Archive for July, 2010

Squirrels and Nuts

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

The Princeton, B.C. air show featured wonderful hosts, beautiful terrain, a short runway and density altitude. It was hot and high. And just before reaching the runway numbers on landing, several of the pilots felt rather sharp downdrafts, perhaps caused by the confluence of two river valleys. So this was what you might call a “country” air show. Fast forward to the stir on the tarmac as I left the pilot briefing. A line of hostpitality-room cheese squares was carefully placed from my Mustang’s tail wheel to the woods next to the parking area. And the access panels near the wheel had been removed in the hope of encouraging a “bushy-tailed rodent” to egress prior to my departure. Several of the air show patrons swore they saw the squirrel go in and none could attest to his departure, so I treated the fuselage like a conga drum creating a racket no squirrel could endure, not even with a noise-canceling headset. When it was time to fly, I returned the access panels to their proper places and hoped that the squirrel had a recently packed chute. Happily, the absence of odor in the HFF hangar since our return confirms a safe escape.

Contrast Princeton with an equally wonderful but enormous air show at Fairchild AFB in Spokane last weekend. In excess of 100,000 people attended each day. There, the problem occurred during a performance flight when a bolt and nut broke at the end of the propeller governor linkage. By design, the propeller speed defaulted to high rpm which works well in flight maneuvers and a “go around.” But it is disconcerting to adjust propeller pitch and have the lever travel full-length with no change in rpm. Fellow pilots produced a replacement bolt and nut such that the Mustang could fly each performance on schedule. However, efforts to locate and remove the broken pieces of the original bolt and nut proved unsuccessful. After a search of the engine compartment, we test-ran the Merlin with the new bolt installed. The broken bolt had lodged in the propeller hub and was slung out at the base of a blade. Not friendly pieces of metal, but everyone was clear.

Air Show Season

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

We’ve agreed to fly a rather full schedule of air shows. Our B-25 “Grumpy” performed well on Sunday at the Arlington Air Show but by this morning, could not muster power from the master cylinder on the right engine. Consequently we’re replacing the cylinder prior to departure for Princeton, BC this Friday. Grumpy will be joined by P-51B “Impatient Virgin” in a particularly scenic part of Canada. The flight plan calls for Customs and Immigration clearance at Abbotsford, then a trip through the mountains at Hope, provided there’s hope, for the weather. Web cams have made the crossing decision much easier. While all of this is underway our Grumman Bearcat will perform at the McChord Air Show near Tacoma. This is the first time HFF has dispatched aircraft to two shows in one weekend, a “twofer,” so we’re hoping it all works out. Thanks to a wonderful corps of volunteers and pilots, it just might. Lance and Nancy Robertson will fly Grumpy, Carter Teeters, the Bearcat, and I will try my best to honor the Mustang.

Please come see us if you can.

Sharing Heritage Through Rides

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

With the help of our local FAA office, Historic Flight Foundation has been authorized to offer rides in some of its aircraft. This weekend we will launch this program at our Restoration Hangar, 10719 Bernie Webber Drive in Mukilteo. It is expensive to offer these opportunities and consequently, expensive to participate ($125-$450 depending on the aircraft), but some will participate themselves and some will give the gift of flight to others. One group waiting for this opportunity since General Aviation Day on May 15th has pooled its resources to send a friend, a Boeing engineer, on a ride tomorrow. Our guest is an avid pilot, student of history and cancer patient in chemotherapy. We hope that whatever challenges he faces on the ground can be left behind during our sojourn around Puget Sound.

As a follow-up to the Tigercat brake test, the brakes worked fine. So at long last the Tigercat is operational without asterisk or footnote, right? Well, that was true for a few moments until I hit a bird. RIP fellow aviator. The impact occurred just outside the port oil cooler intake creating a shallow depression about the size of a cantaloupe. Some rather tricky metalwork will be required. I didn’t notice the strike until a visual wing check before folding the wings during taxi. The first clue was an area of paint undercoating and feathers.

Also this week our DC-3 was flown from Victoria to Campbell River, B.C. I’ll share the story of our DC-3 in a later post.

Thanks for your interest.