Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Creative thinking for a winter flyer

Most of my posts over the last 5 years have been about my CallAir Cadet 90 (nee Interstate Cadet) and the Call family who built it. They were entrepreneurs who happened to also be airplane people who started from scratch to design and build their own brand of flying machines in Afton WY in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

The Call Aircraft Company brand was dubbed "CallAir" at some point and started out with a low wing, strut braced design that had remarkable performance in the high (6,000'+MSL) Wyoming terrain. Production was on hold during World War II but started up again toward the end of the conflict and really began in earnest once parts and supplies became available.

The A-2 was powered by a Lycoming O-290 of 125HP. One write-up said it would take off in 800 feet at Afton's elevation, climb at 500 feet per minute and fly 500 miles. Local pilots loved it and the design's popularity spread. Most were sold in the western states. It's written that the first flight was in December of 1941 and one account said it was from snow skis. The Calls knew the need for skis and came up with an easy-on, easy-off set of clamps and bungees for their own brand of skis that were produced during and after the War. It was a design that allowed an airplane to be rolled on or lifted on.
Lifted, with appreciation, from Supercub.org

An unforeseen market crisis hit the small airplane manufacturers particularly hard when the double-whammy of oversupply and under-demand took hold in 1947. All of a sudden, the flood of cheap military surplus airplanes and an economic slump overwhelmed the industry. Being smart business people first, the Calls kept their doors open by promoting and producing their "Snowcar". It was a big hit with mail carriers, forestry/wildlife managers and emergency services. It was also marketed as a recreational vehicle, the forerunner of today's snowmobiles, using aircraft engines and propellers for power. The Snowcar could also be equipped with optional wheels for ease in rolling on and off those CallAir skis, though the lack of a reversing propeller made it impractical for highway use.
Barlow Call at right, extolling the virtues of the CallAir Snowcar

An undertaking like the Call Aircraft Company had to involve some pretty special people to take hold in a little town over 100 miles from any other town of any size and far, far away from other centers of aviation manufacturing. The Calls were certainly in touch with their customers and were creative when it came to keeping their employees at work. Today's aircraft manufacturers at Afton owe a debt to these resourceful people for getting the whole thing started.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Hero Next Door

I was going to hold this until December 17, but this is the weekend of the annual Army-Navy football game and I decided to go ahead and publish.

I read a book - “Halsey's Typhoon” - after meeting and befriending a man who joined the Navy as soon as his age allowed and boarded the same ship - USS Monterey (CVL-26) - that President Ford had served on during a terrible storm. Halsey's Typhoon caught the fleet by surprise and cost the lives of nearly 800 men in December, 1944.  My friend boarded while the ship was undergoing repairs of storm and fire damage at Bremerton WA and went on to survive kamikaze attacks in the waning months of the war. Lieutenant Ford left the ship at Bremerton on orders to the Navy Training Command.

Monterey was repaired; other ships were not so lucky. USS Hull (DD-350), USS Spence (DD-512) and USS Monaghan (DD-354) were lost. 98 men were pulled from the sea from those three ships (92 from Hull and Spence), 55 by the USS Tabberer (DE418).
USS Tabberer went from keel to commissioning in an astonishing four months - a tribute to American manufacturing during World War II. I'll come back to its story in a few paragraphs, but first:

A small, spare obituary appeared in the Ocala FL newspaper in 2003; A man died, and that was that. But what a man. Because of him, 55 men lived, most begat families, all had the utmost respect for a man who defied direct orders from none other than Admiral “Bull” Halsey to save men in peril on the sea. If you are ever in Ocala FL, stop by and read a plaque in the Silver Springs Shores Presbyterian Church honoring a quiet hero who lived, virtually unnoticed, in our midst.

Henry L. Plage, LCDR USNR

OCALA - Henry Lee Plage, 88, a retired pharmaceutical distributor, died Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2003, at Oakhurst Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
A native of Oklahoma City, Okla., he moved here from Inverness in 1980. Mr. Plage was a member of Silver Springs Shores Presbyterian Church. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Mr. Plage was a recipient of the Legion of Merit.


I'm inserting a photograph of Henry Plage here. My friends in Ocala may not recognize him from this one from 1945, so I'm also inserting a photograph taken from a more recent video on the History Channel. 

From the Congressional Record:

Thursday, November 14, 2002


Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to share with my colleagues a story of heroism and to honor the bravery of Lt. Commander Henry Lee Plage who lives in my hometown of Ocala, FL. During World War II, he and his crew saved dozens of men from the water of the Pacific after a raging typhoon sunk three ships.

Henry Lee Plage started his military career as a member of ROTC at Georgia Tech and he joined the Navy in 1937 after his graduation. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lt. Commander Plage immediately requested sea duty. His first assignment was commanding a submarine chaser. With only 4 days to get ready, he assumed command of a crew of 55. On February 18, 1944, the USS Tabberer (DE–418) was launched. She was commissioned on May 23, 1944, with Plage in command. By October the ship had joined Admiral Halsey’s 3rd Fleet, helping to supply crucial air cover for General MacArthur’s Land troops. On December 17, 1944, the USS Tabberer was east of the Phillippine Islands along with the 3rd Fleet, scheduled to refuel, when the weather began to deteriorate rapidly. The reason, Typhoon Cobra was heading directly toward them.

The high winds and choppy seas prevented the USS Tabberer from refueling and by the evening of December 17th, the full force of the typhoon was upon them. The Tabberer had to fight extremely rough seas—and by the 18th sustained winds had reached about 145 miles per hour, with wind gusts up to 185 miles an hour. Before the Typhoon had moved through, the USS Tabberer had lost its mast and radio antenna. Three destroyers from the fleet, the USS Hull (DD–350), the USS Spence (DD–512) and the USS Monaghan (DD–354), had gone down.
Tabberer, after Typhoon Cobra
About 9:30 p.m. on December 18th, the Tabberer rescued its first survivor from the water. It was then that Lt. Commander Plage learned that the USS Hull had capsized. Plage and the Tabberer immediately began an intensive search and rescue effort. These efforts continued for 3 days and nights. In all, the USS Tabberer pulled 55 men from the Pacific Ocean. All were from the USS Hull and the USS Spence.

Typhoon Cobra claimed nearly 800 lives. Only 92 survived (my note: from the 3 ships lost; other ships lost men as well.), 55 of these rescued by the crew of the USS Tabberer. Lt. Commander Plage remained on sea duty after the war and gave the Navy 14 years of service before retiring in 1954.

It is an honor for me to share this story of heroism and survival and I ask you all to join me in commending Lt. Commander Henry Lee Plage and the crew of the USS Tabberer for their dedication in saving the lives of 55 men from that terrible storm.

---------end Congressional Record---------

For more on the storm and interviews with Henry Plage:

Growing up, I spent my young life in the presence of special men and women who had come together from all walks of life to fight and win a war that did nothing less than save the world. Some of these were in my own family, many were teachers and coaches. We walked among them and never knew their stories. From age 10, in Ocala FL, I personally knew their most special kind; a survivor of Bataan, a Marine who island-hopped and fought in nearly every engagement in the Pacific, a teacher whose dreams caused him considerable anguish. A grade school classmate later distinguished himself in our generation's fight in Vietnam and died a dozen years after, a delayed casualty of that bitter conflict. Two of my college professors were World War II veterans, another served in the Korean conflict. Today, they all remain my heroes.

As my own shadow lengthens, I look back in awe at men like Henry Plage and feel more than a little humble and more than a little guilty that my own accomplishments don't hold a candle to theirs. I count myself fortunate to have known a few of them but even more fortunate that I inherited the privileges they left to me. 

This weekend, the football teams from West Point and Annapolis will square off in one of the iconic contests of the sport. They will strike each other and block and tackle and compete ferociously, and they will leave the field as one brotherhood, willing to die for each other if need be.

go army ... Go Navy.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Home Again At Last

I've written before about the Western North Carolina Air Museum and its turf runway. That's home for me and the CallAir. 


We took a little hiatus of about 4 1/2 years, partly because I didn't want to pay hangar rent in two places and partly because I had decided to re-do the airplane at a shop close to what passed for home at the time. Then we did what people do, sold the house in Florida and moved lock, stock and barrel to North Carolina, leaving the airplane to be finished. And I waited. And I waited. For another year and a half. 

3NR3 - Transylvania
When the CallAir and I finally made it home, I found a hangar at the Transylvania Community Airport near Brevard NC ... a nice place - good people, nice hangars. The trees at the ends of the runway made life interesting, though they could be dodged. I had no complaints other than it was a long way from home and the runway is paved. Taildraggers don't like (1) Student Pilots, (2) Crosswinds or (3) Paved Runways, but chasing deer down the runway on takeoff or landing is fun.

8NC9 (grass runway at left) and 0A7 (Hendersonville, paved at right)

Enough of that ... when Leland said my former hangar at the Museum was coming open, I was overjoyed. So now we've come full circle - I'm back in my comfort zone and am really glad to have a former Air Force and American Airlines pilot and his RV-8 as hangar mates. 

Here's to many hours of spontaneous lethargy, tall tales and fun flying. Y'all come!

Friday, September 01, 2017

A Very Good History of Air Traffic Control

My daily mail "push" includes some interesting observations and articles, mostly related to aviation. Today's batch from AVweb included this article by Paul Berge, former editor of IFR magazine and it's worth more than a mayfly's lifetime on the screen of my computer:

Art by Ben Bishop
Which came first: the chicken or the Federal Egg Administration? Impossible to say. Physics teaches us that when Bernoulli found lift, his nemesis, Newton, said there must be an opposing reaction. So, when the Wright brothers flew, government pondered how to keep them from impacting all those other aeronauts. Little happened because of Newton’s Law of Administrative Inertia: An agency at rest remains at rest until acted upon by an un-ignorable force.
The growth of air traffic control (ATC) followed a predictable path: Innovation (private sector), befuddlement (government), punctuated by periodic disasters, followed by outcry and government reaction. Repeat. Today’s National Airspace System (NAS) and its ATC components are the outgrowth of screw-ups, miscalculations and clever winging it.

Meet Me in St. Louis

During the Great War (which wasn’t that great; we can do better), belligerents embraced aviation’s potential but, by adding machine guns, made it self-limiting. When the war to end all metaphors concluded, survivors in the U.S. embraced aviation’s commercial value—hauling mail, nauseated passengers, and bootleg liquor.
As air traffic increased, the Department of Commerce was charged with putting order to this nascent industry growing faster than politicians could say, “Whatever it is, I’m against it!”1 The Air Commerce Act of 1926 created the Bureau of Air Commerce, which decided who got to fly where and when. Airlines multiplied like pimples on prom night and muscled into airport traffic patterns where confusion reigned. Until Archie.
St. Louis, MO was a pioneer aviation hub—its “Spirit” took Lindbergh to Paris in 1927. With so many airplanes, the concepts “near miss” and “mid-air” took shape. Pilot and mechanic Archie League mitigated unruly patterns when, in 1929, he rolled a wheelbarrow to runway’s end. Inside were his lunch box and two flags. Red flag: Hold. Checkered flag: Cleared for takeoff/landing. Thus, he issued the first ATC clearance and became the first air traffic controller to work through his meal break, planting unionization seeds.
Flags are fine on clear days—not so much at night or in fog. Enter the control tower with light signals and bright beacons. Radio was added in Cleveland, OH in 1930.
With the advent of gyro instruments, pilots could fly inside clouds, following a low-frequency A and N, four-course range. Lighted airway beacons and radio markers indicated reporting points. Nice, but impractical, since every airliner wanted to follow the same routes at the same time with the result that in the early 1930s about 12 domestic air-carrier collisions were reported per year.
Congress was slow to react until Senator Bronson Cutting was killed in a DC-2, low on fuel and scud-running at night toward destiny. Tragedy spawned a conference in 1935 at which Edgar Gorrel, of the Air Transport Association, established GA’s place in the IFR world: “Private flying is today a menace….” Without objections, the airlines created an air traffic control consortium and agreed to share flight plan information and coordinate departure times, routes and altitudes.
The first Airway Traffic Control Station opened in Newark, NJ in 1935. Air traffic controllers were called Flight Control Officers. Run by the airlines, these enroute centers, as they would later be known, expanded into Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh. In 1936 the Bureau of Air Commerce took control of centers. A year later Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Oakland Centers opened. Atlanta, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Fort Worth opened in 1939, and in 1941 Seattle and Cincinnati joined the list.

Separation Standards Evolve

Vertical separation of traffic is simple: Keep users at different altitudes, and no one hits. Problem is, no one lands. So rules were developed to allow altitude changes based on position reports, much like today when ATC says, “Radar service terminated (or lost), report FIGBY.”
Radar wasn’t common until 1940 when the British were dealing with German air traffic over London. Before radar—which really didn’t make the ATC scene with great effect until the 1960s—controllers hovered over maps and plotted airliner progress as dispatchers phoned in position reports. Direct pilot-to-center radio communication wasn’t available until 1949.
Controllers tracked aircraft progress with small “shrimp boats” pushed across the map. Each represented an airplane and had a clip holding a slip of paper with the call sign and altitude. Shrimp boats would serve well into the radar age on flat-top radar displays. Before digital data tags, controllers wrote aircraft data on the plastic data tags and gently nudged them across the scope.
Additionally, each flight had a flight progress strip with more information. By stacking these strips, early controllers formed the 3-D picture, and to some extent their descendants still do.
Once an aircraft passed a fix, another at the same altitude could also pass. If two were approaching the same fix at the same altitude, the controller could instruct one to climb or descend before a certain point or stop one in a holding pattern until the airspace was clear.
This is easy where flight paths cross at right angles, but someone had to figure how much room was needed to protect these converging points based on all the possible converging angles. There was no ATC manual until the controllers wrote it.
Non-radar separation gets muddier when two—or more—airplanes are at the same altitude on the same route, especially if the trailing aircraft is overtaking. In the 1930s, in-trail separation was at least 10 minutes. The moving math of non-radar air traffic separation rapidly developed out of necessity, and safely remains the basis of separation standards today. If a 2017 approach controller loses radar, traffic gets slapped onto airways and separated by altitudes, routes and speed as pilots stumble making position reports and estimates to subsequent fixes.
In 1940, the newly created Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) took over ATC. By the time the U.S. entered WWII in 1941, the CAA ran 24 enroute Centers with 4000 employees. By war’s end, the CAA had 7800 air traffic controllers.

Postwar Boom

Peace brought a surge in civil aviation. Former military pilots transitioned into the airlines. Non-pilot veterans learned to fly under the GI Bill, which meant more airplanes being built and more airliners reaching new markets. DC-3s gave way to DC-6s and Lockheed Constellations (Connies), flying higher, faster and stretching ATC resources. From 1949 to 1955 airline passenger traffic doubled, even as CAA staffing levels were cut. In 1955, the DC-7 premiered, capable of flying non-stop from the U.S. to Europe, carrying 100 passengers at 300 knots.
More traffic in an overburdened and underfunded ATC system with little radar service, meant midair collisions and near misses occurred at uncomfortable rates. On June 30, 1956, a United DC-7 hit a TWA Super Connie at 21,000 feet over the Grand Canyon, killing all on both airliners. Post-accident fingers pointed, politicians ha-rumphed, but the public demanded change—to what, most didn’t know. In short order, Congress funded the CAA to increase the number of VORs, purchase 82 advanced long-range radars and install an IBM 650 digital computer at Indianapolis Center, and should the computer thing work out, buy more. The modern ATC system emerged from the Grand Canyon ashes. Except, while the CAA met challenges posed by DC-7s and Super Connies, Boeing took orders for its 707 and Douglas for the DC-8. ATC needed to adapt faster, before TWA and United could meet again.

The Jet Age

Ground speeds suddenly reaching 600 knots changed everything, with airlines leading the way and the CAA playing catch-up. In December, 1957 CAA classified all airspace above 24,000 feet as Continental Control Area with a dozen “super skyways” planned for transcontinental commercial traffic. With no private jets, this was primarily for airlines.
By 1958, 707s and DC-8s were in service, each capable of hauling 189 passengers. The same year recorded three notable mid-air collisions. The first occurred when an Air Force C-118 (DC-6) collided with a Navy P2V patrol bomber over Los Angeles, killing 50. The second midair was near Las Vegas when an Air Force F-100 Super Sabre cut through a United DC-7 at 21,000 feet, leaving 49 dead. The third collision again mixed civilian and military when a VFR Air National Guard T-33 trainer collided with an IFR four-engine turboprop Capital Airlines Viscount over Maryland, killing 61.
A day after the Maryland midair, Senator Mike Monroney from Oklahoma, introduced the Federal Aviation Act, which—among other things—created the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). President Eisenhower signed it into law on August 23rd, proving that government can move quickly when the body count gets embarrassing.
The FAA was charged to oversee and regulate everything in aviation. The first administrator was retired Air Force General Elwood R. Quesada, who rolled into office kicking butts and making changes. But it took another midair to spark the next airspace upgrade.

Past and Future Collide

Mid-morning December 16, 1960 brought low ceilings and snow to New York City, as a TWA Super Connie was cleared for the ILS approach into LaGuardia Airport. Heading into Idyllwild Airport (now JFK) was a United DC-8. The last of the piston airliners and first of the jets met over Staten Island when the DC-8, not in radar contact and traveling in excess of 300 knots, overshot its holding fix. Essentially, the United crew was lost and navigating with one VOR receiver, the other being inoperable. Radar service and visibility were minimal—TWA was on a New York approach radar scope, but United was not. One of United’s engines scooped through TWA’s cabin, dropping the Connie onto Staten Island. United continued toward Idyllwild as the crew steadily lost control of the damaged DC-8, until it slammed into the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, where all onboard United plus eight on the ground, died.
Once again, out of tragedy came reforms: IFR pilots must inform ATC of navigation or communications failures. Turbine-powered aircraft must have distance-measuring equipment (DME). ATC improved its radar hand-off procedures. Finally, no aircraft could exceed 250 knots below 10,000 feet.

1960s and Beyond

ATC continued to improve in the next decade as more jets (B-727, B-737, B-747, DC-9, Lears…) entered service and competed for airspace. Despite progress, airliners still crashed, and in 1965, a TWA B-707 hit an Eastern Airlines Connie over Carmel, NY. Both were approaching the Carmel VORTAC when the crews saw each other. Although separated vertically by 1000 feet, the illusion created by the upsloping cloud tops, caused the 707 pilot to think they were converging, so he banked to steer clear. Instead, they hit. Amazingly, TWA limped safely into JFK, while Eastern’s crew lost all control. By playing the throttles, the pilot was able to crash land the four-engine Connie in a level attitude, minimizing fatalities.
The 1960s saw the arrival of ARTS (Automated Radar Terminal System), which put digital tags on radar displays. Adios, shrimp boats (although they were kept as backup). ATC was improving and catching up with the users. Controllers slowly received better equipment and even a pay raise.
In 1967 the newly created Department of Transportation (DOT) renamed the Federal Aviation Agency as the Federal Aviation Administration. Despite the name change, airplanes still collided, including a TWA DC-9 descending into Dayton, OH and a VFR Beech Baron, prompting the creation of Terminal Control Areas (TCA, the precursor of Class B airspace) around busier airports.
Three years later, transponders were required to operate in TCAs. Midair collisions declined, suggesting the FAA was gaining ground. But another problem awaited—air traffic controllers grew actively dissatisfied with FAA management. In 1968, a handful of New York controllers formed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). In six months, membership grew to 5000.
While organizing controllers didn’t have a direct input on air traffic, FAA management was slow to understand controllers’ gripes. PATCO sickouts, however, did affect traffic, as controller/management relations soured, and so began a decade of ATC labor unrest, erupting on August 3, 1981, when 13,000 air traffic controllers walked off the job and brought IFR traffic to a crawl.
It appeared in the early hours that PATCO had triumphed, but the FAA had learned from the earlier sickout and was prepared to react. Of the controllers who walked, about 850 returned during a brief grace period. The others were fired, and the FAA began the slow process of reinventing the air traffic system…again.


Post-strike ATC would seem to have been in total ruin. Some would disagree, but between late 1981 and today, the FAA managed to restart the stalled system, with a limited workforce and new hires beginning the difficult process of replacing the fired controllers. Those 11,000 lost employees were highly experienced with no available replacements. The economy was in recession, which reduced demands on ATC. This breathing space scared Congress into funding not only to rebuild the NAS but point it toward the future. Goodwill hugs were everywhere, and, eventually, the FAA squandered that to some extent.
From the 1981 rubble came the impetus to radically change how we navigate. It’s been a slow slog from ground-based navaids to satnav. GPS is nearly as important to aviation today as Bernoulli’s “So that’s how lift works” moment in the 18th century. Federal airways designed for DC-2s, might find a place in Smithsonian’s Air & Space museum, while GPS makes creative routing a reality.
Elsewhere, ATC radar service—including backups—improved. Simultaneous parallel approach operations funneled even more traffic into saturated airports. Weather radar, including NEXRAD, and wind shear detection improved throughout the 1990s. Still, pilots blundered into thunderstorms, and still they near-missed and occasionally collided, such as the 1986 Cherokee and DC-9 midair over Cerritos, CA. Again, from tragedy springs regulation, which increased use of Mode C and TCAS.
While progress was relatively swift after PATCO’s demise, the FAA slipped back into its labor-management ways, leading to the formation of NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association) in 1987, which must’ve had PATCO ghosts howling, “Told you so….”
ATC’s future is bright(ish). ADS-B is reality and will continue to revamp NAS and our places within it. And there, beneath the technological and procedural improvements, lies the ATC foundation first established when Archie League waved his flags in 1929. And as the propeller of ATC progress turns, we, inevitably come full circle.
The first enroute air traffic facility was run by the airlines in 1935. Today, the stench of ATC privatization—largely controlled by the airlines—is again in the air. Perhaps the prescient words of Edgar Gorrel, of the 1930s Air Transport Association, might augur our future: “Private flying is today a menace….” Time, once again, to decide if we’re the chicken or the egg about to be scrambled.
The author wishes to thank Mr. Ron Fandrick for his excellent website covering the history of ATC, rwf2000.com/atc, which simplified a lot of the research necessary for this article.
Paul Berge, CFII, is an IFR editor emeritus and author of Private Pilot Beginner’s Manual (for Sport Pilots, too). Additional information at paulberge.com.
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of IFR magazine.

When it's raining outside and the flying is done inside the hangar, it's nice to have something to read. AVweb is a great daily dose of news and opinion - subscribe at avweb.com or look for them on Facebook

Sunday, August 06, 2017

A Family Reunion

Used to be, family reunions were something to be counted on every year, same as summer, sweet tea and cold watermelon. We don't see that much anymore in many families - we're strung out so far and wide that it's hard to get everyone together - so it was really nice to meet the Osteen and Parks families at the Western North Carolina Air Museum with a special guest, an airplane they called "Jezebel".

Some of these "kids" (no matter their age today) played and rode in this old airplane during the time their fathers flew it - between 1956 and 2012. Count it ... that's 56 years' ownership. Of course they looked a little different then.
I got the story from Mrs. Osteen about how Jezzie got her name. It seems somebody asked her how she liked Burt's new airplane. "Airplane?" she replied. And it went from there. Burt Osteen loved that airplane - so much so that he spent a little too much time with it, in the opinion of some. You can take it from there. (Mrs. O and her children said when Burt was in his last days, he didn't talk about the business or about much other than the airplane and how much he wanted it to go to someone who would enjoy it as much as he did. What a wonderful story. I can't imagine how hard it was for them to sell it.)

We had a nice lunch together and the docents at the museum were terrific - showed everyone around and told stories about each airplane there. They even added a story: the Curtiss Robin in the museum is owned by the family of a fellow named Red Nichols who once owned Jezebel! He had a little airport at Black Mountain NC and gave flying lessons, maintained airplanes, and sold a few. Jezzie was one of the few.

All in all, a great day and an opportunity to honor two wonderful families. It was a great pleasure to meet them and to know that the ties that bind are alive and well and strong. Even with a Jezebel thrown in.

What a pleasure, too, to meet Steve Hawley from South Carolina, owner of a beautifully restored Interstate Cadet. This is a rare picture - there aren't all that many left flying.

Friday, July 14, 2017

They Called Her Jezebel

Airplanes and ships are most often referred to as women. There's no argument there. "She flies great" isn't unheard around hangars; "She's a fine boat" is often in marina language. There are all sorts of jokes about both. So it's no surprise that when a boat or an airplane commands more than its allotted share of attention, it (she) may garner more than one side comment bordering on green eyed disparagement. Thus, the allure of an insensate conglomeration of metal and fabric and dope (incomprehensible to all but, perhaps, golfers) , blended with lift and thrust to overcome drag and gravity can rightly be called bewitching and what better witch in all of history than Ahab's wife, Jezebel. 
Click on the pictures to make them larger
Jezzie was named when the Parks and Osteen families bought her in the mid 1950s. The western North Carolina mountains were perfect for "her". She was built in Wyoming where the elevation is over 6000 feet above sea level and the air is thin. The factory that built her had been rebuilding her older sisters (by different parentage) since the war years and learned that 90 horsepower was a real advantage in those conditions. 

As it happens over time, with useful employment a little sprucing up is in order:
"Jezebel" by John Liston Byram Shaw, 19th Century painter

The original paint scheme was replaced by a scheme more often found on Piper aircraft when the original fabric was replaced in 1966. When it came time 50 years later to re-do it again, I chose to go back with the original paint scheme and colors:
"Jezebel" at Marion NC in the 1970s as best I can tell
My CallAir in final assembly, Afton WY, 1952

Mr. Call, it is said, liked his airplanes yellow, trimmed in blue.

We'll see on August 5th whether the Osteen and Parks families like the results of Jezzie's makeover. They're coming from far and wide for a day trip to the Western North Carolina Air Museum and a reunion with their airplane.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The B F R, the BasicMed, Let's Go Flying!

Well, actually, the BasicMed thing came first. I'd been debating about whether or not I might use the additional privileges over those of a Sport Pilot and decided the option I'd be gaining would be speed and load carrying capability. Certainly worth the expected expense. My regular doctor took a look at the AOPA information for doctors and pilots and I was in and out in no time. Cost? A regular office visit coupled with my wellness visit (Medicare). Net 10 bucks. And now I can go faster and take Ma and the poodles to visit the grandkids (fat chance ... the dogs don't like to fly and, come to think of it, neither does Ma). Net, Net: I can dream faster. So be it.

By the way, I looked myself up on the FAA pilot database and my BasicMed month and year is listed there in place of my medical.

Now for the Biennial Flight Review. Up until 2009, I hadn't had a BFR in years. That was because I had regular simulator training at FlightSafety on the jets and that qualified as a BFR. In 2009, I trotted over to Jack Brown's seaplane base for a training session and a check ride for a seaplane rating and that qualified as well. Come 2011 and I began a regular series of Biennial Flight Reviews, first in my Beechcraft Bonanza, then the CallAir Cadet pre-restoration, then the Woody's Pusher, and today, again, in the Cadet, post-restoration. It was interesting in that I haven't had anyone else in the airplane with me for 4 years and I haven't flown it from the back seat in that amount of time, either. My instructor is a well-known aerobatics instructor and an airplane builder. He flew over in his very nifty RV-4 and after a reasonably reasonable flight check went home again with a few spots on his trousers, thankfully just from the latest oil leak (fittings for the oil pressure gauge). I hope Mrs. Jones has a sense of humor. I'm glad he does.

So we - the Cadet and I - are once again in the full flush of vim, vigor, and vitality (that oil leak was fixed this weekend), ready to ply the skies of America in search of hot dogs, barbecue and fine aviation people.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The CallAir Goes A-Flying !

When the weather is right and there's food in the offing, there is only one thing to do ... go flying!
There's no better place to call a destination than Pat Hartness' Triple Tree Airport at Woodruff SC ... last Saturday he and the Triple Tree volunteers threw a Fabric and Taildragger Fly-In Lunch (of course no one would be turned away) and I'd guess some 110-120 airplanes showed up with just as many people flying them and another couple of hundred passengers and drive-in enthusiasts. What a great spread and what nice people! I'm already looking forward to next month's  South Carolina Breakfast Club breakfast there...

The long range view across the runway of some of the airplanes. Click on the pic to make it bigger.
The CallAir Cadet is a great flying airplane - controls are beautifully coordinated and it flies straight and true after its restoration at Southern Aircraft Support in Zellwood, Fla. The factory information was a mimeographed sheet (maybe a carbon copy written up by Carl Petersen, CallAir's sales manager - I only have a scan of the original so I can't tell) that touted the virtues of the airplane. Among the selling points was the statement that the pilot could fly it with his feet on the floor - a rare attribute in a taildragger, but the actual airplane is very stable and seems to bear this out.
Birds of a feather ... thanx to Darwin for the picture
It's too bad the airplane didn't make it into production with CallAir. Only one example exists under the CallAir name and that is this airplane. I've gone over the history of the design in prior posts for your reading pleasure.

One drawback. The airplane was designed and built at a time when the average height and weight of a pilot was in the 5'8"/160 pound range. My longer legs and larger frame (I have "big bones") make for some entertaining contortions when I enter and leave the cockpit. It's sort of like watching the 16th clown get into and out of a little car, if you get my drift. Once in, all's well.

More comings and goings as we come and go. There's a gathering scheduled for August 5th for the prior owners - I hope they'll enjoy seeing their airplane again and will approve of the re-do.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The CallAir is home ! ! !

It's Official! The CallAir is home in North Carolina!

We rolled out for the first test flight on April 25th and found a rigging problem in the braking system, so the flight test was aborted after a short taxi and it was back in the hangar to fix. 

Wednesday, April 26th was the day! Good weather was forecast and observed all the way - even a tailwind! After a test flight, during which I stayed close overhead Bob White Airport, the airplane was checked over one last time and we set off for North Carolina.

The route was the reverse from our flight down in December 2012 and was planned for three stops - I don't push fuel limits and I wanted to check consumption as well as oil and airframe components. The stops were Lake City FL, Hazelhurst GA, Washington-Wilkes County (just a little north of my original planned stop at Thomson) GA, and home base of Transylvania Community Airport near Brevard NC. The bread crumbs in the picture above show a little westerly diversion to avoid military operating areas and a large temporary flight restriction over the Okeefenokee Swamp due to forest fires there.

Quite a change from the first time the airplane and I saw each other . . .

Now for some flying!

Friday, April 14, 2017

CallAir Engine Run

So close I can taste it.

The engine was run today after a pre-oiling. Prop looks a bit wonky owing to the shutter speed. There will be someone who wants one just like it so I'm taking orders.


Malcolm says there are no leaks and everything checks out. Fingers crossed, we may be ready to see if this thing will fly! I already know we (ok, just the airplane) lost a little weight from before we started - not much, but a little is good. 
One of a kind

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Almost ... Finished ...

Almost finished, just not quite ... we ran into a few issues on rollout that have to be corrected so I did a 180 and left Florida for North Carolina by car and will wait for the magicians to abra all their cadabras.

 Sure looks good
Thanks to Joe Dunn for the great pictures
Some things you want to get done, but rushing to a completion is no way to do it. The trip was not wasted - sometimes a fresh set of eyes can see new things, especially after working on a project for 3 1/2 years. The expectations were already high - now they are better defined and we'll have a magnificent airplane.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Drum Roll - The Finishing Touches on the CallAir

The clock began in October, 2013, on a restoration project to bring a one-of-a-kind airplane back to life.
It started with an orphan airplane that was originally going to be the first of a new production run of a proven design - the Interstate Cadet. There was ambition to go back in production after World War II, but the reality of the marketplace showed there was too much established competition from Cessna, Piper and others, so plans for production were shelved. The basic design did re-emerge in the 1970s for another market - the Alaska bush - under another owner and another name, the Arctic Tern.
Reuel and Barlow Call from "CallAir Affair" by Carl Peterson. Click on the pictures to make them larger.
Two men were particularly keen on the Cadet design: Reuel and Barlow Call, cousins from Afton, Wyoming. Local ranchers liked the high wing and rugged construction of the Cadets and their military cousins, the L-6s, that the CallAir factory rebuilt during the war years. 

While they liked the Cadet, the Calls had their own line of personal airplanes and initially bought the inventory of hard-to-get parts and supplies from Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Corp for production of their own designs. (The sale of inventory was separate from the type certificate, which had first gone to Max Harlow in July, 1945. The Calls bought the Cadet type certificate in July, 1950.)
Serial Number 1001 (pictured) was built up from Interstate parts in 1950, possibly before purchase of the type certificate. S/N 1001 is shown in FAA records as an Interstate, but it had a CallAir serial number. My airplane, serial number 1002, is recorded as a CallAir, built in 1952. The Calls reserved blocks of registration numbers and, curiously, the numbers assigned to 1001 and 1002 were reversed; 1001 given N2923V and 1002, N2922V.

A Cadet was built up as an Interstate in 1950 and was granted either an Experimental or Restricted Airworthiness Certificate. It was used as a demo for marketing. (It is rumored to have gone to Alaska. The FAA records show its airworthiness classification as "Unknown" and the registration revoked).
Serial Number 1002, shown in the final assembly building at Call Aircraft Company, Afton WY, 1952. Photo supplied by Major General Boyd Eddins, USAF (Retired), who worked at the CallAir plant as a teenager.

Cadet Serial Number 1002 was built with a more powerful engine for Reuel Call in September, 1952, as an experimental R&D and demo airplane with an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate. FAA airworthiness records show a statement of conformity with Type Certificate A-737 in November, 1952, and application for a Standard Airworthiness Certificate at the same time as a CallAir S-1A-90C, the only airplane so designated making this airplane one-of-a-kind. (The Airworthiness Certificate was renewed at annual inspection each following year but current FAA records show first issuance in 1956). 

The airplane was used as a trainer after being sold to a flying school in Atlanta in early 1954. Barlow Call flew the airplane from Afton to Atlanta to deliver it to Davis-Elder Aircraft Corp at the Fulton County Airport. Davis-Elder sold it to Nichols Flying Service at Black Mountain NC in 1955. After another sale in 1957, with the exception of a couple of short vacations in Florida, the airplane was at home with two families in the mountains of western NC. 

More to come. Reunions and homecomings. First, though, the finishing touches, inspections and test flights.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wandering around the web . . . .

Who among us doesn't occasionally put our brain in neutral and just set out to poke here and there in the World Wide Web? I used to call it my electric fireplace, where I'd sit for hours staring at lights in a box.

Me auld buddy Dave must have been an influence - he wrote accompaniments to his daily dish of newspaper funnies that led me to, among others things, the music of Al Bowlly (go to Pandora and search for his channel), and a virtual cabinet of curiosities so varied and entertaining that I'd spend hour upon hour chasing the tendrils of information attached to them.

His latest prod toward web surfing was a reference to an American fighter pilot (fighter and pilot) named Frank Glasgow Tinker, who flew in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. A friend of Hemingway, among others, his was an action-packed life that ended in an apparent suicide at the age of 29, a result of too much boozing and PTSD. Google him and read the several biographical sketches. 
The Polikarpov I-16 "Mosca" flown by Tinker and used by him to shoot down the first ME-109b ever lost in combat

How I came up on the next subject was a diversion during a search for Frank Tinker's articles in The Saturday Evening Post. The first "GPS" addressed a need that still exists today, albeit without the modern conveniences of roads and road signs (and actual GPS). One was sold at a Skinner auction a few years back. I've never seen one.

The web snags time and wrings the life out of it. Beware.