The Howard 500 is a striking aircraft. A beautiful twin-radial taildragger, the 500 is a golden-age executive transport, the Gulfstream of its time. Rumor has it that the interior is relatively spacious, and quite nicely appointed in leather and wood, though I cannot independently confirm that.
Of the original production run, only a few airframes remain, and last I knew only two are still flying. Both of these beautiful birds were at Oshkosh, and I vividly remember their pass over the show line sending chills down my avgeek spine. Aircraft like this are a treasure, and the fact that they can still ply the skies puts a smile on my face.
Due to some unfortunate technical limitations I couldn’t get a good action shot of the 500’s flying. But my camera has been substantially upgraded, and I have high hopes for Oshkosh 2014!
Until then, enjoy this photo of the Howard 500 taxiing down the show line, and think back to the glory days of general aviation.
Formation flying never ceases to impress me. To fly an aircraft takes concentration; to fly an aircraft at speed in close formation with many other airplanes requires intense focus and dedicated training. Every formation routine is practiced before a show, and every flight is debriefed after landing to analyze what went right and what could have been better.
Some GA pilots occasionally fly loose formation. I’m a cautious flyer and would prefer to receive formation training before forming up with another aircraft.
Anyway, today’s APOD comes from Oshkosh 2013. It’s a formation of T-28 Trojans, some of the most impressively loud airplanes I’ve ever seen. The photo was taken right as the formation flew a bomb burst, so each pilot is breaking off in a different direction. Fun to watch and it makes good pictures, too. Next time I’m at an airshow I’ll have my improved camera and lens for better effect.
Today’s APOD, as so many do, comes from the Oshkosh archives. This beautiful white T-6 sat parked where God intended, in a green grassy field under sunny blue skies surrounded by kin. When they can’t be airborne, these machines should at least be treated to the feeling of grass under their wheels now and again.
T6 as God intended.
Potentially, a T-6 could be within my reach someday. I’m a fellow of modest means, and likely to stay that way. But if I played my cards right there’s a non-zero chance I could obtain one of these machines. The market for used T-6’s seems to bottom out around $150,000, which is a pretty humongous chunk of change but is potentially manageable (and worth every damn penny I’d bet.)
Whether or not I could afford to fly it and maintain it…well, that’s a whole different story. But a man can dream. And on my budget, that’s more or less all I can do for now.
I happen to like wild color schemes on airplanes. I think that an airplane should be something bright and vibrant, not something dull and corporate.
When you take a vibrant color scheme and put it onto something as naturally beautiful as a Mooney, you’ve got art that flies. Clean lines, good aerodynamics, bright colors…I try to appreciate airplanes not just as an efficient means of transportation, but as a manifestation of the intellectual challenges of engineering and as works of mechanical art.
With all that in mind, I happen to think this is the prettiest Mooney in the world. Maybe you’ve seen one that’s nicer, and if you have please share, but this…this caught my eye. If I had a little more disposable income I suspect it would have caught my wallet, too. Love at first sight…
This display of precise flying ability by Skip Stewart and Melissa Pemberton was without a doubt one of the most impressive acts I saw at Oshkosh this year. Dubbed Tinstix, the act features an incredibly precise routine with Stewart and Pemberton flying mirror-image aerobatics on opposite ends of the showline, swapping sides, then coming together in between for spectacular close formation flying. Remember those early 90’s break-dancing contests? It’s like that, but with airplanes and smoke. Tinstix is an awe-inpsiring display of precision aerobatics and masterful flying by both pilots, and this photo captures only a single moment in a routine made of awesome.
Since we’re sharing B-17 photos this week, here’s one of Aluminum Overcast taxiing in after a beautiful landing at Oshkosh. They generally shut down the two inboard engines for taxi, I assume to conserve fuel and save engine time. With Avgas at $6 or so a gallon, who can blame them? I wish I could shut down my one and only engine for taxi…it would save me a few bucks.
Do any of you readers have a B-17 photo you’d like to share here? Let me know!
One of the pleasures of airshows for me is to see the old warbirds. There is a lot of personality and history behind these airframes, and it’s always inspiring to see them kept up and still flying. It takes a lot of work and a lot of money to keep a bird like this operational.
This particular B-17 (Yankee Lady) is owned by the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan. While this particular machine did not see combat, it does have a long and interesting history. Per the museum:
B-17G-110-VE, N3193G, was delivered to the U. S. Army Air Corps as 44-85829, then transferred to the U. S. Coast Guard as PB-1G, BuNo 77255 in September 1946. It served at NAS Elizabeth City, North Carolina until May 1959. Ace Smelting Incorporated of Phoenix, Arizona bought it on May 11, 1959, gave it its current registration, then sold it to Fairchild Aerial Surveys of Los Angeles, California the same month. Aero Services Corporation of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania acquired it on August 2, 1965 and sold it to Beigert Brothers of Shickley, Nebraska on October 1, 1965. Aircraft Specialties Incorporated of Mesa, Arizona bought it on March 19, 1966 and flew it as tanker c34 and later tanker #34. It was flown to Hawaii in January 1969 to appear in the movie Tora Tora Tora. Globe Air Incorporated of Mesa, Arizona acquired it along with B-17G-85-DL, N9563Z on February 18, 1981. It is now named “Yankee Lady” and flies for the Yankee Air Museum at Yspilanti, Michigan.
Looking a little deeper, I did not know that the USCG had used the B-17 in the postwar environment. The Coast Guard changed the designator to the PB-1G and used these airplanes for coastal patrol, search-and-rescue, mapping, and ice patrol. It turns out that the Army Air Corps had developed a lifeboat that could be deployed via parachute from the B-17, which worked perfectly for the USCG during rescue missions.
Interestingly, the USCG kept the Norden bombsights installed and used them to pinpoint targets for aerial photography. PB-1’s served until 1960, when they were phased out and replaced by the C-130 Hercules, which the Coast Guard still flies today.
Today’s aviation photo captures one of the most awe-inspiring acts in aviation: the wing-walk. Here, Teresa Stokes walks the wing on Gene Soucy‘s Grumman AgCat.
Wing walking has to be one of the most physically and mentally challenging aviation feats there is. There must be perfect coordination between pilot and wing walker. The wing walker must be physically strong enough to withstand the 80-knot or so slipstream while moving around on the aircraft, waving, dangling legs, and hanging upside down from struts.
Not only does the wing walker have to do all of that, but she does it while the pilot flies a full aerobatic routine. I have enough trouble walking on level ground at times. To walk a wing while it flies an airshow routine is truly an awesome feat.
A lot of the attention-grabbers at Oshkosh are heavy metal: old military hardware, bought and lovingly restored, making loud and fast high-visibility passes at airshow center. But there are two ends to every spectrum, and with that in mind I took a walk one evening out to the Ultralight Barn.
The Ultralight Barn is exactly what it says it is: a barn full of ultralight-related merchandise. It sits next to a small grass strip surrounded by ultralight aircraft dealers and supply vendors. If you arrive early in the day or late in the evening you will be treated to the spectacle of dozens of little ultralight airplanes taking to their wings. Rather than the coarse grumbling roar of radial engines you’ll hear the nasal drone of VW and Rotax engines buzzing as people get aloft in these marvelous flying machines.
Some ultralights look like full-fledged airplanes. Others, such as this one, are basically a skeletal airframe with fabric wings and a lawn chair. Some of them appear to be pull-started, like your lawn mower. They’re whimsical, almost like children’s toys, but make no mistake: just like any other flying machine, you have to know what you’re doing to fly one.
Ultralight flying looks more like no-cockpit flying than open-cockpit flying. There’s probably some basic instrumentation, and I bet some of them have radios, but I bet they’re tuned to the local rock station. I’ve never been up in one, but I can say that ultralight flying looks like a rollicking good time to me. One of these days I’ll have to try it out!