Friday, December 23, 2016

It's The Holiday Season

Photo by Jamien Fisher

Is that Andy Williams I hear singing?  No, it's the sound of deicing fluid pounding against the fuselage below my sliding window.  The left stall vane is covered with ice, as is the rest of the MD-90 after a night of freezing rain in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Flight 1092, the 0715 departure to Atlanta, Georgia was going to be late---by two hours and thirty-seven minutes.  It took over an hour for the deicing crew to clean the airplane with Type I deicing fluid.  As you can see in the picture, it was really caked on!  Applying the final coating of Type IV anti-icing fluid to the wings and tail took exactly four minutes. About an hour and fifteen minutes to make the jet airworthy, after it was all said and done. Of course that was after we made it to the deicing pad.  Just leaving the gate was an adventure.

Twenty minutes before we were scheduled to push back our operations agent called with news that our ramp crew had yet to load any (passenger) bags.  The crew was short-handed, and everything was covered with ice.  Things were moving slow---when they finished with the Minneapolis flight they would head our way. . .  I turned to my first officer, and said:  "This is going to take a while."  He replied:  "Don't I know it, it's really slick out there!"

Slick it was!  During push-back the tug began to fishtail---I could hear the tires spinning through the interphone.  For a moment I thought we might be calling it a day, but the driver recovered nicely.  It takes a special set of skills to push one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of airplane on an icy ramp!  Hats off to the tug driver at Gate 82 at Pittsburgh International airport!

During my thirty year career I can't remember a single Thanksgiving to New Year's travel season that has not been affected by a winter weather event somewhere in North America. This years challenge in the Northeast came eight days before Christmas.  Luckily it was short lived, and there was plenty of time to recover.  Three years ago Frosty the Snowman paid a visit to the Deep South on Christmas Eve.  A lot of folks were late for dinner at Grandma's house that year.  I missed that one, fortunately, but I still have plenty of T-shirts. . .

Not that it mattered much to our passengers, but we were fortunate our delay came at the start of our duty day.  As we were leaving the deicing pad, ground control was directing an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 to a hardstand where it could refuel, following a diversion from Washington's (DC) Dulles International Airport---after an ocean crossing, and a few turns in a holding pattern, I'm sure.

More like The Winter Wonderland Route!


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tree Top Flying At Gilbert International

Here are a few photos from Saturday's Tree Top Flyer (EAA Chapter 1467) Fly-In at Gilbert International Airport, Gilbert, South Carolina.  

Pop and I left Jellystone Air Park at 0930.

Forty-four minutes later we were on the ground at Gilbert International.

Tree Top Flyer Don Schmotzer's Zenith CH-601XL.

Looking down Runway 27.

Transit aircraft parking on the south side of 9/27.

Who likes curves?  Neil Deye's Culver LFA.

Fly-In Headquarters . . . Ron Angerman's Hangar-Home.

Dining Hall.

Eddie Price and Pop taking it easy on the back of the Follow Me cart.

NC1143B sitting pretty.

Photo by Eddie Price

2016 Tree Top Flyers and guests.

Photo by Eddie Price

Heading back to Jellystone Air Park.

Monday, November 7, 2016

38 Special

The combination lock on the baggage compartment of Brother Barbeau's Hatz biplane was having "issues."  When it was originally installed the combination was set at 007. That's right, James Bond, a number that is easy to remember---the builder was a pilot, he knew his audience.  About a year ago we discovered the three-row combination mechanism had malfunctioned.  The latch still worked, but we could not lock the door.  It was not a big deal (so we thought) since nothing heavy or valuable is stored in the compartment.  Also, there doesn't seem to be a strong aerodynamic force working to pull the door open.  We could "kick the can down the road," so to speak, something to address on the next annual inspection---if we remembered.  But you can only kick a can so far. . .

In September the latch failed---in the closed position, fortunately.  I discovered the failure when I tried to retrieve the fuel strainer from the baggage compartment after topping-off in Laurens, South Carolina during a lunch outing with some of the guys from EAA Chapter 961.  Once again, not a problem.  The door was closed and the fuel tank was full.  But it could have been a big problem---especially if I had a passenger.  The fuel quantity dipstick is stored in the baggage compartment.  Like a small regional jet, the Hatz can't carry a full load of fuel when all of the seats are full.  It's nice to know how much you weigh; even nicer to know how much fuel you have on board.

Thursday was designated Baggage Door Lock Repair Day at Jellystone Air Park.  Of course Brothers Barbeau and Baker were both out of town---not that it mattered.  The Jellystoners were out at the airport the day that (and a lot of other) subjects were covered in college.  It was up to me to save the day.  Hopefully we could still fly the airplane when the task was completed!

Step One:

Remove the lock from the baggage door.  This was fairly simple.  I drilled out the screws and removed the lock mechanism from the door.  Once the door was open I was able to remove the latch from the fuselage.

Steps Two, Three, and Four:

Inspect the back side of the lock.  Not really sure what I was looking for.  I was hoping there would be a lever or a channel of some sort that could be used to release the latch. There was a lever, but it wouldn't move.  There were a bunch of holes.  I thought if I inserted a small screwdriver in one of the holes while rotating the combination wheel the correct number would be revealed with a noticeable click, clunk, or whatever.  That didn't work either.

Educate myself.  There is a YouTube video for everything.  If my wife can learn how to construct a quilt by watching YouTube certainly there was someone out there, a Geeky Locksmith Wannabe of some sort, with a video I could use.  As Brother Baker likes to say: "One would think."  After forty minutes of reviewing everything from using a rubber band to apply pressure to the release lever while rotating the combination wheels, to checking for dust on the numbers, I decided there had to be a better way. . .

Find a locksmith.  My iPhone said there was a locksmith 1.7 miles south of Jellystone Air Park.  Maybe those folks could help---and if not, maybe they could help me find a replacement.  I circled the parking lot three times; no locksmith.  I guess my iPhone didn't get the update the shop was no longer there. The next closest place was eighteen minutes away.  I was hungry.  Ouzo's Pizza, a Jellystoner favorite, was right around the corner.  The mission could wait until after lunch.

Step Five:

Get lucky!  One of the videos suggested starting at 000 and moving forward sequentially 001, 002, 003, etc., until you hit the correct combination; assuming the lock was not broken.  While waiting for lunch to be served I decided that since I didn't know if we had a broken lock, or a miss-set combination, I might as well give it a try.  I started rolling. . . When I landed on number 038 the lock opened!  I couldn't believe my luck!  As Brother Barbeau's father-in-law likes to say:  "I'll-be-go-to-hell!"

Step Six:

Put it back together.  Ta-da!

And it still flies. . .  Check out the big brain on Bob!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trying To Feed The Obsession

My quest to find old airplanes is a habit that is sometimes hard to explain.  I'd like to think it is not an obsession, but my wife thinks otherwise.  On more than one occasion I've heard her ask (exclaim is probably a better description) "You planned our vacation around what?"  The "what" in question was probably a fly-in of some sort, or an aviation museum, or (in a perfect world) both---it has happened!  In the spirit of "full disclosure" I must admit that I sometimes plan my airline layover destinations around vintage aircraft sightings.  I guess it is an obsession.

Back in the spring I had a layover in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  While perusing a brochure in the hotel lobby I discovered the Grand Rapids Public Museum, only one block from the hotel, had a 1931 Driggs Skylark Biplane on display.  Unfortunately, the discovery came at the end of the layover, too late to visit the museum.  I made a mental note to put Grand Rapids on my list of preferred layover destinations. 

The October bid package had a bunch of Grand Rapids layovers.  One of them, a seventeen hour layover that blocked in shortly after noon, looked like the perfect trip for viewing the Skylark.  I placed my order. . .  One week later the trip was mine!  Flight 751 from Atlanta, Georgia to Grand Rapids, Michigan touched down at 1636 GMT October 6, 2016.  It was time to feed the obsession.

When the guy at the museum help desk asked if there was anything specific I wanted to see, I said:  "I'm here to see the airplane."  My statement was met with a puzzled look.  "I read in a brochure there is a Driggs Skylark Biplane on display."  The guy said:  "Yes, normally, but that area of the museum has been under construction.  I believe the airplane is still in storage."  And so it was.

Photo of a photo, circa 1933.  Driggs Skylark used by the Jackson Flying School in Jackson, Michigan.

The Driggs Aircraft Company of Lansing, Michigan produced twenty-one Skylark Biplanes between 1929 and 1931.  Like many companies, it was a victim of the Great Depression.

True fact.

There it wasn't!

A good read.  Click on the picture to enlarge.

The 96 horsepower Cirrus Hi-Drive aircraft engine.

I did get to see a video. . .

. . . and I bought a post card. 

For more about the Driggs Skylark (and the fascinating history behind it's Cirrus Hi-Drive engine) check out H. G. Frautschy's article in the October 1993 issue of Vintage Airplane Magazine.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

2016 Fall Vintage Fly-In

Brethren!  We had great weather for this year's Fall Vintage Fly-In at Woodward Field in Camden, South Carolina.  Dad and I were on the grounds Saturday.  Here are a few pictures:

Our chariot:  Brother Bakers' 1947 Luscombe 8A.

The Candler Field Express from Williamson, Georgia.

Douglas' finest!

1938 Waco ECG-8.

Pop checking out a Bakeng Deuce.  I was familiar with the name but this is the first example I've seen in person.

1942 Interstate S1-A Cadet.

1947 Stinson 108-3.

I have to admit, I'm partial to checkerboards.

Eddie Price drove over from Pond Branch Airfield.

He took our picture . . .

I took hers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Oshkosh 2016

A goal without a plan is just a wish. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Plans to attend AirVenture 2016 were hatched last fall when our good friend "DC-6 Brad Wigren" volunteered to be the point man for securing accommodations at the annual EAA convention.  Regular visitors to Jellystone Air Park may recall that Brothers Barbeau and Wigren were aviation cadets at Western Michigan University shortly before the end of the last century.  Brad flies the 757 (and 767) for Big D and is based in Detroit. Occasionally one of the big Boeings will overnight in Charlotte. This was one of those times, and as luck would have it, Brad was the Skipper.  The Jellystoners met for breakfast.  On the drive back to Brad's hotel important subjects were discussed. . .  It was decided we would attend AirVenture 2016!  Brad would research lodgings; I would bid for vacation during the fly-in; and Brother Barbeau hoped to be retired from the UPS Store business, and planned on doing whatever, whenever---including attending AirVenture the last week of July.

A few weeks later, a call from Brad:  "We have rooms at the Days Inn in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, it's a thirty minute drive to Oshkosh."  I love when a plan comes together!  In December I bid for (and was awarded) vacation during the fly-in.  My part was done; all I had to do was tell my bride.  I was sure it would not be too hard of a sell; she has always enjoyed the Oshkosh experience.  I also had a sneaking suspicion she would prefer to visit with Brad's wife, Deb, while the guys attended the fly-in.

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon

Shortly after the first of the year Brother Barbeau announced he had a buyer for his UPS Store.  The transaction would close in the spring, he would soon be retired.  The stars had aligned; the Jellystoners were heading to Oshkosh!  What could go wrong?  For Brad and I, nothing.  For Brother Barbeau, however, it was a different story.  Even with a motivated buyer, it took until June to close the deal on the store.  And then there was the after sale stuff that had to be dealt with.  Who knew that retirement would be so busy? Three weeks before our AirVenture adventure was set to begin, Brother Barbeau had to cancel. Undaunted, Brad and I vowed to carry on.

Executing the plan:

Scheduled dates for this year's fly-in were Monday July 25th through Sunday July 31st. Our hotel reservations in Kaukana were for Thursday through Sunday---giving us two days at the fly-in, Friday and Saturday.  With Brother Barbeau out of the picture our crew was set at five:  Brad, his son, Jack, myself, and a couple of Brad's flying buddies, Gregg Hammer, and Ed Harkrader.  Nancy would visit with Deb while the guys were in Wisconsin---my suspicion all along.

Deb and Brad live in Middlebury, Indiana, a picturesque little town the heart of Amish farm country roughly half way between Chicago and Detroit.  Nancy and I made the drive from Charlotte in just under eleven hours Wednesday.  Thursday morning Brad and I set out for Wisconsin---with a stop in Chicago to pick up Ed who flew in from Miami.  The three of us had lunch at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Young Jack had to work half a day Thursday, so Gregg retrieved Jack on the drive from his home in Toledo, Ohio.  Our entourage arrived at the Days Inn in Kaukauna in time for dinner.  Piece of cake!

A few more words before we get to the pictures.

EAA founder Paul Poberezny said on more than one occasion that when people first come to Oshkosh, "they come for the airplanes.  When they come back, they come for the people."  I would add that they also come for the stories.  Not just from guys like Bob Hoover and Bud Anderson---but from the kit manufacturers, and the homebuilders, and the vintage aircraft owners, and the warbird operators, and the airshow performers, and the parts suppliers, and the thousands of other aviation enthusiasts that gather each summer at AirVenture.  They all have stories to tell.  The best story from this years fly-in occurred in the early 1980s.  Like most stories it began much earlier.

Brad's father, also named Jack, learned to fly during the latter stages of World War II. Like most of his generation, primary flight training was accomplished in the Boeing Stearman. Multi-engine training was conducted in the Cessna AT-17 Bobcat, also known as the "Bamboo Bomber" because it's wings were constructed mainly from wood.  Prior to being deployed overseas---as an Aircraft Commander on the B-17---the Army Air Force shipped him off to B-29 school, where he trained as a First Officer.  The war in Europe was winding down, B-17 pilots were no longer needed.  Brad said:  "Dad was thankful to be a co-pilot on the B-29. With training time cut to a minimum, he didn't feel he had the experience to be the guy in charge of a B-17."

Fast forward almost forty years.  It's 1982 and Brad and his father are attending the EAA Convention.  The CAF B-29 Superfortress "FIFI" is on display.  Brad remembers:  "Tours were available for something like ten dollars per person.  I asked Dad if he wanted to take the tour, but he didn't want to spend the money.  I told him, 'No, we're going inside.  I'm buying!'  When the support crew heard that Dad flew B-29s, they started asking questions. Then a crowd began to form . . . the next thing I know, Dad was holding court, and I was pushed to the back of the crowd as more and more people gathered around. It's something I'll never forget."      

Former Boeing B-29 Superfortress pilot Jack Wigren with his son, Brad, in front of the EAA Brown Arch in 1982.

The Adventure Begins:

Jack and Brad on the misty walk from the Orange Parking Lot Friday morning.  This was Jack's first visit to Oshkosh.

Boeing 767 Captain Brad Wigren with his son, Jack, reenacting a moment from 1982.

Jack and Brad with "FIFI," the B-29 Superfortress that is owned and operated by the Commemorative Air Force.

Ed, Brad, Gregg, and Jack . . . waiting to tour "FIFI."

Son and son of a son of a B-29 pilot. . .

NWA/DAL Boeing 767 Captains Gregg Hammer and Brad Wigren with the sole surviving Hamilton H-47 Metalplane in Northwest Airways markings.

Taking a break at the Vintage Café Friday evening.

My good friend, John Mullis.  This was John's first visit to AirVenture.  For more about John check out Blast from the past and Jumpseat Rider.

Friends from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Meghan Blythe and Calvin Winters, with the EAA's North American P-64.

Fellow EAA Chapter 961 (Rock Hill, South Carolina) member, John Roberts, promoting the Skyote Biplane in Exhibit Hangar D.  John's Skyote was parked next to the Brown Arch all week.  His exquisite craftsmanship earned a Bronze Lindy!

Carolinas - Virginia Antique Airplane Foundation (EAA Vintage Chapter 3) newsletter editor, Jim Wilson, has added markings to his 1936 Waco to honor the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Civil Air Patrol.  During World War II his Custom Cabin was based in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Friday afternoon Ed and I were sitting at a picnic table by the ice cream stand near the vintage parking area.  Across the road, not fifty feet away, sat a red RV-8 that looked familiar.  I said to Ed:  "I think I that airplane belongs to a guy in my EAA Chapter."  A closer inspection confirmed my suspicion.  Fellow Chapter 961 member, John Long, is a regular volunteer at AirVenture.  He is also an expert craftsman, and a heck of a nice guy.  

Here's something you don't see every day.  A Pan American World Airways Douglas DC-3 next to a Boeing 747-800.  Clipper Tabitha May earned a Bronze Lindy. I took this picture Saturday morning.  On the drive back to Middlebury, Indiana Sunday afternoon we saw Tabitha May as she was departing South Bend International, passing 500 feet overhead as we were driving by the airfield on Interstate 80. What were the chances of that ever happening?  Another story from AirVenture . . .

As it should be!

2004:  One more time in a B-29!

In 2004 Brad surprised his father with a ride in "FIFI" from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Here are a few photos:

Looking back from the bombardier's seat.