Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Oh Manfred Where Art Thou?

Byrdman with the WACO- ZPF-7 I got the chance to do something today - my 44th birthday - that I have wanted to do for literally 40 years - I got to ride in an open cockpit biplane.

And not just any biplane.

A radial-engine 1942 WACO ZPF-7! Okay so I didn't know what kind of plane it was before today, but it was GREAT! It was a perfect day to fly and a perfect present(from my lovely wife) for an somewhat middle-aged guy who has always been fascinated by flight.

This particular bird is owned by John Corradi, who I found out used to fly a P-3 Orion when he was a Naval Aviator.He also flew with United Airlines for 30 years, flying the B-727 and the 777 before retiring in September 2002. Thas right y'all he was working for United on 9-11. But a more pleasant host and wonderful captain I have not met. (Of course this was the first time, but some jet jocks can be a little arrogant; not John. He was great).

We had a perfect day to fly and I got to wear the Snoopy helmet.Where's that Red Baron!?It was really something. We were cruising at about 650-700 feet on a perfectly clear day. The temperature on the ground was about 65 degrees, but I was wearing a heavy shirt and leather jacket to fly. And yes I got the silk scarf to go with it. I mean if you're going to do something like this, why not? Besides, the Red Baron and I share the same birthday!

But it was absolutely the smoothest roller coaster I have ever been on. We didn't go acrobatic - although you can if you pay a little more and go through the mandatory parachute fitting and briefing. Frankly, the way you are situated in the aircraft, it isn't going to do you much good, particularly in a tumble or a spin. You're probably not going to have time to get out of the aircraft, but the FAA requires the chute and the briefing anyway.

But this was a fantastic ride for flight nuts. The first thing we did was go over a home a few miles from the airport where John's mother is staying and fly low and wave. I was a blast and all I could say was YEEEEHAAHHH!

Then we went over John's farm just to check on the cows. They seemed not to notice as we swooped down near the tree line over his landing strip - in the back yard of course.

John took me over to the Flying Circus Airfield - which opens its season this weekend by the way. They are in the process of putting the roof on a pavillion (so folks can get out of the sun a little). It also has a grass landing strip and of course we had to buzz it from both directions. (Did I mention the YEEEEHAAH factor?)Hey Mom from a hard right yeeehah
Then we went over Luck Stone quarry near Culpepper. Apparently the office manager there is something to behold - and John wanted to buzz by and say hello. Down from 650 feet to about 200 and a little gun of the engine. Jet jocks. But again, it was YEEEHAAAH!

All too fast it was time to set down. John put this bird down as smooth as a feather landing on cotton. I kept waiting to hear the wheels chirp, but nothing. I just heard the engine gear down a little and we started to roll slowly toward the hangar.

If you want to feel what it feels like to be an eagle - as close to freedom from the workaday BS as you can get, call this guy. We get one spin on this ball. No repeats, no bet on black instead of red this time. Riding with this guy is one thing you could tell the great grandkids about. They have their own webpage. The title of this post links you to it. YEEE HAAAAHH!!!All Smiles post flight

Gearhead stuff:

The plan is a WACO ZPF-7.
(pronounced WAH-ko; WAY-ko is a town in Texas)
Manufacture: 1942.
Engine: Jacobs R-755 radial engine made in Guthrie Oklahoma.
Prop: a Hamilton Standard 2B20.
Aircraft Gross weight: is 2,880 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 50 gallons (burns about 16 gallons per hour).
Oil: four gallons of oil (which leaks - of course, all radials do. John said that if your radial engine is not leaking oil, you need to set down because YOU'RE OUT).
Yee Hah factor: Absolutely phenomenal.

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