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 ... 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.