|Stearman Bar & Grill Flight
December 30, 2011
|The best time to go flying in Kansas is anytime you can. For several days the weather had
become less wintry and more like the January thaw, but it was still Christmas Holiday time in
December! With daily temperatures reaching the lower fifties and light winds Wednesday, the
prediction for Friday was sixty degrees, sunshine and winds less than ten miles per hour. This
flying opportunity was too great to pass up!
Following my group e-mail on Wednesday announcing a lunch gathering at the Stearman Bar &
Grill in Benton, Kansas for Friday, responses began coming in. Some excitedly stating that they
would attend and others bemoaning that they were not retired, a coach, or a teacher on break,
and their work commitments would prevent them from participating in this week-day gathering.
Friday dawned bright and cherry with the promise of the weather prediction coming true. This
might just be the last day of the year to make a flight and join other pilots for lunch. Arriving at
Selby Aerodrome at 11:15, I began the preparations for the thirty-minute flight to join other pilots
for lunch in Benton. Fuel tanks topped off, pre-flight completed, I rolled my AirBike out of the dark
hangar and into the bright sunshine. Simultaneously, other pilots across the area were
undoubtedly doing the same.
After four pulls on the Rotax's “Armstrong Starter”, the engine sprang to life in its typical loping
fashion before picking up RPMs and running smoothly. A five mile per hour southwest crosswind
dictated taking off on runway 35. Following a visual check for aircraft, and a radio call announcing
my intentions, I taxied onto the runway's end and aligned myself for takeoff. After one more radio
call, I pushed the throttle forward. Soon I was rolling, the tail lifted and quickly the plane separated
from its shadow---I was airborne!
Turning east and climbing away from Selby Aerodrome I soon crossed the Arkansas River, the
GPS showed seventy-five miles per hour instead of my normal sixty miles per hour cruise speed.
There definitely was more wind at eight hundred feet than on the ground. It was choppy too. My
three hundred and fifty pound leaf-like AirBike feels all those bumps. A G-meter would have
indicated how hard they were hitting and a roll gauge would have likely shown thirty degrees of
bank. With one hand, I hung onto the control stick and with the other, a structural member.
Although secured in the cockpit with a four-point harness, It doesn't take much jostling to un-nerve
me, especially when there are no doors on the plane's sides. It is like sitting on a bar stool 1000
feet in the air.
Snaking my way across the countryside, I avoided flying over golf courses, subdivisions and
towers, some which were taller than I was flying. Soon I came into radio range of Stearman
Airport (1K1). At five miles out, I made a radio call announcing my approach. The only other
airplane was a student staying in the pattern. He kept calling out his position on each of the
|Joe Freed's gleaming Cessna 140
|Aeronca Champ recently
purchased by Terry and Lawrence
|Sequencing myself and entering the pattern on a left downwind, I descended for a landing on runway
35. Side-slipping off the concrete runway's center line, I moved over for a landing on the parallel
grass strip. Wind rotor turbulence from the adjacent tree windbreak made the touchdown a little
dicey but nothing I couldn't handle.
Touchdown on the main wheels was smooth with the tailwheel making contact during the rollout.
Crossing the concrete runway and taxing onto the apron, I passed Joe Freed's Cessna 140
glimmering in the sun. You need a pair of Ray-Bans to view it; the glare off the polished aluminum is
intense. Larry and Bea Hart met me as I began to tie down my plane, now parked in front of the
Stearman Bar & Grill.
|Larry Hastings Kitfox Lite
recently purchased from Terry Alley
|Ron Black's Ercoupe
|Going inside, we met Joe and soon others began to stream in. Steve Waltner, who lives on the
airport, walked over to join us. Terry and Lawrence Alley landed in their recently purchased
Aeronca, Mike and Beth Rodriguez drove, as did Jerry Sibley and friend Lynn. Soon Mike
Frazier arrived in his Aeronca followed by Larry Hastings in the Kitfox Lite and Ron Black in his
Ercoupe. An L-19 pilot tied his plane down and came inside.