Archive for January, 2011


Monday, January 24th, 2011

Yesterday I joined former Air Force test pilot Doug Russell in the cockpit of the Mig-29UB Fulcrum (“UB” is the designation for two-place) HFF acquired about six years ago. Since then, Tim Morgan and I have had the pleasure of partnership in its restoration. Now some worry that HFF might change focus from Spitfires to Migs, but that will not happen on my watch. We undertook this project to demonstrate a small foundation could restore to top standards, one of the most advanced and elegant aircraft of the modern era. That we did is tribute to the collection of aviation devotees at Arlington Field (in particular, the employees of Morgan Aircraft Restorations), enlightened civil servants from the FAA (who will remain nameless to avoid career implications), talented and hard-working foreign nationals who used vacations from jobs maintaining Mig-29s to work on ours, and a Chinese judge who knew what to do.

In April, 2006, I signed papers authorizing our shipping company to take control of our Mig in Ukraine for transit to the Port of Tacoma. That company decided it did not want to transport a complete Mig-29 on one ship on one ocean, perhaps to avoid hijacking by terrorists. Whatever the motivation, the engines and wings crossed the Atlantic while the fuselage headed east for the Pacific. Racked on deck in a steel frame, it seemed the bow sprint of the first order. When off-loaded in Hong Kong for transfer to another vessel, a customs official seized our fuselage as an undocumented implement of war. Ranking officials of Hong Kong advised that I would never see it again unless I swam with the fish near a breakwater then under construction. Nonetheless, court dates came and we were prepared. A judge assigned at random ruled the aircraft had been properly demilitarized before it left Ukraine. Key to the outcome was de-registration of the aircraft in Ukraine and re-registration in the United States to Historic Flight Foundation, a non-profit institution, before shipment. So the customs official had acted reasonably because the shipper’s paperwork was flawed, but the fuselage should be released because it was not an implement of war. The process required twenty-three months and just a few dollars. Collecting fine art must be simpler.

So our pristine Mig-29 awaits your inspection at our Restoration Hangar. We will conduct Phase I test flights during the balance of January and February to fulfill the conditions of the Certificate of Airworthiness.

Cabin Fever

Monday, January 17th, 2011

We’re doing what we can to survive January.

Last weekend our good friend Lyle Jansma delivered the first of two cockpit-style flight simulators. The software allows advanced operations of our entire fleet of aircraft with Paine Field circa 1943 as the backdrop. The second simulator arrived yesterday. The next step is an Internet gaming club such that the effort invested in this wonderful system can be shared worldwide and by doing so, connect HFF with many new friends. This project has been a two-museum collaboration with Heritage Flight Museum of Bellingham. Good show.

Next Saturday, the 22nd, John Posson of Stallion 51 Corporation will offer a P-51 ground school and formation briefing. Twenty-five have enrolled in this course, which is intended for anyone wishing to know more about the fighter many regard as the best of WWII. Weather permitting, we will resume B-25 pilot training on Sunday, the 23rd. Four candidates will train on the 23rd and the 30th.

On Friday, the 28th and Saturday, the 29th, we will feature “Nose Art” through a social presentation with wine (on the 28th) and a full-blown history seminar with coffee (on the 29th). Our guest presenters from Victory Girl Studio will cover the origins of nose art in WWI, the “golden age” of nose art in WWII, it’s decline during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, changes in regulations in the 70s to proscribe personal markings, and revision of regulations in the 80s to allow it again, with examples of nose art in Desert Storm Iraq.

With any luck, the above and a bit of flying will get us to February.