Thursday, April 28, 2016

Time To Redirect

In March I received the following text message from Brother Baker:  Flew with a guy who wants to get some Luscombe time and is willing to trade for time in his airplane---a Stearman!  He's in North Georgia.  Heckuva nice guy!  I'll keep you updated.  A few weeks later, another message:  Maybe you can swing a day next week and we can head over to Georgia and meet the guy with the Stearman. . .  Then the Monday before last:  You off Friday?  Chris (Stearman guy) suggested Friday.  He's at Mountain Field, near Cleveland, GA.  Just under two hours in the Luscombe.  OK, about 2:20 figuring MPH vs knots. . .

I know what you're thinking.  The Stearman guy is getting a pretty good deal.  In this day and age it's almost impossible to find a venue where a person can experience, first hand, the joy of flying the delightful feather-light all-metal Luscombe Silvair---leave those clodhopper boots at home, Chris the Stearman Guy, ballet slippers are what you need in the '47 8A.  Kudos to Brother Baker for making it happen!  Except it didn't.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. . .

The outfit that Brother Barbeau works for is adding another airplane to it's stable:  A Cirrus SR22T, with all the bells and whistles.  Thursday evening Gary called and said the airplane was scheduled to arrive Friday.  Did I want to ride out to the airport Friday afternoon and check it out?  When I told him about Brother Baker's planned Stearman outing and the fact that I was invited to ride along, he said:  "Swapping time in a Luscombe for time in a Stearman.  Way to go Joe!  Think you'll get a ride too?"  I said:  "I don't think I'm part of the deal.  I'll be there for moral support and to take pictures; but I'm going to hit the ATM in the morning, just in case."

Brother Baker and I departed Jellystone Air Park at 0730 Friday morning---a pair of old school airline pilots in a non-FMS/GPS 1947 Luscombe 8A.  Today's junior birdmen (Airbus pilots and New Age "Any traffic in the Area" Embry-Riddle alumni) may be wondering how we could ever find our way.  Rest assured we had a plan---and a couple of sectional charts provided, free of charge, by the states of South Carolina and Georgia. The plan:  Follow the power lines that run southwest from Jellystone Air Park to Triple Tree Aerodrome, just south of Woodruff, South Carolina, then track a westerly course, passing a little south of Clemson, South Carolina and a little north of Toccoa, Georgia, to Mountain Field which is located a few miles southeast of Cleveland, Georgia. Precision navigation at it's best!  How does that old saying go?  "Measure it with a micrometre, cut it with an ax."

Approaching Triple Tree Brother Baker noticed he had a message on his iPhone.  It was from Chris the Stearman Guy.  Call me.  Not the message you want to see when you're almost half way to your first ride in a Stearman. . .  I told Joe I would fly while he typed.  A few minutes later, another message.  Joe held the screen so I could read.  It's really blowing here at the house.  Winds are forecast to be gusting to twenty knots.  It was Chris' way of saying:  "Sorry guys, it's not going to happen today."

I've never flown a Stearman.  I don't know how it handles in a gusty crosswind---but I have flown Brother Barbeau's Hatz biplane.  I completely understood where Chris the Stearman Guy was coming from.  So did Joe.  It was time to redirect---but simply returning to Jellystone Air Park seemed like an incredible waste of a nice morning.  When Brother Baker asked if there was anyplace special I'd like to go, I said:  "How about Eddie's place?"

If this is your first visit to Jellystone Air Park, Eddie is our good friend Eddie Price, Director of Operations and Chief Pilot at Pond Branch Airfield---fifteen hundred feet of slightly undulating turf (Brother Baker's locution) in the heart of the Sandland near Leesville, South Carolina---conveniently located on the CAE VOR 272 degree radial at 17.5 DME.

Thirty-five minutes after receiving the North Georgia weather report we were on the ground at Pond Branch Airfield. . .

The scene on Taxiway Alpha. . .  Yours truly with Brothers Price and Baker at the Center of the Universe (Eddie's locution.)

Photo by Joe Baker

Eddie Price, Director of Operations and Chief Pilot at Pond Branch Airfield, with his 1950 Cessna 140A.

Photo by Eddie Price
Runway 29 departure from the Center of the Universe. . .

Later in the day. . .

Remember that phone call from Brother Barbeau?

2016 Cirrus SR22T.

Looks inviting. . .

Pretty fancy!

Comes with an automated flight attendant safety briefing.

Brother Barbeau said:  "Just sit there and don't touch anything!"

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Quote of the Day from 1989

Man has been dreaming of flight since history was inscribed on the walls of caves; for thousands of years this great accomplishment awaited our own time.

--- Ernest Kellogg Gann

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Watch where you step!

The sign in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jackson, Mississippi read:  JACKSON, MS - ATTRACTIONS, SHOPPING, & FACILITIES.  There was a map that had circles with letters denoting where each attraction was located.  In the legend next to the letter J was written:  Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum/National Agriculture Aviation Museum.  And I thought I would not have anything to do on my eighteen hour layover in Jackson, Mississippi . . .

Souther Field, Americus, Georgia, 1983.

I was a brand new, fresh out of the box, charter pilot---co-pilot, actually---on the job less than four months.  My captain; having successfully shoehorned our Cessna 402 into a parking space between a tired looking Cessna AGwagon and a nondescript hangar, said: "Watch your step out there," as I made my way back to open the door for our passengers. I thought he was just giving me a hard time because I was the new guy---probably concerned his wet behind the ears co-pilot might fall out of the airplane and embarrass himself in front of the customers.  A reasonable assumption, whether he knew it, or not. Navigating the cramped entryway in my size thirteen wingtip shoes was proving to be a challenge.  But I was careful---everyone made it out of the airplane safely, including me.

Once our passengers were safely on their way I had a chance to look around.  It was an overcast morning.  The air was damp and smelled sour.  The old asphalt ramp was just large enough to hold six transit airplanes.  In the weeds behind the ramp there was an old gray Stearman sprayer that had seen better days.  Next to the Stearman sat a Grumman Ag-Cat, also gray in color.  The FBO office was a single story afterthought beside a faded gray and white corrugated metal hangar.  It did not look inviting, nor did the old gray cat stretched out in the doorway.  My overall impression, at least at first glance:  There was not a lot of color in Americus, Georgia.  Except in the puddles on the ramp.  Here there was plenty of color.  Pinks, yellows, greens, and blues---rainbows of fertilizer and insecticide; which explained the sour smell.  Then it hit me.  My leader's caution was not about embarrassing myself in front of the passengers.  It was about stepping in something that might leave a lasting impression!  A quick glance down confirmed that I was safe for the time being.

By now my commander for the day had joined me on the ramp.  A couple of city-boy charter pilots in the middle of Georgia farm country.  After a few moments of taking in the sights and smells, he said: "Yeah, the first thing they teach you in crop dusting school is: Watch where you step.  The life you save may be your own!"

The National Agricultural Aviation Museum, Jackson, Mississippi, 2016

An eleven minute van ride from the Marriott Hotel in downtown Jackson.

Boeing Stearman . . . I'd swear old "Dusty" is trying to hide the fact that his trusty steed is sitting on bias ply automobile tires . . . Whitewalls too!

Spreaders . . .

"Cutback Duster," a modified 1947 Piper J-3 Cub.

Piper PA-25 Pawnee.

The prototype Grumman Ag-Cat.

National Agricultural Aviation Hall of Fame

Mr. C. E. Woolman.  That name rings a bell . . .

Mr. Kinky Shane, Beaumont, Texas . . . The first to plant rice from the air.  Don't you know he had a few stories to tell!

"Black Annie" cotton defoliant . . . That can't be good!

Crop Dusting in the Movies . . .

North by Northwest

"That's funny, that plane's dusting crops where there ain't no crops!"

For the young folks checking in . . .

This is a Cessna 402.