Three wives ago and prior to my becoming old, I turned to at the local strip to meet my brother Jimmy for my first “official flight lesson.” It was an attempt to save my sanity at the time and we “borrowed” a T-craft from one of his buddies who was out of town. I got three hours of duel prior to solo. I have never been quite sure whether my sanity was saved or not as a result of my efforts; but one thing is for sure, my life was forever changed from that point on.
There was some kind of magic going on there in the cockpit of that tiny airplane that I didn’t quite understand. Whatever it was made a big impression on me and while I have followed the pilot’s dream of “higher, faster, farther” for decades, I still recall floating over the fence at our local sod strip with the smell of 80 Octane filling my nose, in one of the least complex airplanes ever built, with the calming voice of my big brother in my ear saying, “pitch to sixty, hold that sixty.”
In those days the power got pulled out of the mighty 65 HP Continental at mid-field on the down wind leg, and my job was then to glide a perfect pattern that culminated over the fence with the “stick” in my gut and the airplane lightly brushing the grass for a feather soft landing. Alas, those days have faded as the wives have moved past; but now the Murphy enjoys that same kind of technique! I have missed this for so long!
It is history now but, this past summer I chanced upon a project airplane cowering under a heavy layer of hangar grime that would provide me what I have missed all these decades; grass fields, feather soft landings, and conventional gear, henceforth referred to as “taildragger.” Murf was neglected and broken, possibly even weak and frightened; but somehow it called to me.
I won’t bore you with the details of the deal but let’s just say that I now have an additional project airplane in the hangar and have begun in earnest to get the little high winged, taildragger toy ready for flying into some adventures long removed from my mission profiles. We are, at this point, a match made in heaven. I am old and Murphy excels at slow! Should work out well.
After a few weeks of refit and remove and repair, I have recently, at last, had the opportunity to fly my new acquisition a bit. Though my taildragger skills and touch were rusted from lack of use, in just 5-6 hours of learning the airplane and then finally flying the airplane, I have begun to understand its quirks and wants.
How good it feels to ride in that reclining position with the nose wheel properly placed at the tail of the airplane. How great to taxi about on sod. It’s fantastic to at last feel my main gear brush the grass and roll to a stop. This is what has been missing for so long. I knew it, I just couldn’t get back to it.
Come along as I make some changes to “Murf” and then take him around the patch and sort out what he needs for a good landing. Landings will only get better as I learn once again to feel the airplane as well as fly the airplane. Can’t wait to get the flaperons extended and begin relearning the bush landings that have been absent since, gosh, I guess it was the second wife when I had the Maule?!
Come along for a ride in Murphy . . . . It’s gonna be a great airplane for us to play with!
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.