2012 – Troys East Coast Air Venture – 2012-08-07

We got into Moncton yesterday afternoon.  Thankfully the front was small that went through over night.  The wind had changed to more down the runway but still over 20kts on the ground.  It had gotten to over 30 kts that evening right across the runway.  We said our good bye and loaded into the sweltering cockpit.  The climb out was quick but rough.  We immediately headed to my parents place for pictures and really got bounced around down low.  We climbed a bit for smoother air and then headed to see the camp on the lake we stayed at.  We soon turned south for Moncton.

The air was really rough, annoying rough.  We headed for the coast line and viewed all the wonderful beaches passing by.  We soon got Moncton tower and got cleared for a straight in on 24.  The landing was uneventful and we taxied in amongst many jet traffic on the airport.  32c on the ground. It was a hot taxi.

Jody’s parents were there to great us.  The school located a spot for us to tie down and the place was mostly deserted. We were told it was to windy and to low of ceilings, all their flights were canceled.  I thought that was a shame. If students only fly in perfect weather they will not know how to deal with the not so perfect weather on cross country flights.  I never liked the fact that I learned so much more about flying after I got my license.

I will get pictures of the flight to Moncton as soon as I locate my camera cord;-)

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West by Northwest

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by Stu Simpson

I could tell this was going to be fun. The day had adventure written all over it. And you’ve just gotta know the day is ok when Don Rogers shows up early instead of late.

He and Fred Wright were on a long downwind for Kirkby’s runway 16 when I first heard them. I had just started my pre-flight when I caught the distinctive whine of their 503’s to the south. Don landed first, settling gently to the grass. Freddy took his time, the Chinook’s big wing coasting in ground effect until just before the intersection. Then he too settled to the earth and became mortal again.

The three of us were going exploring today, heading to Dave Forrester’s place. Forrester is the big cheese at the local R.A.A. chapter. He lives north of Cochrane about a mile off highway 22, half way to Cremona. He gave me a hand-drawn map to his place when we met at the October CUFC meeting. I don’t know what Forrester does for a living, but he ain’t a cartographer.

Still the map was the only way we were going to find his place. I’d checked on the Calgary chart to see if I could match up his symbology with the government’s. If my calculations were correct, I was reasonably certain we could find the place.

The only thing that worried me was a note that Forrester had put on his map. It read, “Strongly suggest an overshoot before landing – center is 20′ higher than the ends & runways undulate”. I could only imagine what “undulate” meant.

When everyone was sure of where we were going and how we’d get there, we all saddled up and turned north. I had been elected leader for the day so Don set up off my left wing and Freddy off the right. I must say, we cut an impressive figure in the afternoon blue.

It wasn’t too long before we drew close to Jim Creasser’s place. I looked for him on the ground as we flew by, but he was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later we crossed highway 2 and I began scanning for landmarks to navigate by.

We had to follow the highway west from Airdrie to it’s intersection with highway 22. None of us had been this route before and we were very pleasantly surprised at the landscape beneath us. The bald prairie changed quickly to a very uneven texture of small hills and knolls covered with autumn’s brown grass and scrub. Its not what you would call pretty, in fact it looked rather alien, but it sure was interesting.

Then we saw the most surprising thing of the day. About halfway along 567, 100 meters north of the road was a fort. No kidding. Someone had simply built a log fort in the middle of nowhere. It was just like one from an old cavalry movie, complete with guard towers in the corners. How or why it’s there is a complete mystery to us.

The moonscape quickly changed to more hilly country. We watched as Nose Creek cut an enormous gorge northward through the area. Then we came to another river, whose name I don’t know. Looking at the map though, I noticed if we followed this river, it would take us very close to where we wanted to be. And it would even save us a few minutes travel time.

We followed the creek to the next intersection that Forrester had drawn. Then we were over a spot that looked just like his map. Sort of. It had the fields in almost the right place. And if you looked hard you could kinda see a path in the field that looked like it might have been a runway. At one point anyway. And there were some buildings that looked big enough to house an airplane.

I decided to do a fly-by to check the place out. I told Don (Fred’s radio wasn’t working) my plan and began descending. I was just turning in for the left-hand downwind when a wind sock caught my eye. Then two runways became clearly visible, one north/south, the other east/west. Only the strip was in a different field. I had completely missed the mark. I might add, in a futile effort to save face, that my wingmen also missed the correct field.

Fortunately, I was set up perfectly to turn to a right-hand downwind for a landing to the south. Let me tell you, Forrester wasn’t kidding when he mentioned the hill in the middle of the strip. He did get the height right, about 20 feet higher than the end. Now I know why I got picked to go first.

My wingmen were visible in the circuit as I coasted in on final. It occurred to me that I’d never made an uphill landing before. But with the wind blowing right on the nose, and the ground coming gently up to meet me, my touch down was a beauty. I dodged a few badger holes on the roll-out and cleared the runway near a fenced cow pasture (since my last pasture landing, I keep a pretty close eye on where the cows are).

Don was on short final, slowly sinking toward the ground. It was just plain eerie to watch the Chinook disappear from sight. I kept expecting a column of smoke and fire to erupt from the other side of the hill, like in the movies, but of course the Chinook came trundling over the top of the hill a few seconds later. Then Freddy touched down and we all went exploring on the ground.

But no one was home. Either somebody had squealed and told Forrester we were coming, or we just flew in on the wrong day. So we just hung around on the ground and checked out the Forrester homestead’s hangar. There were three planes in it. One was a beautiful old Luscombe in immaculate condition. What a sweetheart. There was also a homebuilt in there, type unknown. The front end was in pieces because of work being done on the engine. The last plane in the shack was Forrester’s Kolb Firestar. A pretty, yellow single-seater that looks like a lot of fun.

It was time to bug out. These fall days run notoriously short of light in a hurry and we didn’t want to take any chances. We ambled out to the hay-field/airstrip. I suited up and swung the prop. And swung the prop. And swung the prop again. But nothing wanted to light. The motor would gargle and struggle for a few seconds, then it would just kind of croak. Don and Fred both shut down and came over to help. We tried everything, changing the plugs, switching the plugs, and fooling with the carb. Nothing was working. Then Don suggested we check the sparks and sure enough we found our problem. The PTO plug wasn’t getting anywhere near the spark that the mag side was getting. We decided to give it a few more tries and, fortunately, it caught.

We each did our first uphill takeoff, which was fun. It’s on days like this you appreciate a good climb rate. We all formed up and turned back to the southeast. We had spent a fair amount of time trying to get the Beeve working again and it had cost us some daylight. With the wind on our noses at about 7 – 10 knots, we we’d be cutting it close to make the home ‘drome before dark.

Then my radio died. I figured that since Don was the only one of us who had an operable radio he should take the lead. So when he was in a safe position, I peeled off to take up the left-wing slot on him. He didn’t get it. We flew on like that for a few minutes with me waving my arms like an idiot trying to signal him that he was now number 1. I don’t know what he thought I was doing, maybe airobics (pun intended) or something, but he soon peeled off to take up his original slot.

Poor Fred. God knows what he thought was going on.

We soon made our way back to highway 2, about halfway home. Don had been very careful watching our altitude so near the Calgary control zone, and we’re very glad he did. Just as we passed over the highway, a Cessna Citation sailed over going at about 150 knots, missing us by only 600′ as it turned final for YYC‘s runway 16.

Our formation turned south when we reached the east end of the control zone. Home was only a few minutes away. Good thing too, because we were running out of daylight and I was running out of body heat and bladder space.

A mile north-east of Kirkby’s I peeled off to the east and entered my base leg for runway 16. The Chinooks continued southbound to Indus as Don bid me farewell on the radio, which was sort of working again. I cleared the runway and climbed out to watch them silhouetted on the evening sky. It was truly a beautiful sight and a post-card ending to a great day of flying.

I guess that will likely be our last major cross-country flight until next spring. Unless, of course, we have a mild winter, or a really good destination and a warm day, or hot chocolate waiting at the end of the line, or….. Well you get the picture. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Things To Do In The Sky When You’re All Alone

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by Stu Simpson

Now don’t take this the wrong way, but I was really disappointed to see Wilf Stark drive up to my hangar at Kirkby Field. Disappointed, you see, because he was supposed to have flown in. But the field where Stark hangars his Rans S-12 was snowed under.

Wilf wasn’t coming flying today, I realized somberly. His Super Koala was in pieces undergoing minor repairs and his FP-303 wasn’t quite ready yet for its first flight. I guess our jaunt to Okotoks would have to wait for another day. How ironic that Wilf owns, or co-owns, three airplanes but would still be grounded. I knew I’d miss him up there.

Stark watched by the runway as me and the Himax lifted into a perfect winter sky. We left runway 34 behind after what seemed an awfully long run. Climb-out was sluggish, too – only about half the normal rate. But the revs were good, so was acceleration. Pondering the problem, I figured I’d best get what altitude I could, stay close to the strip, and sort things out.

I perched the ‘Max at 700 feet on the airfield perimeter and made a couple of north-south runs. With an incredible grasp of the obvious, I realized that my runs northward were much quicker than those going the other way. Yup, I’d taken off downwind.

A downwind take-off, imagine that. Oh, the shame and embarrassment. I won’t waste your time with excuses (though they’re certainly quality ones – some of my best, in fact).

Instead of dwelling on my fate at the next CUFC meeting, I concentrated on flying. There’d been a month of bad weather since me and the ‘Max had the sky beneath us, so our reunion was a joyous one. I flung us gleefully through the air in tight turns; first one way, then the other, each entry and roll-out tight and precise. The airplane was solid and pure. Together we were masters of the air, invincible.

I spotted a train as it coursed along the tracks south of Kirkby’s. Suddenly, it was 1920. I was an air-mail pilot flying my Jenny to prove that airplanes could move the mail faster than the rails. I nosed over into a shallow dive, fiercely racing the train, and soon came up beside the locomotive. The engineer sat with his back to me, probably didn’t even know I was there. I pulled ahead a few seconds later though, and banked arrogantly in front him.

Would that engineer think me a fool and a daredevil for flying such a crate? Or would he look at me as a beggar looks at a rich man? Either way, he was stuck down there, a slave to the clock, while I was up here chasing sunbeams through the wind.

Finished with the train, I made Indus my next destination. Maybe something was going on down there. Too bad, I reflected again, that Wilf wasn’t up. I’d really been looking forward to honing my formation flying skills with him.

A woman’s voice was in my ears suddenly, telling the world she was landing at Three Hills. Was she a student? An instructor, maybe? Or was she just someone else out for fun?

Indus was a bust. The only activity there was Winters finishing up a flight with a student. I did a touch and go, just for the practice, and headed back north.

Over Kirkby’s again, I saw Wilf meandering around his hangar and the taxi-way. I decided to head to Stefanivic’s (where the Rans hangars) just on the off-chance that Ben had gotten the runway cleared. If so, maybe Stark could still make it into the air. But it was not to be. Ben had his Bobcat were working away as I flew over, but the runway remained untouched.

So what should I do now? Some nap-of-the-earth stuff, I decided. I made for the large field a half-mile away where I usually do my low flying. There are no wires or buildings or fences there, and it’s nice and flat – a perfect spot.

I crossed the road at the north end of the field at about 75′. A movement ahead caught my eye – a coyote that had seen and heard me a long time ago. He took off running at full speed, but he was no match for me and my airplane.

Suddenly, it was 1944. I was a Typhoon pilot strafing the enemy. I drew closer with each passing second, his image flickering through the spinning prop as he snatched quick glances back at me. There could be no escape. All I had to do was line him up with my front spark plug cap and press the firing button. Just a couple more seconds…. NOW! I mashed a non-existent trigger and imagined tracers tearing up the snow around him, blowing him to little bits. The coyote flashed beneath my left wing. Safe and sound, he was more than a little pissed off as he suddenly reared up and clawed the air in my direction. I guess I’d be mad too, if I’d just been strafed.

Some truck tracks made their way through the field, so I decided to follow them. From ten feet up I curved the ‘Max around each bend and turn, staying directly above the trail until it disappeared into a small stand of trees near the irrigation canal. Next, I buzzed some grain bins and then found a snow-bound tractor, frozen and desolate, abandoned for the season. Then I decided some touch-and-goes at Kirkby’s were in order.

I turned the ‘Max southward and began a gentle climb to circuit height. The home ‘drome came into view as I made for the downwind (I was absolutely certain of the wind direction this time). I figured it’d be a good plan to practice my short-field technique because I’ve yet to see a runway that’s too long.

Turning final a bit higher than usual, I throttled back and let the ‘Max settle into its descent. The plane rocked gently as we slipped through the inversion layer and its inherent light turbulence. How would this landing turn out? Would I nail the ‘Max to the button in a sterling three-pointer? Or would I be too fast and float along in ground-effect before dropping in with a thud? I smiled at the challenge ahead.

Every landing, I think, is a moment of truth for a pilot. Because on each landing gravity and a hundred other laws of physics will act without mercy or favour. And the airplane will ask of its pilot, “Can you bring me back to earth correctly? Can you put us down gently, under control? Or are you going to turn us both into a pile of rubbish in the middle of the runway? Well, what’s your answer?” Anyone who’s been there knows what I mean.

I answered correctly seven times straight, which isn’t to say all my landings were great. A couple of them were too fast and resulted in thuds. One was too slow, one was absolute crap, and three were pretty good. But my last landing, number seven, was exquisite; a soothing three-point greaser that was so slick I questioned for a second if I was really down. In my little tail-dragger, that’s something to cherish.

Wilf and I did get up flying together later that week, and we got to Okotoks, too. But on this flight, from out of the blue, fate did me a favour. It reminded me, in the very best way, that there are plenty of things to do in the sky when you’re all alone.

The First Time

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by Stu Simpson

A strange coincidence occurred a few days ago that caused me to remember a long passed and very important day.

I was driving to an appointment and looking at the sky. I was judging the weather as I often do, as to it’s suitability for flying. The ceiling was high overcast, the temperature around +5 degrees, and the winds were light. In short, an excellent day.

Here’s the strange part. The conditions were exactly – and I do mean exactly – the same as the day I soloed. Sensing something of the dramatically weird, I later checked my log book and nearly fell over when I discovered the day in question was the seventh anniversary of my first solo flight. Bizarre, eh?

March 23rd, 1986 was a day I’d dreamt about my whole life. Or so it seemed. I arrived at Indus airport that spring day with more than a few butterflies in my stomach. This was the day I was scheduled to take an airplane up all by myself. If everything went well I would also land the plane and walk away afterwards. I was both excited and scared.

I walked toward my mount – a bright yellow single-seat Beaver with a 35hp motor – and wondered if it was as anxious as me. I forced myself to calm down and began my pre-flight.

When the pre-flight was finished my instructor, John Reed, came over to offer some last minute advice. He suggested I get away from the field after take-off and get used to the airplane. He warned it would handle more aggressively than the two-seat trainer version. I should do some basic manoeuvres, he said, and return to the airport for a few circuits. He even told me to have fun.

I fired up and climbed in. I secured my helmet and straps and began my taxi. A few minutes later I found myself at the button of runway 10 with 1900 feet in front of me and no excuses left.

I eased the throttle ahead and the little Rotax screamed happily. The ride was rough as the Beaver’s wheels pounded at the runway’s ruts and holes. Everything became suddenly smooth as the wings finally bit and yanked me skyward. I was flying – alone.

My heart soared as I realized, with concrete certainty (and no small amount of pride) that I could fly. The dream was now reality.

I angled to the right to avoid some power lines, pleased to be applying a lesson learned in training. I climbed out eastward to clear the circuit. Reed wasn’t kidding when he’d mentioned the control discrepancies. The two-seater had sluggish, mushy controls. But this plane, with it’s push-pull tube activated ailerons, was a fireball – sensitive and snappy.

The air remained perfect, with only a hint of wind. I practiced climbs, descents and turns. Then I went through the pre-stall checklist and gritted my teeth. If I screwed this up and wound up in a spin there would be no one to help me, no one to blame.

Ease the gas back, come back on the stick – tap the rudder to keep it straight, don’t want to depart – there’s the nibble…and the break! Stick forward, add power, and pull out gently. Piece of cake, I said to myself. I was gaining confidence and competence every minute.

I did a few more stalls and became acquainted with some of the plane’s idiosyncrasies.

I re-entered the circuit a few minute later and flew it as though Reed were still in the back-seat. I recited the pre-landing checklist to myself (something I still do): “No aircraft in the circuit, none about to enter it. Seat-belts are secure (I gave the straps a tug). Wind direction is from the south-east. Nearing key position”.

A couple more descending turns and I lined up on final to runway 10. The glide path looked good. I eased the throttle back as I coasted over the fence, then the numbers. The Beaver floated for a few yards as lift slowly surrendered to gravity. The mains kissed the grass smoothly – no, perfectly – and the plane settled gently on it’s springs.

To tell the truth, that first solo landing was a work of art. I can’t really remember another one that was better.

I blasted off again and performed two more touch-and-go’s before packing it in for the day. Reed was there to shake my hand and congratulate me when I shut down.

A pilot’s first solo quickly becomes a memory as his flight learning curve arcs sharply upward. His log book fills with tales of cross-country flights, group flights, and many more adventures found only among the heavens. But the first solo is a moment a pilot never truly forgets. Maybe because he can never repeat it.

A Morning Of Promise

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by Stu Simpson

This was clearly a Saturday morning with promise. It could hardly be anything else when everywhere I looked I saw small, fun airplanes. For instance, Al Botting had his new Piper Vagabond tied down ready to start. It’s amber gleam nearly matched that of the sun. Next to him was Peter Wegerich and his yellow Cubby II, a slightly shrunken iteration of Botting’s bird. One could be forgiven for doing a double take when seeing them so close together.

Botting was going to loose his tail-wheel virginity that morning. He and Kirkby had plans to take the Vagabond up so Botting could get checked out in it and join the ranks of the real men who fly tail-draggers. No more training wheels for him.

On the other side of the hangars Carl Forman tinkered with the radio and battery in his MiniMAX. The Max’s battery has been vexing him for months, never quite doing what he hopes it’ll do. And then there’s the left fuel tank issue. Don’t even get him started about that! Just up the ramp was Bernie Kespe with the top cowl off his pristine Renegade biplane. He was working on a starter problem.

And there in the corner, just in front of my hangar, sat my beloved Green Giant; loaded, fueled and eager to move the sky around.

Carl and Pete and I planned to fly to the bottom end of the Highwood Pass, about 60 miles southwest and on the very leading edge of the Rockies. There’s a ranch strip there that’s about 4000’ long but with very challenging approaches on each end. The trip to the Highwood has never been anything less than stunning, and it promised to be so this day, too.

It turned out at the last minute, though, that Carl would have to stay home. Remember those battery and fuel tank issues? Enough said.

Pete and I blasted off runway 16 and climbed strongly in the morning wind. We leveled off at 4000’ and turned southwest.

“I sure like seeing green fields,” I radioed to Pete.

“Ya,” he replied, “they’re sure a lot nicer to look at.” And a lot nicer for us to fly over, too, I thought. They don’t throw as much heat and convective turbulence as the browner spring time fields do.

As we motored along I remarked to Pete, as I’ve done to my wingmen hundreds of times, that I still can’t believe there are people down there who don’t want to do this.

“I’ve wanted to do this my whole life,” Pete confessed. “Now I’ve finally gotten to where I have the time and I can afford it. This is great.”

Thinking about his comments for a moment, I decided that maybe there is something to be said for growing up, even if only a little bit. Wonder what our wives would have to say about that.

We started a slow climb crossing the Bow River and the new highway bridge there. We were near DeWinton when Pete called again.

“There’s a field down there that looks awfully familiar to me,” he said, smiling. He referred to the last time we made this trip, coincidentally just two days short of a year ago. On that jaunt Pete had an engine failure over this very spot. He put the Cubby down in the farmer’s field and effected repairs. I forget what caused the engine failure – a minor electrical fault, I think – but he was up and flying again half an hour later. The rest of the flight simply orbited over top in a wide circle while he fixed the problem.

Since then, Pete decided the tired old 503 just wasn’t the right engine for his Cubby so he switched to a 65 horse Zanzottera, sold out of Surrey, B.C. The new mill runs very sweetly. Pete’s now got more power in the Cubby, more confidence in the engine and is getting a lot more fun out of flying.

The mountains were starting to rise from the haze, jagged and grey against the horizon, and growing larger with each passing mile. A glance out the right side revealed we were coming in line with the departure path of Black Diamond’s runway 14. We switched over to 123.4, the frequency that Black Diamond’s gliders use.

“Black Diamond traffic, be advised ultralights Dragonflies 1 and 2 are currently 6 miles southeast at 4600 feet, south-westbound for the Longview area. Any conflicting, please advise.”

We listened intently for several minutes but surprisingly, heard no reply. That’s strange because the glider guys are usually beating each other over the head to be the first ones in the air on such a day. We made one more call a few minutes later before clearing their area, but still heard nothing back.

We crossed highway 22 between Black Diamond and Longview. The terrain was rising faster now with the onset of the foothills. We eased our birds a few hundred feet higher and then set up to take pictures of each other with the hills and mountains in the background.

Pete’s Cubby was stunning against the brilliant green foliage below, and the magnificent Alberta blue above.

“You sure have a beautiful airplane, Pete,” I commented admiringly.

“Ya,” he said in his usual laconic manner, “I’m pretty happy with this yellow. I’d have bought the plane anyway, regardless of colour, so the yellow’s just a bonus.” I chuckled at his remarks and went back to taking pictures.

My photos done, I marveled for a few moments at the raw, blatant power of the Rockies. Though Pete and I had the power of flight at our disposal and were flying above all else, we weren‘t flying above them. And there they were in front of us, filling our windscreens, daring us to try. I figured it’d be wisest that morning to stick to our original plan and meet the Rockies’ altitude challenge another day.

We continued enroute, intercepting highway 40 as it coursed into the mountains. The Highwood strip soon appeared as a narrow swatch of light green grass running east and west on a ranch south of the highway. It’s a challenging strip, with high trees at either end, and a pond on either side about halfway along. The runway’s not very wide, either. Simply put, it promised to be a lot of fun.

We arrived overhead and eyeballed the windsock.

“Dragonfly 1 to 2. The sock indicates wind from the south at about five to seven knots. It’ll give us a crosswind, but not by much.”

“Ya, roger. I’ll follow you in.”

“1 copies. I’m descending on the downwind for 25.” I pulled the throttle way back and dumped the nose over to begin the drop from 6000 feet. After several seconds the Giant was still way too high, so I cranked in a side-slip to bleed off more altitude.

The Highwood requires a careful approach to minimize exposure to the trees should the unthinkable happen to the engine. Half a mile from the button I turned about 160 degrees because there wasn’t enough room in the narrow valley for a proper base leg. I angled toward the strip, keeping the highway beneath me for as long as possible before committing to the runway.

My heart beat faster and adrenaline coursed through me as the trees flashed beneath. The left wing missed a tall stand by only 10 feet; there was no time to look at the right one. A snapshot vision flashed through my mind of me picking pine boughs from the Giant after landing.

Ground speed was too fast and a quick glance at the sock confirmed the wind had shifted to my tail. But it was still at only a few knots, I might be able to make it. I mentally prepared for a go ‘round. Side-slipping a little more to lose some height past the trees, I wandered a little wide of the runway. So I booted the rudder, pulled the stick to the right and the Giant centered out over the strip, but it was clear we were going to land long. Should I go around?

At the last second I decided it was safe and discarded the notion of trying again. The wheels touched smoothly about a third of the way down the runway, the long grass helping to slow the plane. I was too far past the exit to make a one-eighty before Pete landed, so I had no choice but to continue taxiing ahead until I heard from him. A few moments passed, then Pete calmly radioed that he’d landed and I had lots of room to turn around.

We taxied in and shut down. Then we spent a pleasant half hour chatting with a cowboy named Bob Purkess, who works the ranch there, and his hired man Clayton. We told him all about our planes such as how they’re built and the differences between Pete’s Cubby and the Giant.

Before we departed Purkess invited us to call him before we land next time so he could ensure there were no horses on the runway. Very neighbourly of him, indeed.

The wind was still coming from the east as we back-tracked and it looked like it’d stay that way. We started this takeoff with a slight downhill run, which really helped overcome the drag of the long grass.

I hauled the Giant into ground effect then built up some more speed to make sure I’d clear the trees that were rapidly approaching. As soon as we ascended above the tops of the pines the wind tagged us on the nose and boosted our climb rate by a few hundred feet per minute. The Giant reminded me again why I love it more each time I fly it.

We climbed steadily from the Highwood’s 4600’ elevation to 5500’ for the ride home. We weren’t quite ready to leave the foothills, though, so instead of turning northeast we continued north to follow along the hills. This area made for a spectacular background as Pete and I snapped even more photos of each other’s planes.

North of Turner Valley and west of Millarville we stumbled across a nicely kept ranch strip we’d never seen before. We circled overhead, using the windsock and tie downs to confirm it was, in fact, an airfield. But time was getting on and we decided against a landing. Besides, we didn’t want to use up all our adventure in one day. But I promised myself we’d be back.

Calgary’s ever expanding sprawl seeped through the late morning haze soon after we turned back eastbound. The view was quite a letdown considering where we’d just been.

But, at least we were flying; there were so many more down there who weren’t. Pete and I agreed it was good to be cruising at only 70 mph, which let us stay in the sky a little longer. The world looks better at that speed and we simply get more from life aloft.

My landing back at Kirkby’s was terrific. So was Pete’s, which was only fitting in light of the wonderful day we were having.

We chatted happily on the ground with Botting, who hadn’t quite lost his tail-wheel virginity that morning because the wind came up with a little more enthusiasm than he preferred. But he still enjoyed flying his Vagabond while Kirkby flew the landings and takeoffs for him.

Carl got up flying, too, but the pesky battery and fuel problems continued to haunt him. Bernie was nowhere to be seen.

It wasn’t a perfect day for everyone on Kirkby Field. But for Pete and I, who got the chance to have ourselves a flying adventure, the morning had certainly fulfilled its promise.

“I Could Do This Forever”

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 by Stu Simpson

Me & the Beeve were at 700′ AGL, having just blasted off from Kirkby Field. We had no particular place to go. There was no one to meet, no appointments to keep. Just a blue sky and light, warm winds to dance around in all afternoon.

I decided to head south toward Indus and see if anything was happening there. But one of my character flaws is that I’m so easily distracted, this time by Bailey’s Field. It appeared a few miles away, looking pristine and gorgeous, as it always does.

Bailey’s Field holds a special fascination for me. It’s a beautiful 4500′ strip in the middle of the prairie about six miles north-east of Indus. There are a few hangars on the property and a huge house with a swimming pool in it. In fact, you can see right into the pool room when you do an over-shoot on runway 16. I’ve seen a few airplanes on the strip, but the one that stands out is an old Beech 18 done up in RCAF colors. It’s a beautiful round-engined bird that looks like it could tell lots of great stories. In short, Bailey’s Field is the airstrip of my dreams.

So it seemed only fitting that I shoot a couple of circuits there on my way to Indus. I crossed over the field and entered the left hand downwind. The runway was covered with a skiff of snow completely untouched by aircraft or man. I landed long, the Beeve’s wheels settling gently onto the endless white ribbon of runway. As soon as the nose gear touched, I fire-walled the throttle and raced off for another circuit. I noticed on the downwind leg the runway seemed spoiled now that it had gear tracks on it. But to any passing aviator, those gear tracks would tell a little story of their own.

I was on my way again after one more circuit. The Beeve felt wonderful in my hands, quick and nimble, responding without a moment’s hesitation. We wheeled and turned and laughed our way through the sky.

Indus looked shamefully deserted from a couple of miles away. But as I got closer, I could see people and airplanes moving around down there. I crossed over the field and started doing circuits on runway 28. I have to tell you, my landings that day were some of the best I’ve done in a long time.

The runway had been well used since the last snowfall, as was evident from all the gear tracks. But there was a small area right at the button that had no tracks in it anywhere. This was my target. It was a great way to practice spot landings. After every touchdown I could see my tire tracks in the snow and improve the next landing. Shooting circuits is a great way to spend your time, isn’t it? There’s nothing like the feeling of greasing an airplane back to earth. The type of touchdown that, if you didn’t hear the rumble and rattle of the gear, you might not know you’d landed.

I wasn’t alone in the circuit though. Fred Wright had waited for an opportune moment and taken to the sky in his green Chinook. Wayne Winters had done likewise in a miniMAX. We three shared the airport for a while until I noticed Freddy peel off to the south. I turned the Beeve to follow him, just to see what he was up to.

About a mile south of the field, Freddy turned to the east, went about half a mile, and turned back west. Suddenly he was pointing straight at me. Now, Freddy’s not blind, so I took this to be just what it was. A challenge.

I maneuvered easily out of his way, but before I could say “Holy hammer-head, Batman!”, he had jumped me. That sly dog was going for my tail like a puppy goes for puppy chow. But he didn’t have the angle to get his nose pointed at me. I racked the Beeve into a hard left turn and lost sight of the Chinook. I kept looking back over my shoulder but I still couldn’t find him. I was pretty sure I was out-turning him, because there ain’t much that can turn with the Beeve.

After about two and a half 360’s, I levelled out heading west. I spotted Freddy about 600′ away, at my 9 o’clock, going the opposite direction. I yanked the Beeve left at the same time Freddy saw me comin’. He put everything he had into a tight left turn, but there was just no escape for him from that point on. He was as busy as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest as he tried to get away. But I just sat up about fifty feet higher than the Chinook, throttled back, and followed him around. Whenever the moment was right, I’d dump the nose, roll onto his tail from six-o’clock high, and waste him. At least that’s the way I remember it. Freddy might have a different version of events.

After the carnage was over, we formed up and headed back toward Indus. I followed Freddy in and made a full-stop landing on runway 28. He was all smiles and charged with adrenaline as I climbed out of the Beeve. We spent the next few minutes re-hashing the dogfight over and over again, like pilots have done for decades.

Then I met Knute Rasmusen, owner of the mimiMAX that Winters was flying. The three of us chatted as we watched Winters in the circuit. After a few minutes of hangar flying, Freddy decided he wasn’t going waste anymore of the day on the ground. I liked his attitude so I invited both guys to fly back up to Kirkby’s with me. They thought that was a splendid idea.

Winters was on his last go ’round so Knute said he’d join us after he fueled up. Freddy and I decided to wait upstairs shooting some more bump-and-runs, and when Knute was ready, we’d head north together.

Freddy and I took off and by the time we’d shot two circuits Knute was pulling onto the button of runway 28. I turned north for home and slowed so my wingmen could catch up.

Knute quickly established himself off my right wing. Freddy perched a little further back, forming on the miniMAX. I could almost see the smiles on their faces as we coasted along up there. Occasionally I’d lose sight of Knute as he wandered toward my six, and I found myself trying to make like an owl to find him again. My neck muscles got a good workout.

All too soon the shiny sheet metal of Kirkby’s hangars appeared and I set up for a long, straight-in approach to runway 34. I touched down and slowed just in time to make the turn at mid-field. I taxied the Beeve to the hangar and jumped out to watch Freddy and Knute land. But they decided to drag the field first.

I wheeled the Beeve into the shack as the Chinook and the MAX set up their approaches. Freddy put down first and taxied clear. The two of us watched closely as Knute hung the miniMAX on the fine edge and brought it in slower than I thought possible. He’s a guy who knows his airplane.

“Ain’t this the life, Freddy?”, I asked as Knute taxied in.

“Man”, he replied, “I could do this forever.” I nodded agreement and silently wondered what the rich folks were doing.

Once settled, Knute graciously showed us around his airplane. He even let me sit in it. I have to admit, I’m quite impressed with the design. Think I might get one.

After about half an hour Freddy was getting understandably restless again. So the two of them saddled up and bugged out, taking off the same way they’d landed. As they turned south Freddy’s words kept running through my mind. And I thought, I too could do this forever.

A Bushmaster Adventure

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by Stu Simpson

This isn’t going so well, I thought. I was rolling down Runway 07 at some grass strip I’d never heard of just west of Edmonton in an airplane I’d bought just minutes before. Only I wasn’t rolling anywhere near fast enough because the engine just wasn’t cranking the prop the way it should.

A few seconds later I staggered anemically into ground effect and reluctantly realized I had to do something different if I was going to get this airplane back to Kirkby’s.

I cut the throttle and trundled over to the side of the runway where everyone was watching me. Then I tried to remember how I’d gotten myself into this.

A Ten Year Airplane

I’d reached the point in my recreational flying career where I needed a new airplane. I’d simply outgrown my wonderful little Himax. Besides, I wanted a second seat to carry people and stuff. I’ve been mighty envious of Glen Bishell when he carried another pilot on the big cross-country flights we’ve done. My wife made it clear that my next airplane was going to have to last me 10 years. Trouble was, shopping around made me realize that either buying or building a second seat was going to be be really expensive!

So following Bernie Kespe and Guy Christie’s lead I started looking very seriously at building a relatively cheap Volksplane VP-2. I even acquired a set of plans.

My lovely wife, on the other hand, started looking very seriously at divorce lawyers. She’s always been very supportive of my flying pursuits, but she drew the line at me constructing another plane. So, building was out of the question. I’d have to find something already built and flying. And cheap!

We decided on a fairly loose budget and I started poking around a bit more enthusiastically.

For instance, I sat in Ed D’antoni’s very solidly built Avid Flyer, one of the earliest models of that line. I was definitely too big for it; the cockpit ceiling scrunched me over so much my neck hurt for two days afterward. I had to reach into the right seat to move the stick because there wasn’t enough room on my side. It’s a great plane, but not for someone built like me.

I took a day to drive to Edmonton to see a Sylvaire Bushmaster that I learned was for sale. The owner, a true gentleman named Chris Barre, found it in a barn and with professional help from Dan Pandur’s Snowbird Aviation, completely restored and rebuilt it.

Then he painted it green. Camouflage green. I loved it!

To make a long story short, I bought it. The price was very fair and it included a set of skis, a headset and an intercom.

I’m a bit embarrassed to mention the Bushmaster also came with a GPS. For years now I’ve pooh-poohed GPS, saying they were for girlie-baby nav-sissies. “Real men use maps,” I told them all. Then someone hands me a GPS for free. Carl and Bernie haven’t let me forget it, though to be fair, I’ve not used it in an airplane yet.

Getting It Home

Bernie was kind enough to agree to drive me to Edmonton to pick it up, then act as my ground crew on the way back. Carl, bless his heart, jumped in, too. Carl’s participation means all that much more to me because he sat in the jump seat of Bernie’s truck for more than half the way there. I sat there the last half and I know how sore MY butt was. Carl’s my hero forever.

We showed up at the field where Chris kept the Bushmaster at about 11:30 a.m. He was nowhere to be seen but the plane was out of the hangar with the prop off, just like I’d asked. Chris left a little note on the plane saying he’d be back shortly. The plan was to throw my Ivoprop on for the flight home because I thought I’d get better performance than the plane’s wood prop would give. Wrong.

It was kind of a neat airfield, where we were. Some of the hangars looked about ready to collapse, they were so derelict. But one was about as modern as could be, being a quonset style with fabric taughtened over a tubular aluminum frame. It had a nifty looking little biplane inside. The other planes on the field included an assortment of spamcans, homebuilts and ultralights.

Evergreen and deciduous trees lined the taxiway and barely left enough room for a plane’s wings to scrape past. The runway was also surrounded by trees. I sort of envied the guys flying from there for the constant challenges the field must offer. Without a doubt, the place had character.

Chris returned as we were attaching the Ivoprop. He and I did the deal while Carl and Bernie did the prop. I was a pleased as punch with my new plane.

I noticed the weather was starting to close up a bit with towering cumulus building in every direction. I was anxious to get out of there.

I flew Norsemans (derived from, and nearly identical to, the Bushmaster) for a summer when I lived in Saskatoon many years ago. Nonetheless, Chris’s preflight briefing was a nice refresher of what I remembered from those days. He showed me how to start the plane with the electric start and I discovered what a treat that was after more than 15 years of yanking and cranking! We ran the engine up and saw we needed to back the Ivo’s pitch off a bit to get the right RPM.

Bernie and Carl and I fiddled with that for a bit until we figured it was correct, then we fired it up and tried again. The tach showed we had it right.

I got all my maps and snacks ready and took another look at the sky. Things were building quicker now, it seemed. Chris guided me out to the runway so my wings wouldn’t prang a tree.

And then there I was, ready to go.

To say I was nervous would be about right. I was going to fly a new plane, from an unfamiliar field, surrounded by trees, on a 200 mile cross-country trip home. Why should I worry?

Try and Try Again

Taxiing out, it all started coming back to me from the Norseman days. Steering was very precise and positive, and the ride was a bit smoother than the Himax’s. I U-turned at the button, double checked everything and went ahead with full throttle.

Remember at the start of this yarn when I said it wasn’t going so well? The thing wouldn’t accelerate. I looked at the tach and it was barely making 6000. For some reason the engine was bogging and fighting itself. I got into ground effect about a third of the way down the trail, then pulled the power and headed back to the taxiway.

We ripped the spinner off and dialed the prop back a bit. Then I gave it another run. Same thing happened. Looking at the sky, I knew we didn’t have much time before the CBs would be upon us. We decided to throw the old prop on, the one with which Chris had been flying successfully for all his hours.

I was really nervous when I got to the end of the runway, but the 503 revved up beautifully this time. There was a noticeable increase in thrust as I started moving. After a few seconds I pushed the stick forward to get the tail up. Nothing. Then I remembered this isn’t the Himax. I left the stick a little forward and about the same time the tail came up the plane felt like it was ready to fly.

I kept it on the ground a few seconds longer and then let it slip into ground effect. We stayed that way for a little while longer, building up speed to help get above the trees and their inherent mechanical turbulence.

The climb rate was definitely less than the Himax, but at least it was steady and constant around 300 feet per minute. I saw the high tension lines off to my right and knew I could clear them with no problem. I turned south and into the wind, slowly clawing my way upward. My destination was Lacombe.

After I cleared the power lines I got my bearings and started figuring how to stay clear of both the Edmonton International control zone and the thunderstorm directly ahead.

We rejoin the author during the quest to fly his newly acquired Sylvaire Bushmaster home from Edmonton to Kirkby Field.

The weather office had quoted a 10 knot tailwind for my trip home. Instead, I found a headwind stronger than 10. There was a thunderstorm ahead with more building along my route. And my fuel gauge seemed to be slipping a little quicker than I expected. I wondered how I was going to get out of this one.

The only saving virtue was the Bushmaster. What a great plane! The handling was superb. It felt as good or better than my Himax despite being so much bigger. The controls were light, smooth and precise and it had great response to turbulence. I know the Himax’s cockpit is big and comfortable, but the Bushmaster’s seems the size of the average living room. I immediately felt right at home and was loving every minute of it.

Now, about that thunderstorm. Things were looking up a bit. The storm was moving directly east and appeared to be on a track to take it south of Edmonton International. It looked like the Bushmaster and I would be able to sneak around behind it. I decided now would be a good time for a sandwich.

After my inflight meal (no movie) I found myself well south of the control zone, but the headwind was really slowing me down. Chris said he usually planned for no more than two hours of flying, which gave a comfortable reserve of half an hour. I did some quick mental arithmetic looking at the map, figuring my ground speed and counting the miles until Lacombe. It was sure going to be tight; more so because of another thunderstorm off to the west headed for the same place as me. It meant there would be more pressure at Lacombe to get refueled and headed south again.

Three things seemed to be headed to a simultaneous convergance point; my steady, but slow progress toward Lacombe, the next thunderstorm’s steady, but slow progress toward Lacombe, and the fuel gauge’s steady, but somewhat quicker progress toward empty. I was determined to win the race.

The Lacombe airport finally came into view and before long I was overhead for a left-hand downwind to Runway 16. Runway numbers have rarely looked sweeter to me than those ones did. I taxied to the south end and shut down. Peering into the tank, I realized I was nearly on fumes. That one was a little too close.

Well, no sense worrying about it now that I was down and safe. Best to concentrate on getting fuel and getting back into the air. Bernie and Carl showed up a few minutes later. Bernie scooted me down the road to a gas station, then we zipped back and filled up. The 8 gallon tank took nearly 8 gallons.

The Biggest, Blackest, Meanest Monster

Firing up again, I decided I could really get used to this electric start thing. I taxied all the way back up to the button of 16 and pushed the throttle forward. The takeoff run was a bit less on the pavement than on the grass and in short order the Bushmaster was airborne and climbing south toward Bishell’s strip near Carstairs. I figure I beat the storm by 15 minutes.

Red Deer appeared a few minutes later and I noticed the wind had eased off just a bit. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying this. After all, who doesn’t like a good honest aerial adventure?

Peering ahead, it looked like more adventure was headed my way. There was yet another thunderstorm growing like blazes southwest of Innisfail. I could tell right away that this one could be a crusher. Sure enough, as I passed the east end of Red Deer, I was seeing lightning and an unbelievable downpour from the storm’s core. It was the biggest, blackest, meanest monster I’ve seen while flying. Naturally, it was headed right for me.

I knew getting to Bishell’s was going to be a bit tight fuel-wise, so I had to plot my course to get the most direct route while remaining clear of the storm from hell. As it happened, I just managed to clip the southeastern edge of the cell. I felt like a guy who’d jumped a subway car just as the doors slammed shut. I saw some lightning and had a short blast of turbulence and rain. I silently thanked Chris for getting a prop with leading edge protection. Most unnerving though, was actually hearing thunder over the noise of the Bushmaster. I even had ear plugs in!

South of, and well clear of the storm, I discovered the wind direction had switched. Now it was from the west at about 15 knots. So with the southwesterly course I needed to get to Bishell’s, the wind now had exactly the same effect as the southeasterly breeze I’d battled to that point, only from the other side of the plane. I resolved to stop cursing and taking the weatherman’s name in vain once I got home.

Navigating to Bishell’s was an additional challenge. It had been a number of years since my last low level ultralight flight north of his place, so I was really depending on my map. I didn’t have the sissy GPS because I didn’t have time to learn how it worked before leaving Chris’s strip. Besides, there was the seed plant near Bishell’s, just over there. Good thing I didn’t miss it. See, real men don’t need GPS.

I dropped into the circuit at Glen’s with the fuel gauge on my mind and a crosswind on the ground. I put the Bushmaster down just right though, even spending a quarter of a mile on one wheel with the left wing down into the wind. The Bushmaster is that good.

Glen Bishell couldn’t wipe the grin off his face as he examined my new plane. I knew darn well he was comparing it to his own Bushmaster, and frankly, so was I. We pilots are like that. I think Glen was pleased that there was someone else on the block with a plane like his.

Bernie and Carl beat me there, and I spotted Carl lugging a can of gas out toward me. Boy, was I lucky to have those two along. Thanks, boys.

The Bushmaster didn’t use as much fuel as I thought on this leg, so I was pleased to still have a bit left over in the refueling can. The shortest and easiest leg was next; the one home to Kirkby Field. The northwest breeze at 15 or so would make a perfect tailwind.

Last Leg

I launched out of Bishell’s with a smile on my face and the anticipation of the wind finally blowing my way. Even the thunderstorm ahead couldn’t dampmen my spirits. I was going to dodge it easily by going around the back side.

I used a radio for the whole trip, but only in receive mode because the Bushmaster didn’t come with an antenna. I had mixed feelings about having it now. As I approached the Beiseker highway I tuned in Calgary International’s tower frequency. Turns out the wind had shifted. Again.

This time it was a whopper. The tower was reporting winds of 250 at 20 gusting 35. To hell with my newly made vow of verbal chastity toward the weatherman. This was just dirty pool. I started cursing everything meteorological I could think of, including forecasters, their ancestors and the next three generations of their offspring!

Then the wind booted the Bushmaster’s tail to the left and I snapped back to the job at hand. I fed in a healthy amount of right rudder and started crabbing (yawing, this time) to keep from winding up in Winnipeg.

The ride was surprisingly smooth and in due course I was over top the home ‘drome. Kirkby Field looked as good as it always does and I said an out loud prayer this time, thanking Bob for putting in the east-west runway.

Lining up on final, I was immensely impressed with how my new plane was handling the hurricane we were in. There was quite a jolt as the wind fought through the trees near the end of the runway, then I greased it on at nearly a crawl. I rounded the corner heading north along runway 34 and threw the stick into the wind. The Bushmaster’s big slab-sided fuselage felt the crosswind a lot more than the Himax ever did, but it was still easily controllable. Yup, I’d found me a winner.

I tied the Bushmaster outside for the night and came back the next day to rip the wings off. With Bernie and Bob helping, the wings were soon hanging above the Himax and the fuselage was safe at home in my garage. There was no hangar at Kirkby Field big enough to house it.

I soon found out why the engine was sucking so much fuel and bogging with the different prop. The bottom end of the float needle valve had worn a notch in the float lever. This meant when the lever rose with the floats to close the needle valve it’d would catch on the needle and stick open. It created a situation where fuel was entering the carbs almost completely unchecked and spilling over the side of the float bowls. A bit of sanding and filing solved that problem.

So what’s next? A new engine is definitely a priority. The Bushmaster really needs 65 horsepower, or so. Maybe one of the new auto conversions would work. I have to sell my Himax, too, because my wife says I can’t be an airline. Bob and I will be building a new hangar soon, and hopefully I’ll be back in the air in no time.

It was quite a trip flying my new plane to its new home. It’s a great ride and I’m thrilled to own it. I expect I’ll never forget my first Bushmaster adventure, and I sure hope to have many more.