Monday, July 21, 2008

Who put this plane in my hangar?

J.W. French, as we speak, is sitting on the couch across from me, catching up on the news on the TV. When you're away from home for more than a month, I'll bet it's easy to lose touch with what folks are up to.

If you're an occasional reader here, you know what J.W. has been up to. He's been recreating the Sam Burgess flight on the 1970s, in which he flew solo to all 48 lower states, without the benefit of fancy navigation systems we've got today. (Listen to my MPR colleague Elizabeth Stawicki's story)

J.W. is flying an Acro Sport aerobatic airplane, even though he doesn't do aerobatics, with a Garmin 396 GPS the only concession to the new age, compared to when Sam -- a war hero, an aviation pioneer and his good friend -- did this journey.

J.W. reached the 48th state Friday when he reached South Dakota and tomorrow he'll head out to see his brother south of Madison. Next week, he'll occupy an honored location at AirVenture in Oshkosh, in commemoration for his feat.

He landed at Fleming Field in South St. Paul around lunchtime today and after sitting around the house here and grabbing some dinner, we headed back out to the hangar. It was great to open up the hangar door and see the Acro Sport sitting there.

We rolled it out to tarmac and Pete Howell and his son, Ryan, arrived in their RV-9A. Pete, as I've pointed out many times, is one of my aviation heroes. Paul Hove from EAA Chapter 54 (and an RV-7A pilot and builder) joined us as did Rep. Michael Beard, who represents Savage in the Legislature but has his hangar at South St. Paul, his son and, I presume, grandchildren (sitting in the plane in the photo above). Mitch Anderson also drove over from the Flying Cloud area.

I'm still somewhat aggravated, I admit, that we couldn't generate a bit more interest among the various EAA groups, but I'm pleased we were able to turn out enough people this evening to show our admiration for Mr. French's endeavor.

He'll be sending out his "position report" later this evening and I'll post it here.

Here's Mr. French's "position report" for today. This is the last one of his trip.

I left Sky Harbor Airpark this morning for an arduous cross country of 0.4 hours to Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Mn. Fleming Field was the base of operations for many years of Chuck Doyle, Sr. I smoothed on a good wheel landing and my host, Bob Collins, was standing by to flag me in to his hangar when I landed. Bob is a news writer for Minnesota Public Radio and also writes a blog entitled 'Letters from Flyover Country' for the RV builders that can be found at He has done a great job of posting the SBMJ 2008 Position Reports in his blog.

Elizabeth Stawicki, a reporter from Minnesota Public Radio and a colleague of Bob's was waiting to interview me and learn about the life and times of Sam Burgess. After the interview Bob and I opened the knife-and-fork lodge in due and ancient form. I got to relax this afternoon. Paul Hove, a member of Chapter #54 Lake Elmo, MN, and a builder of a completed RV-7A joined us for supper at Bob's house. After supper we went to Bob's hangar where a number of members from Chapter #54 gathered to have a look at the Acro Sport.

Two young boys were in the group so I made sure they both got to sit in the cockpit and have their pictures taken by dad and grandpa.

We had a nice relaxing evening back at the house. Tomorrow I leave for Monroe, WI, which is an airport close to my brother's home in New Glaris, WI. I'll have a chance for a couple of days of R and R and then we'll be off to Brodhead, WI on Friday for the Pietenpol and Hatz Fly In. Bud Gores, the builder of N3791H, will be driving over from Burlington, WI to take a look at the Acro Sport. He did a great job. I haven't had a squawk on the plane the whole trip.

Next Monday I will head to Air Venture 2008 and will be there 'til the end. I'll make a report after Oshkosh, and another one about the National Antique Fly In in Blakesburg, IA after I get back home to Ft. Myers in September.

J.W. French


  1. Woops! Linked to the wrong entry... Bob - great time at the hangar tonight. Ry and I got to meet new friend and talk airplanes!

    Goodspeed, JW

    Pete and Ryan Howell

    PS - your 7 looks great - keep plugging along and never stop writing - anyone can craft metal - few can craft words like you

  2. A hangar looks best with people and planes. Glad you could put J.W. up, and thanks for posting his updates.

    p.s. J.W.'s plane? *wolf-whistle*