Reader mail this week about Bobby Sturgell, NASA's secret safety survey, airline security hassles for air crews, and an FSS blind spot in the Northeastern U.S. (among other
Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.
AVweb's Rick Durden spent a glorious weekend among a gathering of radial-engined beauties.
Click here to read Rick Durden's column.
The Pilot's Lounge at the virtual airport was days and many miles away from the chair to which I was affixing myself with a seat belt and shoulder
harness. I had foolishly started my travels via a ground conveyance that had proven its utility by breaking down rather spectacularly in rural Missouri. I managed the intervening 200 or so miles to
this spot through a combination of less-than-optimal transport, fortunately making it in time to attend the International Cessna 190/195 Club's fly-in, which was convened to celebrate the 60th
anniversary of the first deliveries of that most-distinguished series of round-engined airplanes. The festivities were ending and I found myself incredibly lucky to be offered an airplane ride back to
the small town where my car had reportedly responded to the ministrations of skilled mechanics. Making the offer even more attractive, I was told to get into the left seat, sit down, shut up and fly.
I was doing my best to comply.
Going through the checklist to convince the Cessna 310R to make the appropriate noises and then rise off the ground from the where we sat on the pristine Stearman Field at Benton, Kansas -- just a
bounced landing northeast of Wichita -- I was jarringly aware of how it felt to be a distinct minority within a group. Of the 60 or 70 airplanes I could see, the one in which I was strapped was one of
only five or six with horizontally opposed engines. The rest, 63 or 64, depending on who was counting, were possessed of most exquisitely curved cowlings surrounding gracefully symmetrical, radial
engines. As I watched, some were coming to life with swings of long, glittering, Hamilton Standard props, puffs of oil smoke and the rumbling idle that, once felt deep in the gut, is never to be
To my right was my benefactor and old friend, Mike Pratt, ostensibly an airline pilot from Louisville but one who long ago lost his soul to all things aeronautical. Behind us was his family, for he
had brought them to the warm winds and plains of Kansas to introduce them to the almost regal world of Cessna 195s and people who own them. Mike had intended to make the trip in his own 195, but he
could not finalize the purchase of his intended in time. (I learned a week later that he had indeed become an owner.) Although he was attending the gathering in a noticeably faster airplane, I had the
distinct impression that he would much rather have arrived in a 195.
We climbed away into a sky that could not have been any better had it been special ordered. It was the fourth day of the nearly perfect weather that had graced the fly-in, the kind a Chamber of
Commerce claims, but rarely delivers. We stayed at 1,000 feet AGL to a point about 50 miles northeast, in the Flint Hills, the distinctly rolling, nearly treeless expanse of prairie grassland that
bisects the state from north to south. There we surprised Mike's wife by showing her scores of wild Mustangs running free in what we had been told was a huge private preserve. We slowed and lingered,
banking gently over a spectacle not seen in this country for perhaps a hundred years: Herds of horses everywhere we looked, each lead by a stallion, manes streaming as they sped through the deep
grass, moving from one lookout point on high ground to the next.
We stayed high enough to avoid spooking those magnificent animals and feasted our eyes on the scene for several minutes, then climbed away to the northeast and set the airplane for cruise.
Autopilot engaged, I found myself thinking that the wild Mustangs gathered in a special place were an apt metaphor for the four days I had just spent among a certain breed of airplanes and those
special folks who cherish them. Few people now living have ever seen herds of wild Mustangs; their appearance in that spot in Kansas was obviously the work of some very dedicated individuals. No one
had ever seen 64 Cessna 195s in one place, at one time, and that special gathering, too, came about because of the work of some very dedicated folks.
Organized From The Heart
Marvin and Stephanie Huckins organized what became the largest gathering of Cessna 190s and 195s in history. Throughout each day they seemed to be everywhere, so much so that I thought there must a
secret cloning lab somewhere nearby, as they made the event run flawlessly. Co-hosting were Cessna 195 owners Jack and Rose Pelton. Jack's day job is as president and CEO of the Cessna Aircraft
Company. It was truly refreshing to learn that he is extremely proud of the line of piston airplanes and jets that flow from Cessna's factories today. He is also so mindful of the rich heritage of the
company that he owns and flies the second-to-last 195 ever built, which had been previously owned by one Dwane Wallace (the very special genius who rescued Cessna from bankruptcy in 1933 and ran the
company through the mid 1970s). Jack has also caused displays relating Cessna's dramatic history to appear throughout the various company buildings.
The 195, and the slightly smaller-engined 190, debuted in 1947 as part of Cessna's contributions to the post-war aviation boom. As my friend and west-coast Cessna 195 guru, Jeff Pearson, describes it,
the 195 was the last of the old Cessnas and the first of the new. At the time it was the last high-wing Cessna to have a cantilevered wing, for Cessna never put a strut on a wing from its first
airplane in 1927 until it did so on the 120/140 series in 1946. (Cessna would return to its cantilever wing roots 20 years later with the 1967 model of the 210.) It was also the last to have a radial
engine; 275- or 300-horsepower R755 series Jacobs engines were offered in the 195 and a 240-hp Continental W670 in the Cessna 190. It was the first all-metal airplane Cessna ever built. Everything
before had been a steel-tube structure with wood formers and fabric skin.
Arriving at Benton's Stearman Field and walking away from the parking lot and around the comfortable office building, I suddenly had no idea what year it was. Stretching to the south was an unbroken
line of 190s and 195s. Across the runway, banished to the cheap seats, were parked the lesser members of society: a couple of Cessna 170s, Mike Pratt's 310 and some other airplanes with the third
landing gear wheel placed, oddly, under the nose. Getting nearer the 195s and their glistening paint made it clear that no time portal existed: No paint from the 1940s and '50s ever had the luster of
the polyurethane that adorned most of those assembled.
As I walked slowly down the line of airplanes, I found myself turning down offered rides in golf carts that were hurrying about, populated by volunteers busily attending to the dozens of matters
essential to making such an event run smoothly. Over the course of the weekend I walked everywhere, often slowly, feet scuffing through the grass, wanting to savor the moments as long as possible.
Summer weather in Wichita can be hideous, with three-digit temperatures combined with the ever-present wind creating a blast furnace effect only interrupted by thunderstorms that, once experienced,
will make one a true believer of the story of Dorothy and Toto being flung to Oz. Yet, at this calendar junction of summer and autumn, the temperatures were perfect and the winds had subsided to far
less than their usual gale force. While baseball's heaven and field of dreams may be a little to the northeast in Iowa, for four days aviation's version was at Stearman Field in Kansas.
By the way, Stearman Field is a residential airport. Some people truly live well.
Not long after I had taken my first walk among the airplanes, I found Jeff Pearson on his cell phone, hurrying toward his airplane. Jeff uses his 195 almost exclusively for his business of selling
aircraft parts. (Makes sense. Cessna did name it the "Businessliner.") It seemed a club member had landed some 70 miles southeast for fuel and could not get his airplane started. Parts seemed to be
needed. Of course Jeff had parts and was going to fly over to see if they might help the local mechanic return the stricken airplane to life. Did I want to go?
The main door on a 195 opens on the right side of the fuselage and admits you to the wide passenger seat, where three may sit cozily and two with great comfort. Once amidships, a right turn leads up
the aisle between the front seats. Ensconced in a command chair, there is plenty of room, for you sit high, with the back of your head resting against the front of the wing spar. Depending on
modifications and the owner's whims, the instrument panel may be anything from a seemingly random array to the most sophisticated layout. I doubt it has happened, but with the care and consideration
some owners lavish on their steeds, I fully expect to see a 195 with a glass panel in the near future.
Visibility is not great; despite sitting high; the engine obliterates the right-hand quadrant ahead, although one can see pretty much straight ahead, with a little effort, while in three-point
attitude. More than one 195 pilot, while solo, has hit a car or pickup truck with the right side of the airplane when taxiing in an alley between hangars, so unless there is someone in the right seat
who may be trusted to be vigilant, taxiing should involve a bit of weaving to assure you are not about to use a Ham-Standard prop as a blender.
Starting the Jacobs is not exactly like firing up your Cherokee 235. The prop control is pulled out, to the low rpm/high pitch position, to keep as much oil in the engine as possible and allow oil
pressure -- and with it, lubrication -- to build early. The ignition switch is set to the "battery" position. A 195 does not have dual magnetos; one set of plugs is powered by a magneto, the other set
by the battery, through a distributor, as in a car. The magneto's timing is fixed; the distributor's timing is retarded for the start, hence using the battery position for light off. Once you are
convinced there is no one near the propeller, the starter is engaged and the Jake should commence reciprocating within two or three blades, accompanied by a general shudder as it emerges from slumber
and belches out some smoke so the hearing impaired can enjoy the experience as well. Once the cylinders begin to fire, the ignition switch is turned to "BOTH" and you watch to assure that oil pressure
climbs to an appropriate level. As the engine warms -- yes, a radial engine must warm for a bit -- the prop control is pushed full forward to high rpm and it's time to taxi.
Not a Tricky Tailwheel
Provided the landing gear is properly aligned, the tailwheel-steering correctly rigged and it has brakes that do not drag or grab, a 195 is one of the easier tailwheel airplanes to handle on the
ground. It has a very long moment arm from the landing gear to the tail, there is a lot of weight on the tail and the rudder is big and directly in the prop blast, so control is effective. The horror
stories of difficult-to-handle 195s are almost invariably tracked to something wrong with the gear alignment, tailwheel-steering rigging, a brake problem or a pilot who does not know what he or she is
about with tailwheel airplanes. It is demanding on the ground, and relatively unforgiving, as are all airplanes with their center of gravity aft of the main landing gear. But it does not have a
tendency to dart one direction or another absent a gusty crosswind, as does a Pitts, and does not respond so rapidly to control inputs that it invites overcontrolling as may, for example, a Luscombe.
Those who know such things rate the 195 just slightly easier to handle on the ground than the Cessna 180/185 series but more challenging than the Citabria/Decathlon ships.
Once lined up for takeoff, the power is brought in smoothly as the satisfying rumble of the radial grows to a growling roar and the rpm reaches 2,200. The tail is initially pinned with full aft yoke,
then lifted when you feel so inclined. The 195 isn't picky ... you can whistle along, tail low, and let it fly off on its own, or pick the tail well up to a level-attitude, balancing on the mains
until you decide it is time to fly, a good technique in gusty crosswinds.
Aloft, you'll climb at about 750 fpm at 23 inches of manifold pressure and 2100 rpm, even if loaded to its max. gross of 3,350 pounds. With most having a useful load of about 1,200 pounds and 76
usable gallons of fuel, the cabin will hold about 734 pounds, or four folks and baggage. You rapidly discover that the 195 is a fingertip airplane, impressively light on the controls for its size, yet
absolutely solid in behavior. It stays where you put it, by and large, although in cruise you may notice a long-period phugoid -- a pitch oscillation with a cycle time of a few minutes.
Cruise power is usually with the rpm as low as the engine will run smoothly -- about 1,900 rpm -- and manifold pressure as desired. Once things settle down, plan on an honest 140 knots, or a little
better than 160 mph, at 13-15 gph. Should you wish to maneuver, the 195 will respond with alacrity: Control harmony is excellent and it is just plain fun to toss about the sky. Nevertheless, with the
visibility limitations, it does mean making a constant effort to assure the airspace in the immediate area is free of other airplanes.
On landing, plan on 100 mph in the pattern (these are old airplanes; the airspeed is in mph), slowing to 85 to 90 on final. The unique split-wing flaps are not on the trailing edge, but rather about
2/3 of the way back on the underside of the wing. Depending on the model, max. extension speed is either 130 or 110 mph. They are almost purely drag devices, reducing stall speed about 2 mph, at most.
However, every 195 pilot worth his or her salt uses them, for the airplane is remarkably clean and any drag is welcome as the energy of a big tailwheel airplane must be managed after landing.
I have flown Jeff's airplane with him off and on for 25 years and I still wish I could match his landing technique. He comes into the roundout at 85 mph, power off, flares tail low until the mains
start to roll, then simply relaxes the back pressure on the yoke, allowing the tail to come up a bit, reducing the angle of attack of the wing and putting the airplane firmly on the ground. There is
never any shoving forward of the wheel during his wheel landings, nor any sort of hamfisted attempt that one associates with the uninitiated who seem to try to drive the main gear through the surface
of the runway to "pin it on" while flying at near cruise speed. Pearson's touchdown is as a landing should be: slow, almost as slow as a three-point landing, so the speed to be dissipated is at a
minimum. This vastly reduces the risk of loss-of-control on the ground, the most common cause of 195s being struck from the active register. He then starts to apply the brakes gently while the tail is
still up, knowing they will be very effective because he has maximum weight on the wheels. The airplane slows smoothly and he lowers the tail while still braking only moderately. Over the course of
the weekend, he invariably stopped shorter than anyone else. Some folks are artists.
The field-of-dreams atmosphere continued throughout the weekend; many retired Cessna employees were welcomed to the airport. The weather was perfect, allowing owners to swap rides in their airplanes.
Many cautionary runway inspection passes were made and all present good-naturedly assigned grades to landings. While a 195 is a nice flying airplane, it has a tailwheel and does demand a sure touch,
so we were treated to some landings that probably left a few pilots red-faced as they again proved the adage that the quality of one's landing is inversely proportional to the number of people
watching. I saw some exercises of excellent judgment as pilots decided to go around when the landing was not progressing favorably. As a result, not a scratch was put on an airplane all weekend,
something that is sadly not always the case when tailwheel airplanes congregate.
Fun Even On the Ground
The star of the gathering turned out to be a man revered by every 195 owner on the planet, Mort Brown. Now 99 years old, Mort was a test pilot for Cessna from the late 1930s until he retired in the
1960s. He made the very first flight of nearly all of the production 195s. Mort was treated as royalty, with owners showing him their aircraft logbooks containing the signature he affixed over a half
century earlier. He was offered more rides than he could possibly have accepted, but did go flying in a few of the airplanes, notably one of the very rare 195s that had been modified with a 450-hp
Pratt and Whitney R-985. Such modifications proved to be excellent high-altitude photo platforms and changed the nose profile from lovely compound curves to an aggressive, fists on hips, "You want
some of this?!" look.
We were treated to an excellent maintenance seminar, where owners shared problems and solutions they had experienced and knowledgeable mechanics gave guidance. Even though I'm long used to it, every
time I see someone take advantage of the design of the engine mount of a 195 and cause the engine to pivot about 30 degrees so that it's easy to get at the accessory case on the back of the engine, it
still amazes me. It was one of the most mechanic-friendly designs of all time; yet it was not copied on later airplanes.
There was plenty to do if one were not content to simply enjoy the atmosphere on Stearman Field: the maintenance seminar, dinner at the aviation-themed Savute's restaurant, a fly-out for a specially
arranged, small-group tour of Cessna's production facility on Mid-Continent Airport. And then there was another fly-out to Beaumont, Kansas, population about 25, where you land on the grass airport on
the east edge of town, taxi your airplane on one of the few paved streets right into town and park in the airplane parking lot at the Beaumont Hotel. Then you go inside and experience their superb
At the dress-up dinner on Friday, we were treated to a presentation by Mort Brown's wife of a history of Cessna as seen by someone who had lived much of it. Each person attending was given a DVD of
the show, something I saw people carefully stowing where it would not be lost.
The 60th anniversary 195 fly in was one of those rare events that are not only carefully planned but where things absolutely click and just plain go well. There was a magic in the air; good people
brought very special airplanes in large quantities and were there to enjoy the airplanes and each other. Nothing and no one was judged. There was no sense of backstabbing one-upmanship or competition
to see who had the shiniest gizmo. On the contrary, parts were offered to others, ideas were shared, problems solved and encouragement given. This group seems to understand at a visceral level that to
keep these old airplanes alive means they must reach out to others and make time with the airplanes a truly enjoyable experience. They did precisely that. .
I could not get enough of my time at Stearman Field and kept wondering whether the location, the airplanes and the people could possibly be real. To make matters almost surreal, on Saturday afternoon
a B-2 bomber made two passes over the airport (nope, not down low; those guys aren't that foolish). I had to look around and make sure others saw it. Fortunately, they did. I figure if the CEO of the
largest general aviation manufacturer in the world can spend his weekend hanging out with pilots of 60-year-old airplanes and for a while even wear a hat that had a pony tail on it, I shouldn't be
surprised if some B-2 pilots knew about the gathering and decided to take a look as well.
I didn't want it to end.
See you next month.
IFR magazine asked its readers to contribute defining moments of IFR flying. Here are a few where the moment was made by the company as much as the flight.
Click here for the full story.
IFR magazine asked its readers to contribute defining moments of IFR flying. Here are a few where the moment was made by the company as much as the
Tanks for the Help
I rotated among all three CFIIs at a small flight school near Philadelphia, Pa. One of them, whom I'll call "Tank," was an arrogant pup bound for the airlines. On my third or fourth time up in actual
IMC, our prickly relationship went sour in a series of arguments, including the correct turn direction into a hold entry.
We were on an outbound, parallel vector to the ILS 6 when Tank asked if he could shoot the approach for his currency. I was mightily steamed at the idea of paying to watch him fly. I reckoned the cost
at roughly $20 and decided to find a way to get $20 of instruction or entertainment value out of it.
Tank took over on the turn to the intercept heading. I reached into my bag for instrument covers and set Tank up for no-gyro. He scowled and I growled, "OK, Tank?"
"Uh ... OK," he said. The localizer needle came alive and Tank began a standard-rate left turn to 060. He had forgotten about the wind, which was 180 at 15 knots. The needle went back to the peg and
stayed there, but Tank kept on turning left. As we passed 360, I uncovered the heading indicator and shouted, "Tank, you need this -- now!" He made no response and we kept turning.
Passing 330, Allentown Approach called, "Cessna 12345, continue that left turn to heading 180, advise when ready to copy clearance back to Philadelphia." We were being evicted! Tank was still turning.
I keyed the mike, acknowledged the clearance, and finally got Tank to relinquish control.
As I took the handoff to Philadelphia Approach, Tank realized what had happened. I ignored him and flew home, finishing with a perfectly executed NDB approach to breakout at 50 feet over MDA and a
greaser landing. Tank stormed out of the airplane without a word. I paid the bill and left without seeing him.
The next day, another instructor asked, "What did you do to Tank?"
I told him the story and he never did quite stop laughing during that lesson. Although I never flew with him again, Tank was gracious enough to hand me a signoff for the checkride a few days later.
Ray Tackett, Philadelphia, Pa.
No Low Pass Today
Not long after I had my IFR ticket 15 years ago, my wife and I flew our 1976 Piper Arrow from Bowling Green, Ky., to San Antonio, Texas, to a medical convention. For a long time I had wanted to take
my wife to San Antonio for a visit. I had been there in the 1960s when I was single to the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, training to be a Flight Surgeon.
My wife didn't have much trust in my IFR skills but it was a beautiful, December, VFR day when we left. It was a six-hour trip with a stop in Monroe, La., for lunch and fuel. As we were vectored for a
visual at our destination, we were treated to a memorable sight: the space shuttle atop the 747 mother ship parked regally at Kelly AFB.
For our return trip, the weather turned overcast with bases at 700 and tops at 6000. No report of icing or t-storms. My wife became nervous and worried again, questioning my abilities to handle the
situation. I told her it was a piece of cake but she didn't buy it. Reluctantly, she agreed to take a chance with me. I filed for 7000 feet and three hours en route to Monroe.
We climbed through the soup. Passing 6500 feet, we entered into bright sunlight. My wife enjoyed the view and appeared to relax. As we started our descent to Monroe 2.5 hrs later, we were back in the
soup. My passenger tensed up again, wondering if I knew where I was going. Ceiling was reported at 500 feet. I intercepted the localizer well outside the OM and was cleared to land.
By now my bladder, which usually holds over four hours, was feeling full due to the effect of some beers I had at a banquet 15 hours earlier. It was hurting while I was going through my landing
checklist, still in the soup. I decided to lower my landing gear before the FAF and now my problems began: My left main was not showing green. I told the tower about my predicament and he suggested
that I make a low pass for someone to look at the gear.
My bladder in pain, I followed emergency procedures, swapped left and right bulbs hoping it was a burned bulb, and kept recycling the gear handle. Suddenly I got three greens. I was now on final,
three miles out and still in the soup. Despite the distractions, I managed to keep my needles crossed. I told the controller I was going to land. He said, "Are you sure you don't want to make a low
pass?" With the ceiling reported at just above minimums and my bladder hurting, I told him I was going to land. My wife remained speechless. We broke out in front of the runway and my wife started to
applaud. The landing was uneventful except for the fire trucks chasing us down the runway with flashing lights. We parked, gave a report, and thanked the firemen, then I ran as fast as I could to the
men's room. The only problem the mechanic found was low hydraulic fluid.
At lunch my wife said to me, "I knew you could do it."
M. Robert Perez, Bowling Green, Ky.
The Boss on Board
"Ominous" best described the view at 9000 feet through the windscreen of my A36 Bonanza. I was approaching Atlanta from the southwest one unsettled July afternoon. Looming in the distance ahead and to
the left was a wall of weather ascending into the flight levels. An advance of layered clouds, scattered rain and chop was already reaching over the Class B area. Riding shotgun was my boss, the
company president. Our business-related day trip was his first ride in a small plane and we were on track to get down safely ahead of the approaching storm.
Forty miles out, Approach issued an initial descent to 5000, stepping us down further into the gloom as we were vectored around the western side of the airspace on our way to Peachtree-Dekalb (KPDK)
Arcing north for sequencing, we joined the extended centerline for ILS 20L at Peachtree, poking in and out of bumpy clouds and squalls with no ground in sight. I sensed the anxiety of my uninitiated
passenger as the gear dropped and we began our descent; he removed any doubt by turning to me and growling, "Do you have any idea where the heck we are?" (Propriety suggested certain word
substitutions in the preceding quotation). We were in the clag, past the outer marker, and coasting right down the pipe. Calmly, I suggested he turn his gaze forward and watch, which he did in
wide-eyed, uncertain anticipation. Moments later, precisely where they were supposed to be, the approach lights and threshold slowly resolved out of the mist. It was an easy greaser onto the slick,
As we rolled out, the visibly relieved CEO turned and stared at me for a moment and said, "OK, I'm impressed." This uncaptured Kodak moment was later interpreted to be only the third "at-a-boy" ever
known to have been given by this man to a direct subordinate in 13 years.
David Howe, Atlanta, Ga.
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