Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Like you and me, only richer...

Here at VFTP Command Central, a morning's net surfing has been whiled away by researching markings on Finnish Mosins and scrounging for reloading dies for 6.5x54mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer. Meanwhile, in Arlington, WA, someone driven by the same urge has been studying the proper markings for a Hawker Hurricane Mk.XIIB and looking for fuel injector parts for a Daimler-Benz DB.601. While I'm looking for a larger storage space to accommodate milsurp rifle number 36, someone else is needing to think about another hangar in which to park warbird number 36.

When the time machine bug bites, it can bite hard, and the resultant hemmorhaging is limited only by the size of the bank account. The urge to share the joy of discovery is strong, be it by writing articles on a web page, letting a friend shoot a rifle he'd only read about in history books before, or by opening your collection of flying warbirds to the public. Having heard folks ask "Wow, do you really shoot those old things?", I am totally sympatico with the sentiment expressed in the article:
Allen and his staff at the Flying Heritage Collection are careful not to call it a museum.

"Instead of planes that are just statically displayed for people to see, they're restored to the most authentic artifact that they can be," said Michael Nank, spokesman for Allen and his investment company Vulcan Inc.
I will probably never meet Paul Allen since we just don't run in the same circles, but if I ever did, I know we'd have something to talk about: folks who are into time machines usually do.


Billy Beck said...

There is a hot debate among warbird enthusiasts whether these machines should be flown, because of the risks of losing their rarity to crashes. Just about uniformly, the "Don't Take Chances!" crowd consists in people who have no actual hope of ever laying their hands on one. That oughta inform the debate.

In the hangar where the airplane I learned to fly was stored, there was a guy scouring the ends of the earth for P-40 Warhawk parts. He dug an Allison engine out of a mountainside in New Zealand, and the remnants of a crashed airframe out of a Russian bog where it had laid for nearly sixty years. The money he was spending was horrendous -- the interest alone on a bearing account of that sum would change my whole life. At all times, he looked like a minimum-wage flunky at any common auto-repair shop, working his little ass off twelve or fourteen hours a day with his die-grinders and rivets.

I was in awe, just knowing that he was doing that.

"God bless 'em." That's what I always say. It's his stuff, and everybody else gets to shut up about it: that man's gonna fly real warbirds, and it'll be a grand, great thing when he does.

Billy Beck said...

(hah) I just read the CNN story. The story of Paul Allen's Tomahawk is remarkable similar to the Warhawk that I was talking about. It's not surprising, considering how many of those airplanes went to Russia.

Tam said...

The hangar you flew out of was right behind the one I worked out of.

I dispatched for SmithKline's corporate flight department there at LZU; if you were there late of an afternoon between '97 and '00, you may have seen my pink & blue Suzuki...

Big internet, small world... :)

Billy Beck said...

What the hell? Ain't that somethin'?

I flew Mrs. Terri Andrews' Citabria (N53883). For a while, she parked it down at Dale's place (Astron, down by the EAA line), and then she moved it up to where Bruce was at Advanced Aviation. (That's where I briefly met Mohammad Atta once. Talk about a "small world".) It was up there where a guy across that little patch between the hangars hand-started his Cub at full throttle and the silly thing crashed through somebody's 172 and then ate a big chunk out of 883's wing. At night, she kept it in the same hangar with the P-40 projects. That's how I got to know that guy.

You might have noticed my white '72 Chevelle in the parking lot, some days.

I'm the guy who single-handedly saved north Georgia from drought in '01: my checkride was cancelled for Wx eleven times in a row.

Billy Beck said...

Man, I could reminisce about this all day long. LZU was one of the best times in my whole life.

Tam said...

"It was up there where a guy across that little patch between the hangars hand-started his Cub at full throttle..."

I have a piston from that Cub on my porch; I use it for an ashtray. (That was one of our mechanics...)

Billy Beck said...

Well, I do hate to see any airplane come to that, but I was pretty disappointed with what happened to that Citabria. I never got to fly it again after that (although it's back together again and doing well).

You know what, T.? I wonder if I remember you in person.

Did you work that desk just inside the door there at Piedmont-Hawthorne, on the right as you go in the door, where Advanced Aviation was just upstairs? (They've moved across the field, now, I think.)

James J. Na said...

Long ago, when I was in the private sector, I had business trip to SoCal.

My boss at the time (and my best friend) was a former USAF pilot and a crazed WWII warbird aficionado. He inisted that we go to a museum in Chino.

Unfortunatley, we got there too late, and the flight museum was shut down. Not content, my friend and I made our way to a dive of a bar nearby.

There we encountered a man (having his dinner) who eventually led us to his hangar.

Turned out, he restored WWII warbirds for a living. And there it was: a restored BF 109 (I believe it was an E variant) in flying condition about to be sent to a client. The plane was found nearly intact in Russia prior to the restoration (the German ace who flew it was shot down, but lived to fight again).

We didn't get to fly it, of course. But we got to look at it, touch it, sit inside the cockpit and work the various controls.

It was a magical evening.

Homer said...

There's just something about those planes....I grew up in the District of Corruption, the old man was a pilot who masqueraded as a corporate attorney 5 days a week, and every weekend was spent either flying or if Wx was lousy, hangar flying with his buddies at National or Andrews. Now and then a rainy Saturday would find us at Silver Hill, and there was always someone working - painstakingly - on a restoration. The stories those planes could tell....

Friday nights the National Aviation Club at the Washington Hotel had buffet dinner dances, everyone who was anybody came through at one time or another, and often led to invites to see a plane being restored privately, or, better yet, a chance to go up in one.

Ran into Bob Tullius at a Tyco Air Show in Titusville a few years back, reminisced about his Group 44 days, (we used to race the same tracks, back when I was racing bikes) talked about the Mustang he restored and was flying. My son thought it was "just an airplane," and the sound of that Rolls-Merlin was "just another engine." Heresy if ever I heard it, but he was young then and had a lot to learn.

If time machines are ever invented, I know where I'm going in one....

Trebor said...

The interesting thing about Allen's restorations is he's taking authenticity to an unheard of level. He's going 100% for "as delivered from the factory" condition and is eschewing the modern changes of convenience that most warbirds include. That extra 5% of authenticity costs more than 5% extra to achieve.