Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Award Winning Production - Jet Pilot

Ever so often, a small morsel of observational magic comes along to put a smile on your face. That’s what happened today when I clicked on this link sent from a friend. You know, those Kiwis are really starting to grow on me. Does anyone know if there’s an old plane anywhere “over there” I could fly on a semi-regular basis?
If you find this video funny, you’re normal. If you don’t, well it doesn’t matter because none of us will spend any time with you anyway.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Sexy Beast Returns to the Air

The Lairds built some awesome flying machines. The latest one to go airborne after restoration is no different. Damn this thing is sexy. Woo hoo what a hot little number!
Known as a 1936 Laird LCR(W)-300 Speedwing, this machine was actually in the factory in 1929 but it wasn’t finished. That’s the short version of how it came to be a 1936. Walter Bowe acquired it not too long ago and made quick work of getting her in the air.
Walter says he hopes to bring this amazing bird to the Midwest this year so let’s all pray he accomplishes his goal. I know I’d love to see it.
Here’s a link to Aerofiles where you can find a little more information on this airplane. If you’ve never been to this website, learn to read their system of aircraft information. You’ll want to return there in the future.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Drones Drawing Fire

I have a secret. A few weeks ago I wrote about something I felt EAA and AOPA are doing right. It’s true. I wanted to remind people that they have petitioned the FAA to remove the medical requirement (with some restrictions) from the basic pilot license and that each and every pilot should get online and add their names to it.
Admittedly, it was hard to discuss this petition without suggesting the medical requirement removal should have been accomplished decades ago. Yet, since we now have some historical data from the Sport Pilot program to support this petition, I felt it was best to focus on the positive. Let’s get this done.
What did I do with this post? Well, I posted it, edited it, re-edited it, added some upbeat photos, and scheduled it for publishing. Then a new subject came on scene; drones.
Despite AOPA’s claims of having the brightest minds lobbying for aviation and EAA’s claims of a strategic role in the overall lobby for aviation advancement, I have to wonder where they’ve been on this. Yeah sure, AOPA has produced a few eBriefs with discussions of the subject but where are they on this issue? Do you think they’re on top of it?
I have something else to admit; when the FAA decided to allow expanded drone use over the USA, I quietly wondered how long it would be until the first person shot one down. Then with great relief, I began to see I wasn’t the only person thinking this. First, Charles Krauthammer made his now famous quote that the “first American to shoot down a domestic spy drone will become a folk hero”. Then others began to say the same thing. Clearly, no person who understands liberty believes drones over their home is a good idea. Do you see where I am going with this? Neither AOPA or EAA does.
Drones over our homes are a triple whammy for aviators. Sure, EAA and AOPA have both paid lip service to the notion of liberty and airspace issues. What they haven’t covered though is the third issue; the physical threat from the ground posed to aircraft.
How do drones put aircraft and pilots in danger? Well, how many non-aviators do you know that can look to the sky and tell the difference between aircraft types? For that matter, how many pilots can do so? Now ask yourself how capable the average citizen is of judging the height of a flying machine? Now are you starting to see where I’m going with this?
How long will it be before every drone in the air is associated with every plane in the sky? This is potentially the worst PR disaster for aviation to ever come down the road and yet EAA and AOPA are content complaining about airspace. Although it hasn’t happened yet, ask yourself how long it will take for people to start associating every over-flight of their home with an invasion of privacy; how long until someone takes that shot?
Certainly, I hope I am wrong but this already occasionally happens without the issue of drones to stir it up. I also hope that AOPA and EAA are fighting the good fight. Unfortunately, knowing EAA’s admittedly cozy relationship with the FAA and the fact that Craig Fuller was (is) fully entrenched in the political establish during the Bush years when they accelerated the trend of government taking every liberty it could in the name of security, I know they are not. A false friend is far more dangerous than an enemy. At least you know where you stand with the enemy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

There's Much to Read and See in This One

This NORDO News is a "thick" one.  Inside there is information about our events, videos of aircraft, editorials about aviation, and more.  If you read something you like, something you don't like, or you see something of interest, please pass it along to your like minded friends.  Each post has its own share option if you want to forward a specific piece.  Otherwise, to send the entire NORDO News block, just forward it to a friend using your email.

Important News About Lee Bottom Events

As most of you know by now, a tornado left Lee Bottom Flying Field with some pretty substantial damage back in March. Here’s an update on how things are going.
Since the tornado, we worked to have an obstructionist health department official removed, Ginger caught Lyme Disease, and we’ve both had the flu for a full week each. Due to these obstacles, we ended up at the end of contractor schedules. Eventually we worked with one for several weeks until his estimate magically doubled overnight when it appeared to him we were committed.
Beyond the house, the cabin is damaged, the shop is gone, and the planes are stuck in the hangar due to damaged doors. All of our equipment is either gone or damaged and two of our cars were destroyed. Those are the highlights.
OK, so now to the question everyone keeps asking us; what about Sinful Sundays and The Wood, Fabric, and Tailwheels Fly-In?
Well, we’ve certainly handled our share of disasters over the years but this one has thoroughly beaten us up; physically, mentally, and financially. Holding all these events in 2012, as successful and popular as they may be, is simply impossible for us to do. Therefore, all events this year, with one exception, have been cancelled. What’s the exception? The fly-in will be replaced with an all-out fly-in fundraiser for the airport. Details on this event will be coming soon in another NORDO News so keep an eye out for it.
Like you, we truly love Sinful Sundays and although they’re painful to cancel we just couldn’t figure out a good way to host them with all the damage. We hope you’ll come back when they do. And as for the fly-in, it’s no secret that it is our flagship that's recognized around the world. This makes it really tough to cancel but as noted, it will be replaced with a fundraiser fly-in. Held every year since 1996, these events proved that aviators are hungry for real aviation and we’re proud of our record.
So again, here’s the story on events at Lee Bottom this year:
•  All Sinful Sundays are cancelled
• The fly-in is cancelled and will be replaced with a fly-in fundraiser on the same weekend.
Look for details on the fundraiser in an upcoming NORDO News. The funds raised at this event will determine our course for the future.

Note:  The runway was gone over for a full week by many different groups checking it for fod.  It has been open and in use ever since.  The picnic tables are still here and the restroom is open.  If you fly in and don't see us we are likely somewhere working on one of the little projects left by the storm.

Here's the link to the full story of the tornado.

Fairey Firefly Gear Collapse

Photo by Chris Moore
This weekend at The Wings Over Gillespie Airshow, the only operating Fairey Firefly in the US suffered a gear collapse on landing. To the typical airshow attendee this may look like a disaster. The same person may also fall prey to the notion that operating airplanes like this places them in unreasonable danger and therefore maybe they shouldn't be flown. Myself, I think we should fly and rebuild them until the very last one is no more.
Already today, a large and growing segment of aviation doesn’t even know their history or care if these old birds live or die. Society at large places no value on them and in fact a growing segment of that population despises the idea that some person of wealth could have the freedom to fly such an exotic aircraft. Meanwhile, some of our most prestigious museums strive to ground them forever, our government fears citizens who own them, and aviation’s best weapon is a few lobbying groups that always seem to fall on the side of politics vs. reason. What are we to do?
I’ll tell you what we do. We fight tooth and nail to keep these old girls flying; we support the people who spend their money to do so, and we enjoy every moment we have with them. We push for the easing of restrictions on aviation; we tell the people in DC to shove it up their collective rear end; we quit rolling over for the FAA and TSA; we put heat on the rule makers and bureaucrats until they walk down alleys looking over their shoulders, and we never ever quietly assume our alphabet groups are actually working in our best interests.
Here’s to you Captain Eddie and everyone else who keeps these old crates flying. If it weren’t for you a lot of people wouldn’t know the glory of these great machines. Our numbers may be dwindling but those of us who are left are willing to fight to help you keep them alive.
If you want to learn more about the Firefly, click here to see Captain Eddie’s website.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Montana Auction and Cleveland Results

Before we get to the Montana Auction, let's talk about the outcome of the Cleveland Auction.  I'm sure you heard about it.  There was a little bit of everything up for bid at that one.  Everything from a Spartan Executive, to a Gee Bee replica, to a Champ and everything in between.
The outcome of this auction was interesting.  As usual, most things went high.  Yet, unlike auctions of past, the planes at this event did not go for the crazy, ego driven, I'll pay twice going market just to prove I can, prices of yesterday.  Nope, this time they only went for "auction high".
A 65 Champ went for $24,000.  The Champ was not in exquisite shape and restored to original condition, so this was anywhere from 2-6 grand high by current going prices.  One fully restored can go this high and higher but it is rare in today's market.
An RV-8 went for something in the range of $80-90 with out of date avionics and an older engine so this was high.
There was an Extra that sold for two-o-five. That's all I have to say about that.
That was an S1S Pitts that went for $38,000.  This was off the charts high unless it was built by Curtis himself, had been flown by Betty Skelton, owne by Bob Hoover, and flown on the Space Shuttle.
An Aerostar went for $80,000.
I am told the Spartan Executive went for $325,000.  If it had been completely restored, and I mean completely, including the upgraded gear of which only five to my knowledge have, then this was either a little high or close to market.
A Ryan "STA" sold for $83,000 to a guy in Missouri who is a friend of Sam Graves.  I mention Sam Graves because that seems to be the thing to do in aviation today.  This price was cheap a few years ago but now it is likely a little high when you consider that old planes no longer have the investment value they once did.  Furthermore, this is either an STA converted to a Ranger engine or it is a very extensive redo of a PT-22 with a Ranger.  In either case, it isn't a pristine STA.  If the person buying this thought they were buying it low, I hope they aren't staking their retirement on it.
A Cabin Waco sold for $155,000.  I can't remember the exact model cabin but this one likely went high because of a recent trend in the vintage world.  What's the trend?  Well, Cabin Wacos are the trend.  Suddenly everybody wants one.  My best guess is that this is the logical trend that matches that of auto sales.  As the aviation group gets older, the slower open cockpit sports car airplanes fall out of favor for faster more comfortable models.  We're pretty much in the middle of this trend so expect some of them to sell high for the next two to three years before everyone realizes they are nothing more than enclosed old airplanes that still require a certain type owner.  If you want one and can wait, in 5-7 years you'll find these for sale at better prices.
The Taperwing Waco sold for $140,000.  Although this is much lower than they sold for five to eight years ago, it is a little on the high side of today's market.  As I mentioned earlier, these planes require a special kind of owner that is rapidly disappearing from the world and I wouldn't expect them to go up in value until America rediscovers its passion for freedom.
A Howard went for $160,000.  This one is beyond belief.  I don't know what parts of this plane were molded from solid gold and encrusted with jewels but wow; someone really liked this airplane.  I have seen good flyers sell in the past few years for 85-90.  I like Howards but wow, someone really wanted this plane.  Maybe there was a secret stash of cash in the headliner?  All joking aside, this price likely has something to do with another trend in vintage aircraft; speed.  The slower vintage birds are going down and those that are fast (er) are doing a better job of holding their values.  On top of that, the Howard also benefits from another trend in vintage aviation; a move away from vintage aircraft with engines that suffer from parts availability.  Combine the characteristics, enclosed, fast, and maintainable engine and you have a recipe for a member of vintage aviation's newest demographic group to overpay for an aircraft that exists in relatively large numbers.
A Gee Bee Y replica sold for $95,000.  It is my understanding the guy who bought this was from Ohio, owns a Corsair, is looking for a Mustang, had attempted to buy this replica before, and there was no way he was going home without it.  If you are the guy who bought this plane, please find a reputable vintage aircraft restoration shop, then get them to restore it and fix the landing gear before you try to fly it.  From what I've heard from several sources, the gear has serious alignment issues.  You don't want to fly it that way.
Now for the Montana Auction.
It's rare for me to see an airplane up for auction that I would love to own.  Yeah sure there are lots of exotics out there that come up for auction that we'd all love to hangar but I'm talking about a plane that is simple to operate and could be a ton of fun at sunrise or sunset.  Oh how I would love to rescue this little bird, give it a nice new cover in the exact same colors, then fly it around the countryside.
Unfortunately for me, the timing is bad on this one.  Therefore maybe one of you, who would love her the same as I, could go out there, take her home, and give her a great new life.  If you do, all I ask is that you let me take the old girl around the pattern once or twice.
What plane am I talking about?  Look below for the wonderful old flying machine in red wine and yellow colors.

Montana Auction

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's All Your Fault - Part 1

Without core beliefs, your opinions can sway. Opinions that sway, are easily pushed over. Push overs have no place in our aviation groups. Unfortunately, that’s all we have.
With each passing day, I wonder whose side they’re on. You know what I’m talking about. Alphabet groups that constantly sell us out and answer our questions with condescension. Is it really that hard to find one person with some decent management experience who really is on the side of aviation? Is it? I’m not being flippant. I’m serious. How damn hard can it be for one true aviator to make to the head of either of our groups?
Don’t get me wrong. I am glad, for example, that Craig Fuller has found aviation with the purchase of a Husky. It’s great to see he has spread his wings to search for the joys of flying that so many of us have known for decades. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if that Husky isn’t like the President’s dog. Rolled out, photographed, and written about extensively, it often feels more like a way to make him seem more, um, pilot-like.
This is aviation leadership’s latest angle. Show the chief executive flying a plane he or she owns (or restored) to prove he’s one of us. But you know what? I can’t ever remember one pilot who is “one of us” having to prove they were. If they were, we knew it. Yet, I also believe people can change and until recently I held out hope for them.
Then came an AOPA eBrief I just couldn’t believe. The date was May 16th.
Inside the virtual brief was a nice little introduction to a larger article as to how TFR violations hamper efforts to ease TFR’s.. If you actually click on the link in these ebriefs, you’ll be amazed at how much more there is to every story. That’s what I did and there I found a nicely painted picture.
What was it? Here is the paragraph:
“AOPA has joined an unprecedented dialogue, a cross section of aviation groups sitting at the table with representatives of a host of government agencies, from the FAA to NORAD and the U.S. Secret Service. GA groups hope to ease the size, if not the number, of TFRs, a difficult argument to make when so many careless pilots wander into exclusion zones created to protect the president and other VIPs.”
I hope you read that paragraph because I would like to close out part one with the poll below.

Fort Fest 2012

If you are within a hop of Ft. Parker, Texas, you should fly on over to Ft. Parker Flying Field tomorrow. Fort Fest 2012 is going on this June 2nd and it looks like it could be a lot of fun for pilots and music lovers alike.
Fort Parker is a historic site with a background story that will be recognized by many who never knew where it originated. You can read it by clicking here.
Next door to Fort Parker is Fort Parker Flying Field. Our friend Jed Keck has built himself an airport there where he welcomes vintage aviation openly.
Fort Fest 2012 will offer the best of both places. If you can drive or fly, stop in tomorrow for the event. Jed is just getting his airport up to speed and I’m sure he’d love to see some nice old aircraft arrive to help him enjoy the fuits of his efforts.