The Great Ongoing General Aviation Thread

I recently ran across a picture of Spartan Executive, a light plane built back in the 1930s.

Damn, that thing is gorgeous. And it’s not all that different from modern light aircraft; single engine, low wing, enclosed cabin,…

And that got me thinking about radial engines. Has any homebuilder ever tried to recreate that look by using a radial engine? And if I wanted to, could I; does anybody even make a radial engine these days that I could design a plane around? What was it about horizontally-opposed engines that makes them so universal in light aircraft; small frontal area and reduced drag?

I have flown (twice, I think) in planes that had radial engines. Bonus points to anyone who can guess what they were.

ETA: Ref @Whack-a-Mole 2 posts up.

Broadly you have 3 cases:

  1. Law abiding pilot goofs and is mortified to be surrounded by helos or fighters & meekly surrenders by going where he’s told/shown to go.

  2. Intentional bad-ass like a drug smuggler will actively evade until landing at a place of his choice, or depending on the defender’s ROE, being shot at enough to motivate him to land sooner than he’d wish or even being shot down and crashing wherever it happens.

  3. Intermediate case of honest, if Freedum!! pilot or even deliberate provocateur who chooses to ignore the radio-ed & physical entreaties of the defenders, essentially daring them to consider him an example of case 2. Consider this third case to be the aerial equivalent of the famous OJ Simpson low speed chase.

The Feds are not real forthcoming about their ROE or decision-making algorithm. A Cessna that flew through a TFR and is now flying away from it is no longer a threat. Like a speeder caught on radar who’s now meekly following the speed limit as he sees the approaching lights in his rearview mirror, the cops’ goal at that time is to issue a citation, not stage an execution.

We all know traffic stops go bad sometimes, and a lot more often than they should. At least so far the FAA, ICE, etc., seem a bit more … restrained … about this. The fact any real forcing via weaponry threatens folks on the ground is a large restraining factor.

Does ICE / DOD / DEA routinely execute drug smugglers in international waters via shoot-down? Hell if I know for sure; you’ll have to ask them. My bet is not because that’d be a real hard habit to keep secret and if it were the policy it’d be going on all day every day, just like smuggling is. So it doesn’t pass the smell test.

So how did they force this plane to land (see article below)? If the ambassador/president told the pilot to just keep going to Bolivia what choice was left for the US? Shoot the plane down or let it go? (I understand that the US got Spain to refuse entry for the plane but again…what if it just kept going? Is there a way to force it to land?)

I’m willing to bet if they kept going no one would have shot them down. Maybe takes some balls to make that bet but not a lot. Shooting down planes is something all countries seem really, really reluctant to do. Especially when they are commercial/GA planes (as opposed to military planes). Add in an ambassador/head-of-state…no way.

pilots can can do that but it just makes it worse for them just as fleeing from police makes a speeding ticket much worse. But they risk getting shot down if they fly over the protected location.

A sports stadium doesn’t move so the protected area is well defined. The closer you get to the stadium the more likely you are to get shot down. A President visiting a city is moving so the pilot isn’t going to know where the decision factor is for getting shot down in a no-fly zone.

If lightplanes the statistics favor Stearman and T-6.

If it was airliners years ago when you were a kid, then DC-7 or DC-3, or maybe a Connie.

I’ve piloted a Stearman a bunch, and ridden Connies a few times as a preschool-aged kid. I have a vague recollection of riding once or twice in a

that belonged to one of Dad’s pals. I would have been between 5 and 10 years old.

No, but I wish I’d gotten to fly in some of those. I think I’ve only seen a Constellation once.

The Stearman and the T-6 might be the most common historically, but there are other radials that were more common in recent decades. I think both my radial flights were in the 1980s.

They were selling Concorde rides at Oshkosh for $400 and I put it off because I wanted to buy a new headset. Really regret that. The year the Apollo astronauts were there at the Theater in the Woods a Concorde landed during the program. They just stopped the program and told everybody to turn around and watch the landing knowing that’s what all the pilots were going to do anyway.

One of the few planes at Oshkosh that pilots would stop what they were doing and look up was a Constellation. It was such a beautiful plane in the red over white trim and the sound of the engines was such a nostalgic trip back. I saw it when the Save a Connie organization was flying it. I hope the National Airline History Museum gets it back in the air.

I’ve seen Concordes over the years; saw one fly when it was chartered to Seattle in the '80s, and I think I’ve seen 5 different ones at museums since they were retired. But a ride to just fly around in a circle would kinda miss the point. I’d have loved to fly it across an ocean so I could really appreciate the speed. London to New York would have been awesome, so we could catch up with the sunset.

I think the old TWA terminal at Kennedy Airport has been converted into a hotel with a retro airport theme, and I think they have a Constellation that’s been converted into a bar. That’s on my list of places to visit.

I was at an antique store last week and came across a tiny propeller. At first I thought it was for a child’s pedal airplane. When I looked at it closer I realized it had a true airfoil design and a machined hub. It was a real propeller but only 15" long. It was in rough shape but for $25 I couldn’t pass it up. Turns out it was a WW-I era propeller used to drive generators. I found an image of it on the internet.

It has a Liberty decal on it which is how Hartzell started but they had to give up the Liberty name because it was in conflict with Liberty engine.

That Spartan Executive really is classically gorgeous. According to the Wikipedia write-up, it was also designed as a high-end high-performance plane, even by today’s light-plane standards. It has a cruise/maximum speed of 215/257 mph, range of 1000 miles, ceiling of 24,000 ft, and retractable main gear. Pity that there are were only 17 still around as of 2018. Owners included Howard Hughes, J. Paul Getty (who also owned the company), and a former King of Iraq.

Serial #15, once flown by Howard Hughes, is currently for sale. For anyone who can find a spare $350K in their sofa cushions, it seems cheap for such an iconic plane.

The Spartan Executive was gorgeous, but the 40’s plane I am quite enamored with was the Globe Swift:

Roy LoPresti tried to make a new, higher performance version of the Swift called the SwiftFury. It was a gorgeous plane. We saw one at Sun N’ Fun in 1991, and my wife still wears her Swiftfury T-shirt.

Alas, it fell victim to the high cost of certification and the general downturn in the aviation market. Piper was going to certify and build the plane, but Piper went bankrupt and thr plane died with them.

But it had amazing numbera. 221 mph with an O-360, 1000 mile range, and it could carry two adults and 100 lbs of baggage.

Right you are. The Connie bar has been closed for COVID. I don’t know its current status.

We actually lay over at that hotel sometimes. I’m sure they were desperate for business during COVID, and my employer got a hell of
a rate. I expect we’ll be evicted as soon as they get a decent volume of real customers back.

I personally haven’t had the pleasure but I’ve flown with several avgeeks who have and I’ve seen a buttload of their pictures. The degree to which they recreated the 1960s with no jarring modern stuff is truly amazing.

If you’re somebody who lived in the '60s, much less someone who traveled in the '60s, this is a must-see, and ideally must-stay experience.

See here for all the Straight Dope.

I’ve never stayed in the TWA Hotel, but the last time I flew into JFK I walked over there just to check out the lobby. Come to think of it that was the last place I flew to before COVID shut everything down. Since it was early morning (I’d flown there on a redeye) the Connie bar wasn’t open, but I walked around it and took a couple of pictures, then went and got coffee from the coffee shop in the lobby.

The detail I found most impressive was the bank of rotary pay phones in the lobby. In hindsight I wish I’d attempted to make a call from one, because I’m honestly not sure if they’re actual working pay phones, or just decorative.

I was flying somewhere a few years ago, and I deliberately booked on Jet Blue with a connection at Kennedy because I knew they had taken over the old TWA terminal and went to the extra effort and expense to keep the old building. Unfortunately, all the retro parts were outside of security, and I didn’t want to run the risk of not being able to get back through the checkpoint to catch my flight. But I will get there, someday. Would want to see the Pan Am Worldport while I’m there, if there’s anything left of it.

And since no one has guessed it, the two radial-engined planes I’ve flown in were a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and a Travel Air biplane (I think a D4D).

Cool pair of airplanes. Well out of the ordinary to the degree “ordinary” can apply to any radial-engined aircraft.

And thank you for reminding me. I rode on a Beaver floatplane twice in one day during an Alaska cruise. Out of Juneau I believe it was to and from a day-camp for a short hike. With a side trip to overfly a couple of glacier terminuses.

You might be amazed to learn about this project: the electric Beaver. From trailing edge engine tech to bleeding edge engine tech in one big jump.

I did a college internship at a company that builds floats, and also does modifications to old Beavers. My flight was in one that was on its way to the shop to get restored and modified. It still had a military seat in it, which was basically a metal bucket since the pilots would be wearing a harness with two parachutes. I had a folded bedspread to sit on. Not the most comfortable flight, but I appreciate the history of it.

You know what they say about radial engines; before you fly, fill it up with oil and check the gas.

Now that’s a cool experience. Any good stories you can share?

No really good stories, but I did learn a lot. I remember one project they were working on while I was there was a right-side door for the front seat of a Cessna 206. Ordinarily, the front row only has a door on the left. If you’re alone and you’re approaching a dock, you shut off the engine before you get there, and let your momentum carry you. Then you climb down onto the float so you can catch the plane before it hits the dock. But when a plane is on floats it wants to point into the wind, and you can’t always choose which way you approach a dock. Sometimes you have to dock on the plane’s right side. So the pilot sometimes needs a right-side door so he can climb out in a hurry. There are just so many odd things like that about flying; there’s no substitute for experience.

They also had a 172 I could use for free, and my dad was a CFI, so I saved a lot of money on my private license.

Yaay! I was similar in that. Excellent luck.

Returning to @Whack-a-Mole’s topic of “forced down”, there’s this recent outrage:

My dad let me use his 172 for cost (fuel, oil, insurance, maintenance, etc.) in the mid-'80s. $55/hour. Dad was a CFI, but he wouldn’t teach family. I don’t remember how much the instructor cost. $15/hour? $20/hour?

In other news…