Bucket List Birds
Everyone has their list of airplanes they “must fly” or dream of flying someday.
Some of these are out of sight for most mere mortals. Airplanes on that list might include the ‘stang, the 787 Dreamliner, and pretty much anything in the previous or current US military inventory.
But I’m a realist. I don’t envision getting to strap on anything bigger or faster than a corporate jet (that I currently campaign), and warbirds rides are not only rare, they’re pricey.
So my bucket list is a bit more realistic. Some of these might even surprise you by their inelegance and overall lack of allure.
Let’s start big to small.
In the plus-size category, the DC-3 is certainly on the list. My multiengine, radial, tailwheel column in my logbook is a little light and this would dovetail nicely with my limited Twin Beech time. Although the DC-3 has a reputation for being heavy and slow to maneuver, it would still be cool to learn to fly one. Sadly, most of the freight operators have retired the old Gooney Bird for something more economical. But the romance of knowing that these enduring machines started our fledging airline industry, fought a couple of wars, and stayed in service even after, is enough to put this airplane on my list. The good news, is they are still around, making this choice practical enough that it could come true some day.
Next are three biplanes. I will forego the predictable staggerwing beech and opt for the even more predictable Stearman. I’ll add to that two models of Waco – the UPF-7 and a Taperwing.
There is something about these big ol’ open cockpit creations that really stir an emotion in me. Maybe I have enjoyed too many barnstorming books that were framed around these machines? tells from Coonts, Bach, and Gann are tough to shake off. I owned a small open cockpit airplane in my youth and there is nothing like the beautiful view and the sound of the wind through those wires.
Now my list gets a little more esoteric.
Fiesler Storch – This is a very rare German liaison airplane from WW2 that Jim Kern turned me onto years ago. I have only seen replicas at air shows, but it would be cool to get my hands on one. They are of the super-STOL variety so you can operate them almost anywhere and like the Pietenpol (below) they aren’t necessarily pretty. There’s a new replica manufacturer out there importing these things to the US so maybe someday I’ll get my chance. Here’s a link to the replica I referred to.
Long-eze – as big fan of Burt Rutan, I would love to fly one of these just to check that box. The uniqueness of the design, tandem seating, and side stick control all appeal to my sporting sensibilities. The airplane is beyond its heyday, but it’s certainly not to be dismissed. Here’s a nice video just in time for the fall.
Fokker Triplane DR1 – This would have to be a replica as non of these survived the wars. My understand is that depending on the replica and how it was built, they can be a handful to fly. There is something very mystical about these troubadours of the sky that I would love to tap in to. I have lamented in the past that this might be my next airplane project, but currently it’s just not practical. I did buy a set of plans and I think someday I will set my sites on this warhorse and get to work; five to ten years later, I’ll be able to scratch this one off my list. Link to a nice replica’s first flight video.
Pietenpol – this is an airplane that is so ugly it’s cute. In my younger years I hated the parasol design (fuselage hanging below the wing – not high wing like a Cessna). For some reason I took a shine to the little airplane and I have been in love with it since. The design dates back to the 1920s, making it one of the first real homebuilts. It can be put together to really take advantage of its flipper roots by equipping it with wire wheels and painting it in the classic earth tones of the Art Deco period. Some builders have really made these things into pieces of art. Not sure how they fly, but I’d love the chance to find out. Checkout video of fellow-Ohioan Mike Cuy’s beautiful example.
RV3 – why would I pick a 30+ year old experimental? Because like a lot of things, this first in a long line of RVs, was the best. It doesn’t have super-long range, blazing speed, or even many creature comforts, but it’s an unabashed, no compromises, fighter aircraft for the poor man. Van built this first airplane for sporting purposes and every airplane since has been at the request of the market – more fuel, more engine, more seats. Airplanes are all compromises, the RV-3 bucks that trend. If I found myself in need of downscaling, I would promptly sell my -8 and pick up a used -3. Here’s Paul Dye’s very cool B model.
Kolb Firestar – I have spoken about this airplane often in my various articles. Usually in the context of getting back to our roots and just flying to fly – and not spending a fortune to do it. The Kolb puts you out in front for an unfettered view of the landscape. I dream of buzzing along at 500′ in one of these just enjoying a nice summer day. The fact that you can fold the wings and bring it home tips the economic scale significantly. In the 3 axis, fixed wing, world it doesn’t get much cheaper than this and pilots report that handling qualities are great for an airplane of this genre. See my friend Dennis’ beautiful Kolb here.
Here’s little video of a Kolb doing touch n goes – looks like a blast.
Most who know me, will attest that I love virtually ALL airplanes so I don’t imagine I would thumb my nose at something not listed, but if asked today these are my choices. On any given day I might morph my list to suit my mood – isn’t that the fun of dreaming – no limitations.
Simple request. Throw in your bucket list birds in the comments below.
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