You remember the T-6? I wrote about it in a bunch of posts two years ago (e.g http://roadtrip.somerandom.com/2008/07/pucker-factor.html). Group of us have been sharing it for about four years now. About as much Walter Mitty bang-for-the-buck as you can get. Anyhow, I've not been flying it for the past nine months, because one of the other owners took it off a runway sideways last summer in Nevada. Noone hurt, but ripped the gear off, destroyed the prop and bent a wing. Unpleasant stuff.
Fall and winter were spent getting the plane put back together, getting it back to California, and digging through the mountains of legal paperwork to get us airworthy again. Finally got everything signed off on Thursday, and Martin (our ringleader) got the dubious honor of performing the return-to-service operational check flight (will this thing really fly?). I took advantage of a slow morning at work to sneak in a recurrency flight, which made me the only guy who was qualified and available to take the plane down to SoCal for the final step in the repair: the paint job.
Repainting the plane isn't strictly necessary, but the replacement wing came off a Navy plane, so when we got it back, the poor thing looked like Two Face - one side silver and the other bright yellow. So we reached a little deeper in our pockets and came up with the scratch to get a whole new coat of paint (which has opened a whole new can of worms - given carte blanche - or avion blanche - which of the many historically authentic T-6 paint jobs do we want to use?).
Anyhow. It was a lovely flight down. Mike and Ian, a couple of the other owners, agreed to join the party. Mike would ride down to Santa Maria with me, and Ian would fly "chase" in a Mooney, to give us a ride back.
We puttered down the 101 corridor at 5500' with Ian tucked in behind our left wing. Ian's a long time professional pilot and has flown everything from ragwing antiques to jets for a living. I would have been a lot more nervous with almost anyone else in that slot (then again, I'm close to the least experienced in our owners' group - Mike, hanging out in the backseat, used to fly A7's off of the the deck of the Lexington).
Landed, handed the plane off to ArtCraft, had an entirely survivable lunch at the Mexican restaurant in the terminal, and walked over to the diminutive air museum at the north end of the field. Seems Ian and Mike had stories for just about every plane there. Docent kept his distance, I think he could tell they knew more about the planes than he did. Great fun.
Finally ran out of excuses to hang out, and piled into the Mooney for the ride home. After the insane rumbling and vibration of the T-6, the Mooney's engine felt like someone had switched on a ceiling fan - just a low hum. But it got the job done nicely, hauling us north at upwards of 190 knots. That's a slick machine, I'll tell you.
So - the '6 should have its new paint in about two weeks, though it's yet to be decided whether we're going with the traditional ANG silver (probably what it started as), Navy blue, Yellow Peril, or the "Gitmo" olive and red. Whatever colors it comes back, I hope to be flying her (and writing about it) more in the coming months. Stay tuned!