Monday, December 28, 2020

The End of 2020 - At Last

Don't get me wrong I'm in no hurry to come to the end of anything .. the calendar unrolls all too quickly at this stage of my "event horizon" .. its just that 2020 has been such a bugger of a year that I'm ready to breathe the fictional breath of fresh air that is supposed to accompany a New Year.

Now that the days are beginning to lengthen, all eyes around the hangar are turning to getting the annual and condition inspections out of the way and even getting a little flying in when the weather cooperates.
Hangar space is at a premium around here. Nuff said.
The CallAir Cadet is still for sale, though the price has fallen to $45,000. I still enjoy flying it, but I don't fly it enough.

During the days when there's no flying or fixing or stuff that presses to be done, it's nice to catch up with a new, old friend I've never met. Brigid is a redhead who flies, hunts, likes good whisky, loves dogs and old guns and to top it off, loves to cook. What's not to like? I tried one of her pancake recipes - fantastic. Visit her blog at:

Monday, October 05, 2020

A Little Piece of Heaven

 Once in awhile you run across a place that has just about everything you always wanted a place to have. Last weekend Leo and I flew the CallAir Cadet from our mountain home to another tranquil place about 70 miles west as the crow flies. The views of the mountains was wonderful, no wind, smooth all the way and the Mighty Continental (Powerful as the Nation) pulled us along at a stately 100 mph or so.

There was quite a bit of fog in the valleys between here and there (1A5 was reporting indef 200 and 1/4 mile) so we detoured to the south, beyond the mountain ridges, so we wouldn't be caught "on top" .. just in case.

The place we visited is called Tusquittee Landing (NC08), a private air park with homes and a community area. Brian took a picture looking east when he flew over it to scope it out:

It's a little piece of paradise at slightly over 2,000' msl with a 2,700 foot runway that is smooth as a pool table. Brian drew in their right traffic pattern for runway 28 in red .. Leo and I flew a straight-in approach from the east down a beautiful valley.

From their windsock, this is looking east at the terrain leading to runway 28. The nearby hills aren't at all intimidating, at least when there's no wind to negotiate.

The community area might have room for another hangar. Everyone we met was super friendly and we enjoyed our visit and BYO sandwiches .. much like 8NC9's Wednesday lunches.

The homes at midfield and toward the west end feature their own hangars .. aircraft ownership is required. That's a good thing as so many airport communities lose their way in this regard, leading to the hangars being turned into storage buildings.
Looking west you can see the broad expanse of runway and grass that allows for quite a comfortable, open, air park. Mr. William T. Piper of Piper Aircraft envisioned a country full of places like this in the 1940s and 50s and went all over speaking to private groups and municipalities promoting the idea. 

**NOTE** Tusquittee Landing is a private field and prior permission is required. Please check in with them at BEFORE visiting!

The trip home, winding our way between mountain peaks, included a fuel stop at Franklin's Macon County Airport (1A5) where we filled up with 6.9 gallons of their finest 100LL AVGAS. My fuel consumption with proper lean mixture averages out to 5 gallons per hour .. pretty good for a 90hp engine.

All in all, a grand day to be out flying, best spent with good friends, old and new.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

To Be or Not To Be

Now I'm not one to hoard or hang on to most things too long (fooey - just ask my wife) but it came to the renewal of my Flight Instructor certificates last month and I honestly thought about letting them go by the wayside. There were regrets, to be sure; after all, I worked hard for them and have always thought the profession a noble one. 42 years have gone by as a CFI; that's nothing to sneeze at.

John and Pat Henderson in the late 1940s/early 50s

If I had mentors it was without their knowing. I always looked up to the first Flight Instructor with whom I was acquainted: John Henderson, who eked out a living at the Silver Springs Air Park in Florida. John was a civilian instructor during The War (WWII) and settled with his wife and family in rudimentary quarters in the early 1950s. Eventually things improved and John became an aviation icon in that part of the world. I never flew with him but he has always flown with me.

Bill Kershner
 chief cook and bottle washer at Ace Aerobatic School (motto: never fly with a guy named Ace)

Mentor #2 has to be a fellow who guided a lot of us through his books, experiences and good humor: Bill Kershner. We met when Son John was a student at St. Andrews School at Sewanee TN. The airport where Bill held forth was just down the road a bit. What a neat guy .. veteran of thousands of spins while teaching basic aerobatics and upset recovery to students from around the world, a former Naval Aviator, corporate pilot and demo pilot for Piper Aircraft Company. Bill started out with a wish, then a dream, then put his dream into action working as a line boy fueling and hand propping airplanes, sweeping floors, soloing at 16 and working his way up. His career timing was perfect.

The modern day flight instructor has to jump through a few hoops to start his students .. it used to be that a third class medical certificate served as a student pilot certificate; nowadays the certificate is issued by FAA after a vetting process to ensure the student doesn't pose a threat to security. 9/11 changed a lot of things and flying is definitely one of them.

Despite the hurdles, the CFI is still the key to preserving our heritage of freedom to fly the skies of the USA. Without the CFI there are no new students to grow or maintain the system .. nothing new there .. and without the CFI there are no new ratings issued for instrument, multiengine, and all the endorsements required at the various levels of a pilot's experience. 

So I renewed. I still harbor the dream of teaching my grandchildren to fly and local pilot friends challenge me with questions that keep me on my toes, which is good for me and, I hope, for them. Another local CFI of my vintage is a great counsel as well and we compare notes often. It is a fine fraternity (or sorority, as several of my CFI friends are women) and I am glad to remain in their company.

Friday, August 14, 2020

August Rain, etc

 Well, here we are in August 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, an election year, and I'm not sure which is more topsy or turvey. On the one hand, the COVID 19 virus has sure put a damper on society and the economy and on the other, the upcoming election has aroused a lot of people. No matter .. we airplane nuts just keep on flying and building and fixing and find a lot of stress relief in the good old-fashioned way.

The wet grass on the runway is host to a gaggle of geese, dining out, Half the time they don't bother to move when we taxi out or land and we have to shoo them off.

Did I mention so far in August (here it is the 14th) we've had almost 10 inches of rain? The duty thunderstorms roll in over the mountains after lunch and eventually make for some pleasant hours on the mower.

There have been some poignant farewells this month.

Bil (one L) Kransteuber and Bill (2 Ls) Howe
Photos borrowed from the WNC Air Museum website.
Two great guys. Both Bil and Bill were long time members of the Western North Carolina Air Museum and Bill was serving as President at the time of his passing. We celebrated Bill first with a Saturday morning breakfast at the Museum, a successful monthly event Bill and his wife, Ruth,  started. B (2 Ls) had his ashes spread from an airplane at the Museum; the ceremony had to be delayed for an engine that wouldn't cooperate and Bil was celebrated later in a family ceremony.
Ruthie, Queen of the Spatula, at her post

Coffee, juice, fruit and homemade desserts

Socially distant, but only geographically. Is there a better way to remember friends gone west?

Meanwhile, at the Fairweather Flyers headquarters we keep on keeping on, where we enjoy our small, sometimes impromptu gatherings and talk small talk about big things like Steve's landings and Brian's Taylorcraft and Owen's radios. The hangar radio might be operational this millennium but Brian provided his aviation band receiver to bridge the gap.

Keep on Flying!

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Last Day of July

The Fairweather Flyers met for lunch a couple of days ago, treated by Leo with Italian Sausages, Brats, and Kielbasa from the local co-op .. good groceries there .. PLUS a terrific blueberry cobbler that finished it off with a flourish. I have to get pictures next time.

Tomorrow, August 1st, the WNC Air Museum is having a breakfast send-off for our recently deceased President. Bill passed away while serving. He and Ruthie started the breakfasts on the first Saturday of the warmer months and it was felt this would be appropriate. The Museum volunteers are setting up so we will be safe in the midst of the COVID pandemic and we're all looking forward to a true celebration of Bill's life and service.

Mark's RV-8 was down for a few days while he and Leo looked into an oil temperature rise over recent flights. Lycomings have a vernatherm - a hard-to-get-to part that's essentially a thermostat but has a nifty name so they can crank up the cash register.
Testing the old one seemed to show it worked; testing the new one seemed to show it worked the same way but the oil temps are coming down. Go figger.

I took the CallAir to South Carolina last weekend to visit a fellow who owns a museum quality Swift. His airport home is on a beautiful grass runway set between tall pines about 50 miles away. His son's J3 Cub marked the access to his hangar and I got to see his Yak-52 and meet his mother - a true aviation family. His mother has re-covered a lot of dope and fabric airplanes over the years and said she liked the CallAir .. that made my day.

So we Fairweather Flyers continue to enjoy fresh air and sunshine most days,  socially distancing on our solo flights and generally keeping in touch over the internet and at our little mountain airport. It sure will be nice when things get back to normal, although I've seen an uptick in activity here as pilots realize flying is not a medically hazardous activity (and it beats golf).

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My First Glastar Condition Inspection

Having jumped into the deep end of the experimental pool with the purchase of my Glastar, this first condition inspection was a chance to get into the details of its construction. Fortunately, one of the premier Glastar fabricators moved from Florida to Knoxville TN, just across the mountains from me, and I arranged for him to come over to take a look at the innards with my old friend and mechanic, Keith, and me.

Zach Chase dug right into the project, beginning with the tail and working his way to the firewall; no need to go further as firewall forward is pretty straightforward airplane stuff.

Of course I was so wrapped up in the process that I didn't take any pictures, but Zach did. These pictures are looking forward at clearances for the elevator bellcrank bolts. 

These pictures show the machined tailskid which works against a spring to cushion any inadvertent tail strikes. Most builders just attached a piece of nylon block or a portion of tire tread to protect the tailcone; Russ went way beyond that with a very nice piece of work.

Suffice to say it was money well spent to have Zach come over and I followed up by buying some removable seat pan inserts to facilitate next year's inspection. Pictures next year, maybe.

The inspection was our first chance to see every little thing about the airplane and it's past. Now I know for certain what I have and I'm ready to fly some trips.

Wednesday's lunch with the lads was a shrimp boil this time and my fellow conspirators brought side dishes, libations and good cheer to the hangar. Always welcome, good cheer.

The Fourth of July weekend is coming up - time to set aside some time to reflect and absorb just what the date means and strike a blow for liberty by going flying!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Socially distant, the old fashioned way

It was reasonably warm by 10:30 yesterday morning so I decided “What the hay?” and trundled out to the airport. There were a couple of airplanes flying so I opened up the hangar and chatted a few minutes with an old timer about this and that. 
Looking northward along Runway 33, Johnson Field

Rolled the CallAir out after checking the oil and fuel drains (my engine doesn’t use oil much at all), attached the tail tie down and she started on the second pull of the prop. Being almost a direct crosswind from the SW, I elected to depart on 33 at Johnson Field. What a day! Crosswinds from the SW make for some exclamations near the north end of the field but the mighty Continental (Powerful as the Nation) pulled us through and we bounced our way through an overhead departure to the northeast and around the Valley of the Old French Broad. Well, not exactly. It was more like the Valley of the Old Clear Creek. 
Clear Creek, or something like it, from Google Earth. Sugarloaf VOR at right.

It didn’t take long to have enough fun for one day, so with the skies now empty, bounced back to a left downwind entry to 15 at Johnson .. whereupon the rollers over Barker Heights really rolled and the geese on the runway tried downwind takeoffs toward 0A7 with some comical panic but I landed past them in an amazing, beautiful wheel landing that, of course, nobody witnessed but me. 

Since you weren’t around to sit in the hangar and marvel at my prowess or be regaled by my description of it, I thought “why deny my friends”.......

It was too chilly and lonely for a celebratory beer (reminiscent of Saturday’s breakfast when landscaping duties and fallen trees decimated the ranks) so I packed it in and returned to chores aplenty, always pending, sometimes done.
Hendersonville NC. Home of the Fairweather Flyers