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1600 Air Museum Rd.

Hood River, OR 97031

 

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Stories About Our Objects

The 1929 Arrow Sport Comes to Hood River

Story by Ben Davidson, WAAAM's Chief Pilot and a retired pilot from the U.S. Army Reserves.

Ben Davidson piloting the 1929 Arrow Sport.

The Arrow Sport's First Test Flight

It must have been March or early April when Terry Brandt called me and said...... "We've hmmm, umm acquired an airplane, in Nebraska. Maybe you could run over there and take a look at it. It'll need an annual as it hasn't flown for a few years."

So I'm thinking, Nebraska is just a few states over, so I'll check this old girl out and have a little fun flying her back to Oregon. Of course, if you've ever driven across Nebraska, you know it's a little wide and mind numbing. But I was interested enough in getting the aircraft back here [to WAAAM], so I was willing to give it a shot.

Before I headed out, I was able to talk to the son-in-law of the previous owner. The owner had recently died and the son-in-law was settling his estate. He said he had flown in the airplane a few times — ridden through a forced landing or two in her — and had been running the old 5-cylinder Kinner [engine] on her once in a while.

He also mentioned in passing that he thought the wings may be a little out of rig.....

Anyway I jumped in my old truck, with a few basic hand tools, a couple of plumb bobs, measuring tapes, levels, compression gauge, and a bunch of string. Several hours later I arrived in Nebraska, I pulled up at the local FBO, and called the son-in-law on the cell. He said he reckoned he could be down to the airport in about half an hour with the keys to the hangar.

So I wandered into the FBO and talked to the nice lady behind the desk. I told her that I was picking up the old Arrow, and that I would be doing an annual inspection on it for the next couple of days, and so, I told her I would be coming in and out for a bit. She said that maybe I should talk to the airport manager, as he may have some information that I would like to know. She told me his father-in-law was the last guy to fly the Arrow.

I wandered around until I found this fellow out in an old hangar which was full of old crop dusters, an old Straight Tail 172, and a mostly disassembled Tri-Pacer.

Well this fellow said he knew the airplane I was there to get. But he confirmed what the lady behind the desk at the FBO said, and told me that maybe we should indeed get his father-in-law on the phone, and get the information about the plane first hand.

Finally we got the old chap on the phone, and he told me in no uncertain terms that he would never fly that old plane again; it flew so badly he said, that it took both hands to keep it upright.

By now Son-In-Law-#-1 shows up and we go out to the hangar, slide open the door, and I get my first look at the Arrow. My first impression was, "What a cool plane, look at those elliptical wings!"

We pulled the old bird out of the hangar and #1 shows me their usual starting procedure and 15- 20 minutes later, she roars to life. I ran her up good, checked out the mags, pulled back up to the hangar, and shut her down.

Next on the agenda was to check out the wing rigging. I hung some plumb bobs off the leading edges and found the top wing to be 6 inches further forward on one side compared to the other.

(Oh, and by the way, the two wings that span both sides of the Arrow Sport are each one wing. There’s a wing on top and a wing on the bottom, and each is built as a single unit. Check it out next time you’re out at WAAAM.)

Anyway, armed now with a reasonable explanation for her bad handling characteristics, I set to work re-rigging the wings, completing the annual inspection, and generally entertaining all onlookers who would stop by the airport over the next couple of days. Finally she was ready to fly.

So now I’m topped off with fuel, I have a tank full of clean new oil, and Son-In-Law-#-1 is positioned in front of the Arrow, ready to pull the prop through. A Kinner [engine] will start just as happily with a nice slow pull as well as a big yank, so he set to work and pretty soon she roared to life again.

I slowly taxied to the far end of the runway, and after a careful run-up and getting the oil temp nicely in the green, I pointed the old Arrow into the wind and give her full power. After a few quick corrections with the rudder pedals, the tail comes up and finally I get some meaningful rudder (she just doesn't get a good bite on the air when blanked out by the whole fuselage).

1929 Arrow Sport takes off the ground. Once the Arrow is the air, I look down to see where #1 ran off to. I see he must have called everyone in town as it now looks like 25 or more people have gathered along the runway to see what was going to happen to the kid from Oregon. Remember, their local seasoned spray pilot had declared the old girl unfit to fly.

As soon as the Arrow lifted off I knew the measuring tapes and plumb bobs did their job because she was perfectly balanced. I could easily take my hands off the stick.

I then made a quick adjustment of the trim on the horizontal stabilizer, which is another cool feature worth a peek while you're checking out the one piece wings whenever you visit WAAAM. (By the way, the N struts that are near the tips of the wings are not there to give the wings more strength. They’re there to keep the pilots happy, because they were used to having them there in older aircraft. They’re kind of like security blankets.)

Now, with everything as it should be, I pulled the airplane up, did a quick 180, and came right back down the strip, waving with both hands at the small crowd that had gathered. I could hear them hooting as I buzzed down the runway. After a couple of patterns, which included three take-off and landings just to make sure I was current, I taxied back in, shut the old girl down, pulled off my cloth helmet and enjoyed the smell of burnt avgas and oil drifting by on a very nice spring day in Nebraska.

Getting the Arrow Sport Back to Hood River

After that first test flight, it turned out that the weather over in Denver was not all that great, so I told the folks I would be back in the next week or so to fly the old girl back to the Denver area. When I got back, the Son-in-Law-#1 met me at the airport with the deceased owners' grandkids, wondering if I could take them up in Grandpa's plane one last time.

Well, if you knew me at all, you would know that there was no way I could say no. So after a couple of laps around the family farm with each of the grandkids, I was ready to head west. I was about an hour or so later than I had originally planned, but I couldn’t have done anything different.

On the first leg of the journey, from Cozad to North Platte, the Arrow ran perfectly and the weather was great. There was just a small head wind, and I really could not have asked for anything better.

I wasn’t sure what my fuel consumption and oil burn was exactly, but that didn’t trouble me. Anyway, I made my next stop in Sterling, where there was a note on the door to call for fuel, which I thought was odd for 3pm. Regardless, an hour or so later I was on my way again.

Now with sunset coming right up, there was no time to dally. My goal was to land at Jack Greiner's grass strip just north of Boulder, CO. He had given me a rough idea where he was located in relationship to the roads, highways and other airports.

1929 Arrow Sport flies across the country to its new home. As I was approaching the general area the sun was just slipping over the horizon, so after a couple of laps around the neighborhood without seeing anything that looked like what he described, I landed just north at Longmont Airport. The Arrow spent the night there, while I drove by Jacks place so I could locate it from the air.

The next morning I arrived at Jack Greiner's.

Jack is a very interesting fellow. He began flying in the early 30's, and was one of the youngest captains flying for American Airlines in DC-3's. Later he spent time barnstorming around the mid-west in the taper wing Waco he restored, and at the time I landed with the Arrow, he was in the middle of restoring a Rose Parakeet.

When I shut the airplane down Jack walked up, and said, yep, that's the Arrow I flew back in the 70's. He said, "I remember you don't want to chop the power on her during the landing.”

While at Jack's place, I was able to spend time adjusting the brakes, tinkering with a few items, and getting a crack in the exhaust collector welded up.

After making a few more test flights, climbing up to altitudes that I would need to fly in order to get over the Rocky Mountains, I had convinced myself that this wing was not the one I wanted to fly over those mountains. Discretion being better part of valor, I decided that since my Dad was helping us move from Georgia in a U-Haul, and would need to end up in Oregon anyway, that we would disassemble the Arrow and send her to Hood River in a truck.

Now, as you can imagine, loading a bi-plane is not a simple task.

The good was that we had plenty of help. The bad news was that it’s hard to gain a consensus with a corporate pilot, a barnstormer, an engineer, a sheet metal man, a building contractor, and a wife. And as you know from me telling you before, the Arrows' wings are one piece across both sides of the plane. On account of this, they stuck out of the U-Haul about 3 feet … and that was out of the biggest truck that they have. There wasn’t a thing we could do about that.

1929 Arrow Sport in its new home at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum. Anyway, we sorted everything out, and a few hours later with the Arrow loaded up, and were headed down the road toward Hood River.

After arriving in Hood River, Tom Murphy and Terry Brandt stuck the wings back on the old girl, and as luck would have it I was able to stop by for a quick visit and fly her again.

So that's the story, nothing exciting, just the way the Arrow Sport Pursuit arrived in Hood River.

   

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Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

Antique Airplanes   •  Antique Automobiles

Where Oregon and Washington meet, at the Columbia River Gorge.

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