Flying in a Stearman
The Stearman slipped smoothly through the air, the wind singing in the struts, the sun shining on the lake, its gentle waves winking flashes of sunlight at us.
All too soon, Kevin pointed the airplane toward the airport and the Stearman cruised along on its way home.
When Kevin called the tower for landing instructions, the tower operator cleared us for a straight-in approach, but asked us to expedite. Expediting in this case meant cranking up the airspeed to 110 mph. The Stearman seemed happy to have been given its head. The engine bellowed a little more, the wind in the struts sang a little louder, and I could imagine myself as an intrepid pilot, setting up for a strafing run on a critical bridge held by the Axis powers.
Kevin told me that he was going to slip the Stearman on short final. He held the airspeed all the way to the very edge of the approach end of the runway. We were still at 1500 feet and the tower operator thought perhaps he had misunderstood our intentions. "Uh, Stearman 207, you are landing, aren't you?"
At that point, Kevin kicked the Stearman into a slip and the airplane sunk like a yo-yo doing an "over-the-waterfall." Kevin held the slip until we were about 50 feet over the runway, kicked opposite pedal to straighten out the nose, and made a perfect three-point landing. Nice job.
We rolled out in about the same distance we used to get airborne and Kevin arranged the landing so that at the end of the short rollout, we were right at a convenient turnoff to the taxiway.
Before we switched to the ground controller, the tower operator asked Kevin how his passenger liked the ride. I signaled two thumbs up and Kevin relayed my approval and added that his passenger was a Vietnam helicopter pilot.
The tower operator commented that, in that case, the experience "must have been old hat." No, actually, it was a new hat experience. Flying in a vintage airplane like this one is something you can't exactly equate with anything else.
page 11 of 12 pages