Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Deep in December, it's nice to remember ....

What's a day at Bayport without a few distractions from the roar of airplanes and having to flap arms to get extra lift? Bill's sterling engine with its huge flywheel and distinctive poppawhappakpopkpop is a suitable attraction for pilots with inquiring minds. Look at these guys - they're like cocker spaniels watching TV.

And who is right in the middle of most of the mischief but Bill himself ... antique car/engine/airplane nut and ambassador extraordinaire for the sport of flying. He claims to be working on an instrument rating so he can fly in clouds, but when your airplane was built in 1929 when IFR meant "I Follow Roads", the instrument flying will have to be done in his Cessna 152.

A day out with the boys ... Steve and Bill and Harry and Stu and Bob and Andre on their way for a day trip to the Windsor Locks CT air museum ...

Stu and I log a little time in the Auster over Long Island's Great South Bay. Happy times at the old Aerodrome ... we like flying together just about any time.

The variety of airplanes that happen by is always fun to watch. This beautiful L-bird (I never can remember just which is which) pops in from time to time from West Hampton Airport.

The Cub and the PT-26 from my hangar just seem to go together and make a nice picture on a summer day...

This was taken in the spring - it's the club's Yak-12, engine starting for the first time in many years. The project creeps along slowly - a lot of parts, hardware, fittings, etc have to be scrounged or made and it takes time. Fortunately our resident Russian members, Vladimir and Andre, can read the prints!

At the end of the day, it's about flying. On some days when the conditions are just right I like to take the Cub along the beach and just cruise for awhile, going nowhere and going everywhere I want to go. On those days, by myself, the sky is so big and I am so small.

This isn't exactly a year in review - it's just a way for me to keep you posted on the doings at our little airport. The big news is that the Town of Islip has just approved the lease for the Bayport Aerodrome Society, which means our little corner of heaven will remain an airport for as long as I'll be around and maybe as long as some of the younger guys will be around, too. It's an important part of the history of the area, where once upon a time there were around 20 airports striking the sparks of imagination and where the wonder of flying was introduced to so many people. That tradition made the wartime industrial miracle of airplane production on a large scale possible. Grumman, Seversky, Fairchild, Ranger, Republic; these were the giants that built the machines that helped save the world during World War II and took us to the moon. All are gone now.

Bayport Aerodrome is where the magic still lives. The best part is you don't have to buy a ticket; it's open to the public for free. The Bayport Aerodrome Society has the north end of the field and maintains a living, flying museum. From April through October (or when the weather turns) you're welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy the sights and sounds and company of antique airplanes and the people who fly and maintain them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A November to Remember

First of all, November is a month filled with change - the weather turns crisp and cool, leaves fall, winds blow, all that stuff. After a very late Indian Summer, November fulfilled all it's job descriptions and the hangar doors at Bayport Aerodrome are mostly closed for the winter.

The Cub came out, took a peek, and flew, but I noticed a little roughness (again) that felt very similar to the out-of-balance prop thing I had last year at this same time. Stu took it out last weekend and said he felt the same thing, decided not to fly it until we have a chance to do some investigation. Mike and I will pull the prop this weekend and see if re-mounting it 180 degrees from where the blades are now will do the trick. If not, I think it might be moisture somehow getting into the wood when the weather changes. The next trick will be to pull the prop and lay it out at the house and see if the dry heat in the house will dry the prop and restore it to balance. This is puzzling to say the least - not to mention annoying because I like to fly the Cub in the winter when I can see a million miles and the air is fat with lift.

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks, and I did that this year in Honolulu - the double rainbow on our arrival was a good sign. Jets are neat, but they have the tailwheel on the wrong end. On top of that, they even have toe brakes. I wish I had taken the camera to Dillingham Field, on the northwest shore of Oahu. There, a fellow was giving rides in a weight-shift LSA across from the glider line and at the other end of the field from the sky divers. In the Fightertown hangar, there's a C-45 undergoing a long and detailed restoration. If you get to Hawaii, or more specifically Honolulu , rent a car and take the drive to Dillingham.

When the calendar ticks over to December I'll be over the Pacific, on my way back to home and hearth and to Bayport Aerodrome.

Fly Safely!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An uber October

Only one picture this time around but that's because I was having too much participatory fun (flying can be a spectator sport, but it's much more satisfying when you're actually doing it, if you know what I mean). Mike is getting the hang of flying the Cub and will be a taildragger before long ...

I was at Bayport yesterday and there was no one else there! I couldn't believe it. It was the first day after a cold front moved through and it was a bit breezy, but the temps were in the 70s and it was a fabulous day! I hauled the Cub out in the sunshine and decided to wash it before the weather turns ....

Now it's Sunday and if you weren't at Bayport today, you missed a beautiful day of flying. Stu and I went up after I washed the Cub (the Auster couldn’t fly – broken tail brace bracket - and I HAD to dry off my airplane), John Bianco and Bill J flew John’s Champ (we gave them 2’s and 3’s for their first landing [Bill gave us one back], turned our backs on them after the second) , Bob and Andre in the 152, Ed flew his Bird, Timmy came out in the Tiger Moth, Vladimir taxied out and ran up the Fairchild, then as I was leaving Stu and Bill S were taking off in Bill’s Cub. All in all a very good day. Bill C had to work, a concept not particularly foreign but at times inconvenient to him. Temps in the mid 70s – probably the last day this year that I’ll be able to hang out at the airport in shorts.

I wrote to Rick that I'd heard about his Cub but hadn't seen it yet (he just got it and keeps it at an airport with those nasty paved runways). Bob F says that there are three things a tailwheel airplane - meaning his Stearman, mostly - doesn't like: Paved runways, crosswinds and student pilots. Maybe when I get back from my monthly visit home to Florida we'll have a chance to test the meteorological conditions ... and I'd like to have a wingman. The Cub likes to fly with other yellow airplanes on its wing.

'Til next time. Fly safe.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Try to remember to fly in September

Oh boy! An excuse to go flying! (Since when do we need an excuse !?)

Before I get started on the great flying weather on Long Island these past couple of days, I was standing around watching the world go by last week when Ed and Tim taxiied in with another acquisition - these guys are airplane nuts, I wanna tell ya. One look led to a quick double-take and there on the grass at Bayport Aerodrome was an airplane I had flown about 20 years ago - the very one, since there's only one that I know of in the USofA.

Feast your eyes on a Zlin 1-26 ... Ed and Tim found it in Trade-a-Plane and brought it to our little corner of heaven. This Zlin is the predecessor to the 5-26, a model that won an awful lot of aerobatic competitions in Europe in the 1960s. This one has a 104hp inverted Walter Minor engine and is probably the most beautifully balanced airplane I ever flew. It also draws quite a crowd:
The panel is the same as I remember it from 1986 or 1987 ...
Ed and Tim will have many happy hours flying this little gem. I love the long wings, as you can see on the flyover picture.

Well, so much for nifty airplanes for today ... Labor Day weekend I was in St Maarten, where the runway begins right at the beach. There are always a bunch of nut cases who want to try to hang onto the fence while a 747 runs up for takeoff, but they must have been in the hospital or something because I didn't see but a few souls who were walking on the beach and got blasted into the water. Landings are always a thrill for the imbibers at the Sunset Beach Bar as the big airplanes zoom right past them. I caught this Air France A340 from the roof of my hotel:

Note the wall of weather in the background. He made it in just in time. It's a good thing they built jetways at TNCM because in the olden days the pax and servicing personnel would have been walking through rain and a lot of it to get to the terminal.

Oh, yeah. The flying weather on Long Island was great these past few days.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bellanca Airfield, August 2007

You'd think at some point I'd get enough of airplanes and history but I haven't found that point yet. This month has been spent training up for the Global Express, a really incredible corporate jet, at the FlightSafety Training Center at Wilmington DE.
In the 1980s, we lived across the street in Norcross GA from John and Betty Bellanca. John was a former Naval Aviator who spent summers in high school laying up wings at his uncle's airplane factory. I didn't know until this week that the factory was less than a mile from the New Castle County Airport, where FlightSafety is located. John and Betty were great people and I ended up teaching their son, Paul, how to fly.

This is the building where John built wings for the Cruisaire and Cruisemaster airplanes:

Here's a view from what was formerly rampside:

The State of Delaware provided a plaque along the highway:

Finally, there appears to be a group trying to restore the old hangar to mark Bellanca's place in history:


Go visit these guys online. Here, I'll make it easy:
Ace at Bayport had (I think) a Cruisemaster ...
...one of my early real trips in a private airplane was in a Cruisaire .... my best friend's father was going to take us from Silver Springs FL to Fontana NC to dive for airplane wrecks (having just dived on a few wrecks in fairly shallow Florida lakes) but we had to cut the trip short due to engine trouble. We landed at Valdosta GA where his Dad cleaned a bunch of stuff out of the carb bowl and got the engine running halfway good again. Instead of proceeding on to the mountains of North Carolina, we went to a fireworks store and bought a bunch of "real" Cherry Bombs - not the namby pamby stuff they sell today - and "real" M-80s. Before we got back to Silver Springs, we stopped at Ocala's old Taylor Field and dug a few of the goodies out of the baggage compartment, then took off again and dropped them over Silver Springs Airport ... what a racket that must have been. The phone rang off the hook. John was the airport manager and he thought it was pretty cool ... his wife, Pat, did not. Now, think about this: teenagers lighting fuses - with fire, mind you - inside a highly flammable dope and fabric and wood airplane and throwing them out the window. That was about 50 years ago and it gives me chills to remember it but at the time the thing that made the biggest impression on me was that they let me sit up front in the right seat and hold the control yoke. That was probably the most vivid imprint in my early flying experience, and it must have had a great effect because that's what I'm lucky enough to do for a living today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

People at Bayport Aerodrome

It occurred to me in a flash of insight that all the time I've been writing these notes, I've been putting a lot more pictures of airplanes in the blog than pictures of people. To me, the people at the aerodrome make it ... the airplanes make it just that much more fun .....

So I decided to start with Bill Taylor ... Bill started flying a long time ago and got out of it for many years ... then he retired from the New York City Police Department, retired from fishing, and got back into flying. What a nice guy ... his first day at the Aerodrome was spent helping after a Stearman lost power and reshaped some trees at the end of the runway. Bad for the Stearman, but the pilot and his son made it out with just a few scratches. Bill pitches in when nobody is looking. His 85 horsepower Piper Vagabond is a real performer and he just made it better with the addition of two 8.5 gallon wing tanks!

Stu Bain is President of the Antique Airplane club of Greater New York, based at Bayport Aerodrome. He's a native New Zealander, former NZ Air Force guy who jumped out of airplanes and other strange things before settling in New York in the technology business. He somehow found himself on the big screen at Times Square in the front of Bob's Stearman, promoting his company, e-media of New York. We kid Stu about his English Auster, but it gets him out to the airport and that's the important thing.

I have to get a closeup picture of Bob Fritts. A guy that good looking just deserves better, but somehow I think he'd rather be pictured in the cockpit of his beloved Stearman. He's owned it for over 30 years, rebuilt it piece by piece, and it shows all the care it's been given. You could eat off any part of it. Bob's been flying a long time and has owned at one time or another a Commanche and shares of other airplanes ... he's a Navy man, served aboard the same ship as former President Ford and is a retired executive with Ford Motor Company and Purolator. Bob is one of the original members of the Bayport Aerodrome Society and a former president and board member of the club. He and a group of pilots developed the north end of the Aerodrome and built the hangars that house the antique and classic airplanes that are kept there. Wednesday afternoons around five o'clock, members drift toward hangar 6 and find a table laid with cheese and crackers and chairs aplenty for good conversation ... I can't imagine Bayport without guys like Bob.

All the fellows at Bayport are good guys ... I'll get some more profiles together pretty soon and introduce more of the pilots and airplanes that make this a truly special place - the last, publicly owned, grass runways on Long Island NY, a place that is truly the cradle of modern aviation. More on that, too, in a future post.



Sunday, August 19, 2007

Antique Airplane Club Fly-In 8/17-19/2007

The third annual Antique Airplane Club of Greater New York Fly-In is in the record books! Thanks to Bob Mott for providing some of the (better) pictures for this report ...

Nick and Dick find parking spots for our visitors ....

Mike Strieter, our faithful attendee from Horn Point VA, finally brought his fabulous Fairchild 24 all the way to Long Island. This was the very same F-24 that would have been here last year but for some unforeseen engine trouble. The Ranger Wizard of New Garden, Joe DeNest, put it in good order and it purrs like a kitten today.

Now here's an airplane that's good for a few Yaks .... Craig Sampson and son Cory pass in review ...

Saturday, we got off to a great start when this magnificent Bamboo Bomber flew in! I don't know how Tom did it, but the engines stopped at the 1100/0500 positions, perfectly aligned, first time. Friday afternoon was rainy and breezy ... then on Saturday we had fabulously blue skies but were still stuck with the gusty winds. Everyone who came said they'd be back, and that's a good thing. More friends = more airplanes every year.

This 195 gets one of many once-over inspections in front of Billy Sindell's hangar and Cub

This line of inverted engines wasn't just sitting still ... the airplanes were flying all day, especially President Stuart in his indefatigable Auster who tested the atmospherics a number of times

Around noon, I noticed the tide was turning toward the south end of the hangars and then I discovered why ....

Somebody brought a pig to the dance!

There's nothing that warms a pilot's heart more than roast pig, fresh Pennsylvania corn on the cob, potato salad, cole slaw, dressing (called stuffing by yankees) and other goodies on a plate ...

Eating under the shade of the trees is just the ticket ....

And our faithful CAP cadets were on hand to help out ...

Sunday saw this beautiful Fairchild 24 taxiing in for the day ...

The front row seats for the bomb drop contest were rewarded with an exhibition of skill and teamwork by pilots and bombardiers. The 100' minimum altitude was only rarely infringed upon. (The safest place on earth that day was the target ...)

The end to a perfect day with good friends, good airplanes, and movies on the hangar wall. I wish I could have stayed later ...

Some of our new friends:

Tom and Eileen from Connecticut and the Bamboo Bomber

John and daughter Amelia from Kalamazoo, Michigan!

(Winners of the tired tush award - a couple of club shirts)

Happy Landings!

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Bayport Aerodrome Picnic

If you're going to have a picnic, you first have to have a place to take the burger and dog money and keep the sun off, so you build a shelter. Bob seems to have the right idea.

And when you finish, you have this really nifty place to anchor the doings of the day...

If you're going to have people around, especially kids, you have to have an airplane for them to have their picture taken in ... the SE-5 replica fills the bill nicely.

Vladimir and George discuss the finer points of reattaching struts on the Fairchildski after a little bit of rework and we're all looking forward to the next first flight of this beautiful airplane.

What's an airport picnic without airplanes ... I had to leave early and didn't get pictures of all the club planes that were out and on display, but Steve's Fleet was in position to taxi around to the runway side before we got too crowded.

I didn't get an audited count, but I'd estimate there were a couple of hundred people at the Aerodrome when I left at 1:30 ... children of all ages watching the airplanes takeoff and land, dropping flour bombs (the target was safe) and participating in the spot landing contest. Most important, about 50 children and adults took airplane rides - many of them in the Young Eagles program sponsored by EAA.

The next big event is the Antique Airplane Club of Greater New York fly-in and pig roast on the weekend of August 17, 18 and 19. Come one, come all, fly in and camp or wangle a sleeping spot, baste the pig, tell lies and enjoy yourself. Lots of good airplanes invited and we hope more will show up just for the fun of it.

Son-in-law Jay arrived in the Middle East last week. He rejoined the Army National Guard after 15 years away from the Service - couldn't stand by and watch. We're so proud of him.