Friday, May 31, 2013

Another Old Plane Flies - Will Be at Vintage Days

A while back we discussed some interesting vintage aircraft that were close to flying. One of those planes subsequently flew a few weeks back and today another, the OX-5 Waco 10 belonging to the Chandler Field Museum, took to the air once again.  Leaving out early in the day, when temps were cool and winds likely to be light, Clay Hammond flew it from its final point of flight prep, Brookbridge Airpark, to Peach State Aerodrome.  There it will remain for display in the museum, occasional flights, and viewing at events such tomorrow’s fly-in.
There's Clay after the flight.
Tomorrow’s event at Peach State Aerodrome is the annual Vintage Day Fly-In.  If you are in the area, hop on over.  It’s sure to be fun.  Plus, you might get to see the OX-5 Waco 10 fly.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bearhawk to Alaska – Part 1

Several years back, Ginger and I were tasked with flying the Avipro company demonstrator Bearhawk to the Alaska Airmen's Association Trade Show.  That state is, after all, a perfect market for it.  Cruising at 150+mph with a stall speed somewhere at or below 40mph, and an amazing cargo capacity, the Bearhawk seems made for the 49th state.  All we had to do was get it there.  Yes, as they say, it was a tough job but somebody had to do it.
Knowing the weather between Austin Texas, the aircraft’s home base, and Anchorage would likely have some long stretches of no-go weather, we arrived early and we were keen to get off the ground.  Our goal was to fly somewhere, anywhere, before sunset and that’s what we did.  Launching late in the evening, we flew steadfast until the sun ran out.  Looking at the chart for a place to land, a name jumped off the paper, Breckenridge.  “You know, that sounds very familiar for some reason.  There’s something there but I can’t remember what” were the words I spoke, and Ginger agreed.  Therefore, it was decided the small town in Texas would be our home for the night.
Taxiing into the ramp, that “something” we couldn’t remember filled the windshield.  There in front of us was Ezell Aviation, one of the world’s premier warbird restoration shops.  Aircraft of every type, from all corners of the planet, had graced that ramp.  Yet, once we stepped out of the airplane, had we not been familiar with aviation the extreme quiet and lack of anything what-so-ever going on would have masked its existence.
Every pilot with any hours has experienced our next thirty minutes.  Time was running out and we needed to move.   Fortunately, proper crew resource management made it easy; I tied the plane down while Ginger went to round up transportation.

Ladies, dispute it if you want, but I can tell you with great surety that any female aviator who truly believes “everyone is so nice” is blind to reality.  Nowhere on the planet are such a high percentage of people nice.  Deny it and you’ll miss opportunities.  Accept it and you’ll find transportation much easier to locate.  Combine that understanding with a true knowledge of  aviation and the world of flight is your oyster.  So, like I said, Ginger went to find us transportation.  A short while later she returned.
Having made her way to a phone, she had found a number, dialed it, and who but Mr. Ezell himself had answered.  Nelson (Mr. Ezell), a genuinely friendly guy, had made it easy and told her where to find keys to the car, where to stay, and which waitress to say hello to when we ate at the recommended restaurant.  Furthermore, she was told that we should come find him in the morning for a tour.  Ah, Texas hospitality; it’s hard to beat.
The next day, we left the recommended hotel in Nelson’s courtesy car, went for breakfast at the restaurant he suggested, and said “yes” when everyone asked us “is that the airport car”.  There are few other sports, if any, with such a large fleet of mechanical ambassadors, and the number of folks who treated us as family due to that car proves their effectiveness.
Back at the plane with our bags on the ground and the keys returned to their spot, we decided it was time to visit.  Then, like rookies, without thinking we headed right to the hangar and walked straight through the door.  I say “without thinking” because I firmly believe places like this should have “ATTENTION: Please gather your thoughts and take a deep breath before entering” posted above all entrances.  If you love flying machines, the view inside such locations can be overwhelming and it’s rare to find anywhere to sit down and collect your wits.
Even knowing what to expect, Ginger and I were stopped in our tracks by what we saw inside.  Bearcats, Fifi QEC’s, and even an amphib Husky belonging to Red Bull sat mingled among the countless rare aircraft under restoration.  To list them all would be difficult so we'll just go with "WOW".
We had a great time with Nelson that morning.  After viewing the shop, he asked to see the Bearhawk and to my surprise knew a great deal about it, we discussed mutual friends, and after taking a break to talk to Howard Pardue, we walked over for a tour of his hangar.
There are so many obvious things one could say about Howard’s airport get-a-way and the aviation history inside, but the large, and I mean massively large, containers of wine corks spoke of his ability to have fun and entertain others.  I can’t imagine what a hole his loss has left in the community and I’m sure he’s missed every day.  Here’s to you Howard.
Back at the Ezell hangar, Ginger and I took one last look around as the crew prepared to move a Mustang onto the ramp.  We were thanking Nelson for his time and were just about to leave when out nowhere his dog appeared and jumped into the bed of a four wheeler sitting next to us.  “She knows it’s going to move”, he said with a smile.  “That’s what Texans call a truck slut; she’ll ride in anything that moves”.  Apparently, the low rumble of the hangar doors sliding open had triggered her actions and the look on his face spoke of a man whose existence was made better by the presence of a puppy; a photo was necessary and I stepped back to take one.  That's it below.  If you look at it and experience anything but a heartwarming smile, you’re in the wrong sport.
Walking toward the Bearhawk, a feeling well known to pilots slowed our feet.  It’s always tough to leave friends behind.  And yet, despite nearly every great aviation experience demanding it, it never gets old.  Maybe, in a way, we’re all masochists?  I took one last look back and kept walking.

Our harnesses latched and the doors secured, we moved forward.  Ahead was the next memory and the friends it surely held.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Biplane Returns to the Air

Not that long ago, we discussed some of the interesting vintage aircraft projects getting close to returning to the air.  Among those planes was a WACO owned by Steven and Tina Thomas of Poplar Grove.  It is now our pleasure to share the news it has flown.  The video below, produced by Steve, does a nice job of documenting the journey.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Poetic Justice

I realize nobody likes the person who says "I told you so"; therefore I've changed the name of this post to "Poetic Justice".

First of all, congratulations to all you folks who demanded, wept for, and have now managed to get the towers and controllers off the endangered list.  You deserve the consequences of your emotions (logic had no part in this).  Unfortunately, the rest of us have to live with what you accomplished.    Thanks.
Wait, what am I talking about?  Haven't you heard?  These "services" will now be paid for with money from the airport trust fund which is funded by, wait for it, USER FEES. And how long do you think it will be until additional user fees are "needed" to keep it funded for "safety's sake"?  What then?  Will you cry about the proposed new user fees?  I can hear the flying public now; "Why wouldn't pilots have a problem paying a small percentage to make the skies safer for children"?  What will you say to that?
This paragraph from Forbes SmartBrief pretty much says it all:
"President Barack Obama has pledged to sign legislation prepared by Congress that allows money from the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport and Airway Trust Fund to be used to pay air traffic controllers' salaries so that towers can remain open. The aviation trust fund draws revenue from aviation user fees that are meant to be used to improve aviation safety and efficiency."
Read the entire article by clicking here.
Of course, although this is now a done deal, it does come with a positive.  Many questions as to how our country ended up in such a mess have now been answered by those in aviation who fought for this.  Again, thanks.

Note:  If you haven't read my other post about this issue, don't go off saying I don't care about controllers before clicking here.

This little girl just found out her membership dues to EAA, AOPA, and NBAA went to promoting user fees.