By STAN Sundance Logo KASPRZYK

FlightLog Archive

Aircraft Flown

Flying the Super Aero 45 - Jun 2024

The Super Aero 45 is a twin-engined piston utility aircraft produced in Czechoslovakia after World War II, one of the first civil designs of the post-war Czechoslovakian aircraft industry. Aero Vodochody produced the aircraft in 1947–1951, after which Let Kunovice rolled out Aeros until 1961. The Aero 45 has a teardrop-shaped fuselage, with a rounded, extensively-glazed nose providing excellent visibility. It has a low wing on which the engine nacelles are mounted, and a conventional tail. The main undercarriage is retractable but the tailwheel is fixed. The Aero 45S 'Super Aero' is an improved variant produced by Let in the Kunovice, Czechoslovakia factory. 228 Super Aeros were built between 1954 and 1959.

Bill Shepherd has been flying his Super Aero 45 in the Great Northwest for a number of years, and its unique 'art deco' design always draws a crowd at local airshows. Bill's Super Aero was manufactured in 1955, and is powered by two 140HP Walter M332 fuel-injected in-line air cooled engines, upgraded from the original 105HP Walter Minor 4-III engines. N145SA was owned by another former Delta pilot, but hadn't flown for years when Bill acquired it. Bill said that he would have run out of hotel funds if he tried to fix it remotely, so he took off the wings and trucked it to the Northwest. The Aero sat for a few more years, until Bill sold his YAK-11 to fund the Aero 45 re-build.

I had flown formation with the Super Aero 45 during the 2017 Vintage Aircraft Weekend at Paine Field in a T-6, but hadn't actually flown in the Super Aero 45 previously. As part of the June 2024 Cascade Warbirds Fly Day at Arlington, WA, Bill Shepherd provided rides in his unique aircraft to Cascade Warbirds family members and guests. As the day wound down, Bill noted that he had fuel for one more flight, so I took his gracious offer of a right seat orientation and mini-checkout flight, with our Ops Officer Dan 'FAGIB' Shoemaker joining the experience in the backseat.

While the Aero cockpit is fairly wide at the mid-section, the ample glass does taper at eye-height, and moving into the right seat normally takes a bit of contortioning. Since I was the recent owner of a new titanium right knee, I took my time slowly settling in. Bill gave me a detailed cockpit panel and control summary. While I had a yoke, rudder pedals and access to the central throttle quadrant, there were no brakes on the right side. Bill's Aero has a modern, updated display suite, with some unique controls, notably the 10-button control panel for prop control. I did notice that the glare shield around the Garmin G5 attitude indicator completely blocked the adjacent airspeed gauge from 0-120 MPH, which would make precise speed control a bit of a chore later in-flight.

After an easy startup, Bill taxied and lined me up on runway 34, and said "You've got it". The Aero 45 accelerated smoothly once I finally reached full throttle throw, which felt almost 150 degrees forward from idle. While visibility was excellent, it took a moment to establish the right climb pitch attitude, since the nose slopes forward. Once I found a reference airspeed on the Garmin, we climbed to the northwest and I got a feel for the Aero’s handling characteristics. The Aero has surprisingly light aileron forces for a twin, and pitch control was easier after I leveled off and calibrated my 'level flight' sight picture. Since the throttle quadrant has such a large/eclectic maneuvering range, and a classic ‘art deco’ propeller control panel, Bill walked me through various climb and cruise 'propeller pitch' buttons. I rolled into a few 45-degree turns, needing only light rudder pressure for coordination. Visibility all around was amazing, but the expansive glass definitely started heating up the cockpit with our filtered sun, with the feeble vent system struggling to cool.

After turns and a bit of sightseeing, Bill let me fly two full patterns and landings back at Arlington. It seemed like throttle movements from downwind to final only used the very last bit of the throttle range, but once pitch was correctly established, airspeed control was straightforward. Bill had me lower the gear, then he set the flaps. Flap position is shown on a cockpit indicator, since the flaps themselves are not visible from the cockpit. I surprised myself with decent final glide path control, with Bill coaching me to hold off my flare until the last second, giving me some hopping bounces on landing. Rudder control on touchdown seemed to have no affect initially, then took hold quickly, giving Dan Shoemaker some excitement in the backseat, but he didn't scream too loudly as we throttled up for our touch and go. With minimal coaching, Bill let me fly a second landing to a full-stop, adding a few more bounces to get my landing currency in the Aero 45! Bill took over the rudder pedals and brakes on rollout, with smiles all around after an awesome introduction to this unique aircraft. Thanks for the enjoyable flying time in your classic Super Aero 45, Bill!

Flying Through the SW Heat Dome - Jul 2023

Throughout the month of July 2023, the US West coast, especially the southwest US, was covered in a giant inversion and 'heat dome', leading to a record month of high temperatures in Arizona, Nevada and the California deserts. We adjusted our planned flights from Renton to Concord/Oakland and Long Beach to start the days early, and climb to higher altitudes while cruising to try to avoid the maximum heating. Our initial departure from Renton to Medford, and on to Concord, CA, afforded us slightly above normal en route temperatures through Washington and Oregon, only elevating as we descended over the Sacramento Valley into Concord, where we landed in relatively normal 94-degree heat and predictable crosswinds. Our short drive with Theresa over the hills to Oakland dropped the temperatures to a gorgeous mid-70s, with even cooler low-60s as we toured the San Francisco Botanical Garden and enjoyed Vietnamese garlic Dungeness crab at our favorite PPQ Dungeness Island restaurant, near Golden Gate Park.

We got back into the heat while wine tasting in Livermore, escaping the 94-degree temps while chilling with the wine at Fenestra Winery. Since Brian was on a trip, we decided to give Theresa a San Francisco bay tour from the air. We took off from Concord with temperatures at 80° on the ground at 10:00AM, but already 90° at 2000’ with the strong inversion. As we flew through the crystal clear skies, we could see the blanket of low-level clouds along the coastline and streaming through the Golden Gate bridge, but the air above remained oppressively warm. It felt strange to descend into Concord at the end of the flight for cooler air!

After our enjoyable visit with Theresa, we continued south to San Luis Obispo, again passing through the strong inversion as we climbed out of Concord past San Jose, finding cooler air finally above 7000 feet. The heat dome was noticeable just east of the coast as we descended past Santa Barbara and Camarillo to overhead Santa Monica for the Special Flight Rules VFR passage over LAX. So Cal Approach and Long Beach tower were very efficient as we landed smoothly on runway 26L at Long Beach, parking at Atlantic Aviation for the week.

We enjoyed a great week in long Beach, shuttling the boys to their daily workout at the Long Beach Junior Lifeguard program, plus checking on Alex's performance with his saxophone at Jazz Angels, plus daily swimming in the pool.

David, Katie, Alex and Nathaniel all got a chance to fly in the left seat for PIC (Pilot-In-Command) time in our Warrior from Long Beach and Torrance, with all of them flying smoothly and learning the feel of the airplane. The weather was mostly sunny with a bit of ocean haze each day, except for a rapid low cloud/ocean fog advance that brought the Long Beach airport quickly to IFR status as we were returning from Torrance with Katie in the left seat. So Cal Approach gave us a pop-up IFR clearance, then vectors to the ILS to near minimums on runway 30 for a smooth tailwind landing. Katie’s comment was perfect: “Dad, I expected a bunny slope ride, and you just gave me a double black diamond”.

Weather for our Long Beach departure was again IFR with low ocean fog, but we broke through on our IFR departure into the clear skies and the heat dome while climbing northbound, having to climb to 8500 feet to get above the inversion. Our descent over San Francisco greeted us with crystal clear skies again, but the heat dome had pushed to the surface at Santa Rosa, providing 101-degree temperatures for our landing, but a chilled rental car that met us at our parking slot compensated well. Dinner at the excellent Sweet T's Southern restaurant in Windsor capped off the last night of our trip. We flew through some forest fire smoke near Mt. Shasta, but the rest of our flight back to Renton was cool and clear above the inversion.

Formation Flying and Formation Cards - Jul 2023

The Northwest Formation Flying Clinic, held every summer at Bremerton, WA, is the perfect venue to get extensive formation practice and potentially a check flight to obtain new formation ratings or 'cards'. As part of FAST, the Formation And Safety Team, the clinic has representatives of many formation training organizations that are dedicated to providing safe and effective formation training, leading to a formation 'card', which allows the bearer to participate in flights in waivered airspace during public airshows. In 2023, the clinic had representatives from NATA (North American Trainer Association), JLFC (Joint Liaison Formation Committee) and RPA (RedStar Pilots Association), which focuses on Nanchangs, Yaks and other Soviet and Chinese-built aircraft.

Although I had previous extensive formation flying during my F-15 career, I found that in order to effectively train formation flying in the civilian aviation world, I needed to obtain my formation 'card' to document the FAST training I had received. Using a stepping stone approach, cards are issued first for the wingman position, then after a number of wingman flights and lead training, a subsequent card can be issued for the lead position, which also allows the bearer to instruct in formation.

Since my normal formation warbird, the Nanchang CJ-6, was unavailable, I had been practicing using my Piper Warrior as wing, with Bob Stoney leading a prep flight in his O-1 Bird Dog. When I arrived early before the official start of the formation clinic, I found out that Bob's Bird Dog was down for maintenance. As a backup, Dave Desmon volunteered the use of his Navion, which is also compatible with Warrior speeds. Bob Stoney briefed and flew with Dave Desmon in his Navion as lead for my JLFC 2-ship wingman check flight, while Smokey Johnson flew with me as the check pilot in my Warrior. I took off as #2 from runway 20, flew fingertip and route, cross unders, close and extended trail and two pitchouts and rejoins, with one forced under run, all smooth. I took the lead to get Bob Stoney his Formation Proficiency Review, led a pitchout and rejoin, gave the lead back, then flew to initial and pitched out. It was an very enjoyable flight, with very few comments in the debrief, and I finally got a formation card.

During the remaining four days of the formation clinic, besides my own check flight, I had the great opportunity to instruct in T-28s and Nanchangs, and helped support T-28B owner Scott Urban as he also successfully completed his check flight for his first wingman formation card. We had four T-28s on hand, Scott's, Charlie Goldbach's T-28B, and Roger Collins with his two T-28s, specifically T-28C 'Lima Charlie' and combat veteran T-28D 'Lumpy'.

We were able to welcome our Canadian contingent again this year, including Dave Gagliardi with his Nanchang, Chris Cowan in another ‘Chang and Tom Spreen in his Yak-18. I flew a number of flights with the Nanchangs and Yaks, plus an instructional flight with local pilot Larry ‘Spooky’ Pine in his ‘Chang.

The weather was excellent, and all participants enjoyed great flying, good food and enjoyable evening war stories! We capped it off with another epic callsign naming session, this year for Mark ‘Liener’ Darrow, in memory of his strut leak and lean which led to a major overnight fuel leak of Jet-A all over the ramp from his T-34C. Here's to more formation flying and more formation cards again next year!

Dan 'FAGIB' Shoemaker posted 104 great photos from the 2023 Bremerton formation clinic on his Facebook site, great photo work, FAGIB!

A Fine June Flying Weekend - Jun 2023

Summer flying weather in the Great Northwest is the best in the country, with predominately clear, sunny skies, low humidity and great visibility. Usually that summer flying weather starts just after the 4th of July, and lasts until early September. In late June, 2023, we were treated with an early start to summer flying weather, and I had the enjoyable opportunity to fly four different aircraft with four different types of flying over the period of a long June weekend.

Friday, 23 June 2023 - Just Highlander N677SC

Friday started with an offer from my friend, neighbor and former AF Academy '77 grad Steve Cameron for a flight in his homebuilt Just Highlander. Steve had built the Highlander over a cold winter in Idaho, and after initial teething issues with his Yamaha Apex engine, had completely his required test program and could now take others up to experience the STOL capabilities of the Highlander. Dean Fox was the originator of the design shape that evolved with Dan Denney into the Kitfox, and through a number of companies, Just Aircraft designed the Summit, Escapade, and finally the Highlander in 2004. Although started in Idaho, Just Aircraft is now headquartered in Walhalla, SC.

Steve picked me up in his truck, since he was tankering fuel to the Auburn airport. I helped Steve conduct a thorough pre-flight as we unfolded the wings on the Highlander, refueled, and said hello to the pilots of two other Highlanders taxiing by Steve’s hangar. Once we buckled in, I was pleased with the amount of head and leg room, and the decent over-the-nose visibility for a taildragger with large bush tires. The Yamaha Apex engine runs at a very high RPM, and initial taxi sounded like we were revving for takeoff. We climbed steeply off Auburn’s runway 34, and headed directly for the short grass strip at Auburn Academy (WA84). Steve kept us high over the tall trees at the approach end of runway 27, then slipped us in to a nice landing and very short rollout. I had the second pattern, climbing out with good visibility once the nose was lowered, and tried the same slip technique over the tall trees. My round out for landing was more abrupt than Steve’s, giving us a small bounce but also aligning us off the centerline. Once firmly on the ground, we angled toward the taller grass on the runway edge, but we were still able to stop in a very short distance. Power control on final will take a bit of work with the geared engine. We then took a reconnaissance run over tomorrow’s planned wedding overflight location, acquiring good run-in landmarks. We cruised in perfect weather across the Puget Sound to the Vashon municipal airport, (2S1), where Steve demoed a nice steep approach to the 2100-ft grass strip, stopping again very quickly after touchdown. This STOL flying is fun, especially on grass runways. I flew back to Auburn, where Steve lamented the hard surface instead of welcoming grass. Thanks for the Highlander and STOL demos, Steve. Now to find some more smooth grass runways to practice!

Friday, 23 June 2023 - Van's RV-12iS N262BS

Troy Larson, a Boeing KC-46 test pilot, another AF Academy grad and member of the Boeing Employees Flying Association (BEFA) contacted me a couple of years ago about BEFA's potential acquisition of two factory built Van's RV-12 aircraft. Troy hoped that BEFA could establish a formation training program, and he requested my help in developing a syllabus and training program. Two years later, BEFA had finally acquired both new RV-12iS aircraft, and Troy arranged with aviation photographer John Parker to set up a promotional RV-12 video shoot. We briefed late in the afternoon on Friday, with glorious cumulus clouds building to the east over the Cascades. Troy flew solo in the lead RV-12, and I flew in the formation as #2 in BEFA's newest RV-12, N262BS, with BEFA pilot Rohan Sharma getting formation orientation in the left seat, and the Bonanza chasing and orchestrating formation position changes as we maneuvered over the Enumclaw area and the Cascade foothills. The late sun provided great lighting as we maneuvered through close and route fingertip formation, cross-unders, trail and pitch outs as John's video camera, mounted in a turret under the Bonanza's aft fuselage, provided unique perspectives on the formation. Even though it was only my second flight in an RV-12, formation flying was a breeze, like all other Van's aircraft. With outstanding visibility, crisp flight controls, smooth handling and good engine response, the RV-12 will be a fantastic formation training platform for BEFA. After our video shoot, John Parker and the Bonanza headed to Auburn, while Troy led our two RV-12s back after sunset to initial at Renton for an overhead pattern, pitching out and landing after a very enjoyable flying day. John Parker produced an excellent video from our formation flight.

Saturday, 24 June 2023 - N3N-3 N44707

Earlier in June, my friend Jim Lambert, Beaver pilot and head of NW Seaplanes Maintenance, called and asked if I could flyby his wedding ceremony on 24 June. The wedding venue would be on Jim’s 5-acre property north of Enumclaw. I heartily agreed, hoping to rope in a few fellow aviators for a formation flyby. On Friday, I used my Highlander orientation flight to conduct a reconnaissance of the venue, since Jim’s property is hidden on a wooded hillside overlooking the Green River. On Saturday, no formation partners were available, but Tom ‘TP’ Jensen had volunteered the use of his gorgeous N3N biplane. TP and I prepared three rolls of toilet paper to highlight the wedding, and launched into perfect skies with a TOT (Time On Target) of 2:00PM. I loitered to the west, trying hard to identify my run-in landmarks, which were harder to see over the windy nose of the N3N. TP helped identify the tents and wedding party, allowing for a perfect overflight from the west at exactly 2:00. I circled tightly and made a second pass, where TP and I dropped our 3 rolls of toilet paper. I didn’t want to hit the wedding party directly, and our ‘confetti’ ended up 50 feet from the crowd, suspended in a tree by Jim’s tool barn. Not bad for an air-to-air guy! Jim and his bride Lindsey loved the flybys and ‘confetti’! Thanks for the loan of your gorgeous N3N, TP!

Sunday, 25 June 2023 - Piper Warrior N313DC

My good friend and fellow Air Force Academy grad Stan Mars had called earlier in the week and coordinated for a flight review. Stan had built and flown a Zenith 701 years ago, but he sold it to a New Zealand pilot, and flew and taught others in their aircraft instead. Stan and I helped each other with our multi-engine and instrument instructor ratings years ago. Recently back from Palm Springs, Stan and I met at Renton, where I loaned him my Warrior for an enjoyable flight review, reviewing the 'possible turn' maneuver and flying optimum power-off turns to minimize altitude loss when turning back to the airfield in case of a power loss. Stan flew excellent patterns and landings, only remarking that the Puget Sound general aviation traffic was way up from previous years. We both were busy looking outside and using ADS-B to keep clear of the many other aircraft enjoying this fine weekend summer weather!

Four different aircraft, four different missions - STOL (Short-Takeoff and Landing) practice, formation in a new aircraft, a wedding flyby in a classic biplane, and giving a flight review in my family cruiser. Not a bad summer flying weekend!

Palm Springs Shuttle - Feb 2023

From my friend, Doug in early February: "Sundance - I'm planning on spending three months in Palm Springs, and I need your help ferrying my RV-7 there from Auburn!" Twist my arm! I’ve flown Doug’s RV-7 numerous times to give him flight reviews and aerobatic training, plus formation flying together for great photos, including a Van’s calendar winning entry.

Weather was the critical factor for scheduling the ferry flight, since February is notorious for icing, winds and cold IFR conditions along the Cascades as we planned any southbound winter journey. The winter of 2022-2023 had been fairly cold, windy and wild, giving us a very good snowpack in the Cascades by late January. As mid-February approached, Doug and I noticed a small one-day window of decent weather being forecast for Wednesday, 15 February. Doug hopped on a late Alaska flight from Palm Springs to Seattle on Tuesday afternoon, and we decided to meet at 5:30 (yes, that’s AM) to go for it.

The clear sliver of the moon and bright stars were a very positive omen as we blasted out of Auburn, WA (S50) into clear 28° skies at 6:06 in the morning, climbing quickly on our IFR flight plan to 17,000 feet. Seattle Center was very accommodating in the early hours, first clearing us direct to Battle Ground (BTG), then giving us direct to Red Bluff, CA (RBL). I hand flew the climb out of Auburn, then handed things over to the Garmin autopilot as we donned our oxygen cannulas and enjoyed the glorious sunrise over the Cascades.

Given our actual tailwinds of 35 knots, with forecasts to increase as we cruised further into California, we anticipated the possibility of a non-stop flight on one tank of gas, all the way from Auburn to Palm Springs. The skies remained crystal clear, allowing me to pick up Mt Shasta while 170 NM away! As we passed nearly directly over a very snowy Mt Shasta, still at 17,000, burning a mere 5.6 gals/hour, we were indicating a 200 knot ground speed. You’ve got to love the RV-7!

The only fly in the ointment was our oxygen usage. We unfortunately were using a ‘5’ setting for too long on our oxygen meter, when a ‘.5’ would have been enough, so we would not have enough oxygen to remain at 17K with the great tailwind. In our pre-flight planning, I noted that McClellan Airfield (KMCC) near Sacramento had surprisingly cheap fuel at $5.03/gal, vs $7-8.00/gal in the surrounding area. We decided on one quick fuel stop at KMCC, enjoying the 10,599 foot main runway at the former USAF base. I again hand flew the departure south from McClellan to 11,500 feet, then Doug engaged the Garmin autopilot as we cruised by Bakersfield, Lake Hughes, then descended over Cajon Pass into still clear skies. High winds blowing through Banning Pass the day before had caused airliners arriving in Palm Springs to divert into nearby Ontario. Today the winds were much reduced, but still gave us one good ‘canopy knocker’ just before Banning. ATC kept us at 5500’ until over Palm Springs (PSP), then allowed a smooth entry to left downwind for runway 28 at Bermuda Dunes, giving us 6.1 hours and completely clear skies the entire journey!

The weather in the Puget Sound turned cloudy with icing the next morning, so our choice of flying days was perfect! Thanks for the fun ferry flight, Doug, and enjoy flying your RV-7 for a few months in the desert Southwest!