Thursday, April 05, 2012

Central Texas Taylorcraft Fly-In

It was time for the first annual (I hope) Central Texas Taylorcraft Fly-In, to be held in Ft. Parker, Texas. I had attended an event last year called Old Planes at the Old Fort, and really love the field. When landing to the South, you have to come over some very tall trees, and slip in if you don’t want to use all of the runway… and who does with everyone watching??!! It's one of those runways that will show off your skills or lack thereof!

Travis couldn’t get time scheduled with his instructor, so he met me at Kittie Hill. I wanted to depart as soon as the sun came up. Apparently when I read the weather report, I only read the parts I liked, because I skipped over the part about low clouds and fog! We ended up sitting there for a couple of hours until the ceiling was broken and high enough for us to safely depart.

I quickly decided to climb through a hole in the clouds to see what it looked like on top. It was beautiful and smooth flying. I told Travis we just had to keep an eye on the holes to make sure we didn’t get closed in on top! We made it most of the way when I noticed the holes getting smaller and fewer, so we circled down through a hole, surprising a herd of cattle!

At that point, the ceiling were just a little higher than pattern altitude at Ft. Parker, so I continued on and soon saw the planes lined up. I pulled power and we dropped in for a nice landing. I was quickly parked next to a Cessna 140A and we were setting up our chairs in the shade of the wings.

It turned out to be a perfect day, but it took so long to clear off that I think it affected turnout. Even then, there were quite a few planes. The majority were Taylorcrafts, then Cessna 140s, me in the Aeronca, and even a Navion (who miffed a few people with possibly the shortest landing of the day!)

Later in the afternoon after eating a turkey leg, and drinking several bottles of water, we said our goodbyes and departed for nearby Mexia Airport to get fuel for the return flight. The grumpy airport worker there complained the whole time about how the military stopped by in helicopters and messed up his fuel pumps. He said he could fix them if we would stop showing up and interrupting him! He was grumpy, but harmless and only got one slightly edgy response from me and we were soon ready to take off again.

We were ready, apparently the Cheif wasn't... Lately the Chief has been very hard to start when warm. Typically you can pull the prop backwards 12 times and it will start right away even if flooded, but not lately. I don’t know how many times I had to throw the prop, but I know I was exhausted. It did finally catch though thanks to having Travis in the cockpit to give it a little burst of throttle as it caught.

I taxied all the way to the end of the runway as I’ve always been taught even though the winds were picking up and only used about 100 feet of runway I could have taken off from any of the intersections I’d passed, but as the old saying goes, runway behind you is useless. We flew over and buzzed the runway at Ft. Parker, but all but two planes were gone by then.

Travis had mentioned he needed to grab his logbooks from his plane in Hearne, so instead of him driving out there later I decided it would be an easy flight over there. It was, but I never should have shut the engine off when we landed. I once again had hell getting it started and must apologize if any virgin-eared ladies were around… they now know some new words!!

Finally after way too many turns I got it started and once off the ground I flew around taking a few photos of the local flooding before turning it over to Travis so I could sit back and relax. I think that was the best part of the flight.

After what seemed like too long of a flight we were back at Kittie Hill where mother nature threw me one last hard gust of wind from the left as I was about to touch down just to keep me on my toes. I smiled and straightened up for a nice landing and we were back. I was on the last quarter of the fuel in the tank, but refused to stop and fill it up for Phil as we normally try to do for each other. I couldn’t stand the thought of trying to start that engine again! Sorry Phil!

When putting up the plane, Travis pointed out oil running down the whole side of the cowling and even underneath. The prop shaft seal is leaking so she’ll soon be in the shop again to get this replaced and go through annual. Hopefully this means Phil and I will get some good trouble-free flying in this summer. I hope so, I’m much happier when separated from the ground!

Jack “Taylorcraft-Fly-In-Crashing” Fleetwood