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John Wright, N114JA

Hello All or should we say, “Howdy Y’all”? We’re the Wright family, John and Connie and proud owners of N114JA – a 1978 ‘Green’ 114.  We reside in Enterprise, Alabama, a small southern city adjacent to Fort Rucker (Home of Army Aviation) located in the lower southeastern part of the state.  This area is commonly referred to as the ‘Wiregrass’ area and famous for its peanut production.  On a positive note, we’re only a 25 min hop to the super white beaches of the Fla panhandle.  During the latter part of a 34 year active duty Army career we were stationed at Fort Rucker for our last posting or assignment.  Retiring here in 2009 I accepted a Defense Contracting position on base as an Aviation Analyst working with the separate Directorates who manage the Army’s Aviation Branch.


Aviation Family:     The flying bug was subliminally set in my early years.  Dad was a career USAF Flight Engineer having crewed the B-24, C-119 and the C-130.  Being an USAF family we had the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures.  As a matter of fact, my sister was born in a USAF hospital located in Japan.  We usually lived on the base in government quarters and I recall on many nights watching the field’s rotating beacon flashing through the windows while looking up a myriad of model airplanes hanging from the ceiling.  I also remember accompanying my dad to his squadron operations / office and the pride of seeing his name (grease penciled) on the weekly mission scheduling board.  Of course we’d ‘run’ all over the C-130’s and I still can remember that unique musky odor of the cabin’s avionics and wiring.  

I probably should mention that in the days of no personal computers, cell phones, televisions having only 3 channels that ‘signed-off’ each night that we kept busy doing ‘hands-on’ types of activities.  Dad was ALWAYS working on something and if I weren’t holding the light I was holding the other wrench while he did his thing.  The man could set the dwell on a set of points just by listening to the pitch of the engine.  He had a calibrated torque wrench in his head.  I owe a lot of my ‘basic’ understandings of mechanics to him and thankful to this day for his patience.   The Thunderbirds were flying F-100’s, the Beatles were about to launch their invasion and I had a shiny red Honda 65cc motorbike to get back and forth on.  Life was grand in those days...

Dad’s last military posting was working on the C-130 Test Flight Detachment at Hayes Aircraft, Birmingham, Al.  The small Detachment ferried aircraft to Hayes for a major phase inspection / teardown / O ’haul.  Much like an annual only on steroids.  Once complete the Det would test fly then deliver and exchange the fresh aircraft for the next C-130 in the que, a never ending cycle.  I completed high school in Birmingham and this is where I met my high school sweetheart, Connie.  We soon were married and using dad’s connections I ‘landed’ a full time position working at Hayes Aircraft on the prepping team.  It was not a very glamorous position but it paid the bills.  Connie and I owned a 1969 Chevelle SS-396 in which most of our check went into upgrading / maintaining it . . .  Life is still good but look out, the Draft is coming and is that a Stork holding over the house??.

Now the C-130’s coming in for maintenance were painted a strange looking camouflage and many had ‘patches’ all along their fuselages.  Yep the Viet Nam war was in full swing.  My Draft number hit and wearing a set of bell bottom jeans and a Fu Manchu moustache that would make Hulk Hogan proud I headed down to our local Draft office per my induction orders.  With an initial enlistment for two years I fully planned on keeping my nose clean and getting out of the service as scheduled.  I advanced through the lower enlisted grades fairly painlessly and during my end of tour out-processing appointments ran across a memorandum where the Army was looking for Warrant Officer Helicopter Pilots.  Oddly enough, up until that time I really had not been exposed to a Warrant Officer.  So with only weeks before discharge I scheduled myself for a Class I physical and for the Army’s Flight Aptitude Selection Test (they called it the FAST) (don’t get me started on the use of acronyms which I still can’t stand to this day . . . ) 

Completed the nine month Warrant Officer Candidate School and Basic Flight then was appointed as a Warrant Officer One - Army Aviator.  Cobra School followed, what a ‘blast’, literally, it was to fly that machine.  An assignment to Germany was next where the flying was unabated.  Pretty much the Wild Wild West . . just don’t bend anything and you’ll be okay . . .  In those (Reagan/Cold War) days funding never seemed to a problem and our on-base flying club was extremely healthy.  The Army helo rating aligns with the FAA Commercial Instrument R/Wing requirements so the F/wing rating is just an ‘add-on’.  I finally completed the F/W (SEL) and Instrument at my next posting in Kansas.  Here I had the opportunity to build f/w time by ferrying crews each month from Ks to Tx and back for our required simulator training- all on the Army’s dime.  

I worked numerous Air Cavalry assignments; (3 in Germany, 2 in Korea, Tx, Ks, and Ky) and was later promoted out of the cockpit.  Obtaining the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Five I was now destined for my last ten years working staff / desk duties and found a niche in Aviation Human Resources.  So some 34 years later after I swore no way I’d do more than my obligated two years we retired from active duty.

A third generation of aviation has blessed our family with our two son’s actively flying as we speak.  Rich, our eldest, just retired as a Chief Warrant Officer Four (27yrs) and has just started flying the Challenger 300 with XO-Jet.  His younger brother, Chris, is a Chief Warrant Officer Three currently assigned as an Apache maintenance test pilot with the Third Infantry Division.  Chris just returned from his fifth deployment from Iraq/Afghan.  Chris holds the highest awards in the family with a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star.  Both the boys have the numerous Air Medals with V device.  Without a doubt we are a proud set of parents. . .

Airplane:     After a decade out of the cockpit I grabbed a FAR AIM with a Co-Worker/CFII then an hour and half later I’m current again.  Contacted Judi Anderson and coordinated with Greg Stanford for a static walk around of his 114 then it was off to NC.  I acquired (51EL) 114JA in 2011 from Tom Mason in New Bern, NC.  We’re the third owners and the total time was only 1100hrs when we closed the deal.  Poor girl had the original basic avionics stack so almost immediately it was out with the old and in with the ‘almost’ new.  Opted for the Garmin stack (430W, GTX330 - anticipating ADS-B, SL-30, in-dash mount 796 and a GMA 350C Comm panel.  Also dropped an Aspen 1000 Pro in and added a GDL-39 for ADS-B in.  She’s a real IFR platform, stable and comfortable in the clouds.

I later was able to secure a 2000 model interior with the newer 2000 doors and am currently working on a compressor type air conditioner project.

If Connie hasn’t set us up with a grandkids run I’m usually heavily involved with flying Puppy Rescue missions in our local area.  Almost at the 50 mission milestone but what I think I enjoy the most of owning an AC11 is our ‘Ramp Appeal’.  I’m almost insulted (not really) if ‘someone’ doesn’t come up or comment on what a sharp looking airplane that is . . . Can it get any better???

Wishing all ‘clear skies and tailwinds’.





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