July 31, 2008
I recently had a once in a lifetime opportunity. My boss at work has a friend near Spooner, Wi, that owns an AT-6. That's an airplane built by North American that was used as an Advanced Trainer during WWII. Nearly all aircraft pilots trained in this plane before going to fighter or bomber squadrons.
So this is Dave Schmitz' airplane. It's a beauty!! He acquired it in 1987, spent the next years rebuilding it from the ground up, first flight out of his airport in 1994!! A seven year effort. This plane has a great sounding radial engine, 600HP, 205 mph top end with a cruise speed of 140mph. Here is great info on theT-6 Texan.
My boss has been up in my plane to scout duck hunting areas, and he talks to Dave occasionally. Last Sunday Dave was going to fly to northcental Minnesota to do a fly-over for a local celebration in a small town near Alexander, Mn.
Bill asked if he could take a passenger, yes, no one lined up to go, soooooo.... I got an invite!!
This is a view of the rear cockpit. Looks intimidating at first, but after checking it out for a while, it started to all make sense. Dave let me fly the thing, just straight and level with some minor turns, but that was good enough for me.
Here we are, ready to take off. Check the rivets in the wing... lots of work putting all those in. Enlarge the photo for a better view. I could hardly believe that I was going up in this wonderful aircraft from the late 1930's...
I took a ton of photos and later realized that this one is the only photo I had of Dave!! On the way to Minnesota, Dave asked if I had done any aerobatic flight yet. I said no, but would like to some day. He suggested we try a barrel roll, I said sure. It's a spiral maneuver that really is like flying around the inside of a barrel. Awesome.
Next we did an aileron roll, which is rolling the plane along it's longitudinal axis. It was a little quicker and a little more dramatic. More awesomeness.... Then he suggested a loop and I quickly agreed. It's pulling the stick back, starting a steep climb and then just staying with it until you go right over the top (upside down) and back down until you're level and continuing in the direction you were headed. Hee, hee....
We landed at Alexander, Mn, where we met Chuck Datko and passenger in Chuck's AT 6. Chuck and Dave both fly for T-6 Thunder, a flight team that hires out for events, usually covering their fuel costs. A brief planning session ensued, involving how we would buzz the event from one side, then the other and a final pass. They both have "smoke" on their planes and planned to use it.
Here's what it looks like to fly close formation with another plane. I'm estimating that if you placed the planes next to each other with wing tips touching, moved our plane back until the nose was even with the tail of the other, then lower our plane until our line of sight was just below the belly of the other plane, that would be the general position of the planes during the formation flying. If I'm wrong about that, Dave, please comment and set me straight....
"We've got 4 seconds........ Smoke on....... NOW!" That's what I heard, then the smoke poured out of Chuck's plane and I could tell that our smoke was working as well, judging by the slight fog in the cockpit for a while.
Then we made a pretty tight turn out over the lake and headed back to the celebration for another pass, more smoke, more turns, I was loving this!!
Eventually we parted ways and Dave and I headed for home. Dave wondered if I wanted to see what a figure 8 loop was like. You bet. So we got up some extra airspeed, pulled up into the loop. When we were about 3/4 around the loop, Dave straightened the flight path and did a half roll. This put us heading slightly down in the opposite direction that we had been going. Then Dave pulled the plane up and into a second loop, and 3/4 through he straightened the flight path, did a half roll and ended up heading in the original direction. This impressed me to no end!! If I had the money, I would get a Pitts biplane and learn how to do this..... guess that's not gonna happen. Oh well, I can dream on....
Thanks a million Dave. I had the time of my life on this flight.
I gotta go, Carlo