It was July 2, 1974, and my wife Mary Ann and I were flying home from Salilsaw, Oklahoma where we had dropped off an employee’s children. I was just north of Guthrie, Oklahoma; it was early evening and near sundown. We had our Beech Debonair cruising in smooth air at 7500 feet when a call came over 122.8.
“This is Cessna NN; can anybody hear me?”
I listened, knowing this was a strange transmission, and again I heard, “Can anybody hear me? Cessna NN.”
I answered, “Cessna NN this is Debonair 419T. You are loud and clear. How can I help you?”
The Cessna pilot replied, “I am a student pilot, I am lost and scared.” I assured him that I could assist him and everything would be OK. I asked him to go to 121.5, knowing that a ground station would hear us.
I asked him what his last known position was and he replied, “I don’t know.”
I asked him about his fuel state and he had plenty of fuel. I asked his altitude and he stated 4000 feet. I told him not to descend and asked what his point of departure was. He said “Durant, Oklahoma.”
At that point, the Tulsa tower came on the frequency. They couldn’t hear the Cessna, but had heard enough to know what was going on and advised me to move him to 121.9 which I did. I asked the Cessna what his compass heading was and he replied, “I don’t know.”
I talked to him and asked what the country below looked like and he said “all mountains and lakes.” We talked back and forth a bit and he calmed down some and was able to give me his compass heading. I then walked him through tuning in VORs and giving me the bearing to the station. We then told him his position and gave him a heading to Muskogee. I was getting away from him fast and his transmitted signals were getting weak. I told him I would be losing him quickly and he said, “Please don’t leave me up here.” I told him I was turning back east and would stay with him.
At that point, Mary Ann said, “I want to get on home because it is getting dark.” I asked her if that was one of our children if she would want me to leave him and she said no. Before long, the Cessna pilot said, “I see a submarine in the river” and I knew he was very close to Hatbox Field Airport in Muskogee.
I told him that McAlester Flight Service Station wanted him to call after landing and he assured them that he would. McAlester flight service called me and the specialist asked, “Ralph is that you?” I replied affirmative; they had been able to hear me the entire time but not the Cessna and the fellow on duty had known when he was at Dalhart, Texas.
It turned out that the pilot of the Cessna was a student on his cross country solo and was originally bound for McAlester but had overflown it. I have often wondered if the fellow completed his training and was licensed. I never knew his name and did not know the outcome.