BajaNomad Last active: Never
Not logged in [Login - Register]
Go To Bottom

Printable Version | Subscribe | Add to Favorites   Post new thread Poll:
Author: Subject: Flying back in time
Baja Bernie
`Normal` Nomad Correspondent
*****




Posts: 2962
Registered: 8-31-2003
Location: Sunset Beach
Member Is Offline

Mood: Just dancing through life

posted on 4-9-2012 at 03:22 PM Reply With Quote
Flying back in time



“The Kissing Captain”



I find that I must preface this story with a tiny bit of Baja history before it will make any sense to those of you who are not yet very mature citizens. Captain Munoz was the man who single handedly opened Baja Sur to ‘fly in’ fishermen/women in 1955. Prior to that the only anglers who could visit Baja Sur were those wealthy enough to either own a yacht or their own aircraft.

You have to appreciate that the very first scheduled commercial flight into Baja was in 1975, a mere 31 years ago.. So, now you can realize what a fantastic contribution Francisco made to all of the Baja folks who arrived after 1955—and that includes just about everyone.

I suppose that’s why I named this book “Think You Know Baja”—“Think Baja” is the easy version.

Were it not for the fact that he got under the skin of the Monsignor of the Seminary School where he was studying for the priesthood he would have spent his life as a priest merely talking to the angels.

As a result of leaving the school he pursued his dreams to become a pilot and he was allowed to soar with the angels for over 25,000 flying hours—an entire life time.

“Pancho” earned his pilots license #187 from the Mexican government just two months short of his 18th birthday. Two years later he got his commercial license #237 and joined Aeronaves de Mexico.

In 1955 he was visiting Jim Bracomonte of Jim’s Air at Lindbergh Field in San Diego, California, and found that no one was providing any kind of airplane service to Baja California. He formed Baja Airlines with one 4-passenger Cessna 170 and the rest, as they say, was history. Pancho’s airline provided service to Baja from 1955 until 1970 when the Mexican government lifted his company’s license to carry passengers in Mexico. Francisco fought this but a Mexican court found that the government owned the rights to the airspace and could award those rights to an airline controlled by the Mexican government.

I had heard stories of his flying groups of fisherman into secluded fishing camps all over Baja Sur in a WWII DC-3. They told tales of how the ranchers had to drive their cattle off the small dirt strips so the planes could land. I remember Doc Lawson (a WWII bomber pilot and a San Diego Police Lieutenant who commanded the air wing of the department or many years), who met “Pancho” when he first began flying into Baja, telling how every now and then they would have to start the ‘Gooney Birds’ (DC-3’s) by winding a rope around the propeller, tying it to the bumper of an old beat up pickup and have it drive off to turn the engine over.

A bunch of stories like that surround the ‘Gooney Bird” but I have never been able to find that Francisco actually had one of them in his fleet. He had many different aircraft like a Martin 202, two 18- passenger Lockheed Loadstars, a Beechcraft C-45 and a Cessna 195.

For many years “Pancho” used Baja as his own ‘hopscotch’ game. He flew into any place that was somewhat flat and he had an uncanny ability to bring his planes to a safe stop on the shortest of landing strips. One story had him landing a fully loaded Beechcraft on a downhill dirt strip just 1300 feet long. It is said that he knew Baja like no other—like the back of his hand. He never got too far off the ground because he had to see where he was going and for years he used the off shore islands in the Sea of Cortez as sign posts on his way up and down the peninsula.

His most famous passenger was ‘Uncle’ Erle Stanley Gardner, whom he flew for many years on all of his journey’s of exploration in Baja. Without Don Francisco, Erle Stanley Gardener—the creator of Perry Mason books—would not have been able to write his other books, “Off the Beaten Track in Baja,” “Hovering over Baja” and “The Hidden Heart of Baja”. He hauled many other famous passengers, including James Arness (Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke), Chuck Conners (the Rifleman), Desi Arnaz (“I Love Lucy”), John Wayne (the “Duke”), Fred Astaire (the dancer) and Leo Carrillo (who’s greatest fame came from his portrayal of the mischievous sidekick to the Cisco Kid). He was also the private pilot of soon-to-be Mexican President Miguel Aleman during his presidential campaign.

Without the ability of the ‘Kissing Captain’ (a title that was hung on him because of the way he greeted female passengers), the development of Baja California would have been much delayed. The lovely Bahia de Los Angeles (known as BOLA by Baja aficionados) probably would still only be an isolated fishing village A song “Kissing Captain” was written by a Mexican group to describe his warm and affectionate way of dealing with people. I have attempted to locate the lyrics with no results.

Papa Diaz and his family contributed greatly to opening Baja to the flying and fishing fools who, along with Captain Munoz, flew into his rugged establishment along the Bay of LA to fish and then fish some more.

Papa trapped sea turtles (it was completely legal in those days and no one ever thought that they would be fished out). When he had enough to make the trip he would load them into his old bobtail truck that had pens built onto the back so that he could transport the live turtles to Ensenada. In those days it was a terrible and grueling three day trip. Once in Ensenada, he would buy supplies for his camp and then load up with 55 gallon drums of aviation fuel for the return trip to BOLA.

Without these trips and this gas the Bay of LA would not have been available to most small aircraft because they could not carry enough fuel to make the return trip to the States. It had to be hand pumped and filtered through a chamois before topping off. Papa only charged 60 cents a gallon and everyone was most happy to pay it.
All of the early Baja pilots were most happy to visit with the Diaz family, who were absolutely fantastic hosts. All of these fly guys and gals will tell anybody who will listen that these were some of the greatest days of their lives. Papa’s son continues to fill his shoes as the best host in the area.

Don Jimmy Smith once told me that “FM,” his handle for Munoz, was the best pilot he had ever known and that he thought that “Uncle” Erle had a share in Baja Airlines because of all of the publicity that he had given “Pancho” in his books.

In 2003 Captain Munoz was a guest of honor at the surprise “Saturday Night Pig Roast” honoring Don Johnson, the owner of the historic Hotel Serenidad. The “Kissing Captain” was also honored as one of the original bush pilots of Baja and it was mentioned that he had built the original air strip in Mulegé around 1955. A contemporary of Captain Munoz, Larry Hahn (affectionately known to air controllers by his handle ‘7TACOBELL’) put the event together to honor Johnson for his support of Baja pilots over the years.

“Pancho” Munoz became chief pilot for Exportadora de Sal, the salt company at Guerrero Negro. He retired from that job at the age of 65 in 1983.

Another Pionero de Baja bit the dust! Actually, Don Francisco soared off into the sky one last time. Born April 15, 1919, in Parras, Coahulia, Mexico, he left us from his home in Crest, California, on March 20, 2006.

Captain Munoz touched many people in a very positive way as he passed through a long, event filled and most rewarding life.
Vaya con Dios!




My smidgen of a claim to fame is that I have had so many really good friends. By Bernie Swaim December 2007
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
thebajarunner
Ultra Nomad
*****


Avatar


Posts: 2554
Registered: 9-9-2003
Location: Oakdale, CA
Member Is Offline

Mood: muy amable

posted on 4-9-2012 at 09:27 PM Reply With Quote
Can I chime in again?



Great memories in that piece, my man.

After finishing second in the 1972 1000 in our pickup (just had to sneak that in here, sorry) our gang took a sojourn down to the Hotel Cabo San Lucas for a few days of celebration.

We drew straws to see who got to drive the race truck back to San Diego (yeah, that's the way it worked before the highway- you drove it home, whatever the condition)

I won the draw, Chuck had to drive it back, and I got a seat on the DC-3 that flew from the hotel strip up to TJ.

We went out to the strip at the appointed time, stood around for a while, then an unshaven, sleepy looking local in tattered shirt and levis shows up and unlocks the plane and we climb aboard. He fusses around outside, then comes in, scratching and yawning and starts collecting tickets and fares.

So far so good, but then he latches the door, opens the cockpit, sits down in the left seat and turns himself into an airline captain. That scenario does not exactly resonate with consumer confidence.... oh well, it is still Baja.

We had been warned about the dip in the runway, also that if the plane was loaded it might not gain airspeed at a very rapid rate.

So, after all the fussing around we taxi up to the West end of the strip, rev the motors and away we go. The mid-strip "dip" was more like a gully and at speed it was quite a thumper, but the best was yet to come. You see, the East end of the strip was at the edge of the cliff at sea side, and when we cleared the strip we dropped like a rock- it seemed like we nearly clipped the waves, but in retrospect it was probably just halfway down.

Sure enough, we got airspeed through this maneuver sufficient to level out and eventually climbed up, out and on to TJ.

The other great memory of that strip was the old boy from up north that had one of the original Citation SP (Single Pilot) jets which he regularly flew down and landed on the dirt strip at the Hotel. The best part, he had a big dog that sat in the co-pilot seat and helped him fly his jet.

Ah Bernie, such great memories.

We really should write another book, you know.
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
Baja Bernie
`Normal` Nomad Correspondent
*****




Posts: 2962
Registered: 8-31-2003
Location: Sunset Beach
Member Is Offline

Mood: Just dancing through life

posted on 4-10-2012 at 01:56 AM Reply With Quote
Far to painful my friend







My smidgen of a claim to fame is that I have had so many really good friends. By Bernie Swaim December 2007
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
David K
Honored Nomad
*********


Avatar


Posts: 41023
Registered: 8-30-2002
Location: San Diego County
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have Baja Fever

posted on 4-10-2012 at 02:17 AM Reply With Quote


Some photos of Capt. Muñoz... from Erle Stanley Gardner books (1961-1968)


http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/HOB-1.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/HOB-2.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/HHB-1.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/HHB-2.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-1.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-2.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-3.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-4.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-5.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-6.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-7.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-8.jpg
The family at EL BARRIL

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-9.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/off-10.jpg


http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/mms-1.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/mms-4.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/mms-3.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/mms-2.jpg


With 'DesertGhost' at Bahia de los Angeles about 1999:

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Captain%20Munoz/scan0001.jpg

At the Hotel Serenidad event mentioned in Bernie's story, 2003 with Don Johnson and Larry Hahn:



[Edited on 4-10-2012 by David K]

David K has attached this image:
Munoz Serenidad.jpg - 45.8kb




"So Much Baja, So Little Time..."

Order the book about ALL 48 California Missions, glovebox friendly!: http://oldmissions.com
15 Day Baja adventure, July, 2012: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=61576
My Baja web site to help plan your adventure: http://VivaBaja.com

Like and follow the Old Missions on Facebook: http://facebook.com/oldmissions
View User's Profile E-Mail User Visit User's Homepage View All Posts By User U2U Member
thebajarunner
Ultra Nomad
*****


Avatar


Posts: 2554
Registered: 9-9-2003
Location: Oakdale, CA
Member Is Offline

Mood: muy amable

posted on 4-10-2012 at 02:38 AM Reply With Quote
One more memory, if I may



Your mention of Papa Diaz and the turtles....
First time I was in LABay was pre-running for the 1973 1000. We arrived just at dusk, cool November evening, and the only lights were at Diaz' which was next door to the church.
We stuck our heads in and they invited us in for dinner.
I remember well, the padre next door came in, took his place at the table, folded his hands and asked what was on the menu.
"Turtle Steak" was the reply,
and thus it was that I had my first taste of fresh turtle, and I must say it was equisite!
Never forget those "first moments"
Thanks for the prompt, Bernie,

Now, about writing our next book.......
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
David K
Honored Nomad
*********


Avatar


Posts: 41023
Registered: 8-30-2002
Location: San Diego County
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have Baja Fever

posted on 3-6-2013 at 06:29 PM Reply With Quote


Steekers was asking about photos of Baja Air Service's Capt. Muñoz, and thought others may like another look at this thread.



"So Much Baja, So Little Time..."

Order the book about ALL 48 California Missions, glovebox friendly!: http://oldmissions.com
15 Day Baja adventure, July, 2012: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=61576
My Baja web site to help plan your adventure: http://VivaBaja.com

Like and follow the Old Missions on Facebook: http://facebook.com/oldmissions
View User's Profile E-Mail User Visit User's Homepage View All Posts By User U2U Member
Skeet/Loreto
Elite Nomad
******




Posts: 4688
Registered: 9-2-2003
Member Is Offline


posted on 3-6-2013 at 08:16 PM Reply With Quote


Great Post and stories!!
Oh! so many memories!

My first trip in my Csssna 170b landed at Pa Minoz. papa Diaz in the Bay of LA , fuel from 55 Gallon Barrells, then some great Turtle. Pappa Diaz had his Bobtail loaded and getting ready to take them North.

On to Loreto and the small Strip South of the Flying Sportsman. where off to the side set an old B25 which had been converted with seats in the Bombay. Later I tried to buy the prop from it but did not have enough money at the time.
I tried many, many of the small strips and places i heard about through

though Munoz
which were being used by the People hauling Sharks Livers back to the States

Then I fles out of Mesicali one time on his old DC3 for a $129 round trip to Loreto. what a ride!!!

Thanks again for the Post and if you run across a Photo of the Old B 25 I would appreciate if you would Post it..
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
Skeet/Loreto
Elite Nomad
******




Posts: 4688
Registered: 9-2-2003
Member Is Offline


posted on 3-6-2013 at 08:18 PM Reply With Quote


Forgot to mention that Steneriff used a lot of information to locate and publish his book for Pilots in 1972.
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
David K
Honored Nomad
*********


Avatar


Posts: 41023
Registered: 8-30-2002
Location: San Diego County
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have Baja Fever

posted on 3-7-2013 at 01:12 AM Reply With Quote


Quote:
Originally posted by Skeet/Loreto
Forgot to mention that Steneriff used a lot of information to locate and publish his book for Pilots in 1972.


Do you mean SENTERFITT ?

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/books/books026.jpg

Sample pages:

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/RchoRosarito.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/PtaPulpito.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/PtoEscondido.jpg

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/SanJuanico.jpg
Pretty amazing what Arnold thought about 'Scorpion Bay' in '69!

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/DavidKier/Tambibichi.jpg

Arnold had several editions already published before this 1972 one (photo above). I liked the loose leaf format of the '72 edition, but he went back perfect binding with newer editions in the 1980's.




[Edited on 3-7-2013 by David K]




"So Much Baja, So Little Time..."

Order the book about ALL 48 California Missions, glovebox friendly!: http://oldmissions.com
15 Day Baja adventure, July, 2012: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=61576
My Baja web site to help plan your adventure: http://VivaBaja.com

Like and follow the Old Missions on Facebook: http://facebook.com/oldmissions
View User's Profile E-Mail User Visit User's Homepage View All Posts By User U2U Member
David K
Honored Nomad
*********


Avatar


Posts: 41023
Registered: 8-30-2002
Location: San Diego County
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have Baja Fever

posted on 3-7-2013 at 01:31 AM Reply With Quote


Many airports were built or improved along the Transpeninsular Highway ('68-'73) during construction for highway execs and government inspections to pop in.



"So Much Baja, So Little Time..."

Order the book about ALL 48 California Missions, glovebox friendly!: http://oldmissions.com
15 Day Baja adventure, July, 2012: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=61576
My Baja web site to help plan your adventure: http://VivaBaja.com

Like and follow the Old Missions on Facebook: http://facebook.com/oldmissions
View User's Profile E-Mail User Visit User's Homepage View All Posts By User U2U Member
Vince
Nomad
**




Posts: 349
Registered: 10-17-2006
Location: Coronado
Member Is Offline


posted on 3-7-2013 at 03:49 AM Reply With Quote


Capt. Francisco Munoz was one of my heroes. I flew several times with him as a passenger in the early '60's to and from Mulege. He inspired me to get my own pilot's license and I did just that in 1974. Have been making that trip ever since. Back then he landed his Lodestar at the Mulege Municipal airport west of town near where Ray's restaurant is now. Serenidad is more convenient. Munoz had more flight hours than anyone I know. We all felt very safe with him.
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
David K
Honored Nomad
*********


Avatar


Posts: 41023
Registered: 8-30-2002
Location: San Diego County
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have Baja Fever

posted on 3-7-2013 at 04:03 AM Reply With Quote


Great story Vince!



"So Much Baja, So Little Time..."

Order the book about ALL 48 California Missions, glovebox friendly!: http://oldmissions.com
15 Day Baja adventure, July, 2012: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=61576
My Baja web site to help plan your adventure: http://VivaBaja.com

Like and follow the Old Missions on Facebook: http://facebook.com/oldmissions
View User's Profile E-Mail User Visit User's Homepage View All Posts By User U2U Member
capt. mike
Select Nomad
*******


Avatar


Posts: 7963
Registered: 11-26-2002
Location: secret!!
Member Is Offline

Mood: baja time!

posted on 3-7-2013 at 04:36 PM Reply With Quote


always in a tie. Cracks me up.



formerly Ordained in Rev. Ewing's Church by Mail - busted on tax fraud.......
Now joined L. Ron Hoover's church of Appliantology
"Remember there is a big difference between kneeling down and bending over...."

http://www.cafepress.com/n7369p
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
grizzlyfsh95
Nomad
**




Posts: 132
Registered: 1-8-2010
Location: East Cape
Member Is Offline


posted on 3-7-2013 at 08:23 PM Reply With Quote


Anyone know the identity of Dr MacKinnon, pictured with Gardner and the pilot. Did he have a home in Baja? Was he a frequent visitor?



The harder I work, the luckier I get
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
David K
Honored Nomad
*********


Avatar


Posts: 41023
Registered: 8-30-2002
Location: San Diego County
Member Is Offline

Mood: Have Baja Fever

posted on 3-7-2013 at 08:26 PM Reply With Quote


He was an Australian dentist who had an office in Santa Rosalia in the 1950's and 60's... for many years he traveled to the villages of central Baja to provide dental care. He had a foot powered drill!



"So Much Baja, So Little Time..."

Order the book about ALL 48 California Missions, glovebox friendly!: http://oldmissions.com
15 Day Baja adventure, July, 2012: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=61576
My Baja web site to help plan your adventure: http://VivaBaja.com

Like and follow the Old Missions on Facebook: http://facebook.com/oldmissions
View User's Profile E-Mail User Visit User's Homepage View All Posts By User U2U Member
Barry A.
Select Nomad
*******




Posts: 8906
Registered: 11-30-2003
Location: Redding, Northern CA
Member Is Offline

Mood: optimistic

posted on 3-7-2013 at 11:44 PM Reply With Quote


Quote:
Originally posted by Vince
Capt. Francisco Munoz was one of my heroes. I flew several times with him as a passenger in the early '60's to and from Mulege. He inspired me to get my own pilot's license and I did just that in 1974.


:O What?????? I always thought I was your "inspiration", Vince!!! I got my (commercial) pilots license in l965!!!! :P :lol:

Barry
View User's Profile View All Posts By User U2U Member
bacquito
Super Nomad
****




Posts: 1502
Registered: 3-7-2007
Member Is Offline

Mood: jubilado

posted on 3-8-2013 at 02:49 AM Reply With Quote


Interesting reading, thanks to all



bacquito
View User's Profile E-Mail User View All Posts By User U2U Member
Post new thread Poll:


Go To Top


Google
 
BajaNomad.com Web









All Content Copyright © 1997- Q87 International; All Rights Reserved.
Powered by XMB 1.9.1 Nexus; Developed By Aventure Media & The XMB Group © 2002-2004





"If it were lush and rich, one could understand the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live, and we don't know why." - Steinbeck, Log from the Sea of Cortez

 

"People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." - Ivan R. Misner, Ph.D

 

"You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them or to them." - Malcolm Forbes







Thank you to Baja Bound Mexico Insurance Services for your long-term support of the BajaNomad.com Forums site.







Emergency Baja Contacts Include:

Desert Hawks; El Rosario-based ambulance transport; Emergency #: (616) 103-0262