Saturday, March 9, 2013

Returning to Urbana

There was a time back when I was still regularly flying the RV-6 when it seemed almost a weekly ritual to fly over to Urbana for breakfast. It wasn't that often, or course, but it was pretty frequent. With the the requisite five hours of probation nearly finished and nice weather in the forecast, it seemed that perhaps the time was ripe to reinvigorate the routine. 

The temps were in the 30's as we climbed out of Bolton, as was the ambient atmospheric pressure. Low temps and high pressure are the recipe for good engine and wing performance and this morning was a case in point: I'd swear I saw 1,700 fpm indicated on the Skyview.

It was a smooth ride at 3,500', so I let the autopilot practice its skills while I did some sightseeing. Nothing much to see, really, other than flat brown fields hiding under a dusting of snow.

Back when I was a regular at the airport diner, I used to like to park over in the corner between the restaurant and the maintenance shop. That practice is now apparently verboten. Fortunately Delta Golf and I were the first to arrive (at least via airplane) and there was no shortage of parking spots out on the ramp.

The Jackson Two arrived about a half hour later as I was well into my third cup of coffee. Well, the fourth if you count the one I had before leaving the house.  We had a nice breakfast before walking over to the hangar where a B-17 bomber is being restored. While the primary purpose of the hangar is to house the B-17 project, there are a few other planes parked in there as well. The first to be encountered is a DC-3.

It's in somewhat rough condition - I think it spent its last productive years hauling cargo. Most of the avionics have been either removed or eaten by mice. It's hard to tell which.

I always thought a neat vacation would be to go somewhere to earn the type rating required to fly as a co-pilot in a DC-3. If it ever happens, it won't be this year. We spent this year's vacation budget last year.

Still, I like sitting in the front seats.

You have to wonder how many sets of hands have held onto those controls over the years.

I was not surprised to see the ashtray, but I'm not sure what the other two thingys do. My theory is that the engine starting cartridges (have you ever seen Flight of the Phoenix?) go in there, but I can't prove it.


After an hour of Google hunting, I found the answer:

They control the cowl flaps (or "gills"):

I wonder why one needle is shaped differently than the other.

Moving over to the B-17, I found that I look at things differently now that I have built an airplane. When I first saw these numbers, it reminded me of some of the odd fractions Van's likes to put in the plans. 35 feet, 315/16ths? Now that's odd. Having looked at it again, though, I think it is actually 25 feet, 3 and 15/16 inches.

Last time I was there, they were building the jigs to form new engine nacelles. It would appear that the jigs are done and are now in use for building the nacelles. Note the supercharger embedded in the frame.

I've never been able to figure out how the throttle quadrant works on the B-17. There are four engines, but six throttle controls. My guess is that a pilot would manipulate engines 1 and 4 (the furthest outboard on each wing) using the top handles, engines 2 and 3 using the bottom handles, and all four using the middle handles.

These are the control handles that the bombardier would have used to open the bomb bay doors and drop the bombs. Well, maybe not to drop the bombs, maybe just to configure how the bombs would be dropped and/or which bombs would be dropped. The bomb release itself was probably an electrical switch somewhere in the vicinity of the Norden bomb sight.

Norden bomb sight (a fascinating piece of equipment):

Decorative stuff:

This is the oxygen control panel for the bombardier.

This is a WWII B-24 veteran that survived thirty missions over Europe. He told us a story about how his B-24 was hit with a dud 88mm anti-aircraft round. He attributes the failure of the round to explode to it having been manufactured with slave labor.I guess it was as true then as it is now: you just can't enslave good help anymore.

This is, I believe, a firewall waiting to be restored or sacrificed for parts.

I understood that a B-17G carried a crew of ten. If that is the case, it must have been hellishly hard to find ten guys that averaged 120 pounds each.

There is also one of my fave planes EVER hangared there - this is a B-25:

It seems to be in for its annual inspection. Do you think the spark plug budget is significantly expensive? These are from just one of the two engines!

Back at the DC-3, I was still in rivet-looking mode. Through some strange accident of design, they had to do some modification of the manufactured heads to get these to fit.

People often wonder how they got pilots to fly these old buckets. I think it has to do with the on-board cocktail mixers.

Working under the theory that wartime planes needed to be easily disassemble for shipping overseas, I think that's why they had this row of bolts holding the outer wing panels together with the wing roots.

Walking back to our planes, we came across a cute little Luscombe.

My departure from Urbana was interesting, to say the least. I think it was my first takeoff with a crosswind, and I didn't like it. Before the rudder has a chance to become powerful enough to correct the forward path against a blustery wind, the brakes are the only way to do it. But applying the brakes during takeoff seems counter-productive. In short, it was the sloppiest takeoff I've made yet.

Once we were away from the airport, I slowed down a bit to let The Jackson Two catch up.

Somewhere lost in the haze out there is downtown Columbus.

And there's home base, right in front of my nose.

Today was one of the first really nice flying days that has fallen on a weekend. As such, the airport environment was somewhat crowded. Five targets in the air, and there was a sixth climbing off of the runway.

Left downwind to runway four took me right over my neighborhood.

The landing went well (in fact, both of today's landings were okay now that I'm not resting my feet on the brake pedals - I think the dragging brakes were causing the problem I had with thumping the nose wheel down) and I parked in front of the hangar having completed my five hour probationary period. No more 50 mile limit, and whenever I feel ready for it, I can carry a passenger!


Brent at said...

Looks like a good time was had by all! I was unfortunately grounded this weekend so I am left to live vicariously through my fellow aviators. Thanks for the report!

Anonymous said...

Audrey II* is hungry. You must feed it by posting an update.

* Little Shop of Horrors

Post a Comment