The Stinson! (And the Stinson adventure!)
Above is a picture of another classic tailwheel, Joe’s 1947 Stinson. It is the perfect plane for him- it has 150 horsepower, is big enough for him, his wife, his dog, and a some camping gear. Joe completed his tailwheel endorsement in our Cessna 140. Because he was a relatively new tailwheel pilot and didn’t have any Stinson time he asked us to help him ferry his new airplane home from Missouri. This would be at least an eight hour flight. Figuring in extra time for fuel stops and possible weather delays we allowed two days to get home.
Several things made this trip special. First, it’s always great to see someone bringing home their own airplane. Second, it’s just pure fun to go flying tailwheel. But probably the best thing about this trip was the total lack of anything modern in the Stinson! It has the basic flight instruments- airspeed, altimeter, and compass. That’s it. It did have a communication/navigation radio, which was inoperative.(these radios are found in nearly all airplanes today, but are not required.) So we flew the airplane home the old fashioned way, using just a map and compass. It’s fun to fly this way because so many airplanes now have GPS and other navigation equipment.
Before long, Joe had become a master with the map, compass, and flight computer, or “whiz wheel.” The whiz wheel is a mechanical calculator (no batteries!) that is used to solve for many navigation problems, including: determining ground speed, time to destination, wind correction angles, fuel requirements, and so on. So as we flew along Joe kept checking the map, whizwheel, and compass. Periodically he would estimate out time of arrival at the next airport:: “Harvard, we’ll be there at 4:52.” Sure enough, at 4:52 we’d be overflying the small town of Harvard Nebraska, as verified by the name on the water tower. And because Harvard had a beautiful grass strip, and we weren’t in any hurry, Joe did a touch-and-go.
Because we were flying through Nebraska, we had to stop at Carhenge in Alliance. This is a powerful place! It’s just a few miles from the airport and they have a courtesy car available. After Carhenge we got some burritos, fueled the airplane, and took off westward. The quote for the trip home became “put the compass on ‘W’ for Wyoming!”
Joe lives in Cody. When we arrived in Cody, the winds were about 15 to 20 knots and directly across the runway. We made a low approach and decided that the winds were manageable, but were gusty and would be difficult. We also realized that this was the end of a long trip, we were both tired, and we had to ask, were we pushing too hard to get home? We knew there was Powell just a few minutes away, with runways lined up into the gusty northwest winds…so we diverted to Powell. No point in pushing the weather! In all flying, it’s important to keep your options open, and this is especially true in tailwheel.