Thursday, September 29, 2011

Right-Seat Jockey - A Good Day at Work

Some days it's good to go to work. I was on assignment today doing photo coverage of the pre-Open House media event at MCAS Miramar and several of us were given a ride in a Polish-built, 1947-era Russian transport/passenger aircraft.

The An-2, NATO code name Colt, is the world's largest single-engine bi-plane. Not only did I get to ride in it, but the pilot, Bob Cable, let us all rotate through and sit in the right seat during part of our flight around the San Diego area.

Not very luxurious on the inside, ungainly looking on the outside and very noisy and very, very slow, the Colt was a blast nonetheless! I'd ride in it again in a New York minute.

On a side note, some photographers seek out and get the fast jet rides. I must be trying to corner the market on the slow movers. I've ridden the Goodyear blimp (and got to pilot it for a few minutes), the Stout Bushmaster 2000 (the 1950s updated version of the Ford Trimotor) and now the An-2. A speed demon I'm not, although those who ride with me in my car may beg to differ.

An An-2 used to frequent the early days of the Hawthorne Air Faire. The amazing thing about the Colt was there seemed to be very little difference between its high-speed pass and low-speed pass. And it took forever to fly the pattern. We all swore the Goodyear blimp was faster.

In reality the top speed is about 160 mph and landing speed (stall speed) is around 35-40 mph. But is sure seemed like there was no difference in top and bottom performance when it did its routine. It just flew S-L-O-W.

A semi-humorous side note occurred when we were crawling through the airplane while we were on the ground waiting for the weather to clear so we could fly: a young woman - she looked like a mid-twenty-something - was doing a running commentary while her friend filmed her. There was a portrait of an old man in the cabin and she found his big moustache fascinating. She jokingly referred to the portrait as a photo of her grandfather. She was somewhat chagrined when she was told it was a photo of Josef Stalin.

At least she knew who Stalin was, even if she'd never seen a picture of him. Ah, youth.

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