Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: Stead Airport Page 1 of 2

Reno – Day Four and Five

Day four was Saturday. More heat races and the Snowbirds show and  the super-loud F-18 demo. (Make sure that you bring earplugs when you attend the races.)  I got out of the hangar for a little while, but spent most of the time there talking with the people who stopped by.

After the racing had concluded on Saturday I helped out with a BBQ dinner that some of the RV builders on the airport have started hosting. Each year on Saturday night the Stead RV builders host a BBQ for anybody who has built or is building one of Van’s RV series of aircraft. Last night about 55 people showed up for the donations-only dinner. No, I have not built an RV of any kind. Since I brought one of the BBQ units, offered to cook and have a metal airplane they said they’d let me stick around and have dinner. Nice bunch of folks from all over the U.S. and Canada.

I was surprised at the amount of flying that was going the race schedule had been completed. A few planes went out on what appeared to be test flights but the majority of the flights had two people in the plane.  Right at sundown a four-ship formation came back and did an overhead pattern to landing – two F7f Tigercats and two P-38s. I was aimed the wrong direction to get a photo of the formation – sorry. I’m not sure if they managed an air-to-air photo shoot, but if they did the results will be in the magazines in a couple of months.

Flying Again!

I apologize for taking so long to get another article posted.  It’s been a crazy month or so between working on the Swift and my day job trips.Globe Swift on takeoff. photo: Don Thompson. I had a long period off between trips in August and , in spite of temperatures in the hangar over the 100 degree (F) mark, managed to get the Swift almost back to flying condition. The last item remaining on my to-do list was a transponder/encoder check that had expired while I was accomplishing my other projects. Unfortunately a couple of trips for my employer interrupted my progress. Work gets in the way of fun yet again.

My first trip consisted of a  flight to Shanghai for a 60+ hour layover and a flight back to the U.S., not a hard trip by any measure, but it still required about 3 days to recover from the time zone changes. That left me one day until the commute for my next trip, an 8-day journey with 4 Pacific crossings.  I had barely recovered from that when I had to go sit on call for 4 days.  I wasn’t used to fill in for a sick pilot during my on-call days, so I took the time to get back on something approaching the right time zone and to catch up on emails, manual revisions and general reading.

Back home again, the work on the Swift continued. A couple of days later I had scheduled and completed the transponder/encoder check. I only have a VFR check done, since I have no inclination to fly the Swift in IFR conditions. It just isn’t a very good IFR platform unless you install an autopilot with at least a wing-leveling function. The controls are well harmonized, but very responsive.

The next day I finally got back into the air.  It was a really nice feeling. The last time I had taken the Swift up for a flight was back in February. I took off, flew around the airport area for a little while to get my ‘air legs’ back and then headed for Quincy, CA (2O1), one of my favorite breakfast destinations. It was a beautiful day for flying, clear, cool and smooth. I had a nice breakfast while reading a few articles in the latest Sport Aviation then flew back to RTS taking the time to do a little sight-seeing on the way. I stayed in the traffic pattern for a little while and regained my tailwheel landing currency. I probably would have stayed up longer but the pattern was beginning to fill up with local pilots getting their fill of flying before the airport became unusable. RTS is the site of the National Championship Air Races each September. The airport is turned over to the Reno Air Race Association and for a period of approximately a week and a half is unusable to all except race and support aircraft.

Next week I will be flying to Jackson,Westover (O70) for the 25th West Coast Swift Fly-in.


I was doing my best last week to get my Swift radio installation progress a little farther along on the project timeline but every time I turned around there was another interruption.Hangar construction at Reno, Stead Airport My first challenge was this building that popped up on a direct line between my hangar and the bathroom.  I swear, you go out of town for a few weeks and all sorts of things change.  It looks like a really nice-sized hangar. It appears that it will even be outfitted with its own bathroom facilities. I would hope that the owner is going to put in a shower or something. If not,  I would have to think twice about the added expense when the building is only about 10 yards from the airport’s facilities. What they heck, it’s only money.

I worked in my hangar for most of the morning without too much to distract me. I stuck my head out a couple of times to watch a Skycrane helicopter transit the area. A while later a Chinook helicopter went by in a different direction.  Neither type is a stranger around the airport, but they’re still fun to watch.

On my way off the airport property to find lunch I noticed that a couple of planes had been pulled out of one of the larger hangars. They were painting the exterior of the building, so I though that might be the reason.Mig-21 on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport. We have seen the Mig-21 in this column before, but not this close.

After lunch I returned to my project in the hangar.  Not too long after I got started I received a call from my wife about an errand to run on my way home that night, not unusual, but right in the middle of the conversation the noise of a jet taking off made it impossible to talk on the phone even though my hangar is quite a distance from the runway and the hangar doors were closed. The Mig was going flying. Mig-21 touch and go at Reno, Stead Airport.We finished our conversation after the sound died away and I went back to working. About 45 minutes later the din returned, this time in the form of a low pass down the runway. No way was I fast enough to catch that on film, but I did manage to make it to the ramp for the subsequent touch-and-go and landing. It’s pretty neat to have that sort of thing going on at your airport. I’m sure that are a lot of neat aircraft at many of our airports, but you don’t often get the chance to see them our flying or to catch them on film (ok, SD card).

Soon the show was over and I was back to work. About an hour later I heard a round engine and it wasn’t a small one. Hmmm. Could it be one of the Unlimited Racers out testing a new engine. A Lancair Legacy racer had been out breaking in a new engine that morning, so it was possible. It sounded like the plane had landed so I once again grabbed my camera and walked out to the end of the hangar row. Nope that wasn’t a racer. Taxiing by at the edge of the ramp, headed for the fuel pit was a Fairchild C-123.

I had no choice but to go get into my truck and head down to the other end of the airport.Fairchild C-123K on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport. You see, I flew the C-123 for about a year in Southeast Asia. That was my first operational assignment in the USAF. I had graduated from pilot training in Texas and was then sent to what at that time was called Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, OH. The base was later renamed Rickenbacker AFB, then was subsequently closed and is now known as Rickenbacker International Airport (KLCK). At Lockbourne/Rickenbacker I was assigned to a retraining unit (RTU) and ‘upgraded’ to the right seat of the C-123.  I went from a supersonic trainer (T-38) to the 120-knot C-123K and traded in flying high-altitude TACAN penetrations to trying to figure out how to fly a fixed-card ADF approach. Yeah, culture shock. Ironically, those pods just outboard of the radial engines house G.E.  J-85 jet engines, the same engines installed in the T-38 (minus afterburner, of course). You can also see mounting points outboard of the jet pods that are used to attach fuel drop tanks.  The crew on this plane said that they had removed the drop tanks and shipped them to Alaska separately. They hadn’t made them operational and didn’t want the extra weight and drag associated with leaving them on the wing mounting points or carrying them in the cargo compartment. The jets located in those underwing pods make this a ‘K’ model C-123. Without the jets, it would be a ‘B’ model and if the jets were attached to the wingtips it would be a ‘J’ model. C-123K cargo compartment, on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport.The only  C-123J I have seen was parked on the ramp in Anchorage. It was  in really bad condition and was eventually purchased by a cargo outfit in southern Alaska, probably to be used as spare parts. The same company had also purchased another C-123 that used to be based at Stead. That particular aircraft had been used in the movie Con Air. It is now in Alaska, I believe being used to haul drilling equipment.

This aircraft had been picked up in Titusville, FL and was also enroute to Alaska. The crew of three had worked on the plane in Florida until it was safe to fly, then set out on their cross-country. The view view from the cargo loading ramp is looking forward toward the cockpit. The were carrying their airport transportation (golf cart) and had built a work bench in the cargo compartment while they were getting the plane ready for the trip.C-123K cockpit instrument panel, on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport. I took a nostalgic trip down memory lane and climbed up to the cockpit and sat in the left seat for a while. I remembered a little of what I saw, but not all of it. For one, I don’t remember there being a Garmin 496 on the overhead panel. How could  I have missed that? This aircraft didn’t have the armor plating around the cockpit seats, either. Nice to have then, probably a little too heavy to be carrying around now. The VHF radio was there, but the HF and FM radios were gone. I guess they won’t be needing to contact any artillery sites on their route to Alaska to see if they are firing in their direction.

If you look closely in the large version of the cockpit photo, at the bottom center you can see a couple of trim wheels, one right in the center of the console. Just above that trim wheel you can see two silver toggle switches, looking at the top ends of the switches. Farichild C-123K rudder pedal, on the ramp at Reno, Stead Airport.The toggle switches are spring-loaded to the center position and have a lever-action up or down. Those are the throttles for the jet engines. For landing we ran the jets at idle, just in case we might need them for a go-around. For takeoff, once lined up on the runway, we ran them up to full power by holding the toggle in the up position for about 6 seconds. With a fairly light load and with the jets at full power you could climb out at 2500 fpm. Pretty impressive for something that started out as a glider (XCG-20).

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