As pilots we understand the complex tapestry of emotions associated with guiding an airplane through the skies and safely back to a gentle landing—the romance, challenge, and utility of aviation. Over the past 15 years we’ve touched on them all with our annual sweepstakes project airplanes. Who doesn’t understand the romance of skimming over the countryside on a warm summer evening in an open cockpit biplane, such as the pristinely restored 1940 Waco UPF-7 we gave away as part of our celebration of the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003? There’s a challenge to flying such an airplane, too. Utility—well, not so much.
Romance snuck up on us—as romance tends to do—when in 1998 we began touring around in the perky 1958 Piper Tri-Pacer that became our Timeless Tri-Pacer. There’s not a lot of glam in the ungainly little airplane, but it sparked a passion among many pilots who had their first flight in such an airplane. Oh, the nostalgic stories we heard from misty-eyed members who came over just to lay their hands on it.
We went for the bling with our 2001 project, a V-tail Bonanza with an all-glass cockpit, the first of its kind. But get beyond the bright lights and it was an airplane all about the romance of the legendary V-tail traveler and the utility afforded by a TKS anti-ice system and a turbonormalizer that could propel the speedy Bonanza well into the flight levels. (more…)