In our last post, Jim, Drew and Brian took our just-acquired Staggerwing for a test flight. This post tells of our excited crew ready to fly her cross-country from Philadelphia home to Concrete, WA. Museum Director and Head of Restoration, Jim Jenkins, reveals that it just so happened that around the same time they were scheduled to leave, Pope Francis was making his historic appearance in Philly and a hurricane was coming on the horizon…
With the visit of the Pope in Philadelphia happening Saturday, and Heritage Field just making it into the veil of importance, we had to be ready to launch from Heritage by early morning Friday.
Friday morning dawned clear with winds from the southeast as a hurricane was traveling up the eastern seaboard, Hmmmmm possible tail wind?? Well, the three of us talked it over and felt one more shakedown flight was in order. With that agreed, we loaded ourselves–this time Brian got the 985 rumbling and taxied once again out to the southwest of Heritage’s main runway.
Run-up complete, we taxied into position and repeated everything we did the evening before. The takeoff was uneventful and the gear retracted as commanded, so we flew just north of Pottstown for about 40 minutes checking the radios, GPS, intercom, and transponder/encoder. Engine temps were a little high but it was warm at 3000 feet! Amazingly everything was on task so we headed back for another Staggerwing landing. I used the same numbers but with full flaps and again with the wind on the nose squeaked the mains on without a hint of our arrival. This seemed too easy?? Oh, but later into our trip!!
Back on the ground we topped off all tanks to the brim, checked our baggage to the handler (me) as I was guessing what we had left for humans. Weight and balance was fine and the 1350 lbs. of useful load disappeared quickly when the full fuel load of 775 lbs. was calculated in along with 60 lbs. of back packs, water bottles and camera equipment–we shipped home by UPS 100 lbs of spares , tools etc. as there just wasn’t room in the baggage hold. With our three heavenly human bodies factored in we had 15 lbs. before we over grossed the Scarlet Bird.
We said our thank you’s to our Heritage guys who were an immense help in readying this old Bird (I think they were getting tired of her being in the way) we never could have done it without the jacks, hydraulic oil, hardware and many other things that made our time there very much at ease.
Our paperwork had been an issue as the airworthiness certification and registration had been misplaced back in Malvern , PA., the Desmond’s main office. Janet Hauschild is a real gem and I really believe that she had something to do in extending Mr. Desmonds life! Janet was a sweet heart (thank you so much Janet!) and we were only able to stuff a few airplane projects into our pockets the day you left early !!!
At 11:00 am we blasted out of Heritage Field and headed directly for Youngstown, Ohio where Gemco Aviation has their base of operations. 1:35 later, as it was a shakedown flight, we again squeaked into Elsor -Youngstown Field where we were warmly received by none other than Mike Stanko owner/operator of Gemco.
Mike was surprised to see N25K pull up to the pumps–Mike has restored numerous award winning Staggerwings and in fact had three coming in for work within the month.
After a bottle of water and a bladder drain, we were off to Knox , Indiana. This flight was made at 4500 feet, 55% power truing out at 175 mph; fuel burn averaged on the entire trip: 20 gph.
Another top-off of the fuel and bladder relief and we were off to Vinton, Iowa. This would be an overnighter as we found ourselves pretty tired with having our previous work days catching up to us. Where ever we landed there was always an airport courtesy car–in the mid-west that is. Morning dawned with a little ground fog. We had a good breakfast at the local diner–we all weighed more after that and drove to the airport. With the ground fog dissipating we roared out of Vinton at 9:00 am and flew directly to Chamberlain, South Dakota.
Our flight so far had been providing us with an average of 15-20 tailwinds–which is rare when you’re west-bound–but that huge storm back east was making itself known with a welcome push from the east, and we were delighted.
2:45 to Chamberlain, S.D. where Drew and I have landed on several occasions and found it a neat place up on a bluff off US Route 90. What we found during our let down from cruise was that the closer we got to Chamberlain the bumpier it was getting. With our usual 45 entry for a landing to the southeast, turbulence on downwind had me sitting up in my Captains chair like a Samurai Warrior.
With the gear out and partial flap we turned base and then to final, only to find the wind (more out of the south than southeast) my first crosswind and it was gusty. The Scarlet Bird is big and heavy and with gust from a few different directions I had for the first time my hands full of Staggerwing. I’d like to say that we grooved straight down the invisible ILS, but in reality I was all over the place with control input and power…lots of power!
The end of the runway came up and the power came off. We touched on the right main, then the left and again the right, and then all three with quite a bit of left brake thrown with full left rudder and a lot of right aileron. Well we were down and I made the first turn off but found that the Staggerwing has a lot of side area that likes to sail with the wind.
We topped-off the tanks, emptied my shorts, and Brian said it was real neat from the back seat. I told him he was lucky to be in the back, the front view was not as pleasant. Drew was holding onto all the tubes he could find in windshield.
While contemplating our departure with the crosswind we saw that again there was an airport courtesy van. Viola, we went to town and had lunch and came back to find the wind gusting to 30 knots. I quickly said lets tie her down we’re staying put. I used up all my Staggerwing energy on that landing today.
Coming next in the final installment of our Odessey, Jim, Drew, & Brian have one more major hurdle before their touchdown in Concrete, WA. If you would like to read earlier posts about Jim, Drew & Brian’s Staggerwing N25K Odyssey click here for Part I; for Part II; for Part III; for Part IV. Until then, please enjoy this short video about the first part of the Staggerwing trip!