First Iowa Bush Pilot Training Course & Seminar
(We Couldn't Use Ski Plane Fly-in as That Has Been Taken)
Les Gaskill's Cub
It was either a Tuesday or Wednesday morning. I had just arrived at AAA Headquarters and Cindy informed me I had a phone call. It was Rex Yokam. "You got the Champ on skis?"
"No the skis are down at Benny's"
"Well let's have a ski plane gathering at Antique Airfield on Saturday"
And so it started. Rex made some calls and I made some calls (sorry Coop!) and we put in motion events that would lead to a great day.
Benny Davis and Paul Felkner on Their Way to Montezuma
I watched the weather reports the rest of the week go from good to bad and back, but Saturday January 6th dawned clear with a forecast of westerly winds 10-15 mph and temps in the high 30's. Perfect!
Earlier in the week Benny Davis met me in Centerville with Rex's skis and Friday night I had them installed on RLT's Interstate Cadet instead of the APM's Champ. The main reason being the Interstate was in front of the hangar and it would take a lot less shoveling and plowing to get it out on skis. Turned out it was a wise choice as the skis fit perfectly on the Interstate with no bushings needed (like the Champ) and no need to remove the brakes (like the Champ). The only thing left to do was install the front safety cables and bungee cords but I would need some help with that.
Benny's PA-11 During a Rare Moment, Stopped on the Ground
Back to Saturday. I had the coffee on, the hangar doors open and a path shoveled out through the drift in front of the hangar. I had also managed to get the snowplow stuck, but that is another story. Rex showed up and we were preparing to finish the ski installation job on the Interstate when a PA-11 and a J-3 came flying by. We stopped our labors long enough to watch Dick Willets (J-3), Benny Davis and Paul Felkner (PA-11) provide the first seminar of the day, short field landings. You see, we had during the blizzards in December plowed a path from Hangar One over to the North Campgrounds to provide RLT a path to walk to work. This effectively cut the E-W runway in half giving us around 600 ft of runway. There would be neither groomed snow nor long runways for this group! After landing Benny and Paul provided the next lesson. How to get two people off a short runway in sticky snow. It took three tries.
Les Gaskill's Cub with Two Shadows???
I was getting anxious to finish up the Interstate and get sliding but my luck of the night before ran out. Rex and I were turning the front landing gear attach bolts around (necessitating someone lifting the airplane up) when we discovered the bolts were to short with the safety cable attach fittings installed. Nuts!!! Now I had to go on a search for longer bolts. Once located I find they do not have long enough threads so out come the thread dies. When I finally get back to the airplane I now have a crowd watching and I provide the next lesson, how to install skis while being ridiculed and cajoled by a mob.
Soon enough the Interstate is out of the hangar and warming up. My wife and in-laws have arrived at the Ground Loop Inn with lunch (chili) as I try out the Cadet on the skis. I find it is nose heavy compared to the Cubs and Champs and one has to be careful so as not to provide an unexpected lesson! Shortly after Les (old school) Gaskill arrived in his J-3 and we have the group for the day. Four airplanes on skis in SE Iowa is a rather large group after all. While everyone was having lunch or over viewing the progress on the "Library of Flight" I was out flying. Rex was out in Benny's PA-11 and Dick in his Cub when I provided another lesson. How to land in a field smaller than you can get out of. After several racetrack patterns with still no luck in getting airborne I finally used the snowdrift at the end of the field to launch me over into the next field where I was able to taxi back to the hangars. This all took place on the airport and I will let the reader imagine exactly where.
Cub Taxiing Out, Interstate Arriving
Antiquer's of the Year, Chad and Betty Wille, had driven over from Corning and we discovered Chad had never flown on skis. So I sent him up in the Interstate for his first taste of sliding on snow in an airplane. He came back with that same grin everyone does after his or her first time. He then took Betty out for a ride. Next I took pity on Rex and let him go fly his skis. Of course he had already flown Benny's PA-11 and Les's Cub. I saw www. (Wire Wheel Wille) out in the PA-11 and Paul Felkner was seen shooting some landings and takeoffs in it also.
The afternoon was wearing on and we still had one more seminar to attend. This one would be at Sig field in Montezuma so we fired up and headed north. Rex and I gave the next demonstration, how to get two fat boys off of a short strip on skis. It took two tries. Then as you stagger into the air and try to clear the trees you do get an idea of how REAL Bush Pilots must feel.
Chad Wille flying Robert Taylor's Interstate Cadet
Once at Sig Field we noted Maxey had plowed part of the field. Actually he had dragged a cattle gate up and down the runway a few times (with a four wheel drive pickup) making a nice groomed surface on which to land. After our arrival Hazel treated us to hot chocolate and cookies and Benny took her flying in the PA-11. However it seemed that all to soon it was time to head home. These short winter days really cut into ones flying. We split up on departure from Sig Field and Rex and I enjoyed getting to see coyote, deer, wild turkey and bald eagles on our way back to Antique Airfield
If you haven't had the opportunity to fly an airplane on skis you really are missing something. It is a lot of work but once your sliding it's worth it. We hope that we will be able to do this again this winter and perhaps some of you can join us for a taste of ski flying!!!
Looks Like Fun, Doesn't It?