The Third Annual National Biplane Fly-In
Report from Junction City, Kansas...May 31 – June 3, 2012
It’s been four years since Charlie Harris passed the Biplane Fly-In “torch” over to Jim Clark, Waco Aviator and businessman, in Junction City, Kansas. We were all very happy to know that the “Bartlesville” tradition would continue on. Someone, we hoped, would step up to take the point position, and Jim Clark has done so in an exemplary fashion. The “Standard” has been raised. The “Junction City” tradition now has been firmly established. It just gets better and better.
Arriving a few days early, we were surprised to find the very first biplane had already landed. Using the “shotgun” theory of weather avoidance, i.e., the more days allowed for travel, the more days there will be with blue skies, Bob Weeks had flown in from the far northwestern Washington State. “Any farther and you’d have to be in Canada”, says Bob. He said his wife had wondered aloud just when he would depart, and then he looked out to see a sun appear. Those two events were his cue.
His Hatz biplane was labeled a “Bratz” by the gentleman who had built the airplane. His last name being, Brooks, builder’s license came into play.
Climbing to almost 12,000 MSL to cross over mountain passes Bob discovered that while beauty is only skin deep, frigid cold goes right to the very marrow of your bones. He won the award for longest distance flown, but not by much. There was no award given for frozen body parts.
Russell Williams, Webmaster for the National Antique Airplane Association in Blakesburg Iowa, flew over from the Seattle area in a very nicely restored Bellanca “Cruisemaster” or “Cardboard Constellation” as it is often affectionately named. Comfortably smooth and warm, not to mention efficient, the Cruisemaster is not a biplane and was therefore parked with the other monoplanes. You might want to join the National AAA to see his good work displayed. www.antiqueairfield.com.
A window-rattling squall line had passed through on Wednesday afternoon, but the sunset it left behind showed a promise for nice weather over the following three days. The promise was somewhat slow to materialize, and it was late Friday before we really enjoyed the good weather. That was just fine as many were not yet in the air.
The Friday “fly-out” activity was a hangar lunch served by the Abilene EAA chapter, not far away, followed by a tour of the Eisenhower Museum. Many just drove over in cars, or rode the shuttle bus, while some flew part way and turned back due to rain. And there was one fool who pressed on to land in an open cockpit shower stall. We were all very impressed by this act, but not in the way he intended. We were all glad the cell phone towers were still operational. (What was that line in “Forrest Gump? Not the one about chocolates….the other one.)
Not being in a biplane usually means you are short a couple of wings. It was amusing to see a Fokker DR-1 TRI-Plane arrive to “trump” everyone by wearing an extra set of wings. The replica was extremely well done and included a plaque with the Baron Von Richtofen quote, “It Climbs Like a Monkey and Maneuvers Like the Devil!” It was powered by a Continental 220 and had twice the power of the original model. Our thanks go to Richard Curtis of Valley Center, Kansas, for bringing this very interesting DR-1 to Junction City…even though it is more than “just” a biplane.
In the “Olden Days”, when a Stinson Voyager had a wooden-paneled back seat 8 feet wide, I had a “hideout” in the fuselage of a Knight Twister…the wings were in the rafters of Harold Kennedy’s crop duster hangar. It was a wonderful time for a kid who listened to “Speed Gibson” on the radio. Things have changed considerably since then. And much to everyone’s enjoyment, Mark Holliday, from Platte Valley Airport (18V) just northeast of Denver, flew in with his white-and-red Knight Twister. It is one of just a couple still flying and looks like it is racing…just sitting there. They could have put wings on it instead of those tiny little fins…but then, as Mark says..”It wouldn’t be a Knight Twister anymore.” A Knight Twister Historian, C.L. Westerman, (firstname.lastname@example.org) was there with historical photographs of this amazing little Vernon Payne design. If you happen to have any information at all about other Knight Twisters, please contact C. L. Westerman. Plans are still available…but I no longer fit inside.
Mark asked me how tall I was…as I contemplated the task of entering the cockpit…and my “six-feet-one-and-a-half” answer proved to be disqualifying. Dang! Might just get in there…and have to have the airplane disassembled to get back out. It appeared to be going about 300 mph as Mark flew it around the airport. The small size, like a BD-5 makes speed appear to be much greater than it actually is. It does 175 mph in cruise and in two hours you are really ready to get out.
There are old Wacos…there are NuWacos…but have you ever seen a Waco built just from the original plans and proverbial “scratch” by one passionate individual? Crazy? Maybe. Really crazy? Probably. But there it was, every stick and nut and bolt and wood piece and fabric and leather and aluminum part…all just from plans. Everything but the spit, sweat and blood from Weaver Aircraft Company line workers. The Waco, a UMF-5, built by John V. Hudec, is identical to a factory airplane…as if a Cadillac were put together from hand made parts in someone’s garage! (Anybody got plans for a DTS?) The present proud owner is Donald W. Grundstrom of East Moline, Illinois. The clue that it is not a factory product comes with the X in the registration number.
The centerpiece of the fly-in is always Jim Clark’s beautifully restored Cabin Waco EGC-8, with it’s gleaming orange and black color scheme. You have seen it at Oshkosh, Blakesburg and Sun-n-Fun. What you might not know is that the restorer, Marvin Hornbostel, of Junction City, Kansas, is the 2012 recipient of the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic award. Marvin, along with his son, Jon, owns Raven Aero Service on Freeman Field. He has been an A&P for over 50 years, and has held an AI for 40 of those years. This year’s Airventure at Oshkosh will be the venue for the presentation of this national honor by the FAA.
There are always “one-of-a-kind” aircraft, and that makes for very interesting discussions. “My Daddy used to have one of those…” “Looks like a Helio met a Mooney…” “Maybe it’s a secret project from Area Fifty-one…” It’s always fun when you have already sneaked up to read the data plate, and can then win a beer.
One such aircraft is “The Gold Nugget’ owned by Herrill Davenport out in Colorado. Herrill’s father, Brad Davenport, had built the airplane many years ago. Although Brad had sold the airplane, Herrill was able to re-purchase it and keep it in the family. It is very unusual in that it has a round cowling, but a horizontally opposed engine. With a bubble canopy to keep you warm, it sports a slightly swept back upper wing that gives it a Great Lakes/Bucker look. Naturally, it is painted a metallic gold color.
Another never-seen-before airplane was a blue and white biplane with a lower gull wing, Corsair style, a swept back upper wing, and a long pointed in-line engine. The tall vertical fin looked very “Helio” in style. It is a Merkel Mark II…from Wichita, Kansas. It prompted many unfinished sentences…”What the…” How the…” “It’s a…hmmm…”
Winner of the Judges Choice award was a 1935 Waco YOC Custom Cabin biplane, once owned by R. J. Hardin of Grand Prairie, Texas. It is now being carefully tended to by Jeff Skiles, of Hudson River Fame, who keeps it at Brodhead, Wisconsin. Jeff, who was our featured guest speaker, brought us all up to date on EAA developments and answered many questions regarding EAA advocacy topics. It is good to see him care-taking such a fine Cabin Waco.
The Saturday events featured a fly-out to Prairie Cottage Airport, for an ice-cream social. The weather was perfect for such an event and we discontinued any weight-and-balance computations afterwards.
Being centrally located, this National Biplane Fly In, sponsored in part by the Flint Hills EAA Chapter 1364, is growing into a major event of the year. Aircraft were flown in from Washington State, Florida, California, Colorado, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and I am probably leaving some states out. The Central location and grass runways make it a perfect site. It is always held on the first weekend of June, easy to remember that, and you should make plans now for next year. The dates are May 30 – June 2, 2013. For a complete list of the awards winners and more information, check out www.nationalbiplaneflyin.com
Story and photos by Richard Hawley