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!
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!
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…
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.
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!
And a trip to Normandy in the Cub for the 80th anniversary? I can’t wait to retire either!
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.
Now, on to what’s next. The empty chocks and unused drip pans in the hangar will not be idle long…
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…
The loosening of lockdown and easing of travel restrictions at the end of April meant we could finally start our flying season with visits to other airfields. Here we are with the Cub at Kinsgmuir in Fife, enjoying an aero-picnic in the sunshine.
This lovely grass strip is in the eastern half of Fife, about half way between St Andrews and Anstruther. It’s a mile or so from the “Secret Bunker” – if you don’t know where that is (and you probably shouldn’t), just follow the signposts from Edinburgh. Really.
Several other aircraft visited on that day, including another Cub:
Arriving back at Perth we spotted a smart RV8, owned (and built) by Peter, a former colleague from the air2000 days. Well, he was the Airbus Fleet Manager and I was a lowly Boeing First Officer, but we did work for the same company at the same time. So, yes, colleagues!
The RV8 is in 111 Squadron colours commemorating Peter’s time in the Royal Air Force:
A nice RV8 and a picnic away…as the first post lockdown trip it was a pretty awesome day, even if it was only half an hour to get to Kingsmuir and forty minutes back. A nice pleasant trip for the vintage Cub.
A few days later, the Cub was due to go in to maintenance for its annual check. Unfortunately after taking the picture below, I wandered off to find some chocks and got sidetracked. A gust of wind pushed the aircraft round and it rolled into a container.
The right elevator took all the damage. Swearwords were used…
It should be a simple fix, but it’s not going to be cheap:
At least the aircraft was going in for maintenance anyway – it’s just going to take a bit longer waiting for parts to arrive from the States. Very frustrating but I’ve learnt my lesson. Always use chocks!
With the Cub out of action I pulled the Eindecker out for a ground run…
…but it wouldn’t start! More frustration. I dived under the instrument panel to have look at the start switch to see if any wires had come loose:
Getting in under the panel was easy as gravity helped; Getting back out was a lot harder. I was only under there for a minute or so, but got cramp in both legs on the way out. There was nothing visibly wrong with the wiring, so the next job will be to take the cowling off to check fuses and connections at that end.
With some sense of trepidation it was time to try the RV…bad things come in threes, right? And I had already broken two aircraft.
Nothing broke. The aircraft started right up. We flew! All was well.
The next day I somehow cracked the window in the door of the works helicopter. The crack in the perspex had to be taped up by an engineer, noted in the Tech Log and we were good to go…but I did succeed in breaking another aircraft after all…
Or…I learnt about flying with a Rotax engine from that. Here we are at Sønderborg in Denmark a couple of years ago, basking in the midday heat. We had flown in from Groningen and were hoping to get all the way to Siljan Air Park in one day.
Flight Plan filed for the leg to Höganãs and aircraft refuelled, we jumped in and made our way to the end of the runway. With the heat, the plan was to climb as quickly as possible into the cooler air at 3000 feet or so…
I had just taken the photo above when we were assaulted by a strange smell and fluid running along the right side of the canopy. Brenda said with admirable calmness “It’s coming in!”
My immediate thought was “OIL LEAK!” so I throttled back and turned back towards the airfield. Checking the temperatures and pressures to confirm, we found that the oil pressure and temperatures were fine, so probably no leak – but the coolant temperature was high. Telling ATC that we had a problem, with no wind they cleared us to land in the opposite direction to our take-off. The Skydemon trace overlaid onto 3D Google Earth shows all nine minutes of the flight:
With the engine at low power the coolant temperature came down quickly, we landed OK and parked up in the same place we had vacated only 20 minutes or so before. After shutting down we pulled the cowlings to have a look. Here Chief Engineer Brenda inspects the coolant system overflow bottle – which was found to have lost some of its fluid.
I had made the rookie mistake of trying to climb quickly to the cooler levels. Full power equalled lots of heat output from the engine, and climb speed meant reduced airflow through the radiator. Combined with the high ambient temperature of midday in a summer heatwave the result was a rapidly rising coolant temp. The boiling coolant had started to expand out of the expansion vent on the top of the expansion bottle, and got sucked through the cowling gap and along the right side of the canopy. Luckily the stream passed over the open air vent, and alerted us by coming into the cockpit with its attendant funky smell.
We inspected the engine as it cooled. An Air Alsie Express engineer wandered over from the hangar to see if we needed any help, so we managed to scrounge some distilled water to replace the missing coolant. Just as a nosebleed always looks worse than it really is, we hadn’t lost very much fluid at all. It only required a “wee sploosh” to get the level back to in between the Min and Max markings on the bottle.
Once the engine had cooled down totally, I started up again while Brenda watched for any obvious leaks (it might not have been just from the overflow bottle), but all was OK. I shut down, we inspected the coolant system very closely and refitted the cowlings. Then we had to go into the terminal building again to refile the flight plan and have another cold drink from the machine.
On our second departure from Sønderborg I throttled back a bit at 500ft and did a long cruise climb up to the cooler levels. The coolant temperature stayed right where it should for the whole flight, and the rest of the trip up Sweden, and back five days later. I learnt about Rotax engines from that…
“Wee sploosh” is a recognised engineering term – Chief Engineer Brenda says so…