Last week Dolly and I volunteered as ground crew for the EAA’s 1929 Ford Trimotor that was visiting Brooksville Florida. On Sunday the ten passenger plane had eleven flights. On the last flight there were only nine paid passengers. From the volunteers, Dolly was selected to fill the last seat. It was a beautiful yet blustery day. Winds were 10 gusting to 24.
I worked as flagman, signaling to the starter that my side of the ramp was clear of people.
This trimotor has a 235 gallon tank. The pilot climbs up through a cabin roof hatch, drops a rope and pulls up the fuel hose.
The alarm went off at 3:00 AM. Dolly heard it an woke me.
The plan was to regain nighttime currency, three takeoff and landings to a full stop at night. We want to fly to St. Petersburg tomorrow to see the Kratt brothers show at the Mahaffee theater, a short walk from the airport. The return will be at night.
Everything went just as it should. The tires and tanks were full; all the nuts were on their bolts. I taxied from the hangar pad and clicked the mike to turn on the taxi and runway lights…clicked the mike to turn on the taxi and runway lights…clicked the mike to turn on the taxi and runway lights…clicked the mike to turn on the taxi and runway lights. No lights. I tried both tower and ground frequencies. I tried three, five and seven clicks. No lights. Frustration and nice photo.
Dolly had never been to Manhattan. We were in New Jersey so I gave her a ride up the Hudson River Corridor at 1,500 feet while in contact with NY aproach, Laguardia and Newark towers. She took a video and I set the music to it. Click Here and Enjoy!
Triple Tree is a unique place created over many years by Pat and Mary Lou Hartness. From undeveloped land they wrestled out a beautiful airdrome in South Carolina.
It’s centerpiece is a 7,000 foot grass runway of Bermuda bent grass that is irrigated and maintained like a golf course green.
For one week each year the private airport is opened up to all things airborne. All persons are invited provided they can show a pilot’s license or some other direct connection to aviation.
Facilities include the pavilion shown above, plus showers, wet and dry camp sites, an educational center, aerodrome control tower, a museum/hangar, pilots lounge and other necessary infrastructure. Pat’s prime aviation interest has been model aviation although he also has a full scale mirror polished Spartan Executive and a P51.
These two birds put on an airshow Saturday afternoon.
Shade from the sun and hangar flying conversation – Triple Tree hospitality.
Food at TTA is plentiful and delicious. There is a different menu for the cookout every evening. Thursday is “pick out and grill your own steak” night with tasty fixings and chocolate cake. Yumm!
On Saturday we lined up for a pulled pork dinner near the top of the hill by the hangars. A quartet played old songs and friends caught Dolly and I dancing. We had worked as volunteers all week; Dolly helped in registration and I drove six person courtesy golf carts.
Sent a photo of N50KB in response to a query on Vans Airforce forum. Doug Reeves passed it on to Vans Aircraft where Rick Hayes passed it on to Lycoming. I received a call that Lycoming would like to have the aircraft on display at their Airventure booth in Oshkosh.
The paint job was finished on May 17. Dolly and I closed up the house and departed for Michigan on the 21st; she in her car and I in the Dreamweaver.
It took me 6 hours 38 minutes flying from Florida to Michigan, plus one fuel stop. Dolly required three and a half days. She plans on leaving her 2006 HHR in Michigan next winter and flying back with me.
The first flight of N50KB, 1.7 hours, was made on June 5, 2018. All went well except I felt it necessary to file a NASA report for busting the lower floor of the Flint, MI class B outer ring by 100 feet. Contributing factors were the new airplane first flight and first use of Garmin G3X touch glass panel instrumentation.
That’s not the reason for “Confession” in the title of this post. Some 12.4 flight hours later on June 13th I managed to do a very very gentle tip up of the plane during landing on a 2700 ft grass strip. I don’t like to talk about it because I’m supposed to be an experienced tail dragger pilot. Besides having way too high airspeed ~90 kts on final, I overexercised the excellent Berringer brakes. The prop made nine cuts in the soft sandy soil before coming to rest on a blade that broke. The left wing tip was dragged.
It was an expensive lesson that halted further flight until September 19th. The engine received a full tear down and reassembly at G&N Aircraft a Lycoming dealer in Griffith, Indiana. All parts passed magniflux inspection with no problem.
The propeller was a different story. Only one blade broke. On the bright side Catto props recommended replacing the broken 68/72 with their new 66 inch diameter and 74 inch pitch three blade prop. They predict a 3 to 4 knot speed increase.
Repair of the wingtip required replacement of the outboard forward rib and skin panel. I have been complimented on the quality of the restoration.
Think that is the end of this tale? Wrong! On October 3rd I flew to Owasso< Michigan (KRNP) to practice landings. With the airport in sight the oil pressure warning light lit up red. An aluminum plate and gasket covering an oil pressure supply on the rear of the engine developed a serious leak. I immediately landed and still had very low but positive pressure when the engine was shut down while still on the runway. The airport staff was very helpful and N50KB spent two weeks in a hangar while Dolly and I diagnosed and fixed the problem with a new cover plate from Lycoming.
The plane has performed beautifully for the next 58 hours to date. Whew! I feel better already.
Last October, the Flint Michigan Flight Standards District Office of the FAA honored me and three other matured pilots with an award known as the Master Pilot Award. It’s really an award for being OCD about flying and safely maintaining that interest for fifty years.