I was listening to the most recent episode of The Pilotcast (mandatory listening, readers) at the gym last night, and the crew were discussing what would be in their experimental-aircraft dream hangars. It was a spirited discussion with a lot of enthusiasm and it got me to thinking…what would I put in my own dream hangar? The guys on the show discussed their choices for three categories of aircraft: Go Fast, Go Slow, Upside-Down and On Floats. So without further ado, here are the contents of my own Dream Hangar.
I have a great love for all things flying and speedy, so the Go Fast portion of this is going to be hard for me. I may have to break this down into subcategories.
For best all-around go-fast, I’d probably stock my Dream Hangar with an MS-760 (click here for a great photo.) I was tempted to go with the L-39, but the four-seat capabilites of the Paris Jet won me over. With a level cruise speed of almost 400 mph and rumors of very nimble handling characteristics, the MS-760 offers the chance to grab a few buddies and cruise halfway across the country for a burger without stopping. The MS760 offers the speed of a jet, the ramp appeal of a fighter, and the useful load to bring a couple of friends along. All I need is a few hundred grand and this baby is mine.
Of course, despite my love for the MS760, I do have a soft-spot in me for piston-driven Go-Fast planes. And while there are faster pistons available if you look at warbirds, I’m going to pick the Mooney Acclaim type S as my choice of go-fast piston airplane. Topping out at 240+ knots on one engine and one prop, with that distinctively aggressive Mooney style, the Acclaim is a marvel of engineering and an aircraft I would be happy to fly. Realistically I’d be pleased to fly most any Mooney, but the Acclaim type S is…well…worth drooling over.
Finally, I have to bring up the Starfighter for Go-Fast Climb. I’m used to small anemic GA planes climbing out at 500fpm in the Florida heat. So when I went to the airshow in Titusville earlier this year, and they had a flying F-104 Starfighter that did a low pass at show center at 600+ mph before pulling into a straight climb, I was thunderstruck. The plane went from noisemaker to tiny dot in the sky in mere seconds, plowing through the air like a missile more than an airplane. With a full-power climb rate of something like 48,000 feet per minute, it would be an absolute rush to get behind the wheel of a Starfighter for a few minutes and fly a rocket with some wings strapped on.
The Go-Slow category might sound like less fun but there is a certain appeal to cruising low and slow over the countryside, rather than zooming over it a few miles high. Of course my CFI would be quick to champion the safety benefits of high and fast vs. low and slow, but nevertheless a certain part of me has an attraction to the Low and Slow.
While I have in fact spent many hours low and slow in the venerable Cessna 150/152, and while I respect that aircraft as a trainer, I don’t know that I’d put one in my dream hangar. And while the Piper Cub seems to be a popular answer to the low and slow dream airplane, I think I’d prefer to go my own way and select the often-overlooked Stinson 108.
I suppose that it could be argued that since the 108 can cruise around 115 to 120 knots, it’s really not “slow,” but personally I feel that it’s slow enough to be considered in this category. And with a tailwheel, some good aerodynamics and a decent powerplant, the 108 gives good back-country performance while still being low and slow enough to enjoy the ride and see the sights. This picture, which I have blatantly stolen from the AOPA forums, is my favorite photo of a Stinson in action in the back-country of Idaho.
Looks like fun, doesn’t it? I’d love to spend a day flying up in the mountains and the backcountry. And the 108 is what I’d put in my dream hangar to do that.
Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed all manner of nausea-inducing activities. On that note I have always wanted to take some aerobatic training. The thrill of flying inverted and learning to roll and spin through the air makes you a better pilot, plus I hear it is two tons of fun. The variety of aerobatic-capable planes spans everything from the experimental Sonex to the fastest of the military fighters. Go to any airshow and you’ll see Extras and Pitts and all manner of sleek, fast mini-fighters. But the one that catches my eye time and time again is the Super Decathlon!
It doesn’t look quite as sexy and awesome as some of the other aerobats. And it doesn’t cruise anywhere up in the Mach numbers. But it does look pretty neat, and it does do some pretty impressive aerobatics. I’ll park it in the back of my hangar, kitty-cornered with the MS760 and behind the Acclaim.
The last category might be my favorite: on floats! Ever since I was a wee lad I have loved floatplanes. My family owned a small cabin on a lake in Maine, and there was a guy a few bends in the shoreline down who had a high-winged airplane on floats. My uncle and I were reminiscing the other day and he tells me that there was also a guy there with a Lake seaplane. Maine apparently has a Seaplane thing; in addition to Twitchell’s seaplane base, one of only a few places where you can rent a seaplane, we also have the Folsom’s DC-3 on floats…which is just too mind-blowing to think about.
I remember looking up into the summer skies in Maine all through my childhood and young adulthood and seeing floatplanes fly over. It always seemed to me like a floatplane offered an escape from the real world; the ability to go beach your plane on some remote lakeshore and just spend a day or two alone in the woods with your trusty airplane by your side.
While I can see the fun of the small floatplanes, like the little yellow cubs at Jack Browns, and while I can see the practicality of a Cessna 180 or 182 on floats, I have to say my favorite plane on FLOATS is probably the trusty and venerable De Havilland Beaver. With a massive useful load, a distinctive ramp presence (beach presence?) and a growling radial engine, the Beaver is my choice for Dream Hangar plane on floats. Imagine my joy when I, wearing my De Havilland shirt, found a beaver on floats at this year’s Sun n Fun. Lucky for me a passing gentleman was willing to snap my photo in front of this beastly airplane.
I have to say, the thought of flying a Beaver from lake to lake in my native New England and just spending a summer flying, fishing and camping sounds like a little slice of heaven on earth. I could go on and on, and build a Dream Hangar the size of Nebraska, but I will stop for now before I tap into my well of enthusiasm for flying boats and all other flying machines. I love feedback, so tell me in the comments what your dream hangar would consist of and we can have a conversation!