have been a Beech Super18-thinking back. I guess I was born with the love for flying.

When I was 12 years old my dad bought an airplane to use in his business. It was an Ercoupe (N3781H); mostly silver with red trim.  I flew with him whenever I could, late afternoons after school and weekends. Even though I really couldn’t count the hours, I kept a logbook of the number of hours that I flew; my dad let me fly the airplane. I proudly would say that I had 200 hours of flying time before I was old enough to solo.

During the summer (no school) I would spend countless hours out at the airport (Stinson Municipal), polishing the plane, roaming the airport and watching airplanes takeoff and land. Sometimes there was no one there, just me, and the wild blue yonder. I would listen to the wind gently rustling through the tall grass - my solitude.

Like most, I too have searched for a mentor that I could emulate and follow; unfortunately that concept is but a fleeting thought and usually not a substantive reality. Nonetheless, we all continue to search and search, hoping to fine it in someone or something.

Fortunately for me I understood what all that meant and was able to reconcile that concept into my own reality. I was able to fine just enough mentoring in someone and something to make it work.

After getting my pilot’s license, it wasn’t long there after that I found my life long awaited mentor in flying the Beechcraft T-34 Mentor with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) on search and rescue missions between 1967 and 1977. I accumulated about 700 hours of flying time in those 10 years in that type.

 It is by far the best light aircraft I have ever flown. It is a stable platform; extremely forgiving that then allows the aviator do just about anything with the craft. It is fully aerobatic within its design limits, and with the wing spar fix is much safer today.

The T-34 looks like a fighter, sounds like fighter and fly’s like a fighter, but it’s easy to fly; it’s fun to fly.


Photo – from The Lima, Lima, Flight Team


Chapter 2



I personally have gone through a long, long; too long a dry spell in not flying a T-34-since 1977. I have flown a Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza for the last 25 years and thoroughly enjoyed flying it. But it’s not a T-34. I have been looking for the opportunity to fly one again and just now have finally realized that feat. Oh how all the memories have rushed back.

And the beauty is that I also have managed to achieve partial ownership, something I have long yarned to come my way, a dream-come true.

My good friend Jon McClinden bought a T-34 about 5 years ago. It had once belonged to Bob Ayers, a long time aviator in Texas (lived in San Marcos), and he bid on a T-34 that previously was in CAP’s inventory in the 1960’s and 70’s. He also was a good friend with Tex Hill of the Flying Tigers fame, and in his honor; Bob painted the plane with the Flying Tigers colors. Together they shared flying experiences in this plane until Tex passed in 2007. Bob Ayers has also passed.

The plane sat in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) hanger in San Marcos until Jon came along and bought it from Bob’s widow in 2014. The plane had not flown for several years prior to Bob’s death, so for about 10 years the T-34 just sat there, waiting to come to life once more-to fly again!


(Note: I am hoping to conduct research into the Air Force’s archives as to where this T-34 was based, how many student pilots flew it while in service, and when and to what CAP unit it was assigned, etc. – COMING SOON)

Jon spent a considerable amount of money, and a whole lot of his time in getting it back in the air, and even though Bob Ayers had properly treated the plane for a long stay on the ground; for instance pickling the engine, etc., it still required much TLC to safely achieve that goal.

With Jon’s efforts the plane is in almost perfect condition. The biggest fix was the wing spar-he got that done. While achieving the spar fix he also had the fuel bladders replaced, and replaced all the rigging cables. It’s practically brand new.




Jon and I go way back; him and I flew the T-34’s that were assigned to the 19th Group, Texas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol in the San Antonio area (7 were assigned). When Jon told me in 2014 that he was buying this particular aircraft I was excided for him. Since then he has kept me abreast on the progress of the plane’s re-emergence into the aviation world again.

Late in 2018 Jon indicated that he was planning to sell the plane. I tried to talk him out of it, fearing that it might leave the area. He asked me if I knew anyone in the San Antonio area that might be interested in the plane, knowing that I would be definitely interested. And of course I was – did not want to miss such a great opportunity. I just needed enough time to put together a group of pilots with a common interest.

Just like any good friend, Jon would wait for me to bring it together, and in March of 2019, it indeed came about. With another pilot friend-Don and I have come together to make this work and we now are proud owners of a fantastic T-34. Our ultimate goal is to set up a club of several pilots with like interests and take advantage of this opportunity of minimizing the cost of operation by spreading such cost over several members of the club.



For several reasons Jon had kept the plane in Hondo Texas while he worked to restore this beauty.  The radios needed some work and to avoid the congestion of a busy airport he chose Hondo. It also has long multiple runways to enhance training in this airplane. All in all, it was well suited, in the interim, to house it here.

It took several months (3 ½ months) from the time we told Jon we were interested until we delivered a check into his hands. And then the reality of it all began to sink in, that it was really coming true.

But with this reality came a host of things requiring a number of issues and decisions that needed to be considered; where are we going to keep the plane, for now it will remain in Hondo, who would be first to transition (checkout) into the plane, the logical chose was for me to do so. Dana, my daughter, (she is a corporate pilot for one of Don’s organizations) would be second, then Don at some point in time.

For several days in anticipation of my first flight with Roger, the local instructor, I was worried how it would go; after all it had been over 40 years since I last flew a T-34. Would I bomb out? Would it take hours and hours to check out? How was it going feel to fly this magnificent flying machine once again? Would I be disappointed if it turned out that it was no big deal?

Well, no worries, it was fantastic! It immediately took me back to 1977 when I last flown a T-34. And just as John Gillespie Magee wrote in his sonnet – High Flight;

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laugher-silvered wings; …

And while silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space,” …     www.threelightsgreen.com

I could not be more pleased!

Chapter 3



Jon and I talked about how long it might take for me to checkout in the plane. He assured me, since I had so many hours in a T-34, that it would only take between 3 and 5 hours to do it.

Sure enough at 4 hours I was ready, but asked the Instructor to go another hour or so with me to be absolutely sure-I thought I needed to practice my landings. I also wanted to fly in the back seat to get re-acquired with it before I flew alone and get that other perspective as well. Now I am ready.

Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been good enough lately to do any comfortable VFR flying. I will try again tomorrow or Saturday.

Nope the weather still (4-28-19) not very good, I’ll wait. 



Chapter 4



Today I met Darren Bond, Leader of the “Tex Hill” Wing of the CAF located at Stinson Field, San Antonio Texas. This Wing is dedicated to the memory of David Lee “Tex” Hill of the Flying Tigers fame in World War II. Tex was also a San Antonio native. This unit currently has an SNJ-4/AT-6 aircraft that is always on the ready to fly.

I met with Darren to see how Don and I could contribute to the memory Of “Tex”, especially since we now are flying an airplane (T-34) that is painted in the color scheme of the Curtiss P-40 that he flew in the Flying Tigers unit in World War II.

They were excided that we are interested in participating with them to further honor Tex Hill’s legacy. They offered to hangar the T-34 in their hangar and Don and I are thrilled with the idea. We are planning to move the plane to Stinson anyway and this will be perfect fit with our plans. Oh, incidentally-a bonus, I’ve joined the Tex Hill Wing.

A happy irony is that all things are beginning to come together. First Don and I bought the T-34 that once was flown by Tex Hill. As I mentioned earlier Bob Ayer, a previous owner of this fine bird and a good friend of Tex, painted it in the color scheme of the Flying Tigers in his honor, and he flew it a number of times in the 1990’s.

As the story goes on, we bring the plane to Stinson where incidentally Tex had his first experience in flying at the age of 12. And he actually flew from the very hangar that the Tex Hill Wing now occupies. Full Circle-Right?  Or is coincidence?

In a few days the Tex Hill Wing will be celebrating Tex’s birthday on July 13th with a fly-in at Stinson:




Chapter 5



After struggling with poor weather for the past two weeks, finally a clear day. Now I can finally fly solo. And, Oh what a treat, it was fantastic. I few northeast of Hondo and did some air work, then returned to Hondo for My first landing by-myself, the first in 40 years in a T-34. WOW! – A 9.8 landing, just off of the centerline, otherwise it would have been a perfect 10.0. Can’t argue with perfection, but can I do again?

                  “I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air.”

 http://www.threelightsgreen.com/aviation/    -   High Flight


Photo-From the Lima, Lima Flight Team – https://limalima.com/the-plane/


Chapter 6



With another round of poor weather and since the plane is not currently IFR rated, we haven’t been able to fly the plane to Stinson Field that is only 40 miles away. BUT today it’s perfect weather. So I am headed to Stinson.

I requested and was granted permission to execute a low approach to runway 9 (niner). I have not done that is a long time-it felt great.  I am back!

The plane will remain in the maintenance hangar until a list of minor repairs is achieved. Then it will be moved to the CAF/Tex Hill hangar until such time this unit is able to obtain either a North American P-51or a Curtiss P-40 assigned to them. Of course we will need to move, there will not be enough room for us at that time.




Chapter 7



Well the plane has sat in the maintenance hangar for almost three weeks waiting for overhauled instruments to come back from the over hauler. They finally arrived late yesterday afternoon, and the mechanic should be reinstalling them as we speak (4:30 pm).

BULLETIN: H Triple T is out of maintenance and ready to fly. I will do that on Monday.

Well, Monday is here and I am about fly. Yes I flew around the patch (The traffic Pattern) and scored another perfect landing-10.0. The second one was not as good, but I’ll take it.

After a couple of flights here at Stinson, I have become more proficient and rapidly flying the plane more automatically.

Speaking about automatic, in the old days, way back, the transmit button to call out was located on the throttle on the left side of the cockpit. Today on this airplane the transmit button is on the control stick.

Therefore, a deep-rooted memory is emerging and constantly forcing me to response to an incoming transmission by reaching for the throttle with my left hand. Consequently, I have to consciously transmit with my right hand using the control stick instead. Some memories never leave us.


Chapter 8



Since Chapter 7, I have flown my two sons (they loved it), moved several items, tools, manuals, etc. into the hangar and have identified several minor bugs that the airplane still has-not many.

Today I met with one of the avionic guys to work out some of the radio issues that I have experienced and to prepare for the installation of the ADS-B equipment that we are planning to add to the plane. If you familiar with the T-34 you know that it is tight for room, especially on the instrument panel. It’s going to be interesting.




Chapter 9


(added to dairy 7-20-19) 

Well the day finally arrived – the big fly-in on Saturday (the 13th) that the Tex Hill Wing Of the CAF had envisioned and planned so hard to put together. The vast majority of the membership (74 strong to date) worked their fingers to the bone (butts as well) to get it right, and boy did they.

The weather was perfect; the food was perfect, the participation of the crowd was even more perfect, a larger crowd then expected showed up. And Even though a couple of airplanes weren’t able to make it, and we weren’t able to get the P-40, it turned out to be a huge success. This could be a sign of bigger and better things to come. I am so proud to have become a member recently and looking forward to the future.

Don Elliott and I commend the entire Wing for a Great Job Well Done! I even got to fly our T-34 for a couple of low approaches. We hope that it helped to assure the wonderful success that resulted from all of the efforts of everyone involved.


I finally was able to give my daughter a ride in the T-34. She loved it, especially the visibility that the T-34 with the bubble canopy has to over. In the coming mouths she will be going through a checkout in the plane. I am sure she will have some exciting experiences, just as I have had flying this bird.


Ready to Launch


Always Ready


And the Saga Continues


Over the coming days and weeks I will continue to keep you posted on the T-34’s progress.

(H Triple T).  

Holding The Tiger by the Tail, (H Triple T) as we are calling her now.




“Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

by: John Gillespie Magee Jr.

View the entire sonnet on the website listed below:





Harry is a technical writer by profession, and along with his wife Linda Kaye are also freelance travel and aviation Journalists. Together Harry and Linda share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. And of course Harry loves to fly.





   © Harry Perez 2012