Whipping Charlie

Posted September, 1996

I've been working on the Fly Baby's new seat lately.  After spending Monday morning on the sewing machine, it was time to take it out to the airport and try it out.

On the way in, I noticed Mike's pickup truck parked in front of his hangar.  Mike is my former partner in "Charlie", 1949 Stinson he restored from the ground up.  I'd bought half-interest in Charlie a while after the first Fly Baby went away; he had been kind enough to buy my share back when Son of Trigger came on the market.

When I saw Mike's truck, I remembered:  He had said there was a cookout on Vashon Island today, and had invited me to come.  Vashon is in Puget Sound, right outside the Sea-Tac Class D airspace and right under the Class B.  Vashon Municipal is a fairly short grass strip at the north end.  Since I was taking the Fly Baby up anyway, I decided to drop in.

Just my luck:  They were flying a Baby-CAP.

As I crossed the south end of the island, I saw a maroon aircraft cross about a half-mile in front, then rack into a gentle turn toward me.  I could make out the shark-tail of a Stinson 108-3...it was Mike, and Charlie.  He went by a ways off.  It looked like he was going to try catch up, so I did a 360, then throttled back to slow flight.

Sure enough.  Mike came sliding up on my right side.  I waved at him while he was still behind, so he knew *I knew* where he was.  He parked off my right wing, a little ahead.  Silouettes bobbed in the rear windows.  I figured Mike was giving some picnic-goers a ride.  I waved a lot, grinning my best Roscoe Turner grin, wishing I'd dropped the radio headset in my lap as they'd come closer.  It *does* ruin the effect.

He hung out there a bit, then dropped behind and turned past my tail.  I thought he was just going to fly off the other side for a while, but he turned off to the west and started to descend

We were getting in the vacinity of Vashon Muni by that point. I figured  he was going to land.  I turned to follow, flicking the 'Baby's radio to 122.9.

I gradually noticed two things as we flew North along the island's coast.  If he was going to turn in and enter the pattern for the airport, he was leaving it way, way late.

The other thing I noticed:  I was catching up to him.

THAT wasn't supposed to happen.  Charlie the Stinson, even lacking wheel pants and gear fairings, cruised at about 115 MPH.  I glanced at the 'Baby's panel.  Hmmmm...well, I *was* carrying a bit higher than cruise power.  And I hadn't dropped completely down to the Stinson's altitude yet.  The 'Baby's airspeed was showing about 105, but I think it reads
about 10 MPH high.

Still, it was a remarkable feeling, actually catching *up* to something in the Fly Baby.  I edged the throttle a bit further forward, and let the nose ease down some.

Sure enough, by the north shore of the island, I was abreast of him. And easing past.

"Watch it, there's a couple right ahead," came a voice on the radio.

It didn't sound like Mike's voice.  I spotted a Bonanza converging on  our left.

"They're between Vashon and Blake."

Then I saw the *second* Bonanza, right behind the first.  I started to drop down to go under them.  And saw the third, and the fourth.  An airborne Beech convention.

The second pair altered course to pass behind me.  As they passed, I dropped the 'Baby's wing and hauled around after them.

"Hey, that one's coming after me."

"Maybe he's got guns, ha, ha."

I punched the mike button.  "Fox Two."

Unfortunately, while 848 was up to catching Stinsons, Bonanzas were still beyond its capability.  Not that we didn't try.  In any case, they  were headed generally in the direction of home, so I decided to call it  a day.  I flew back down the length of Vashon.

Crossing over the south end of the island, I noticed the Stinson again, a quarter-mile off.  Mike had managed to catch up with *me* after I'd split off.  The sad truth dawned:  Mike likes to baby Charlie.  He'd probably been throttled way back when I caught up.

Oh, well.  I'll just claim the Stinson as a "probable." :-)

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