By lex, on September 12th, 2010
… In an alternate universe disconnected from things chronicled below, two Varga dogfights yesterday, followed by a fun hop today in a Steen Skybolt owned by a friend.
The plane was a head-turner, and I was very much looking forward to the flight from the front seat, with the owner in the rear. It was an enjoyable experience, but not entirely an unalloyed adventure. Due to the deck angle, S-turns were required while taxiing to maintain some notion of what the prop was a approaching, and the intercomm was nearly useless with the power up and in flight, which almost entirely forestalled inter-cockpit communication. We made do with hand signals and wing rocks to exchange command of the machine. Somewhat more irritating over time, the front cockpit windscreen was about four inches too short to serve any useful purpose, so the top of your correspondent’s noggin was continuously slapped by 100 knot breezes, which is maybe less romantic than it sounds. No goggles, neither.
Got to do some mild acro in the machine, steep turns, aileron rolls and wingovers chiefly. It takes a great deal more levering around than I was anticipating, and a fair amount less rudder to roll than I had anticipated, to such a degree that we very nearly coupled up to a snap roll accidental like, and there I was a-sawing away at the rudders trying to damp down the tail’s oscillations. The deck angle was fairly high as well in level flight, so it was hard to see much of what was going before, while my friend’s landings – perfectly safe – were nevertheless not without event. We bumped, hopped and skipped our way to a full stop at Gillespie Field, before taxiing in for some cut rate ($4.35 per gallon) 100LL.
In the queue behind us was a really quite lovely Temco Swift, but recently restored.
And in the hangar across the way was a true vision, a Cessna 195.
The “Businessliner” was Cessna’s last post-World War II radial engine airplane, designed more for business transport – hence the name – than personal enjoyment. The wide cabin is driven as much by the need to accommodate the 300HP Jacobs R755-A2 engine as much as any consideration for pilot (and passenger) comfort, but it looks comfortable nonetheless. The owner claimed a 150Kt cruise speed on 15 gallons per hour of fuel. He didn’t mention the oil usage on the big radial, which was probably on the order of two quarts per hour. Most general aviation airplanes have 8 quart oil systems these days, the Businessliner carries 5 gallons, or twenty quarts.
Refueled and chatted up, we headed back to Gillespie to put the Skybolt to bed. I found the experience quite enjoyable, even if the airplane itself in some ineffable way did not entirely match my hopes and expectations. Guess I’ve got to hold out for that Extra 300LT.
The afternoon hop in the Varga was uneventful, another 0.8 in the log book and another satisfied customer, y-clept Elaine. An NGC employee, she’d bought the ride for her young man, an engineer at the same company for his birthday. Petite and Asian, she was – characteristically? – reticent and self-effacing until it was her turn to have a go at the controls. At which time it became evident that she was destined to be the mother of samurai, for she took to air combat like a bird to the air. It might have been her beau’s birthday, but the flight ended up being her present, and the day was as lovely as it could be apart from a persistent marine layer that covered our preferred coastal engagement zone.
Put the bird to bed, threw a leg over the bike and trundled back up the freeway to Chéz Lex. The Biscuit is out and about, the Kat recovering from her weekend, the Hobbit frying up some chicken down below.
Ain’t a lot of “there,” here, I know.
It is what it is.