The Chippie Blog
June - June proved to be a busy month for WG430. Friend and recently hired airline pilot Jaimie Rousseau flew the Chipmunk around the Salton Sea and got to perform her first aileron roll to celebrate her new career.
Several days of formation flying training were carried out at Cable Airport in WG430 with instructors from Aviator Flight Training in June. This was excellent training towards a FAST (Formation & Safety Team) certification for Steve and Richard (the owner of WP833). Nine training flights were conducted in both 2 ship, and 3 ship formations. The flying was extremely challenging but very fun and rewarding. During one flight, we were joined in formation by a T6, flown by the formation examiner Daniel, which made for some exciting photos and experiences. Unfortunately, work commitments and an annual inspection due for WP833 meant that the course was not completed. This will be on the agenda again soon. Instructors Jon Lawrence and Steve Watkins flew in WG430 for this training.
Longtime friend, airline Captain, safety manager and ex US Navy veteran Don Olsen also flew WG430 in June. We flew to Flabob Airport to use the grass runway for some circuit training and then flew back to the Thermal area for general handling, aileron rolls and pattern work.
Plans are being made to fly WG430 to the EAA AirVenture event at Oshkosh in July to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the de Havilland Chipmunk.
May - The new piston rings were installed and a test flight was made to seat the new rings by owner Steve Randall. The engine ran very strong and smooth, but more high power flights will be required to properly seat the rings in the cylinder. To this end, WG430 was able to join Chipmunk WP833 in a formation flight around the Riverside area, ending with a formation flypast during the Flabob Low & Slow Fly-In event on 15th May. WG430 was flown by Chipmunk mechanic Nando Mendoza, with Steve Randall in the back seat. After the flight, WG430 and WP833 formed part of the static display for a great crowd of aviation enthusiasts to photograph and enjoy these two historic aircraft.
22nd May - 75th Anniversary of the DHC-1. WG430 participated in the global celebration of the 75th anniversary of the deHavilland Chipmunk at Flabob Airport in Southern California. Gatherings took place in the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and other places. Photographers and videographers were present at Flabob, including representatives from the EAA. Three Chipmunk examples were on show, two British and one Canadian. Some close formation takeoffs, passes and landings were flown in WG430 with Richard Wilsher flying the lead Chipmunk WP833 with Jeff "Stork" Meyer in the rear seat. Sonex pilot Doug Smith was in the back seat of WG430 for these flights. This was a fun day of flying and a fitting tribute to this wonderful aircraft. See the 'Photographs" section for some great shots taken by Ian Glover (@charge_seven on Instagram). Following the celebrations, WG430 was flown back to Thermal by Doug Smith and Steve Randall.
Jan to April - A new year will hopefully allow some opportunities to display WG430, and to allow people the opportunity to fly. During maintenance, small cracks were found in the engine mount. This required the removal of the engine and repairs were made. Some corrosion was also found in a flap bracket, which required a fabricated repair. New tailplane brackets were sourced from another Chipmunk owner Karl Moore in Australia and were fitted to replace brackets that were close to fatigue life limits. Some improvements were made to the tailwheel assembly and the transponder was moved to an easier to reach area just below the forward instrument panel. A test flight was performed by Richard Wilsher and Nando Mendoza in April, which led to a compression check on all cylinders. Unfortunately, the number 4 cylinder compression was found be low, and so the cylinder was removed and new piston rings installed, sourced from Skytrade in the UK.
Remainder of 2020 - 2020 was not quite the year that anyone expected! I have taken the opportunity to get the annual inspection going early, as an engine removal is required to comply with a manufacturer directive. For the next few months, work will be carried out by West Coast Air Creations at Flabob Airfield. WG430 should be airborne again in 2021, and hopefully with some opportunity to display.
August & September - WG430 visited Flabob Airport for some back-seat currency training, with thanks to safety pilot Richard Wilsher. No other organized events are planned for the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
As COVID conditions slowly eased, I had the privilege of flying Gerry Heath in WG430 during September. Gerry is a fellow Brit and resident in the Palm Springs area. He flew a Chipmunk at age 14 at Cambridge Airport while with the Air Training Corps. Gerry's father are up in my home town of Southampton, and worked at the Supermarine plant there during WW2 working on Spitfires! Gerry did most of the flying and it was very cool to be a part of this nostalgic flight.
July - The majority of July has been spent researching the history of WG430, with help from Rod Brown, who was one of the authors of "DHC-1 Chipmunk, The Poor Man's Spitfire". Rod had some great photos of my Chipmunk from the 1950's and 1960's, and also a data sheet that the late Geoff Ambrose (Air Britain) compiled. Using these resources, the history page was completely updated. A subscription e-mail bar was also added to the homepage to allow updates to be communicated. WG430 featured in the July 2020 edition of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, as part of an article written about Nando & Hualdo Mendoza at West Coast Air Creations.
June - WG430 has been flying a fair amount of local currency flights in June. These flights also allowed a check of the work carried out to the cylinder head and exhaust repairs. Daisy Garcia, a local student and Ninety-Nines member, used WG430 for her graduation photos. One of these is posted in the "photographs" section. I also celebrated 34 years since my first flight in Chipmunk WD373, and so decided to take a GoPro along and "victory roll" WG430 over the Salton Sea. I also received some photos of WG430 from Rod Brown in the UK. He had flown my Chipmunk back in 2005 with then owner Mike Williams. They did a photoshoot around Missouri, with Rod flying WG430 and Mike flying a Tiger Moth. I have posted a photo on this site with Rod's permission.
April & May - **UPDATE** Unfortunately, the El Centro and March AFB airshows have both been canceled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, I'll be able to display WG430 at future airshows once this health issue has stabilized. In the meantime, I am continuing to maintain my currency by regularly flying WG430, which has also helped to keep the engine and systems well lubricated and the battery healthy.
March - During a routine daily check, a small crack was discovered in one of the cylinders. On further inspection, the crack is in an area that cannot be repaired and so a replacement Gipsy Major Series 8 cylinder has been sourced from a parts supplier in the UK. This will be installed as soon as possible but this unexpected issue may prevent me from flying WG430 to the El Centro Airshow on 13/14 March. My Chipmunk will stay grounded until repairs have been made.
The replacement cylinder head has turned up from the UK! The guys from West Coast Air Creations came by and removed the old cylinder head and fitted the new one. After a conversation with the mechanic and after review of the existing hardware, I decided to source all new washers, nuts and gaskets for the intake & exhaust manifold. I flew our Grumman over to Santa Paula to collect the new hardware, in an attempt to try and have repairs made in time for the El Centro airshow. All was going well, but unfortunately we found a small crack in the exhaust, which was probably caused by the vibration after the crack developed and the exhaust manifold stud came loose. The exhaust was taken to Flabob for welding and repair. At the same time, I elected to have another small crack repaired, one that originally appeared on the spinner during last years ferry flight but had not previously warranted removal and repair. WG430 should be ready to fly before the end of March, but the exhaust and intake nuts will be monitored closely for the first 10 hours of flight. I'm sad that, despite a great effort by all involved, I will be unable to attend the El Centro airshow, but I do plan to attend the March AFB airshow later this month.
February - Much of this month was spent practicing formation flying with a second Chipmunk (WP833) to allow safe arrivals and departures at some upcoming airshows. The runways at San Bernadino and Thermal were utilized for formation take-off and landing practice. These flights proved to be very valuable and will allow the airshow public to safely see two Chipmunks in formation, just as they would have been flown during their RAF days. WG430 should be available for static viewing at both the El Centro Air Display, which will be celebrating the home-based Blue Angels, and the March Air Base Airshow. Public displays are also planned at some local EAA Chapter meetings in March. Photos will be posted on this site.
January - Welcome to the new 20's, and what a great start! After almost 6 months of hard work, WG430 was finally ready for test flying and collection today. It was a gorgeous day in Riverside, California, and after a good engine run up, I took to the sky again in this wonderful Chipmunk. It was as if I never left! WG430 flew beautifully, and the radios, ADS-B and transponder worked great. About 20 minutes into my flight, the engine began running a little rough, and basic airborne troubleshooting would not clear it, so I decided to head back in to Flabob. I landed on the grass runway as there was traffic on the hard runway. The reason for the roughness was obvious, and something I should've expected. The number 4 cylinder had been honed to clear some surface scratches from a ring that had some carbon deposits on it. This resulted in the rings not quite seating correctly and some oil making its way into the cylinder and fouling the plugs. After a clean up, I departed for the new hangar I have for WG430 at Thermal, California. I will expect the rough running at the end of every flight during the next few hours as the rings find their place in the slightly wider cylinder. The solution is a quick clean of the two spark plugs and more flying!
During the extensive maintenance check, the following Technical News Sheet items were checked and complied with. This work required a large amount of labor and care from the experts at West Coast Air Creations. This was the most extensive and thorough check of WG430 since leaving the RAF in 1996, and the mechanics found this Chipmunk is excellent condition, with no fatigue or corrosion issues. TNS 3, 71, 72, 80, 106, 110, 111, 116, 117, 121, 122, 123, 131, 132, 138, 139, 141, 42, 145, 150, 151, 152, 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 170, 171, 175, 176, 177, 178, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 189, 190, 193, 194, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 205, 208 & 209.
WG430 was displayed at the monthly EAA Chapter 1116 meeting at Thermal Airfield at the beginning of the month, and joined almost sixty visiting aircraft for the second annual EAA fly-in at Bermuda Dunes Airport near the end of the month. The weather was perfect at Bermuda Dunes, and the event was very enjoyable. WG430 was parked in a classic aircraft line alongside a Yak 52, Navion, Ercoupe, and a Stearman. Many people were interested to learn the history of WG430, and Dan Stiel took some great photographs (one is shown in the gallery on this site). Graham Kehily sent a copy of his Air Cadet logbook, showing a flight in WG430 back in November 1980 at RAF Manston. I was able to find the aircraft log page from that day and send a copy back to Graham.
December - The guys at West Coast Air Creations are finishing up WG430. The last item on the list is to install some inspection holes into the fabric, per an existing TNS (Technical News Sheet). A full list of the work completed will be posted here soon. I hope to collect WG430 during December and return to my mission of sharing this wonderful aircraft with others at some upcoming aviation events.
Charlie Foinette contacted me, after finding this website. He had recently discovered his first flight certificate (copy posted in the photographs section) flown from RAF Manston in 1992 in WG430! Charles gave me permission to post the copy, thanks Charles. I was able to find the daily log from the RAF Form 700 and send a copy to him. I also found the daily log entry covering his last flight in WG430 from 1995. Connecting with those who have flown WG430 has been a thrilling bonus to my ownership of this Chipmunk.
July - November - WG430 is at Flabob Airfield from July to November for annual inspection, AD compliance, avionics upgrade, required strut/undercarriage x-rays, TNS compliance, life component replacement, fatigue check, ADS compliance and a bunch of other work! WG430 turned 68 years old on 19th October, and this extensive maintenance will ensure she will be safe to fly for many years to come. Highlights from the maintenance will be a new radio and ADS transponder, new wing bolts, wing, tail and undercarriage removal & inspection, starter isolator switch and new spinner parts. The work is being done by the meticulous guys at West Coast Air Creations. Once finished, WG430 will be flown to a new hangar at Thermal Aviation in TRM.
Adrian Pilbeam from the UK sent me a copy of his logbook, with his first flight sticker from AEF1 RAF Manston, showing WG430 as his first experience flight. I was able to find the corresponding aircraft logbook entry and sent it to him to complete his records! I'm so glad that almost all of the original RAF records stayed with WG430. - With WG430 down for maintenance, I accepted a very kind offer from Richard Wilshire to fly his very historic Chipmunk, WP833. This aircraft was one of the two that completed the RAF "Chipmunks Around the World" expedition in 1996. At the beginning of September, I visited Flabob Airport to check out the installation of the radio, ADS transponder, GPS antenna and headset jacks. The guys at West Coast Air Creations did a fantastic job and the installation looks great!
June - The first display of June was due to be at the Corona Airport Historic Aircraft Day. Unfortunately, low clouds through the Banning pass and at the airfield prevented WG430 from attending. Corona will be having another event in July and I hope to display the Chipmunk then. The existing Direction Indicator became inoperative and so a replacement Mark 1A DI from another Chipmunk was sourced. WG430 never had a fire extinguisher when I took ownership and so a modern Halon extinguisher was installed using the original RAF bracket. Adam Cowell from the RAF Manston Aircraft Museum was able to find a couple of photos of WG430 at RAF Manston back in the 1990's. One is posted in the Photographs section. I hope to visit the museum during one of my trips to the UK, sometime in the future. There was a lot of interest generated when WG430 was put on display at the EAA Chapter 1116 meeting in Thermal. I purchased the TRIG VHF radio, intercom and ADS-B/Transponder kit for WG430. These will be discreetly installed by West Coast Air Creations later this year. A formation flight was arranged with another Alaska Airlines captain, and my god friend, Matt Graber. Matt's son, Kadin, sat in the back seat of WG430 for the flight. We ended up with some great air-to-air photos (see Photos section.) Unfortunately, after landing, we found the right magneto p-lead broken. Luckily, my habit of conducting a dead-cut check before shutdown identified the issue before the next prop swing. The magneto will be repaired at the shop in Flabob before any further displays are attended. At the end of June, I flew WG430 to the classic aircraft experts West Coast Air Creations at Flabob Airport. The magneto repair, annual condition check, AD check, TNS compliance check, review of major systems and a VHF radio/intercom/transponder/ADS-B installation will be done by the guys. I expect the Chipmunk to be down for most of July. It will be great to see the end result.
May - A full oil change and service was completed shortly after the ferry flight. No issues were found and WG430 was quickly back into the air. Andrea finally got to fly the Chipmunk and experienced her first aileron roll! It was great to fly WG430 into Palm Springs International Airport and support the local Coachella Valley Chapter of the 99's and members of the Youth Aviation Explorers as they took a tour of the control tower. The GPS tray table was removed from the front cockpit, as was the DC converter unit used to power it. A VHF radio and ADS-B transponder will be installed later this year, although I am still deciding which units to install so that I can keep the cockpits looking as original as possible. WG430 joined four other de Havilland Chipmunks at the Flabob Airport Historic Aircraft Display. As I was away on vacation, my friend and Chipmunk pilot Richard Wilsher flew WG430 to and from Flabob. Some great photographs were taken by Ian Glover and some can be found in the Photographs section of this website. Local young adults Kylie and Brendon used WG430 as a backdrop for their prom photos. Both of the original P8 floor compasses were removed and fully serviced during May. The 22nd May marked the 73rd anniversary of the first DHC-1 flight. I decided to mark the event by flying WG430 around the Thermal Airport area and conducted a tour for line operatives from Signature Aviation.
April - The ferry flight of WG430 from Pennsylvania to California has begun! *Check Photographs page for pics!* It's close to a 2,500 mile flight, with several barriers in the way, namely The Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. I have 10 days before I have to be back to work, and so it's fingers crossed as I board my redeye flight from Palm Springs (CA) to Newark (NJ).
DELAY DAY: I spent today preparing for the flight. George Taylor at Van Sant completed a full oil change, plug service and rocker cover refill. He also installed the repaired spinner and it looks great! I removed the temporary intercom and wiring as I will not need this and it's just extra wires in the way. A new intercom will be properly installed once I get to California. I also realized that I needed to adjust the rudder pedals and add a seat cushion to get me into the proper position for flying. I ran WG430 up and everything looked good. I topped off the tanks and secured my Chippy outside, ready for a sunrise departure tomorrow morning.
FLYING DAY ONE: The Uber dropped me at 6:30am, just before sunrise. Apart from the two airport cats and a family of deer on the runway, I was the only person around. Van Sant Airfield is an amazing, historic and very pretty airfield.. especially at this time of the morning. I prepared WG430 and checked the weather at my planned first fuel stop, Reedsville Pennsylvania (KRVL) - calm winds, fog and overcast clouds at 100 feet! Everything 50 miles west of Van Sant was fogged in. There was nothing left to do, except snooze in one of the rocking chairs with an airport cat curled up in my lap, and wait. I was woken by the arrival of Dannie, the airport Managers wife, who offered coffee. About an hour later, the weather at RVL had improved to 4 miles visibility and clouds at 4,000 feet, so I fired up WG430 and taxied out to the grass runway 07. It had been a while since I'd flown the Chipmunk but, thanks to Azhars help, it felt much more familiar. I took off and turned to the west to begin my flight. It was a silky smooth flight and Pennsylvania looked very green and beautiful below. I landed at RVL about 1.5 hours later and fueled up. I was soon back in the air and headed to Morgantown, West Virginia (KMGW). The long ice-age formed fingers of the northern Appalachian Mountains were covered in lush forest, passing just below me as I flew along at 4,500 feet. I soon landed at MGW, and knew I was too tired to continue. I also knew that tomorrow will be weathered in by approaching storms. Luckily, there was hangar space available at a corporate hangar and so WG430 was put to bed, followed by me shortly afterwards.
DELAY DAY: This was always going to be a ground day, due to the weather. However, it was not a wasted day. I noticed a screw missing from the newly installed propeller spinner yesterday, along with what appeared to be stress cracks. If anyone in Pennsylvania was hit by a screw from above yesterday, I'm sorry! My mission today was to check the cracks and either replace the screw or remove the spinner for the remainder of the flight. Fate has a weird way of intervening, and as I got to the hangar, I met a local maintenance IA who loved the Chipmunk. I showed Tim the spinner and we quickly found another two screws missing. Luckily, the cracks were found to be only paint cracks, which can be easily repaired and repainted later. The original British screws are hard to find and so there was a bit of a 'mix and match' of spinner screws. Tim offered to help out - and what a help he was! Instead of just replacing screws, he and another mechanic, Kipp, offered to remove all of the imperial nut bolts and rivet in replacement standard nut bolts to take new standard spinner screws. They spent a couple of careful hours working on this, using 'Rosie The Riveter' techniques! Soon, the spinner was attached with a full set of new spinner screws. Now, I don't have to worry about any more screws coming out during flight! What a fun and productive rainy day. Thanks to Tim and Kipp of Skymark Aviation in Morgantown for their excellent and thorough work. My start tomorrow will be delayed because I (stupidly) left my passport at the hotel in Pennsylvania, so I have to wait for it to turn up before I can leave. I hope to get through Kentucky tomorrow, after the morning showers have passed.
FLYING DAY TWO: The delay for my passport was a blessing, as the early morning weather at Morgantown was low overcast clouds and low visibility. The forecast showed the clouds would lift around 11am and the weather along my route was already improving. I'd be paralleling a weak cold front and so I expected a bumpy ride today. As I departed, the cloud base was not as high as I expected and so I settled into a 2,500ft cruise as the tree covered rolling foothills of the Appalachians passed close below. The bumps were present, especially as I flew over the many pretty valleys in this area. Soon enough, the clouds lifted, but I decided to stay low and admire the view. I crossed the Ohio River at Ravenswood, and clipped the corner of Ohio before entering Kentucky. The approach into Ashland (KDWU) was clear, albeit a little windy. After fueling up and adding some oil, I got back into WG430 and took off for my planned next stop at Mount Sterling, KY. Passing over such lush green land reminded me of the English county of Kent, where WG430 spent the final years of RAF life. However, thirty miles out, I listened to the automatic weather recording and started to think about other things. A gusty crosswind was blowing at Mount Sterling, out of my personal limits. I checked my fuel and began to check for airports in the area with runways into the unforecast wind. Luckily, I found Danville, KY (KDVK) a few miles ahead, with a long runway into wind. The approach was gusty but worked out great. I considered ending my flying for today, but if I flew for one more hour, I'd be in another state. It seemed like a good incentive to continue and so I headed into the air again. Just south of Nashville, Tennessee is a busy airport called Murfreesboro (KMBT), the training airport for students at Middle Tennessee State University. My speed on the approach is slow, and so I watched as the long line of students, in their DA40 aircraft, waited for me to get on the ground. After securing the Chipmunk, I headed for a hotel, food and beer! By chance, one of our flight attendants at my airline grew up in Murfreesboro and so she sent me some local recommendations for good Tennessee food. This was a good day.
FLYING DAY THREE: I decided to start reasonably early. Wherever I land, people come out to look at WG430 and ask questions. It's great to be able to show off a little piece of UK history. As I prepared for my flight at Murfreesboro, one person seemed particularly knowledgeable. Gary had been following my progress on social media, as he is also a Chipmunk owner! Gary is currently rebuilding a DHC-1 and so took many photos of WG430 for reference. The next stop was a little shorter, but I simply wanted to land there. Muscle Shoals, Alabama is a historic mecca for recording artists. People like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Lynryd Skynyrd have recorded there. In fact, a line in Sweet Home Alabama says "In Muscle Shoals they have the Swampers..", a homage to studio writers of so many hits. I landed, enjoyed a Moon Pie, and headed out again, happy that I'd stopped there. Onto my next state, of Mississippi. Unlike most American school kids, we were never taught how to spell the name of this state, and a spell checker almost always corrects for me. I struggle to remember how many ss's or ii's or pp's there are, but having flown over this pretty state, I know that there are more trees here than any of the previous few states I'd crossed. Invariably, I'm always on the lookout for potential landing spots, in the event the engine decides to quit, but Mississippi has some dense areas of forest and so I was glad my tusty Gypsy Major engine kept firing. As I flew the approach over Grenada Lakes, I selected full flap. A few moments later, the flap violently retracted, which startled me a bit. I'm aware that this can happen, but it was the first time for me. I pulled the large flap lever again and full flap was locked in. A bit of a bouncy landing took place at Grenada (KGNF) but I was ready to fuel up and keep going. The news wasn't good, as the airport fuel truck was in town being repaired and so no fuel was available. The nearest available fuel was at Winona (5A6), just 15 minutes south. It was a warm day and so I decided this would be the flight to throw my hot flight suit into the small cargo compartment. Just before takeoff, I also decided this would be my first flight with the canopy open, and the breeze was wonderful. At Winona, I was able to fuel up and replenish the oil. I also got a welcome drink from the nice people at Heath Aviation. I expected my next flight to be the last, as the winds were beginning to whip up along the route. The approach to Vicksburg, Mississippi was very cool, as I flew alongside the Mississippi River and saw a large paddle-wheel river boat chugging along. Unfortunately, there was nowhere for me to hangar WG430 for the night and I was conscious of overnight gusty winds. The tie down spots just didn't seem enough, so I called the FBO at the next nearest large airport and jumped back in to land at my next state, Louisiana. The landing at Alexandria (KAEX) was gusty and a strong wind was blowing straight down the mile-long runway. It made for a very short landing and a long taxi to the hangar. Thankfully, Million Air was able to make room for WG430 next to a few corporate aircraft and I slept better knowing the doors would keep the weather out.
DELAY DAY: After making such good progress yesterday, today was disappointing. I had planned a later start, as I wanted a cold front to pass through my two landing airports of Nacogdoches, Texas (KOCH) and Waco, TX (KACT). I don't mind flying through the front, because it looked pretty weak and it did not have any significant rain associated with it. However, there was a pretty strong gust front ahead of the cold front and so I wanted to time my departure from Alexandria just before the gust front hit and reach my destination as it passed through, allowing calmer winds on landing. When I planned this all out, everything pointed to a departure from Alexandria of 2pm. As I was getting the Chippie ready in the hangar, I felt the humidity rise considerably. A quick check of ForeFlight showed that some moisture was ahead of the front and it was lifting into a line of storms, right in my way! The forecasters got it wrong, but the only guarantee with weather forecasting is that nothing is guaranteed, so I'll give them a break! I decided to sit at the Million Air FBO at Alexandria, to see if the storms would become scattered. They did not, and in fact they increased into some heavy rain along the front line. The line of storms were only 15 miles wide and so I was tempted to see if I could find a way through them, staying visual with the ground underneath. But I then remembered the experience that Azhar and I had when we flew back in January. We flew underneath a rain shower and the airspeed indicators suddenly fell to zero! The rain water had got into the pitot lines and blocked the airflow to the instrument. This required taking the system to pieces and blowing compressed air into the lines, something I do not wish to do during this ferry flight. With this in mind, I decided to write-off today's flying and try again tomorrow. My plan is to start early and see how far across Texas I can get.
FLYING DAY FOUR: The first part of my fun ferry flight is complete, as I say hello to Austin, Texas! With the unexpected delay day yesterday and poor weather expected this weekend, I decided to find shelter for WG430 to allow me to fly my next airline trip and then return next week to complete my flight to California. Leaving Alexandria this morning, the sky was dark with some moisture loaded clouds, ready to downpour at any moment. My plan was to take the lowest and shortest route through the line of heavy clouds, hoping to break into clear air on the other side. Unfortunately, there was a large amount of active military airspace surrounding Alexandria and so my route was finally determined by the uncontrolled corridors available to me. The tower controller helped by estimating the bases at around 2500ft, and so off I flew. So, the Chippie got a little wash, but not enough to repeat the pitot issues of before. It wasn’t long before the sky cleared and I crossed the Toledo Bend Reservoir, where the Texas Highway crosses, marking my entry into the great state of Texas! Sometimes the weather deals a good hand and sometimes it doesn’t.. but today I received an unexpected tailwind; apology accepted Mother Nature!! A planned quick fuel stop at Lufkin, Texas (KLFK) led to some home made cherry pie and a great chat with some of the local police and airport “bums”! A kind person allowed me to top off my brake fluid reservoir too; this is a great little airport, just how they should be. Soon enough, I was off again and crossing over Bryan, TX, home of Texas A&M University. This is where I saw my first oil drilling rig, the first of thousands to come! By this time, the air was smooth and the visibility unlimited, making this leg very enjoyable. The approach into Austin Executive (KEDC) presented a 90 degree crosswind, and ended with a very satisfying one and a half wheel landing! I feel totally at home in my Chipmunk now, and I've once again found my flying feet! After securing my Chippie into yet another fancy jet hangar, I admired another piece of Brit engineering in the FBO; a Rolls Royce Olympus engine, from a Concorde jet. A quick Uber ride to Austin International and I was on my way home, but itching to get back and complete my journey.
FLYING DAY FIVE: It's a week later and I'm back at Austin Executive Airport, just before sunrise. High pressure dominates my planned route, which is different to the last week full of rain and storms. I'm keen to get airborne but a dirty spark plug uses up some time at the holding point. Finally, I'm back in the air and heading west. The town of Austin passes by my left side and I fly over endless green areas dotted with lakes and trees. My first stop presents a surprise, a grass strip in good shape. It's too good of an opportunity to miss and so I touch down on the grass at Junction, Texas (KJCT). After a coffee and cookie, I'm once again following Interstate 10 to my next fuel stop. It was on this leg that the little handheld GPS I'm using decided to die. Luckily, I brought maps, although they were not really needed as following a large freeway is quite easy! A very large pipeline construction passes below me, going off into the distance for many miles. Slowly, the terrain begins to rise and the bumps begin also. Many wind farms pass either side of me and so I know this is going to be a windy area. I land at Fort Stockton, Texas (KFST), fitting in with a military Beech Jet doing training. This place was deserted, but luckily, the self service fuel was available. Two Cessna aircraft arrive for fuel, one heading west and one heading east. The westbound Cessna is a C182, and his next stop is Deming, New Mexico. I wished I could fly straight to Deming but I don't have the range. I need to take a little dogleg and find the only available fuel stop between FST and New Mexico, an old B17 training airfield called Van Horn (KVHN). This leg was also bumpy and the temperatures in the cockpit are high, but I am soon on the ground at VHN, elevation 4,000 feet. The airfield is not manned but a telephone call to the local grocery store has somebody out and fueling the Chipmunk within 10 minutes! I'm keen to get back in the air, so I add some oil and get airborne again. The jagged mountains have really begun to rise, and I pass a large white "v" painted on the mountain next to the town as I climb to 6,500 feet. My GPS is working again but I decide to continue with my map reading, as I am still basically following I-10. The mountains and turbulence rise considerably as I reach the large border town of El Paso. I route north of the International Airport as I cannot get high enough to fly over their airspace. I am fatigued and decide to land at Las Cruces, New Mexico (KLRU). The FBO is welcoming and friendly, and I drink some water and eat some food before feeling good enough to do one more leg. This leg is an easy one, as I am following the same freeway for about 30 minutes to get to Deming, NM (KDMN), the same airport the Cessna was heading to earlier today. As I touch down, a Grumman Cheetah lands behind me, with exactly the same paint scheme as our Cheetah. I show off WG430 as normal, but I am interested in looking at the Cheetah too. The very kind people at DMN loan me a crew car for the night and find a space in the hangar for the Chipmunk. Tomorrow is supposed to be very gusty and so I may have another delay day. I must be back at work on Monday and so I'm hoping to finish the delivery by Sunday. There is a chance I can fly one or two legs tomorrow morning before the winds pick up.
DELAY DAY: I woke up at 5am and checked the weather. Unfortunately, the winds across the mountains ahead at my cruising altitude are already at 30 knots. Today will be a day to explore - I plan to visit the local museum and then go out to City Of Rocks State Park. I'll plan to leave Deming at sunrise tomorrow, hopefully to complete my delivery before Sunday evening.
FLYING DAY SIX: It was still dark outside when I arrived to open the hangar at Deming, New Mexico (KDMN) this morning. My plan was to be airborne as dawn broke to give me the best chance of avoiding expected gusty winds through the mountains of Arizona. WG430 got a fuel tickle, and started first time, again. I was soon in the air and headed towards my first planned fuel stop at Cochise County (P33). This flight was spectacular as I watched the morning colors change across the high desert and jagged mountains. There was some turbulence, but not too much. I landed just behind a Cessna and taxied to the fuel pumps. Today is Easter Sunday, and my own Easter miracle took place! The FBO at P33 was closed today - no fuel available. However, the Cessna pilot was a local and had pre-arranged fuel during the short time he was at the airport, the same time I happened to be there! So, I gratefully fueled up and got back into the air. The next leg took me around some 9,000 foot mountains, and the valleys I followed were bumpy. Similar to Friday, my main route followed Interstate 10 and so I kept the GPS off for most of the flight. As I rounded the last large peak, the city of Tucson, Arizona came into view. I flew over the massive aircraft graveyard at Davis Monthan Air Base, and then made my approach into Marana, AZ (KAVQ). There was a lot of ramp and taxiway construction going on here. In fact, the runway I wanted to use was closed, so I got to try my crosswind techniques. Finding the taxi route to the fuel pumps took another 15 minutes but I eventually parked next to some old Navy jets being scrapped. It was surreal to park my 68 year old aircraft next to some much younger ones, bound for scrap metal. Fuel and oil complete, I was keen to keep going and headed for Gila Bend, AZ (E63), and equally keen to stay south of the skydiving mecca at Eloy. Another gusty landing, fuel up, pee break and oil check.. and I was back in the air again, making good time with my ultra short stops. There are some jagged mountains just before the California border, and those produced the most turbulence today, but I didn’t care, as I knew my Chipmunk was strong and I could see the last state ahead. Crossing the Colorado River marked the first time WG430 entered California airspace and its new home. Winds were calm at Blythe, California (KBLH) and it was time for another quick turnaround. I noticed a Chipmunk patch on the wall of the FBO left by another CA Chipmunk pilot, and I couldn’t resist texting a photo to him! Of course, the last leg always throws something at you... and Chippie did not want to start. Soon enough, the battery was dead and nobody at the FBO was comfortable hand-propping. Luckily, Allen at the airport had a battery charger and volunteered to hold the clips on the battery terminal while I started her up. It worked great, and he closed the battery compartment using a coin while I idled. One hour later, I saw the Salton Sea, a massive dead lake just to the east of my final destination. I picked up the ASOS for Thermal Airport (KTRM) and heard winds were straight down the runway, albeit strong winds. And that was that.. WG430 had not missed a beat in 6 solid days of flying, some 32 hours in all. We had traveled from east to west, 2,300nm flying over 12 states and landing at 22 airports. It was quite a journey.. and now it’s time for me to go back to work, and then return.. to do my first oil change! Cheers.
March - What a great day at Thermal Airport! Richard Wilsher brought his very historic Chipmunk WP833 to our EAA meeting. My wife Andrea got to see a Chipmunk up close for the first time.. and got to sit in the rear seat.. and got taken for a flight around the local area! Richards Chipmunk is very unique, as it was used by the RAF to complete a northern route around the world in 1997. Richard has worked hard to keep WP833 faithful to that amazing journey of almost 17,000 miles. As the only other 'stock' RAF Chipmunk in Southern California (that we know about), it will be fantastic to get WP833 and WG430 together for some formation flights in the future, See the Photographs section for a couple of my shots from the day.
February - The FAA are requiring all aircraft operated in controlled airspace to be ADS-B Out equipped by January 2020. The original VHF radio in WG430 is currently unusable and cannot be repaired and so these two avionics issues will require some equipment installation sometime this year. Several avionics experts have been consulted to ensure compliance with the regulations but without affecting the originality of the aircraft. Work will most probably be carried out in California after the upcoming ferry flight, as many east coast avionics shops are too busy with ADS work to assist. The most likely installation I will select is also the most discrete, which is the TRIG TY91 VHF Radio and TRIG TT22 ADS-B Out compliant transponder. Watch this space!
January - I returned to Van Sant to continue polishing up my tailwheel skills with Azhar. I also wanted to explore the possibility of having a VHF radio and ADS transponder installed during the downtime this winter. My day job is flying Airbus airliners and so my "stick & rudder" skills have deteriorated over the years. Over the next few days, Azhar helped me become comfortable with the various aspects of flying a Chipmunk, including the bizarre starting procedure and tricky braking system. By the end of this trip to Van Sant, I had flown several hours with Azhar and also squeezed in a solo flight. I had produced a checklist, specific for WG430 and I'd managed to ship the old RAF documents back to California. Hangar space was arranged at Van Sant and the mechanic who had carried out the most work on WG430 was asked to check a small brake fluid leak and also help with a small crack that had appeared in the spinner. All logbooks were brought up to-date from various sources to arrive at the most accurate times I could establish: 12,248:21 total, 435:21 SMOH.
November - 26th Nov 2018... I bought a de Havilland Chipmunk! I have a possible delivery window for the 2,100 mile flight from Van Sant (PA) to Thermal (CA). Van Sant is a wonderful and very historic airfield that reminds me of the place I spent the most time building hours, Old Sarum Airfield in England. WG430 is in great original shape and looks very similar (RAF Training Raspberry Ripple) to the first aircraft I flew in 1986. I'm heading down nostalgia lane! The first day of my delivery window brought rain, the second day brought gusty crosswinds. The third day showed the results of rain the previous night and turned the grass strip into a mud bath! The fourth day looked good to fly and so one of the previous owners (Pete) and I took WG430 for a test flight. I had always heard the comparisons between the Chipmunk handling and a Supermarine Spitfire. I was very fortunate to fly a Spitfire earlier in 2018 and so I could now compare. The roll characteristics were almost identical, in that both the Chipmunk and Spitfire are incredibly harmonized in roll. In pitch, the Spitfire is much more "pitchy" but both aircraft do feel very similar, which is heaping praise on just how nice the Chipmunk is to fly. The weekend weather offered a potential window but more rain was forecast and so WG430 was moved to a hard runway airfield temporarily. For the next couple of days, I flew with an amazing and very experienced tailwheel instructor, Azhar Hussain (who reportedly has more Stearman time than any other current pilot!) We had a slight issue with the ASI, which was easily fixed the following day. Unfortunately, the weekend window did not appear and weather down route was looking awful and so I decided to leave WG430 at Van Sant for the winter and return in the Spring.