Dave Hirschman

Playing with fire(crackers) . . .

April 10, 2008 by Dave Hirschman, Senior Editor

Shoenfeldt Firecracker “It’s a squirrel,” said Pat Halloran, the pilot of the Shoenfeldt “Firecracker,” a wood-winged bullet of an air racer from the 1930s–and the coolest airplane at Sun ‘n Fun.

It’s got an 18-foot wingspan, an impossibly tiny amount of wing area, and a 440-cubic-inch Ranger engine. The gear retracts with a hand crank, and Halloran, a retired Air Force general who flew fighters in Korea and the U-2 and SR-71 after that, said the airplane is a handfull to fly.

“Visibility on the ground is non-existent,” he said. “In the air, you’ve got to hold onto it every second.”

Halloran has flown the airplane about 70 hours and expects to add significantly to that total in the coming days. After Sun ‘n Fun, he’ll fly the Firecracker back to its home at Flabob Airport in Southern California. The airplane holds about four hours of fuel–but Halloran says the urge to escape from the cramped cockpit is too strong to ignore after about 2.5 hours.

Oh. The airplane’s top speed? It went about 300 miles an hour in the late 1930s when famed Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier was racing it. But Halloran said he won’t push it that hard . . .


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