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U. S. Naval Air Station
Daytona Beach

Sept. 20–21, ’43

Dear Folks,

September seems to be the real rainy season down here. Storms have been longer-lasting and more frequent. Naturally we do not fly during the worst weather even though qualified instrument pilots. Flying alone on instruments isn't so bad for short periods, but it’s tiring and not much fun. With no horizon visible it’s impossible to tell for sure whether one is in level flight or not or whether one is going straight or turning unless one is concentrating entirely on instruments. The altimeter and air speed indicator show one’s altitude and speed, the turn and bank indicator (needle for amount of turn, ball for keeping one from sliding or slipping) one’s amount of turn and bank, though there is a wonderful instrument called the artificial or gyro horizon which one can fly on entirely under ordinary circumstances. Flying formation under instrument conditions is not good for obvious reasons. Wing men of course still have to watch the leader or else break off and go on instruments themselves if they lose him. Instrument take-offs are occasionally practicable, but instrument landings definitely are not as yet. Because of necessarily more limited equipment and experience we are of course not anywhere nearly an expert on instruments, as for instance, airlines’ pilots. As also in the case at night, navigating on instruments off the beam (radio silence, as in war zones) is inaccurate as best because it’s impossible to see the waves and make a wind estimate, though one can fly contact at night all right if the horizon is visible. So much for that, except that I might mention the rather obvious danger of collision, another reason why we don't fly in all weather conditions.

The Key West trip was just for the pure hell of it. It wasn't exciting or beautiful (the Keys do not for the most part resemble the ideal “desert” island) but it was interesting to see the country and reach the most southerly point in the country, a trifle over 24½° from the equator. It involved 256 miles by train to Miami and then 163 by bus—over 800 miles altogether which would have been impossible if I hadn’t been able to get off early the day before my day off. As it was, I left the station here at 1:00 P.M. and got to Key West twelve hours later, which gave me a scant half a day there. I hired a bicycle and pedaled around the island, practically all of which is occupied by town, the Army and especially the Navy. The only new bird encountered, possibly my first truly tropical one, was a great white heron (just like a white great blue). On the return trip I had a good look at the Keys, seen before only by moonlight. One is pine covered. The others have lots of mangrove (something like small magnolias growing like alder in the mud) around the edges, other scrubby hardwoods and some palms. The overseas highway passes over almost more water than land, one of the bridges being about six miles long. The old railroad was wrecked by a hurricane more than a decade ago, but some of the bridges remain and are now used for the highway, which in one place is built right on top of an old railroad bridge. In another few months they’ll have a new road utilizing more of the old railroad bed completed, and the trip from Miami will be a lot smoother and a little shorter. A sailboat would be a nice thing to explore the Keys in.

Well there isn’t much other news. My last day’s off bicycle trip was spoiled by rain again. The heat continues, though the temperature did finally drop below 70° F the other morning.

That must have been quite a mission that a certain colonel cousin of ours made—nice to have done.

Love to all T.R.

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