Monday, July 30, 2007
Making Baby Windmills
I've commented a few times on the relative lack of scenery in my corner of the Midwest. The terrain is basically flat, and just about every square inch of undeveloped land has been cultivated with corn or soybeans. You can spend many enjoyable minutes admiring them from the air, but they do tend to get old. One unique crop that we do have is wind turbines. There is a large wind farm east of town that makes for interesting viewing from the ground and the air. They are still installing several new turbines, and there are enough in various stages of construction to make for an interesting view of the process.
There are a number of individual turbine blades lined up, as well as sections of the pylons and some turbine nacelles. Occasionally you will see a semi carrying such pieces through town on the way out to the farm and they are huge. The nacelles alone are about the size of a Winnebago.
Planting the seed. The foundation looks to be reinforced concrete. I'm not sure how deep it goes, but considering the wind loads on a 400 ft turbine, you've got to have some significant support below ground.
And it's a big family - there are about 250 wind turbines planned for this facility. This is how it looks on the sectional. The turbines appear to be Vestas V82s
Monday, July 23, 2007
In the Wilderness of Western Iowa
While transiting Iowa by car on my way to Bloomington in May, I decided to take a detour to check out the Iowa Aviation Museum at Greenfield Municipal Airport (KGFZ). I had seen the signs on I-80 a few times but this was the first time I was driving by during the museum's hours of operation. I wasn't expecting much - maybe a dusty hangar on a rustic one strip airport, with displays of Billy Bob's helmet and goggles from his crop dusting days, and perhaps a couple of post war jets dragged out of Davis-Montham and mounted on poles outside - but after several months of aviatory idleness, I was ready for some aeronautical adventure.
After a 12 mile drive south of the interstate, it looked like my premonition was accurate. The airport was indeed rustic, with a few decrepit hangars and nary a living airplane in sight. And there were two boneyard relics on the lawn. I almost turned around and headed back to the interstate, but I was bored, and having come this far, I summoned up what little airplane geekdom I've managed to retain while enduring my unintended Yellowbird sabbatical, and went inside.
The friendly hostess greeted me, took my $3.00 admission and invited me to browse around. Inside was a collection of old military uniforms, a few radios, and seemingly random airplane bits and pieces in glass display cases. I was trying to figure out how long I could feign a polite interest before leaving when she gestured towards a door off to the side and said: "And the airplanes are in there."
Airplanes? Maybe this wasn't a wasted trip after all. I went in there, and ... well, keep reading...
"In there" was a tidy modern hangar packed pretty tightly with a little over a dozen vintage aircraft, mostly from the 1920's, 30's and 40's. They were in a superb state of preservation, many showing signs that they had been restored to flying condition. At first glance, the collection seemed to be randomly assembled, but the information cards for each aircraft revealed that most of them had some connection to Iowa and the Midwest. Some had flown regionally. Others had been owned and donated by local flyers, including one by a prominent aerobatic pilot. And some had even been manufactured in the area, providing a reminder that the Midwest has always been fertile ground for aeronautical fruit. As a whole, they told an interesting story of the early days of aviation in America's heartland.
First we have a 1928 Curtiss Robin. The Robin was conceived in part to provide homes for surplus Curtiss OX-5 engines. The museum's Robin is not only the oldest plane in the collection, it's the oldest known Robin in existence, being the third one produced at the Curtiss factory near St. Louis.
You didn't get much in the way of instrumentation in your Robin: Airspeed indicator, altimeter, and tachometer. The single magneto switch is on the left. Above it is the lever for the venetian blind cooling slats on the radiator, and opposite that is the choke lever.
Another rarity with an even more local pedigree is this 1931 Kari-Keen Sioux Coupe 90-B. A bit of Googleing reveals that Kari-Keen was a Sioux City luggage manufacturing company that got involved in the aircraft business in the 20's. The Coupe's designer was one Swen Swansen from the University of South Dakota. You can't get much more Midwestern than that, can you?
Up front is a 90hp Warner radial. The propeller was made by a fellow named Ole Fahlin, who turns out to be a bit of a legend in the world of handmade wooden propellers. A Swedish native, Ole was active in the aviation scene of the Midwest and produced wooden propellers for many aircraft through the 1940's.
Here we have a rare Aetna-Timm Aerocraft 2SA - the only one still in existence. The Aerocraft was built in 1941 and was intended to be a military trainer, but it didn't make the cut. Only six were built. This one is #4. The Timm company had a number of more successful designs to its credit, including the N2T-1 Tutor trainer operated by the U. S. Navy.
It still has the original instruments, including the unique British style turn and slip indicator and the large horizontally mounted compass.
Most of the collection is housed in this modern hangar. It also contains a library, assorted aviation artifacts, including remnants of the plane in which boxer Rocky Marciano was killed, and the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame.
A plaque, complete with miniature windsock, honors Iowa's aviation pioneers: "These are the names of the persons who managed Iowa's early General Aviation (Fixed Base) Operations. They are the dedicated few who worked long hours on mostly small, county seat airports and were the grass-roots builders of the General Aviation business in Iowa as we see it today."
The main ramp at Greenfield Municipal shows a mix of rustic and modern facilities. The main hangar appears to be used for storage - dimly visible through the windows were the skinless carcasses of a couple of taildraggers and other assorted odds and ends.
In general, Greenfield Municipal seems a pleasant little airport, although it was very quiet the day I visited. The Iowa Aviation Museum is a gem and well worth the effort to visit. Hours of operation for the museum are from 10:00 am to 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday, and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Sundays.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Cropping the Dust
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Back when I first bought Yellowbird, the gang at the iPilot.com message boards held a contest to come up with her name. The winning entry was suggested by a student pilot who went by the name of Cap'n Denny. Of course, the prize for the winning nomination was to be a ride in the newly christened bird, but living in Missouri, the good Captain was a bit out of range to collect his reward. Now that Yellowbird and I reside in the same time zone as Denny, there are no more excuses. Since he was passing through the area on a weekend trip, we made plans to meet up. The weather cooperated, and Denny even dressed for the occasion!
Denny is now a certified private pilot, and Yellowbird gave him a good workout. We explored the area, checked out the windmills, and went out for lunch. Well, done, Denny, and thanks for a wonderful name!
Friday, July 20, 2007
Checking out the Neighborhood
Once settled, we took a few days to explore our new surroundings. Things are pretty sparse compared to the Northeast, but it's not all cornfields.
About 35 miles to the east we find this sleepy little field, with about half a dozen hangars and not much else. They do have fuel, for somewhat less than out home field, so it may be worth an occasional visit. There's a whopping big displaced threshold when landing to the south, for the benefit of the farmer across the street, no doubt.
Bouncing back to the east, we have this impressive but uncontrolled field. It used to be very well controlled - you needed to be wearing a blue suit and flying something with the Stars and Bars on the side to get in.
To the south, a similar field, but boasting a grass crosswind runway and a small museum. A crop duster was in the pattern as I stopped in to touch rubber to runway and add another identifier to the logbook. He wasn't making radio calls (as dusters often decline to do), but fortunately his bright yellow livery made him visible enough to the attentive eye.
No airport here, but a nice panorama from a thousand feet or so showing that there is some variety to the scenery. Of interest are the wind flow patterns in the crops that appear when you look downwind on a breezy day. It's been said that with the plentiful straight roads, you'll never need to look far for an emergency landing place. And if you know where to look, you'll never lack a wind indicator either.