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

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Airplane For Sale

It's official .. the CallAir is for sale.

I love this airplane and it's for that reason I'm letting it go .. there are just not enough hours in the day or square feet in the hangar for me to justify keeping it, only to let it sit on the ground far too much.

A little history.

The design for my CallAir was put on paper as the world was on the verge of World War II, starting as a project for Interstate Engineering, a company in El Segundo CA engaged in the design and manufacture of aircraft components. When the U.S. government published a request for bids for training airplanes for the Civilian Pilot Training Program, Interstate hired Ted Woolsey to put a team together to design and offer such an airplane. They were in competition with established manufacturers, primarily Taylorcraft, Aeronca, Piper, and Stinson. 

On the ground with my friend Steve's Interstate Cadet

Interstate built and sold some 300+ Cadets, mostly to flying schools for the CPTP. Piper and others claim to have given most of the pilots in WWII their primary training, but in reality their "Cubs" had become a generic term for all similar light planes and Interstate Cadets certainly trained their fair share. As it happened, there were a lot of mishaps too. The Call Aircraft Company in Afton WY employed its mechanics to repair a number of those broken machines. (Mr. Reuel Call had a fleet of trucks from his other businesses ready to work, picking up bent airplanes from all over the western states to be flown out after repair). 

The sturdy construction of the Cadet had caught Call's eye, leading to the eventual acquisition of the type certificates for both of the Cadet and the later, military L-6 and plans to put the Cadet back in production. They built two - one as an Interstate that was written off a long time ago and this one as a CallAir. On this one they put a 90 HP Continental engine for performance in the thin mountain air at Afton WY (over 6,000' MSL).

The owners before me were two families in Black Mountain NC - they passed the airplane back and forth between them for 55 years. When the patriarch of the family died I bought their "Jezebel" in 2012.
We held a family reunion picnic for the previous owners

When I bought the airplane in 2012 it had been idle in the family hangar for a long time. The engine had just been overhauled and a new prop put on so they could sell it as a flying airplane.

My first look at the CallAir Cadet

I flew the airplane for a little over a year before deciding to enter a full restoration project. 

At a fly-in breakfast

Little did I know what the job might entail. What began as a job that might take a few months turned into 3 1/2 years.

Stripped down to the bare bones, November 2013

A key contact turned out to be a fellow named Tim Talen in Oregon. Tim has restored some prize winning Cadets and knew of my airplane but had never actually seen it. He has been a lot of help all through the project, working from pictures exchanged online. He is also a good source for parts, which are interchangeable between the CallAir and the Interstate.

One thing we didn't know was the color scheme. Luckily, a retired USAF General once worked at the CallAir plant as a teenager and had a picture of his favorite airplane still hanging on his wall !


As taildraggers go, this one is pretty tame. The tailwheel is steerable. I added some length to my taildragger-dragger to accommodate the inset.
The weight on the tailwheel is only 80 pounds or so and it's easy to move.

As for flying, the airplane is a piece of cake, very stable and honest. It was quite a selling point in the 1940s that the airplane could be flown without a lot of attention to rudder. (until you start a turn - it demonstrates adverse yaw quite well).

It's a nice looking bird coming and going .. the wing dihedral makes for great inflight stability

Landings are straightforward. The huge vertical tail is, again, stabilizing. 

I'm advertising in various media at $55,000, or about half what I have in it. For that you have an almost new 1952 airplane and a classic. (or you can spend a cool couple hundred thou for a new Cub)

Performance numbers:

Aircraft empty weight:           869 pounds
Max Gross Takeoff Weight:
 1250 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15 Gallons
Airfoil: NACA 23012 (same as T-craft)
Max Speed @ Sea Level: 112 MPH 
Cruising Speed:                105 MPH
Landing Speed:                  38 MPH

Aircraft and original engine total time: about 1750 hours (I'm still flying it)

C-90-8 Engine time since major overhaul is a bit over 110 hours. Same on the prop - new at engine overhaul.

Some restoration features:

Marvel-Schebler carburetor with mixture control 
Cleveland Wheels and Brakes, new 7.00x6 tires 
PolyFiber process cover (PolyTone finish) 
Instruments rebuilt by Keystone
Bendix Magnetos rebuilt 
Brackett Air Filter
All new windshield and windows 

All new interior with shoulder harnesses

My contact info:

Alex Nelon
828-595-5950 (text preferred or leave message, I don't answer unknown numbers)
Airplane is located at Hendersonville NC

Monday, March 23, 2020

Flying in the Face of the Pandemic

I don't know about you, but this Coronavirus thing would be a lot more painful if it were not for the fact that 99% of my flying is solo. It's nice to have another soul to talk to, especially when it's a new experience for them, but I do enjoy wifferdilling along, watching the world go by and marveling at the peace and harmony of it from up to a couple of thousand feet in the air. The CallAir is perfect for that.

Whether ridge soaring when the wind is up or just poking around the mountains when the winds are calm, the CallAir lets me get a good long look at the landscape

I've reluctantly made the decision to sell the CallAir. It's a wonderful airplane, made better by a museum quality (expensive) restoration from 2013-2017, but I'm not flying it enough to justify keeping it on the payroll. The ad is on if you know anybody looking for a great buy.

For actually going places, the GlaStar is lurking in the back of the hangar .. no inflight pictures of it yet, but it's itching to fly more. In this era of viruses floating around, I don't see myself ever getting on another airliner and with my family in the South, I don't have to; they're all within striking distance in the 'Star.

For now, flying solo, flying safely ... mowing the grass, etc. A Fair Weather Flyer, for sure.