Callair A-2, Ain’t She Purdy

By:      Norm Goyer

(I also wrote about this aircraft in a column during February 2009, it was a very unusual, sometimes fun airplane.NG)

Flying magazine featured the Callair A-2 on one of its 1950 covers, 60 years ago.

Flying magazine featured the Callair A-2 on one of its 1950 covers, 60 years ago.

I must admit, I have always owned cars and airplanes that I thought were beautiful, sometimes I had to factor in usefulness as well, but if the lines bothered me, I looked elsewhere. Another requirement is that it not be a “belly-button” airplane, you know everybody’s got one. So my hangars over the years housed some very different type aircraft. The ultimate of course is a genuine Piper Cub, had several of those fine critters. I have always loved the lines of a Cessna 195, had two of those. I like the macho look of the North American SNJ-6, had a few of those as well. Of course there is my love affair with the Lake Renegade, now that was a fun, worthless airplane. I loved the load carrying capability of the Cessna 206 but it was a trifle ugly, whereas the Piper Lance had very nice lines. I was asked by one of our readers which airplanes I thought were ugly, lousy performing aircraft, ah yes, I have taken a few of them in trade as well, but several really stand out, way out.

This photograph was taken in Canada many years ago.

This photograph was taken in Canada many years ago.

I took a Callair A-2 in trade one day, against my better judgment, but my floor plan was filled up and I needed to get rid of few new airplanes. What? You never heard of a Callair A-2, shame on you. This ugly duckling was the pride of Wisconsin. It seems that the Callair folks made a real efficient ag-plane the Callair A-9. So they decided that they were going to manufacture a two place sport aircraft. Everything about the airplane was ugly, the landing gear, the shape of the cockpit area, the wing struts, a too high an angle of dihedral and they compounded the problem by hanging a wheezing Lycoming 90 hp four-banger on the nose. The plane was large, it was heavy and it was a drag queen. I feel like I have just insulted some real live drag queens who take great pride in their looks. Then it hit me, who in SoCal is going to buy this weird looking airplane?

The cabin of the A-2 Callair was spacious and Spartan.

The cabin of the A-2 Callair was spacious and Spartan.

I feel that I must confess that this ugly airplane flew beautifully. It was super comfortable with its control sticks and very large high cabin. I don’t knew who signed this airplane off for its last annual but when you pulled the prop through it would spin around two or three times, zippo compression. I told my salesman, the late Roger Atwood, to inform the buyer that the engine was tired, but the price was so low he could afford to top it, or even overhaul it. I thought it was sure to become a static display until it faded away. I forgot to inform you that this ugly airplane was also a slow airplane, but once in the air all the negative points went away. The controls were velvety smooth, it came over the fence at walking speeds and slid onto the runway. It was the easiest flying tail dragger I had flown, almost as easy as the Fairchild PT-19 series.

The CallAir company in Wisconsin also produced a quite popular A-9 ag-plane.

The CallAir company in Wisconsin also produced a quite popular A-9 ag-plane.

Roger once told me that he believed that, “there was an ass for every seat.” My friend was right, he sold the airplane to a farmer in the next town over who raised chickens. My bird had come home to roost. I really thought that the check would bounce, once the buyer had sobered up, but it didn’t. The next day the buyer came in to be checked out in his new airplane. He walked with a limp and was overweight. Now I was in trouble. I knew that the tired engine would balk on a hot day with two large adults aboard. Little Joe was my smallest instructor, only weighed about 110 pounds and he loved tail draggers, Little Joe had a new assignment, check out the buyer in his new Callair. Then the buyer laid another bombshell on me, he wanted to fly it from his chicken farm between the hen houses where he had scraped off a makeshift runway. Lil’ Joe thought that was just great. Joe worked with “Colonel Sanders” for several days and deemed that he was safe to solo. He had a Private Certificate and a current medical. I will now try to capture the dialog that occurred the following morning on the telephone. “Norm, this is Joe, we had a slight problem over here.”

“Anybody hurt?” I asked with my heart in my mouth.

“Well we’ve got about 100 dead bodies over here.”

After I recovered from my near heart attack he continued. “My student was taking off between the chicken coops and climbed out perfectly. He cruised around for a few circuits and then he came into land. Made a perfect landing too, but, he drifted a bit and landed on top of the chicken coop. Then I heard this creaking noise and the plane and the pilot slowly sunk into the old wood building. That’s when all the Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks got squashed, some of his best laying hens too.”

The last I heard the Callair, still covered with chicken feathers, was sitting on the farm covered with tarps. Never heard from the owner again. I am sure there are those of you out there that doubt this story, but it really happened. So help me Rhode Island Red.

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Norm’s Choice of Ugly Ducklings

By:      Norm Goyer

The original Beech Model 35 Bonanza had revolutionary lines for 1946.

The original Beech Model 35 Bonanza had revolutionary lines for 1946.

(This is a tongue in cheek review of some of my thoughts on the various airplanes that several generations of pilots have flown. NG)

Now for a few words on my favorite subject, pretty and ugly airplanes. Again I am a Frenchman, I love pretty ladies, gorgeous cars, sleek motorcycles and a whole lot of airplanes; mostly those which look they are going 300 mph sitting on the ramp. Hope I don’t insult anyone’s favorite bird, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I will attempt to tell you what caught my eye on the various aircraft.

Navion: An excellent airplane but too masculine, ladies hated it, had to rent a cherry picker to climb onto the wing and then flash their Victoria’s Secrets as they were climbing over the cockpit wall. Super dangerous early models had the step on the front of the wing, right next to the meat grinder. This was later changed.

First model Bonanzas: Very nice lines for 1946. Next version, with outhouse shaped third window, screwed up the lines, F-33 straight tail had it all together, both in looks and in flying. The Bonanza was still an outstanding achievement for Beechcraft.

Cessna 195: Macho machine for macho pilots, beautiful classic high-wing fuselage, fitting a body builder, perched on legs belonging to an ostrich. Wheel pants helped a bit. The 195 is one of my all time favorite airplanes.

Piper Apache: It had all the appeal of a pregnant platypus, ugly. The later model Aztec with its lengthened nose and nacelles had slightly better lines, but still looked like the before picture of a weight watchers TV commercial. But Piper outdid its Apache with the early Senecas where its nothing seemed-to-fit looks.

Mooney: Seen one, seen them all. You either love a Mooney or you hate a Mooney. I would never own one, just personal prejudice. On takeoff they tend to look like a dog scratching its butt on the carpet. For one design to be so successful for so many years, it must appeal to a lot of flyers.

Cherokee 6: Looks like the Jolly Green Giant stepped on it and broke its back. Good airplane with lousy lines. Lance, not the “T” tail, has it all together in the looks department.

The Piper Cherokee 6 heavy hauler sits nose high with a dragging tail appearance.

The Piper Cherokee 6 heavy hauler sits nose high with a dragging tail appearance.

Cessna 310: The later models have outstanding looks and great performance. Too bad the nose gear looks like an afterthought.

The Cessna 310 has excellent overall lines with the sole exception the spindly nose gear.

The Cessna 310 has excellent overall lines with the sole exception the spindly nose gear.

Twin Comanche: They sit a little low to the ground, but the later models, with larger engines, were some of the sleekest light-twins in the air.

Cessna Centurion 210: Absolutely the stupidest landing gear in the field of aviation, it is so ugly it is often afraid of coming out of hiding, and you must land on the belly. Performance wise, excellent airplane.

Aerostar: This Ted Smith design is a beautiful aircraft, early versions had fuel tank selection problems, but it is a dynamite performing and looking airplane. Pilots only, airplane drivers stay away.

This is a 1990s Aerostar from the Aerostar Corporation, very good looking aircraft.

This is a 1990s Aerostar from the Aerostar Corporation, very good looking aircraft.

Cirrus SR-22: Little pregnant looking; I always wanted to chop off the landing gear, but, you can’t knock the tremendous success of this once homebuilt aircraft. It’s a good one.

Globe Swift: Nice design, ugly grill, anemic power plant and weird cabin. Multiple after-market mods will made the Swift a work of art, with the power it needs and sleek cowling it deserves. New semi-bubble cockpits are much better looking; still only hauls two-people with a four-people engine.

EAA Member Jerry Swartz owns this beautiful Super Swift with all available after market modifications.

EAA Member Jerry Swartz owns this beautiful Super Swift with all available after market modifications.

Beechcraft Musketeers: Mouseketeers are big, comfortable slow and ugly. But, they have the Beech name on them. One of the better buys for four-place aircraft.

Piper Tomahawk and Beechcraft Skipper: Kissing cousins. They turned out real pilots, the industry wanted airplane drivers, bye, bye, two good trainers.

Piper TriPacer: The flying milk stool, very good performance and excellent aerodynamic balance. In its previous life as the Pacer, it was a good looking airplane, not any more. Still a great buy for the money.

Yankees: All of the various American and Grumman, Trainer, Tiger and Cheetah models share the same heritage, Jim Bede. Pogo stick nose gear, two-bit fighter canopy and good performance, they are small and light. Again, pilots only, drivers beware.

The landing gear retract sequence on the Cessna 210 is very complex and weird looking.

The landing gear retract sequence on the Cessna 210 is very complex and weird looking.

I am afraid that there are some drastic changes coming to our industry very soon. You can forget retracts on single engine aircraft; they are on the way out, except for a few used in FAA required courses. Tail draggers, except in aerobatic and LSA aircraft, will disappear. Electric power is on the horizon, diesels are still not the answer, and engines using non leaded auto gas will have to be certified. Medical requirements need overhauling and complex rules have to be relaxed or the student starts will continue to decline. Yes, I have flown all of the above airplanes.   I  did joke around about them, but any airplane that gets my butt off the ground, around the pea patch and back on the runway with all my parts still attached is one great airplane, no matter how it looks. NG

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Cluster Balloons, Flying for Dummies

By:      Norm Goyer

A number of helium inflated rubber balloons are tied together and attached to a harness or a pilot's seat.

A number of helium inflated rubber balloons are tied together and attached to a harness or a pilot's seat.

I often amuse myself by assigning categories to various subjects, such as pilot competency. Now I know that this will probably get a lot of hate mail but remember, these are just my thoughts, not the website publishers just me, with my warped sense of humor. For instance I categorize pilots in this order:

Astronauts who pilot the shuttle, not those who clean out the can

Marine fighter pilots, when I went through the Navy system they were giving the top 10% of the class the opportunity to fly with the Marines.

Navy fighter pilots, landing at night on a wildly pitching deck, is the deal breaker on these pilots.

Air Force fighter pilots: The varied skills needed for modern stealth and STOL aircraft demands the highest quality pilots man the controls.

Military helicopter pilots: Some of the exploits coming in from the battle fields are unbelievable, these guys and gals can sure fly their choppers.

Airline pilots: Either are great or not so great, depending on their real skills and training.

I don’t believe that I am going to delve into the snake pit of general aviation pilot skills, the accident rate tells that story quite vividly.

At the very bottom of the list are the balloonists with a subcategory of cluster balloonists, these are the folks that were never able to make a 25 cent balsa wood glider make a successful flight. They should do their flying on flight simulators, Ferris wheels and roller coasters and stay out of the sky.

This cluster balloon, and its pilot, are seen as they pass over the cliffs on the English seaside.

This cluster balloon, and its pilot, are seen as they pass over the cliffs on the English seaside.

Now that I have 50% of the pilots getting ready to write me a nasty letter I will continue my rap on balloonists. There are different types of balloons, hot air (most popular, powered with propane burners), gas balloons, inflated with lighter than air gases such as helium and nitrogen. The early Zeppelins were dirigibles (rigid inner structure). Blimps such as the Goodyear type are simply shaped gas bags with a power and passenger pod hanging beneath the gas bag. There is a subcategory for hot air balloons and they are called Hopper balloons. These are smaller than the ones with a multi passenger wicker basket. These have no basket; the pilot is attached with a harness attached to the propane heater. Next are the cluster balloonists, they inflate large weather rubber balloons in a large group or cluster. Some add water bottles as ballast to be jettisoned to control descent . A stick with a pin on it for bursting the balloons or separate strings of balloons that can be released to allow the balloon to descend. The first cluster balloonists making the front pages was Larry Walters, who had no prior ballooning experience, attached 42 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and lifted off  in 1982. He intended to rise just a few hundred feet , but underestimated helium’s lifting power causing his tethering strap to break prematurely. Walters quickly rose to nearly 3 miles over 50 times his intended maximum altitude. Walters reportedly had planned to control his altitude by using a pellet gun to selectively pop some of the balloons. However, he was initially hesitant to shoot any balloons, as he was concerned about falling out due to a loss of stability. Reaching a high altitude and seeing no other way of getting down, he eventually shot some, facilitating his descent. This year at AirVenture cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe took off with his bunch of balloons and flew over the Great Lakes while posting on the Internet. Trappe is the current hero of cluster balloonists. On May 28, 2010, Sky News reported Jonathan Trappe’s crossing of the English Channel by cluster balloon. Trappe departed near Challock, England, crossed over the White Cliffs of Dover at St. Margaret’s Bay, and made landfall again over Dunkirk, France. Trappe then tracked inland, and landed safely in a farmer’s cabbage patch in France.

Hopper balloons are smaller and do not have a basket for passengers. They are tied to their pilots with a harness.

Hopper balloons are smaller and do not have a basket for passengers. They are tied to their pilots with a harness.

Balloonists carrying passengers must have an FAA lighter than air private certificate. I am not sure if the FAA has caught up with the cluster balloonists as yet. As soon as they can figure out how to make a buck I am sure they will start the process. I know that I should not make fun of folks who want to fly but lack the money, ability, or intelligence to pass the various written tests, and of course the dreaded flight physical. As long as they use common sense, don’t injure anyone on the ground, I suppose there is no harm, other than an airliner packed with 300 people running into one, the airliner might even survive but there is no hope for the brave pilot swinging away beneath his balloons.

This is what a well dressed helium balloonist wears when making long distance flights.

This is what a well dressed helium balloonist wears when making long distance flights.

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Up, Up and Away, Well, Not Quite

By:      Norm Goyer

During part of the filming, the helicopter maneuvered the balloons over a small lake.

During part of the filming, the helicopter maneuvered the balloons over a small lake.

Many years ago I produced public relegations and travel films in New England and New York. One day, I received a call from a large Massachusetts mutual insurance company based in Springfield. Their PR group had come up with an idea of staging a balloon race to inspire their sales division. Their plan was to have two groups competing with each other in hopes of increasing overall insurance sales. They had already contacted a northern Connecticut Hot Air Balloon club to supply two colorful units for the teams to man and a utility beater  balloon for my camera crew and a balloon rated pilot. They had leased a private rural estate on the state line, complete with a medium size lake and stands of beautiful autumn colored foliage. The PR guys had done an excellent job of location selection. On the designated Saturday morning, I loaded my motion picture equipment into my safari style Land Rover and headed out. My assistant and I arrived just as dawn was breaking on a beautiful cloudless fall day. The balloon club was already inflating the three huge bags. The roar of the multiple propane burners was very loud. It sounded like a squadron of B-52 bombers, at full power, during their takeoff and climb out phase. Deafening is the most descriptive word.

The brightly colored balloons, reflected in the water, made some stunning visual effects.

The brightly colored balloons, reflected in the water, made some stunning visual effects.

I knew that balloonists loved to fly at dawn because the lack of any wind makes the inflation of the bags much easier. But, I thought, this is supposed to be a race, if there is no wind, there will be no forward motion and thus no race. A vertical race possibly, but that was not the plan. To show speed, of any magnitude you must have footage in close proximity to the ground. If there is no surface reference, it is almost impossible to show speed in the air. It took over an hour to fill the bags with hot air supplied by the balloon’s propane burners. Eventually they lifted into a vertical position with their wicker baskets upright on the ground and ground crews worthy of any NASCAR team tending to the restraining ropes. I strapped on my 16mm Arriflex, with its large film magazine, and climbed into the basket of the camera balloon. The two pilots of the racing balloons had their top hats on and a bottle of Champaign tucked under their arm. I signaled my ground director to clear the area of spectators and trailers so the camera would have an uncluttered view of the start of this dramatic race.

Due to lack of any wind, a Sikorsky S-51 helicopter was used to give motion to the balloons.

Due to lack of any wind, a Sikorsky S-51 helicopter was used to give motion to the balloons.

I switched on my battery belt, and fired up the Arri. When it came up to speed (24 frames a second), I yelled “Action”, and the ground crews released the tethers, the starter dropped the green flag and the three balloons rose into the clear blue sky. But, that is all they did, they simply sat there in the same position in the sky as they were on the ground. I yelled, “Cut. take them down, we’ve got to talk.” They slowly settled back on the ground. Some race, they had to have moved at least 10 feet. I told the PR crew that I needed some action as these were motion pictures and not still photographs. They didn’t have a clue, but I did. I jumped in the Land Rover and drove to a pay station (no cell phones back then) and called a friend who owned a Korean War era Sikorsky S-51 with a 450-hp Pratt & Whitney radial engine. He used it to string power lines over rivers and canyons and I knew he lived close by and could really fly his chopper.

The propane burners are used to inject hot air into the envelopes which fill, then rise to a vertical position.

The propane burners are used to inject hot air into the envelopes which fill, then rise to a vertical position.

I brought back some coffee and donuts and an hour later the Sikorsky arrived. We had a pilot’s conference so that all knew what we were doing. All the precision flying was done by the helicopter, the rest of us simply hung on for the ride, and what a ride it was. We started over again and as soon as the three balloons rose to over a 100 feet the helicopter maneuvered so that its powerful downwash was directed at the balloons and away they went, not the peaceful slow motion that is associated with balloons, but move they did, swaying and bucking with the pilots waving and yelling and having a great time. I pointed to the lake and the helicopter blew the balloons over the lake, where we all descended down to water level. The race was on! The drag lines were skimming in the water, complete with waves produced by the chopper.

When I had all the footage I needed the balloons climbed for altitude. When they were over clear ground, they descended and the retrieval crews took over. The balloon race was a huge success, not only did the insurance company show the film at staff meetings, the local TV stations picked it up, because, frankly, it was the wildest balloon race anyone had ever seen. After all these years I can still remember the head of the balloon club, his name was Professor McCarthy.

The following summer one of the major networks contacted me and requested another balloon film, this one was even weirder than the race. It seems that our friend the Professor had contracted with the Birch Acres Resort in the Berkshire Mountains to put on a balloon demonstrations with introductory flights over the gorgeous foothills of the Berkshires. So far nothing unusual about this, except Birch Acres was a posh Nudist Resort. I accepted the challenge, shot the film, and the network congratulated me for being able to produce a PG rated film they could show on national television. One of these days, when I have had a large blended margarita and my inhibitions are down, I will write about this balloon experience where the pilots wore their top hat and a bottle of Champaign and nothing else. Who said ballooning was dull?

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Engine of the Week, Liberty V-12

By:      Norm Goyer

The Liberty V-12 liquid cooled engine was designed in 1917 by a group of American auto manufacturers. It was the first engine designed for mass production methods for aircraft engines.

The Liberty V-12 liquid cooled engine was designed in 1917 by a group of American auto manufacturers. It was the first engine designed for mass production methods for aircraft engines.

Our thanks to Wikipedia for the facts about the Liberty, NG

There is little doubt that one of sweetest sounds in the field of aviation is the roar of a Mustang with a Packard V-12 Merlin, swinging a four-bladed prop, roaring over the field in a low level pass. Almost as good as you know what. The Merlin dominated the air battles of Europe during World War II. An almost twin, the Rolls Royce Merlin, was right alongside propelling Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mosquitoes. Lockheed P-38 Lightings, Curtiss P-40 Warhawks  and Bell Airacobras were using a another sibling, the Allison V-12. The only hold out opting for a radial air-cooled engine was the outstanding Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. It’s Pratt & Whitney twin row R-2800-59 radial engine was one of the most dependable engines of the entire war. The Allies most capable foe was the German Messerschmitt Bf.109, you guessed it with a V-12 liquid cooled Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 very similar to the Merlins. In fact Spain used Rolls Merlins in their post war fleet of Bf.109s, an almost direct swap. It would be hard to find another engine that seemed built for the aircraft of World War II. Unfortunately that would be incorrect.

The engine was installed in a Douglas DT torpedo bomber. The Liberty produced about 400-hp.

The engine was installed in a Douglas DT torpedo bomber. The Liberty produced about 400-hp.

The mighty Merlin, Allison and Rolls owe their heritage not to World War II but to World War I, that’s right, 1917, was the year it all started. With America about to enter the war it was deemed necessary for America not to produce fighting planes, but to mass produce engines to power the coming larger aircraft. England and France both said that they had the capability of building the airplanes, but desperately needed larger dependable engines. America had many firms capable of building engines, unfortunately automobile engines, and not airplane engines. A new design was needed, one that was capable of being mass produced, and versatile enough to produce different sizes, using the same components. Auto engines use mostly a cast iron block with the cylinder holes bored after the block was cast. In other words, four, 6, 8 and 12 cylinder car engines have no interchangeable main parts other than pistons, rods and other smaller components. The British SE.5, German Albatros and Fokker D-VII used automobile engines from Hispano-Suiza, , Mercedes and BMW. An engine designed just for aircraft was needed as fast as possible.

The Liberty was also used in the four-engine Curtiss NC-4 aircraft that was first to fly the Atlantic. Shown is the first NC, which only had three Liberty engines.

The Liberty was also used in the four-engine Curtiss NC-4 aircraft that was first to fly the Atlantic. Shown is the first NC, which only had three Liberty engines.

A group of auto makers including Packard, Hall-Scott, Buick, Ford, Cadillac and Marmon were asked to design and produce a new series of engines. All signed on but Cadillac who opted out as the company did not want to produce weapons of war. That prompted their designer to bail out and form the Lincoln Automobile company and promptly joined the group. The resulting Liberty L-12 was a modular design, where four or six cylinders could be used in one or two banks. A single overhead camshaft for each cylinder bank operated two valves per cylinder, in a similar manner to the inline six-cylinder German Mercedes engine. Dry weight was 844 lb. Ford was asked to supply cylinders for the new engine, and rapidly developed an improved technique for cutting and pressing steel which resulted in cylinder production rising from 151 per day to over 2,000, Ford eventually manufacturing all 433,826 cylinders produced, and 3,950 complete engines. Lincoln constructed a new plant in record time, devoted entirely to Liberty engine production, and assembled 2,000 engines in 12 months. By the time of the Armistice with Germany, the various companies had produced 13,574 Liberty engines, attaining a production rate of 150 engines per day. Production continued after the war, for a total of 20,478 engines built between July 4, 1917 and 1919. An inverted Liberty 12-A was referred to as the V-1650 and was produced up to 1926 by Packard the exact same designation was later applied, due to identical displacement, to the World War II Packard-built Rolls-Royce Merlin. The Allison VG-1410 was an air cooled inverted Liberty L-12, with a geared super-charger and Allison epicyclic propeller reduction gear and reduced capacity.

The Packard Merlin V-1650 which was installed in the famous P-51 Mustang was a direct descendent of the Liberty V-12 engine.

The Packard Merlin V-1650 which was installed in the famous P-51 Mustang was a direct descendent of the Liberty V-12 engine.

The Liberty started the trend which dictated that aircraft engine cylinders should be individually bolted to the crankcase for easy replacement. The Liberty engine had a great reputation and was installed in the Curtiss NC series of seaplane which were the first to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Liberty engines were also installed in the Douglas DT bomber, and the Douglas Mail Plane. Another great accomplishment due to the needs of war.

Technical:

  • Type: 12-cylinder liquid-cooled V piston aircraft engine
  • Bore: 5 in
  • Stroke: 7 in
  • Displacement: 1,649.3 in³
  • Dry weight: 845 lb

Components

  • Valve train: One intake and one exhaust valves per cylinder operated via a single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank
  • Cooling system: Liquid-cooled

Performance

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