Sunday, November 24, 2013

Some things, you just have to do

The Callair Cadet is in Malcolm's shop undergoing a thorough restoration, so what's a fellow to fly? 

-Click on the pictures below to make them bigger-

The answer is to scratch an old itch. I've always wanted to feel the wind through my (diminishing) hair and look out through clear air unimpeded by plexiglas. 

A Breezy seemed like a good idea but I flew once (in 1976) with Charlie Shivers in his Breezy and I quickly got the idea that it wouldn't take long, as the airport philosopher Harold said, "to get a bate of flying in a Breezy" (from the auld Gaelic, meaning in this case "to get enough of"). So I did what anyone would do, I looked around for a non-breezy Breezy.

...and the answer came in a flash (after 2 years): the Woody's Pusher


 The illusion, at least, that there's something holding you inside makes all the difference does a windscreen

 If you don't see an instrument, you don't need it.

"Woody" was an actual fellow named Harris L. Woods from Holly Springs NC. An engineer by training and avocation, Woody designed some seventeen unique and different aircraft for production and homebuilders, first as an employee of some of the best known aerospace companies in the U.S., then the Benson Gyrocopter company and then as the founder, chief bill payer and janitor of his own Aerosport Corporation. His range was broad; seven of his creations were gyrocopters, two were air-cushion vehicles and the remaining eight were fixed-wing airplanes. The Pusher was patterned loosely after the Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior. (One of the designers of the predecessor to the Junior, the "Skeeter", was Walter Beech, who went on to found Beechcraft.)

The Curtiss-Wright CW-1 "Junior", powered by a 45hp Szekely radial engine. This example is in the Smithsonian National Air&Space Museum.

We lost Woody in 1975 but his favorite design flies on. 

For more on Woody and his designs, go to:

My new friend Denny saw winter approaching northern Iowa and decided he needed an LSA-compliant trainer instead of the Woody, so we talked, emailed, and talked some more and I ended up doing something I'd never done before: I bought an airplane sight unseen. Denny arranged for a pre-buy and disassembled the airplane - Tony Partain trucked it down to Florida for me (A GREAT service. If you ever need an airplane shipped somewhere, Tony and his driver-partner Michael are TOPS). Malcolm and I helped unload late at night after Michael's very long day. This was the very best way to do this in November. When Malcolm took a look at the workmanship and overall quality of the airplane, he allowed as to I might have a friendly angel looking out for me - it looked really good.

The Woody is going together now and I can't wait to have it flying. That old itch begs for scratching.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Callair restoration begins .....

Restoring an airplane is like a love affair ... any fool can start - patience and tenacity are required to keep it going - and real skill is needed, long term, to make it turn out well in the end. 

The first part with the airplane is the easy part. You take a sharp knife and a set of screwdrivers, wrenches and elbow grease, mix them all together with a lot of photographs to jog your memory later, and go to work disassembling.
Sometimes Malcolm has to apply a little extra elbow grease ...

 Malcolm is a very experienced restorer and I am fortunate to have him working on my airplane. 
In this picture the wings and tail surfaces are already off, ailerons, elevators and rudder are uncovered and seem to look pretty good. One thing about old airplanes - you never really know the condition of those parts under the exterior fabric until you expose them to the light of day.

Sometimes the exterior will tell a story of its own - the paint had been top coated at some point and was coming unstuck all over the airframe.

My friend Jim in North Carolina rebuilt the engine just before I bought the airplane and it is a dandy. We have it on a stand in my hangar - away from the hustle and bustle of the maintenance hangar.

The smaller parts are collected .....

Boxed to move to my hangar .....

Where they will be cataloged, inspected and reworked .....

While the big stuff goes through its own process of restoration.

The whole affair is planned to take place over a three or four month time frame ... which means maybe four, maybe five (maybe six) months. There are 1952 technology parts that were part of limited production runs and can't be replaced; they will have to be updated with newer parts, subject to the approval of the FAA. (There will be future tales about this.)

But this is, after all, a love affair. Nobody knows how it will take but we're pretty confident it will turn out well. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Call Aircraft Company

Reuel Call was an American success story through and through. He was born Jan 29, 1908 in Afton, WY and was the founder of, among other things, the Callair Airplane Factory in Afton.

From the resume above, you can see he was a visionary businessman long before he became involved in the manufacture of airplanes. Reuel was a pioneer in the marketing of self-service "independent" gasoline. His were some of the first self-service gasoline stations in the country and his Maverik Country Stores, a chain of convenience stores/gasoline outlets located throughout the mountain west, were supplied by oil from two refineries that he also owned. 

Reuel Call learned to fly in 1930 and was bitten hard and deep by the flying bug. His purchase of a new Kinner Sportster in 1933 (which he flew from California to Wyoming in the dead of winter) must have been an inspiration. With the assistance of his Uncle Ivan, brother Spencer, cousin Barlow and Carl Peterson, the Call team designed and built the original CallAir aircraft. With no aviation background, this visionary group of civil engineers and businessmen tinkered until their plane was ready to fly. There are conflicting accounts; some write that the airplane was ready in 1940, Jane's "All the World's Aircraft" dates the first flight in 1941 (on snow skis) with production following two years later. Design characteristics were strikingly similar to the Kinner Sportster but that flight by Reuel Call to Wyoming in December dictated that the airplane have a closed cabin and, presumably, cabin heat.

CallAir A-2

The first CallAir airplane, the Model A, was a 2-place, low wing, strut braced aircraft powered by a Continental A-80 (80 horsepower) engine. It was woefully underpowered. The next iteration of the aircraft was still a test article, re-engined with a Lycoming engine of 100 horsepower and designated the Model A-1.  Production began in 1944 and with the new Type Certificate (ATC # 758) in hand, the Calls designated their production aircraft as the Model A-2. The A-2 was quickly re-engined in 1946 with a 125 hp, O-290 Lycoming.

The manufacturing run of the 2 and 3 place civilian, A-series transports eventually ran to 218 units, but the glut of surplus aircraft that flooded the market in the late 1940s took its toll on the young company. Even with more power and more load carrying capability in the Continental-powered, 125 hp A-3 (1947) and the Lycoming-powered, 135 hp A-4 (1954), only a few A-series cabin airplanes were built after early 1947. 

The Callair "A" series was noted for its outstanding performance on short, high altitude fields and was equipped with both wheels and skis for summer and winter flying. The most distinctive features of the airplane were the long sloping windshield and the virtually unrestricted visibility enjoyed by pilots who were more accustomed to very poor visibility over the nose of airplanes of the day, particularly when taxiing on the ground.

Reuel Call faced some big challenges and addressed them the way a self-made man would face them: When the market turned downward, Mr. Call simply pulled back production to compensate - and he began looking for other ways to keep the airplane company afloat. 

The A-4, when fitted with a 150 hp Lycoming engine, became the A-5, a real load hauler in its role as a passenger plane. The enterprising Mr. Call took a look at yet another market, removed the right seat and replaced it with a hopper and a distribution chute through the bottom of the fuselage for crop dusting. A tank for liquid spray could be substituted as well, and the next big thing for Callair was born - agricultural applicators. The A-4 "AG" was not the first purpose-built aerial applicator aircraft (that distinction goes to the Huff-Daland "Duster", built from 1924). It was succeeded by the A-5 "AG". The airplane was so successful that CallAir dealers tried twice to buy the company and the second attempt resulted in a sale. The new owners couldn't make a go of it and the company declared bankruptcy. All rights for the CallAir AG airplanes were bought from the creditors by IMCO (Intermountain Manufacturing Company, headed by Barlow Call) in 1960 and a new design series of progressively more capable agricultural airplanes beginning with the A-6 was born.  

Back up a little. One of the challenges Mr. Call faced was a shortage of materials to build his airplanes. The shift from wartime production to peacetime meant the companies that were well established could fall back on stockpiles of materials such as steel tubing, aircraft grade spruce wood, engines and finishing materials; the Calls couldn't do that, having started their company essentially from scratch. It turned out that an aircraft manufacturing company was for sale, and Reuel Call needed it for the supplies that came with it. The airplane was the Interstate Cadet.

There was an extra benefit to be realized by the Interstate acquisition. A shortcoming of the Call Model A design was the low wing configuration; farmers and ranchers liked to look down and that was hard with the low wing. Another problem was that often the pilots had to use unimproved landing sites and low brush did a lot of damage to the underside of the wings. A high wing airplane was needed to relieve these design limitations. 

Interstate Cadets were brought to Afton for repair during the war years and when the Cadet, or L-6 in its military configuration, became available in great numbers, the Calls found a way to keep their workers working by refurbishing and upgrading the former military airplanes to meet the civilian market.  The Cadet had all the attributes the Calls needed: a high wing, good short field and high altitude performance, and a ready supply of cheap airframes and engines thanks to the availability of war surplus machines and parts stocks. 

The Calls knew the farmers and ranchers of the Afton area very well and their refurbished Cadets were a popular choice for herding cattle, horses and sheep, and were effective in the management of predators such as wolves and coyotes. It was only natural that a production line might be in the offing for the sturdy airplane. Once the design and supplies were purchased (supplies from Interstate and type certificate from Max Harlow, who had bought it from Interstate and who, ironically, was the designer of Reuel Call's Kinner Sportster) the Calls set out to gain a production approval. Two S-1A Cadets were built, both were initially test aircraft. The certification status of the first was resolved by badging it as an Interstate (after all, the Calls didn't own the Type Certificate yet). The second was initially experimental, relegated to testing and demonstrations, but was eventually certified in the standard category with the CallAir imprimatur. That one remains on the FAA Aircraft Registry and it is the pride and joy of which I write. 

My Callair S-1A-90C in 2007

Production certification became expensive after the war. There was enough money to be made by refurbishing Cadets and L-6 airplanes to make the continuation of the Callair Cadet line impractical. However, a re-engined, Lycoming-powered, 150 hp version, the Super Cadet "150", quickly became a favorite in the wilds of Alaska. 

Tragedy struck the Call family twice when, on September 16, 1968, Barlow Call died in a mid-air collision while herding horses in his S1-B1 (civilian L-6). His son, Barlow, died following an air crash five months later. The heart had gone out of the program at Afton. 

Barlow Call's widow sold the Type Certificate and remains of the CallAir Cadet project to William A. "Big Deal" Diehl of Anchorage AK in 1969 and the airplane was beefed up and remarketed as the "Arctic Tern". Diehl was bought out by Bart Miller who, in the process of setting up the line in New Hampshire, was tragically killed in 2006 before production began when a piece of equipment toppled over on him. The design is currently in limbo.

Stay tuned for more fascinating ramblings about the refurbishing of the one and only CallAir Cadet.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Little History Before We Cut Fabric (off the airframe)

The Callair Cadet was part wishful thinking and part good old American determination. It came to pass through the sale of the aircraft type certificate (A-737) by the Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Company first to Harlow Aircraft Company, then to the Call Aircraft Company of Afton, Wyoming. If Afton rings a bell, it's because in more recent years manufacturing for the Christen Eagle, Pitts Special and Aviat Husky are there. These companies are all heirs to the Call legacy.
Barlow Call flying s/n 1001
More on the Calls and their Cadets (and other designs) in a later post; for now, we'll look at Interstate, an El Segundo, California, outfit that responded in 1940 to a government request that outlined the need for a rugged training airplane to prepare pilots for a war that was sure to involve the United States. The design they came up with looked vaguely similar to the Stinson, Piper, Taylorcraft and Aeronca designs of the day but Interstate came late to the party and their airplanes were priced significantly higher than their counterparts - almost three times as much as a Piper Cub, for example. The Interstate engineers were all young and, for the most part, had no idea how to design an airplane so they stole across the airport ramp and measured several airplanes to come up with some basic configurations. True story. The Civilian Pilot Training Program was in full swing and trainers were in short supply; the airplane the schools got for their money was one that could really take a beating day in and day out. A shortage of the most popular horizontally-opposed, 4-cylinder engines built by Continental and Lycoming left Interstate again taking leftovers. Most of the S-1 Cadets were powered by variants of the Franklin engine.
From the online collection of Ron Dupas
The instructor sat in the back tandem seat and the student sat in front. Inflight visibility was very good for the front seat occupant; the back seat visibility was somewhat restricted by the wing. A couple of the first Cadets were crated and shipped to Hawaii where they were operated by a flying school at the Rodgers civilian airport next to Pearl Harbor. Despite Hollywood's depiction in the movie "Tora Tora Tora", an attractive, young woman was giving flying lessons in one of those Cadets on December 7, 1941 ... but it's better in her own words:
"At the twilight's last gleaming
by Cornelia Fort, Woman's Home Companion, June, 1943.
“I KNEW I was going to join the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron before the organization was a reality, before it had a name, before it was anything but a radical idea in the minds of a few men who believed that women could fly airplanes. But I never knew it so surely as I did in Honolulu on December 7, 1941.
“At dawn that morning I drove from Waikiki to the John Rodgers civilian airport right next to Pearl Harbor, where I was a civilian pilot instructor. Shortly after six-thirty I began landing and take-off practice with my regular student.
“Coming in just before the last landing, I looked casually around and saw a military plane coming directly toward me. I jerked the controls away from my student and jammed the throttle wide open to pull above the oncoming plane. He passed so close under us that our celluloid windows rattled violently ..."
Cornelia Fort was killed in 1943 in a mid-air collision while on a formation flight in Texas. An airport in her hometown of Nashville TN is named in her honor.

As an observation airplane, the Cadet had few peers with its abundance of windows in a rear greenhouse configuration. Some were fitted as air ambulances.
An Interstate L-6A Grasshopper (s/n 43-2680) of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio.
Official description: "The Interstate Co. entered the (military) aviation industry in 1940 with the S-1B "Cadet," a tandem seat liaison airplane. When the United States entered World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces contracted with Interstate for 250 S-1B aircraft, designating the prototype as the XO-63. It was the last airplane to use the "O" (for observation) designation. Later, the USAAF designated the production airplane as the L-6. The aircraft, however, had significant overheating problems that were only partially solved. It had the dubious distinction that fewer L-6s were built than any other USAAF liaison aircraft. The USAAF used the L-6 as a utility transport, liaison and training aircraft in the United States but never shipped it overseas. After the war, the remaining L-6s were sold as surplus."

The Interstate company was in trouble. The Army Air Corps didn't add to their initial order for S-1 Cadets or the L-6. Prospects were looking dim.  A quiet group of engineers, however, were breaking ground on a totally new technology - television - and a totally new application for that technology with the first operational drones, built for the Navy.
This website: ( describes the TDR-1 more fully as:
"... a TV-guided drone powered by two Lycoming O-435-2 piston engines. It had a very simple cockpit which was manned by a backup pilot for test flights, the pilot only taking over the controls when the remote-control TV equipment failed or when the aircraft was landed."
If you do a little searching you can find even more information on this little-known predecessor to the Predators and Reapers we employ today. Rather than being a recoverable aircraft, the TDR was designed as a one-way flying bomb, guided from up to 40 miles away by an operator using the television link to steer.  When operated as a drone, the landing gear was jettisoned after takeoff. The TDR (and the version built in Philadelphia at the Naval Aircraft Factory as the TDN - probably out of leftover blimp parts) were actually deployed as an operational unit in 1944, scoring hits on Japanese shipping. Take a look at Andreas Parsch's site at:

In 1945, Interstate was out of the airplane business, concentrating their efforts to the production of consumer goods such as vacuum cleaners, vending machines and juke boxes.

Now for the Interstate/CallAir connection. When the Call family bought the parts inventory for the Cadet in 1945, the market was flooded with surplus aircraft of all types. The big manufacturers of light airplanes (Piper, Aeronca, Stinson, Taylorcraft) had large stocks of materials but they weren't about to let them go. The Calls were building  low-wing, strut-braced, 2-and-3-place monoplanes with side by side seating for the civilian market and needed the Interstate stock of supplies as much for construction of their own designs as for any new Cadets.
At least one of the Calls was a big fan of the Cadet and eventually led the charge to buy the type certificate. The next history lesson will take a look at the Call Aircraft Company and one of the two Cadets that emerged from their factory at Afton. In the meantime, we're prepared to cut the old fabric off of Callair Cadet serial number 1002. Stay tuned.
Import after crash 696

Monday, October 07, 2013

On Your Mark! .....

At the time of this writing (September 2013), I've been flying for 42 years, first for the pure, liberating fun of it, then for my livelihood. I retired from corporate flying in 2008 and chose to return to my first love: Flying for the fun of it.

When I found the Callair Cadet I already owned a Piper Cub. Something about this bedraggled wraith appealed to my inner knight and I knew she had to be rescued from the ravages of time. The bones appeared to be strong, the engine was freshly overhauled and the prop was new; I couldn't let a "find" like this one pass me by. 

The history appealed to me, too. Poring over books and papers, the FAA records and contacts all over the place resulted in a fair picture of where this airplane originated and how the design came to be. More on that as we go along.

As with more than one of my pet projects, the Callair kept flying and its restoration kept being pushed back until an opportune time presented itself. The stars have aligned, the planets, too. It remains to be discovered whether or not the budget will dress right and cover down in this formation, but I'm willing to take a chance.

The date is set: We cut fabric on Monday, October 28th, at the latest; Saturday, October 26th, at the earliest. Why the 26th? It's the date for the annual Bob White Airport Fly-In. We might make it an "event" within the event. Nothing like a public commitment to launch a project.

More to come.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Update on Rick's Fairchild

Alert readers may recall that Rick Thompson found a 1934 KR Fairchild F-24 C8-C in Alaska a few years back. He has been busy ever since restoring this magnificent airplane to better-than-new condition. Here, in his own words, is the latest progress report on "Amelia":

"Date: July 29, 2013, 3:21:26 PM EDT

Subject: Update

Hello everyone,
It's been a while so I thought I would send you some images of the progress on the ship.  

Work Area

3/4 View

"We are still working on the doors at the moment and getting ready to cover the vertical fin and rudder as soon as we have some cooler weather. The wind shield (wind screen for you Trev.) is done and is ready to install. 

Seats View

Instrument Panel

"Thanks to Rose for the fine work on the seats, side panels, and headliner.

"You may notice that we are naming her "Amelia" after my grandmother's 3rd cousin Amelia Earhart. I thought it would be a fitting tribute.

Take care.

More can be found about Rick's project here on the blog. Take a look at:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Let there be Barbecue!

Being particularly particular when it comes to Barbecue, it helps that the Callair can whisk me to venues of delight in debatably grand style. We did just that recently when the lure of pork-derived pleasure availed itself ... 

Taste buds a-tingle, we spent the day among like minded people and launched, happily sated, for the home field. Maybe these mortals be fools, but they do have fun and they do lay out a feast!
I'd regale a little longer but I brought a tote of the oinker home. Overcome by hunger, salivating too near the keyboard, I can write no more.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 2013

May can be one of those “maybe” months … “Maybe the weather will be good, “Maybe” not. Probably will, most of the time, especially when it comes time for Jim and Pat Connell’s Wahoo Air Ranch Fly In. The Chief Pilot likes to come here for the cheese grits (with a touch of garlic – a first for me, and goooood), eggs, local sausage, blueberry pancakes (the blueberries were in season), fresh fruit, coffee by the gallon, OJ (of course) and great people and great airplanes. What more could you ask?

How about barbecue for lunch? OK, got it, had it and it was fantastic! (I’m a sucker for barbecue.)

I flew the World’s Ugliest Airplane over at 1500 feet (tops) and plunked down amid 30-40 fellow aeronauts on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Wahoo Fly In 1
As the day went on, there were a lot more airplanes but this gives you an idea. Jim and Pat have a lot of available space for aircraft parking and even more space for campers, motor homes and flying tent-pitchers. One of these days I have to try doing this again. The last time was at Sun-n-Fun when Captain John was a very young teenager and I promised myself I’d always remember how hard the ground got after I reached adulthood.

The first fellow I met was “Ozzie” Osborn - a World War II glider pilot … still doing well and with a lot of stories to tell. He flew both American and British gliders and described their size and different flying characteristics in great detail.

And the airplanes! Two WACOs:
Wahoo WACO 2 Wahoo WACO
Two more biplanes, one old (Stearman) and one newer (Pitts):
Wahoo Stearman Wahoo Fly In Pitts
How I wish I’d gotten more pictures to pass along to you. The Flying FOOLZ have posted their great pictures and you can see them for yourself at: