I'm no stranger to the sky, lord knows. But sometimes I find myself disconnected to the process of flying, to being high in the air, soaring above the earth. Taking commuter jets feels like boarding buses with wings a lot of the time, and I forget the miracle of being airborne. Last weekend, I reconnected to the majesty of flight in the most visceral of ways: scoring a round trip ride in the Boeing Stearman, a big yellow bi-plane. There is NOTHING like flying in the open air, wind blowing your face, big beefy engine spiraling ahead, feeling the rumble of history in your body. If you ever get the chance, don't pass it up!
|Getting ready to ride with my oh-so-sexy leather helmet. I swapped shades for the goggles this time.
|1943 Boeing Stearman N2S-5, one of my very favorite planes
|RV-8A. Self portrait with Sparky (aka Stan) who is flying the RV-8A
|The pilot in command flies from the rear seat but the passenger can still maneuver the stick and rudders.
We (okay, Mr. T) flew the Stearman to a local gathering, Rag Wing Day at Rancho Murieta Airport nearby Sacramento. Rag wing refers to airplanes made with cloth (like the Stearman). T's flying group shuttled over several planes that fit the bill including the 1940 Culver Cadet and the Rans. (The Westfall, a one-of-a-kind stagger wing had an oil issue and didn't make it.)
|A gorgeous Sacramento Saturday
At Rancho, we visited with locals, dined on buckwheat pancakes, listened to a P-51 engine winding up (really, just the engine hitched to the back of a truck), and enjoyed a spectacular Saturday.
|The Rancho Murieta field.
And if I thought the day wasn't gorgeous enough, we flew formation (in RVs) over to Eagle's Nest, a private airport in Ione where the Sanders family is harboring not one, not two, not three, but four Sea Furies and other fabulous planes.
|Scooter's RV-8 in which I hopped a ride during the formation flights. Immaculate airplane with a gorgeous hand-done paint job.
After arriving at Eagle's Nest, we toured the Sanders family hangars and I geeked out with my Nikon. Below are a few (or 470) photos for you. In all, a fantastic day!
|We flew a 4-ship formation from Rancho Murieta to Eagle's Nest. I rode with Scooter in the number 3 slot while Mr. T flew lead. The RV8 is as comfortable as it is beautiful, surprisingly.
|The Sanders family hangar at Eagle's Nest private field. Sea Furies Argonaut (left) and Dreadnought (right) are RENO RACERS! (I may or may not have squealed to see them so close.)
|Dreadnought's engine "made metal" aka self-destructed at the Reno Races last year. Boo!
|A Messerschmitt ME-262 foregrounds a stock Sea Fury restoration (back left) and the rebuild of Sea Fury Furias (they did not consult me on spelling, by the way.)
|One of the Sanders brothers gave a tour and introduced the aircraft while I poked around and T talked to Dennis Sanders.
|An incredibly rare (according to T) original Sea Fury engine, a Bristol Centaurus. (For the record, Mr. T supplies these airplane stats straight out of his brain.)
|Back end of the Messerschmitt in the immaculate hangar.
|To-do list for Furias. While we visited, mechanics kept busy wrenching on the rebuild.
|Poking around the shop. So many cool parts and pieces everywhere.
|And the tools! No idea what these are actually for, but they look like hole-drilling bits or jewelry making supplies. (I'm guessing not so much jewelry making in the shop though!)
|I think the mechanics found me strange for photographing their tools. My fascination began in college when I worked in a key shop above the carpentry shop in Plant Services. Ohhhhh I wish I'd had the shutterbug sickness back then!
|Clecos. Used to hold aluminum together before riveting.
|Unidentified bits and pieces. T guesses parts of the superchargers.
|Get better and race soon Dreadnought!
|Engines just hanging out. T guesses R-3350s, Centauruses, R-4360s. (Several not pictured.)
|Jack Hovey's engine shop and stock P-51 Mustang.
|The shop was cavernous and filled to the BRIM with stuff.
|See what I mean?
|Jack's Bell 47 helicopter. I don't think I could hang with the clear canopy. Or the itty bittiness.
|Cam shafts with a rocker arm assembly on top. T supplies me with these names, in case you were wondering. I'm not that cool.
|Voodoo's Merlin engine parts. The green piece and the center piece are heads. The pink piece is a bank (basically, half the cylinders in the engine. One side of a V-12).
|Voodoo's engine block.
|Crankshafts taller than my waist.
|Jack answered lots of questions for the visitors.
|You can't have an airplane hangar without a tractor and a telescope, right?
|I wonder if they know everything they have on the shelves.
|Nestled in between airplane parts were artifacts of life outside the airport like pink pinatas and children's bicycles and scooters.
|Jack watches the visitors leave with Stan (right), our friend and one of T's flying partners.
|Can you imagine flying in this bubble? Not. A. Chance.
|B-23 Dragon, a pre-WWII bomber.
|Built in 1939. Only 38 ever built.
|Oil and rust.
|I may have a crush on this plane.
|Inside the B-23.
|Could I love my Tokina aspherical lens more? I don't think so.
|Glimmering in the afternoon sun.
|While the formation pilots debriefed, I worked on an engine & oak series.
|I told you I had a crush.
|Can't help myself.
|Back at Rancho Murieta after another formation hop. T telling Scooter about the Stearman.
|Scooter prepping for his first flight in the Stearman.
|Scooter's grin *might* have been brighter than the biplane itself. He's the pilot of the Descending Dove RV-8 above.
|T let Scooter fly the Stearman. I couldn't hear above the engine, but I'm guessing he squealed a little bit. Or whatever the manly, pilot version of squealing is.
|And they're off!
|Three of four RVs from the formation.
|Scooter wore his helmet camera.
|The model for our wedding invitation. Seriously. (More on our aviation wedding here)
|It's always a good day when I can get the prop to blur.
|In this taildragger with a monster engine, the pilot has no forward visibility and must "S-turn" or weave down the runway to see where to go.
|Happy, happy pilots.
|Couldn't get T to look up no matter how many self-portraits I snapped.
|He finally noticed the photographer up front.
|Sacramento Valley drying up already.
|Things you shouldn't touch in-flight.
|Lazy Saturday over Sacramento.
|Getting ready for landing.
|While super fun to fly, the low and slow Stearman is not economical at the pump.
|Nor is it very easy to fill up. You'll notice T ON TOP of the plane.
|Right before he gave me an av-gas bath. Ah hem.
Labels: airplanes, aviation, flying, Mr. T, Reno Air Races, things that kick ass