In late June 2021 I received a message from Brent Blue asking if I would like to fly right seat to Oshkosh in his 1942 Noordyun Norseman. Honestly I had never heard of the Norseman but after a quick review of this historic Canadian WWII aircraft I was keen to say yes.
I had never flown with Brent but knew him through his work with AOPA [more here] and his website Aeromedix We spent a few hours talking about planning, our individual flying styles, ratings, wish list for stops along the way, and of course the planned Saturday arrival to the big event, #OSH21.
For more information and an article on 164UC in Vintage Airplane Magazine, click here.
I flew commercially into Jackson Hole WY on the Tuesday evening before OSH21. As I deplaned, I saw Brent talking with a fellow in the baggage claim area. Little did I know that was a harbinger for the next 11 days. After living in Jackson for decades, it seemed like everywhere we went I heard “Hey Brent!”. During our planning meetings I asked what the limitations on weight and baggage were. Brent let me know that my baggage allowance for the flight across the country was 900 lbs [which is close to my full-fuel useful load in the Mooney]. After we collected my meager 100 pounds of luggage we loaded up into his big white truck. I couldn’t help but notice the signs that said “Coroner” on the truck. I knew Brent had been in medicine for decades but did not know he was the Teton County Coroner. I have to say that I did get some “looks” when I was driving his big white truck in the National Park the next day.
Brent had a full day of patients on Wednesday and I got to borrow the truck and go explore the area including Jackson and the Grand Teton National Park. My time in the park was so magical. I am a mountain girl and have been to many beautiful places around the globe, but I have to say the Tetons were pure magic.
The weather was warm and clear in Wyoming and the forecast was for VFR flight. The plan was to rendezvous in the late afternoon and drive to Driggs, Idaho [KDIG ]for our departure to Casper, WY. We loaded up the plane, completed a very thorough pre-flight and departed the airport. The goal of this flight was to climb in the airport area to gain altitude needed to have a comfortable margin above the terrain. As with the best laid plans we found that the density altitude was the big winner of the day. We “climbed” for about 20 minutes and only gained a few hundred feet.
The next morning, we left in the cool, clear air and had no problems whatsoever. Being a day “behind” meant that we had a very long day of flights in front of us.
Some of you might remember my Dad was an instructor in the Army Air Corps. He flew the Stearman out of Rankin Field in Tulare, CA in the early 40s. He told me many stories of hanging out with Tex Rankin, Sammy Mason and others. For me, flying in this historic WWII plane gave me an idea of what it must have been like for my Dad.
Flying behind that big radial engine was so thrilling in a slow-motion sort of way. The Pratt & Whitney R1340 engine puts out 600 horses, but it is pulling a big, heavy, airplane. Brent was very generous in briefing me on the controls, flight characteristics and procedures in flying the Norseman. Having the majority of my time in a Mooney, it was a little adjustment to the heavy hand needed on the controls and lag time in responsiveness. The plane features a flip-flop yoke. I was able to take-off, climb, establish in cruise and even did a “high-speed” pass. By the end of the second day I was able to keep the plane headed in the right direction, once trimmed, with my toes.
Another difference between the Mooney is the Norseman burns 30- 34 gallon per hour and about a half-gallon of oil. We cruised at between 85-100 mph. I really enjoyed flying with the windows down, seeing the country side unfolding beneath me and got used to the wind in my face and the occasional drop of oil landing on me.
One thing I learned straight away is this airplane is historic, rare, and draws a crowd wherever it goes. Production began on this Canadian single-engine bush plane in 1935. Only 900 or so were produced. The beefy air-frame came equipped with interchangeable wheel, ski or twin-float landing gear. Brent explained that his was the only Norseman flying in the continental United States. Along the way I learned what a great ambassador he is for general aviation.
July 22nd was a long day of flying as we had the goal to reach Mason City IA [KMCW] for their “Third-Thursday” event. This monthly gathering was due to be especially large due to the proximity to the start of Oshkosh. I love their slogan, “There’s no agenda, no officers, no speakers, and no budget.”
We cast a big shadow as we landed. Even behind that big engine, it was clear to see the multitude of airplanes on display which included the famous C47 “That’s All Brother”. The CAF has restored the historic aircraft and was hopping rides all afternoon for lucky attendees. To read more about TAB click here
The afternoon was sunny and warm with clear skies. Another fun element of Mason City Iowa was our stay at the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built hotel in the world, the Historic Park Inn. We checked in and soon enough were back out at the airport to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of Doug and Kim Rozendaal and the Third Thursday crew.
It was simply a perfect GA evening. The grills were going much to this meat-a-tarian’s delight. Hundreds of folks checking out the 50+ airplanes that came in. From student pilots to old-timers, the excitement of heading to Oshkosh ’21 was in the air. The Norseman was a hit with many, many, visitors and folks coming by to take photos. We enjoyed the evening and then hit the hay for our early morning departure to Middleton, WI [c29] and their Rock the Ramp celebration. . I will continue our journey to Oshkosh in next month’s installment.
As I close, I would like to remind folks, in the waning flying season of ’21, to take advantage of any on-field events going on in your community or region. Please don’t forget online virtual events as well. For those in California, mark your calendars for Friends of Oceano Airport, Toys for Kids on Saturday December 4th from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.