At the end of summer for the past 10 years, the Historic Flight Foundation has hosted the Vintage Aircraft Weekend (VAW) at Paine Field in Everett, WA. I had attended the VAW for a few years, helping on the ground, and also flying once with Dave in his Navion for runway passes for the crowd. This year, Justin asked that I display his Nanchang during the weekend, so I could be a true part of the Vintage Weekend. Part of the VAW tradition has been a Big Band dinner dance, which Mary and I attended on Friday afternoon to kick off the weekend, just after I brought the Nanchang to join the aircraft display area.
On Saturday morning, I spent some time showing off the Nanchang to the visiting public, then checking out the cockpits of a number of visiting classic aircraft, such as the PBY Catalina, Republic Seabee, Beech Staggerwing and, of course, all the classic fighters. Since I'm a member of the Cascade Warbirds, I was also able to tag along on a few flights to get a feel for some new aircraft, and get some air-to-air photos as a bonus.
My first 'extra' flight at VAW was with Smokey Johnson in his gorgeous T-6, as #3 in a unique formation. Bill Shepherd led the formation in his rare Czechoslovak A/C Works Super Aero 45, N145SA, while Bill Findlay flew as #2 in his impressive yellow Canadian Harvard 4, CF-RFS. We were a hit with the crowd as we made three 3-ship passes, then a final pass as singles to an aggressive pitch up and landing, and I was able to get a bunch of great in-flight shots of our formation passes.
My second flight of the day was with Vic Norris in his IAR-823. Vic and Kirstan Norris had flown as a loose #2 with Dave Desmon and me from Seattle to Oshkosh in 2015, but I had yet to fly in their IAR. We briefed as #7 in the Cascade Warbirds flight, flying as a single behind two 3-ship formations. Since we were a single ship, I was able to get a little stick time as we maneuvered, getting a feel for the stick forces on the IAR-823. It's a nice, solid airplane, but I'll need some more flight time to give a full impression. The Vintage Aircraft Weekend is a major draw for aviation photographers, since flybys of classic aircraft are occurring nearly non-stop throughout the day. One of the many photographers on the ground, David G. Schultz, was able to capture a super clear image of Vic's IAR-823 as we pitched up during our final pass.
I had previously met Tom Hoag and walked around his classic Republic Seabee when he had flown to Renton. Tom, his wife Mary and my wife Mary and I enjoyed the Big Band dinner together on Friday. After Saturday's festivities and flying were winding down, Tom and I pulled out the Seabee for a sunset orientation flight. The Seabee cockpit has a unique configuration, with an instrument panel positioned in front of the left seat pilot, but only a yoke and rudder pedals present on the right side, with a wide open carpeted step area in front, providing for great water or beach access on the ground, since the front canopy is hinged to open from the center like a clam shell.
The view over the nose on takeoff, especially from the right seat, gives an impression of levitating on takeoff. Tom and I cruised north out of Paine Field, and I got a feel for the Seabee in-flight, and tried to establish a level flight picture, which took a little work. The flight controls were moderately heavy, providing for stable turns and pitch changes. I was very impressed with the stability on approach over the waters of Lake Stevens, and how well the hull and float design took small waves on landing as if they didn't exist. It was fun as we taxied a bit around Lake Stevens, opening the side doors at the end of the hot day and running our hands through the cooling waters. The Seabee would be a blast to check out the many lakes and waterways of the great Northwest. Tom found a lane ahead clear of boats, and accelerated to get us on the step, then smoothly lifted off with minimal effort. I flew the climbout and cruise back over the Puget Sound, letting down for the pattern after we passed near Hat Island, a perfect perch to watch the setting sun. Tom showed off the short field capability of the Seabee by landing slightly long and still easily making the turnoff back to the Kilo-7 ramp. Thanks for the Seabee orientation, Tom, I'm definitely getting hooked on amphibians and floatplanes!
One last memorable aircraft that I got to crawl around in, but not fly (yet) was the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina/Canso A C-FUAW, flown and displayed by The Catalina Preservation Society out of the Victoria airport in British Columbia, Canada. The PBY was parked next to the Seabee for most of the Vintage Aircraft Weekend, making the Seabee look much smaller than normal, and earning the name 'Mini-Me' for the Seabee for the rest of the weekend. The PBY made an impressive flyby before heading back to British Columbia at the end of the glorious weekend.