Schlagwort-Archive: Super Cub

No one noticed it was missing: 1971 Super Cub crash

Lasham Aerodrome in Hampshire, England, was built in 1942 and used as a base for the RAF Fighter Command. After the war, it became the home of the Army Gliding Club. That year, the Surrey Gliding Club and the Imperial College Gliding Club also moved to Lasham, as their aerodromes were becoming too busy for gliding. The Lasham Gliding Society was established in 1958; it is now the largest British gliding club in existence and one of the largest in the world. Powered aircraft at Lasham is rare, with an obvious exception of tugs for the gliders, and inbound flights need special permission unless there is a genuine emergency.

In 1971, the Lasham Gliding Society had four light aircraft that they leased from Air Tows Limited. There were a small number of pilots who flew the aircraft on behalf of the club. Many of the pilots were also glider pilots. When the aircraft was not needed for towing, the pilots were encouraged to use them for private flights.

At the time, many small airfields had a book in which pilots would log their departure and then sign off upon their return. However, as most of the flights at Lasham Gliding Society were short, local area flights for towing, they did not have such systems in place and did not keep a booking-out book. Each aircraft had a log in which the pilots noted all flights, which was handed into the office at the end of the day. However, the Society were not required to keep a record of tug movements and they did not do so. If a pilot wished to take one of the tugs for a private flight, all he needed to was obtain verbal authorisation from one of the Society officials.

One of the tug aircraft was a Piper PA-19 registered in the UK as G-AYPN, owned by Air Tows Limited and operated by the Lasham Gliding Society. Piper initially designed the PA-19 as a military variant of the PA-18, in response to the US Army’s call for liaison aircraft. Three prototypes were built. The third had an upgraded engine, a Continental C-90-12F, which set the groundwork for the finished product. Piper did not immediately get the expected military orders and considered releasing the aircraft for civil use, which may be why they reverted to the PA-18 designation: once in production, the military variant became known as the L-18C Super Cub. In the end, the US Army purchased around 700 of the L-18C with another 156 going to other nations for military use. However, when Piper L-18C aircraft moved from military service to the civil register, they once again were assigned the PA-19 designation.

This specific Super Cub had originally been purchased by the French Light Air Force. It had been imported into the UK that same year and added to the British Register as a PA-19 on the 13th of July 1971. The aircraft did not have IFR instruments and there was no radio equipment.

On the 28th of August in 1971, G-AYPN departed Lasham Gliding Society and disappeared.
In the front seat was a 25-year-old private pilot with 94 hours of flight time, of which 31 had been on Super Cubs, towing gliders for the Society. He was also a qualified glider pilot. He was not rated for night flying or for instrument flight. In the back seat was a non-pilot friend. The pilot mentioned at the airfield that they were thinking about visiting Sandown aerodrome on the Isle of Wight.

That Saturday morning, the daily weather forecast was up on the notice board, warning of strong winds and low clouds with a base of 700 feet. The pilot usually phoned from home to get the weather forecast before leaving for the aerodrome, but it is not clear if he did that day or if he saw the forecast on the notice board. The Super Cub had between 15-20 gallons of fuel on board. The pair took off heading west on Runway 27 at 11:30 local time. They continued westbound as they climbed away and disappeared into the cloud at about 700-800 feet. The visibility that day was variable, with a warm, moist and cloudy airstream covering the area. To the north, the cloud base was between 1200 and 1800 feet. To the south, the cloud base was as slow as 500 feet with the occasional drizzle. Mist and fog covered the tops of the South Downs.

The Super Cub reappeared below the clouds and turned left. For a moment, it seemed that the pilot was flying a left-hand circuit to land. Then, on the final approach, the pilot again began to climb away. Staying just under the cloud base, he again turned left but this time the aircraft didn’t join the circuit but continued flying south.

The following morning, a club member reported to one of the Society officials that the Super Cub was not in the hangar. That afternoon, another club member spoke to the same official and mentioned that a Super Cub was missing. The official was not surprised by the news; the Society had a Super Cub out on loan for a week, which was returned around lunchtime that day. Then, later that afternoon, a different Super Cub departed for Blackbushe. Thus, both times when a Super Cub was reported missing, the official was aware that there was a Super Cub known to be elsewhere. He presumed that the reports were referring to one of these two aircraft. No one ever thought to mention that, at the time of both reports, there were two Super Cubs missing.

That evening, around 20:30 local time, the pilot’s sister phoned the club to ask about his whereabouts. it was unlike him to be away from home with no message. All of the staff had already left for the day and the person who answered the phone wasn’t able to help.

She phoned again on Monday morning and explained that her brother had now been missing for two nights and she was worried. At the same time, the duty flying instructor realised that G-AYPN was not in the hangar and there was no record of it being used elsewhere. He was able to confirm that the pilot had checked it out on Saturday but only now had they realised that he’d not returned. They phoned Sandown aerodrome on the Isle of Wight. The aircraft was not there. Sandown requires prior permission, but they had not received a request for any inbound aircraft from Lasham. Not only was the aircraft missing but no one knew where the pilot had intended to fly to. The Lasham Gliding Society manager phoned Basingstoke police and the duty officer at the Department of Trade and Industry to ask if there had been any reports of a forced landing or crash.

There were none.

Somewhat relieved, the Society officials considered that perhaps the pilot had simply borrowed the aircraft for the weekend without asking permission. Someone mentioned that the pilot might have flown to Scotland. They waited until dusk, hoping the Super Cub would appear and it would all be a big laugh.

As the light faded from the sky, so did hope. The Society manager officially reported the flight as overdue. The report went to the Basingstoke Police, the Department of Trade and Industry, the London Air Traffic Control Centre and the Royal Air Force Rescue Co-ordination. The report stated that the Super Cub had departed Lasham at 14:00 on Saturday with enough fuel for about three and a half hours flight, destination unknown. It’s not clear where the new time came from; the Super Cub departed the airfield at 11:30.

London Air Traffic Control passed the details to ATC Centres at Preston and Redbrae, as well as the French Airways Supervisor in Paris. Without knowing where the pilot was headed, there was little that they could do. They were informed that a televised power boat race showed a yellow aircraft flying overhead, but when the footage was obtained from the BBC, it was not the missing Super Cub. At some point on the following day, the Lasham Gliding Society contacted the Centre to correct the departure time from 14:00 to 11:30.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre was also unable to take any practical action without knowing where to search. They contacted the Coastguard and other ships asking for any sightings of the aircraft. On the 3rd of September, a member of the public reported to the Hampshire police that they’d seen an aircraft north of Midhurst. The Rescue Coordination Centre searched the area, but nothing was found.

The Basingstoke Police were the first to know that there was a missing aircraft, as the Lasham Gliding Society manager had phoned to ask about any reports of a forced landing or crash. They passed the information that an aircraft had gone missing to all Hampshire stations, including the Aldershot police, who are responsible for Lasham and the surrounding area. That evening, they were notified that the aircraft was officially overdue.

An Aldershot police officer was asked to supervise the enquires and a general alert was broadcast to all stations. On Tuesday, the 31st of August, the details of the missing flight were featured in local newspapers and broadcast on television. People phoned in from all over the country to see that they’d seen the plane. The police had the task of filtering through these sightings and following up on those that seemed significant. Usually, the reports and analysis would be done in conjunction with the Rescue Co-ordination Centre but the police station had not dealt with such a situation before and worked through the incoming reports on their own.

One person on the northern outskirts of Petersfield reported seeing the Super Cub low beneath the clouds, about 200-300 feet above the ground, flying south. Another phone call reported that two of them had been in the village of Buriton when they’d noticed the Super Cub flying south towards the Buriton railway tunnel. They said that the aircraft was visibly rocked by turbulence but didn’t appear to be in difficulty. The railway runs south through a valley. That day, the cloud base was about 600 feet above mean sea level with a light drizzle. The horizontal visibility was around half a mile. Both of these reports stated that they’d seen the aircraft around noon. As a result, they were dismissed, as the initial report from Lasham said that the aircraft had not departed the airfield until 14:00.

It’s not clear when the police discovered that the actual departure time was actually two and a half hours earlier, at 11:30. It definitely came up during a phone conversation on the 3rd or 4th of September, but that was as a secondary detail, not the point of the phone call. The police officer noted the information but it did not occur to anyone that the public sightings should be revisited to see if any had been dismissed based on timing.

Of all of the reported sightings, only two were actually of G-AYPN. But they were dismissed as having occurred before the aircraft had departed. As the police attempted to retrace the steps of the aircraft, they knew only that it had departed from the airport and flew south, keeping below the bad weather. A number of private pilots from Lasham and Blackbushe attempted their own aerial reconnaissance, exploring the South Downs and the New Forest in hopes of finding signs of a crash. They found nothing.

There was another witness who was standing on high ground over the railway tunnel and saw the Super Cub flying low over the trees. The aircraft tilted left as if hit by a gust of wind. Then it continued south down the valley, remaining under the low clouds. As it disappeared into the distance, it sounded as if the engine had changed notes, as if the engine power had been increased. Then a train passed by, drowning out any sounds from the aircraft. This combination of low flying and increased engine worried the witness, who noted that the time was 12:12 exactly. He walked to the woods to have a look around. There were no signs of a crash.

September passed and then October. Autumn came and the leaves began to fall. On the 31st of October, two months after the flight had disappeared, a member of the public walking along a track through the forest saw the wreckage about 50 yards away. It was in a heavily wooded area about four miles south of Petersfield and just one mile south of the Buriton railway tunnel. The accident site was 15 nautical miles south of the aerodrome and at an elevation of 475 feet above mean sea level with young beech and ash trees of 45-50 feet. Only three weeks before, the same person had walked that same track and seen nothing. Employees of the Forestry Commission had passed very close as well but again, in the dense foliage, they did not see the wreckage. The Super Cub had dived into the forest with a western heading, the nose and the port wing at an angle of 70° down. Travelling at 60-70 miles per hour (96-112 km/h), it impacted nose first, almost vertically. There was no trail of damage on the tree tops which might have attracted the attention of the aerial searchers. There was no fire.

The two men were found still strapped in their seats, heavily decomposed. There was nothing obviously wrong with the aircraft, other than the filler cap to the port fuel tank was missing. It was impossible to prove when it had come off, but it didn’t really matter. The fuel selector was set to the starboard tank, which still held fuel when it ruptured on impact. A subsequent aerial search showed that the wreckage could not be seen from the sky and would not be visible until most of the leaves had fallen.

More damning was a fatigue crack in the cabin heater’s heat exchange unit. The heat muffler had deposits of lead and bromine on the heater muffler’s exhaust, left behind by the high-octane fuel fumes which had seeped through the cracks into the heater system. The exhaust unit had been pressure tested in May and visually examined in June and again in August. Since then, it had flown a total of seven hours flight time. The heater system controls were set to off but that wasn’t necessarily meaningful; the levers had been struck on the impact such that they would have been forced closed if open.

So what do we know?

The Super Cub departed southbound and was seen passing north of Petersfield and over Burinton towards the Buriton railway tunnel, flying low and struggling with turbulence. The railway runs south from Petersfield through the Buriton railway tunnel below high ground of about five hundred feet above mean sea level and then south through the valley, with hills reaching 650 feet above mean sea level. About half a mile beyond the tunnel, there is a line of power cables crossing the track from northeast to southwest. The tops of the pylons carrying the cables are at 575 feet above mean sea level. At 12:12, an eyewitness saw the Super Cub flying low over the tunnel and into the valley, following the line of the tracks. At that time, the clouds were about 600 feet above mean sea level which put them at the same height as the power cables across the valley.

The power cables were not marked on the pilot’s chart.

That last sighting was accompanied by a change in the engine note as it disappeared into the distance, a change that the witness associated with a burst of power. A scenario presents itself. The pilot is flying low, attempting to remain in visual conditions. At the last minute, he saw the cables in his path and pitched up steeply while increasing the engine power. As they climbed safely over the cables, the Super Cub entered the clouds. Only moments earlier, the aircraft had seen to be bouncing in the turbulence. With no visibility, no instrument training and only minimal instruments, the pilot quickly lost situational awareness. Soon, he literally no longer knew which way was up. Perhaps he meant to descend in order to regain visibility; however, there is no chance that he meant to descend so steeply, knowing that he was just over the trees. By the time that they were clear of the clouds, the Super Cub was diving through the tree tops, seconds from impact. Still, it seems odd for the pilot to have continued the flight in the first place. It was clear from the start that the clouds were low enough to make it difficult for a visual flight. Indeed, initially, the pilot appeared to turn back, lining up to land back at Lasham after accidentally flying into the low cloud.

The crack in the heat exchange unit may have also played a role. If there were exhaust gases in the cockpit, then the decision-making skills of the pilot could have been strongly impaired. This would affect every aspect of the flight, from the decision to carry on just a few hundred feet above the ground to losing control once they’d flown over the power cables. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if the heating was on that Saturday, throwing fumes into the cockpit. As the wreckage was not found for two months, the postmortem analysis gave very little information.

The two occupants clearly died on impact, so a speedier response from search and rescue would not have otherwise made a difference. However, it isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario where they may have been injured and in need of help. A speedy response requires that search teams know as soon as possible that a crash may have occurred and at least have an idea of where the crash may have occurred.

The lack of procedures for private flights from Lasham caused this final failure. The only control was the verbal agreement from an official, with no paper trail. Once it was clear that the Super Cub was missing, that person had to be found and in this instance, he or she did not know where the pilot was taking the aircraft. A system that was “good enough” for short local area flights with gliders made it impossible to determine that the pilot and plane were overdue, in the first instance and then left search and rescue teams with no way to organise useful ground or aerial searches.

The final report by the Accidents Investigation Branch in the Department of Trade and Industry concluded that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft. As a side note, the passenger was the eldest son of the British comedian Michael Bentine, who became interested in the regulations governing private airfields as a result of the crash. He continued to investigate this in the context of smuggling operations using personal aircraft and wrote a report on the subject for the British police department known as Special Branch. The material he collected for this report formed the basis of his novel Lord of the Levels. Source: ‚fearoflanding.com‚. Picture: ‚Peter Michael Rhodes, pmrworldpix.co.uk‚.

Crossing Europe in a Super Cub

Source: ‚Garrett Fisher / AOPA‚.

Two planned trips fused into one when a long streak of unusually favourable weather appeared in the forecast, resulting in over 24 hours in the air, flying a Piper Super Cub from the bottom of Spain to Norway. The marathon of the flight was driven in the first instance by a plan to spend a little over two months in Norway, flying around glaciers in the summer. The Super Cub was in southern Andalusia, Spain, not far from Africa, after spending a few weeks during the spring holidays wandering around the coast. I had planned to fly the aircraft to Switzerland and then deal with getting it to Norway a month or so afterwards.

I have this image of Scandinavia, particularly the west coast of Norway, where the airplane ultimately would be headed. It was a visual of nonstop lashing rain, low clouds, intense winds, and generally vile weather, with sun three or four times a year. It is not that unfounded of a notion, as Bergen, Norway, is one of Europe’s rainiest cities, receiving almost double the precipitation of Portland, Oregon.

A heat wave was brewing in Spain, so I decided it was time to leave. What was curious was the weather forecast. It showed pleasant weather (naturally) in Spain, with VFR in France the next day. For days three and four, a strong high-pressure zone was forecast to form over Denmark, resulting in sunny skies from Belgium through the Netherlands, northern Germany, Sweden, and southern Norway. To get VFR stretching from 36 degrees to 59 degrees north latitude in Europe for four consecutive days is not something I deem common, so I was inspired to go direct to Norway.

A few fortuitous events made the trip appear to make more sense. The sellers of the Super Cub, from whom I bought it six months prior in Norway, are happy to lend hangar space while the airplane sat for a month. A mechanic I knew would be in Halmstad, Sweden, while I was passing through. It was one of my planned overnight stops, and I needed to discuss some modifications and plan the renewal of the airworthiness certificate, which must be done alongside an annual inspection. With a dose of tossing caution to the wind, I decided to make a run for it. It would be four days in the air and my longest European cross-country.

After departing Trebujena, Spain, over Seville’s control zone, the flight ventured into something visually like the American West. It is a semi-arid region with dry summers, like California. The resulting terrain looks something like one would find in southwest Montana, albeit with lower undulating mountains, many scrub pine forests, and intermittent farming. This goes on for three hours until approaching Madrid, for the first fuel stop at Casarrubios del Monte. It is worth noting that the lower airport density in Europe causes some element of anxiety. There are more airports in southwest Montana than in this stretch of Europe, though Spain is more densely populated. None of the reasonable alternates had fuel, so it required 75 per cent of my fuel capacity to get to the first refuelling point.

I visited Casarrubios in 2018 when crossing the PA–­11 Cub Special from the Pyrenees to the Portuguese coast. It is a friendly, nontowered airport with aerobatics, fuel, and good general aviation resources. After some hassle with a nonfunctional fuel pump, I was off again for my next destination: Biarritz, France.

Madrid’s control zone is not very flexible, so I had to largely go around it, heading southeast, then due east, then eventually to the northeast half an hour later, once free of airliner traffic. Temperatures at this point were in the mid-90 degrees Fahrenheit. I was closer to the ground owing to the cake overhead, though I saw some thundershowers developing in the mountains to the northeast of Madrid. Uncomfortably hot, I aimed for some precipitation, rinsing the airplane off and dropping cabin temperatures. By this point, I had climbed to 4,500 feet due to terrain while still within 1,000 feet AGL, as temps had calmed down.

Semi-arid terrain gave way to thick pine forests, which were giving off small clouds of pollen, a phenomenon I had experienced when I lived in the Pyrenees. I could smell it in the cooler and fresh air. Agriculture featured canola fields in full bloom, a display of bright yellow that I would see in great abundance along the German coast approaching Denmark two days later.

There was a concern about precipitation, as what appeared to be orographic thunderstorms started to show more alignment with a small front coming through. The showers I sought to cool me off became unavoidable as I found myself flying in the rain, wedging around them to stay VFR northeast of Soria, Spain, before crossing the ridge into the Ebro Valley.

Further south of this point, the Monegros Desert begins. I experienced a similar event in June 2018, flying east from Madrid to the Pyrenees. I went from broken clouds, humidity, and cold to summer temperatures, sunshine, and a desert within 20 minutes. While it wasn’t quite a desert, once I left the terrain between Soria and Pamplona, the sun came out, and things were clear.

I stayed at 5,000 feet as the 30-minute crossing of the lower plains featured the hills of Basque Country on the other side. There was no point descending, only to climb back up again, particularly as I was on another long leg, which would use most of my fuel. As I approached the hills north of Pamplona, the vegetation turned lusciously green. Over the first ridge, in the direction of the Bay of Biscay, it looked like East Tennessee: rolling steep Appalachian-style hills with rich, green deciduous forests.

Within 20 minutes, I was handed off to Biarritz Tower and made my approach toward the Atlantic Coast near the border. From there, the circuit calls for following the coastline for five minutes, then a one-minute final into the airport. I had landed here two months earlier on the way down to Spain. At the time, the fees were agreeable, though apparently, things changed from winter to summer, so I was handed an almost $50 landing fee invoice. While I was fine with paying it, I took issue with the fact that the FBO claims that there is no bathroom, requiring pilots to walk half a kilometre, leave the airport, clear „security,“ and walk back. Pressing the matter, I asked if the customers that come in on private jets to this FBO have to walk the same distance. The „VIP“ package includes the use of a toilet. „How much if I do not want the VIP package to urinate in the bathroom?“ „Fifty-four euros“ ($65 at the time). No amount of French I spoke, or huffing indignation, changed their minds, so I got my exercise to use the bathroom elsewhere.

Though it was approaching dinnertime, I decided to go 75 miles north, along the coast to La Teste-de-Buch, France, as Biarritz had instrument conditions the previous morning, whereas points north did not. The following morning, my supposition was correct. Biarritz had IFR, whereas it was hazy and overcast over northern Bordeaux. While I would have liked to follow the coast, it would have lengthened an already very long trip. Even still, I could not fathom drawing a line from Bordeaux to Denmark, as it would have been 1,000 miles of repetitive scenery: fields, forests, towns, and some modest hills. Call me a curmudgeon if you must, though I grew up in upstate New York, which looks somewhat similar, absent French châteaux and whatnot. I plotted a course direct northeast of Calais, France, on the English Channel.

The slog through France was uneventful. It was almost three hours to Blois for fuel due to a headwind, passing over the Loire River before landing. I landed on the grass strip, a first for this aircraft, where the Baby Bushwheel felt right at home. Another struggle with a broken fuel pump, then shy of another three hours to Calais, with a flight over the Seine and Giverny, where impressionist painter Claude Monet lived. While it sounds like a fairy tale, I prefer the coast and mountains over farmland.

Calais was an amusing experience. I had read a web of pilot reviews raving about excellent English advertised in the official Aeronautical Information Publication and somehow confused myself. Controllers speak English during the week, but the frequencies revert to French on the weekend, and also with air-to-air uncontrolled communications. French flight following handed me off to the frequency, noting it was „French only.“ I could have diverted elsewhere, though it would have been quite stressful reading AIPs and reviews to see if other airports had fuel, so I decided to dive in with my limited French. Once in the air, confirming that fuel exists at an airport and is open is rather tricky in Europe, which is very different from markings right on the sectional map, or concisely noted in the AF/D in the United States.

The first problem with Calais was figuring out which field was in use. It is a field with lots of parachute activity, so flying overhead to find out is unsafe. I asked in French about the frequency and got no reply. Since I had been facing a northeast headwind all day, I decided to land to the east and announced as such in what was ultimately poor French. The result was a quartering tailwind landing, but so be it. There was plenty of room. After taxiing off the runway, I saw three airplanes lined up to take off to the west, whose pilots all opted not to speak at all (not even in French). I later snarled to a French pilot about French rudeness, and he pointed out: „They were being quite considerate in French terms by waiting for you. Normally they would have just taken off anyway.“

The day’s last flight was along the French, Belgian, and Dutch coasts to Texel, Netherlands. I had been invited by a fellow Super Cub pilot, who is also an aerial photographer. He kindly offered lodging and to hangar the airplane for the night. It was an open question if I could make it before closing, though I was able to with an extension from the information service folks, who stayed a bit later than normal. The flight was pretty along the coasts, and exceptionally so once I got to the Dutch islands northeast of Amsterdam, which reminded me of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Dinner with the Dutch pilot was illuminating. He told me a story about photographing as a passenger in a Cessna when they were impacted into the North Sea in the fog, in controlled flight but unable to discern the water visibly. The story reads as though out of a movie: gaining consciousness seconds before submerging underwater, the seat belt not wanting to release, his life jacket getting stuck to the sinking airplane, and finally getting free. He is only alive because he was wearing the life jacket, and he had a 406-Mhz personal locator beacon around his neck before the crash. I purchased both after talking to him and began wearing them if I went anywhere near the water.

The next day was an air-to-air photography session with our respective Super Cubs, lunch after landing on the island of Ameland, Netherlands, and a leg from Ameland to Lolland-Falster, Denmark. I cruised at 2,000 feet over the German barrier islands owing to a protected area. However, I overflew what seemed like an airport on each island (where being below 2,000 feet is acceptable for takeoff and landing). That beckons a return someday to land at each one.

I crossed the top of Germany in Schleswig-Holstein, where approaching the Baltic Sea coast, I was greeted with a sea of yellow canola flowers. It was a 12-mile crossing over water, thinking about the life jacket I was not yet wearing, and then fuel at Lolland-Falster. At this point, I was tracing, in the other direction, the path I had taken out of Norway the prior autumn. There was one last two-hour leg west of Copenhagen, over the Øresund Strait, into Sweden, and along the coast, before landing at the odd closing time of 7:35 p.m.

I booked a hotel for two nights in Halmstad. By midday the next day, the fact that the mechanic was 600 miles to the north left me pondering the philosophical question of what I was doing there. He was not reliable. The weather was perfect, daylight hours long, and it was only 1 p.m. I checked out of the hotel, filed a flight plan (with waypoints every 30 minutes and more than one hour before, a lesson I learned on a previous trip, and took off for Norway).

While it was less than three hours and featured sun instead of half of it being VFR on top like last time, I found myself rather tired. It was the last three hours of a 24.4-hour adventure from the bottom of Europe to Scandinavia. I could enjoy the coast with less fear of death than when I was going the other way. This time, I understood the airplane better and had fantastic weather with beautiful scenery.

I crossed into Norway, then over the Oslofjord, which I could see this time. Last time, it was nothing but solid overcast below. Before landing at TORP Sandefjord Airport for customs, I had to hold over the stunningly beautiful coastline. That featured some waiting and then a phone call to the customs office, who said I could be on my way. I find it ironic as I was examined thoroughly on the outbound leg, where I confessed to buying the airplane and exporting cheese.

The hop to Skien was only 20 minutes. I tucked the airplane into the exact spot where I had bought it six and a half months ago. It would sit for 45 days before I would return to Norway to begin the glacier attack. While I had a sense of accomplishment due to the length of the flight, I also knew that more intense flying lay ahead than behind.

The flight covered eight countries and went from 36 to 59 degrees north latitude, the same as going from Monterey, California, to Skagway, Alaska.

Historische «Heckrädler» in Beromünster

Ein Highlight für Nostalgie- und Aviatikfans: Am vergangenen Samstag landeten auf dem Flugplatz Beromünster rund zwanzig Heckrad-Flugzeuge verschiedenster Epochen und Hersteller. Der Piper J3C-65 / L-4 oder ein Nachbau des legendären «Fieseler Storchs» liessen manches Fliegerherz höher schlagen. Landungen mit einem Heckradflugzeug bedürfen besonderer Übung für heutige Piloten, die ihre Ausbildung auf moderneren Flugzeugen mit Bugradfahrwerk gemacht haben. OK-Chef Andy Bolliger freute sich über das gelungene Flieger-Treffen, das bereits zum zweiten Mal stattfand. Quelle: ‚Anzeiger Michelsamt‚.

Crossing the country solo, but not alone

“I need someone to fly my Super Cub from Frederick to Bozeman. Will you do it?” AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden’s question seemed too good to be true. You’re asking me to fly your pristine and beautiful airplane almost all the way across the country? Sign me up. On a calm June morning a few months later, McSpadden handed me the keys to N517WC and a tote of snacks his wife, Judy, had thoughtfully packed, wished me well, and I departed Frederick to the west. My plan was to fly to Wisconsin on day one if the weather cooperated and say hello to some of my favourite aviators at Middleton Municipal Airport (C29), then fly on to Mitchell, South Dakota, to join the annual Ladies Love Taildraggers fly-out. From there I’d fly to Rapid City, South Dakota, with the group, then alone to Bozeman, Montana. The more than 1,500-nautical-mile trip would take 20-plus hours at an ambitiously planned 100 mph.

On my way
The air was smooth and cool over the bemisted Blue Ridge Mountains, and I watched morning fog laze through the valleys and burn off as I approached the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. I crossed tortilla-flat farmland into Indiana and made my first fuel stop. I’d expected headwinds but was gifted a tailwind. Jeff Russell, genuine Piper Super Cub pilot extraordinaire and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, had offered to let me keep 7WC in his hangar at Middleton. I let him know I’d be earlier than expected, and he texted me his hangar number and told me I was welcome to anything in his fridge.

After fuel stop number two, I modified my route to fly east of Chicago instead of skirting the Class Bravo to the west as planned. I’d always wanted to do the skyline flight, and with the help of that tailwind, I had daylight to burn. A CFI friend in Chicago gave me the lowdown on altitudes, and I reviewed Editor Kollin Stagnito’s account of flying the Chicago skyline (“City with a View,” March 2021 AOPA Pilot) and set off.

Folks typically fly the route from north to south. You can do it without talking to anyone, but since it was new to me and against the known flow of traffic (and a good idea), I opted to call up Chicago for flight following. I’d fly a little higher than the southbound traffic, and farther offshore. It was just gorgeous. The visibility, which had been hazy over most of Indiana, cleared up. Lake Michigan turned Caribbean-colored blues, and the skyscrapers bloomed out from the parkland greens along the lakeshore.

Once north of the city, I turned direct to Middleton. After a long day on an unfamiliar route, with only new airports and unfamiliar faces, I had a feeling of coming home once I had Morey Field insight. I’d visited in summer 2019 before heading up to OSH, missed out on summer 2020 after the cancellation of AirVenture, and was thrilled to be back at C29. I landed in the grass (as a Super Cub should), taxied in, and turned the corner to Russell’s row, only to find the door already open and Russell waiting for me. Russell and another C29 local, Gary, helped me push the airplane in. Turns out he’d been tracking my N number and knew right when I’d arrive. While washing off a day of bugs, I told Russell about my planned route, and he gave me words of flying wisdom. “You can’t fly direct in a Super Cub,” Russell told me. “That’s not what they’re made for. Fly high enough to be respectful and safe, but low enough to see the folks waving up at you. And have fun!”

Flight of six
Since I’d made such a good time on day one, I was able to stay in Middleton for a few extra nights before I needed to be in Mitchell for the fly-out. On one evening, the weather was far too perfect to stay earthbound. With a few texts, we assembled a small fleet—Jim Stevenson and his Cessna 170B, Ross Wilke and his Husky A1–B, Joe McDonough with his Mackey Backcountry Super Cub Rev 3, Joel Wyttenbach and his Cessna 172, and Russell and his Super Cub. We visited a few beginner side-country strips—two charted and one that was not. The charted strips weren’t particularly challenging, but it was all new to me, and I was grateful for the careful coaching from the group. The uncharted strip was Mike Kindschi’s, and that landing was a real full-circle moment; it’s where my love for the area started back when the Air Safety Institute’s Kurt Sensenbrenner and I visited Wisconsin in July 2019 to film Beyond Proficient: STOL Goal. Running out of daylight, we departed Kindschi’s strip as the sun set, the nearby Wisconsin River a glassy mirror of the flame-bright sky. So this, I thought, is what it feels like to own an airplane.

Into the West
The morning I intended to depart, I woke to unforecast rain. Headwinds of more than 35 knots, wind shear, and haze are not ideal conditions. There would be no flying that day. One sunrise later was a marginal, yet good enough, improvement in the weather, and a significant improvement in the company. With a new departure day on Saturday, Wilke had offered to escort me to my fuel stop, Blue Earth Municipal Airport (SBU). With a long day ahead and thankful for summer light, we were wheels up by 6 a.m. We let the river guide us to the mighty Mississippi River and passed over the farm fields of Iowa. Near Waukon, Iowa, Wilke said, “Oh hey I’ve actually been here.” I looked down to see a figure in a bright red shirt in a lush garden waving emphatically up at us. I waved my wings and couldn’t stop smiling—I had wondered if I’d actually see anyone waving at me, but Russell was right.

Ladies Love Taildraggers
I crossed into the South Dakota plains alone. The wind wasn’t finished with me yet, battled headwinds and midday turbulence to the fly-in at Mitchell. I taxied to Wright Brothers Aviation where an impressive array of taildraggers was already on the line—a Cessna 170, a Cessna 195, and a Decathlon to name a few—all securely tied down to contend with the South Dakota wind. All the airplanes were worth drooling over and most had a pair of stilettos in front of them, the Ladies Love Taildraggers (LLT) calling card. The folks at the FBO whisked 7WC away and I had just a few minutes inside to make introductions and proudly confirm that yes, I had flown that beautiful Super Cub in before we loaded up into two vans on our way to explore Mitchell. It had already been a long day of six-plus hours of bumpy, hot, gusty flying and I felt a little behind the curve while I lined up for a van. It seemed I was the only one who had come solo. I eyed the groups of old friends choosing seats together and was grateful when a pilot about my age came up and introduced herself. Laura Doornbos of Bloomington, Illinois, had flown in with her father, Keith, in the gorgeous 170 I’d admired earlier. She made sure I had a seat in the van with her and her dad, and we set off, chatting about our journeys so far.

We were taken to an archaeological site, and then to the one-of-a-kind icon of South Dakota—the World’s Only Corn Palace. That evening over dinner, and in between getting-to-know-you conversations and hangar flying stories, we discussed tomorrow’s forecast—winds gusting well into the forties almost all day. Even if you’ve never flown a taildragger before, you probably know that the wind is typically a greater factor in a go/no-go decision than with nosewheels. Judy Birchler, the organizer of the event and founder of LLT, stressed that there was no pressure to push our limits and reminded us that we were each our own pilot in command. When the sun rose, the wind was already howling. We shuttled over to the airport and began the long, somewhat frustrating process of waiting out the weather. Not only was the wind hellacious at Mitchell, it was also severe at our destination, Rapid City. I was unwilling to launch until the wind was better in both spots. As the day progressed and the winds lessened slightly, some felt comfortable to depart. But Keith made a good point: “It isn’t an emergency, is it? I’m perfectly happy to stay in Mitchell another night if we have to.” There was no need to push it. At long last, the weather improved, and we finally launched to the west. The three-hour leg felt easy compared to other days, and I made it to Rapid City as the last rays of light slipped behind the Black Hills.

Exploring
The Ladies Love Taildraggers squad spent the following morning driving the winding roads of Badlands National Park. Lunch was a feast of fry bread and ended with souvenir shopping before a stop at Wall Drug on our way back to Rapid City. Wall Drug—which I had somehow managed to live my whole life without hearing about—is a historic wonderland of kitsch, much more than just a roadside drug store (though it does still have a small pharmacy). That night in town, a group of us went to the old fire station for dinner. The others planned for the next day’s trip to Spearfish, and I said my goodbyes—tomorrow, I’d fly on to Bozeman solo, or as far as I could make it. Keith and Laura offered to help push the airplane out of its sloped, grassy parking spot. They made my morning a whole lot easier. Since I’d miss out on the drive the ladies would take the following day to Mount Rushmore, I decided to fly by on my way to my fuel stop, Sheridan, Wyoming. Helicopter pilots chattered to each other on the charted frequency. I could tell by their quick back and forth that they did this all day every day. I gave a basic position report, adding that if my altitude interfered with tours to let me know. One of the tour pilots let me know my altitude was just fine and thanked me for calling—most transient traffic, he said, didn’t call. As I departed toward Spearfish and Sturgis, waypoints on my way around the Black Hills, I marvelled at the terrain. These western hills would’ve been eastern mountains. Spearfish looked like an aviator’s haven, with multiple grass runways tucked away in the hills. Sturgis was surprisingly tiny and I wondered where all those motorcycles park every summer.

Last legs
On my way to Sheridan, the true Rocky West began. From miles out, I could see the towering, snowcapped Bighorn Mountains. I landed and checked the weather. The forecast had changed, and the radar now showed a thin but growing line of convection directly between me and Bozeman. I was only two hours away from my destination, but the risk wasn’t worth it. Thankfully, the weather the following morning was just as perfect as forecast. The familiarity of the route, plus the comfort and affection I’d grown for the airplane over the many hours of our trip, made that final leg even sweeter. These were my old stomping grounds, and where I’d earned my instrument, commercial, multi, and CFI certificates. I said hello to my old friend the Bighorn Canyon and climbed abeam the deep green Pryor Mountains. I kept climbing to give myself some more security near the mountains and headed directly toward Livingston and the Bozeman Pass. Mountain passes can present a bit of an X factor. On a calm day similar to this one during training, my instructor and I had approached the pass only to be met with a textbook downdraft. With full power at VY and still descending, we turned around and headed back toward Billings. Remembering that, I approached the pass, hypervigilant of any changes in the wind and ready to turn around if needed. Before I knew it, Bozeman tower cleared me to land, I touched down in the grass and taxied in for a post-trip oil change. Minutes after shutdown, I handed the keys over to McSpadden, and my little companion was whisked away into the hangar at its new summer home. My job was done.

Time to spare
The next day, feeling grateful after 24.7 hours and a couple of thousand photos, I flew home to Los Angeles via the airlines. I learned so much from this trip. I do, I confirmed, want to own my own airplane one day. I want adventures like this to be part of my normal life. I learned for myself something I’d already suspected and been told—flying with friends is better than flying alone. Last, I was reminded on every leg just how fortunate we are to live in a place where a trip like this is possible. From one coast through the heartland, across the Mississippi, to the mountains, this country is extraordinarily diverse. So, what are you waiting for? Take the long and winding road. Go fly. Source: ‚Alicia Herron on the AOPA website‚.

Heiß geliebter Oldie der Lüfte

Nur fliegen ist schöner, sagt man oft, wenn man ein ultimatives Erlebnis beschreiben will. Noch schöner allerdings ist das Fliegen in einer Piper Cub. Diesen Eindruck kann bekommen, wer sich mit Hans Peukert über die Fliegerei unterhält. Er ist Mitglied im Luftsportclub Bad Homburg, und in dessen Hangar auf dem Flugplatz bei Obernhain steht seine Piper Cub D-EJQO. Peukert ist einer ihrer beiden Halter. Rückblick: „Die Cub kam 1972 als Schul- und Schleppflugzeug zum LSC. Dann hat sie 1978 eine private Haltergemeinschaft übernommen, nachdem sie von moderne Schleppmaschinen abgelöst wurde“, erklärte der Neu-Anspacher Sportflieger. Fliegerkamerad Thomas Wienecke habe damals den Anteil seines Vaters übernommen und Peukert 2006 die Anteile von Otto Schwarzer.

„Wie ein VW Käfer“, sagte Peukert, als er die Motorhaube aufklappte und darunter die Zylinderköpfe des 90-PS-Motors zum Vorschein kamen. In der Tat, wie ein alter Käfer Motor, ohne technischen Schnickschnack, robust und unverwüstlich, trotz der Patina, die man beim Automotor vielleicht als Rost bezeichnen würde. „Der VW läuft und läuft und läuft“, lautete damals der Slogan, aber ob ein Käfer Baujahr 1953 immer noch laufen würde, sei dahin gestellt, die Cub jedenfalls fliegt und fliegt und fliegt. Das liegt nicht zuletzt an der akribischen Wartung der beiden Flieger: „Wir machen alles selbst“, so Peukert. Einmal im Jahr gehe es dann zu einer Werft im Sauerland, wo das Flugzeug überprüft werde, eine Art „TÜV“.

Das schöne sei, dass alles mechanisch beziehungsweise analog funktioniert, vom iPad abgesehen, auf dem die Flugkarten abrufbar sind. Zusätzlich stecken ein paar zusammengefaltete Papier-Karten im Cockpit. Einige „Uhren“ mit Nadelzeiger zeigen unter anderem Tankfüllung, Drehzahl und Flughöhe an, letztere mit einem „guten alten“ Dosenbarometer. Peukert erklärte weitere Details: „D-EJQO“ lautet die Kennung der Piper Cub PA-18 L 18 C. „D“ stehe für Deutschland, „L“ für „Liason“ und damit werde ein Verbindungsflugzeug bezeichnet. Als Verbindungs- und Aufklärungsflugzeug tat die Obernhainer Cub einst in der belgischen Armee ihren Dienst. Der gleiche Typ sei vom amerikanischen Hersteller Piper Aircraft auch an die bundesdeutsche Luftwaffe geliefert worden. Als Militärflugzeug war auch die LSC Maschine ursprünglich mit Tarnfarbe angestrichen.

Landung braucht viel Erfahrung
Ursprünglich seien die Flügel mit Baumwollstoff bespannt gewesen, der aber wurde bei einer Grundüberholung durch ein Kunstfaserstoff ersetzt, dabei waren blinde Passagiere aufgeflogen: „Mäuse hatten sich im Stoff ein Nest gebaut“, nannte Peukert augenzwinkernd einen weiteren Grund der Aktion. Scheibenbremsen statt Trommelbremsen, einige Kleinigkeiten wurden umgerüstet, aber sonst sei alles original. 10,80 Meter beträgt die Spannweite, die Länge 6,85 Meter und die Steigleistung 180 Meter pro Minute. Zwei Piloten haben in der Kanzel Platz, und die Reichweite beträgt 480 Kilometer. „Bei der Reichweite schlagen mich die Segelflug-Cracks an guten Tagen um Längen“, gibt der Motorflieger zu. „Ich fliege am liebsten mit 120 Kilometern pro Stunde“, so Peukerts Vorliebe für gemütliche Runden, obwohl es die Cub es auf 180 Kilometer pro Stunde bringt.

Wenn er einmal im Jahr mit seiner Frau zur Bienenfarm nach Berlin fliegt, gibt er schon mal etwas mehr Gas. Die Bienenfarm ist ein Oldtimerflugplatz. Die Piper-Cub-Gemeinde trifft sich auch an anderen Orten, in Gelnhausen beispielsweise. Und noch ein Kriterium ist bei der Piper Cub von Bedeutung: Die Cub ist ein Spornradflugzeug im Gegensatz zu einem Bugradflugzeug. „Bei einem Spornradflugzeug ist der Flug erst zu Ende, wenn der Flieger wieder in der Halle steht“, sagte Peukert und erläutert die Tücken: „Die Cub hat keine Landeklappen. Wie beim Doppeldecker muss sie beim Landen mit hängender Fläche, geslipped, angeflogen werden“. Außerdem mache sich die seitenwindempfindliche Maschine schnell selbstständig. Hans Peukert hat seine Liebe zur Cub und Spornradfliegerei auf einem Wasserflugzeugtyp auf dem Coloradoriver in Arizona entdeckt. Peukert fliegt aber gerne über die Taunus-Winterlandschaft: „Jetzt kann man den Limes und andere Objekte ganz deutlich sehen“.

Aber man erkenne auch die großen Waldschäden: „Die Borkenkäfer bedingt abgeholzten Flächen sehen jämmerlich aus“. Die Probleme werden aus der Vogelperspektive offensichtlich nicht kleiner. Mit an Bord ist auch immer ein Maskottchen: Ein kleiner Plüschbär mit Pilotenbrille, denn mit „Cub“ werden im Englischen auch kleine Bärenjunge bezeichnet. Quelle: ‚Frank Saltenberger in der Frankfurter Neuen Presse‚.

Entlebuch: Flugzeuge beinahe kollidiert

Im Entlebuch haben sich 2019 zwei Kleinflugzeuge auf 2100 Meter Höhe auf bis 80 Meter angenähert. Grund für die Beinahekollision war, dass die Maschinen nur unzureichend mit Kollisionswarngeräten ausgerüstet waren. Die Schweizerische Sicherheitsuntersuchungsstelle (Sust) hat ihren summarischen Untersuchungsbericht zu dem Vorfall publiziert, der sich am 14. September 2019 ereignet hat. Involviert waren zwei Flugzeuge der Hersteller Piper und Robin, die beide mit Passagieren private Rundflüge machten. Die Piper war in Triengen LU gestartet, wendete über dem Kanton Obwalden und wollte via Entlebuch zum Startort zurückfliegen. Beim Schimbrig wurde der Pilot, der die Maschine vom hinteren Sitz aus steuerte, von einem anderen Flugzeug überrascht. Dieses habe sein Sichtfeld durch das obere Fenster von vorne nach hinten binnen einer Sekunde und in geringem Abstand gekreuzt, schreibt die Sust. Dieses zweite Flugzeug, die Robin, war in Grenchen SO gestartet. Es war im Gegensatz zur Piper mit einem Kollisionswarngerät ausgerüstet. Der Pilot gab an, nichts von der gefährlichen Annäherung gemerkt zu haben. Die Sust schreibt, das Kollisionswarngerät habe das andere Flugzeug nicht erfassen können, da dieses nicht mit einem kompatiblen System ausgerüstet gewesen sei. Quelle: ‚bluewin.ch‚.

Das fliegende Bärchen

Vor rund 80 Jahren entstand die Piper Cub, ein fliegender Oldtimer mit Kultstatus. In der Schweiz hat der Klassiker eine riesige Fangemeinde. Entstanden in seiner Urform ist das Flugzeug bereits Anfang der 1930er Jahre. Ab 1938 liefen die ersten Piper J-3C vom Band. Sie hatten vorwiegend Vierzylinder-Boxermotoren, deren Zylinder frei im Fahrtwind standen und so gut gekühlt wurden. Im Laufe der nächsten Jahrzehnte wurde das Konzept des zweisitzigen Hochdeckers aber immer weiter verfeinert und verbessert. Zudem ist die Cub ein sogenannter STOL-Flieger. Das ist die Abkürzung für Short Take-off and Landing und bedeutet Kurzstart- und landefähigkeit. Nicht mal 100 Meter brauchen die meisten Maschinen zum Abheben, das Landen geht noch kürzer. Die Cub ist ausserdem universell einsetzbar. Sie fliegt in der Schweiz mit normalen Rädern von Pisten oder auf Schwimmern etwa vom Vierwaldstädter- oder Zürichsee aus. Mit Skikufen geht es auf Schnee oder beispielsweise dem oft erwähnten Hüfi-Gletscher. Zudem eignet sich die Cub gut zum Hochschleppen von Segelflugzeugen. Anders als bei den meisten Flugzeugen sitzen die beiden Insassen nicht nebeneinander, sondern hintereinander. So hat der Pilot perfekte Sicht nach allen Seiten. Gleichzeitig ist die Cub auf Wunsch auch ein fliegendes Cabrio. Denn während des Flugs ist es möglich, die zweigeteilte Einstiegstüre aufzuklappen. Dann kommt zwar nicht von oben, aber zumindest von der Seite jede Menge Licht und Luft ins Cockpit. Gratis dazu gibt es einen ungestörten Blick nach unten auf die vorbeiziehende Landschaft. Quelle: ‚NZZ‚.

Pendeln mal anders

Die Flügel wackeln im Wind. Der Motor knattert. Mit 150 Stundenkilometern fliegt Elmar Kleinert (58) in seiner zweisitzige „Piper PA18“ die Landebahn am Airport Bremen an, setzt behutsam auf. Seit einem Jahr leitet der Top-Manager den Flughafen am Neuenlander Feld. Davor war Kleinert Geschäftsleiter bei der Flughafengesellschaft Berlin-Brandenburg, zuständig für Schönefeld und Tegel. Weil seine Familie noch in der Hauptstadt lebt, pendelt er eben. Der Wirtschaftsingenieur: „Ich bin zweieinhalb Stunden unterwegs, umfliege jeden Stau.“ Dabei verbraucht die Piper (135 PS) mit ihrem vier-Zylinder-Boxermotor etwa 40 Liter Treibstoff. Nicht mehr, als ein VW-Käfer. Seit 18 Jahren hat Kleinert den Pilotenschein, vor zwölf Jahren schaffte er sich für 33 000 Euro die Maschine an – ein fliegender Oldtimer, Baujahr 1953! „Meine Piper war in ihrem früheren Leben ein Aufklärungsflugzeug der US-Army“, sagt er. Auch im Urlaub hebt der Airport-Chef gerne ab, am liebsten Richtung Polen. Kleinert: „Dieses Jahr habe ich das Seengebiet der Masuren überflogen. Dort gibt es viele Flugplätze für Sportflieger. Ein Traum, dort zu landen und anschließend im nächsten Gasthaus einen Pfannkuchen mit Blaubeeren zu essen.“ Quelle: ‚Bild-Zeitung‚.