Armstrong Starters and Other Old Things

Ah, the days of old when men were bold and planes had round engines… And no electric starter. I got to fly with, and learn from, men and women of the Olde School, and they had more rituals than the Eastern Orthodox Church when it came to starting airplanes. Once I started working on vintage beasts, I learned why.

Round motors are sweet, amazing pieces of art and power when they work as desired. They are stone cold [invective of choice] when they don’t. And starting them is not as easy as the modern prime with gas, turn on magnetos, hit starter, add throttle and go. Oh no, no, one treated radial engines with the same delicate manners and techniques used for… Never mind, PG-13 blog. Anyway, crank and go is not a radial engine “thing.”

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The Oklahoma Hills: A Repeat Post

I’ve been a little tied up with Day Job, so a story from my flying days . . .

In the Oklahoma Hills

The morning started well then went splat, she thought, as the Seneca chugged along on autopilot. She woke up at four, hustled out to the airport and managed to get the plane out of its stall without dinging or breaking anything. Then she ran back to town for passenger snacks, picking up some for her people as well as for another pilot’s load. Except she hadn’t looked at the number of his passengers, and didn’t get enough. She offered him her donuts and pastries, but he said no, and told her to go back and get more for him. He’d take care of her people. As she charged out the door, headlights turned into the parking lot. Guess who? The ranking pilot sighed and said not to bother. She made a last “pit stop,” and emerged to find that he’d taken over, to the point of introducing her to “her” passengers. Which she could understand, because he knew them and went to church with two of the three. But it still stung. Continue reading

When Your Inner Ears and Eyes Lie

I just caught a bit of an ad on TV for a special about John F. Kennedy Junior. DadRed made some comments about people who fly when they shouldn’t and are overconfident to boot. I held my peace because it’s an argument not worth wading into again. I’ve flown in conditions similar to those on that evening, and with the same instrument arrangement and autopilot. And almost got my empenage bitten, even though it was severe clear and above the clouds. Continue reading

Duluth, MN: Some Flying

I had not quite reached the insurance minimums for the plane, so I was flying copilot.

We lift off five minutes before late summer sunrise. As our light twin climbs up to six thousand feet, a molten gold ball spreads over the eastern horizon, turning the few morning clouds purple and gold. Another beautiful, sky-borne sunrise with promises of a sunny warm day in the Plains. But we aim more north and east, heading for (to me) the unexplored territory of Duluth, Minnesota, on the western point of Lake Superior. Threads of fog trace their way south, gray against the green-shaded fields on the river banks. At altitude, a bend in the jet stream adds a welcomed forty knots to our ground speed. Tom points to the mileage ticking down on the GPS read out and smiles. The earlier we arrived, the better our odds of getting home before the morning’s 0300 wake up call starts to show. Our passenger snores quietly, making up for his own early start. Continue reading

Aviation and Oral Traditions

Most people don’t associate aviation and oral traditions. After all, aviation is very much about technology and machinery, especially once you start flying airliners and other jets or “just” multi-engine aircraft. And since powered, controlled flight began in 1903, that’s well after oral-traditions and oral history were important.

Most people would be in for a bit of a surprise. Continue reading

Six yards of Flightline and a Bucket of Propwash

And don’t forget the left-handed monkey wrench.

Ah, the wild goose chases people get sent on in order to get them out from under foot, or as part of being initiated into the ranks of mechanic and line-guy.

Having grown up reading military history and “No [kidding], there I was” stories, I was familiar with the hazards of being sent to the parts department for flight line, or to the hangar at the far end of the row in order to borrow a bucket of prop wash. And of course a can of elbow grease, can’t forget that. Continue reading