Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: Reno-Stead

Stopping by for Fuel

The weather finally broke for a couple of days just before I left for work so I headed out to the airport to see how the hangar and airplane had weathered the recent storms. As I drove into the airport I saw a dark colored tailwheel airplane entering the pattern in a manner not usually used by the local pilots. Cessna O-1 Bird Dog Refueling at Reno-Stead

As I got to my hangar I saw a Cessna O-1 taxi by on the way to the fuel island. So, I plugged in my engine heater, closed up the hangar and headed off to meet our visitor.  The pilot’s name is Carl and he is from near Fort Bragg, CA. He flies from his own 1300’ grass strip on his property.  He had come to Stead today to drop off a computer for his daughter and to pick up his grand-daughter to fly her back to Ft. Bragg for a visit. He said his grand-daughter loves to fly. I imagine the view from the back seat with all that glass around her is really spectacular. After all, the “O” in O-1 stands for Observation. It’s what the plane was designed to do.

Cessna O-1 Birddog The Cessna O-1 Bird Dog started out as the Cessna 305A, a derivative of the venerable Cessna model 170. The model was submitted to the Army by Cessna in 1950 in response to a request for a new liaison aircraft made of metal rather than the tube and fabric models that had been used in WW II. The Army liked the model and ordered over 400 of them, giving the new aircraft the L-19 designation. The Department of Defense ended up buying almost 3200 of the aircraft and passed them out to virtually all of the military services. In 1962 the Army re-designated the model as the O-1. The Bird Dog name reputedly came about as the result of a naming contest among Cessna employees.

In addition to being used in Korea, the O-1 saw extensive use in Viet Nam. It was used both as a liaison aircraft and, more importantly, as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft. FACs directed air strikes on enemy troop positions by marking target locations with white phosphorus (“willy pete”) rockets carried on the underside of the wings. Cessna O-1 Bird Dog at Reno-Stead As the Viet Nam conflict progressed more and more of the Bird Dogs were turned over to the Vietnamese Air Force to be flown in support of their own forces.  In 1975 one South Vietnamese major reportedly loaded his family (wife and five children) into the pack of his O-1 took off and evaded ground fire long enough to fly past the South Vietnam coastline eventually coming upon a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.  The O-1 circled the carrier and dropped a written message requesting the deck be cleared so that he could land.  Several UH-1 helicopters were pushed into the water and the plane landed safely.

Carl said that he intended to enter the competition for restored aircraft that is held during the Reno Air Races each year. If you plan to attend the races you may see this plane on display in the competition area near where these photos were taken.

An Interesting Day at the Airport

It was one of those really nice Fall days in Reno, partly cloudy skies, light winds and temperatures in the low 70s (F).  One of those days when you just have to go out to the airport and go flying. So, I drove out to Stead (4SD), ran through a preflight inspection, pulled the Swift out of the hangar and fired it up. I hadn’t had much to eat before I drove out to the airport, so I decided to fly over to Quincy, CA (2O1) for breakfast. It’s a nice leisurely half-hour flight to the west of Stead, down a wooded valley. The runway (06-24) is pretty much a one-way runway, though it’s not designated as such. Unless the winds are strong from the east everyone lands on 24 and takes off on 06. There are hills or mountains on both sides of the airport’s valley and there is another solitary hill just off the east end of the runway a bit south of the centerline. There was only one other airplane in the area, a training flight from the Quincy flight school, When I made my radio call entering the airport area they responded with their position and said they would remain clear of the area until I had landed. (I didn’t think my flying reputation had made it that far!) I could see them circling to the NW of the airport.  I made a reasonable landing, found a parking spot, chocked and closed up the plane and headed for town. It’s a nice 10-minute walk to the Morning Thunder Cafe in town where they have an outstanding selection of breakfast options. I highly recommend the experience.

The flight back to Stead was smooth and uneventful, continuing my impression of the day. I entered the pattern at Stead, landed on runway 26 and turned off at the mid-field exit, aiming at the center of the Air Race’s set of permanent grandstands. And there half way between my taxiway and the grandstands sat a V-22 Osprey. I had never seen one in person, so when I had safely put the Swift back in my hangar, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the ramp. By that time I could hear the Osprey starting up. V-22 Osprey about to taxi at Reno Stead.There was a crew member on a headset with a long cord standing outside the plane, probably responding to checks being done by the flight crew as part of the predeparture process. Eventually the crew member got on board and pulled up the stairs. Then the power came up a little and the engines tilted a bit forward and the Osprey made it’s way to the runway. No, they didn’t bother to go to the far end. They used a taxiway about 1500′ before the end and were airborne way before midfield. I guess that’s the whole point, huh? For a while we lost sight of the Osprey in the cloud of dust they were raising on the taxiway perpendicular to the runway. The wing span plus prop diameter was easily wider than the width of the taxiway. I was really surprised at just how large a plane it is. I guess the videos I had seen of the Osprey didn’t really do it justice.

Apparently they had stopped at Stead because of some minor maintenance problem and were able to fix it themselves. V-22 Osprey on takeoff at Reno-Stead.V-22 Osprey in taxi mode at Reno-Stead.They flew straight out from runway 26 and by about 3 miles from the runway were in full “airplane mode.”  The flew around the area for a while, then made a low and slow pass down the runway with the gear down and the engines tilted up followed by another departure. They were gone long enough for me to get back to my hangar, then I heard them approaching the airport again. I got outside with enough time to see them make a pass down the runway west-to-east in airplane mode.  Impressive.

That excitement over, I went back into my hangar and started in on a little preventative maintenance on the Swift. I was making a little progress on my to-do list when I heard a loud jet roar outside. OK, now what? I grabbed my camera and headed for the ramp area near my hangar row. Turns out all the noise was being generated by our resident Mig-21 in the pattern for a little practice. Just what you want to hear entering on a 45 to downwind behind you, huh? I watched for a while and then tried a photo as it made it’s full stop landing and popped the drag chute. Unfortunately I was on the opposite side of the airport and a 10X zoom didn’t really meet the challenge. A little while later I got in my truck and drove down to the other end of the ramp and got a photo of the flight/maintenance crew around the plane.Mig-21 post flight at Reno-Stead. Mig-21 on landing roll at Reno-Stead. I watched them out practicing one day earlier in the year when they must have made 4 flights, spending almost the entire time in the pattern. Probably an individual getting his competency letter for the plane, though I’m not sure how many of them are flying around the U.S. I do know that there’s no way I would have wanted to pay for the gas for that day. And that was before the big price spike!

With the show over, I headed back to work in the hangar. But that didn’t last long, as another distinctive sound pulled me to the ramp once again. I live in the southern part of Reno, west of the departure path for the commercial airport, but close enough to hear and watch the planes as they climb out toward their destinations. There is a company in town, IGT (International Game Technology), that runs a corporate shuttle between Reno and Las Vegas. They have two Piaggio Avanti aircraft that make the run fairly frequently. The Avanti is a twin pusher turboprop with a canard configuration. It has a very distinctive whine to it when you hear it fly. That was the whine that I heard from my hangar. Since I had never seen one of the IGT planes at Stead, I was curious to see what brought them over from the commercial airport. That’s why I got into my truck and drove to the other end of the ramp. The Avanti had landed and disappeared from view somewhere near the fuel island. Piaggio Avanti on the ramp at Reno-Stead. It turns out that it wasn’t an IGT plane after all. The FAA records show that it’s registered to Rainbow Sandals Retail in Las Vegas. I caught this picture of the pilot filling out paperwork while he sat on the airstair. Obviously fun times. The Avanti remained overnight and left at about noon the next day for parts unknown.


So that was my interesting day at the airport. Beautiful weather, a nice flight to a great breakfast, a little work in the hangar and a view of a wide range of unusual airplanes. Could an aviation nut ask for more?

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