Thursday, March 3, 2011

Republic

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
03 Mar 2011 N21481 5G0 (LeRoy, NY) - N23 (Sidney, NY) -
FRG (Farmingdale, NY) - 5G0
5.7 905.5

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese inflicted a very successful military strike on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor.  For an isolationist American public, shock soon gave way to anger and the United States flexed its considerable industrial might. The result? Thousands of warbirds born from factories spanning the nation. Among them were the prolific aircraft factories of Long Island, NY that included the Grumman "Ironworks" and Republic Aviation, builders of the P-47 Thunderbolt.

I logged my 900th flight flight hour en route to Republic Airport (FRG) in Farmingdale, NY. My destination was the American Airpower Museum, an aviation museum housed in one of the few Republic Aviation structures remaining at the airport. 


The air was cold, but calm in Upstate New York as I crossed Cayuga Lake.


After one hour of flying, I stopped in Sydney (N23) for fuel ($4.26/gal). Continuing eastward from Sydney, I was soon over the foothills of the Catskill Mountains (above).  I contacted Binghamton for flight following, but the approach controller noted that I was already at the eastern edge of his airspace and suggested that I contact Boston Center.  Upon hearing my position and destination, the Boston Center controller suggested that I contact Binghamton.

What?  No one wants to work a Cherokee this morning?

I was with Binghamton for a few miles before being handed off to the first of four New York approach controllers I would talk to that morning.  My original hope was that a direct route to Republic would be possible with a clearance through the northern boundary of New York class Bravo airspace.  As we "edged" closer to the invisible threshold of Bravo airspace at 133 knots ground speed (153 mph), it became obvious that a clearance was not coming.  Instead, I diverted east over Stamford, CT so that I could approach Republic from the north.


The New York terminal area chart shows a set of stacks on the north shore of Long Island that are roughly north of Republic (above).  Spotting these from over Connecticut, I turned toward them and crossed Long Island Sound.  From just west of the stacks, I was perfectly set up for a right downwind pattern entry for runway 1.  I notified New York approach that I had the airport in sight and was switched to Republic Tower.


As I joined the right downwind for runway 1 at Republic, the controller called, "Cherokee four eighteen, there's a Lear departing runway 1."  I glanced over at the runway, spotted the Learjet, saw that it would very quickly cease to be a factor, and continued to maneuver for the pattern.

"Cherokee four eighteen, that Learjet should be abeam your right wingtip."  I looked again and saw that the jet was abeam MY wingtip. I suddenly realized that the controller had garbled my tail number and was giving ME traffic advisories.

"Four eight one has the traffic," I responded.  The controller responded, adroitly correcting my tail number, with a request to make an expedited landing in front of a Cessna on a two mile final. I touched down gently on the 150 foot wide runway in a left, quartering wind of 20 knots.


I chose SheltAir because they had glowing comments on AirNav and were situated right next to the museum.  As shown above, the FBO is attached to the old control tower that was in service during World War II.  Jonathan at SheltAir saw to it that my experience there was a positive one.  Within a few minutes of landing, I drove a borrowed Camry to a nearby pizzeria and enjoyed a good lunch before exploring the museum.

Republic is a busy general aviation airport.  In 2008, the airport averaged 465 operations per day. If we assume that most of those operations took place during the eight hour period consistent with "working hours", that comes to 58 operations per hour; approximately one take-off or landing every minute.  Everyone associated with the airport, from the guys at SheltAir to the museum volunteers, were very proud of being based at the third busiest airport in New York State behind JFK and LaGuardia.

I spent a significant portion of my time at the American Airpower Museum with Mike, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer.  The museum is fairly young, only a decade old.  They have limited space, but it is well-utilized to display their beautiful airworthy aircraft. In many ways, the museum reminded me of my early days at the original Air Zoo.


Nose to nose with the mighty P-47 Thunderbolt, born in the very hangar housing the American Airpower Museum.  World War II era photographs on display showed dozens of new Thunderbolts parked on the Republic ramp beneath the control tower now attached to the SheltAir building.  The airplane, nicknamed "The Jug", short for juggernaut, was notoriously robust.  Even filled with hundreds of bullet holes, these birds always brought their pilots home.

 
I shudder to imagine how much elbow grease is required to keep this T6 so shiny.


I've never seen such a shiny radial engine before...


...it even makes for a great accent to photographs of OTHER airplanes, like this airworthy C-47.


The paint job on this airworthy P-40 was absolutely magnificent.


My first exposure to the American Airpower Museum was watching several of their aircraft flying at the Greatest Show on Turf in Geneseo.  This is Miss Hap, a B-25 bomber that served as personal transport for Hap Arnold, the commanding general of the US Army Air Corps during World War II.  It was later owned by Howard Hughes.  I couldn't get a decent photo of it at the museum, but here it is as I saw it last summer at Geneseo.


The museum uses this lovely red WACO to give rides to visitors.

I spent over three hours at the museum, saw some excellent aircraft, and had terrific conversations with a few of the volunteers.  It was a day well-spent.  Other highlights of the museum included a Grumman Avenger autographed by George Bush Sr (Bush flew Avengers in the Pacific during WWII), a PBY Catalina under restoration, and several static displays and videos portraying key events and the role of Republic Aviation in the aerial war.  Knowing that I faced a headwind to get home, I departed the museum and was back at the controls of Warrior 481 by 4:00 pm.

As I left, I could not help but reflect on the amazing industrial machine that America leveraged to build over 100,000 airplanes during World War II. I thought of Long Island's Republic Aviation and the Grumman Ironworks; both gone. I thought of automotive plants in Detroit and Flint that diverted their considerable manufacturing prowess to produce airplanes instead of cars; now shuttered or razed entirely. And I could not help but wonder: if such a dire need arose today, would we still possess the manufacturing infrastructure and skilled labor capable of accomplishing the same industrial feat?


I departed to the north and crossed Long Island Sound at 2500' (above).  Looking toward the late afternoon sun, I could see the skyline of Manhattan about 30 miles to the west.


Soon enough, I was back over Upstate (i.e., the rest of New York not occupied by The City).  Above, the Hudson River winds northward to Albany.  Perched on the peninsula projecting from the west bank of the Hudson sits the US Military Academy at West Point.

The sun had already set as I entered the Rochester radar area.  Rochester approach was working a small handful of airplanes, a stark contrast to the busy controllers juggling arrivals and departures in New York's Bravo airspace.

"Hey, Warrior 481.  How's the ride?" queried the Rochester controller after a few quiet moments on frequency.

"Perfect," I responded as I set up my approach for home.

3 comments:

  1. Great write up and pictures as always! I hope to make some similar trips around here soon. Looked like a perfect day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome pictures! Great post, what a walk down memory lane. I wouldn't mind making that hop and spending some time looking at the warbirds and learning about the airport history.

    I often work and fly in and out of Millville, KMIV. That was one of many training facilities that flew the P-47. There is a very small museum on the field no planes. Cape May has a small museum with planes and details the history of that training base.

    ReplyDelete