Posts Tagged ‘Woodland Airpark’


When I was young, Dad introduced me to the concept of the bucket list.  This was shortly after one of our first SCUBA dives together, exploring a submerged mountain, watching a cuttlefish changing color in front of us like a rotund neon starship.  I remember the salt taste in my mouth, the ache in my nose from the awkwardly-fitted children’s dive mask as I told Dad that this was the closest we’d ever get to being astronauts.

I didn’t see the look on his face, absorbed as I was by the waves lapping against our banca.  I talked about how it was zero gravity, strange alien creatures, life support equipment.  Adventure.


SEAL Team Sicks


I would later find out that Dad was checking “astronaut” off his bucket list, that list of things one must do before one dies.  This year, he checked off “Fly a Spitfire,” and that’s our previous story.





When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was to be a pilot.  My first movie was either Star Wars or Top Gun, which explains a lot.  Mom complained on a trip to Disneyland that the only toys I ever asked for were airplanes.  The first item on my bucket list was there from the start.

I became more sensible, of course.  I grew up.  Learned to be responsible.  The school newspaper.  The honors section.  Dad and I built model airplanes.  I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  Not a legend, like my mentor, Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan (Mr Pagsi to his students).  Just a teacher.  A good one, someday.  Maybe.

I was as surprised as anyone when I lifted off the runway in 2006, in a genuine, bona fide airplane (I had learned to pronounce “Cessna” correctly at the age of three).  I laughed out loud and swatted at the empty air beside me where my instructor should have been.  Solo flight.

It took me two circuits to realize why the plane was pulling to the left.


Carlo in 1049 Sep 16, 2006


There is a very specific feeling, somewhere between disbelief, joy, and satisfaction, when you do something that was on your list.  This is one pleasure that young people don’t realize they have –- to feel something new for the first time.  The first time you influence someone’s life in a big way.  The first heady rush of sexual attraction, at once so natural and unfamiliar.  And of course, the first time you cross something off your bucket list.  You need to savor that feeling, memorize it.  Because here’s a secret:  you will sometimes feel this feeling at the most unexpected times.




I thought I would be as old as Mr Pagsi by the time anyone thought to call me legendary.  When Celadon awarded me their Legendary Teacher award at the age of 27, I felt it again.  I didn’t particularly feel that I deserved it.  But I felt that rush of joy.  Another item off my list.  One that I had stopped taking seriously some time before.




Sometimes, life tells you in subtle ways that you are doing something you were meant to do.  Sometimes, you won’t realize that something was on your bucket list until life gives it to you.

I teach the Ateneo de Manila University’s Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Traditions class, which helps incoming freshmen adjust to college life.  Sort of like a cut-rate guidance counsellor.  I was expecting a bit of good fun, a little extra cash, a chance to brag about my being a fourth-generation Atenean.

What I got instead was a young woman who burst into tears during what should have been a routine consultation.  Her Dad had a stroke.  A student begged for advice on what to tell her cousins, whose mother was dying of cancer.  In my first year of teaching, in a very conservative Catholic high school, someone snuck a message into an essay.  Sir Rivera, I’m gay.  What do I do?  A young woman, eyes no longer quite so young, talked about her baby boy.

There’s something of a formula for these situations.  You listen without judging. You use all your art to convince them that they’re not evil or worthless.  You name-drop a guidance counsellor.  Then you say farewell, and give them a hug if you’re young and foolish enough, and that’s where the formula breaks down, because nothing in a teacher’s preparations prepares you for the feeling that comes next.  I wanted to tell these kids-not-kids that they would be alright.  I wanted to do more for them.  I felt an urge to prove to them that the world is a good place.  I felt…





Sometimes, life gives you something that you never realized you were meant to do.  Sometimes something you’d cast aside as a silly dream.  Sometimes something you’d never really considered.  So that’s why it’s important to check things off your bucket list.  Not just for the experience itself.  But so that you learn to recognize that feeling, to understand that at this moment, life is giving you something Important.

My suspension of disbelief has been broken since about 2006.  Nothing seems impossible anymore.  My cup runneth over.

And for the record, “astronaut” is still on my list.



DSC_0118 (2)



Posted from Manila

January 7, 2015


Thank you to Johans Lucena for Carlo’s photo at Reach for the Sky 2





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Carlo has a excellent article on Bucket lists.  He was ready for a New Year’s Day publication.  I’ve held it up because I wanted to find the perfect photos for the article.  Soon, I promise, Carl – this week.

To pass the time, here’s a quick, very short story.



It’s January 3, 2015.  Carlo and I have just logged 4.5 flying hours.  We have been flying a wonderful group of aviation and flight simulator enthusiasts – former student pilots, current student pilots, future student pilots, R/C flyers, scale model builders, photographers, Facebook friends, fathers and sons.  Carlo and I are just using up fuel now, enjoying quiet time together in the sunset sky over Woodland Airpark.  We are happy-tired. 




The hat I am wearing has been with me for 10 years.  I got it at the 2005 Hiller airshow at San Carlos airport in California.  

I lost that hat four days ago.  I misplaced it after flying with an old friend last December 30.  We are both Presidents of the only two flying clubs in the country. 




The hat recalls a P-51C Mustang fighter airplane named "Berlin Express" flown by Bill Overstreet, an American World War II pilot.  Overstreet was a squadron mate of Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier as a test pilot after the war.  Overstreet named his airplane "Berlin Express"  because his 357th Fighter Group regularly flew to Berlin as fighter escort for B-17 bomber missions, deep into wartime Germany.




Overstreet flew in a dogfight over France in early 1944 against a Messerschmitt Bf-109.  The German pilot flew directly over occupied Paris so that the German gun batteries could shoot Overstreet’s Mustang off the Messerschmitt’s tail. 

His engine already hit and damaged, the German flew under the Eiffel tower in a desperate attempt to evade Overstreet.  Overstreet followed under the Eiffel tower, kept firing, and won the duel. 


"The Berlin Express Arrives in Paris"


Exactly a year ago, on January 3, 2014, Bill Overstreet, the pilot of Berlin Express, passed away.  He was 92 years old. 

Today, January 3, 2015, another pilot found and returned my ‘Berlin Express’ hat to me.


I should stop losing things.



Posted from Manila

03 January, 2015


William Overstreet’s obituaries:





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Shameful.  Six months between stories.  My excuses are a move to Singapore and demands of explosive business growth in the most burgeoning region in the world.
I travel alone over 200 days a year.  During one harrowing 12-day period last month, I spent each of twelve consecutive nights in a different city – ranging from Nashville TN to Dunedin, New Zealand, and two nights on trans-oceanic flights on B777s and A380s, surrounded by strangers.
I crave time in our little Cessna 152, flying with Carlo.
It was already drizzling when we took off.  It wasn’t quite a thunderstorm – no vicious lightning or thunder.  Nor was it the long, dreary monsoon downpour that recalls limping piano lessons, restless childhood hours trapped indoors, the summer vacation wasting away. 
No, this was a summer cloudburst, that ones that had us running into the streets as children, shivering deliciously under gushing downspouts before the sun sent temperatures soaring into the mid-30s again.
Huge raindrops smacked the windshield as we lifted off the grass.  Carlo, flying from the right seat, started an instrument climb.  The sun streamed through shafts of rain.  We orbited over the field.  Cloudbursts quickly move on.  It is best to stay in one spot and wait them out.  I set navcom 1 to the ILS at Clark, as a precaution.

Switching nav1 to the Clark ILS       
Carlo flew a perfect orbit.  You can see below his VSI perfectly horizontal.  Level at 900 feet, our entry altitude at Woodland Airfield.
    Carlo level at 900 feet, in an out of rain
The rain shafts moved on.  Visibility jumped to a bazillion kilometers and the air sparkled.  We jolted through some turbulence.  I thought of microbursts and shear and mountain waves across the top of Mt Arayat, three kilometers away.
Our wing-mounted GoPro camera shakes off the raindrops    
Time for an approach.  The smoke plumes from ground fires streamed in different directions, hugging the rice fields flat.  I pointed to one plume, on the horizon.  Horizontal.



The Angeles City Flying Club weather station is on top of Hangar 1.  I looked up our website on my BlackBerry, and sure enough, the wind was 25 knots, gusting to 28.  Crosswind, though all three of our windsocks pointed in three different directions.

The maximum demonstrated crosswind on a Cessna 152 is 12 knots.
I told Carlo he still had the airplane.  I wasn’t about to embarrass myself. 
Carlo flew a magnificent approach.  He crabbed 15 degrees into the wind throughout the pattern, then canted the airplane into a sideslip on short final.


As he flared, you can clearly hear my mumble in the cockpit video – “Sh*t, he’s going to grease it on.”
Of course he wanted to do it again.  There was a group of R/C flyers sheltering from the gale, in the lee of Hangar 3.  They were gawking at us.  A Cessna 152 isn’t much larger than a radio-controlled airplane.
Carlo did three approaches.  All greasers.  The wind shifted on the last short final, and he got a freebie headwind.  He nailed that, too.


I suggested he might quit while he was ahead.  Our faces were sore from laughing and grinning non-stop.  Did I mention I love flying with Carlo? 
As they pushed the airplane into Hangar 3, I took a photo of the windsock.  The wind had shredded it completely.

Later, Mike taught Carlo to walk bowlegged.  Because he had BIG brass ones.

I tried to take credit for all the landings.  “I used my autopilot to fly coupled approaches to our CAT III ILS at Woodland Airpark.  I use every resource, and I was totally in command.”  Nobody believed me.
Posted from Venice, Italy
May 26, 2014

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Norman Surplus survived cancer.  Given less than a 50% chance of survival, he beat the odds.  Then he was infected by the flying bug.  After learning to fly an autogyro, he prepared to become the first pilot to fly it around the world.  A celebration of life. 

When I first met him, I was strangely inspired by a man who flies alone to embrace the world, and who is loved by the world in return.   

Norman has now flown halfway around that world.  Thousands of friends follow his every adventure online, including an unintentional ditching in a lake in Thailand. 





I saw that lake from the air.  As I banked a Cessna 172 over Nongprue airfield at Pattaya, my friend Neil pointed to the lake and spoke of the brave British pilot who made a splash in Thailand’s general aviation community. 



Norman was very grateful to the residents who helped him recover and push on.  Yet those who knew him here in Thailand speak of their pride over being part of Norman’s adventure.



This intrepid Irishman and his amazing autogyro!  G-YROX is so small that you not so much sit in it, but on it. 


Unlike a helicopter, an autogyro’s rotor blades are unpowered.  They turn freely in the wind.  The magic that allows a sailboat to tack against the wind similarly lifts the autogyro’s rotary wing in the very wind that blows against it.

A single aviator is flying alone around the world, in an open cockpit hanging from what is essentially a rotating metal sail.


Norman, a careful pilot, has GPS guidance, a Spot Tracker in the aircraft, a voice recorder, a Personal Locator Beacon, a life raft.

G-YROX open cockpit.  That is a control stick, wwhich acts more like an airplane's control stick than a helicopter's  cyclic.


He is a crewman of a Royal National Lifeboat Institution rescue boat.  He knows what it takes to survive an unscheduled landing in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, both of which are on his route.  He flies in a custom-made exposure suit.

Norman shows Carlo his Ursuit exposure suit.  Neoprene inner lining, and an outer layerr with dry zips and thermal protection.  Adapted from Special Operations.



In March, 2010, Norman left his hometown of Larne, Northern Ireland, on his yellow autogyro.  He traversed to England, then flew down France to Italy and Greece.  Crossed the Mediterranean to Egypt, then hopped the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman.  Skirted the Indian Ocean to Pakistan and India, thence to Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. 

Norman Surplus' planned route around the world in the tiny autogyro.


In August last year, 5 months after he left Ireland, Norman arrived in the Philippines.  That was when Carlo and I first bumped into G-YROX


Then a Gordian knot of bureaucratic frustrations trapped him.  He had a small weather window last summer to transit the Bering Strait from northern Russia to Alaska.  He couldn’t get clearances from the next countries on his route, and the summer window closed.


Norman left G-YROX at my home base, Woodland Airpark in the Philippines.  And he went home to Ireland for the winter.

G-YROX -- Roxy -- hibernates the winter in tropical Pampanga, Philippines.


Every time I walked a friend through Woodland’s hangars, I always pointed out the brave little autogyro waiting to conquer the northern Pacific.


G-YROX at Woodland's Hangar 1, its home for the past year.  The unpowered rotor is seen here, above the aircraft.

My Cessna in the distance is completely overshadowed by the diminutive autogyro.

The MT-03 autogyro is powered by a Rotax engine, which uses a rear propeller to push the aircraft and its big rotor wings above it through the air.



Nine months later, in May, 2011, Norman returned to the Philippines to resume his around-the-world record attempt.  But the clearance to transit Japan remained elusive for two more frustrating months.

Negotiations, and a Facebook campaign for friends to directly appeal to Japanese embassies worldwide, finally secured the precious clearance.


Norman confers with Angeles City Flying Club's Jay Cook, who volunteered to look after Roxy for a year at Woodland.  Jay is our resident OC on aicraft maintenance. at WoodlandCarlo and Norman look over Roxy's al fresco front office



On July 18, 2011, Norman Surplus and G-YROX left Woodland Airfield for the last time, staging north to Laoag.

Al Jazeera features Norman at Woodland airfield in the Philippines!



When I began writing this – July 20 – Norman departed Laoag in the Philippines for Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa.  This overwater leg is one of the longest of the entire voyage.  Tropical storm “Ma-on” was transiting southern Japan, but was not a major factor.


Hundreds of people around the world followed on Norman’s GPS Spot Tracker website as he flew for 9 hours over water to Okinawa.


Norman's Spot Tracker GPS track as of 20 July 08.20 local time , abeam the last bit of Philippine land -- Batanes island.


Today, just 3 days after he left the Philippines, Norman has already flown the length of Japan.  Next is the long, 450-mile overwater leg across to Vladivostok, Russia.  Two months to get clearance, three days to clear the country.



For most people, flying is incarceration, crammed into a tight aluminum tube flown by uniformed strangers sealed behind locked cockpit doors.

I wondered how many airliner pilots flying over the route that day were totally clueless that down below, just above the Pacific Ocean, a solitary man with a surplus of courage was hand-flying a tiny aircraft on an enormous endeavor, watched by thousands of people around the world.



Every aircraft has a navigational beacon.  G-YROX’s beacon sits in the cockpit.  That man’s smile and heart shines a light seen clear around the world.


Norman Surplus with his beacon of a smile



Good luck and Bon Voyage to Norman Surplus! 

Bon voyage, Norman!


Posted from Bangkok, July 23, 2011


Be a friend to Norman, touch his adventure, and be inspired by his around-the-world flight in his autogyro!

Norman’s Facebook page, now at the maximum 5,000 friends

You can still join the Facebook page for Gyro-X Goes Global!

Norman’s Blogspot updates, exciting photos and heart-warming stories from around the world.

Norman’s Spot Tracker – watch Norman make his way around the world via automatic updates from the Spot Tracker installed in the aircraft.


Norman has flown the length of Japan and is ready for the 450-nm leg to Vladivostok, Russia.




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Greetings from Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! 

It’s been three months since our last article here.  I’ve spent a month traveling on business in the US, and another two months in Europe and Asia.  Carlo has been hard at work as a teacher of English Literature at the Ateneo de Manila. 

Still, we have had time to fly.  We flew a Cessna 172 around Pattaya and Chonburi, in Thailand.  Carlo also flew not one but two check rides (doing exceedingly well both times). 

I also had a chance to fly an open-cockpit biplane, in 10 degrees Celsius, in aerobatics over Sonoma.  And there is a story to be written about flying a  Boeing B-737 in Hong Kong.  Lots to write and read about, so watch this blog!






After I joined the Club, I used to exclaim at cocktail parties that I fly from grass.  Yuppies would sip their Chardonnays and look at me like I was a 1970’s hippie.

“Grass? Uh, isn’t that, uh, an illegal substance?”



“No, no!  Grass runways!  Takeoffs are challenging because the surface tension is higher than concrete.”  But their eyes have already glazed over, and they want to rant about Willing Willie or Fukushima Dai-ichi, which are in the same catastrophic category.


RP-C1513 airborne runway 08 Woodland


I fly from the Angeles City Flying Club’s Woodland Airpark.  We have a grass runway that is between 50 and 600 meters long, depending on where on the runway the resident hangar dog decides to lie down.

Short final, Woodland runway 08.

Jenny, the hangar dog, is a sort of combination Landing Signal Officer and FOD-Prevention Officer.


The problem with grass is that when you touch down, no matter how miniscule your descent rate and forward speed, you don’t get that sweet little “chirp-chirp” of tires on concrete that announces your awesomeness as a pilot-god.  Since I am convinced my landings rate 12 on a scale of 1 to 10, I feel cheated.

Getting used to landing on grass.


Grass is also too forgiving.  A pilot could thump down like Godzilla, leaving craters on the turf, and still claim in the clubhouse bar, “Did you see that greaser of a landing?  The wheels just started rolling!”  The wing spar droops in trauma and the bowlegged landing gear still shivers from fright, but the butt that can’t tell a slip from a skid was cushioned by the soft grass.



Since my son Carlo and I moved here in October, we’ve had to duck and weave through the hangars like Lara Croft in the catacombs.  Wings overlap propellers, tails poke into cockpits.  We look like the hangar deck of the carrier Hornet with the Doolittle Raiders.

Overcrowded Hangar 3, January

Hangar 3, March

I realize it means more membership and hangar rental business, but soon we may have to hang airplanes from the ceiling!



Then there are the busybody members.  The moment you unscrew your cowling, they are all over you.  Lending tools, offering advice, pointing out that your #3 intake valve pushrod looks like the McDonalds logo.

If they do that to me I’ll hide in the bathroom and hammer the pushrod straight with my fire extinguisher.  What’s one stuck valve?  The engine has eight of those anyway.


"It looks alright to me, Jay.  Maybe the smoke  during takeoff is normal?"

A REAL MAN aircraft owner must have over 3,000 socket wrenches.

Jay taps a gasket into place with a ballpeen hammer.


They all have the right tools, whereas my rubber mallet  is what I use to fix any mechanical issues.  I bought a ratchet wrench handle, just to look manly. I didn’t bother to get any socket wrenches, but if I twist my ratchet back and forth the racket sounds busy and purposeful.

Helmuth's locker could be the Philippine branch of Aircraft Spruce. and Sporty's.

Helmuth's squawk board.

This is MY locker.  With my fix-all rubber mallet.


I finally got camouflage netting for my airplane.  The whole airplane disappeared, warts and all.

Mr. Spock disengages our Klingon cloaking device.



Then there’s the swimming pool.  I’m here to fly, right?  Why would I sunbathe or swim on a perfect day?  Nuts.  Now, if a torrential typhoon did ground me, why would I go swimming in a pool during a typhoon?  Ridiculous.  I say put the amphibian ultralights in the pool – that’s a way to unclog the hangars!

I realize every clubhouse needs a restaurant.  But the long bar at our upstairs restaurant overlooks the approach end of the runway. You can land, but you can’t hide!

Landing flare, Woodland runway 08 Float!


“Hey, Tonet, make sure you log all three of those landings on that last approach, hahaha! You plough up more of the field than the carabaos do!  Har, har, har!”

Feeling for the ground... .


There just isn’t any privacy here.  In my old flying school, if you get a little low on your approach path, you could stop unseen on a remote taxiway, furtively pluck twigs and leaves from your tires and tail, then taxi innocently back to the ramp.



We don’t strut around calling ourselves “Captain”.  Instead we use irreverent nicknames like “Herr Hauptmann” or “Sheepdog” or “Tony-you-miserable-lout-when-are-you-going-to-fill-in-the-craters-on-the-runway”.  You half expect to see ‘Kommodore’ Galland or ‘Pappy’ Boyington smoking cigars in the clubhouse.

Three of our obsessively compulsive mechanically-inclined members:  Paul, Helmuth, Jay

Helmuth checking what the birds had for breakfast.  That is one big pile of shi... .

Al, an Airbus Captain in his day job, lets his hair down at ACFC.  The shirt is 100% comfort!

Helmuth's X-Air Hanuman cockpit has more glass than a Boeing 757.


It’s all too relaxed!  You can’t even tell we’re pilots.  I always wear “I’m a Pilot” T-shirts, to prove my god-like qualities.



I’m a general aviation pilot.  A magnet would stick to most parts of my airplane.  But the other airplanes here are not even made out of airplane stuff!  Nylon fabric, titanium, carbon-fiber honeycomb sandwiches, and that slick polymer that coats James Bond’s guns or the inside of frying pans.  It’s all very strange.


Yes, Virginia, under the red tarp, that's a yellow fabric fuselage!

Fiberglass Fascination



The other day, one of our members landed with no engine. He didn’t lose his engine – he never had one to begin with. How many pilots fly 50 kilometers cross-country in a wood and fabric engineless airplane with long, slim wings sexier than Heidi Klum’s legs? He spiraled gracefully in total silence above us to lose altitude (an airplane with no engine got too high?!), then slipped in with impeccable precision, stopping right in front of a small admiring crowd.

Real pilots slip it in.

Short final.  Speed brakes.

No engine.  Spot landing. 

A German glider.  Comparing that to my Cessna is like stacking a Chardonnay against a Budweiser.

Carlo and Mike welcome Rolf in his Ka-8 glider.


No engine, dead stick, zero fuel.  A “genav” pilot would consider that a full-blown emergency!



It’s depraved, this Woodland fairy tale. They fly on pixie dust and happy thoughts. I need to get out. I don’t see myself staying more than 40 or 50 years here. Yesterday I waxed my airplane again, for the fifth or sixth time this year. I’m turning into one of them!


It’s the grass.


Wax on, wax off.



Posted from Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, May 2, 2011

This article was first published in the May newsletter of the Angeles City Flying Club


Other stories about Woodland Airfield:

How Do You Show an Airplane to a Visually-Impaired Child

Reach for the Sky

The Little Red Fokker

Achtung, Wir Fliegen! I Fly With The Red Baron!



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It was quickly discovered by our own Intelligence Officers that the best of the German fighting squadrons were now patrolling our skies.  On the aerodrome at Coincy, a large field just north of Chateau Thierry, was located the distinguished Richthofen Squadron, then commanded by Captain Reinhardt.  Its machines were distinguishable by their scarlet noses, and by the extraordinary skillfulness of their pilots.  It was now included in Jagdstaffel No.1, which comprised four Flights of seven machines each.*








It was time to fly with Hauptmann Helmuth.  The Red Baron himself!

How do you board an ultralight?  Very carefully, lest your foot punch through fabric or your butt bend an aluminum tube.  When Herr Hauptmann and I strapped in, the gross weight of the entire contraption must surely have doubled.



The giggling says it all.



After thorough engine start and pre-takeoff checks, plus a quick scan for pesky Tommies in S.E. 5s or Sopwith Camels waiting to ‘bounce’ us during takeoff, we were off!



Achtung, wir fliegen!




Helmuth held us below 500 feet for a while.  Ponds and trees zipped by.  In my mind, I heard the music from Flyboys.  Remember the scene when Rawlings (James Franco) took Lucienne (Jennifer Decker) flying?



As we climbed higher, I saw a city on the horizon.  That couldn’t be Tarlac, could it??  Herr Hauptmann pointed to the GPS and confirmed that we had already exited the Clark airport traffic zone, were now abeam Tarlac City, and were well on the way to Nueva Ecija.

It was time for me to fly the airplane.

Herr Hauptmann’s brief:  "Coordinate your turns.  We are heavy.  If you turn too steeply or cross-control, we could go into a spin.  I’ve seen that before, and believe me, I don’t want to see it again!"

I glanced at the fabric wing flexing in the wind, thought about stalling and spinning at this altitude, and vowed to turn very, very gently indeed.



The aileron control forces were a bit stiff, my excuse for immediately unleashing uncoordinated turns on Herr Hauptmann’s butt, about which he loudly complained.

Pitch was responsive enough!  A slight tug on the stick pointed us quickly toward the troposphere.  Rudder pedals, as in every airplane I have flown and will ever fly, are pests for pilots!



The famous German Fokker held the skies in 1916 and 1917 for it combined more of these essential details than did any one fighting craft of the Allies.  Then came the Spad which the French designed to out-speed and out-maneuver the Fokker, but still the Fokker had a higher ceiling and a swifter dive.

The British produced the S.E. 5 in 1918 which out-dove and out-maneuvered the Fokker, but could not overtake it on a flat race nor out-climb it.  The Sopwith Camel likewise came from England and proved superior to the best German fighting machines except in the matter of diving and high-ceiling.*



My best impression was of speed.  This airplane is fast!  Even dawdling as we were, it took just half an hour to fly from Woodland to Nampicuan.

The Red Baron carefully kept me behind German lines.  We patrolled over Nampicuan, now 30 nautical miles north of Herr Helmuth’s luftbasis.  This was friendly territory for Der Fleigend Zirkus — the Red Baron’s Flying Circus.



Rolf, a German who has made this country his home, has built a grass airstrip here and introduced sailplane flying — soaring with the wind — to the Philippines!  Surely I must write about that some day.



All too  quickly, it was time to go home.  I managed to keep the ball centered during my turn.  Or so I thought.  I tapped the ball, now immobile in the center of its tube, and haughtily pointed out to Herr Hauptmann that it must be broken 😛



He curtly replied to me that his butt, still sliding around as I stabbed at the rudder pedals, was telling him otherwise.  If I had Photoshop I would paint a Kaiser moustache on Herr Hauptmann’s photo, above.

We flew low over the trenches under the Concepcion bridge on the Sacobia river, alert for ‘archie’.  We quickly spotted Der Fliegend Zirkus luftbasis.




Achtung!  Der Rote Baron!!





Flying down short final, Helmuth had that airplane right where he wanted it.




I thoroughly enjoyed flying with Helmuth.  More than a true aviation enthusiast, a superb professional and a studious pilot, he has become a genuine friend.



Now I’m hooked on this, and will want to take ultralight lessons soon.  Curse you, Red Baron!  🙂



Posted from Amsterdam, January 29, 2010.  

*Excerpts from Fighting the Flying Circus, copyright by Edward V. Rickenbacker, 1919, and Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1919.

Photos by Flying in Crosswinds, Prince, Rolf Dunder and Tim Maceren.                     









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A New Year, a gaggle of new flying stories!  Already I have enough aerial tales to write about for an entire year.  It’s 2010, and we are off with a Bang!










I finally met the The Little Red Fokker.  It took a year, but the stars finally aligned.

It all began at the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta  last year, where I was Air Boss.

At an air show, the Air Boss partners with Air Traffic Controllers to manage all aircraft movement.  A terrifying job.  I was hellishly hot and heavily harassed.




In the midst of all that,  Helmuth, who I’d never met before, goose-stepped up to me and curtly demanded in a clipped Teutonic accent that I ride his little red f*cker  😯

Right now.  Schnell!

A kraut pimp, I thought (turns out he is Austrian).  Then I realized he was referring to his Fokker.

A Fokker is an airplane.  In case you were wondering.   



Eleven months later, I finally got to ride Herr Oberst Helmuth’s little red, er, airplane.

It was based at Woodland Airpark, home to ultralight aircraft of the Angeles City Flying Club.  Carlo and I have flown many times over Woodland.  I’d been there but once, many years ago.  Why am I not a member of this intrepid band of aviators?

Talk about intrepid!  When we arrived at Woodland, there was a Quicksilver ultralight in the landing pattern.  There is nothing under their legs but Pampanga rice fields, hundreds of feet below.



Woodland feels like an old Royal Flying Corps, Armée de l’Air, or Luftstreitkrafte airbase.  (The Brit, Australian and American club members all had ribald comments about The Great War, Austro-German pilots and Fokkers.)  Grass runway, clubhouse, fabric airplanes and vintage aircraft tucked away in hangars.  Craftsmen, professionals, enthusiasts.













Mike S’s PT-13 Stearman, a real treasure, is being restored here.




Bob is doing an outstanding job on this, his fifth Stearman restoration.  I used to admire this airplane from afar, at various ramps and taxiways in Philippine airports.  It was the most beautiful airplane in the country, and will look even better soon.



Then I found it.  Der Kleine Rote Fokker!




I loved it at once — the flaming red fabric (yes, Virginia, this is a fabric-over-metal-frame airplane), the Balkenkreuz and all the other markings.

"Fok" stands for Fokker.  In case you were confused.

The "E" is for Eindecker (n. Ger. "monoplane", single wing), the first purpose-built German fighter airplane, designed by the Dutch aircraft designer, Anthony Fokker.      
The livery is a tribute to Helmuth’s great grandfather, who flew Hansa-Brandenburg D-Is, Albatross D-IIIs and Fokker D-VIs and D-VIIs for the Austro-Hungarian Air Service, in the Great War.
















The stickers say it all.  This is an owner-built kit aircraft designed, ironically, by a French aeronautical firm.  An 85-BHP 4-stroke Jabiru aircraft engine, designed and built in Australia, drives that wooden French prop at 3300 RPM, on a diet of 100LL avgas or 95 octane Petron Blaze.

Helmuth, who is actually an exceedingly good-natured self-deprecating craftsman and professional art restorer, is understandably proud of his masterpiece.  There is a very heart-warming story behind Herr Oberst, and we will write a lot more about him here!

The flap handle and trim crank are overhead, classic vintage craftsmanship.














But then there were the CHT and EGT gauges, gyrocompass, electric turn coordinator, GPS, VHF, fuel pressure … enough instrumentation to send the ultralight to Mars.  The sneaky Flugzeugführer probably had full-color synthetic weather radar hidden somewhere.  



It was time to fly.  Kommandant Helmuth pulled Der Rote Flugzeug out into the sun.




I had never flown an ultralight before.  I was about to lose my virginity.  Snoopy, here I come!!     



Posted from Bangkok, January 19, 2010.

Next:  Achtung!!  Der Rote Baron!!   









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