Click on most photos to enlarge them...
I guess my first awareness of aviation and airplanes was when I was about seven years old. Back then, the early 50’s, society was much more aware of aviation. A Saturday afternoon might be spent at the local airport watching large and small airplanes takeoff and land. Today, I think most young people think of airplanes as busses with wings and hanging out at a local airport will surely draw the local police or TSA wanting to know why you’re there. It sure is a different world.
I’ve designed, built, and flown model airplanes all my life so I guess it was a natural progression for me to want to learn how to fly. I became an “instrument rated” private pilot about 20 years ago and at first, I flew a “high performance” aircraft. I would travel for business at an altitude of 10,000’ and a speed of 175 mph. I could leave Long Island after breakfast and have lunch in Indianapolis. Life was good!
However, I think every pilot will tell you that they yearn to fly the way it was in the early days of aviation, “Low ‘n Slow,” hence, the name of this column. Rather than flying at 10,000’, we’re talking about flying at 1000’ or less and instead of 175 mph, we’re talking about, at times, flying at 50 mph or less. My purpose will be to bring you along on the trips I take, Low ‘n Slow, and show you parts of Long Island and the world that you can’t see any other way. Maybe, I’ll even get a few of you interested in aviation.
If you’ve read this far, you’d probably like to know a little about my airplane. Back in the early 1930’s, a little yellow airplane called the Piper Cub was designed and built in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania by the Piper Aircraft company. It’s a two seat airplane. The pilot sits in the front and the passenger sits in the back. If the pilot is flying by him or herself, they have to sit in the rear seat to properly balance the airplane. The Cub’s fuel tank holds about 12 gallons of gas and you can fly for a little over 2 hours before you have to land for gas. Your top speed is about 70 mph and if you are unlucky enough to have a 30 mph headwind, your ground speed is only 40 mph. Surprisingly, many of these original Cubs are still flying 70 years later.
My airplane is a modern “Cub.” Yes, it’s VERY yellow, but everything else is state of the art and brand new. I named my Cub “Smitty” after a very good friend, Bob Smith who passed away several years ago. Bob and I would sit for hours and hours talking airplanes and although he never got to see my Cub, I know he would have loved it.
Smitty is actually a Sport Cub built by a company called CubCrafters in Yakima Washington in 2007. I bought it brand new and flew it back from Oshkosh Wisconsin to Long Island that summer. I cruise at 100 mph and I can fly for between 3 and 4 hours before having to land for gas. However, with any Cub it’s usually about how slow you can fly rather than how fast. Smitty stops flying, or stalls, at about 32 mph which is extremely slow for any aircraft. I’m always reminded that with a Cub, you reach your destination when the wheels leave the ground!
Unlike many modern aircraft which have every bell and whistle imaginable, Smitty has fairly basic instrumentation. There’s an altimeter to tell me how high I am, an airspeed indicator to tell me how fast I’m going, transparent plastic tubes that show at a glance how much gas is left in each of the two gas tanks, oil temperature and pressure gauges, and a basic radio and transponder. The transponder makes it easier for Air Traffic Control, ATC, to know who and where I am.
The one truly high tech item is a state of the art GPS that shows me where I am and where my destination is to within a few feet. It also shows satellite weather on its screen as well as playing XM radio! Compared to the original Piper Cub, Smitty is actually pretty sophisticated.
Smitty has only two seats and you sit one behind the other just as you did in the original Cub. The difference being that when alone, I can fly from the front seat rather than the rear. I find this a better arrangement, but I guess it’s what you get used to.
Low 'n Slow Journeys
The Bayport Aerodrome
Nestled away in Bayport Long Island, is the Bayport Aerodrome. It’s the home for many antique and classic aircraft and we thought we’d take you for a short hop around the “patch” to see what it’s like to takeoff and land on a small grass strip. Enjoy!
Sentimental Journey, 2009
Rich Giannotti and I decided to fly to the annual Sentimental Journey Fly In in Lock Haven, PA this year. Did we get there? Well, watch the video to learn all about our trip.
Long Island's "East End"
The “East End” of Long Island is a wonderful area
for flying. From the air, it’s all green and blue.
It’s hard to believe we’re so close to New York
I’d like to take you along for a flight I took out to Montauk Point, past Gardiner’s Island, Sag Harbor, over to Shelter Island and Greenport and then back over Bellport, the dock, and Ho Hum Beach. Above are two nice shots of Bellport I took on the trip. Click on either to enlarge it. Then, click below to watch a video slideshow of my trip.
Malcolm Morley, the famous artist and aviation enthusiast, sent this poem along for your enjoyment...
by Malcolm Morley
Sitting on the deck
Faded edges of sound
Monoplane engine sound
Louder, louder, then fades away
I scanned the air of cobalt blue sky
The sun between the beginning and ending of that engine sound
Could not sight the aircraft as the sound faded away