Monday, November 14, 2011
This weekend I was very lucky in the flying department. Two rides on consecutive days!
The story starts with a B-17 visiting Georgetown airport. In particular, 'Aluminum Overcast', the one owned by the EAA, that tours around the country. She was stopping here in Central Texas so I figured that it being Veterans Day, it might be appropriate for me to go and visit. Off I trotted, and there she was, in all her rumbly glory. I got some shots of her on the ramp and on takeoff; all very nice.
Friend Glenn was also at the airport, where he keeps a Cessna 172. He appeared at the terminal and asked if I fancied a jaunt to Kittie Hill airport and back? Well, is the Pope Catholic? Here's a shot of 2DL; seen here at Reklaw last year:
We jumped into his aeroplane and rigged a couple of cameras. Glenn has a GoPro mount on the wing strut, so we plugged my GoPro into that, and I stuck the Contour onto the side window.
We took off and headed out over Georgetown Lake, which like all the lakes in the area, is pretty darned low right now. At least it still appears to have usable boat ramps, unlike Lake Travis. However I don't think you're meant to be able to see all these islands.
We continued on towards Kittie Hill which is not far away. It's a small grass strip just alongside Hwy 183. I attended a fly-in here a couple of years ago which was a lot of fun. Today, we come in low, right above the trees.
Glenn made a nice landing despite the gusty wind and rough runway. The poor grass is a casualty of the brutal hot summer, along with everything else.
We didn't linger at the airfield; just taxied back to the other end of the runway and took off again back to Georgetown. Just a quick half hour flight on a glorious sunny Texas afternoon. We entered the circuit in time to see the B-17 landing in front of us. Nice view :-)
Thank you Glenn, for a very fun outing!
Next day, I headed south to Kingsbury Aerodrome, for their annual Fall Fly-in. This is always a lot of fun; the Pioneer Flight Museum has a bunch of WW1 vintage aircraft and vehicles which are rolled out for the day. There's usually a good number of visitors too, and today was no exception, even if the numbers were kept a little low by a gusty wind, at times across the runway.
I stood with some other photographers and watched aircraft arrive. Soon, Steve brought out his beautiful Ryan PT-22 and took someone up in it. This was built in 1942 and was used as a primary training aircraft for WW2 pilots. It was the first monoplane to be used in this role, after the Stearman biplanes. Steve's example is in the gorgeous polished metal and yellow wings paint scheme, as you can see here from the May fly-in earlier this year:
A short time after Steve landed back in, he appeared in a Model T truck (as you do, especially at Kingsbury) and found me, to ask if I wanted a ride. Do bears live in the woods?! I leapt into that Model T and we headed to his airplane, via my car to pick up those video cameras again. I could hardly let this one go undocumented...
One of the volunteers, Dave, helped to hand-prop the engine so we could get under way. This Ryan has the 160 horsepower 5-cylinder Kinner Radial engine, which was very popular in the 1930s. The same engine powers the Museum's Meyers OTW aircraft. It makes a wonderful tickety-putt noise that modern engines just don't do.
We taxied down to the runway, lined up, and Steve added power for takeoff. The Ryan rolled forward and was soon in the air; the engine singing 'puckety-puckety' as we lifted off. We made a circuit of the airfield and came back in for a low flyby, for the watching crowd. In the shot below, you can see some photographers standing by the windsock; the main fly-in is located further back.
We climbed out of the airfield and headed north. Steve then really surprised me by asking if I'd like to fly it! The day gets better and better :-) So I took the stick and set about enjoying a rare opportunity, to fly a WW2 trainer.
I checked for traffic, and then made some very gentle exploratory turns, right and left. The aircraft seemed nicely responsive and fairly light on the controls. I flew along straight and level for a little bit, and then tried a steeper turn to the right. The aircraft started to teach me about the rudder pedals.
We were flying at about 1000ft and Steve suggested we go a bit higher, so I started a gentle climb and shortly afterwards leveled off at 2000ft. By this time, we had wandered off a fair way from the airfield. I figured we had better go back, but first I had to figure out where it was. Kingsbury is hard to spot from the air, it looks a lot like all the farmland surrounding it, and even a ramp full of visiting aircraft blends in from a distance.
Looking around, I realized the major giveaway of the I-10 interstate was a ways off ahead of me, and there is also a large pig farm close to the airfield. Once I spotted that, all was well, and I could turn towards the airfield.
However my altitude hold was suffering while I was looking around; this is something I really need to work on. We had descended to about 1800ft. I just held it there for a while. The wind was also occupying my attention. It was very gusty and blowy. Sometimes it felt like Steve had pushed the stick; the wind just shoved us around. This taught me more about the rudder pedals! You really do need to use them to hold your nose on course. I guess this makes a good training aircraft; you really have to fly it. I certainly learnt more about the rudder in those 20 minutes than in any other aircraft before this one.
Here's me in front with the dork-cam on my head, and Steve in the back. Camera mounting options are a bit limited in an open-cockpit environment! However, it is a fabulous way to fly. It's so immediate, with the wind rushing past, and the smell of the air.
I made a pass over the airfield, down the length of the runway well above circuit height, back at 2000ft. It was the first time I've done that :-) Making a left turn, I figured that Steve was being very generous but he probably wanted his airplane back, so I suggested he take it again. He did so, and we slotted into the circuit behind a couple of other aircraft. We made a circle behind them to space ourselves out a little more, then Steve brought us in for landing. We taxied back to park next to the other vintage aircraft, me with a big grin on my face :-)
Thank you Steve, for a wonderful experience.
Videos will be forthcoming from both of these flights... it takes me a while to edit them, so watch this space; could be a couple of weeks.