Once upon a time, the winter was cold on Long Island NY and the sunshine was warm in Florida, prompting intrepid aviator Bill to snuggle into the rear cockpit of his 1929 Bird biplane and fly to the Sun-n-Fun Fly-In at Lakeland.
Bill is one of those old school airport bums who never met a stranger - and if you are a little apprehensive about walking onto the Bayport Aerodrome on Long Island you are quickly put at ease by this guy. I know this from firsthand experience. Airport bums everywhere: take notice. If your airport is dying for want of participation, find your inner Bill and welcome new people in.
Bill's Bird is a terrific airplane. It is forgiving and as docile a taildragger as a pilot might find. Bill let me land it once and I loved it. Of all the airplanes available at the time, Charles Lindbergh chose the Bird as the vehicle to teach his wife, Anne, to fly.
Then there's the Kinner engine. They're getting old and brittle (ask Harrison Ford), and Kinner gurus are becoming fewer and further between, but to hear a Kinner's slow dance is to fall in love with it.
...and yes, that video is of Bill's Bird at Lock Haven in 2013.
The secret to starting a Kinner is to prime it until fuel drips, then pull the prop through for 4 or 5 blades until the starter guy decides the angle is right for him. An exchange of greetings with the pilot is accomplished and the starter guy pulls the prop through - gently. As Richard Bach once wrote, the impulse coupling on the magneto pulls the prop out of your hand. Pull too hard and the Kinner will defy you. (I liked Bill's Kinner prop to be about the 7:30 or 8 o'clock position for an easy, walkaway start). Bill was great to start for, too ... he kept the throttle near closed and the engine would just lope along nice and slow instead of winding up in a mad rush.
So anyway, back to the story of The Flight To Sun-n-Fun. On the way down all was just great ... the east coast lowlands, the salt marshes, the gradually warming air .. that last was especially welcome to Bill, who always complained about the airflow off the top wing coming right down on him in the rear cockpit. It's chilly, no matter the outside air temperature.
After a few days of Sun and Fun came the return trip. Somewhere over the north of Florida, Bill noticed, at his low level, the telltale scent of burning wood, not at all uncommon in the pine-rich South. But then there was no visible smoke. As the fragrance became even more, well, fragrant,then it WAS visible. It had to have been a little confusing: Bill was on fire, or something made of wood was and the only thing on the airplane that was upwind and made of wood was the prop. The prop?
Long story short, wood props swell and shrink with the seasons and Bill's prop bolts needed a re-torque. The prop flanges did to Bill's prop what I could never quite get the hang of as a Boy Scout, rubbing sticks together to start a fire. Since then (and after an expensive engine re-do and a new prop) Bill is a prop bolt torque ambassador. His old prop, toasted, hangs on his hanger wall, not that he needs a reminder.
Fast forward to another year (this one) and another Sun-n-Fun. Stu decided to leave the Cub at home this year and try his luck flying down to Florida in an airliner. Shhhhh. He might get there on Thursday. That's when he plans to go. Let's see what the airline plans. I'm stuck with home projects in North Carolina and won't make it. Son John, who lives in Florida, will have to uphold the family honor. Maybe next year.