Saturday, September 12, 2009

Papa Golf meets his maker...

Papa meets his maker? That sounds pretty ominous! But it's true only in a strictly literal sense; I flew Papa Golf up to Urbana to attend the 42nd annual Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In (MERFI) this morning. I don't go to many fly-ins anymore for various reasons, one of which is that it can be quite hectic in the landing pattern when a few hundred airplanes all converge on a quiet rural airport all at once, but I wanted to go this time because the guy that built 466PG was going to be there. I call him the guy that built my airplane and he calls me the guy that bought his airplane, but Papa doesn't much care about the distinction either way.

I know to get an early start on these things but found myself to be inordinately tired by Friday night, even with the holiday-reduced four day workweek. I slept in a bit longer that I usually do and lugubriously lingered over my morning coffee for almost an hour before heading to the airport. The Weather-out-the-Window&trade was gorgeous and I knew that I was going to face a stiff penalty in the form of a traffic pattern full of other arrivals for indulging in such an extended morning lassitude, but it was a fair trade.

I arrived at the hangar to find Luke, the owner of a nice looking Yak, getting ready to make the same short trip to Urbana that I was planning, albeit with a brief stop at MadCo for gas. He had a passenger, Dave, going along for the ride. Dave's a big fan of RVs, so I suggested that he ride with me over to MadCo where I would replace the fuel used on last week's trip to Chicago. He could then jump in the back of the Yak for their trip up to Urbana. Hard to beat a deal like that, he said, so off we went. As long as both planes were headed to the same place, I suggested to Luke that we form up for some air-to-air photos. I did the flying while Dave used my camera to take the pictures:

Luke landed first, but I made the first turn-off from the runway in a devious attempt to be the first in line to get gas. They have two 100LL pumps, though, so that turned out not to be much of an advantage at all. I had a pretty good-sized bounce on the landing (inexcusable given how calm the air was) but made a nice recovery. I needed far less fuel than that big, thirsty Yak so I was back in the air just as they were climbing back aboard for their departure.

I dialed in the Urbana Unicom while still 15 or 20 miles out, and it was a very close thing: I almost turned around an went back to Bolton. The radio traffic painted a pretty ugly picture: there were so many planes calling position reports and intentions that it seemed impossible that anyone was hearing anything others were saying. I counted at least three planes that were on left base to runway 2 simultaneously and another half dozen scrapping for a spot in the downwind.

As I got closer I heard a Mooney pilot flying a long three mile final griping about planes cutting in front of him. That really ought not to have been a surprise to him; there's no justification for making a long straight-in approach with that many planes flying a full pattern. He started getting pretty snippy about it, too. While it seemed that tempers might start to get pretty short, it all settled down and for the most part everyone was behaving civilly and trying to work out their positions in the scrum by the time I got close enough to care.

By the time I got to the airport area, there were two on left base to runway 2, a maroon Stinson that was making a 360 degree turn out of the downwind to increase the gap between himself and the two other planes on downwind in front of him, and two more entering the downwind on a 45 degree angle behind the Stinson. I slotted in behind the Cessna that was two planes back from the Stinson. Other that having to fly the pattern much slower than I'm used to, it wasn't too difficult once I had a spot in line. I greased the landing, too. That's always nice to do in front of a few thousand critical witnesses.

I taxied in and was directed to park next to a very nice looking RV-6. As I climbed out of Papa, happy to have gotten through the hectic approach and landing, I commented to the other RV guy that nothing makes your day like a near death experience before breakfast. He chuckled at that; he had just landed too and had a pretty similar experience.

I hung around the plane for awhile and eventually a golf cart pulled up in front of Papa. I could overhear the driver talking about his old plane. Aha! He must be the very guy I'm looking for! We chatted for a few minutes about how well everything was going with Papa, the few changes that I had made since I took over the care and feeding, and how we both would like to be building RV-12s:

I also found out where the antique eight day clock in Papa's panel came from: it used to fly in an F-100 Super Sabre. Cool!

(Look close - I put a white box around it)

It's not that he hasn't got anything else to work on, though. He spends a lot of time working on the B-17 restoration project that they have going on at the airport. So you could say that he's already building another plane:

They have an amazing shop:

Restoring a plane that big is a huge undertaking, but not all of the tasks are big. There are plenty of small details to take care of:

You can't just order parts. You have to fabricate nearly everything:

That will eventually end up being the engine control stand.

Unlike some homebuilders that agonize over the decision as to what engine to use, these guys already have it figured out:

Apparently there are still some open questions. I hope they get this figured out, whatever the question is:

There were quite a few restored warbirds that had flown in. This is what the B-17 being restored will eventually look like:

There's also an old DC-3 sitting in the new museum hangar:

No one was guarding it, so I helped myself to a little tour of the interior. There's not much nose on a DC-3 so you get a pretty good view out the front:

The panel has been modernized, but a lot of the radios have gone missing, maybe due to the lack of a guard:

Ha, just kidding. I think. It looked like they didn't mind if you took a peek.

Here's an old checklist and the required airworthiness certificate:

After walking around absorbing the history and ambiance of all of those airplanes, it's not too surprising that this impromptu Rorschach test elicited a response of 'airplane' from me when I saw it:

So there I was, tooling along on a relaxing flight back to Bolton when it happened: The mid-air collision that I had been so nervous about in the morning:

I was at 3,500' at the time, and I hit that bug so hard that I could hear it over the sound of the engine and wind noise, and despite the noise reduction of my headsets.

I don't like insects very much to begin with, but over-achievers that want to fly at 3,500'? They really bug me.

I got home to find that the photo that I had ordered from Shutterfly had arrived. I really liked one of my Chicago skyline pictures from last week and had had it enlarged in order to frame it and enter it in next week's annual photo show. I rushed up to Hobby Lobby and had them frame it while I waited - it has to be dropped off for the competition by Wednesday. I think it came out great:

Wish me luck!


  1. Awesome! I think you'll do well in the photo contest.

  2. Those are some nice pictures of the Yak if I might say so, Oh that's right I took them!!! I would like to see more of those pictures if I could. Email
    Thanks for the flight to Madco Pappa Golf, and my first RV flight.
    Dave Fragale

  3. I knew you'd be at MERFI, looked for your RV, and still never managed to find you! We flew in (via 150) around 10:30 and left about 2:00. Spent some time looking at the RV's too but I didn't see yours...

    Traffic was indeed insane. We entered on the 45 from the Northwest as directed on the website and found ourselves flying parallel downwinds with a T-6 (who had a Cessna 1/4 mile in trail) when we were nearly abeam the numbers. By that time they had some pseudo-controllers on the CTAF and as crazy as it was, things felt vaguely under control.