Monthly Archives: June 2018

My first time in a “tail dragger…”

I just flew in a Piper Cub “J-3” – like the one shown above – that helped win World War II

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the ‘50s, people called him a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Last Sunday evening – June 10 – I rode in my first-ever “taildragger.”  (You know, the airplane kind.)  The place I contacted was Peachtree City Biplanes, at Falcon Field in Peachtree City.  But rather than the biplane – at left – I chose to fly in the company’s other plane.  That other plane was a classic 1946 Piper J-3 Cub.

I did that for a couple reasons.  First, the Cub flight was cheaper.  For another, I remember the 1965 movie Battle of the Bulge.  (About the Ardennes Counteroffensive, in WW II.)  The film started with Henry Fonda – “Lt. Col. Dan Kiley” – in the back seat of a Piper Cub.  He and the pilot were “flying a reconnaissance mission over the Ardennes forest.”  Later still, the pair flew another daring mission:

Facing the dangers of a foggy night, Col. Kiley conducts an aerial reconnaissance in an attempt to locate the main German spearhead.  He orders the pilot to shut off the engine and glide in an attempt to listen for enemy tanks.  Suddenly, through a gap in the fog, he spots [a German] tank column heading toward American lines.  Kiley radios in the coordinates, but his plane is hit by German fire and crashes near an American fuel depot.

I’ve wanted to fly a Piper Cub ever since.  (BTW: Fonda survived and helped save the day.)

And another aside:  In researching for this post I learned that – to some Army Air Corps veterans anyway – The Piper Cub helped beat the Germans in World War II:

The Piper Cub, used as an artillery spotter plane, did more to defeat the German Army in World War II then any other American airplane, according to Capt. John Johnson.

The article added that what made the Cub “perfect for artillery spotting was its versatility.”  They could fly “low and slow with ease,” and could also land and take off in very little space.  “Given the wind conditions, I could land and take off in 19 inches,” Johnson said.

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Meanwhile, back to my flight, last Sunday evening.

I hadn’t flown since 2002 or thereabouts.  (When I got my Private Pilot’s license, but then found out flying was an expensive hobby.)  Owner-operator Jay Herrin wrote later that we had a great flight over Lake McIntosh, Pinewood Studios – where they shoot “The Walking Dead,” etc. – and also Starr’s Mill and the surrounding area.  He added that I “did most of the flying and did a great job!”  But that was a bit of hyperbole.

I did take take over the controls for a bit, which was kind of strange.

I trained in a Cessna 172, with a steering wheel and foot-rudders that were pretty wide.  But the Cub a had a classic “stick” to steer with, and the rudders were small metal bars.  Also, the Cessna had a tricycle landing gear, while the Cub – as noted – was a taildragger:

The tricycle arrangement has a single nose wheel in the front, and two or more main wheels slightly aft of the center of gravity.  T ricycle gear aircraft are the easiest to take-off, land and taxi, and consequently the configuration is the most widely used on aircraft.

On the other hand, while a taildragger is generally less expensive to manufacture and maintain, it has some disadvantages:  1) It has a “nose-high attitude on the ground,”  2) It’s “susceptible to ground looping,” and 3) it’s “more subject to ‘nose-over’ accidents due to injudicious application of brakes by the pilot.”  (Like the one seen at left.)

But after a while I got the hang of the stick and rudders, and was able to stay pretty much on course.  And did I mention that you have to pretty acrobatic just to get in the dang thing?

On the plus side the view was great, from such a “low and slow” altitude.  And I was able to take some pretty good pictures, from the always-open right window, with camera and cell phone.

Like the picture below, of Starr’s Mill, a “tiny village a few miles south of Peachtree City.”  It’s next to Starr’s Mill Pond, and near the junction of Highways 74 and 85.  “The area is extremely picturesque and makes for a nice drive.”  (But it’s even better seen from about 800 feet up…)

All of which just goes to show that while other people my age are being Grumpy Old Geezers – whining and complaining – I plan to have some fun in the time I have left.

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Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Starr’s Mill, southeast of Peachtree City, seen from about 800 feet up…

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The upper image is courtesy of Battle Of The Bulge Movie Piper Cub – Image Results.  The “nose over” image is courtesy of Nose Over Accidents Airplane – Image Results.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.