Pilot Journal
Thursday, March 1, 2007

Logbook Love Affair


Confessions of a type hunter


logbook love affairYou don’t have to have lived very long to realize that some moments stay with you forever. A few airplanes are like that: As with a first kiss, you replay those flights over and over in the theater of your mind. For instance, it seems as if only 15 minutes—not several decades—have elapsed since my first takeoff in a Grumman F8F Bearcat. I was researching a school article on warbird pilots—the Bearcat wasn’t on the list to be flown. The Vought Corsair that was on the list, however, blew a hydraulic line, so the owner, Jr. Burchinal, proprietor of the wildest flying school in history said, “Come on, fly the Bearcat.”
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logbook love affairYou don’t have to have lived very long to realize that some moments stay with you forever. A few airplanes are like that: As with a first kiss, you replay those flights over and over in the theater of your mind. For instance, it seems as if only 15 minutes—not several decades—have elapsed since my first takeoff in a Grumman F8F Bearcat. I was researching a school article on warbird pilots—the Bearcat wasn’t on the list to be flown. The Vought Corsair that was on the list, however, blew a hydraulic line, so the owner, Jr. Burchinal, proprietor of the wildest flying school in history said, “Come on, fly the Bearcat.”

In reality, I wasn’t qualified to fly any of those airplanes, much less the Bearcat. I’d worked up a sweat training for 10 hours in the back of a North American T-6 Texan and had about 1,500 hours of total time, half of it as an instructor in taildraggers, but could I fly a 2,100 hp rocketship like the Bearcat? Absolutely not! I was a rag-tag Citabria instructor, not a warbird pilot.

By that time, I’d already soloed the North American P-51 Mustang and gotten type rated in the North American B-25 and Lockheed P-38 Lightning (more on that later). Because I’d spent so much time sitting in the airplanes and studying their flight manuals, I’d become part of them before even flying them. But the Bearcat? I hadn’t even seen the flight manual and had definitely never sat in one. After a failed attempt at digging my heels in resistance, the owner had me strapped in and the engine was running.

After reviewing the important numbers in preparation for flying, the owner offered three pieces of not-to-be-forgotten information:

1) Remember to lock the tailwheel—that’s where the name “Bearcat” comes from.

2) Make sure the direction you’re pointed when you drop the hammer is the direction you want to go because you won’t change direction once the power is up.

3) Don’t attempt to raise the gear on takeoff. Because you’ll accelerate right through gear speed on takeoff, wait until you’ve climbed to altitude.




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