Category: Aircraft

Harold Gillam: A Tragic Final Flight

Harold Gillam was a pioneering bush pilot in the Alaska backcountry. Here’s a nice write-up about his final flight where we unfortunately crashed and perished:

Harold Gillam in the cockpit of his ski-equipped Waco

How to change oil in a Continental A-65

The 4-cylinder air-cooled Continental A-65 is about as simple an aircraft engine has you can get. However, the procedure for changing the oil in it is a *bit* – but only a tiny bit – more complex than that for your small-block Chevys and the like. Kevin Lacey, of Airplane Repo fame, does an excellent job of walking through the procedure in the video here that shows him performing the procedure on his Taylorcraft’s power plant.

As an aside, he also walks through the procedure of cleaning spark plugs and testing compression since the engine only had 23 hrs SMOH when the video was filmed. Those’re helpful to know as well.

Continental A-65 "Maintenance and Overhaul Manual" cover
Continental A-65 “Maintenance and Overhaul Manual”

1946 video tour of the Aeronca aircraft factory, Middletown, OH

I absolutely love this post-WWII video tour of the Aeronca aircraft factory. Luckily, it’s not just a short little snip but a full-length film (49:15 in length).

Screen cap of an Aeronca Champ taking off from the factory airfield, from 1946 Aeronca factory tour video
Aeronca Champ taking off from Aeronca factory airfield

Douglas DC-2 1/2

One of my favorite planes is the old Douglas DC-3 – can’t beat it for looks in my book. Was doing some reading on it and came across a story about the Douglas “DC-2 1/2.”
The Japanese had damaged the wing of a Chinese DC-3 with a 200-lb bomb. There were no DC-3 replacement wings available and the Chinese were worried that the whole plane would be destroyed in further bombing raids. A spare DC-2 wing – which was about 5’ shorter – was strapped to the bottom of a different DC-3 in Hong Kong, flown 900 miles to the airfield at about 110 mph, and bolted on the DC-3.
Get this – the damn thing flew! It needed 12 degrees of aileron trim and different power settings than its partner engine on the full size wing but it flew straight and level 800+ miles to escape the Japanese raids.
Neat write-up about it here.

In action:

Douglas DC-2 1/2
Douglas DC-2 1/2

Aeronca oleo strut maintenance

Courtesy of John Propst – quite a bit that goes into these old airplanes’ suspensions.

Sales tax and aircraft registration in Kansas

Back in the summer of 2022, I bought my first personal aircraft, “Artie”, an old 1947 Aeronca Champ L-16 (Air Force version of the 7BCM) taildragger that was decommissioned and given to the Civil Air Patrol in 1956 with several hundred of its brethren. CAP eventually sold Artie to a university in Missouri in the late ’60s/early ’70s who used him for flight training. He changed hands several more times until ending up with me last year.

One of the things that folks may not generally be aware is that there’s a fairly hefty state tax burden on aircraft owners, at least in Kansas. However, the Kansas legislature – in all its enduring, ever-present wisdom – did at least one thing right and ensured that folks who use their antique or homebuilt aircraft for recreational purposes can get an exemption to the tax. However, to do so, you have to apply for the exemption.

To save other Kansas folks the headache of figuring out what to do, here’s the process I went through – your mileage may vary:

  1. Legally acquire the aircraft – should go w/o saying but you never know!
  2. Fill out a Tax Exemption form per K.S.A. 79-213.
  3. Fill out an Addition to Exemption Application (Aircraft) per KSA 79-201k and KSA 79-220.
  4. Attach a copy of your flight logs for the preceding year for the subject aircraft. If you don’t have them – say, you just bought it – reach out to your county appraiser’s office for guidance.
  5. Enclose a copy of your FAA registration certificate or, like I did, a copy of the the FAA application for registration.
  6. Enclose a check for the filing fee – this fee varies by county but you can usually find the filing fees listed somewhere on your County Appraiser’s website. In Sedgwick County where I’m based the fee has been $100 since 2014.
  7. Send all of the above documents to your County Appraiser’s office.
  8. Profit!

On some periodic basis, a Board of Tax Appeals will meet and decide your fate. That’s all there is to it! I just completed step 7 myself so I’ll update this post later if any wrinkles pop up.

In the meantime, check out some Champ pics below! You’ll notice I label it as a 7AC instead of 7BCM – at some point in its history, the larger C85 engine was swapped first for a C90, then down to an A65. So, it’s a 7BCM at this point in name only.

Aeronca Champ 7AC over Kansas before sunset
Aeronca Champ 7AC over Kansas before sunset
Aeronca Champ 7AC at Anthony, KS
Aeronca Champ 7AC at Anthony, KS
Aeronca Champ 7AC at Argonia, KS - got to love grass strips!
Aeronca Champ 7AC at Argonia, KS – got to love grass strips!
Aeronca Champ 7AC at Rose Hill, KS
Aeronca Champ 7AC at Rose Hill, KS