A curious line of smoke

The Luscome was built in 1947 which I thought was a happy coincidence. It’s year of manufacture was the same as mine. It wasn’t my airplane though, it belonged to my friend Greg who’d taken a bus to Wyoming to purchase it and flown it back home to Vancouver, Washington. We stood there at Evergreen field and surveyed it. It was white with black trim, typical to the Luscombe Silvair model 8E. Whoever had owned it before had tried to spruce it up a little, and did so by lining the windows of the plane with those little puff balls on strings, giving it the look of a pimp car. Those little puff balls survived the trip home, but were yanked out before the ink on the bill of sale dried.

Greg had picked the Luscome because they were tough little birds. All aluminum, Don Luscombe had designed an airplane that was so incredibly strong it was virtually impossible to overstress it in the air. This was good because Greg bought it to learn and refine his aerobatic skills, intending to compete in International Aerobatics Club events. Both of us had learned to fly at the same time. We learned from the old timers at Evergreen, home of the Northwest Antique Airplane Club and gathering spot for many northwest amateur builders. The old salts had more hours of flight under their belts, many of them barnstormers and mail carriers back in the 20s and 30s. We learned to fly by stick and rudder, as the expression goes, in airplanes made of steel tube covered in fabric, and the third wheel at the back of the plane where it belonged. The Luscome, although aluminum, was bred of this stock.

I learned to fly in an Aeronca Champion, N81966. It was a two seat tandem airplane with an 85 horse engine. It had an Armstrong starter, which means that you had to spin the propeller by hand to start the motor. In essence, a push start. After accruing a number of hours of practice and gaining sme skills, I did my first loop. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I decided to try an “unusual attitude maneuver,” but once I did it, I moved right along to rolls, cloverleafs, hammerhead stalls, Cuban eights and other positive gee aerobatics. Positive gee simply means that the stresses exerted on the plane the way that it normally flew, even though it might be upside down. The weight born by the wings was the same as if it were right side up. Of course, this included spins, or tail spins. A spin is when the plane corkscrews towards the ground in a full stall, a stall meaning that the wings were not developing any lift. Many nifty maneuvers are entered by stalling the plane. Greg also was fond of aerobatics, and thus the Luscome and thus we stood looking at it on Evergreen field, preparatory to taking it for a ride –or a spin.