Saturday, June 6, 2015

Briefly breaking the surly bonds in the Wright B Flyer

Plane: Wright Model B Flyer
Route: MGY, Runway 02
Weather: Overcast, 66 degrees, wind 030 degrees at 10 knots

This has been a couple years in the making, solely due to my own scheduling procrastination. A couple Christmases ago my in-laws gifted me an orientation ride on the Wright B Flyer. In case you're curious, you can do the same with a $100 donation/membership to the organization.

Video from both inside (if you can call it that) and outside the cockpit!

The in-laws decided to come down to visit this weekend and Gina - compensating for my scheduling laziness - scheduled flights for both myself and Gerry, her dad. We headed over to Wright Brothers around 9:45 to fill out the requisite liability forms before our flights.

I should note that I offered to sign my life away if they would take me for a flight out of the pattern but alas, it's not that easy. The orientation rides are simply a takeoff, level-off, and landing - all over the mile of runway at KMGY.

I went first.

Getting strapped in for my orientation ride

All buckled up and ready to go

They fired the plane up and ran through a full set of checks before one of the volunteers helped me up the ladder and strapped on my goggles and headset. Then the pilot, a very nice guy whose name escapes me Rich Stepler (thanks for pointing his name out, Chris!), gave me the standard safety briefing. It could best be summarized as, "don't touch anything!" Understandable.

We chatted a little bit as we taxied to the runway and I obviously told him that I flew and we chatted a little about flight training and instruction. I forget Rich's exact background but he's a former commercial pilot and CFI with way more hours than I think my logbook will ever see. Holding short of the runway, he did a standard runup and things got louder.

Old and new

Rolling onto Runway 02 for takeoff

We rolled onto the runway after a Cirrus departed, got lined up, sat for a minute, and then the pilot pushed in the throttle. It's hard to exactly describe the sensation but it was definitely noisy (the O-360 has a tad more pep than the original engine did driving dual 97" props) as we started moving. The bird actually accelerated quite quickly; one abrupt and firm yank back on the yoke and we were climbing.

Gina was on the ground with her mom, Linda, and dad in a golf cart during my flight; they took the photos and video. The whole experience doesn't last more than a minute but it was still an awesome site both from the ground and obviously from my perspective. Wind in your face, nothing but a few tubes and cables and fabric, just pure vintage aviation at its best.

Airborne in the Wright B

Passing midfield at 50-100 feet AGL

Crossing in front of the chase golf cart at Taxiway B

Power reduced, quickly descending 

Just beginning to flare

Landing on Runway 02 with me onboard

Perhaps what most blew me away was the quick descent and landing. It almost felt like we were going to run past the end of the runway, but as soon the nose was lowered and power was reduced we were on the ground and stopped in no more than 500 feet. Cub-like, almost. Soon after we rolled onto the taxiway at the end of the runway at a walking pace and taxied back to the tarmac in front of the museum.

I was quickly helped down from the right seat and Gerry soon was climbing up the ladder for his turn. They run an efficient operation - the engines remain on, safely since they're behind the wings, and passengers swap places. Within minutes, he was taxiing for his ride and I was now in the golf cart, camera in hand.

Back on the tarmac after my flight

Climbing down requires some Cub-like contortions

Quite focused on the soon-to-be-worn goggles

Probably being told that it's bad to put your feet on the pedals

Taxiing away from the ramp for the second flight of the day

Lifting off from Runway 02

Climbing in the uniquely noisy Wright B fashion

Gerry was waving to us onlookers below

Crossing in front of us while 50-100 feet in the air

Still level, prior to descent

Power reduced and descending quickly once again

Flaring for landing

Touchdown back on Runway 02

Gerry taxiing back in after his orientation ride

Having a nice chat with the ride coordinator after our flights

Me, our pilot, and Gerry after our flights

You can see why every passenger receives a toothpick upon landing

It's a rather interesting combination of old and new up front

I've flown the Wright B Flyer simulators before (there are a few in the Dayton area, including at the Wright B Flyer museum and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park sites) and I have to say that I'm impressed by how accurate they appear to be. While I was only right-seating without touching the controls, the actual plane behaved strikingly similar to how I recall the sims flying. Basically, full power, yank back, barely climb, and only reduce power when you're ready to immediately descend and land. If you want to read more, Rich has a nice write-up from the pilot's perspective on the Wright B Flyer site.

We probably spent a couple hours total at the airport this morning but it was a great time, not just for me and Gerry, but Gina and Linda also enjoyed watching things from the ground. It's hard to describe every sensation I experienced but there were certainly similarities to other open-cockpit planes like the Stearman. That said, the Wright B Flyer is a rather unique aircraft with some very distinct flying characteristics. The whole experience was really cool.

My official proof of today's short aerial adventure 

If you're ever in the Dayton area and love aviation you should definitely consider your own orientation ride. While it is quite short it's an awesome historic experience and the money certainly goes to a good cause. Also, if you live in Ohio, consider one of our aviation heritage vanity plates - proceeds go to the Wright B Flyer organization.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chad's first Cub experience

Plane: Cub, 85 hp 
Route: 40I, Local 
Weather: Scattered clouds, 70 degrees, wind light and variable

Pilot-in-training-on-hiatus friend Gary and I have been messaging back and forth for a few months. You may recall we've flown together a couple times in the past, the most recent being nearly two years ago already. Anyway, he wanted to surprise his avgeek friend and colleague, Chad, with a flight of some sort.

He's a thoroughly nice and gracious guy and left all aeronautical decisions, including type of aircraft, up to me. But regular readers know there really wasn't much of a decision to be made. Surprise flying fun for someone who appreciates vintage aviation? Cub. Period. Obviously.

Chad snapped this photo of our trusty steed prior to my preflight

I forget the full tale of how the surprise was revealed but they spent the day at the spectacular USAF Museum before we met at Stewart. Chad was geeked as expected and we chatted a bit about the Cub, Stewart, and flying in general before getting to the task at hand. Tommy propped the 85 hp Continental to life and soon we were up in the wild blue yonder.

For the most part, I kept quiet and let him soak up the experience. It's also fair to say that's the primary, logical option since it's a tad hard to communicate while flying NORDO with the door wide open. As a Cub should be flown, mind you.

We passed over the lake; on the ground I had noted the low levels of late and pointed out some of the visible foundations as we passed overhead. I remained low as we looked down on the boats and dam before the river dropped away into the valley.

Continuing southwest, I gently turned and kept the sun mostly in our eyes until turning left just as we reached King's Island so all the roller coasters and other thrill rides (that I have zero interest in riding myself) suddenly came into view. Chad found this to be particularly awesome and I agree - it's one of those unique perspectives only made possible with general aviation.

We flew back to the airport and I had quite a nice three-pointer, if I do say so myself. Chad climbed out with one of those aviation perma-grins and he and Gary switched places. We were soon rolling down the turf and set off on an abbreviated sightseeing flight. I remained closer to the airport, flying low and slow and doing the J-3 thing (I think that's the technical explanation).

Another satisfied passenger - Gary after our short hop around the local area

Back on the ground they helped me push the plane back into the hangar and we wandered around the field for a few minutes more. Both wanted to look at some of the other planes so they did just that and we all talked flying as the sun neared the horizon.

We celebrated the evening's fun at a local tavern over tasty food and beer. I personally had one of the better racks of ribs I've tasted in quite a long time. Eventually they had to hit the road (I think they still had a two hour drive home) but they thanked me again and climbed into Gary's SUV with smiles on their faces. As a pilot, you just can't beat the privilege (and fun!) we have when it comes to taking people on airplane rides. Never gets old.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.4 hours
Total Time: 332.0 hours