Part 1. Restoration, the easy task
This process started about six years ago when I had the bright idea that I wanted to restore an antique or classic airplane. No, I did not need another airplane in my stable that included a RV-6 (the best airplane I have ever flown, either military or civilian), and a 1946 Luscombe 8A metal wing that I bought because it was such a good deal! The RV was operational and the Luscombe was taken apart to clean up and then sell (I used the metal wings and tail feathers from this plane to use on the #1936 restoration).
I stumbled on an add in “Barnstormers.Com” that raised my eyebrows and heart rate to a pounding elevation. There, in front of my eyes was this beautiful rebuilt and re-skinned Luscombe fuselage with many other parts that could lead to “almost” a complete new project. This was Luscombe #1936. The basic engine was complete; three rag wings, tail feathers, new landing gear wheels and tires, new canopy, and various other parts in random condition. It dawned on me that my Toyota Tundra pickup was up to the journey and that this exceptional project also came with a trailer (fully loaded with airplane) for only $500.00 – such a deal.
All of this for only $8000.00, and only as far away as Billings Montana (I live in the Blue Ridge area of northern Virginia). Oh, by the way, there was no logbooks, airworthy certificate, or data plate for this project as it had been wrecked and the airworthy certificate taken out of circulation by the FAA. However, there was most of the paperwork and data that over the years had been stored by the feds including various upgrades and inspections of this plane. Also there was no propeller and cowling. I thought “No Sweat” as I had all that was needed in the plane I already had in my barn and could use the best parts of each project. Little did I know?
My plan was to incorporate the best of all parts and end up with a practically new plane for a fairly decent price. Luscombe serial # 1936 started life in November 3rd 1945 in Dallas Texas, as a rag wing model 8A. It was destroyed in an accident in the early 1960’s and was removed from the FAA registry. Luscome # 1936 was a side-by-side two seat, high wing (cloth covered wings and aluminum fuselage and tail feathers) light aircraft that had a 65 horsepower Continental air-cooled engine. This plane would cruise about 90 MPH. Its max gross weight at that time was 1200 pounds and had a 14-gallon fuel fuselage tank. To start this plane, one had to get in front of it and pull the wood propeller thru swiftly until it started. This is a dangerous procedure and would require another person in the pilot seat on the controls and brakes; or the plane must be tied down prior to starting it by yourself. Dual magnetos were the spark, and flying control was done with a stick and rudder pedals. In October of 2006 a deal was struck with the seller in Montana and away we went. I coned my wife Patty into going on this trip with me. What a blessing. It was in October and we needed to get out there as soon as possible to beat the snow, which we just barely did. The trip out was long and uneventful, but hauling the trailer full of airplane back was not as bad as I expected. The load was light and well balanced plus the trailer was a new one that was suited to long hauls.
This ease of driving gave us the opportunity to do some sight seeing and picture taking. The sights in South Dakota Badlands were especially enticing. Wild life was plentiful and very close by to observe. There was a wide spectrum of wildlife including herds of buffalo, deer, turkey, eagles, big horned sheep, mountain goats, and other misc. small creatures. The weather was beautiful and I got some of my favorite wild life photos. Delaying to “smell the roses” was defiantly worthwhile. The remainder of the trip home was leisurely and with no problems, and just after we got home the snows came to Montana and the Dakotas.
This business of restoring an airplane sounds enticing and adventurous, but also intimidating since I had never done this before. I decided to use my garage for the actual work and store the Remaining parts in the barn to restore when their turn came.
It was time to visualize a plan of attack on this project and figure what parts I wanted to acquire, what was available, where to get them, and any techniques or skills to be learned. First I obtained a parts book from Univair, a parts store in Colorado that specializes in classic aircraft parts. This parts book also gives a visual picture of where each part goes on each sub station, which is very helpful when putting this stuff together. With out this manual, many small parts could be forgotten which could lead down a dangerous path. Univair sells parts, but does not have all that is necessary, so other sources and expertise was needed.
I had heard of Doug Combs, a person who specialized just in Luscombes, and decided to talk to him about my new project. Doug is a pilot, A&P mechanic, and an IA inspector. He also runs the Luscombe foundation that wants to preserve and promote this vintage classic airplane. His name came up in the type club trade paper of the Luscombe Association, which I was already getting. Doug is a frequent contributing editor with many helpful articles and problem solving techniques in keeping these antique planes flying. Also, I found out that Doug was also a source of new and used parts. I had just found the mother load. Other sources have come up on the horizon and all are essential to completion of this type project.
First was the fuselage. The workmanship on re-skinning the aluminum panels was outstanding and I thought not much work was left. Wrong. First I had to remove the paint on the underbody panels that were not replaced. Lying on your belly and putting paint stripper above you, dripping all the time, is no fun – and it burns if it gets on your skin. Heaven forbid if that stuff gets in your eyes.
After stripping the paint, next came building up a nice cowling. I had intended to use the cowling from the other Luscome I had, but realized that I still would need an additional cowl for that plane. Here starts the process of the law of diminishing returns. Through the computer, I learned of Luscombe parts located in Atlanta. There were two wings, three struts, two sets of tail feathers, four ailerons, and an original stamping of a nose cowl. Off to Atlanta I went with my friend Bob Lane and my new 16-foot flat bed trailer acquired from the first parts run to Montana. Three thousand dollars later, a proud owner – some needed and some not of misc. stuff, we headed back to Virginia. Was I hording stuff? I hoped not, and thought extra parts could be traded. This trip was about six months after the Montana trip.
A lot of work on the fuselage had taken place and it was determined my new acquisition of the nose cowl would be put to use. One huge problem developed. I did not have the skill or tools to properly cut and form the holes for the grills and air vents. Also, there was a new modification of splitting this cowl to make two pieces that could be removed undependably from the engine without removing the propeller to do engine maintenance. Doug Combs to the rescue! His shop had the expertise to do all the above plus, producing the other parts of the cowling needed. Hurray! I was to have a new cowling.
My total expense of this new creature only cost $5000 – but understand I had already purchased the nose stamping on my trip to Atlanta, so subtract $600.
All is not lost here as Doug stopped by my garage on an east cost excursion with a panel truck and relieved me of all my unnecessary Luscombe parts, on trade or credit for future purchases. I have discovered that to purchases a completed restored airplane would have been cheaper than this restoration I have undertook. The law of diminishing returns has reared its head. But, look at what I am learning and the fun of the actual work of restoration (actually this is true since that was my intent from the start).
In my wisdom I had precariously positioned the fuselage on blocks so that I could get in and out easier than having this fuselage on its landing gear. Dumb, it fell over one day while I was inside messing with the instrument panel – broke my new windshield and bent a metal faring slightly. New windshield $150. Bruised ego and body, free.
Some modifications were in order to make my Luscombe a Metcalfe special. Of course, all had a price tag. I purchased ski struts to replace the flying wires on the landing gear, new hydraulic brakes and wheels, extended the baggage space, and ordered some new or overhauled instruments. And naturally, I needed a talking radio and transponder and a GPS unit for navigation. The emergency locator transmitter came with the original project. (We can justify all of the radio equipment since when I sell the Luscombe, I keep all this stuff to go in the next plane – (if I can fly that long).
Price tag for above (excluding radio equipment) - $3500. Price is going up – just wait!!
The fuselage is almost done and my new windshield has arrived. This requires a lot of cut and fit on the plastic and must be done with care, as it is easy to break. Guess what, a huge crack develops on one side as I try and cut away an edge – just a slip of the hand. Another $150. The next windshield is a success, but anticipation was high during the fitting process.
New cables, ball bearing pulleys, battery box, and all new hardware are now in place. All that is left for the fuselage is the fuel system and the electrical system. The fuel system has all new equipment including valves, lines, and hardware. This goes fairly easily since the parts book has easy to follow diagrams. The electrical system is next and very new to me since I have to invent what I want. I have never put together any type of electrical equipment, and was not looking forward to doing this. Again, a guardian angel. Tony Bingelis, author of airplane building techniques books to the rescue. His diagrams and advise on creating an electrical system was fantastic. Even a cattle, sheep and hogs major in college could follow his teaching and create this system – and it works. I need to give credit to my friend Paul Farmer, who has recently passed, for helping my put together the complex voltage regulator kit.
Total time since project started: two years.
During this two year time period the engine build up process was going on. I selected Mike Peters of Frederick Maryland to do this for me. I knew that I wanted an engine of approximately 100 horsepower since a prior Luscombe I had owned had that power plant. It was adequate power for this type of plane, had a starter and generator so that an electrical system could be utilized. I checked with Doug Combs and asked his advise for the best engine, and he stated that in his opinion, the 85 horsepower Continental with an 0-200 crankshaft and 0-200 pistons would be best suited. This was a STC’d (FAA approval modification) and would develop about 95 horsepower. This engine would now qualify my 8A luscombe to become a 8E model and have a new gross weight of 1400 pounds. The 8A model was only approved for a 65 horsepower engine and a gross weight of 1260 pounds with metal wings and wing fuel tanks holding 12.5 gal each. This all sounded good and this engine was being built up.
Total engine rebuild cost $14,000.00 (I used parts from the 65 horsepower engine that came with my assortment of parts to use on the next Luscombe project)
-----Again, in my wisdom I had an idea. Why not install this 85 horsepower engine on my 8A Luscombe, as per Luscombe factory specs used to convert to a model 8E, BUT NOT increase the gross weight to 1400 pounds. Instead, only increase the gross weight to only 1320 pounds, thereby, still maintaining the 8A model status, which would maintain the airplane in the LIGHT SPORT CLASS. A light sport class airplane does NOT require a FAA physical to fly as the pilot. This is quite an advantage, as one gets older and might not pass the required FAA physical and therefore could not fly any airplanes. This light sport class has limitations on the kind of an airplane one can fly, and the pilot only has to have the physical requirements needed to drive a car. Therefore, an auto driver’s license can be used as proof of physical legality to fly light sport aircraft. Sound complicated!!! Yes it is. But it is the rule.
Doug Combs stated that he thought a special STC (approval) from the FAA could make this engine modification a fact. He thought this process would not be too hard to achieve and estimated about six months for the completion. No new engineering would be required since the Luscombe factory had done this sixty years ago and only a paper gross weight change would actually happen – lower gross weight than had already been approved. Easy right. Wrong again. This was a self-inflicting wound that I knew would definitely hinder the odds of FAA approval, but it is worth the try. This topic will be further discussed after completing the dialogue on the restoration.
This new 85 horsepower Continental engine was built and ready to install. Prior to putting the engine on, the plane was again put on its landing gear with the new wheels and brakes. The engine installation was quite simple. I needed to put the engine on so the cowling could be trimmed and fitted. This process was the most difficult for me since the cowling was so expensive and I did not need to goof it up by cutting too much during the fitting process. It all worked out fine and actually looks quite nice.
Next after the fuselage come the tail feathers and wings. All new hardware, cables, and pulleys were installed. Also, new electrical wires went in the wings for the new navigation and strobe lights. The sheet metal on all of these items was in pretty good shape and did not need any repairs. I did not attach any of this to the fuselage at this point since paint needed to be applied first.
Misc. cost of above parts not already in project: $1000.00 Cost of new propeller to match new engine: $1800.00
Painting was done in stages. Prior to installing the instruments and radios, the inside was sprayed. I used a cream color that is bright and clean looking. The paint was made by Pittsburg Paints (PPG) and is a polyurethane type paint. My friend Bob Jacobs was the painter, and I was the designer and gofer. We did the fuselage first and then each wing separately followed by all the small fairings, brackets, etc. Again, my flat bed trailer was an asset to haul all these parts to Bob’s paint shop.
Paint material cost: $1500.00
After paint it was time to take all components to the airport and put it together. The light at the end of the tunnel was getting larger.
During this whole process of restoration Doug Combs was my go to for advise and council. Since he is an IA inspector licensed by the FAA, he was delegated to do all the paperwork and periodic inspections as work was being done. He coordinated my inspections with other work in this part of the country and was in charge of the final inspection prior to the FAA visit to get a compliance inspection for an airworthy certificate.
Three years time span to this point and approximately $35,000.00 Value on open market also approximately $35,000.00
Absurd certification costs in Part 2. Certification.
Part 2. Certification, absurd certification costs.
Arranging the first meeting with the FAA to try and get a one time approval for my engine installation and an airworthy certificate seemed to be normal, friendly, and professional. Doug Combs and myself went to the local FAA office and met with the local Washington agent. He did the background checks on his computer and determined that in fact, I had a legitimate registered aircraft, but without a current airworthy certificate. It had originally been a 8A and manufactured in 1945 with a serial number of 1936. The original N number and air worthy certificate had been removed from the FAA registry because of a wreck that determined the aircraft destroyed.
Since I had bought this project, I obtained a new N number with the FAA and now wanted a compliance inspection, after my restoration, to obtain a new airworthy certificate. A date was set up for this inspection and we thought things were to be reasonable.
The date came – all paperwork up to snuff, airplane looking magnificent, and three FAA inspectors descended upon my hanger. They looked over the plane, complimented the workmanship, but bolted on the request for a one-time approval of my 85 horsepower engine and still retaining the 8A status. Probably, if we had put the original 65 horsepower Continental engine on, all would have been fine. They stated, “ It was for my own good” that they deny my application. It was then stated that the proposal be handed over to another agent in the same office who was more an expert on these things. They had the power to grant my request, but did not want too. Why, no answer. All was friendly and congenial.
All paper work and engine request would now be sent to this new local inspector. This was done, but to our surprise, all paperwork was sent back saying he could do nothing. No explanation was given. New game.
Our next attempt to obtain a one time STC was done at the local PHX office in Arizona because Doug Combs lived in that area and was known. This failed, so the next course was to try and get a full STC (approval) from the engineering part of the FAA. Since Doug had contacts at the Anchorage Alaska FAA engineering, he sent the data and paperwork to that office. Positive feedback came, but time was not of the essence at that office at this time. Things dragged on, correspondence was sent back and forth, FAA personnel changed, etc. (Doug was handling all of this - I had no input except to Doug). This has dragged on now for two and a half years from the time I finished the project. I will have to say that some progress has been made and that this request might be in the final approval stage. We will wait to find out, possibly Jan 2013.
Meanwhile, I had another brilliant idea!! Why not just put the original 65 horsepower Continental engine back on the plane and try for another compliance inspection with the original setup from
Changing back to the 65 horsepower engine was not complicated – just a pain and a lot of work. The local licensed mechanics at Front Royal airport did most of this change, and I did the rest with their inspection. The Front Royal mechanics did not do any paperwork since Doug had done all previous and also would do the current updates.
Again, Doug came out to Virginia and got all the paperwork up to date with the engine change and then called the FAA to set up an appointment for the compliance inspection. The local inspector who had two years ago sent all the paperwork back to Doug was assigned this case again. Well, the sparks flew. This inspector unknown to me had in fact visited Front Royal airport and had spent considerable time talking to the local mechanics about my plane. Maybe because I am not a licensed mechanic, Arizona mechanic had done paperwork, and who knows – the FAA agent was not in favor of doing this project. When he and Doug got on the phone, the stars did not line up and Doug surmised that this inspector had a poisoned attitude about this particular airplane and was not happy by being assigned to the project. Doug and I determined it would be unwise to have this inspector inspect this plane. He had never seen the airplane, and we would like to keep it that way. Now what to do??
Doug made a call to the Phoenix FAA office and asked if an airworthy inspection could be done at his shop on an aircraft that had been resurrected from an accident. The complete history of the aircraft was disclosed (not Virginia FAA personnel dealings), and the reply was yes. A designated inspector would be assigned and only a two-day notice of when to do the inspection was required. This new inspector contacted Doug and settled any questions about the airplane. Again, what to do! Try the local inspectors and deal with the bureaucracy of having to please this individual who did not want this job, go to a closer FAA area than Phoenix and deal with unknown personnel, or go to the friendly environment and get the job done.
Talk about the law of diminishing returns, absurd, this is a costly Luscombe.
Given this new revelation, I had to make a decision. Doug offered to come back to Virginia and help dismantle the wings and secure the plane on my flat bed trailer. OK, lets do it – this means that I will have to take the wings off, modify the trailer to accept the plane with the engine attached, then drive it to Phoenix. Of course,
Ready for trip to Phoenix Arizona.
After arriving in Phoenix, I will have to put the plane back together again and prepare it for inspection. No sweat!! This happened, and only the grace of God made it happen. I was lucky in that my friend Charles Prince volunteered to drive with me and help with the process. How lucky can I be? After two and a half long days of driving, we arrived at Doug’s shop in Chandler Arizona airport. It took three days to fully put the plane back together and have it ready for inspection. Doug had a horizontal stabilizer that needed to go to Pokeppesse New York, so we detoured on the way back home for this delivery – even earned gas money for our detour. All told we were away from Virginia for about ten days.
On September 27th 2012 the inspection went well and we were complimented on the fine restoration. I now have a legal airworthy certificate. And now I have to catch an airliner back to Phoenix and fly this 65 horsepower antique across the United States. See Part 3, flight-testing and trip east to Virginia.
Time from finish restoration to airworthy certificate: 2 ½ years
Total time since restoration started: 5 years
Cost of certification (travel, labor, etc.): $3,650.00
Total cost of Luscombe #1936: $38, 650.00
Cost of learning and accomplishment: priceless.
The next project in my barn and garage will be a bare bones expense since I have accumulated all of the aircraft parts, engine and prop, and the labor is free. Also I have all the paperwork. Next I will learn the techniques of applying fabric to the wings. Actually, yes, I expect to recover money spent on first project from a profit on the second. Think positive.
Part 3: Flight-testing and trip across the United States
Findley I can fly my Luscombe #1936 with the N number of 4581M. I will use 81M as the identification in this transcript.
Doug Combs took 81M up on the first test flight after restoration. It was determined that I had put on the horizontal stabilizer with the wrong angle of incidence since the elevator trim gave too much up elevator and could not be trimmed for level flight. This needed to be corrected prior to any more flights. The front of the stabilizer needed to be lowered about ¼ inch which turned out not to be too much of a project. All complete and buttoned up, we were ready for the next flight – my turn.
Chandler airport and Santan mountains in background The testing period needed to be approximately 10 hours of flying time to break-in the engine. This was early in October, but the temperature in the afternoon was reaching 105 degrees F. With this in mind, we anticipated about 205 degrees F oil temp. I went with Doug and he acted as instructor for 20 minutes to just acquaint me with landing this Luscombe. It had been a few years since flying a Luscombe, but it all came back quickly.
Now my job was just to fly 81M with the throttle wide open during this break-in period. For the first few flights I just flew around the airport in circles in case anything was not quite right. Oil temps maintained a constant temp and all seemed OK. This became boring quite soon, so I ventured out to the local area taking in all the sights of southern Arizona. Up canyons, over mountains, cross open desert, and looking at everything interesting. Ten hours was achieved on the second day of flying with the next step to drain the oil, take a sample and send it to the lab, refill the oil and prepare for my trip east. Below is Superstition Mountain.
Four Peaks, NE of Phoenix
One problem did develop during this testing period. The battery only lasted the first ten hours (with transponder, radio, and GPS all on) and then had to be recharged. We anticipated this since there was no provision for a generator on this 65 horsepower motor. This time span of good battery power was good to know for pre-flight planning. I had determined to stay away from any areas that would require a transponder so that I could fly with this item off. The radio would be only on when I needed it and the Garman 495 GPS would be on all the time. Of course, I would follow along on my map with my lines all drawn and keep track of where I was at all times. What else is there to do on a 22 hour flying trip. Having my GPS was like cheating, but quite a navigation aid it is.
Canyon Lake, NE of Phoenix Arizona.
Actually, this trip had already been planned prior to leaving home to retrieve 81M. I had all the maps I would need, so the planning stage was quite easy. My flying rules were that if the weather was bad, I had a new vacation spot to explore wherever this weather was. I drew a straight line from Chandler Arizona to Front Royal Virginia and then divided up the route into segments. I used airports and VOR’s (radio stations) as my guide and made my straight line a little crooked to use these checkpoints as my true guide. Marking them all down, I went to the computer and dialed up “Duats”, which is a free government flight-planning program. With all the inputs entered, I had one flight plan that covered the total trip. I used a no-wind ground speed of 80 knots as the guide, and then would adapt what ever ground speeds I encountered to determine fuel stops and night stops. Looking at the map, I would vector around any areas I should not enter and stay out of the way of big commercial airports. Planned flying time was 22 hours.
This Luscombe 81M had one big handicap – only 65 horsepower. This meant that climbing to altitudes would be slow and tedious. I would have liked to have a passenger with me, but with the heights required to cross the mountains, we would not make it, and I would have had to plan a much longer route to the south to avoid the higher mountains of my solo selected route.
Because of the mountains needed to be crossed in Arizona and New Mexico, the weather also had to cooperate. I was very lucky in this respect as the forecast weather was perfect for this portion of the trip.
Day 1: Day one started at the first hint of daylight to take advantage of cooler temps during my initial climb over four peaks just outside Phoenix. I initially thought Albuquerque would be my first fuel stop, but realized that just to the east of ABQ was a huge mountain that I had to cross, and not enough miles were present to make that a straight climb. Therefore, St Johns would be my first stop, and then I would have enough time to climb up high enough to clear this mountain east of ABQ. The views were inspiring, with clear calm air. On nice days in the west, you have unlimited visibility. The danger over the mountains is the wind currents – especially with the minimum horsepower I had in 81M. Today I was lucky.
Landing at St Johns was normal with no problems – until I arrived at the gas pumps and discovered no one was there. Fueling was not the problem since most small airports have self serve gas pumps, but after refueling, I had to start this beast by myself. Some of these antique planes do not have starters, which means you have to wind up the prop by hand and hope the plane doesn’t go scooting across the tarmac with out a pilot inside controlling it. This is the main reason I wanted the bigger engine because it had a starter. Obviously, many years passed with this method of starting, and most survived –but some didn’t. The ticket is to tie the plane down and chock the wheels prior to the start – so be prepared and have ropes and chocks in the plane. I did, and only needed to find a place to tie up. Climbing eastbound to an altitude of 10,500 feet I was only about 2000 feet above the ground for the next leg. This was a comfortable spread, which at times I needed to go around certain peaks rather than just skimming them.
Destination for this second leg was Las Vegas New Mexico, which is NE of ABQ. The field elevation at Las Vegas was about 6700 feet – and the temps were rising so the density altitude was up around 8500 feet. 65 horsepower Luscombes do not climb worth a dam at 8500 feet. After fueling, a station man was kind enough to give me a prop (turn the prop to start the engine) and I didn’t have to do my acrobatics on the ground to get in the plane with the engine running. Take off was something else!!! I rolled and rolled and rolled until finally the bird became airborne – but didn’t want to climb. It was hot and no power. The wind was light with smooth air and 81M very slowly started to ease up in to higher realms. The terrain was rolling prairie with no trees or houses to get in the way, so gradually I gained altitude enough to go in a straight line and not have to hug the low areas. I was off to Dodge City Kansas, which would be my overnight resting place.
Winds were in my favor for this leg as my ground speed increased to 90 knots (103.5 MPH); also the clouds appeared and gradually got lower as I approached Dodge City where the surface winds were blowing about 15+ knots. Luck for me, this was straight down the runway. Most small airports in the US are very accommodating and friendly. Crew cars are readably available and there was one here at Dodge City. Not only was the wind blowing, but also it was cold –much different from the Arizona desert heat. The weather forecaster mentioned possible snow later the next day, so I needed to “get out of Dodge” early in the morning.
Day 2: Early morning was windy and cold – about 33 degrees F. Again I was lucky to have a ground person help and prop the engine. Guess what, the snow decided to come early, and I could see a few flakes in the air as I departed. The wind today was not in my favor and it was hard to tell if I was faster than the cars on the interstate or not. Going in a straight line does help.
Scenic things observed were huge cattle feeding lots, windmills, and circular irrigation imprints on the landscape. These circles were all different colors and were laid out next to each other for mikes. Miles of giant circles. Low clouds prevailed till my next fuel stop, but the winds were less severe the farther east I got. I forget just where I stopped for the night –think it was in Iowa. I do remember that the good motel in town was full and I had to stay at a substandard hole in the wall. At least there was a nice person at the airport to take me to the motel.
Irrigation circles and cattle feed lots.
Lake of the Ozarks.
Day 3: This was to be a long day and I would attempt to spend the night in Ohio or West Virginia. I do not fly past sunset. Getting out of Iowa was a bit of a chore. No one was at the airport to help get the engine running, so I had to do this my self. Again, a cold morning. The airplane was tied down properly and I was ready to start it up. Usually, the engine started on the first or second pull, but this morning it decided to be uncooperative. It took almost 45 minutes to get the thing started and it about wore me out. Finally I got the correct mixture to the cylinders and it started and ran smoothly.
Weather was about neutral, not good, but not bad. Winds at altitude were smooth and again I had a slight tailwind. No mountains in this area, so I flew about 2000 feet above the ground. Heater was on and it is poor at best, but I had ample clothing.
Most interesting sights were when I crossed The Lake of the Ozarks just south of St Louis. A fuel stop was made in this area and nothing to report, as things were normal and uneventful. It appeared that my timing would place me in Ashland Kentucky for the night. This is just across from Huntington West Virginia.
Clouds were starting to get low and I was concerned the weather would fold up on me and I would have to stop short. Things worked out and I landed at Ashland only to find out that no motel was near and no transportation was available. Well, I had fuel in the tanks and decided to press on toward points east. The weather was holding nicely so I just picked out Gallia-Meigs, a small airport on the Ohio River just 30 or so miles NE of Huntington West Virginia. Actually I landed in Ohio. Nice folks were about and I was even granted a hanger for my stay. Again, a crew car was provided and off I went to the motel. These crew cars were free and all one had to do was put some fuel in for the next guy to come along. The flying community is special all across this United States.
Day 4-6: Waking up after a nice night sleep I observed dense fog outside, so had a leisure breakfast and then sauntered over to the airport. I wasn’t going anywhere for quite a while.
The same nice folks that met me the evening before were there and airplane talk was in high gear. Over at one of the hangers was a young fellow working on an Aronca Champ. He actually was the one who had just finished a restoration on this plane and it looked great. Other classic planes were stowed in this hanger, including a L-4 cub of WW11 fame. and I had met a kindred spirit who liked these types of planes better than any other. If it didn’t have a tail wheel, it was of no count. The fog didn’t lift plus a front had caught up with me from Dodge City and clouds were quite thick on top of the fog. I was to be here in my new vacation spot for some time.
Back to the motel for a second night. Fog again the next morning, but hope that it would lift around by10:00AM. The weather started to get better gradually around 11:00AM and a couple of other aircraft that had been weathered in started making noises about getting on to their destination on the eastern shore of Maryland. These planes had gyros to give instrument flight an option and they decided to give it a try about 12:00 noon. The visibility had improved quite a bit, but the clouds were still low and I needed to cross the Allegheny Mountains at Elkins West Virginia, which was close to 4,800 feet high. Around 2:00PM the visibility was greater than 10 miles and a plane landed that had just come over Elkins and reported good visibility with broken clouds in the mountains.
Elkins West Virginia area. Front Royal Virginia airport was only 1-½ hours away and I had greater than 4 hours of fuel, so off I went. Things got a little dicey over the mountains at Elkins and I had to always make sure there was a way out before skirting a tall peak. Grant County airport was next in line and when it was in sight I knew the rest of the way would be a piece of cake. It was, and I landed safely in Front Royal around 4:00PM to complete this journey.
Total flying time was 21 hours from Chandler Arizona to Front Royal Virginia. My route of flight actually was close to a straight line. The 65 horsepower worked fine, but I still covet the bigger engine I have in the hanger. At least it has a starter and generator – plus 30 more horsepower for better take off performance and climb power. Maybe in January the FAA will surprise me with an STC approval. I won’t hold my breath.
Bob Metcalfe, 20 Dec 2012
Flying over Kansas on the way home.
Bob's L2 Tailorcraft
One of the Luscombs Bob restored
In the late 60s to early 70s Bob was racing in the early days of T-6 racing at the Reno (Nevada) air races and flying a Hawker Sea Fury in the unlimited class one year in 1970. He raced his T-6 from 1968 until 1975. After buying the T-6 and a few fixes he had a total of $3,500 invested in it. Back at that time he was in the Airforce instructing in T-37 Jets while having a blast racing his T-6 (You may want to ask him about how to recover from an inverted spins in a T-37 Jet). It is interesting to listen to his story about how the Reno air races were started in the late 60s and how simple the rules were back then. Unfortunately, some of the pilots he started out with did not survive. He recollected the time when the race was held in Cape May (Maryland) and the starting procedure was changed from a standing start off the runway to a running start in the air. At the first try five out of six T-6 racers crashed before reaching the first pilon and all five pilots were killed. Luckily for Bob he didn’t have the money to race that year and didn’t attend that race. Below are just some of the pictures he presented during one of our monthly chapter meeting. Again, very interesting and it shows even though we are a small chapter we have very interesting stories to tell. Thank you, Bob, again from all Members for sharing your experience.
Bob around 1970 in the Hawker Sea Fury
Bob in the Hawker Sea Fury taking on a P-51 Mustang (believe it or not, this picture was taking from the ground)
Bob in the Hawker Sea Fury on the outside (right) passing other racers. This picture also shows how low to the ground the racers are flying.
Bob in the T-37 jet flying formation with his own T-6 flown by his room mate
If you ever wondered why there was a Number 88 painted on Bob's RV-6, it was his race number when racing his T-6. Here he is posing with it.