If you haven’t experienced the exhilaration of open cockpit flight, it’s high time you rush to the nearest airport boasting a “biplane” and buy a pleasure flight in one. You will thank me for the suggestion, guaranteed! The thrill received will not be forgotten as long as you live!
My purchase of a unique WWII “primary trainer” biplane had been successful. What made the plane unusual (even among biplanes) was the fact that it had been flown in a famous movie.
Owning one of these planes had been a longtime desire…and now, finally, I was roaring along in my very own biplane, the pilot in absolute command with every nerve in my body tingling with glorious elation. The goal of this flight was to “ferry” the plane to Portland, Oregon, where I planned to tie it down (park it) on a space negotiated earlier with Hank Troh, pioneer pilot and an airfield operator.
The day was clear and beautiful. It was “CAVU” (Ceiling And Vis-ibility Unlimited in pilot lingo)…with the long ferry trip ahead to give me much-needed experience...fervently desired in this type of plane. The only negative was that this was the very end of November and cold, cold, cold! The cockpit was so small that moving around in it with the necessary triple-thickness clothing was nearly impossible...and the clothes so bulky that it was difficult to manipulate the controls.
While flying along, I pulled the control stick back, then rocked the wings and pushed the stick forward while waggling the ailerons and alter¬nately pushing on the rudder pedals. The ship darted up, down…sideways. The response to the controls was instant and positive and, to me, truly amazing when compared with reactions of single wing planes. My thought was: “So this is nirvana?”
Leveling off at two thousand feet above ground level, it was possible to see quite clearly everything happening on the ground. My flight plan was simple enough...follow the same highway the bus had taken deliv¬ering me from Portland, Oregon, to the sleepy little town of Lovelock, Nevada, where the plane had been purchased, then make the first fuel stop plotted out earlier, at a small private strip at the east end of the city of Reno. The engine seemed to like the throttle setting of about 1600 rpm and, at that setting, the airspeed indicator needle pointed at ninety miles an hour. The fuel supply was enough to make Reno quite easily.
This plane had fewer gauges than my Piper Cub, so there wasn’t much to keep an eye on except the oil pressure. The gas gauge, located dead-cen¬ter ahead of the front passenger wind-screen on top of the engine cowling, looked very much like an old Model A Ford auto gauge and this made for a quaint effect like that of a true antique…even though this airplane was a 1943 model. The plane felt very much to me like flying a bomber must feel. That is how much heavier this plane was than my little Cub.
Settled down to comfortable cruising, everything seemed to be going beautifully when, about thirty minutes west of Lovelock, a tiny speck appeared on the front windshield. Straining to see exactly what it was, I leaned forward. Was the speck an insect? Not likely. It was too cold for insects to be out.
Hmmmm…strange. Wonder where that came from?
...CONTINUED on page 154, “MAGIC IN THE AIR.”