William Quirk, in Anchorage, AK sent this story about Arctic Terns, an evolution of Interstate Cadets which are a Featured Aircraft for the 2014 AAA/APM Stars of the Sky and Screen Fly-In.
My interest in the subject comes from the Arctic Tern I purchased on August 8, 1997. I have logged 2,580 hours in the Tern as Pilot in Command in Alaska during the past 17 years. The Arctic Tern is on Alaskan Bushwheels in summer and Landes Skis in the winter. The Tern has excellent backcountry capability and has allowed me to explore and safely land in hundreds of remote locations. Many of these landings are first-time events where no aircraft has landed before. The Tern is a sturdily built aircraft and a marvelous flying machine. It is very stable in the air even at near stall speed. It is easy to fly and it handles extremely well even in gusty wind conditions. The huge slotted flaps, which help to generate a slow stall speed (near 32 miles per hour), and the excellent visibility over the cowling allow great landing capability on short landing surfaces on river gravel bars, beaches and mudflats (when dry), grass-covered sod, tundra and snow-covered surfaces on skis in winter on natural terrain, frozen lakes, glaciers and ice fields. The extra space in the cockpit makes the Tern very comfortable and a pleasure to fly. The large 6-foot cargo tray is a great asset, not only for the large space but also for the large door, which allows the easiest loading and unloading of large items of any of the tandem taildraggers.
Arctic Tern (N48027) ski landing in Ruth Amphitheater near Mt. McKinley on April 2nd, 2013. Elevation 5,800 ft., temperature 10 degrees F
My Arctic Tern was originally manufactured as an Interstate Cadet by the Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Corporation based in El Segundo, California in 1942. The manufacturer’s aircraft designation is S-1B1. The Aircraft Serial Number is 11. The Aircraft Registration is N48027. This aircraft was flown 508 hours in 40 years as an Interstate S-1B1. In 1982, the airplane was disassembled and rebuilt to Arctic Tern specifications by Glen Brukheimer.
Bill Diehl purchased Interstate’s tooling and brought it to Anchorage, Alaska in the late 1060s. He transformed the Interstate Aircraft into a bush plane by upgrading the structural elements of the fuselage, landing gear, and wings. He extended and squared off the wings, added a large cargo tray, and a new clam shell engine cowling. The engine was a 160 H O-320 Lycoming. The redesigned aircraft was Type Certificated by FAA and designated the Interstate S-1B2. It has come to be known as the Arctic Tern. Thirty one (31) Arctic Terns were built in the concrete block building near Anchorage International Airport between 1975 and 1985. Ten (10) additional Arctic Terns were built by disassembling and converting Interstate S-1B1s to Arctic Terns. Bill also designed and built four-place Arctic Terns called Privateers. He has built 5 Privateers.
Glen Burkheimer owned his newly-built Arctic Tern from 1982 to 1997. He logged 460 hours in 15 years (31 Hours/Year). I purchased the airplane in August 1997 and have flown it 2,580 hours (152 Hours/Year) in the past 17 years. This airplane was an Interstate Cadet for 40 years and has been an Arctic Tern for the past 32 years. The airplane has performed well for 72 years (3,548 hours) and it still has lots of flight time remaining. I call it my Trusty Arctic Tern.
I am very excited and optimistic that the newly designed Arctic Tern by Arctic Aircraft Company will become a reality and that it will soon be built and available to pilots flying the remote backcountry. Manufacturing the new Tern will hopefully make it possible for all of us with the original Tern to have a ready supply of parts when we need an upgrade or replacement due to damage to our aircraft. Keeping the Tern alive is great news to all of us who fly them. Half of the Arctic Terns that we originally built 30 to 40 years ago in Alaska are still flying today. Fourteen (14) pilots are flying Arctic Terns in Alaska. Six (6) pilots are flying Arctic Terns in the Continental US. A few other Terns are flown by Pilots in foreign countries.
Alaska will play a crucial role in selling the first newly built Arctic Terns. This is because the first Arctic Terns were being built and flown in Alaska and because the Tern’s outstanding flying characteristics in the bush. This is an aircraft that serves Alaska well. Pilots flying the Arctic Tern after a short period of time will be shocked at the great flying characteristics of the airplane and its suitability to access remote lands in Alaska. With highly respectable pilots in Alaska endorsing the Tern, sales will then spread elsewhere, especially in Canada, continental US and foreign countries.
When talking with Bill Diehl (designer and builder of the Arctic Tern) at Anchorage’s Aviation Trade Show a few years ago, I mentioned my Arctic Tern ski landing on the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,200 feet ASL at the mount McKinley Mountain Climbing Base Camp on March 28, 2008. Bill countered with his over-the-top flight of Mount McKinley in his Arctic Tern (Lycoming O-320, 150 horsepower) on Easter Sunday. Bill had an oxygen supply and had a difficult time gaining sufficient altitude near the summit to fly over the top of Mount McKinley which is 20,320 feet ASL. The air at 20,000 feet was thin and the engine had a greatly reduced amount of horsepower. Theoretically, engine horsepower would be diminished about 60 percent at this altitude. However, the cold air, which was well below zero Fahrenheit, greatly reduced density altitude. Bill said he was circling the peak with flaps employed trying to climb high enough to fly over the peak. He finally climbed high enough to fly over McKinley’s summit. When he looked down at the summit when he passed over it, the height above the top of the mountain was only 50 feet. WOW! What a great accomplishment.
All the best to Arctic Aircraft Company. You can count on many loyal supporters in Alaska. We are all pulling for you.
William A Quirk III