Sunday, December 02, 2012

Overnight to Warmer Climes

A couple of days before, the Callair was in the process of having it’s annual inspection done. Keith and I pulled the panels, whipped out the tools, flashlights and grease gun and went to work on an airplane that had flown a grand total of maybe 4 hours since the last inspection. We agreed that more airplanes get worn out by unscrewing things and screwing them back on than by actual use – especially antique airplanes – but we soldiered on.
Callair annual 11-2012 001 Callair annual 11-2012 002
20 inspection covers per wing! The Sitka Spruce wood spars are fully uncovered and Keith checks the all-important paperwork for particular points of interest.
 Callair annual 11-2012 004 Callair annual 11-2012 003

The Continental C-90-8 engine is the original engine that was installed in the airplane when it was built in 1952. This is rare enough these days, but it has recently been rebuilt to like-new specifications and purrs like a kitten.

The day before (later in the afternoon of the day before) the weather guessers finally came to the shared conclusion that Monday would be The Day and Tuesday would be OK if I got stuck somewhere south of Georgia, so the decision was cast in Jell-o to fly South on Monday. That led to some planning and general aforethought on topics as ranging as “what to take”, “how to get back for The Drive South with Ma and the Poodles”, and “can you take this or that with you? (answer: no)” … There was also the small matter of service for the airplane – oil for the engine, fuel for the engine (it’s always a lot about the engine), and so on. I thought I might make it off the ground by 10. It turned out to be 10:30, but in any case I privately thought anything after 9:30 meant a possible overnight stop, which happened. Therefore, the title “Overnight to Warmer Climes”.
0A7-X61 11-26-27-2012

I’m very happy – overjoyed, almost – that the airplane performed flawlessly. My only hitch came when I started the engine for the first time on that chilly morning in the mountains. My airplane does not have a self-commencer, also known as an electric starter … it is started by charming the genie who makes the engine run and pulling the propeller through by hand, also known as an “Armstrong” starter. It really helps to have someone either provide the strong arm while the pilot sits all comfy inside holding the brakes or, more often, stand in front of the tail to keep the airplane from bounding across hill and dale once the pilot coaxes the motor to life. Neither of those options were available, so I resorted to tying the tail down for the start. I picked a place where the ground rises a little, tied the tail to a corner post of the hangar, and old sparky fired right up. Once running smoothly and idled back to lope along in a kind of chug-chug rhythm, I untied the tail and climbed in, which is another topic altogether as I’m not exactly lithe and the cockpit is not exactly accessible to those who have enjoyed more than adequate nourishment.

Heart rate back to normal, the rest of the day could not have been more pleasant, except maybe that rear window which has an annoying habit of sliding forward in flight, opening a path for very chilly air to enter and blow right on the back of my neck.

The route I flew was the one I had picked weeks before: Hendersonville to Thomson GA to Hazelhurst GA to Lake City FL and then to Zellwood, the Callair’s new home. The stops were planned with 1.5 hour flights in between so the newly-overhauled engine and I could get to know each other. I could mention that the airplane’s fuel tank only holds 15 gallons of gas, allowing about 2.5 hours of flying until excessive air displaces the fuel in the tank, leading to fuel starvation, stopped prop and certain doom (or something like that). Happily, the engine’s fuel consumption averaged a little under 5 gallons per hour, which is pretty good for a 90 horsepower engine and better than I had planned. I like being fat on fuel.

Lake City departure by 4pm was the watchword for the day. I left there a little after 4:30, having decided to overnight at Ocala, a place with which I am very familiar. A few minutes spent with old friends, a good dinner and a comfy bed were welcome after a full day. The next morning after an equally good breakfast and some more chit chat at the airport the engine slaked its thirst with fresh fuel and a perfectly smooth half hour of flying ensued. I even made a passable landing at the new digs – Bob White Field at Zellwood, home of some marvelous wizards of steel tube, dope and fabric, antique airplanes (and antique pilots). The runway is grass (as God intended) and smooth as a table top, thanks to the efforts of owner, Pete Counsell. There will be lots of pictures, eventually, and – best of all -  adventure.

The dry statistics: 6.1 hours flying time, 27.9 gallons of avgas, 4 stops (one overnight), for a total enroute time without the overnight of 7.5 hours. Slightly better than the 10.5 hours it takes to drive but I can’t take the entourage in the airplane.

What goes around, comes around … an old pic from my 1961 military school yearbook complete with a smartass cadet (who could that be?) displaying a blacked-out version of what would, a few years later in the Hanoi Hilton, become known as the “Hawaiian Good Luck Sign”, and next to it the logo for the progenitor of the Callair S1A, the Interstate Cadet. 

The airplane is far more virtuous.
David, Alex & Stuart at FMS - '61-2 Cadet logo

Monday, November 05, 2012

Ready for Takeoff!

Cub Panel 004a

Tis finally finished! The new instrument panel went in easily after a little trimming and filing and the Cub is ready to go! Thanks to Ken at Keystone Instruments, Clyde Smith, the “Cub Doctor” and Keith, my NC Cub guru for the hard part where the know-how makes all the difference.

When Keith and I did our leak checks the engine started on the second pull of the prop after a 4 month holiday and all was well ... post-maintenance flight soon.

Oh, lest we forget … this is the old panel. Quite a difference.


old panel


Happy Landings!


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Best Intentions …

It all began innocently enough …
The Cub's old tachometer tended to indicate the engine speed in a wandering, random fashion which, I suppose, could have been averaged out but I like to know how fast my engine is turning without having to do a lot of math. The solution? Spend a couple of hundred and get a new tach. Easy.

Trouble was, once the new tach came in, the old tach cable leading from the engine to the instrument and the new tach were not compatible. So I did what anybody would have done, I ordered a new tach cable. Since I have a Piper Cub and since the tach and cable interface requires a 90 degree fitting to clear the fuel tank, I ordered one of those, too. What’s a few dollars more to get what you want, right?

Trouble was, the new tach with the 90 degree fitting attached to it did not clear the fuel tank. I’m beginning to sense a trend here.

What to do? What to do?

Enter Clyde Smith, also known as “The Cub Doctor”. According to legend, Clyde was weaned on aviation gas and amassed his fortune working for Piper at the Lock Haven PA factory and later, after a flood, by restoring Piper airplanes and fabricating parts on some of Piper’s original tooling. Piper moved their manufacturing to Florida and Clyde stayed behind in PA. A phone call did the trick: Clyde told me the 1941 Cub did not require a 90 degree fitting because that year they positioned the tach further outboard on the instrument panel. Oh happy day. I could return the 90 degree fitting – a saving of just under $100 – and order a new panel from Clyde (who just happened to have a 1941 panel in stock and ready to ship!... for just under $100!!).
N38439 006
Trouble was, I got into the old panel and old instruments and found I also needed new oil pressure and oil temperature gauges. So I did what anybody would have done and called my new best friend Ken at Keystone Instruments, also at Lock Haven, and in a wink of an eye and flash of a Visa card, I had my gauges on the way. Oh, and while you’re at it, Ken, do you happen to have a non-sensitive altimeter to replace the old one with the cloudy face? The Visa card is taking a pounding at this point. I close my eyes and press on.

Trouble was, the new oil pressure and oil temperature gauges didn’t fit their holes in the new panel! They were 1/8 of an inch too small ! !  Thank goodness for my friend Carlton who is a first class machinist and who happens to haunt the Western North Carolina Air Museum. He looked around a little and produced some sheet aluminum, then fabricated collars for the instruments that would bring them up to a size to fit the holes in the panel. Whew! Thank goodness for good friends!
N38439 005 N38439 001
So the Cub sits in the hangar, panel-less, instrument-less, and getting a little grumpy because the World’s Ugliest Airplane is first in line to fly.
But there is hope.
Later in October, the leaves will be at their peak and the Cub and I will wing our way above their glorious colors, accurate in RPM, oil pressure, oil temperature, and altitude. We will look down and laugh, Ha Ha Ha, pointing our exhaust in their general direction.
I’d write more, but there’s somebody on the other line with a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn.
Wm Law 1728

Monday, September 24, 2012

Flying the Callair!

What a beautiful weekend for flying in the mountains!

Friday, August 03, 2012

OK. What now?

Well, it's here. Richard and I flew from the Western North Carolina Air Museum to Avery County last Saturday and picked up the Callair. Ryan has been working with FAA and vendors to see about a new and different set of brakes for me, only because I'm a little edgy about the old Goodyears. There have been an awful lot of delays, so we decided the airplane needed to be flown more than it needed a change in brake systems. SO here it is now, perched in front of the hangar and therefore first in line to be airborne.

Here's the view looking backward into the depths of the hangar ... Cliff's LongEZ is in the back, disassembled in storage for now ... The Cub is just biding its time, waiting its turn to fly ... 

The Callair's baggage compartment has access from the cabin but a modification to add a battery in the 60s resulted in this access panel on the side - very handy for servicing control cables, Emergency Locator Transmitters, and so on. 

 Looking from that access panel, first left toward the tail, then right, the inside of the fuselage is really clean. I didn't find any rust or corrosion even in the far reaches of the tail, even though there are signs of water accumulation.

The instrument panel is as original as they come. The major improvement, if you can call it that, is a turn and slip indicator. The airplane didn't come with that as originally built. Funny thing, once settled in the cockpit for the first time I felt as if I'd been there forever. It's a very friendly airplane to fly, light as a feather on the controls - unlike the Cub - and a good 15-20 miles per hour faster. I have yet to take a long enough flight to get a good set of numbers for speeds, power settings, and so on. 

The Interstate Cadet, which is the type certificate for this airplane, was originally designed as a trainer and liaison airplane for the military at the outbreak of WWII. The Army didn't deploy any to the theatres of combat because the airplanes were significantly more expensive than the military versions of the Piper, Stinson, Taylorcraft and Aeronca liaison airplanes. Some of the airplanes built for the military were sent to South America on Lend-Lease. The civilian models of the Cadet were used extensively in the Civilian Pilot Training Program and the design survives today, re-engined and beefed up here and there, as the Arctic Tern.

The flaking paint shows some shiny bare aluminum. 

This airplane was always civilian and was built for Mr. Reuel Call, a trucking executive and airplane manufacturer in Afton, Wyoming. Mr. Call bought the Interstate Cadet type certificate and produced two of the design: The first one, built in 1950, came before the Calls owned the TC and shows on ancient FAA papyrus as an Interstate; the second, my airplane, was built after the TC was acquired and is, thus, the one and only "Callair S1A". This is the only one flying; I was once told the other Call-built airframe is being restored in Alaska. The others of the type certificate, no matter their various names, are tough birds with a solid reputation as good bush airplanes.

More later.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Rick’s Fairchild – a follow up

When you start on your next airplane restoration project, remember there is a beginning (which is easy), a middle (which isn’t), and an end, which is supposed to be a lot of fun. The beginning of this particular  project involved a measure of casting a wide net for available airplanes in various stages of restoration, good friends keeping an eye out for likely candidates, and pure dumb luck. All these things came together when Rick Thompson found his 1934 Fairchild Model 24 C8C in Soldatna Alaska (see “Alex in Treasure Land”, June 2010).

Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 013a Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 012a Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 014a

These are pictures of pictures, posted on Rick’s jig that serve to remind him of where he’s been and how he’s doing.

Never let it be said that restoring an airplane is easy. Even though almost all the parts are there, it’s not like the Revell model airplane kit you put together as a youngster. It’s not even like your Van’s RV kits of the present day. More the case, it’s like stripping, disassembling, cataloging, then a very long period of fixing what has to be fixed, prepping, priming, finding and/or building a lot of parts, some of which are described in very hard to find books on dusty shelves somewhere, some of which aren’t, then putting the whole thing back together again. The parts for which there is no description have to be duplicated from parts on surviving airplanes, if you can find one. Others are fabricated using the T.L.A.R. principle (That Looks About Right). If you happen to be Rick, you just search and re-search until you find what you need, then whip out your magic tools and knock out, say, a glove box for your 1934 Fairchild Model 24 C8C. They don’t carry those at AutoZone.

Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 002a Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 003a Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 004

The payoff after fitting and holding your mouth just right is that smile after Rick is satisfied that the new glove box is just right!

Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 006a Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 007a Rick Fairchild 7-7-12 011a

See the picture of the picture of the instrument panel in the first row above? That old Scintilla magneto switch had to be restored and rebuilt. Ditto the overhead elevator trim indicator … and how about those rudder pedals?

At some point, the light will begin to gleam at the end of the tunnel and all the pieces of the puzzle  will come together in an actual airplane. Until then, dear friends, stay tuned …..

Rick Thompson 034a

Rick, Rosa and son John. Nice people.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Regrets, I've had a few ...

I have a few regrets, mostly about things left undone, and one of those is that I did not get to sit down with Jim Schultz. We had talked several times about my driving over to Miami from Clearwater but we did not connect except over the telephone. Jim died on May 24, 2012, a month after his 94th birthday.

Jim's best friend growing up in New Jersey was Bob Dietze. Bob was a copilot for American Airlines when World War II broke out. Jim Schultz began his pilot training after Bob and was hired by American a couple of weeks before Pearl Harbor. When the war began, there was a shortage of trained pilots and the airlines were an obvious source. Bob volunteered for the Air Transport Command and eventually volunteered again for a more hazardous mission - to be sent to India in August, 1943, to fly supplies over the "Hump" - the Himilayan Mountains - to our allies in China. He lasted 10 days in abysmal conditions until his C-87 (the cargo version of the B-24) crashed after losing both engines on one side, on takeoff. Jim Schultz lost two friends that day. He had introduced the Captain on Bob's last flight to the woman who was the Captain's wife.

Jim's passing leaves a bit of a hole in my heart; he was the last connection of his generation I had with my wife's father, John A. Dietze, a man I admired greatly and who missed his brother, Bob, all his life - as did Jim Schultz.

They are together now. 

Happy Landings, Jim.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Great American Cubs & Classics Fly-In Barbecue – a review

Great American Banner

What can I write? The weather was forecast to be perfect, the winds pleasantly quiet, the skies clear. What could possibly go wrong?

Fly-In Weather forecast

President Don Stan, Kathy and Rich

President Don of the Western North Carolina Air Museum cranked up the John Deere and mowed, and mowed, and mowed … Stan and Kathy arrived the night before to stake their claim to the #1 parking spot – Richard was there to greet them.

Sunrise over Hendersonville Airport, NC

All was in readiness ... then the Head Weather Guy stepped in. We awoke to red skies – you know the adage: Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Yep, it’s true. We had lowering clouds, fog, low ceilings ... all of which normally lift by about 10am. Didn't this time, though … grey skies all day.

Cub and  Classic Flyers are not to be daunted, however. We had, all in all, 8 Cubs that flew in, 2 Stearmans, 2 Cessna 180s, a Cessna 195, a Fairchild 24W, an Aeronca Champ and a classic straight-tail 172. Sixteen airplanes, plus several friends who drove their land yachts due to the weather.

Cub arriving Cub parking Cubs all in a row

By 10:30 or 11am our spirits lifted considerably – seeing all that yellow and meeting some great people made our day! Cubs from as far away as York SC, Gainesville GA and eastern TN made the trek for some really fine barbecue. Click on the pictures below to see a larger version.

Field of Yellow Classic Row Cubs2OSH How many laminations is that prop Bradley and Jim Slow and slower

The Guest of Honor:

Guest of Honor

For a video recap, click on the YouTube link below:

WNC Air Museum Sign