Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tick Hill Airfield - XA47

Flying activities around Tick Hill have been very slow for the past few months. It seems those life priorities have been at us again, plus having the wing lift strut and fitting AD's on the Taylorcraft have put a damper on things. Everyone has been too busy to address it. But Tick Hill Airfield (XA-47) is alive and well. Started in the winter of 2003-2004, here are some development photos.

View Looking South toward Lake Belton - Airfield in center frame.Land at your own risk -

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Good ol' Jack Greiner.

One of the things I want to do with this blog is to acknowledge some of the good people I have met in this world of old airplanes. I have a story to share about a man named Jack Greiner.

It occurred in 1978 at the Antique Airplane Association fly-in, Blakesburg Iowa. I was 14 yrs-old. I knew Jack from seeing his beautiful Stearman C-3. And even though I had hung around bugging him and others for a biplane ride in exchange for my helping wipe down his plane, I didn't really think Jack knew me. Why would he care about a nerdy kid anyway?

To my surprize one morning at the breakfast tent, Jack came and sat down across from me. I assumed he would have preferred engaging in the morning flying stories with my dad and the other pilots around. But, instead, Jack sat down and struck up a conversation with me. We talked about school and the other things I did back in Texas. He was asking if I fly with my dad and I talked about having learned with my dad in the Tcraft. He was interested in me and this was a change for me. Most adults don't give kids much attention. I'd say he was half-way thru his plate of scrambled eggs and sausage when he asked me the question. "So how many hours do you have logged by now?" I replied... "Well, none. I don't have a logbook." And suddenly Jack stopped everything. He said... "WHAT?" Then he said... "How are you going to be a pilot without a logbook?" He pushed his chair away from the table, his breakfast remained half-eaten, and declared... "C'mon we need to go find us an airplane!" The next thing I knew, we were headed to find a J-3 cub. He borrowed one from somebody. I'm not even sure who. I wish I knew.

Over the next two days, we flew for 1.8 hours. To this day, I remember S-turning in the traffic pattern to let the planes ahead get landed. Also I learned about turns-about-a-point first from Jack. At the end of our flying, Jack wrote down his address on a piece of paper, handed it to me, and told me that when I get home, I should go buy myself a logbook and mail it to him. I did and he made the very first two entries, signed it, and mailed it back.

Now THAT's a memory I will never forget. I will always respect Jack for being a good man. Not only for what he did for my pilot training, but for caring enough to give a kid the time of day. And for giving a kid some inspiration. It's an example that many of us adults should practice. Jack is a true gentleman and exhibits the true heart of a barnstormer.

Last summer, I saw Jack again at Blakesburg. The picture at the beginning of this post is from that visit. It had been 29 years since that day and 19 years since I last saw Jack. I told him the story and he was surprized that I remembered, because he hadn't. He just smiled and said "I am glad to have made an impression." Jack - Thanks for your selfless act.

Jack has been featured in a book called Vagabonds of the Sky, by Bruce McAllister. Click Here to preview the book.

It's the people like Jack who embody the mystique of aviation for all it is... TLB



Aero-TV:Aero-TV: Profiles in Aviation – Jack Greiner, A Lifetime of Flight

Who Cares about History?

As a kid, I was never much interested in history. I didn't see the value in it until some of the people I cared about began to pass away. Then I was left to wish I had known more about their lives. My grandfather, Ward Bowden, is one such example. He was my childhood hero, a Godly man, and I loved him so much. He left our earthly home when I was a teenager. I know he's now in Heaven because of the Christian example he set for me. I think his death was the first reason I ever had to want to learn more about history. As a young adult, I had a misconception that all historical events were somehow known and documented for anyone who might want to know about them. This was especially true about aviation history. NOT! At some point I began to care about aviation history as I came to realize it was about more than just these interesting flying machines. The stories are as much about the lives of the people who designed, built, flew, and maintained them. I discovered that a lot of our aviation heritage is at risk of being forgotten. And even worse, a lot of it has been inaccurately documented. My hat goes off to the expert historians who work to straighten all of this out. And though I am not in that league, I enjoy learning and working to share the little pieces of aviation history that come my way. In a few cases, I have found myself in possession of some rather unique historical information or photos that, when I set out to learn, I discovered had not been well documented. It is in these situations that I enjoy digging into the story to search for the facts. This can be a very rewarding hobby. Some of the most enjoyable aviation history stories that I have run across have been those associated with the activities at PARKS AIR COLLEGE from 1927 through the late 1930's. A few of the small segments of this topic have led to articles that I have had published. I try to view this effort as my contribution toward helping the real experts in the overall effort to learn and share aviation's rich heritage.

Vintage Airplane magazine (an EAA publication) published one article I wrote about PARKS AIRCRAFT, INC. This was the story of a manufacturing company started in conjunction with Parks Air College. Four aircraft models were developed (2 were certified) before the company became a casualty of the Great Depression. Swallowed up by a giant holding company, Detroit Aircraft, the Parks designs slowly faded away from the production line. A few of these airplanes still exist. Heres a photo of the extinct Parks P-3 monoplane.

Another article of mine made it into a more prestigious journal. The American Aviation Historical Society Journal. This was the story of THE GARDNER TROPHY AIR RACES. Again, I must humbly admit that my writings do not justify such a place in the ranks of expert historians. It is more due to the help I got from experts like the late Truman C "Pappy" Weaver and the late Richard "Dick" Kamm who encouraged me to submit the story. And it is a testament to the value the AAHS places on telling stories that might not otherwise be told. A most unique event of 1929, the Gardner Races hold a place of value in the development of aircraft racing, and subsequently made a small contribution toward improved airplane designs. Designers like Clyde Cessna, Matty Laird, and other amateurs participated. Heres a photo of one of the Cessna Racers.

Here's a link to Part 1:
Here's a link to Part 2:

Lately, I have become intrigued by the works of another expert aviation historian. If you care about aviation historical events of the 1920's and 1930's but have never visited the website called "" you must go check it out. This wonderful living/growing historical mecca is the result of efforts by Mr. Gary Hyatt. I will have a lot more to say in the future about Gary and his works. So for now, take a look and you will find a lot of small works by people from all parts of aviation. If they hadn't cared, we might not have had such a rich aviation industry. And if Gary didn't care, many of these stories might have been forgotten. Good work Gary.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hopgrasser II

My first Pietenpol Aircamper memories are from the 1970's Antique Airplane Association fly-in's at Antique Airfield in Blakesburg, IA. I can recall rides in a Model "A" Ford powered one and others powered by a Continental and one Radial Engine one. I was just a kid and don't recall the N-numbers or the pilots. I wish I could, because those memories stuck with me. In 1986, I was given a copy of the 1929 Flying and Glider Manual by my friend, the late "Sid" Hess. This was while I was in A&P school. This little airplane has endured the ages. Designer Bernard Pietenpol intended this to be an affordable way to get into flying. Many configurations of engines have been used over the years. I decided this was going to be the least expensive way for me to have my own flying airplane. I got started and built about 5 ribs and even used my rib-jig as a school project. Sid later gave me a full set of plans for the "improved" Air Camper, signed by the original draftsman, Orrin Hoopman. Life circumstances curtailed my progress.

I did not get another boost for 10 years until I met Chuck Gantzer. What a great guy. Chuck has done what most of us dream of. Certainly he has been a boost to many aspiring Pietenpol builders. At least for me he has. With a renewed inspiration, I built another dozen or so ribs. But again, life priorities over shadowed my efforts. Then in 2003, I located a partially completed project and ended up going into ownership of the project on the halves with my father in law. We agreed to use a Continental A75 engine and this airplane inevitably will be named Hopgrasser II after the beloved family "Champ". This little Air Camper project has quite a background of more than 40 years. It was initially started in the 1960's and passed down a generation to Mr. Richard Hugely. Here are some photos taken August 3, 2003, the day we took delivery from Richard.

Check this link for our project details:

I will post more in the future. Progress has been slow. But what a joy. The kids have participated as well. Here's one of Travis and Hannah helping on the day we installed instruments.

Flying with My father-in-law.

When I met my wife, little did she or I know that her dad was interested in becoming a pilot. But it didn't take to many conversations with Lon Carr to find out that it was something he'd always dreamed of. So once that was out in the open... it didn't take long and he had bought himself the prettiest little Tcraft in Central Texas. I am privileged to be able to fly his plane once in a while. He and I have built some sweet memories in this little airplane.

Here's a photo from the day he solo'd.

Lon went on to take his checkride in his airplane.

Cruizin at 3.5 gallons-per-hour. Sweet airplane.


John Bowden, my Dad, has done some amazing things during his life. His love of old airplanes has been passed on to me. Now at age 79, he doesn't fly anymore, but loves hanging out with my mom (they've been married almost 57 years) and loves to reminisce about airplanes.

This post is dedicated to him and the planes he restored...

Beechcraft Staggerwing F17-D NC291Y

Waco ZQC-6 NC2277

Aeronca 7AC Champ "Hopgrasser" - I worked almost every step of the way on this restoration with Dad while I was in High school. This is the plane I first solo'd and I gained more than 250 hours in this plane. I enjoyed taking most of my cousins, neices, and nephew for buddy rides in this plane.
Click Here:

Stinson 108-3 Station Wagon N938C - restored in 1965

1956 Cessna 182 N3955D Restored in 1966

1950 Cessna 195A - N9880A Restored in 1976

Another family treasure, Taylorcraft BC12-D

I heard a quote once that goes something like this... "People don't 'own' airplanes, but if we are lucky, we get to care for one for a while". I thought this was a great attitude and a good way to look at any of our earthly treasures. It all belongs to God, anyways.
Taylorcraft BC12-D (N95598) is the plane I currently am blessed to care for. Like the Robin, the Tcraft has been in my heart for years. This is the plane my dad instructed me to fly from the time I was 14 yrs old until the fabric was about to fall off. I actually didn't do my first solo in this airplane, but all my learning follies happened in this bird. When I was in my late teens and early 20's, I helped my dad restore the Tcraft and it flew again in 1984. Dad sold it to Lee Eyeler in '85 and I never expected to see it again. Lo and behold in 2005, Lee gave me a call and offered me the chance to buy it back. In the grand scheme, I had no business doing so, but with my wife's blessing, I scraped up the money. Thanks Lee!

The plane that started it all - for me, Curtiss Robin C-1, "The Texas Lady".

This is my first time to try blogging. I chose to make the topic about my interests in Antique Airplanes and Aviation History. So to start it all off, I have to pay tribute to our family heirloom, the Robin. Built in 1929, this Curtiss-Robertson "Robin" model C-1 has been a part of our family since 1967 when my dad (John Bowden) bought it from a Mr. Harold Owen in Seymour, Missouri. I was 3-yrs old at the time. I'll be adding more information and stories about the Robin in future posts. For now, I'll just say that this Robin holds a special place in my heart and in the hearts of our whole family. The memories of my youth are filled with Robin stories and the special times I spent with my dad working on this plane and flying with him. She's a grand old bird with a colorful history. Look for more on NR82H in the future.

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