Monday, October 29, 2012

The Fly By and Tie Down Before the Storm

Everyone else along the north east corridor of the United States might have been spooling up their engines into full panic mode over the weekend, but not me. Perhaps it was the Benadryl I'd been tossing back by the fist full in an attempt to keep the storm brewing inside my respiratory system at bay, but I had an invitation from my friend David Paqua to go flying on Saturday and no storm predicted for Monday was going to stop me two days prior.

David fuels up the Acro Sport.
David and his friend, acrobatic pilot Rob Marsicano had plans to do a formation takeoff from Danbury Municipal Airport. Rob in his Pitts S2B and David in the Acro Sport he spent five years building on the top floor of Franklin Glass, his shop in Stamford, Connecticut. 

After that stunt David and I were going to do my favorite kind of flying, leaf peeping from above. This is New England after all, and I'm gaga about autumn. But just as our adorable red and black planes got the clearance to position ourselves for takeoff, Rob noticed he had a flat tire. We waved farewell, thought "better you than us" and took off without him.

David and Rob await clearance to take off.

There are really no words to describe what can be seen while buzzing low above northwestern Connecticut's hills when they are covered with deciduous trees in their final blaze of the year. Against the brown of the already dead leaves and the lemon drop yellow of those just about to expire, the fully clothed evergreens were even more dramatic, the farmers' fields an even brighter green.

View from David's Acro Sport 

View over northwest Connecticut

With ceilings about 2800 feet we kept low and were equally dazzled when we looked up at what was probably the very outer fringes of Hurricane Sandy still more than 48 hours in our future.

But we could not pretend the storm would never come and neither could the other airplane owners at Danbury. On touch down we saw that while we flew, many planes had been shoved into hangars and those still outdoors had been tied down.  All except the Albatross.

Beautiful classic plane (and the classic car -mine - is not bad either.)

You read that right. As we sat in the hangar, chomping on sugar cookies (I had to contribute something!) and making fun of Rob for spending the day repairing his tire rather than flying, David's friend Les, an airline captain and aviation writer, drove by, the cab of his pickup truck packed with fellow pilots on their way across the airfield to help tie down the little airport's newest and most glamorous arrival, a Grumman HU-16A flying boat.

"What", you may ask "is that doing at a general aviation airport in New England?" And while the question is best directed to its owner, retired airline captain and author Tom Casey, I'll give the brief details.

Tom Casey in the cabin of his Albatross
Casey bought the airplane 17 years ago from the military bone yard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Three years ago he started in earnest to get the 1940's era search and rescue aircraft into a flyable condition, a labor of love and certainly patience that came to its conclusion in July when Casey, Silvia Erskine and John Gasho Sr. took their seats in the capacious cockpit and flew the plane from Tuscon, Arizona to the Nutmeg State.

The flight was not without its adventures, which you can read about on Casey's own website by clicking here.

The cockpit of the Albatross

With countless miles of land and sea having passed beneath its majestic belly it doesn't seem quite fair that this latest edition of flying history should be persecuted by elements just few months after taking to the skies again.

Seating area in the Albatross. Entry to the cockpit is in the background.

Tom on the wing, Dave and Les below
Well Tom has friends, including Silvia, who told all of us that when she went to the hardware store to buy tie down cables she shocked the sales clerk, who was trying to gauge just how heavy-duty the belts ought to be. "What are you trying to secure," she said he asked her. When she replied "an airplane," he said, "That is not what I was expecting."

Wings belted to the ground, tail cushioned by a pile of tires, nose gear secured to cement blocks, the Albatross like the rest of the region, awaits an ambiguous future. And for me, at least, without regrets. We had a perfect day; convivial below and magnificent above.

Securing the nose, the last task done.

My friend David Paqua takes me flying in the fall.

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