Sunday, July 14, 2013

A problem that has yet to arise...

I guess it was somewhat naive to concern myself with how I was going to fill my time once the airplane was done, at least with regards to weekends. They seem to be filling up quite nicely on their own, thank you.  For example, all I had planned for this weekend was a flight to Muncie, Indiana for lunch and to give an RV-12 ride to a flying buddy. As it turns out, that is pretty much the only thing I won't do this weekend.

First of all, it was been a wet summer, which means that I won't be getting the normal two month hiatus on lawn mowing. Add to that the landscaping and tree pruning that we had done to spruce (heh - see what I did there?) up the grounds of the Gamble Home for Over-Privileged Children and Domesticated Animals which, while complete in nearly every way, still required a little effort ('little' to the tune of hauling 500 pounds of marble rock) to fill in a few areas with decorative stone.

Lawn work aside, a couple of days ago I received a phone call from a guy that I know from the airport asking if I could fill in for him at an event on Saturday morning. The event had to do with a visit from the touring EAA Ford Trimotor. Just as with the travelling B-17 that comes into Bolton every year, the Trimotor was going to be here to sell rides to people that want to absorb a little piece of aviation history first-hand. While they charge for the rides, that's mostly to defray the cost of the 80 gallons per hour they burn just in order to fly at sedate 95 mph. Any extra more than likely finds its way back to the EAA.

My volunteer work would consist primarily of safety-related work: it is very poor PR indeed to have a passenger walk into a moving propeller. They try to always have a few volunteer ground crew around to keep people from wandering into dangerous areas/items. Easy enough, plus I would get to wear an orange vest, which the training video had promised would give me "an aura of authority."

Ooohhhh, would that something like that worked at home!

And so it transpired that I arrived at Don Scott Airport at 0830 on Saturday morning, only to find that the person that I was intended to replace had actually been able to get there after all. I decided to hang around for awhile in case he got called away, though. In preparation, all of the ground crew were shown a 20 minute video presentation that detailed how each of the jobs was to be safely performed.

With everyone all trained up and ready to go, they were ready to board the first group of passengers. There were only seven of them, and the airplane carries ten. With open seats available, the call went out to the volunteers to see if anyone wanted to ride along, gratis. Being as my volunteer status was at the time somewhat questionable, I waited for others to speak up. I didn't wait long, mind you - just long enough to be polite. And so it was that I scored a free ride in a 1929 Ford Trimotor.
The Ford Trimotor (also called the "Tri-Motor", and nicknamed "The Tin Goose") was an American three-engined transport aircraft that was first produced in 1925 by the companies of Henry Ford and that continued to be produced until June 7, 1933. Throughout its time in production, a total of 199 Ford Trimotors were produced. It was designed for the civil aviation market, and was also used by military units and sold all over the world. As of 2012, there are 18 Ford Trimotors in existence, eight of which have current FAA Airworthy Certificates
It was certainly an interesting and thought-provoking ride, but there isn't much about it that I can put into words; there is something visceral about the deep-throated rumble of the engines and the bouquet of scents that come from hot oil and the combustion of leaded fuel, but those have to be directly experienced to be fully understood. Instead, I will just share a gob of pictures:

And here is a raw, unedited ten minute video (which will seem like 20 minutes if you sit all the way through it)  that gives you a taste:

The remainder of Saturday was spent on odd jobs, including cleaning out the non-redundant second hangar formerly inhabited by Papa Golf.

Rather than fly to Muncie on Sunday as planned, I would be giving a ride arranged for by the co-owner. Don't get me wrong, it was no burden whatsoever. I only mention it to point out how easily a weekend gets filled to standing room only.  It wouldn't take as long as the Muncie trip, which also worked in its favor, given that I still have two game reviews to write sometime this weekend.

This ride would be interesting in that the passenger would be the largest person yet to attempt to fit into the tiny little RV-12. He is, in fact, only four pounds shy of the maximum that I can legally carry, at least with the fuel tank full. The little plane swallowed him whole, and even at gross weight was able to manage a 500 foot-per-minute climb. That's not nuthin' on a hot day - pretty impressive, really.

Big Al is one of those guys that has an undying desire to fly, but doesn't really know how to get started. These are, of course, my absolute favorite passengers. With these guys (or, and very much to my preference, gals), we don't just jump in the plane and go. With the ones that I know have an interest in getting more into it at some point, I pull out a chart and show them where we are and where we're going. I show them the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airports, special use airspace, etc.  This trip would be just as far as Urbana, so there wasn't a great deal to talk about.  With that done, I have them join me on the preflight. That gives me the chance to show them all of the flight controls and describe what each does.

Once we're in the plane, I describe what all of the knobs and switches do. I also explain what they're about to hear on the radio once I get the engine started and begin talking to the control tower.  With the weather being warm, it didn't take but a minute or two for the oil to come up to temp. Off we went to the end of runway 4!

As I mentioned, this would be the heaviest the plane has ever been, and it was sure apparent during the takeoff that the extra weight matters.  We were still off the ground in only a thousand feet or so, but it was nothing like a the solo takeoffs that I've grown accustomed to. I climbed us up to 3,000' and then let Al fly us to Urbana.  The pattern wasn't super crowded, but even so I thought it best to take the stick back about three miles outside of the traffic pattern. From there I could see one plane on the runway, one turning final, and a third in front of us on downwind.  The landing wasn't terrible, but my recent flying experience in the RV-6 had allowed my feet to forget how to minimize the runway swerving I get with the 12.

Flying back, we stopped to fill up the tanks at Madison county. With the winds shifting around the way they were, we ended up landing with a slight tailwind component. Man, did that ever make the runway seem like it was coming towards us like a runaway freight train!

With 72 more pounds of weight to carry, I made doubly sure that we were facing into the wind as much as possible on the ensuing takeoff.

As we were mid-way between MacCo and Bolton, the Dynon showed some traffic 2 to 3 miles away, same altitude, heading away. As I was looking at on the Dynon, I said something to Al like "Eh, he's going to be hard to see," which turned out to starkly untrue. It was quite easy to see, what with it being as big as a B-17 bomber. In fact, I am 100% sure that the seemingly arbitrary size comparison to a B-17 bomber is extremely accurate, more than a little because it actually was a B-17 bomber.

You don't see that every day.

Two in three-hundred and sixty-five, yes. The rest of the year, no.

And potentially even less than that, if you don't live next door to Bolton Field.

Taxiing back in after landing (watch for at least 32 seconds):


Chris said...

Very nice! I know that bird well - it lives at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, where I used to volunteer (it and the EAA Trimotor are on tour "together"). Sadly, for much of my time in Kalamazoo, this Trimotor was out of commission because corrosion was discovered in a hard to reach area of the wing and she underwent some extensive refurbishment. I'm glad to see her flying again and a little jealous of your ride. I LOVE your final still photo of her! Absolutely lovely. Thanks for sharing - your post put a huge smile on my face.

Kevin said...

Great pictures and video of the TriMotor! In just 15 years it'll be a hundred-year old passenger airplane still doing its mission.

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