Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Mowing Crew Expands

In an effort to ramp up for this year’s mowing season, we have been working all winter to develop individuals with the appropriate skills.  Around here such people are hard to come by so moving the effort in house was necessary.  Now though, the work has paid off and we are glad to announce the addition of another greens keeper and the expected addition of several more in the following weeks.

Able to pass a drug test and score 90% on current day high school final exams, this guy has offered to work for food and basic health care.  He is committed to his job, has no interest in unions, and is even willing to do his labor around the clock.  Yes, we are lucky to have found him and look forward to bringing more of his family members into the working class soon.

Great News - Rare Airplanes Grounded

Does anyone know what the Vintage Aircraft Association is about?  Why does it exist?  I'm not being snarky, I'm serious.
Today, while reading an article in the latest Vintage Magazine about a Buhl Airsedan, I found something that is getting to be all too familiar; the celebration of the permanent grounding of vintage aircraft.  Sure, some of you will read that article and wonder where was the celebration but you should understand that making it to print means one of three qualifications has been met; it is worthy of celebrating, it notes a loss or disaster, or it is news.  Since nowhere in the article did anyone lament the loss of another flying aircraft or the airworthy parts contained within, and it wasn't written in the form or language reserved for mere news, then it was for all practical purposes a celebration of the restoration and where it was to end up.  This is bothersome.
Yes, it is possible the problem is with my perception of Vintage.  For as long as I can remember, I thought Vintage was about rescuing, restoring, and flying vintage airplanes and promoting the same to future generations.  Yet, the culmination of the article about the Buhl told a different story.  This piece was about a family who found two rare flying machines, bought them, restored one, flew them a little, got a few moments of glory at Oshkosh, and then took them home to "retire" (park permanently) both machines in a monument to their family
These stories are always the same.  Family claims to love flying and to have always had the passion, proclaim their interest in bringing back of piece of history to flying condition, then everything they say and do after that defies all that preceded.  In fact, the last two paragraphs read as though these people had rarely ever laid eyes on anything outside of commercial aviation and that the Airsedan restoration was nothing more than a whim.
So is there a problem with that?  Nope, not at all.  People can do whatever they want with their aircraft.  The issue at hand is the willingness of our flying publications to publish articles with such obvious inconsistencies and to make these people out as heroes.  This brings me back to my question; what is Vintage about?
If it is about parking vintage airplanes in monuments to ourselves, then this article is right at home.  Yet, if Vintage is about rescuing, rebuilding, and flying old planes and promoting the same to new and future generations, then this article has no place is this publication.  Furthermore, "Vintage" management should make sure that anything which celebrates the unnecessary parking of a vintage airplane is never printed in Vintage again.

Oh wait, I forgot a very important point.  On page one of the same issue, Vintage President Geoff Robison was lamenting the decline in Vintage membership.  Now ask yourself, "how exactly does a group that is losing members come to the conclusion it would be a great idea to make heroes of people who are grounding vintage aircraft"?  It's a head-scratcher.

Planes - Coming to Theaters - Are You Excited?

Next in line for aviators starving for anything related to flying is “Planes”, the movie.  “Planes” is an offshoot of the animated movie “Cars” which many of you may have seen.   Produced by Pixar, the original four wheeled animated movie did quite well.  Its sequel though took on the more typical Hollywood slant and a third has been hard to get rolling.  As for the upcoming movie “Planes”, it is important to note that Pixar, now owned by Disney, is the high quality, high budget, theatre quality side of Disney.  Unfortunately, Disney Toon Studios, the JV team of Disney’s animated productions, is producing “Planes”.
If haven’t heard of Disney Toon Studios, it’s because this team typically produces the half-witted straight to DVD sub-sequel films geared to people with simple minds and lower standards; translation, kids and pilots.  Originally intended to be a straight to DVD animation released in 2012, it has now been moved to 2013 and is receiving a face lift of new actors (voices).  All this is being done because it is to be released in theatres. 
Is this good?  Who knows?  It appears Disney is testing the waters with “Planes” to see how far they can take the animated machinery angle.  Already in the works is Planes 2, with other possibilities such as “Trains” being discussed.
So, is this aviation based offshoot something to get worked up over?  It’s hard to say.  Look at every poster image that is available and there are many subtle and not so subtle aviation messages hidden throughout.  In one poster alone I counted over ten aviation symbols or aircraft in the clouds alone.  Unfortunately, there are also many hidden Hollywood messages.  The most glaring example is the main character.
The studio has no qualms about creating a cute little talking crop-duster, named “Dusty”, which will appeal to kids and thus bring in revenue.  Yet while making money off the story of another underdog, they also randomly placed the symbol of poison (skull and cross-bones) on his cowling as nose-art.  This no doubt was a calculated nod and wink to their enviro-friends  intended to keep them off their backs while the creators make money from the animation.  Then, most likely when things are said and done, some of the bottom line will be fed, through donations, into those groups who are vehemently anti-crop-dusting and aviation.
Note the nose art.
So, what are you to do?  If you are among the large group of pilots who see anything with airplanes in it as a great film, then by all means go get your jollies.  I’m sure you’ll find this animated flick “incredible”, “likely to attract student pilots”, and possibly even “worthy of an Oscar”.  On the other hand, if you are the least bit discriminating, my guess is that you would be much happier spending the 40 dollars to crop-dust your area with several gallons worth of avgas exhaust.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

There's a Mosquito Buzzing Around

Through the years, Jerry Yagen has built himself one heck of an impressive collection of aircraft.  So impressive in fact, that anyone in aviation who hasn't heard of The Fighter Factory hasn't been paying attention.  If you ever find yourself in the Virginia Beach area, you have to visit.  Myself I've been to the Military Aviation Museum and it was incredible.
One thing I find particularly interesting about Mr. Yagen is his desire to put things into the air that others find impossible or daunting.  A hangar full of P-51's is not this guy's desire; his interests in aviation and warbirds seem to broad and educated for that. Nope, instead he seems to go for the planes that should be put back in the air, not necessarily the ones that are trendy.  Because of this, his collection is widely varied. It is also for this reason he now lays claim to the world's only flying Mosquito.
Surely you've heard of this restoration.  If not, again you really should be paying closer attention.  Easily one of the most incredible efforts ever put into the rescue of an airplane, you can't look anywhere without seeing the results.  Each day brings new photos and video that show why so many old timers considered it one of the most beautiful aircraft ever to fly.
Photoshopped or real?  Do you know and can you back it up?
During the past decade, I have been fortunate enough to exchange the occasional message with Mr. Yagen and he has always gone out of his way to answer any questions or small requests I had.  When I first visited his museum it was for all practical purposes closed.  Yet, instead of telling me to come back, he told me where to knock and who to talk to, and because of that a friend and I had the museum to ourselves.  Then there was the time I sent him a photo so that he would know people at Oshkosh were actually lying on his newly restored Rapide.  His answer was hilarious but it was also telling.  The impression I got was that the plane was there for the public to see and nothing could be done to it that couldn't be fixed.  And then there was the response to an email I recently sent him about tours of his museum and another of his aircraft in the restoration pipeline.  He kindly answered the questions then offered up a video that I have included at the bottom of this page.  I suggest you watch it.
If you've never seen color footage of a Mosquito in flight, this will get your juices flowing.  Contained in the ten plus minutes of video are scenes from the ground, inside the cockpit, and an air to air mission that reveals the de Havilland in its element.  If you don't find the machine beautiful, something is wrong with you and you should consider handing in your wings.
Finally, if you ever get the chance to meet Jerry Yagen, be sure to thank him for putting this plane back in the air.  It is easily one of aviation's greatest treasures.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Visit to The Tri-State Warbird Museum

The cockpit is perfect in every detail.
Ginger and I recently found ourselves within a few miles of The Tri-State Warbird Museum and couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit.  Although we'd like to make it there more often, it seems to be about every other year or so we do.  Fortunately, there is a benefit to so much time in between; the noticeable evidence of progress being made.
Progress takes many different forms.  Sometimes it is a step forward, other times it's a leap, and in the case of the museum's P-40, a few steps in the right direction after one big setback.

A little over a year ago the P-40 was out on a flight near its home base airport of Batavia when something bad went wrong.  After all was said and done the pilot's skill brought the plane home, and although nobody was hurt, the plane was damaged.  Looking at the powerplant case sitting in the hangar, it is obvious things could have been much worse.  Myself, I've never seen so many holes in a crankcase.  I could go into details but let's just accept the fact that when your oil cooler comes apart and pukes out all the oil, your engine is not going to enjoy what happens next.

Notice the different color tips on the bullets.
Presently the P-40 sits in the hangar undergoing repairs and improvements.  Although it was already one of, if not the most original restoration of a P-40, it will come out better than before.  If you get a chance to visit, be sure to check out the guns and wing ammo boxes plus the bomb release mechanisms they reproduced from scratch.  They are doing great work.

While there, you should also check out their FW-190 and the Corsair project.  Sitting at different stages of rebuild, they offer great insight into the construction of these magnificent machines.

A Great Card from Lyons Studio

Christmas cards, holiday cards, and new year cards are something everyone likes to receive.  If you're a normal person the cards that arrive in your mailbox typically have traditional symbols of the season on the outside and great messages of love and joy inside.  Yet, if most of your friends are somehow involved in aviation, the cards are often very unique on the outside and filled with optimistic messages of good flying seasons to come.  Of course, many also have sympathetic messages for the shared disease of aviation.  The rest of them are inherently unique to anyone with a passion for life.
Some of you may recognize this hangar.
Some of these cards have planes on final to snow covered runways, others show Santa Claus preparing a Cub for a flight around the world, and one we get every year that we always look forward to has an amazing piece of unique artwork on its face.  The later one is from Lyons Studio.
Many years have passed since we started receiving these cards from Sam and Mindy Lyons and each year we look forward to the surprise of what will be on it.  Typically created from a painting of Sam's, they are modified to represent the spirit of the holidays.  Some of the artwork they use may have been seen before, and others, like this year's choice, are a take on a painting that was done for a customer yet not sold publicly.  And yet, although never sold publicly, Ginger and I had both seen this one before.
The origins of this painting involve one of the fly-ins held here at Lee Bottom.  After having another great time at the event, our friend Glenn Frith was inspired to talk to Sam and Mindy Lyons who were also on hand.  Soon, as Glenn put it, all his favorite things were in Sam's notes and a deal was struck for a one of a kind painting.
Among the items Glenn wanted in the work were his daughter, his dog, his Super Cub, a C3B Stearman, and his favorite airport, Lee Bottom.  Today, the original product hangs at Glenn's place in a location where he sees it every day, much of the painting he commissioned many years ago has taken a new life as a limited edition holiday card from Lyons Studio, and Lee Bottom has made another appearance on the scene of aviation.
To all our friends, thanks for the cards.  They are fun to receive.  We hope you had a great 2012 and that you have an even better 2013.