The Answer Is Within Reach

The 2016 flying season commences Saturday when a number of aviation organizations band together to produce Aviation Day at Paine Field. This week many examples of old equipment (planes and pilots) have taken to the skies in the unending quest for mechanical and flying excellence. The challenges this year include a steeplechase course of ground anomalies and one of the longest pilot “brief” recordings (“Automatic Terminal Information Service” or “ATIS”) on the planet. A runway has been leased to a significant aviation company for five years to store troubled aircraft. A second runway often advertises restrictions on landings, take-offs, or some types of each. And the third, the principal runway, adjoins a labyrinthine collection of taxiways being rationalized this summer by trucks and bulldozers. Yesterday construction required constriction of the parallel taxiway, Alpha, to allow only aircraft having a wingspan of fifty feet or less. One more piece of background to make this story fly. The Grumman F7F Tigercat was designed to be stopped by a tail hook and cable. Brakes were an afterthought. Consequently, one “rolls out” a Tigercat using quite a bit of runway to slow down. Yesterday as I rolled out the Tigercat on the main runway, a familiar voice working ground control from the tower reminded me that to travel south on taxiway Alpha, my wingspan could not be more than fifty feet; this, due to construction. I stopped with what hot brakes I had left to ponder the possibilities. Alas, an idea. I reached back over my shoulder (not so easy in a parachute and five restraining straps) to grab a certain lever as I said “watch this.” The old Navy wings folded ever-so-neatly as if preparing for storage below the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. “How do you like me now?” “That’s great” was the reply from the ground controller. Feeling my oats, I inquired, “you mean other airplanes don’t do this?” Without missing a beat, the controller replied “not intentionally.” Please say hello if you make it to Paine Field on Saturday. HFF will be open 8-5. The flying demonstration begins at noon.