Friday, August 7, 2009

We're gonna party like it's 1945

Plane: Cub, 65 hp
Route: 40I, Local
Weather: Clear, 68 degrees, wind 070 degrees at 3 knots

Today was just too cool, and I'll get to that shortly. Gina's parents came down to visit for a couple days so I got the chance to take her dad flying this morning. He's been up in small planes before (Cessnas mainly) but never in a taildragger. Given the gorgeous summer morning the only option in my mind was a Cub with the door wide open. So we headed down to Stewart and I was able to get into the 65 hp yellow beauty for an hour.

The grass was still wet with dew as we rolled down the turf and softly launched into the sky. He didn't have any preferences as far as where to fly, so I first went down the valley on my usual sightseeing route. Flying about 1,000 feet above the trees as we paralleled the valley in the early morning air provided some spectacular views. I pointed out Cincinnati off in the haze as well as Kings Island, where he and Gina spent all day yesterday.

As I turned back to the North, I saw what appeared to be a plane of decent size out over the lake. Now I knew that the Collings Foundation had brought their Wings of Freedom Tour to Wright Brothers Airport this week, so I had a feeling that's what I was seeing in the distance. After a minute, I was all but certain that I was looking at a beautiful B-17 bomber circling around Caesar Creek Lake. Knowing they were likely on one of their flying tours (which run a tidy $425 per person that would be worth every penny, in my opinion - it's on my bucket list) I flew us over towards Wright Brothers in hopes of catching another glimpse.

This morning's route over the Ohio countryside

On the way we flew over a farm that I first passed by last summer on my second solo flight in the Champ. They've got an awesome piece of art carved into their crops. You can see the photo I took last year by clicking here. This time, I was able to circle around for a better view and there's actually a waypoint marked in the GPS track (link at the bottom of the post) if you open it in Google Earth. In case you're wondering, it's a french horn with 'Music the Universal Language' written around the design. Pretty cool.

So here's where it just gets plain awesome. I'd been keeping my eyes peeled for traffic and suddenly saw a P-51 climbing and nearly at my altitude (I was flying 1,000 over pattern altitude since I was so close to MGY) at my 2 o'clock. He was headed away and apparently staying in the pattern, as he made a big circle around to join downwind. But the best thing was when I turned my head, looked down, and saw the B-17 crossing midfield to enter downwind ahead of the Mustang. So there we were, cruising along on a clear blue summer morning in a 1946 Cub with the door off, as a Flying Fortress and P-51 were flying 1,000 to 1,500 feet below us.

I kept the runway just off our right wing to keep the best view out the open door. While my head was on a crazy swivel at this point, I couldn't help but follow along as Nine O Nine turned base to final right beneath us. For those of you who have seen the documentary One Six Right (and if you haven't seen it, go buy it - it's incredible) I was treated to a sight that reminded me of the closing sequence of the DC-3 landing on 16R at VNY. Right as we were flying 2,000 feet over the airport the B-17 crossed the threshold of Runway 20 and softly settled back down on the concrete. It was an incredible sight and I wish we'd have brought the camera to capture it on video. Then again, maybe it's one of those moments just meant to be relished in the mind for years to come.

Nothing could top that, but the Mustang did follow shortly behind and I caught a quick view as it landed as well. Over top of Wright Brothers, I rocked my wings back and forth to wave at all the folks below. A few seconds later we were over our house, which I pointed out and Gina's dad quickly spotted. Then I turned back towards Waynesville, descending along the way and passing just outside of town as I turned onto a 45 for my downwind. At pattern altitude, only 800 feet of air separated us from the trees as the lush greenery passed below us. Turning final I was a little high but pulled the power and the Cub quickly sank down as I held her off for a very soft landing on the still-wet blades of grass.

First solos, checkrides, and other milestones certainly stand out in any pilot's mind - and it's not hard to understand why. But I've got to tell you that this morning's has to rank up there in my Top 5 flights, if not higher. Just to be in the air in a plane from the WWII era, with some of the most important aircraft from that war in the skies below, felt so incredibly... right. And, most importantly, Gina's dad had a great time up there with me. Always gotta keep the passengers happy. ;-)

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 0.7 hours
Total Time: 115.7 hours


  1. Sounds really nice, like living a bit of history!

  2. What a great flight! I'm so jealous...I'm a big WWII aircraft buff, have been since, oh, probably before 7th grade.

    I know you expected this from Where are the pictures? You work for Kodak, man, can't you scrounge an old digital from the dumpster and keep it in your flight bag? Or just take Gina everywhere...she takes good pictures :)

  3. Actually I do keep a camera in my flight bag. But I don't bring the whole bag with me when I fly the taildraggers, and I didn't know if Gina's dad wanted to use it, and I wasn't totally keen on having it in my lap with the door wide open next to me, and... and... yeah I know there's no excuse. Shoulda brought it and should have pictures just in case a moment like this pops up.

    (hanging head in defeat)

    Definitely was a great flight though, one of those moments you completely relish. I'll pass along the photo-taking compliment to Gina, she definitely does take some good ones!

  4. Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking you...just trying to live vicariously through you! You're getting to go on some great flights...I haven't been up since March! I'm jealous!

  5. Not since March? What's been keeping you on the ground? Hopefully you're able to get up again soon!

    And no worries because, trust me, I'd kill for a video of the B-17 landing below us.

  6. Nothing like the sight and sound of a Mustang to get you excited. I live near an airpark where there are two P-51's based and I run out of the house everytime one takes off.


  7. Wallace - I agree, there's no better sound in the world than that of a P-51 at full throttle.

    We drove past Wright Brothers on the way home right as a Mustang was taking off and made a low transition. I quickly rolled all the windows down to hear the sound. Never gets old - never will.

  8. Hey,

    Cool Blog Steve! I just started my own a couple weeks ago. I'm still a student pilot with just less than 30 hours, but I'm getting there...

  9. Hey Ben - thanks!

    Good luck on your training, I know exactly where you're at. Such an exciting time.

    Looks like you're not that far away from me (Dayton area) so let me know if you're ever out this way.