Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Pilot's Christmas Poem

Twas the Night Before Christmas... at the Airport.

Author unknown.

Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp, Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ. The aircraft were fastened to tie downs with care, In hopes that -- come morning -- they all would still be there. The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots, With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.

I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up, And settled down comfortably, resting my butt. When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter, I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter. A voice clearly heard over static and snow, Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick, I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick." I ran to the panel to turn up the lights, The better to welcome this magical flight. He called his position, no room for denial, "St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer! With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came, As he passed all fixes, he called them by name: "Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun! On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their heads, They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread, The message they left was both urgent and dour: "When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking, Then I heard, "Left at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking." He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh, And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk, I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks. His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost, And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale, And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale. His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly, His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red, And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low-lead." He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump, I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work, And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk. He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief, Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log, These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog. He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear, Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk, He called up the tower for clearance and squawk. "Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction, Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion"

He sped down the runway, the best of the best, "Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west." Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night, "Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

Friday, September 20, 2013

More Curtiss Robin Archive Photos

Through the internet, we meet some interesting people who we might never have the opportunity to meet, otherwise, face to face.  A new acquaintence of mine, Gil Halpin has a really cool Facebook Page that he entitled "Flight Archive".  There you will find all kinds of interesting photos and discussions about old airplanes.  Gil graciously gave me permission to link some of his Curtiss Robin photos here for the readers of this blog.  If you are a fan of Curtiss Robins, I am sure you will enjoy these.

Thanks Gil for sharing these nice pictures.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

PRESS RELEASE - 5 new Aviation Websites

PRESS RELEASE - FIVE new Aviation Websites from Delta Mike Airfield, Inc.  The way you view Aviation History is about to crank up to a whole new level!!!
Parks Airport Register, Part of Page 1 (Source: St. Louis University Library)

Check out these web-links to the five new aviation historical websites.

The images above are taken from the Parks Airport webpage.

What's up with all of this?....

You are about to be amazed by aviation history in a way you might never have imagined.  If you are a follower of this blog, you may have also heard about an excellent website called "DMAIRFIELD.ORG".    If you haven't, it is a must see for all those who enjoy reading and learning about aviation history. Truly an aviation treasure on the internet, the site is about an old, handwritten, leather-bound, airfield register.  The register's old pages evolved through the years in real-time by military, civilian, and commercial aviation operations of the day.  Noted aviation historian, Gary W. Hyatt, President - Delta Mike Airfield, Inc revived the old register into a living historical record.  Gary's unique website design is formed around an information database that Gary created from the register's handwritten entries.  Expanding from this database, Gary's not-for-profit company solicits and publishes historical photos, articles, short stories, trivia, news-clippings, and other aviation artifacts submitted from armchair historians like you and me.  The result is a compilation with interwoven links to information about the people, airplanes, and events that are related to the Davis Monthan Municipal Airfield in Tucson Arizona.
The success of the DMAirfield website has led Gary into new, but similar undertakings.  Check out this press release by Delta Mike Airfield, Inc. 

Great news to say the least!!  Way to go Gary! 

Again, here are the web-links to the five new websites.
I am very happy for Gary to have achieved this milestone to bring all five of these registers to us.  It is undoubtedly the culmination of a monumental effort.  But the best part is that this is only the beginning.  From here, it will be interesting to watch these sites grow as the current DMAirfield site has grown.  
Personally, I plan to become a contributor mainly to the Parks Airport site, for which I have already collected a fair amount of historical information.  I am excited about this. I think the format of Gary's pages are ideal for armchair historians and enthusiasts like me who have limited time to compile their collections into a quality publication.  Gary and is great at taking the materials submitted and building them into a first class webpage.  In my opinion, Gary's database format of his website changes everything about the way we can search and use historical data.  It provides a medium of unlimited scale for aviation research to build upon itself by allowing the casual researcher an easy way to add and search for information. Researchers can now gain a broader understanding of history through the links among these regional airfields, events, pilots, and travelers.  So I encourage others to dig through their old clippings and collected airplane photos and send them in to Gary.

My kudos to Gary Hyatt:
Some time ago, Gary and I became friends through internet, email, and phone calls.  We have never met in person.  But through our correspondence I learned that Gary is passionate about aviation history and has a driven purpose to his work of educating people and sharing information about aviation history through his website. I have read  Gary's "airfield register" webpage concept was quite intriguing to me when I first saw it because I knew of another one that existed in the archives of Parks College, Saint Louis University.  The Parks Airport Register covers several years, starting in 1929 and well into the late 1930's from the gone (but not forgotten) airfield associated with Parks College in East St. Louis, Illinois.  I thought it would be great if a similar effort could be done to expose this register, so I mentioned this to Gary.  To my surprise, Gary was already on the trail of several other of these airport registers around the U.S. He told me of his plan to build several websites like the Davis Monthan site to greatly expand the historical information that could be drawn out of these unique documents. He was glad to learn of the Parks Register, which in its own right contains numerous records of interesting events and happenings of U.S. aviation.  We have kept in touch about this over the years.  To me, watching Gary build his databases and to bring these websites all into being at the same time is truly an amazing feat.  I personally believe that the aviation community owes a debt of gratitude to Gary for preserving this information for future generations.  Again.... Way to go, Gary!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Curtiss Robin NR526N - The Key Bro's - Famous Robin Refueled Endurance Flight

The following 2-part article was recently published on Historic Wings webpage.

Known as the Flying Key Brothers, Al and Fred Key were supported by refueling crew, James Keeton and Bill Ward, Jr.  This endurance / refueling team kept their "Ole Miss" Curtiss Robin J-1 (NR526N) aloft over Meridian Mississippi for a 654 hours and 34 minutes.  I hope you'll check out the story HERE to learn more about this historic flight.

This airplane has resided in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum since 1955.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Aluminum Stamped Ribs for Curtiss Robin

Attention Curtiss Robin restorer's:


05/06/2013 -  I received the following notice through email from restorer, Jim Bloomer.  This is great news.  Al Holloway has been doing much to extend the lives of these old birds.

 Hope thing are going well. Just FYI….Al Holloway at Holloway Engineering has built the tooling to stamp out new wing ribs for the Robin. He will be running a batch in the next two months. He recently did the ribs for the horizontals and they came out beautiful. If anyone is interested they need to get hold of him ASAP. Right now there are three of us who are getting new sets. The more we have, hopefully the cheaper it will be. If you could send out an e-mail to the other owners there may someone else who needs a set.

Jim Bloomer

Holloway Engineering is located at Gansner Field (identifier 2O1).
262 Spanish Creek Rd. Quincy, CA 95971
(530) 283-2500 | Fax: (530) 283-0250
F.A.A. Repair Station OHYR 527 L

Monday, April 15, 2013

2013 Central Texas Taylorcraft Fly-In

Another successful Central Texas Taylorcraft Fly-in happened this past weekend at Fort Parker Flying Field adjacent to the Old Fort Parker Historic site near Groesbeck, Texas.  Many Thanks go to Jed Keck, Darius Farmer, Mark Julicher, Sarah McReynolds and others for making this year a success.

Three Taylorcrafts and a half dozen other planes arrived on Friday which was an absolutely beautiful day with light cool breezes from the south all day. When evening came, the campfire was lit as others helped me prepare sausage links, chili, and all the fixin's for a good old-fashioned Texas cookout provided by Certified Aeronautical Products, LLC.  Darius and his buddies Stan and Bill set the mood for a sweet time by providing some down home live country/blues tunes. After supper it was amazing to see the adults become kids again, roasting S'mores over the fire... just like we all did at summer camp back in the day.

Saturday morning brought a really different sort of "dawn patrol" for those of us accustomed to antique airplane fly-ins.  Some of us began hearing this strange noise as we awoke to find out it was coming from a hot air balloon.  We all witnessed the first-ever launch of a lighter than air craft from inside Old Fort Parker as we headed into the visitor center for excellent sausage and pancakes.  This was the start of a fun day.  A stiff breeze settled in for most of the day and gave way to a heavier south wind as the afternoon wore on. Various types of small planes came and went as a few more Taylorcrafts arrived. Some of the best entertainment of the day came as a result of efforts by Mark Julicher, who organized and marshalled a flour bombing contest followed by spot landing competition.  Lawn chair observers lined the taxiway to watch as several un-practiced bombardiers attempted strafing runs over the airfield. The winning drop came to rest within 47 feet of the target.  And only about 18 inches separated 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Excellent lunch was then served at the Old Fort Visitor Center.  Later in the afternoon, a slight cross-wind made for some interesting displays of pilotage for the spot landing contest, which was quite challenging to slip in over the trees making it down to the mark while keeping speed just right and simultaneously negotiating the wind.  For most, it turned into a public display of 3-hopper landings. The best part of it all was the opportunity for renewed friendships and new acquaintances.  As evening came, we all enjoyed stew and cornbread at the Fort Parker kitchen, followed by a special treat provided by the Hot Air Balloon folks, headed by Nick Stanko.  Nick and crew set up their equipment and projected a bigger than life movie "Dr. Strangelove" on a makeshift screen across the side of their RV.  More s'mores were roasted and consumed for a sweet end to a sweet day.

Aerial view taken Saturday afternoon by Neil Palmquist.

Stay tuned for more photos...

CLICK HERE ... for more Beautiful Photos by Jack Fleetwood..


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Curtiss Challenger Engine Handbook

Mr. Harold Sciever of Brownwood Texas recently sent me this really nice original manual for Curtiss Challenger engines.  Harold was a friend of Dad's.  It is nice knowing there are still folks around who knew Dad and who appreciate old airplanes enough to preserve this kind of history.  This handbook is a welcome addition to our Robin's records.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Curtiss Robin C-1, NR-82H. John Bowden

This month I decided to take a look back at the history of Curtiss Robin model C-1, NR82H, which has been in my family for the better part of 5 decades.  Early on, this airplane had an interesting career as an endurance flying refueler.  Details of the early endurance flying days are documented in my article titled "Curtiss Robin NR82H - Making History" published in Sport Aviation, February 1995.  Since that article was published, I have come across a few interesting items and photos of note.  Here are a few of them, followed by the article and the personal Journal of Louise Thaden discussing her record setting endurance flight of August 1932 with partner Frances Marsallis over New York City in a Curtiss Thrush.

Earliest known photograph of NR82H as configured from the factory as a re-fuel ship for the "Missouri Robin"  Photo provided by Russell Plehinger.
NR82H engaged in re-fuel connection with "The Missouri Robin" NR78H July 1929.  Photo provided by Russell Plehinger

NR82H engaged in re-fuel connection with "The Spokane Sun God" August 1929. NR82H was piloted by C. Ray Wasall during these connections.  Photo provided by Russell Plehinger
Note: in the photo above and below it is thought the the large white area was painted on the side in order to communicate written messages to the endurance crew.

Photo of NR82H apparently "touched up" for advertisement.  Source: FLIGHT magazine, Oct. 24, 1930.

NR82H engaged in re-fuel connection with "The I.J. Fox" Curtiss Thrush endurance plane of Louise Thanden and Frances Marsallis.  August 1932.  Photo provided by Russell Plehinger.

After the above article was published, I received a couple of interesting letters... see below.  Click on the images to enlarge for reading.

READ MORE about NR82H, C. Ray Wassall, and endurance flying HERE.

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