When we last left our intrepid crew, they had just touched down after maneuvering through buffeting winds that had them gripping whatever they could find in the cockpit. However, Jim, Drew & Brian’s adventure is still not without a few bumps as we’ll see…
The following morning wasn’t much better wind-wise but we HAD to get out of there. So, with everyone grinning like it was the end, our right crosswind helped a little with the P&W torque — we didn’t need any rudder trim either — we bounded out of Chamberlain and proceeded to climb to 8500` as the terrain was climbing and headed west. Once again we had some wind on our backs, and with a few more hours on the Pratt the oil temps were coming down as I believed the rings were finally beginning to seat. Next stop would be Sturgis, SD., but once again during let down we found the worst air I’ve ever flown in. That Staggerwing was thrown around like a Piper Cub and we were holding on big time. The weather forecast moderate turbulence where a front had gone through southeast SD., boy did we find it — well overflying Sturgis. Looking at another crosswind, I asked navigator Drew how far to Black Hills. Twenty miles. I remember landing there a few years ago right over US Route 90 in-between some hills. It might be calm, and well it was, and AWAS proved it — 4 knots from the southeast, perfect.
We squeaked on once again and made it to the pumps where we found once again very friendly people. Something I’ve come to find out in the Midwest. Even with self-serve they come out to see if you need any help, I guess it helps to be flying something like a Beech Starship or a lowly old Scarlet Staggerwing.
Leaving Black Hills was uneventful, our cruise climb to 8500` was quick as we were taking off at 3900`, with the P&W 10 to 1 Supercharger power. Our density altitude was never an issue, the Staggerwing did what she was meant to do with ease, perform.
Our next stop to come into view would be Laurel, Montana, a lonely place but excellent service for self-service and again, an airport car which we chose to not to use and decided to truck on as we thought we could make Concrete by 5:00 PM.
Amazingly with the wind still on our backs, we were clocking off 185mph. This was great for the range and our morale, but we had run the right upper tank dry on the leg into Laurel Montana, which can be a real adrenaline shocker. Surges of power, yawing of the airplane, and then back to normal and a full tank feeding the trusty old Pratt. We were at once at ease crossing some very rugged country side.
We knew with the tailwind we had pushing us along, we could have made Concrete non-stop, but we chose to make a stop in Coeur D`Alene just to check our oil consumption and have full tanks to cover the remaining 240 miles — mostly over the rugged North Cascades.
Thirty miles out of Coeur D`Alene I started backing off the power for our decent into Boyington Field. After a couple of S turns over Hayden Lake we had reached our pattern altitude of 3300` and made an overhead crosswind for a left downwind for runway 20, power back to 15”, gear down and ¼ flap turning base with half flap and then final and full flap with 15” carrying us down to the numbers and again squeaking us on the mains and reducing the power to idle — well there was no idle!! As hard as I pulled or unscrewed, the RPM`s would not go below 1000, we were down and rolling and for the first time I had to really use the new binders.
At the 3000` foot point on the runway I was about to pull out the mixture but could see we were slowing down to a pace where we could use the remaining 1000` and turned off the end of the runway and “ Fast Taxied” — while trying not to overheat the new brakes — to the local Biz Jet FBO and got her parked.
Well, here we are 3:30pm on a Sunday afternoon with everybody closing up shop. It turned out that we did have an issue. We felt that the Vernier part of the throttle cable had failed and wouldn’t come back any farther than what I was able to do after touch down.
With our Scarlet Big Bird sitting on the ramp, we finally found an individual, through the good graces of Ryan Pemberton, who invited us to put the Staggerwing in his hangar for the night and look into the issue Monday morning. Another night away from home! So close, yet so very far, with a 75-year-old broken airplane.
With the Staggerwing tucked away in a most inviting hangar, she had great company that evening, not one but two Super Widgeons, a Goose, a Beaver on amphib floats, and a Piper Super Cub with Edo 2000`s. This was one outgoing and friendly individual’s toy box.
This wonderful gent, who’s name at the moment escapes me, arranged on Monday morning to have his personal mechanic arrive at 9:00am to open his tool boxes and help us un-cowl Scarlets’ 985 and look for the problem. We thought we would need to order a throttle cable but something the night before — and looking through the aircraft maintenance manual I brought along — told me this could have something to do with the landing gear throttle stop. This device is a Bowden cable, with a small plunger on the carburetor end, with the opposite end traveling to the lower left main gear slide tube trunnion and with the landing retracted and power reduced to below 15” of manifold, pressure keeps the throttle from coming back and making a landing with the gear still in the wheel wells.
We looked at the small plunger that was exposed by about 3/16” of an inch with the throttle in the open position, but when you brought the throttle arm back to idle, it hit the idle stop that was protruding — the culprit indeed! We located an adjusting bolt on the left hand trunnion, pulled the inner wire till the plunger was flush with the end of the plunger housing and tightened it . Now the throttle came all the way back to its stop.
We rolled the Beech out of the hangar and fired her up before putting the cowling back just in case, warmed up to temperature, I brought the throttle back to idle and it did just that, 550 RPM perfect.
We shut her down and let the engine cool for an hour. The cowl goes on and fits better when the engine is cold. These Pratts grow in diameter as much as ½” at operating temps. With the cowl in place we did one more run up, said our very thankful thoughts to our new friends, and taxied over for a little fuel.
Departure was about noon and we established a cruise climb to 10,700` as were flying direct to Concrete over the most rugged part of our trip, the majestic North Cascades. At 175 mph we covered the remaining part of our Odyssey in 1:35. Coming over the Cascades and seeing the fire damage from this season’s worst fires in history was awe inspiring, yet very surreal. After the most rugged peaks from our 10,700` perch we could see our beautiful green upper Skagit Valley come into view. Power reductions were in order to get down to our 1300` pattern altitude for our landing in Concrete. So, we circled a few well known landmarks we occasionally fly around, and through our maze of flying and landing wires and beautifully tapered wing tips I took a moment to reflect on what we had just accomplished. Many people do this kind of flying routinely, but we don`t and what we had to do with the Staggerwing back in Pottstown , I was never quite sure we would be able to complete the trip.
As I mentioned earlier, there can be surprises throughout our lives, this one was one of those for me. I`m grateful for so many things in my life — my family, friends, a dream job and to have the opportunity to fly an airplane of this caliber and vintage for our organization — and to have my two very talented co-pilots trust means so very much to me. I thank you all .
Overall our “Scarlet” Beech D17-S performed wonderfully and kept surprising me the farther we moved along our travel route to the great Pacific Northwest. Mr. Desmond, she’s in good hands .
Watch Jim, Drew & Brian’s trip in video and photographs:
A few Particulars on N25K S/N 6881 Particulars on our trip
Date of Manufacture 04/11/1944 Total flight time 15. hours
Pratt & Whitney 985 450HP for take off 2346 statute miles flown
Gross Weight 4250 LBS Average Speed 156.4 mph
Empty Weight 2825 LBS Fuel burned 305 gallons
Useful load 1425 LBS Highest ground speeds 185 mph
Cruise Speed 60% power 160mph Lowest ground speeds 135 mph
Fuel burn at 60% power 20 gph
Fuel Cap 121 Gallons in 5 tanks
Range 640 miles plus reserve
Stall speed w/ gear & flaps 55 mph
Total Time Engine and Airframe 1490:00 hours
Time since overhaul/restoration 31:00 hours