Before I realized it I was burning holes in the sky in airplanes with two engines, a boat load of instrumentation and retractable landing gear! How, I have wondered, did I ever manage to pull life together enough to manage it?
I recall the tower calling me and advising that I had probably just missed the turn toward the airport in the haze, “We show your airplane 8 miles south of the center line for 26 still headed south; how far behind that are you?” I never even saw the airport go by! It was their snarky way of letting me know that I was really not “all that” just yet.
This then is the great aviation renaissance. And everyone but me seems to be involved. So it is that I find myself reading and learning and believing that somewhere, in the not so distant future I will be able to squeeze just one more project into my charmed life, and into my overcrowded hangar.
Some thirty years ago I wandered my way out to the local strip where I had a hangar full of training aircraft, to get my first glimpse at the “new” Stearman on the field. I found it; it was sitting on the grass right in front of my big silver hangar and even from a distance I could see that there was something odd about it.
They departed from the rag and tube design and tooled the aircraft in all aluminum. This was a radical departure from competing aircraft of the time. With its tail dragger stance, riveted stressed skin, and retractable main gear the Swift became a pilots dream come true, and in May of 1946 the first Globe Swift, GC-1A, was type certificated.
Not content to simply note enemy positions and movements from aloft, the “Mad Major” made some rather startling modifications to his little bird and took the fight to the unsuspecting Germans and their tanks.
Between the dark and the cold it’s about as depressing as it can get. Still I persist. Every year vowing “never again.” It’s much like the old hangover prayer, “Lord, I will never do it again.” But the next year winter arrives and I am still here renewing my vows while I shiver.
Well, there was that stint in the Middle East where I actually wished I could see some nasty cold weather, but that hardly compares to the decades I have spent in the deep freeze waiting for that rat Punxsutawney Phil to decide if winter will end or hang on to add to my misery. What the hell does he know anyway? He’s in Pennsylvania. That’s the “banana belt” in the winter compared to Michigan.
If you build one of these little rockets be prepared to shave things down to 64th’s. Plans were no doubt generated on a computer, and computers find it pretty easy to measure down to the 64th of an inch. Alas, builders do not. If the airplane were built to tight tolerances I could see the point. However measuring the length of the wing flap down to 64th’s of an inch when there is a half inch gap left between flap end and fuselage, seems a bit over zealous.
After weighing all the variables the John Wayne in Jim bubbled to the top and he made another decision. He wanted to fly F105’s. The “Thud” was famously the only U.S. aircraft to be removed from combat due to high loss rates.