Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Seventy-five years of the ultimate Flivver: celebrating the immortal J3
So many stories, anecdotes, books, movies, videos and photos honor and celebrate the J-3 in as much depth as any diehard fan could possibly desire. Strip all that mystique away, and what remains is the simple ease and pleasure of flying the airplane. If you haven't had the pleasure, it's no more complicated than this:
• Climb into that rear seat and strap on the lap belt
• Reach up left and overhead to switch on the magnetos
• Push hard on the heel brakes while someone hand-props the engine for you
• Rev-'er-up, check oil pressure and temp, then fishtail down the taxiway to the active
• Do the runup, check that the wire "fuel gauge" sticking out of the gas cap on the cowl shows plenty of fuel
• Push the left side-mounted, ball-knobbed throttle to the stops and hear the throaty rumble of the 65 horse Continental A-65
• Keep that twitchy tail from misbehavin' with a quick, lively tapdance on the rudder pedals. Ground loops? We don't need no steenking ground loops.
• Watch the airspeed needle smoothly arc toward 50 or so...that's mph, by the way
• Ease the stick back and take the skies at a ripping 400 feet per minute...or 300...or 250 maybe, depending on a whole lot of things, like density altitude, wind, your weight, your passenger's weight and how peppy that little motor is feeling today
• Depart the pattern at a rip-snortin' 70 mph or so
• And now for the most important part: lean forward to trim for cruise by cranking the big pitch wheel on the left side, then ease open the right-side clamshell window, hook it up to the underside of the wing, hang your elbow over the side of the bottom half door, and...well, just try not to smile
Easing along, seduced to that middle realm between the patchwork land below and infinite roiling blue above, you share the air in the exact same aircraft and feel the exact same seat-of-pants feedback as all those tens of thousands of aces, astronauts, fighter jocks, bomber pilots, air show aerobats, 30,000-hour airline and commercial pilots and backyard sport flyers who have gone before you.
You're a Cub pilot. You belong to the American sky.
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