The first two days of this trip can be found in this previous post.
Saturday morning brought high ceilings with some low-ish scattered clouds, plenty of visibility, strong winds and the promise of improvements on all axes later in the day. Jen and John Meade put on an other outstanding breakfast for the very large group and then we all returned to the airport to head for the skies. Emilie and Isaac arrived in the RV-4 as people were starting to take off for a day of fun.
Since keeping up with Super Cubs in an RV-4 can be a challenge (on the slow and short end of things), Isaac and everything else that Emilie didn’t need in flight was loaded into the Bearhawk. We then departed to find where people had headed. The first stop was a private grass strip north east of Concord with a few people making various fuel stops en-route. We headed for Concord to fuel up.
The wind was howling. The Concord ASOS reported something like 15 kts gusting to 20 kts and the radio came alive with exclamations of, “No! Don’t do that!” as some found more “entertainment” than they really wanted from the wind while landing at the grass strip. The winds at Concord were nearly down the runway and the fuel pumps were at the far end of the runway. Instead of making a long taxi down the runway, I landed long and touched down just before the turn-off from the runway that led to fuel. Without any real effort to brake and stop short, I was down in about 100 ft.
After fueling while taking the needed care that the planes not blow around the ramp, we headed for the grass strip. Taking off from Concord I had to fight the wind trying to pick up one of my wings and turn me over, but the roll was short. On short final to the grass strip I twice ran out of aileron so added power and a bit of speed to keep the wind from wrestling control of the Bearhawk away from me. Be it the very effective ailerons of the RV-4, luck or skill, Emilie had no trouble with her landing.
Next, we headed to a little strip and farm access road down the middle of a corn field in Epping, NH. The place is owned by an older gentleman who started flying when he was young and used to keep a J-3 there. A friend, who has since abandoned us for FL, previously lived in Epping and kept his C-180 there. Emile and I had flown into Epping once before, about 3 years ago. I was in our newly purchased Bearhawk and Emilie, a newly licensed pilot at the time, was flying a short wing Cherokee.
Emilie was fastest in the RV, so she was at the front of the group and led the way to Epping. Given recent rain and farm equipment using the runway, there was some concern about the suitability of the RV-4’s small tires for this runway. I went in first and let her know that the surface was fine, just don’t land long because the runway is down hill and not long for an RV. Be it due to time or space since Concord, the winds had died down a bit by this time. When Emilie landed I was a bit concerned about her precision because she ran very close to the corn on one side; corn is not forgiving to airplanes. It turned out that someone had advised over the radio that she avoid the truck ruts in the middle of the runway. This really wasn’t needed and counter productive due to increased difficulty, but she had done it perfectly.
The neighbors love when planes visit and came out to greet us. Planes kept arriving until we had about 20. We were treated to fresh squeezed cider, fresh cookies and fresh cider doughnuts. How fresh? They were still warm! Outstanding! The couple that owned the place also came out to visit and tell stories. A couple pilots gave rides to the neighbors and then it was time to head out.
The next planned stops were a few more private strips, one of them owned by Captain John who was flying with the group in a high performing J-3. However it was almost lunch time and we had arranged for fresh lobster rolls to be delivered to a grass strip that lies under the south west sector of the Portland, Maine airspace. This place features a long (~3,000 ft?) grass runway and a man made water runway next to it that is home to a C-185 on floats. Because we were already late for that appointment, Emilie and I headed straight there. When we arrived the lobster rolls were already under assault by those that beat us there. We surprised George, who had brought the previous night’s outstanding fresh seafood from Alaska, with a pair of fresh lobsters which are something he doesn’t get in Alaska. I felt I had done a pretty reasonable job of landing short in the Bearhawk, but Tom and Joe stepped it up an other notch by landing on the short stub of road that leads up to the start of the landing strip. They stopped before the start of the runway, beating me by several hundred feet. I counted 32 planes at this stop.
The previous weekend, Rene had expressed interest in trying out the RV, so after lobster rolls we put him in the front seat and I jumped in back. Taking care to not run into Portland’s air space above us, we flew south to where we could go higher and introduce him to some basic aerobatics. He videoed as I demoed some loops and rolls. He did a 4G roll, which would have been higher had I not helped him push (not pull) and roll the second half of the maneuver. Being upside down is very foreign and takes a little getting used to, even for a very skilled pilot like Rene. At this point the lobster had done enough rolls, so we headed back for the obligatory low high speed pass and landing. Rene’s first RV landing was near perfect. George had also expressed interest in trying the RV, so we saddled him up next. I had only met George a couple days ago and this was the first day I’d seen him fly, but he comes with considerable flying experience from Alaska in a wide variety of planes and circumstances, and he seemed to have a disciplined and thoughtful head on his shoulders, so we also put him in front and I took the back seat again. George queried about the RV’s stall, best climb and glide speeds and then said something like, “so we should fly final at about 80-90 kts?” “No!”, I said. For most planes his conclusion would be correct, but an RV offers an odd combination of fast and slow characteristics that result in best approaches being done “behind the power curve”, well below best glide speed. If you come over the fence much faster than 60 kts, you’re going to sail down the runway and wish you had an anchor to throw out the back. Bring it in real slow and it’s a pussy cat. Given the busy context, George settled for quick lap around the pattern to get an introductory feel and then brought it in for a landing at least as good as Rene’s.
The next stop was an island south west of Portland. It is owned by an older gentleman who also owns another strip on the mainland, just across the water from the island. I don’t think that he is still flying, but he loves to have people use his runways and this one gets mowed from time to time. It is a fantastic little stop that really gives a backcountry flying feel and has a short 900 ft space to land that makes many Cub pilots feel that they’ve really achieved something by landing there, esp. since the 900 ft space has hard limits that will break planes. Since it was well mowed on this day and Emilie was nailing all her landings, after Isaac and I had parked the Bearhawk she setup to land. Everyone was watching as the little speed demon of an airplane approaches the island with Emilie behind the stick. Her landing absolutely perfect! She made the most beautiful touchdown right on the end of the strip, only needing about 500 ft.
With that, some of the Cub pilots had to move their planes and land on the beach where the tiny tires of the RV would not permit any further intrusions by go-fast planes. We all thoroughly enjoyed the demonstrations of what Alaskan Bush Wheels allow Super Cubs and Scouts to do in off-airport settings. Quite a few photos and a good bit of video was taken. I would have loved to join, but even the 8.50’s on the Bearhawk are not suitable for this sort of work.
We had planned to make an other stop or two along the coast of Maine and then stop at a strip in the middle of nowhere in northern New Hampshire, but the day was getting short. We flew up the coast a bit and then headed inland to Bethel, Maine for fuel with Lou from Georgia. As we were taxing out from Bethel, Bill landed his Husky with a couple cubs close behind him. I noted that his tires looked quite muddy from the fun they had been having exploring new places that only those on Alaskan Bush Wheels can explore. From there we took a circuitous route around Mt. Washington, through Franconia Notch and then back to Wentworth. Some of the winds had returned (or we had returned to the winds), and some of the cubs were having fun hovering over Mt. Washington and playing in the mountain waves the winds were creating. We arrived back at Wentworth with the sun low on the horizon and planes returning at regular intervals.
That evening, though the fresh Alaskan sea food that George had brought was long gone, Jen and John put on an other fantastic feast for the whole crew of us. It was reported that we were up to 38 planes! The fire pit was lit again and Isaac had a wonderful evening running around with the other kids.
To be continued…