Autumn Photo Flight

A gentle local photo trip in the Cub to see the glorious autumn colours. It’s amazing how far you don’t get when you have to stop and circle around something interesting, positioning the aircraft to get the optimum angle of the sun, or just trying to see what it looks like from the other side…

This time we never got further than 10 miles from the airfield. I know the Cub can go long distances; I’ve done it myself, taking 4 hours with a fuel stop to fly up from Yorkshire into a strong headwind, and the Norwegians have flown their Cubs from Oslo Kjeller all the way to Normandy for the D-Day 75th anniversary. But the aircraft seems to be just as happy loafing around the local area on a sunny day. Here’s the smallest pub in Perthshire:

Apparently one of the small sheds in the picture is kitted out like a pub. No idea if it’s licensed, probably not, but it makes a change from storing the lawn mower!

Here’s the bridge over the River Tay at Dunkeld:

And slightly further north, the Tay, the Perth-Inverness railway line and the A9 road all squeezed into a narrow gap between the hills:

The gravel pit west of Blairgowrie:

Our favourite confluence where the Isla meets the Tay. Once again for some reason the Isla is the much muddier river:

And the two fields near home that I dream of turning into an airstrip. There used to be a Relief Landing Ground (RLG) for the wartime training school near here, so there is a precedent…

This last photo was taken with the door folded down and the window folded up. No perspex in the way to deteriorate the image, and a wide open field of view. There are disadvantages; it is slightly noisier and a LOT colder.

They say art is born from suffering, but it’s easier just to wrap up warm: hat, gloves, Buff (other neck warmers are available) and extra layers.

As we used to say in the military, any fool can be uncomfortable. But this is a 1943 aircraft. Vintage flying isn’t supposed to be comfortable. It’s part of the fun!

The Unwinnable Race

A little local flight to celebrate getting a new parking slot in the hangar:

The new space is nearer to the doors, and in the front. It’s a lot easier to get the aircraft out as I don’t have to move a heavy Cessna 182 out of the way first. The aircraft behind is a Tiger Moth, and the owner knows how to treat vintage aircraft so there are no worries about other people moving the Cub. It just makes it easier to go flying…

Perth from above. It was about this point that I spotted a train pulling out of the station…time to give chase! It was moving quite slowly towards the tunnel under Craigend, and we managed to catch up and beat it to the other end. But then it just pulled away…no way the Cub could win that race:

A 30kt groundspeed Cub versus a 125MPH train. I blame the headwind!

The Edges Of The Day

An early morning flight and a late evening flight in the Cub.

For once I managed to get up early on a non-work day and get to the airfield. We were the second aircraft to depart, after a flexwing microlight. There was still quite a lot of low cloud around:

There were some patches of full coverage, and the shadow of the aircraft had its very own circular rainbow:

The solid cover didn’t last long under the sun, and it soon started to break up:

…leaving Perthshire farmland basking in the sunshine. The farmers are taking advantage of the dry weather to get the crops in:

Three stages of harvesting in this next picture. At the bottom, crop ready for harvesting. Top right has been cut but with the straw lying in rows, and top left the straw has been baled:

A lone tree in a sea of crop:

The dark patch top right is oil seed rape, the rest probably wheat or barley:

Along the edges of the Highlands the low cloud was slower to clear. The south facing part of Birnam Hill was in glorious sunshine but the north facing bit was still enveloped in fog from the valley of the Tay:

Later, Brenda and I went for an evening bimble about 90 minutes before sunset, again in the Cub, seen here AFTER the flight:

Brenda had the camera and produced this lovely shot. The long shadows of the trees look like giants:

There’s nothing better than tootling around in the smooth air of the early morning or late evening. Summer Cubbing – can’t beat it!

Photos From The Archive – July 1944

In July 1944, staff photographer Frank Scherschel from Life Magazine was on assignment in Europe. He was in France covering the Battle of Normandy with the US Army and during the battle of St-Lô was able to get airborne in an L-Bird to get some aerial pictures.

Reproduced here, they can be found with millions of others in the Life Magazine Archives http://images.google.com/hosted/life – I found them via Facebook and have asked Life for permission to reproduce with no reply…so this post could disappear at any time – get ’em while they’re hot!

History does not recall whether Frank flew in a Cub like ours (L4), or one of the other types. Here is a typical field location with an L4 taking off and an Aeronca L3 parked. The 46 code on our aircraft represents the 79th Infantry Division. The 44 on the L3 signifies the 30th “Old Hickory” Infantry Division, which “spearheaded the St-Lô breakthrough of Operation Cobra” (according to Wikipedia!) – this was the start of the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, which up until this time had been about 80 miles wide and only about 25 miles deep.

Most L-Bird fields were just fields like this. Narrow and short, but they managed:

A typical view of US troops from above – M3 Halftrack, jeeps and a couple of motorbikes. This is La Perrine, between St-Jean de Daye and Pont Hébert, to the north of St-Lô:

…and here’s the location today, courtesy of Google Earth. There have been some changes, but it’s still recognisable as the same place:

Another small hamlet with church, which didn’t fare so well:

A ruined industrial building:

A Norman château which has seen some fighting, although some of the buildings seem intact:

Another which wasn’t as lucky:

Typical bocage countryside. Excellent defenders territory, but for the attackers, once they took one hedge, the next one was only 75 yards away. It was a slow and laborious process to make headway, and if adjacent units were slower to advance it left your flanks exposed. The Germans, being masters of the counter-attack, were quick to exploit any advantage, as many allied units found out to their cost:

A supply convoy making its way forward through the fields:

An armoured unit spread over several fields. From above it looks quite simple, but from ground level it could be a claustrophobic nightmare of small fields, tall hedges, sunken roads and confusion:

The aftermath of an artillery strike:

The enemy…knocked out and abandoned Tiger and Panther tanks, and what might be a StuG 111 assault gun, probably of the Panzer Lehr Division, and possibly near the village of Le Dézert after a failed counterattack on 10 July against the 9th and 30th Infantry Divisions. The boundaries between units are always weak points ripe for exploitation in an attack. In this case 30 of Panzer Lehr‘s tanks were knocked out by US M10 tank destroyers and the remainder withdrew over the Vire canal:

The same field from another angle. Note the other vehicles tucked into the hedgerows and sadly bottom right an innocent herd of cows killed in the action:

Excellent photographs showing why the Piper Cub and other L-Birds are such good photo platforms. It’s more peaceful today, but it is a privilege to own and fly a piece of history:

If you do get sucked into browsing the Life archives, don’t blame me…you may be in there a while!

Aladdin’s Cave

When the Cub’s elevator was damaged a new part from the US would have been rather expensive, so the jungle telegraph sprang into action. RV Chris mentioned the situation to Tim at Insch airfield who told me that Neil at Fordoun has a stock of Cub parts at his hangar. I had asked Neil for advice last year when there was a choice of two Cubs, so I already had his number. I gave him a call and arranged a visit.

You know those clickbait links which say things like “Your jaw will drop” and “Try not to gasp when you see…” ? well, in this case it was true, Neil’s hangar is a veritable treasure trove of stuff. There are several aircraft undergoing restoration including a Beagle Pup:

Racks of parts next to some wings, a couple of jeep projects and an old army 4-ton truck:

Restored Cub wings being recovered:

And a whole stack of spare Cub parts, one of which was the required elevator:

Neil calls them “new, old” parts, meaning they were made years ago but have never been used. Unfortunately this one came with no paperwork from a container load of spares bought from the Italian military, but also in the stack of parts was an already covered one (painted yellow) which came with paperwork. A quick repaint and it was ready to go:

And then it was a case of waiting for the paperwork to come through – see previous post for the “NARCed off” experience.

Finally it was time. Pull the aircraft out of the hangar…

…into the sunshine:

And go flying. Lovely summer views out of the open windows:

A closer look at some local bridges. Or choke points as the Cub would probably call them. Raining artillery fire down on these could cause a major headache for the enemy’s transport system:

It’s altogether more peaceful these days. It’s lovely to fly with the windows open, inspecting anything that takes your fancy as you proceed sedately across the countryside at 80mph:

I can see my old house from up here! And some controversial new development next to the woods in the centre. Apparently Blairgowrie really really needs Starbucks, Home Bargains and Lidl…

Planning arguments aside, the Cub flies again at last! Big thumbs up to the jungle telegraph, Chris, Tim and Neil with his Aladdin’s cave of parts…

Independence Day

July 4th. It would have been nice to go flying in the Cub today. It’s a nice warm day with fair-weather cumulus clouds and very little wind – perfect Cub weather.

The aircraft has been with the engineers for its annual:

…which also included the repair of the right elevator, which got crumpled when I stupidly left the aircraft alone and it rolled into a shipping container:

Sadly there are delays in the paperwork. The aircraft went in to the engineers on April 28th, and has been back in the aero club hangar for a few weeks now. I could jump in and go flying as it’s all fixed and inspected, but because the paperwork is not yet completed, that would be illegal. It is a pain in the butt (n.b. use of “butt” in deference to our stateside friends who are celebrating today).

The paperwork delay is due to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA – Campaign Against Aviation) who have had the application papers for several weeks now. They have to issue a NARC – National Airworthiness Review Certificate…without this highly technical and expensive piece of A4 paper the laws of physics do not apply and the aircraft is unable to fly, so we just have to wait patiently. As usual this year, the delays are being blamed on BREXIT and COVID. Very convenient excuses.

In contrast, The RV is a”Permit to Fly” aircraft, and in the time since the Cub NARC application was submitted, it has been taken apart, cleaned, lubed, inspected, repaired as required and been half put back together again.

Once it’s reassembled there is a short test flight to fly and a form to send off to the Light Aircraft Association (LAA). Last year I got my renewed permit paperwork back within 36 hours – and that was with all the engineering staff working from home! We’ll soon have the RV grin back:

At least we’ll have something to fly while waiting for the Cub NARC.

I’m sure this is where the term “NARCed off” comes from! The CAA could learn a lot from the LAA.

Awesome Photos

Perth Airport is lucky to have Wallace Shackleton as “photographer in residence” – he takes amazing aircraft photos, and can often be heard as one of the voices of Perth Radio from the control tower.

Wallace has over 29,000 photos on all sorts of subjects at Flickr. See https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwshack/ – Here are some pics of the fleet.

Eindecker take off:

Eindecker taxiing:

Eindecker at rest:

RV6 warming up:

Cub just about to touch down:

Cub on final approach:

And our favourite Cub photo, taken from the tower on the day of Brenda’s first Cub trip and my first Cub landing on grass, when we went to Kirriemuir:

29,599 photos at the time of writing…see them all at the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwshack/

Retirement Planning

It’s June, which means it’s good fightin’ weather. Good fighting weather should also mean good flying weather and long days. Let’s look at some facts:

  • The retirement age for “single pilot operations” commercial pilots is 60,
  • For me this falls at the end of May 2024.
  • A week later on 6 June, it will be the 80th anniversary of D-Day.
  • We have a WW2 veteran Cub, which flew in Normandy.

You see where this is going? There’s bound to be some sort of meet up of veteran aircraft for the 80th anniversary:

There was an event for the 75th anniversary, called L-Birds to Normandy:

Our aircraft attended in 2019, all the way from Yorkshire, and sharp readers will remember the patch which now adorns the inside of the cockpit to commemorate that trip. The same L-Birds team is planning 2024. Don’t think Eisenhower will be attending though, even though it looks like he was a big Cub fan:

The 2019 event was cut short by the weather, which included stormy conditions over the beachheads, and Richard’s visit in our aircraft was curtailed as he headed for home in Yorkshire to outrun the storms. We’ll be coming from even further away, so will need a bigger weather window.

For my birthday this year, Brenda bought me a copy of “Utah Beach to Cherbourg” which is a collection of US Army papers from just after the war. Fascinating reading, especially the bits about the 79th Inf Div, to which our Cub was attached. We have researched some of the locations and loaded them into Skydemon, and we hope to fly over them again 80 years on:

Another inspired birthday present was from a WW2 re-enactment supplies website. The aircraft now has an authentic looking pack of chewing gum wedged in the windscreen. It took me ages to decide whether to put it upside down or the right way up…

Brenda refuses to tell me the details of the website; I can only hope she is planning something for Christmas. I can’t wait for Christmas!

Cub photo by Wallace Shackleton (as usual!)

And a trip to Normandy in the Cub for the 80th anniversary? I can’t wait to retire either!

Chipmunk Across The USA

Another cross country epic by guest contributor Danny Linkous, famous author of http://www.sigurdmartin.se/2020/10/27/cub-trip-across-the-usa/

Big news here in the hangar is the empty chocks and oil drip pans that are no longer required…

I sold the Chipmunk, WD345, in early May.  The new owner then contracted me to deliver it to him in Bellview, Illinois, about 20 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri.

I plotted out the course on ForeFlight.  About 500nm total, I decided to make short legs to break up the monotony of the trip, but more importantly, out of respect for the Chipmunk’s short range.  The first leg was only 44nm, but I wanted to land short of the Appalachian Mountains and take on full fuel in case I had to deviate to get across the mountains (the Foreflight shot below was made the day BEFORE I flew the trip…no rain the day I went).

I awoke at 0430, and began doing all the little things that need to be done before such a flight.  I found myself ready to go at 0700.  However, fuel would not be available until 0800 at my first stop, so I waited until about 0720 to launch.  Bitter sweet moments, waiting to take what had been my airplane for 7 1/2 years to it’s new owner.  Still better than watching the new owner fly away in it, leaving me there, alone, airplaneless…I guess.

I arrived at my first stop, waited for the staff to open the office, topped off with fuel and checked the weather.  My next stop was only 64nm away, but it was on the other side of the mountain range.  The weather there was VFR, but the mountain ridges were obscured.  I waited an hour for the clouds over the ridges to lift, took off, turned west and quickly found out that the clouds over the ridges were still clinging on.  I followed the ridge line to the northeast.

I continued to the northeast where there was a pass through the mountains which hopefully would allow me to get across the range, but it too was obscured.

The weather on the other side of the Appalachian range was perfect, clear and 10+ miles visibility, all the way to my destination.  But, since there are rocks and trees in those clouds, I decided to abort the mission and RTB (return to base).  A driving factor in that decision was an appointment I had in two days.  If it looked like I couldn’t get to my destination and back in two days, I was going to scrub the flight and wait for a better opportunity.

As I headed back to home base, I came up with Plan B since Plan A didn’t work out so well.  After landing, I called regarding the appointment, asking if I could change it to next week.  That was agreed upon, so after about an hour on the ground, I took off again, back to my first stop (gotta fuel up before crossing those mountains, you know) without the pressure of having to be there on that day and back the next.

I landed, topped off the fuel, sharing the ramp with another deHavilland product.  He had no issue with obscured ridges, I imagine.

Again, I launched with hopes of getting over the mountains.  I was rewarded with much better conditions, allowing me to continue.  I could see across all the ridge lines on my course, with only the highest points still under cloud.

The further west I flew, the better the weather became.

I am always amazed when flying over the Appalachians.  There are tens of thousands of square miles of nothing much more than trees and hills, with very little sign of a human presence.  So beautiful in the late spring/early summer when GREEN is bursting out all over.

I put the Appalachians behind me, with much flatter terrain and blue skies ahead.  

My first stop west of the mountains was the Greenville, Tennessee airport. As I entered the downwind, I saw a buzzard about 100 feet above me.  As I passed under him, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the “buzzard” was in fact a bald eagle, which is a rare sight in this part of the country.  A good omen, thought I!

The remainder of the flight was uneventful, the weather good, and I even had a couple knots of tailwind the whole day.  Most airports I landed at had self-serve fuel, so the stops were brief.  I was usually on the ground only about 20-30 minutes before being on my merry way.  

I arrived at 2IL7 airport in Bellview, Illinois at 2000 after 7 hours of flying and 8 landings.  One of my better landings, a three pointer on the 2500 foot grass runway, was done at 2IL7 and observed by the new owner and a dozen or so friends.  I taxied in, shut down, and let out a sigh of relief.  A long day, a bit challenging at times, but a wonderful experience.  And, as I knew it would be, it was easier turning the airplane over to the new owner rather than seeing him fly away in it.  Just a bit easier…a little bit.

New adventures await!  After spending a night in a hotel in St. Louis, my flight home didn’t leave until 1830, so I visited Creve Coeur Airport (1H0) about 7nm west of St. Louis.  If you EVER get anywhere near this airport, VISIT IT!  Friendly people and more vintage airplanes than about anywhere.  Here’s where I started my visit, as I exited the Uber ride and began walking about, looking in open hangars.

I do have a bit of time in that cockpit, as you know.

Treasure everywhere!

Now, on to what’s next.  The empty chocks and unused drip pans in the hangar will not be idle long…

First Fly-In

1st of May and the first Kirriemuir fly-in of the season. We would have gone in the Cub…

…but in the last post I mentioned how a moment of inattention led to a damaged Cub elevator, so I took the RV. Brenda was working so it was just me and the aircraft. The field was busy, with aircraft from far and wide, not just us locals. The weather forecast was not promising for the afternoon, with the threat of thunderstorms.

When I arrived, the white RV7 in front of us which had come in from Newtownards was heading back to avoid the storms, so I stole their recently vacated parking space.

Later and lighter arrivals were marshalled into the overflow parking field next to the barn, which also held the coffee and burgers. Operators Richard and Aaron explained that the crop was advanced enough to not suffer any damage with a Piper Cub parked on it for an hour or so:

Down at the other end of the field there was a lot of variety: US Army Cessna “Bird Dog” here framing an RV8 with the “fastback” canopy modification:

A Perth based Eurostar landing. Landing on grass is very satisfying:

With coffee and burger consumed and the weather deteriorating, it was time to head back to base. I got “bounced” by the RV3 for a few minutes of dogfighting, then we proceeded in loose formation back to Perth, where it was raining. We held off and stooged around for five minutes before splitting up and heading in.

Aircraft, grass airstrips, burgers, coffee, dogfighting, formation flying – all in all a pretty good day! And it keeps me in a job as well…Richard and Aaron donated all the landing fees to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, so my landing fee will make its way into my wages. Circle of life and all that…