Saturday, December 30, 2006

More prop stuff ... and an eye toward 2007

I hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas and will have a safe New Year's ... and a safe New Year, too. For my part I've been doing my bit to promote aviation safety by not flying.

I took the wood prop to Sensenich at Plant City yesterday and couldn't have been met by nicer people. Their business manager, Don something, was just great - he's been there for 30 years and knows his prop stuff pretty well. He's also the last guy who signs off the props before they go out the door. He listened to my description (it'll balance with 4 quarters and a penny) and then went right back to the balancing rack - couldn't believe his eyes. He said he was shocked and I believe him. Then we went over to the edge alignment table where they check how straight the prop is and it was out quite a bit beyond tolerance. Again, he was shocked - and I believe him. They're making a new prop for me and I'll deal directly with the shop, thereby taking any middlemen and any possible storage issues out of the equation. No charge.

This is a first for me - and Don said it was a first for him, too. The prop was really out of whack. Good news is I'm on the A list and will get my new one in 3 or 4 weeks.

This is a good time to look ahead ... in 2007, I resolve:

To fly a little more and fix a little less,
To take as many kids of all ages for rides in the Cub,
To encourage aspiring pilots along their way toward their licenses,
To help people without being asked,
To be the kind of friend my friends have been to me,
To spend some quiet time with someone who really needs it,
To write those letters I've been meaning to write,
To let a few of my teachers know that I remember them and their encouragement,
To teach my grandsons to shoot,
To teach my granddaughters to shoot,
To get another dog,
To finish renovating the old family place,
To find the spring,
To clean the cemetery and straighten the stones,
To build a barn,
To make new friends,
To lose the weight I put back on,
To keep my eye on the place I would make for myself,
and
To let you know how it's going.

Thanks for stopping by ...

Alex

Sunday, December 10, 2006

On friends, old airplanes, and #3 exhaust valves

The verdict is in on the rough running engine in my J-3 Cub - the exhaust valve on the #3 cylinder fails to seat properly. Just why is a mystery for Lee to divine, but after a week of head scratching and hypothesizing, Russ and Stu and Bill and Bob and Bill and Mike and Steve all pitched in and we found the problem. I wrote George, who flew with me when I brought the Cub to NY:

Hi George ..Well, I went out to the airport and fired up the Cub last weekend … engine ran rough. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like the motor was running on three cylinders, it was shaking so badly … There was a lot of muttering and mumbling on my part … the cylinders all felt the same compression-wise … It really felt like there was a miss, but at the same time it could have been an out-of-balance prop (although I store it horizontally) or some other goofy thing. It was the same on each magneto … On Monday I went out and pulled the lower plugs and cleaned them and that seemed to help a little, but only marginally. I’m going to pull the upper plugs over the weekend. The airplane has been sitting for about 3 months while I decide What To Do With The Rest Of My Life and I can see now that letting it sit is probably not a good thing to do. The engine rebuilder guy is all for the plugs – I am completely mystified. Cold up in New York today ... blah blah blah ...

George wrote back:

I believe that airplanes are capable of sulking when they are given insufficient attention by their owners. In this case, though, I’d look at plugs. You did exactly what I’d have done. The other malady that comes to mind, regardless of the apparent compression, is a stuck valve. Can you pull the rocker covers and have somebody prop it while you observe? ... Cheers, G

After glossing over that crack about insufficient attention we scratched our heads and after Russ waved the magic wand I wrote again:

The problem has been diagnosed – partly. At least we know which cylinder it is and maybe part of the cause. You got it – stuck valve. The telephone diagnosis was coke in the valve guide but then my ol’ buddy mechanician took a closer look and it might be more than that – even to a cracked cylinder. So tomorrow off comes the jug and it’ll be shipped maybe to Superior for a closer look. We worked through it all, and without any contesting and everybody finally agreed that the way to do it is the right way. We’ll all end up feeling good about it (if the engine proves good when all’s said and done). What was really strange was that the cylinder held pressure when we checked it the first 2 times … then when we ran it for about 2 minutes with the rocker covers off (what a mess) – just enough to put a little heat in the cylinder – we hand propped it through all 4 and the prop swung right through what turned out to be #3. Pushback into the hangar and tried the pressure gauge again and it held pressure again … backed off the prop a little to unseat the valve and WHOOSH that was that – the valve never re-seated. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to find a specific problem that made sense. Let’s hope the problem turns out to be the cylinder – if it’s tappets, we’re going to have to split the case again. Newly rebuilt engines are new to me – I prefer airplane engines with a couple of hundred hours on them if they’ve been treated well. … Our trip to Hville is going to be another quickie – enough time to be struck dumb by the mess and then back before the Christmas traffic gets ghastly. On the way back, we’re thinking of overnighting at Broxton Bridge Plantation near Ehrhardt … the owners have a little over 7500 acres with an airstrip, meeting house, B&B, fishing hole, shooting, and horseback riding … a real find, if what I read on their website is anywhere close to accurate. I always wanted a plantation. You and I could sit on the veranda, listen to the crickets and the bullfrogs and make friends with a condensation-beaded glass of something cold.

>>>>TODAY WAS THE DAY<<<<

... and here's what I tacked on to my last note to George:

Well, Geo … it was partly the valve (fixed today) and partly an out of balance prop. So we were both on the money. I couldn’t believe it – after pulling the cylinder and cleaning the valve seat and guide, the engine still was a little shaky – not running rough, just shaky. AT LEAST PART OF THE EQUATION WAS SOLVED. (CAPS LOCK off). So Russ pulled a metal prop out of his hangar and bolted it on – the engine is smooth as glass. Just in case the problem was really fixed and the prop change was an illusion, we re-mounted the wood prop and it shook again … remounted the metal prop and it was smooth. Pretty solid evidence. So the wood prop that looked so nice and felt so comfortable in my hand when pulling it through is in the back of the car and will go with us to Florida – by car now instead of Southwest Airlines. More on that. Last week when we flew back up to NY, I had a little ear blockage in my right ear – no biggie, this has happened before and resolved in a few days. This time it didn’t resolve and I’ve had a middle ear full of gunk for a week. No real hurt, but uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. So I went to my local ENT guy who couldn’t see me but another doc in one of the other offices could so I saw him – we didn’t speak the same language but he supplied me with the meds I already knew I needed from my research (on the internet, natch) and I finally got in to see my real doc today – he said no fly, flyboy, so that’s the best excuse I could have gotten – a gift, actually – to drive and take my prop and a couple of rifles and whatnot at the same time. Life just keeps on happening no matter what plans you make … ain’t it a kick?

And that's how my week has been.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's December ... Where did November go???

OK, I admit it, I'm guilty of goofing off.

But in the middle of it all, I retired and then signed on with an old friend to set up his flight department, so I guess I un-retired. The Cub sat, patiently, through all of this until yesterday, when I finally made it back to the airport after too long an absence and asked Bill to help me get 'er started for a drive around the patch. First blade, it started, then commenced to shake like the dickens ... I thought I was running on three cylinders. This kept up, so I shut it down and asked opinions (which are free at Bayport) and then we tried it again. Same deal. Ran it up and down the rpm scale, same thing. Let it warm up good, taxiied out and did a couple of full power runs. Same thing. Brought it back, took off the cowlings and checked all the intake hoses, plug wires, etc etc ... let everybody get a good look ... and then started it up again after a good pre-heat (it was a bit chilly outside - mid 40s) ... same thing.

Grrr.

Lee wasn't answering the phone this morning at the engine shop - probably busy rebuilding engines since that's what he does - so it'll be later today when I find out what to look for next.

Maybe the wood prop somehow went out of balance?? Maybe. My next step if Lee doesn't have anything particular in mind is to put a metal prop on and see if the vibration goes away. If it does, then I have my culprit. More on this saga later.

Fly safely ...

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's October ... Where did September go??

Simple story. September I sort of changed jobs. Actually, there was this big reorganization and instead of retiring next summer, I 'got' retired a little early. Then the phone rang and I un-retired about 25 hours later. So, the old dog is back in the saddle, only I don't have a saddle yet. I celebrated by taking some time off.

My office, September 2005

The time off was originally planned to find and buy land for an airport where I would spend some time in the sun, sweating and grading a runway, sculpting the grounds around the runway for a park (an air-park, get it?) and plan for the hoards of enthusiastic sport pilots, antique pilots, light-sport airplanes, antique airplanes, campers, parachutists, lunch fixers and eaters and tellers of tall tales. I also hoped to sit around composing long sentences and maybe build a house, a bunk house, and some hangars. It all looked really good on paper but then when I found my 302 acre dream spot, the reality of $$$ set in. Whew! I never thought retirement could be so expensive. It's a good thing I have a job!

SO that's what I did during September and this far into October ... If the muse strikes again pretty soon (I owe the little bugger big time) I'll be back. In the meantime, fly safe and fly often.

Monday, August 28, 2006

August 06, fair August ... ?




You talk about rain ... you talk about wind ... August 2006 had both in spades, at least on Long Island. But ... there were those idyllic August days when the breezes were light, the grass was freshly mown and flying was happening all around. The best news was when Bob and Ace got their medicals back and Bill T's Vagabond was finally signed off for flight with the mighty C-85 in the nose. Talk about a rocket! He pushes up the power and it's off to the races, climbing like a scalded ape. Those short wing Pipers are fun when they have the juice. Bill hasn't stopped smiling.

I'm a little ahead of myself...

The month actually started at the tail end of July on a trip to Brazil in the Big G ... Mike and I made a side trip to San Jose dos Campos where they build the Embraer jets and got a tour of the factory ... this is a picture of a new Legacy corporate jet, which is based on the EMB-135 airframe. We came away with a handful of little jet pins which we parlayed into points with the girls in the office back home and an idea of things to come ... the Embraer people build a nice airplane and apparently a pretty durable one since they're in service as commuter (and larger) airliners all over the world.

There were a bunch of little trips all through August, but the Big Day was the 26th: the day of the Antique Airplane Club of Greater New York Fly-In, pig roast, camping trip and flying/lying fest. The weather stunk! Friday had a tornado touchdown on Long Island (fortunately Bayport Aerodrome is disguised as a long, straight and smooth stretch of grass and the tornado gods don't even notice it - they look for paved runways where numerous all-aluminum Cessnas, Pipers and such are tied down outside so as to make a bigger splash on the evening news). The picture is of a few of the airplanes that turned out ... we actually sold enough wristbands (all you can eat pig and potato salad and slaw; all you can drink belly washers of all sorts) to pay for the pig and fixins so I guess it turned out pretty well. Yours truly and noted bomb-aimer Harry captured the glory for coming closest to the flour-bomb target. Bill T. won the spot landing contest in his hotrod Vagabond. There were some really nice airplanes there - some from as far away as Connecticut! Next year maybe the weather will cooperate.

The first oil change is coming up on the Cub's engine and I'm looking forward to some good news when we crack the filter open ... Oil temps are coming down a little and so far it looks like we have a good engine. I called my engine man - Lee - and he said it sounded like everything is just as it should be.

More later. Fly safe.

Monday, July 31, 2006

July we Fly


What a great month - July ! Although it started off with a lot of lousy weather interspersed with 2 1/2 weeks of jet trips, we (the Cub and me) managed a reasonably respectable 6 hours in the air and made 12 folks happy with Cub rides. That's so much fun ... flying along with the door open, looking down on boaters/golfers/drivers/sunbathers who think they're happy ...


That's the home field - Bayport Aerodrome, on Long Island. There are 2 north-south runways and we're using the one to the west this summer - (the town swaps runways every year to keep from wearing out the grass surface and it works really well - the grass is like a pool table this year).



Bob and I managed a little flying in the Stearman (oops - his B75N-1 - sorry) and had a great day touring the north and south shores. What a nice airplane ... it's older than I am and you could eat off any part of it, it's that clean.

This past weekend, the last in July, we hopped out to Lou's grass strip out east of here for an EAA gathering ... more fun ... I was on downwind with a Tiger Moth, an English Auster, a motorglider, a couple of skydivers and a jump plane ... if it sounds complicated it wasn't, really ... just a great time and everybody looking out for each other. Nobody doing anything stupid at all, except I ate maybe one too many hot dogs ..

So that was July and next comes August and I just can't wait.

Fly safe ....

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Having too much fun to write


The Cub is back in the air!!

With a lot of help from Glenn and Mike and Russ and Bill and Bill and Bob and Bob the old bugger is flying again! That's me. The Cub helps. First time we started the rebuilt engine, it started on the second pull of the prop. What an exciting moment! After checking for leaks, off we went. The airplane flew flawlessly ... and I have to admit my landing was very good. Bob the younger flew the first flight with me, followed by George, then Stu and even Vladimir risked life and limb ... V and I flew over to John's private strip for the Fathers' Day fly-in and had a great time with about 40 other antique airplane nuts ...

More on the ups and downs from Cubland when the muse strikes ... for now, I'm having too much fun to write!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Western North Carolina Air Museum















What a nice surprise! I took a few days and happened to end up in Hendersonville NC on the weekend of the WNCAM's annual Air Fair ... what a great event!

The picture above is a little "ornithopter" that is powered by an antique "hit and miss" engine and used to take small kids for rides around the airfield ... the wings flap, there's a train whistle ... its a lot of fun just to watch ...

The airport is one where I used to teach, long before I became a steely-eyed jet god.

The parking was getting pretty crowded so I hooked around to the museum where a guy at the gate asked me if I was there to volunteer ... OF COURSE!! Got a fantastic parking spot away from the great unwashed and was put to work right away selling tickets for airplane rides. They even gave me a T-shirt for volunteering. The rides were interesting - 4 people could go at once in a helicopter (Bell Jet Ranger) for about 6-7 minutes, 3 could go at once for 12-15 minutes in either a Cessna 172 or 182, and there was a fellow taking people up one at a time in an antique Piper PA-12. Tickets were $25 no matter what aircraft, and the line stretched sometimes for 15 or 20 deep. It was an old fashioned barnstorming weekend!

So I guess this has gotten me inspired to get back on the Cub project and that's where I plan to be come next week. More then ...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Overnight to distant cities

Occasionally I get to fly the jet. Well, more than occasionally since that's my job, but it does tend to get in the way of the Cub project ...

Cris-crossing the country, north to south, east to west, and vice-versa is a pretty good way to make a living but I really like the overseas stuff better. For awhile, about 80% of my flying was international; Europe, South America, Asia ... it was all good but some was better than others. The end of May we were off to Lisbon for a few days - now that was something new for me ... I'd never been there. It's a beautiful city, dating way, way back and I loved the narrow, cobblestone or quarried block streets ... I took a few side trips while we were there - Cascais, the old city, a castle or two. Pretty amazing stuff.

Now back in the U.S. of A. and many channels of cable TV ...

I guess no matter where you live, there's no place like home.

It occurred to me that I haven't written about my travails with the new prop. I ordered a new wood prop from a Sensenich dealer in Ft Lauderdale and when it came, the diameter of the hub bore (the hole in the middle of the middle of the prop) was too small. Try as we might, it wasn't going to fit. So I called the dealer and Sensenich, thinking I was doing something wrong (but no, too small is just too small - nothing in question there) and hoping they'd help me out. The warranty had run out calendar-wise and I was prepared to do heated battle.

They could not have been nicer - both the dealer and Sensenich. To make a long story even longer, I sent the prop back to the factory in Plant City FL, the dealer sent me a replacement prop, and Sensenich sent my old prop to the dealer after fixing the problem. Now to install it ... but after another trip and a few days off to regenerate.

Friday, May 05, 2006

One small step at a time, but it's getting close

I thought we were going to hear the throaty roar of the Continental last week, but noooooo. A few problems cropped up while we were installing the exhaust system. A little rework here and there to get clearances for the muffler and tailpipe and that was the week's work assignment. Then I went out to the airport today.

Bob took a look at the magneto leads and said we'd better get cracking on those connections before we even think about mounting the prop ... reason being that without a ground, the mags are HOT! Move the prop, catch the impulse coupling, and you've got a running engine (or at least that's what's supposed to happen). So I rang out the wires and marked them, then had a problem with the switch, so I disassembled it, cleaned the contacts, and put it all back together - works fine now. Seems like there's something else always waiting in the wings (oh Lord, I hope not in the wings) ...

So this weekend, with any luck at all, we'll finally have sweet 85hp music in our ears after 9 long months. Honestly it didn't have to take that long ... I just wasn't in any hurry what with winter coming on and all ..

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The endless, measured, plod of progress ...

From a couple of emails, written yesterday and today ... hope springs eternal when it comes to getting an airplane ready to fly after a long layoff ....


4/28/2006 - to Mike:

Bob and I fitted the cowlings today to see how the new oil filter would do and found that there was some interference with the upper cowl half … so we did a little cutting and reinforcing and now we have a cutout for the filter … I’m going to borrow some aircraft zinc chromate from the hangar in the morning to prime the rivets and exposed edges and Bob has some AN Orange Yellow to touch it up. Ill get some lacquer thinner to degrease and we should be in prime shape for Sunday. I guess if we can rig the carb heat with that bolt and 2 nuts and get the Adel clamps in place for the primer lines and cabin heat, we’ll be set to fit the exhaust and cut scat tubing to put this bad boy back together. It sure will be great to at least get the engine going again – and fly when it’s done!

4/29/2006 - to George:

We spent the last couple of days tweedling with the Cub cowling ... first of all, I decided that after spending my retirement on a major overhaul for the engine (ok, just some of it) I wanted to install an oil filter. There is an oil filter adapter for my C-85-12 and I bought it. 2 kinds, long and short ... long adapter and short, long filter and short ... I wanted both to be short. At the end, the filter still interfered with the upper cowling. So we carefully measured, measured again, and cut a circle in the cowling following a precision template (traced around the top of a caramel corn jug), reinforced it, and now we have a cowl that looks pretty good and works really well. Around the filter, anyway.

Problem 2.......the lower cowl doesn't quite fit right - bumps up against the front of the case... This is a mystery, since it's the same airplane and the same engine and the same cowling ... oops....almost the same ... Wag-Aero sent me AN7-41 bolts instead of AN7-40 so we added a washer to shim it out so we wouldn't run out of thread on the engine mounts. Maybe a mistake there. So tomorrow we're going to re-shim and take out the extra 1/8 of an inch of length and see if that helps any at all.

Tomorrow we look at the exhaust system and see what surprises await us ... if all goes well, I hope to be able to put oil in the motor, install the propellator and crank it by the end of the day. Flight and joyous celebration to follow.

Hopefully ..

News at 11 ...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A few more nuts and bolts - the Cub will fly

After too long just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs over the most arcane delimmae (is this too close to that on the new engine?) Bob as much as grabbed me by the throat and we commenced to get the Cub ready to fly. OK, so the eyebrow on the left side didn't fit .. Dremel tool, mallet, a buzz here a whack there and the damned thing fit just fine. I've just been too timid with this airplane. Gotta show it who's boss.

The exhaust system is next - that'll be tomorrow - and Mike should be out there to help with that. The tailpipe has to be indexed just right so it won't rub against the cowling (as it did before the engine came off). Then, check the fittings one last time, put some spiral wrap around some of the wires and leads, install the cowlings and .... we're ready for oil and prop. Only thing left after that is to fly.

Stu was there today and is making better progress with the Auster than I am with the Cub. No worries ... I'll still fly first.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

R.I.P. Scott Crossfield

The first really in-depth look at weather I read was Bob Buck's Weather Flying. You can probably still find a copy on Amazon or Alibris. No matter how much you read about weather flying, nothing truly prepares a pilot better than doing it.

I was lucky enough to get a baptism of weather flying when I flew low-level commuter aircraft in the Southeast with Sunbird Airlines back in the early '80s. We were in Cessna 402s and 404s and Beech 99s ... it doesn't get more intense weather-wise than that. The Southern states are thunderstorm-prone and the weather can change pretty quickly. On the other hand, unless the boomers line up into clusters and lines, they are pretty well isolated and it's easy enough to fly around them. Which brings me to the death of a legend, Scott Crossfield.

Crossfield died in the crash of his Cessna 210 in a north Georgia accident last Thursday, April 20th. The immediate verdict was weather -- there was a lot of thunderstorm activity in the area. It's hard to imagine an experienced pilot like Crossfield getting killed by a rookie mistake - pressing ahead into weather that he or the airplane just couldn't handle - but there are other instances of that very thing. Weather killed the World War II hero and actor Audie Murphy not too far from where Crossfield died. Weather is one of those things that smart pilots just don't take for granted.

Having just written what I just wrote, we flew back to New York from California today and landed in some really crappy rain and wind. Yep, it just gets that way from time to time. There seems to be a perpetual crosswind at White Plains (I am not a friend of White Plains) and when it is lousy outside, it is really lousy at HPN. Tonight the crosswind was from the east and the Citation ahead of us reported wind shear plus or minus 10 knots on final. Not too bad, but enough to get your attention. Plus, it was raining to beat the band. I hate weather like that. It begins to get your undivided attention. John did a great job and got the Gulfstream stopped in a relatively straight line and in a decent amount on runway. He's good. I like flying with John. He keeps me alive.

When the weather really turns to the nasty side of nasty, I like having the airplane myself. Rain, ice, wind, it's a challenge that any pilot worth his salt respects. I've done my share and can't think of a better airplane to joust with the elements than a Gulfstream. Mark and I once pulled a trip that brought us into HPN with a howling crosswind from the west ... ice on the runway was so bad we were slipping and sliding. I think we finished up a little sideways, but managed to clear the runway and taxi over to the apron using the thrust reversers to keep us from skating into the soft stuff. Not the first time I had done that. Ray and I once had to use the TRs just to maneuver on the taxiway .. brakes were useless. It was like maneuvering a boat. In the simulator once, the instructor had me land at Vancouver on an icy runway - braking action nil. I landed, used the TRs, we were about to depart the far end of the runway so I stowed one TR and spun the airplane around so we were moving backwards. Pushed the power up with the TRs stowed and came to a stop at the edge of the pavement, pointed straight down the runway from whence we came. Shut 'er down right there. . The instructor couldn't believe it. I passed (and won't do it again).

No need for fancy stuff tonight ... we hopped to the home field from HPN and the day was done.

Life goes on when you respect Mother Nature. Weather is nothing to play with. All the luck and all the skill goes out the window when you decide that bad weather is a ho-hum, non-event, and it will eat you alive. R.I.P. Scott Crossfield.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jet trip

The Cub is a blast and I enjoy it. The jet is a blast and I enjoy it. Come to think of it, flying is a blast and I enjoy it.

John and I took off yesterday and after 5-plus hours landed at Monterey CA ... home of barking sea lions and the best seafood salad you'll find anywhere. We made the flight at Mach .80 - the boss likes to take it easy on the fuel - at FL430. Smooth as glass. Almost everybody down low was complaining about the ride. They might as well have complained about the headwinds ... at FL400 we had 70-plus knots on the nose and at FL430 we had only 36. True, we lost some TAS, but only about 11 knots. That's a fair trade.

The jet gives me a chance to nudge here and there to get better time or fuel mileage ... not so with the Cub ... I'm pretty well chained to Mach .012 and the gas runs through the Continental at pretty much the same rate no matter what I do. The skills are different, no two ways about it, but the treat is the same. I know how Tiger feels when he hits one just right.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Thoughts on Sun-n-Fun

Well, the Sun-n-Fun fly-in at Lakeland is in the record books for another year and from a visitor's point of view it was, again, a success. There were the usual displays and exhibitors - one of my favorites is Virginia Bader and her work to preserve and commemorate the men and women who fought the desperate fight to win World War II ... Virginia not only sells great aviation artwork, she organizes symposiums where mortals like you and me can hear and meet the people from that vanishing generation. She is also a cousin of the great English pilot, Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader who flew against the Nazis despite having lost his legs in a flying accident before the war. His life was chronicled in a wonderful book - the first I checked out of a library at the ripe old age of maybe 11 - entitled Reach for the Sky.

Reading about my heroes as a boy was one thing - actually joining the ranks of the people who fly was entirely another. It's the difference between dreamers and doers. As a young teenager, I'd ride my bike to the airport at Silver Springs, Florida, and listen to the talk , watch the airplanes and just generally hang around. Sometimes, when the weather was ugly, the pilots would sit in front of the old fireplace (that never drew quite right, so there was a perpetual haze of smoke against the open-raftered ceiling) and tell stories ... occasionally they'd let me go get them a beer, just like occasionally they'd let me wash their airplane. I loved it. When I got to be 16, I wanted to take flying lessons but the instructor wouldn't take me as a student without a note from my mother. That wasn't going to happen, so I kept on doing what I'd always done and stayed an inside-outsider for a long time.

But I digress ...

This year, the best part of Lakeland for me was the new crop of Light Sport Aircraft ... their displays were constantly busy and judging from the happy faces, sales were being made. This is very good news for the flying community. Sure, there are new rules (some of which are even reasonable) and gas prices continue to climb but the essential element of aviation - people who want to be doers and not just dreamers - is there and there in abundance. All any of us have to do to see it is look around.

A fellow I know from Clearwater, Florida - Peter Hunt - won Reserve Grand Champion, homebuilt, kitbuilt, for his beautiful RV-6. Congratulations, Peter. (My son and I sub-leased his hangar while Peter was building the RV in his living room).

All in all, the weather at Lakeland was perfect the whole week of the show and the crowds were manageable. I like Lakeland because it is smaller than Oshkosh and I don't have this feeling of drinking from a fire hose to try to take it all in. Plus it's close to home.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The First Good Flying Day of the Year

On Long Island, where I go to go to work, there is a little grass airport that is the last publicly owned grass runway on the island. This, in an area that was truly the cradle of aviation in the United States. There were airports every few miles on Long Island in the early years of the 20th century and a number of aircraft manufacturers were headquartered there. Companies like Grumman, Republic, Seversky, Bird, Vought, Fairchild and others employed thousands of workers in the aerospace industry; Lindbergh launched his trans-Atlantic flight from Roosevelt Field, now the site of a shopping mall. The remains of Mitchell Field can still be seen around a sports colisseum. There are other sites, some with broad historical value, others with a more local impact, that are scattered along the length and breadth of the island, but the last of the old time airports to survive is where I like to spend my spare time.

Bayport Aerodrome is known to aviators as 23N - that's the designation given it by New York state and the FAA. There are actually 2 runways side by side, running north-south. The Town of Islip owns the airport and alternates runways each year to minimize wear and tear on the grass surface. There is a Flight Instructor at the south end of the field who operates a pilot training school and a museum and preservation group that has 5 or 6 acres of hangars at the north end of the field. That's where I hang out and where I keep my Piper Cub.

Today was truly a remarkable April day. The winds were light and warm from the southwest and I was up for some flying! Bill and Steve and George and Bob and Harry were all there and pulling their airplanes out of their hangars ... The Cub is in the last stages of re-installing the engine after an overhaul over the winter, so it's not flying yet ... fortunately, Bob had an open seat so we launched along with everybody else to start the 2006 flying season. Bob gave me a couple of landings (which I was lucky enough to be proud of) and everybody had a good time.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and as an unofficial bachelor I volunteered to show some people around the airport in the afternoon ... we give semi-guided tours all the time. The airplanes are interesting and pretty much everybody who finds the way to the hangars likes what we have. It's hard to strike a balance between serious restoration work on old airplanes and giving tours but we manage.

I made the first entry on this blog almost 2 years ago - I guess the idea hadn't taken hold yet because here we are and this is only the second entry. Oh well, it's a medium without deadlines or other noxious external pressures and I'm just warming a bit more - maybe enough to share the Cub's first flight when all the parts are bolted on. In the meantime, Happy Flying and Happy Landings!