Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December ... Rhymes with Remember

Way back, I spent 90% of my time looking ahead ... planning trips in the corporate jets, juggling work schedules for pilots, trying to keep the load distributed evenly  for everybody. All that is behind me. I tell my friends that my schedule is whatever comes next. That happens when you hand the jet keys to the next guy in charge and walk away. 

The other day I was cleaning out a bunch of old files and came across some articles that I wrote for Air&Space/Smithsonian in the early 90s. Here's one of them (you'll have to click on the images or zoom in to make them big enough to read):

Somebody (OK, more than one somebody) asks from time to time if I've ever been close to the grim reaper and this was one of those times - that's why I stuck it in the blog first. Also, A&S paid me more for it so it must have been more important than my other attempts at published immortality (Richard Bach once wrote that the lifespan of a magazine writer's work is akin to that of a Mayfly, and it's true).

While I admit to having mellowed a bit - (These days, my mach number is closer to .01 than to 1.0; my flight level is closer to 010 than 450 and, truth be told, the Chevy will get me to nearby destinations about as fast as a light-sport airplane) - my heart still quickens when the weather turns nice, the turf is firm and the wind is down the runway. All the airport guys turn out on days like that, each wanting to fly but not wanting to leave good company. Pretty soon the group begins to disperse ... gotta check the oil, you know, gotta check the fuel.  It's understood. Airplanes are pushed out of hangars, engines started one by one and then, one by one again: taxi out, turn onto the wind, takeoff and fly. Maybe to lunch here or there, maybe just look at the scenery. The flying's the thing; the excuses are not important at all. My patient wife understands this is not a phase I'll outgrow.

When all is said and done, the dogs fed and the poops picked up, that's when I'll tally up the score, such as it is, but not before. For now I'm pointed forward, and it's such a nice day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Update on the CallAir Project - November 2015

It's been a little over 2 years since we first cut fabric off the CallAir Cadet - the discoveries and remedies have come one after the other as this one of a kind airplane is restored. Click on the pictures to make them larger so you can see Malcolm's and Jonathan's workmanship. The project is coming along and even though it's been a long time in the making, the airplane is going to be magnificent.

On the left, the new baggage compartment is fitted in it's eventual position. Access will be from behind the rear seat. The airplane was designed as a trainer and utility airplane so there isn't much need for a large baggage space. Both pictures above show Malcolm's attention to detail in the woodwork, including a slotted pocket in the door, sized for paper charts. On the right, looking back from the firewall bulkhead, you can see the interesting control stick configuration - the sticks are curved, offset to the left, to allow room for the landing gear shock absorber spring which is perilously located under the front-center of the front seat. You don't want that baby to come loose.

In keeping with the mission and vintage (herding livestock, predator control on Wyoming ranches) Malcolm and I wanted to replicate the original configuration as much as possible - we didn't want, for example, to have external antennas taking away from the originality. Malcolm fitted a ground plane and antenna inside the fuselage to allow for communications. The wood floorboards are beautifully done (I will have to wear shoe covers). The ties between front and rear rudder pedals were originally thin strips of aluminum - we opted for tubing and rod ends for a more substantial link.

 Again, lots of detail work on the wood formers and provisions for shoulder harnesses - not original, but a must have feature.

 The key is fitting and refitting until it's just right. Note in all the pictures the extensive preparation of metal and wood and the quality of finish. I can't wait to take it to Oshkosh (2016).

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Bob White Fly In - 2015

'Tis the fall of the year and flyers of all ilk gather for breakfast at Bushnell and then head east about 35 miles for the lunch at Bob White Field in Zellwood.  Snowbird and friend Joe Dunn puts a video montage together and here's the link:

I've left the scene, having moved to "halfback" territory, the mountains of North Carolina (yankees move to Florida as they think all yankees should, then get tired of the heat and the bugs and move half-back to the uppa-yew-ess where they can see leaves change and have a little snow to complain about). 

The colors have been brilliant in the mountains this year but I do miss my Bob White friends.

Malcolm missed a week's work on the CallAir Cadet because of the fly-in but he'll be back at it with an end of the year goal for completion in mind. Wish us luck.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Back to Hooterville

Moss does not grow on a rolling stone. After much deliberation and a dose of reality, The Boss and I decided to move back to the mountains of North Carolina: Hendersonville, the town of my birth, seat of the family and home of the Western North Carolina Air Museum.

This being the fall of the year, the leaves in the mountains are just starting to turn and will be a brilliant display in a couple more weeks - a perfect time to be flying, but bone up on your mountain flight planning before you make the trip. 

My new internet flying buddy, Peter, from Foxbat in Australia, posted this slightly harrowing video of an approach to a strip in rural Idaho. Now THIS is mountain flying!

Meanwhile, work continues on the CallAir Cadet - Malcolm has the wings and tail control surfaces through their final coat of silver and is proceeding on the fuselage. There's much to be done there and I hope he can get it out of the shop by the end of the year. This year.

I can't wait to get back in the air.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

So Long, Woody ...

Woody left Bob White field yesterday, bound for new adventures with his new owner. 

I haven't counted up the number of landings, the hot dogs, the barbecue platters, ears of corn on the cob, and new friends made and I probably won't. Those things are only important to me and I carry the memories to be pulled out of the bag of reminiscences when I want to.

I scratched my open cockpit itch and now that I've had a taste of it, I may do it again. First, though, there's the CallAir Cadet restoration to finish. Malcolm is working away on it and milestones are being checked off

Since these pictures were taken, the first coat of silver is on the wings and tail surfaces. The project is really on its way.

In the end, though, it's about the flying!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Happy Landings, Bill Taylor

My friend, Bill Taylor, flew west this morning.

 Bill's hangar and his Piper Vagabond were just down the row from me at Bayport (Long Island) airport when I was doing time in NY as a corporate pilot and Confederate spy. His table was a happy one for a cup of tea and good conversation.

Bill 'n' me in the J-3. Bill in front, me in back. At maybe 5'6" he stood very tall in my eyes.

Bill retired from the NYPD after having served in the Marine Corps in China during the last days of World War II and its aftermath. Before the war, he was a tough kid who came out of a hard childhood. Maybe because of it he grew into one of the finest men I've known.

Bill did all sorts of things in his life including stints as a diver and fisherman. Somewhere along the way he learned to fly and loved the time he spent with new friends at the airport. I enjoyed his company very much and have missed him since I retired myself and returned to the South. (Oh, he had some funny stories about his time in the South ... we had some good laughs over that).

He joins his dear wife, Sunny, who died in 2010.

Godspeed, Bill. 

Happy landings. 

Semper Fi.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Will Fly For Food

Back in the day when the tee shirt message was funny - "Will (your occupation here) For Food" - I had one that echoed the title of this note. Flying jobs were hard to come by but good luck and perseverance paid off and I enjoyed a remarkable career as a corporate pilot. 

The food thing was always interesting since we (the crew and I) were exposed to cuisine from all over the world. My friend Ray's description of pink stroganoff (meat undefined) was entertaining, as was a description of actual entertainment in a smoky club at Khabarovsk where the band knew only one song in English and played it over and over to honor the Americans who were there - Barry Manilow's "Feelings". I heard it once in Bangkok and the memory is seared in my mind.

Nowadays, and more to the point of this missive, I delight in pointing Woody toward venues where barbecue and accompaniments are dished out by some of the nicest people you'll find anywhere. 

This week's outing took us to the Seminole Lake Gliderport, just west of Disney World and the home of one of the nicest grass runways you'll find anywhere. Our hosts were Shawn and Connie Knickerbocker whose home and hangar are located across the runway from the glider operation. 

There were Corvette enthusiasts and their cars, airplane enthusiasts and their airplanes, and good folk in general enjoying the day and each others' company.

Click on the pictures to make them bigger.

The Tiger Lady was there and I took this picture because I like the nose art and the nifty striping on the spinner.

 And, of course, Woody was there, hanging out with his buddies on the early bird row.

The jewel of the day (in my humble, but honest, opinion) was this beautiful PT-22. You could eat off any part of it. 

Oh, and the barbecue was wonderful.

Woody and I made our way back to Bob White Field to finish a perfect day for flying in Central Florida.

It doesn't get much better.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Time to say Goodbye

Airplanes and people either mate for life or they cast about for adventures heretofore unrequited. With the CallAir Cadet mushing toward completion of a long refurbishment, it's time for Woody to poke his nose toward new adventures. 

Click on the pictures to make them bigger

I put the ad in Barnstormers today with a mixture of regret and anticipation. Regret, because Woody is a darned good airplane and a LOT of fun to fly; anticipation, because I'm already looking ahead to a building project after the CallAir is done and sold and no, I won't tip my hand just yet ... There are bridges to cross first.

I like airplanes and because of that I like to leave them to the next owner better than I got them - not that there was anything really wrong when I bought it. 

I'll point out a few things; the old Stromberg carburetor had to go. The engine ran OK, I just wanted to change it out. Fortunately, there is an alternative in that Marvel-Scheblers are available. I bought a factory reconditioned one for less money and aggravation that I'd have spent trying to keep the Stromberg.  

The exhaust was pretty close to the fabric on the left side so Malcolm fashioned new outlets that were canted to blow straight out. 

One aileron control cable was beginning to show signs of wear so we ordered a new one. 

... and that's all it took to make me happy - not bad for an airplane bought sight unseen, not that I recommend it.

Ed Sterba lives not too far away from here and he was really pleased to see one of his props at a local fly-in. He's still in the business of making props. I know I'd buy another one if I needed it.

Pardon my photographic non-skills. We installed 8.50x6 tires to increase the deck angle on the ground. I found I had to accelerate to a higher speed for takeoff than I thought necessary because the angle of attack was so low with the old 6.00x6 tires. The bigger tires did the trick. The fittings for the landing gear in the picture on the right are good sized fittings. Everyone who knows anything about airplanes remarks that it is really well designed and built.

Up front, if you don't see it, you don't need it. This is an airplane for going up and looking down - my favorite pursuit since handing the jet keys to the younger pilots. I carry a makeup mirror in the cockpit to look at the "fuel gauge" behind me. That gets a laugh at fly-ins...

Some new owner is going to have a lot of fun in this airplane just as I have. 

Here's my shameless pitch: I have about $20K in the airplane but I don't expect to get that out of it. If you know someone who is looking for a fun ride that won't nickle and dime them in maintenance, look for my ad in Barnstormers and put them in touch with me. 

P.S. Barbecue is better when you fly to meet up with friends.

P.P.S. For a look back at my earlier posts about Woody, go to:
                 In theory ...
                 Getting the hang of it ...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Leave it to Beaver

I once had a girlfriend named Beverly whose nickname was "Beaver" so I have sort of a pre-history with the warm, fuzzy feeling that I got when new friend John taxied his 1957 DeHavilland DHC-2 up to the beach at my house on the lake, there to repose for a week or so while he carted his stuff to Minnesota for the summer.

John is a pretty cool guy - he once had a business in MN and saved up enough to learn to fly, eventually getting into seaplanes and the Beaver. The flash bulb went off - you remember those - and he decided to make a small(er) fortune giving airplane rides. As he described it, the business that once supported the Beaver became the business supported BY the Beaver and so John did what anyone would do: He started flying full time.

Trouble is, when you're flying a seaplane in Minnesota it gets COLD in the winter and the water gets real hard, so John flew toward the warm weather and found a sleepy little burg in Florida called Mount Dora that welcomed him and the Beav with open arms. 

The Grande Dame of central Florida hotels
The Lakeside Inn at Mount Dora has a long and storied history and John bases his operation there.

Lakeside Inn photos were unceremoniously ripped from their web site

What could be more delightful, especially considering the alternative of freezing his tail off in Minnesota?

Now, in mid-April, the practice thunderboomers are trying out their muscles here in central Florida in preparation for their summer season and John has a date with his paint shop up north, so he and the Beaver are wending their way to the uppa yew-ess by way of a couple of stops in Alabama and other dockside rendezvous . . .

Safe flight, John. See you in the fall.