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article number 139
article date 06-07-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
A Small Fly-In Showcases Fun, Affordable Airplanes
by Stu Moment

Each year, Paul and Paula Palmgren host a fly-in in coordination with their local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter. Only about eight aircraft flew in, many more people drove in or biked in … but this simple event is perfect for showcasing “down home” aviation.

The cost of most of the aircraft ranged from $18,000 to $35,000, about the same range as new cars. Yes they do take more money to operate … reserve for and engine overhaul, annual condition inspections and of course, finding a hanger, sometimes at a bigger airport … other times at a small farm grass strip. You can also assume that at the time of this writing in 2012, it will cost you $6000 to $8000 you get quality training for pilot certification although a Sport Pilot Certificate with limited gross weight privileges, costs less.

But … instead of discussing aviation in technical or financial terms, let’s instead, enjoy the variety of people and planes which got together for a fun summer afternoon.

Look … Here come ‘da planes.

What’s this? Looks like one of ‘dem Piper Cubs, but the wings are too short.
What’s this cute little plane? It’s a Van’s Aircraft RV-3.
A real oldie. A 1939 Aeronca Chief.
Don Day taxies in with a 1972 Buick Skylark …
… as Sarah Day followed in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird. Fun fly-ins attract more that airplanes.
Here comes a Kitfox, home-built from a kit.
Neal Toler comes to enjoy the people and planes. He flies this Bell Long Ranger helicopter in charter operations. 650 shaft horsepower. Has airlifted NASCAR clients like Jeff Gordon, Darrel Waltrip, Jeff Burton and chip Ganassi.


People make for a good time … planes give a fun backdrop for a people gathering.

Mark Anliker in front of the Kitfox he built.
Pilots discuss which way is up … an important concept to flight.
Looking inside the cockpit of Giles Henderson’s Clipped Wing Piper Cub. More about that later.
Starduster II, aerobatic homebuilt biplane. Double-wingers are the coolest.
Wow, that RV-3 is small. Wonder if it’s fast.
Dad beware. She likes them fast.
It’s a treat to look into the complex (NOT) cockpit of the 1939 Aeronca Chief. More on that later.
Inside a 1972 Buick Skylark.
Inside a 1966 Ford Thunderbird.
Neal Toler asks “Where is that smell coming from?”
We have our answer … Paul Palmgren on the grill … Just brats plus barbeque pork.
Deserts too.
Something about food that helps people get together. Food tastes better in a hanger setting.
Rope twirling is not a prerequisite for flight crew … but does come in handy for those who fly antique airplanes without brakes.

A deeper discussion of some simple airplanes.

Let’s discuss some of these aircraft with their owners.

We will begin with Steve Laribee’s 1939 Aeronca Chief 65C.

In the 1930’s Aeronca (Aeronautical Corporation of America) of Cincinnati Ohio produced inexpensive low power airplanes.

The Aeronca Chief had side by side seating as did many early Aeroncas. In 1939 Aeronca went from a 50 horsepower engine to the new Continental 65 horsepower engine. The early version of the engine in this 1939 Chief had upward pointing exhausts which distinguishes itself from later versions. Like most aircraft of 1930’s designs, the Chief has a steel tube fuselage structure, wood wing ribs and spars and is fabric covered.

Steve got his Chief as a “basket case” in 1985. It was last flown in 1947. It was rebuilt, gradually, over 8 years … flying again in 1993.

Front view of 1939 Aeronca Chief 65C.
Distinguishing upward exhaust on this early model.
Wonderfully simple instrument panel. To fly an aircraft like this you may have to look outside and … just fly the airplane.
Oh. Forgot to mention. The 65 horsepower Continental engine had no provision for an electric starter. Retired University of Illinois, Institute of Aviation, aircraft maintenance instructor, Terry Ladage (Terry deserves much more acclaimed goosh) has taught many a student the correct way to ‘hand prop’ and engine. Make sure that your momentum carries you away from the propeller.

Onto Giles Henderson’s Clipped Wing Piper Cub.


After World War II, many types of aircraft were used for aerobatic flight. Many of these were not specifically designed for competition but were trainers, big and small, which were up to the task of aerobatics. Great Lakes, Stearmans and old WACOs as well as non US WWII trainers were common at aerobatic competitions. In the 1960’s aerobatic pilot, Harold Krier used the low horsepower Piper Cub, with its wings shortened, for air show flying. This demonstrated that you don’t need big bucks to fly upside down.

Giles Henderson is a hero to me … and should be to many of you. In 1971, 1975, 1986 and 1988 he was the United States National Champion, Sportsman Category aerobatics. Especially in the later years, he was competing with expensive high-horsepower aircraft. It give’s me the “warm n’ fuzzies” … fuels any of our dreams to be a winner against big buck competition.

Giles bought the Cub in 1966. It was a standard “worn out” cub … bald tires, fabric and paint not pretty. He completely stripped the fuselage. The steel tubing was in good shape. He completely stripped the wings. The wood was in good shape. And of course he recovered the airplane.

His cub has plenty of aerobatic modifications plus he uses a 90 horsepower Continental engine rather than the original 65 horsepower Continental … but his cub has done more than aerobatics. He’s flown it all around the country with his wife … to Lock Haven Pennsylvania (where the Piper Cub was built), the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, Bar Harbor Main, Niagara Falls … and out west to Mount Rushmore and down to the Grand Canyon.

Besides inspiring us with what can be done with less dollars, maybe we can learn that simplicity may lead to more airtime … and more good times.

Nice paint job says “aerobatic”.
Just the basic instruments. You can enjoy looking outside instead of having your eyes glued on instruments.
Old PR shot. It’s easier to inspect the corn upside down …
… and if you don’t like the spider mites you spot, go vertical.

On to a kit plane built by Mark Anliker.

Mark built this Kitfox from a kit. It is a Light Sport Aircraft which means that to fly one, you can be a Sport Pilot which takes less time and money than pursuing a Private Pilot’s license.

Purchasing the kit, a new engine and many accessories, a Kitfox will cost you between $30,000 and $35,000. It took Mark 8 years of spare time to finish the plane. It was built in a garage. The fuselage comes pre-welded but there is a fair amount of aluminum and steel fabrication to be done … lots of grinding, reaming and press-fitting bearings. Once framed, modern glue-on fabric methods simplify the covering process. For painting, Mark built a booth where his pickup truck usually parks. Mark jokes that building can be fun in an ideal “man cave” environment which includes a refrigerator, stereo and of course, tool company calendars.

The Kitfox holds two people and cruises 90 MPH on a 80 horsepower engine. He has flow it 550 hours already … says it’s easy to fly a lot … doesn’t use much fuel and has surprisingly low maintenance. Also it has folding wings so hangering may be cheaper.
Going for a flight in a safe airplane with a safe pilot will put a smile on your face.

On to Perry Testory’s RV-3.


Perry has reconditioned many experimental airplanes including a biplane and a midget racer. He also helps out fellow aviators at Frasca Field, Urbana, Illinois. It now seems he likes his Van’s Aircraft RV-3, the first commercial kit produced by Van’s Aircraft in the state of Oregon. The Van’s Aircraft product line, now up to the model RV-12, consists of riveted, aluminum skinned, mostly two seat aircraft. Your spouse or friend will hold the bucking bar as you rivet it together. Ends up costing you a few beers.

Van’s Aircraft have excellent performance but give a few MPH’s to their slicker competition in return for easier handling and slower landing speeds.

RV-3 carries only the pilot but has plenty of room. Cruises 170 MPH on a 160 horsepower engine.

Thanks for joining us on this page. Hope you enjoyed it.

Beautiful. It could be 1939.
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