Here’s one for Peter, the Bayou Rennaisance Man

I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s “Wings” series. Now that he’s laid up a bit, here’s a alternative “Wings” but not up to Peter’s quality.

Here’s to you, Peter. A nice video of a R/C model SR71 in flight.


Here’s one for Peter, the Bayou Rennaisance Man

I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s “Wings” series. Now that he’s laid up a bit, here’s a alternative “Wings” but not up to Peter’s quality.

Here’s to you, Peter. A nice video of a R/C model SR71 in flight.


Spring!

Today arrived with mild temps in the 60s, light overcast and a slight southernly breeze. Perfect flying weather. I didn’t have any plans today, so I grabbed my aviation band scanner and headed out to the local airplane patch, Lees Summit Airport.

Lees Summit is an uncontrolled airport with two concrete runways, one North/South, runways 18 and 36 for pilots and a second Northeast/Southwest (I don’t remember its compass bearings). There is a small flight school at the airport along with numerous closed and T-hangers.

A T-hanger is basically a roof open on both sides. Aircraft can be parked under-cover nose out with the tails interlaced with the aircraft hangared on the other side. The hanger space for each aircraft is shaped like a “T”, hence the name, T-hanger.

There are a number of home built planes based at Lees Summit as well as an active EAA chapter. I haven’t flown for a couple of years. I’ve let my physical expire. I can always rent a plane and an instructor for an hour if the itch get too bad and do some touch ‘n goes. That would run me around $150 for an hour. Today, I just parked next to the T-hangers facing the active runway and watched.

There was a nice Piper Tri-Pacer on the transient ramp.

It had been flown in and was on display with a for-sale sign in the cockpit. I lusted after it for a few moments until sanity resumed. Next to the Tri-pacer was a Glassair, a fiber-glass, composite kit plane. Glassaires are slick, fast and handle well. A bit cramped for me, but roomy for most folks.

The Lees Summit runways had been extended a few years ago in anticipation of more business aircraft traffic. Cessna Citations land frequently as do some of the smaller Learjets. I’ve not seen any Gulfstreams on the ramp. Most of the business aircraft traffic seems to be King Airs and similar turbo-props. Last year, the local EAA chapter invited one of the last flying B17s in for a fly-in.

A ham radio friend of mine was a B-17 copilot and later pilot during WW2. His area of service was the south Pacific. He later transitioned to B-29s. He came out to see the B-17 but didn’t go inside. I don’t think he was up to that. He had his 82th birthday and is a bit stiff.

Today, the traffic was mainly Cessna 152s, 172s along with a couple of Piper Cherokees. I think I’ll start to stash some $$ away and go up for an hour or so this coming summer when it’s not too hot and the cross winds gentle. Maybe a flight for a $150 hamburger at a place I know.

Cessna says "Grow a pair!"

Apparently, Cessna is not in favor of the recent Porkulous package just signed by BO.

An afternoon in a Cub


I had a friend who hangared a Piper Cruiser at the Gardner Kansas Municipal Airport (K34). This was a later edition of the Piper Cub series of short wing Piper aircraft. If I remember correctly, this particular airplane was built in 1946 making it a year older than me.

As was my habit a decade or so ago, I spent much of my Saturdays at that airport. The FBO owner, Charlie Craig, was my CFII, and I had a number of friends who had airplanes based there who would allow me to get some hours in their planes for an afternoon in exchange for some sweat equity. One of my friends, Otho Davis owned a 90hp Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser.

Otho needed some help replacing a tire. It had a troublesome leak and Otho finally got tired of pumping it up once a week and bought a new one. We spent the morning replacing the tire and finished around 1PM. It was hot that day. Since we had replaced the tire, we needed to “test” it so we decided to fly down and have a $50 BBQ sandwich at Brownie’s BBQ. The sandwich was known by how much it cost in fuel, aircraft upkeep to fly to a place. After tacking on the overhead, the cost of a sandwich could run from $25 to $100.

Brownie’s was located at an airport about 75 miles away and was situated to allow planes to taxi up to the BBQ and park. Brownie had tie-downs ready and it wasn’t unusual to find several planes parked at Brownies on any given weekend. The BBQ wasn’t really all that good, but that wasn’t the point. It gave us an excuse for a flight.

Our usual pattern was for one of us to be the PIC, pilot-in-command, on the way down and the other on the way back. This day, I won the toss and would fly down. Otho would fly back.

I topped off the two 18-gallon wing tanks, split the cost with Otho, went through the short pre-flight, and we taxied to the grass runway 19 for takeoff. Runway 19 was the longest grass strip at Gardner a little over 3000′ in length. There was a house a few hundred feet past the end of the runway. The homeowner ignored the fact that he would be in the airport flight path when he built the house, but that didn’t stop him from complaining about the noise.

It was hot and sunny that afternoon. The usual low-level jet coming up from Wichita was in full bloom starting at 3000′. Since we were flying VFR, I planned to fly down I-35 to Ottawa, KS, then would head east towards Brownie’s place.

We had been in the air around fifteen minutes, just watching for air traffic but not paying much attention to our ground speed. It occurred to me that we had been approaching the same little town for quite some time. I-35 stretched out before me and cars on that highway were PASSING ME! I watched another car on the highway come up from our rear, drive below us and continue to pass along towards the horizon. The warm air had worked on Otho and he was dozing and hadn’t been watching our progress either.

I did some guesstimates and estimated our ground speed somewhere below 15 to 20 knots. For all practical purposes, we were at a standstill. It would take all afternoon to reach Brownie’s place unless we hedge-hopped all the way. I roused Otho and we finally decided it wasn’t worth the time and fuel to buck the headwind that day and headed back to Gardner.

I made some touch ‘n goes to fill out the hour and that finished our flying that day. It was a good lesson on the effects of the low-level jets that occur frequently across Kansas. The speed of that jet, the air current above 3000’, almost equaled the top speed of the aircraft. On another day, I saw a Piper Cub hang motionless over the airport—caught in the grip of the headwind—flying, but making no forward progress.

It was a good day flying. The air was warm but not hot at our altitude and quite comfortable. We did make it to Brownie’s but we drove there.

Drool

I took the photo of this mini-Cub kit plane last summer when it was on display at an EAA fly-in. I talked with the owner/builder and it’s a nice 2-place little plane, 65hp engine, turbo ram-air generator, dual powered electronics, steerable tail-wheel. I could buy in as a 1/3 partner for only $10,000.

I was making my usual rounds yesterday and dropped by the airport just to see what all everyone was doing in the 70 degree sunshine. Lo and behold! What did I see but a little mini-cub sitting on the ramp. I saw my friend in the FBO and the offer is still open.

I don’t think my wife would appreciate that. She’s not a small plane fan.


I’m in love!

105th Anniversary of Wright Bros. first powered flight


Everyone seems to be writing about the anniversary of Orville and Wilbur’s touch ‘n go around the pasture today. I thought I’d write about something a wee bit different.

Like many, I went into the Air Force hoping to fly. That ended when my eyes were found to be 20/80. The minimum at that time was 20/30. That was 1969 as I remember. I never got rated, but was able to do some interesting stuff.

Now, scroll forward a couple of decades. The urge to fly has never left and I woke up one day realizing that if that dream was to happen, further waiting wasn’t helping. I toured a number of flight schools around the area and most of the CFIs were kids about twenty years younger that me and more interested in gaining flight hours than helping someone learn to fly.

On the south-west side of the Kansas City metroplex is the former Olathe Naval Air Station, since renamed as the New Century Air Center. The Olathe NAS was created during WW2 and had a number of satellite strips around the area. One was later called Gardner Municipal Airport (K34). The airport had two grass strips and one 32′ asphalt strip. On final, that asphalt strip looked like a pencil line on green paper. I hated landing on it with a strong cross-wind.

The operator of the FBO at Gardner was Charlie Craig. He, his wife Ellen, their son, daughter, grandson and Rudder the Airport Cat, ran the place. All were pilots and CFIs although Ellen and their daughter no longer gave lessons. The two ladies shared running the FBO while the men gave flight lessons. Charlie was the only “full time” instructor. He was my CFI and was 83 at the time, had over 30,000 flight hours staring before WW2. His son was an ATP pilot, first for Braniff and later for American. The grandson was a Johnson County Deputy Sheriff and made frequent flights delivering or picking up prisoners. The whole operation was a family affair and they treated all pilots, students, and hangers-on as family.

Charlie and Ellen are gone now. Ellen took a nap one Sunday afternoon and didn’t wake up. Charlie and his daughter ran the FBO for a couple of more years, but their hearts weren’t in it and they sold the FBO to another CFI who was looking for a base of his flight school. Charlie followed Ellen not long after that. He and Ellen were together for over 60 years, never very far apart even during WW2. Charlie was a primary flight instructor for the Navy and Ellen was a ferry pilot based at the same location.

When Charlie reached his 30,000th flight hour as Pilot-In-Command, the local FAA office presented him a plaque and a certificate signed by then President Bill Clinton. Everyone was invited to the party. When the certificate was later mounted on the wall, Bill Clinton’s name was covered.

I miss them both. I shared a number of BLT lunches with them when I arrived around lunchtime. Ellen reminded me so much of my mother and grandmother. She adopted everyone who came through the door. Charlie was a perfect gentleman. I rarely saw him lose his temper and never with his students nor with Ellen or Loetta, his daughter. When Charlie stopped giving flight lessons, he had soloed over 10,000 students.