My first solo, some multiple decades ago, was in a 1946 Taylorcraft BC-12-D. I have to admit to being somewhat familiar with that particular airplane because I had been flying one with a local dentist since I was about eight years old.
Little wonder then that after lengthy flight training with an amiable and very qualified flight instructor, my brother, I was alone in the cockpit after just some 3-4 hours of dual. I had been instructed to: “Shoot at least three good ones and come and pick me up.”
With sweaty palms then and more bravado than brains, I lurched forth into the pattern flew my perfect three legs, recalled my brothers’ coaching on final, “keep your 60, pitch to it . . . ,” and, on roll out, produced three of the most beautiful slow motion ground loops ever performed. Three was enough and I dutifully taxied to the FBO and picked up my instructor who asked, “How’d it go?” “Great,” I replied.
Little wonder then that I have such affection buried within me for all airplanes of rag and tube with the tailwheel properly positioned at the aft end of the machine.
Of late I am blessed to blow around the atmosphere in an easy opening aluminum can with a retractable tailwheel that is obviously mis-installed on the pointy end of the aeroplane. I have adjusted to it as well as the un-needed excess of speed it produces, but my heart belongs to the likes of Clarence Taylor and his timeless design.
As I drifted through decades of aviation, my one constant was my love of aircraft holding true to the “conventional gear” design. My infatuation waned a bit as I fell prey to the siren song of more room, more speed, bigger engine, flexible gear and all the rest. Lately though I feel a rekindling of that old romantic feeling. You know the one, you’ve had it. It’s that mental picture of a proud little bird perched on stiff front legs with a tiny little tailwheel in the back. Maybe there is a whiff of 80 octane when you open the cockpit door. Maybe it has those worthless heel brakes. Perhaps it is early in the morning and the first rays of old Sol are twinkling off the beads of dew on the Ceconite.
Now comes the resurgence in aviation. What was old is new again, albeit upgraded. I find myself following pilots like Cory Robin, the Patey brothers, and Trent Palmer on the “Net.” I watch as those crazy “Flying Cowboys” doing what I have long ago stopped doing, flying for fun. For the challenge. To see the sights. Just for the sheer thrill of defying gravity on their own. They get it. High Serra indeed. I could go there 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 over crowded hangar.
I have looked at many designs and I have vowed to learn all I can about them in order to find the single one that will make my flying life perfect. It is a quest I guess, and I am lucky enough to have a flying machine with which to visit some of the movers and shakers and innovators involved with returning me to the single most romantic euphoria I have so far achieved.
Come along with me and Pappy “the dog” Boyington as we search this beautiful country of ours for the people, places and machines that keep the dream alive. Join us on our recent trip to the hidden hill county of South Carolina for a look at a most capable flying machine.
Come and be my co-pilot, you’re going to have a great time!!
Author: Tom Speerstra
Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and Pappy “the dog” Boyington.