|During the month of September,1995, with a precious cargo of 200 limited edition prints and one original aboard my 1946 Globe Swift, I left on an aerial odyssey across North America. The mission was two-fold. My first objective was to fly cross-country to meet with seven individuals who have co-written the Pitts biplane history: Curtis Pitts, Betty Skelton, Charlie Hillard, Gene Soucy, Ed Saurenman, Malcolm White and Tom Poberezny. Swifty's ulterior motive was to meet all of his production line peers in a reunion organized by the Swift Association entitled "The First Fifty Years".|
|"Swifty" my 1946 Globe Swift polished with ROLITE aircraft polish.|
|Our first destination was Florida. With the aid of a GPS to cross-reference my Loran, Swifty opted for easy navigation: blue on the left side, green on the right, baywatch on the nose. We flew this configuration until Homestead, Florida where I met Curtis Pitts, the Quintessential Biplane Designer, to pay homage to 50 years of biplane wizardry. I had the opportunity to tour Pitts Skunk workshop with the man who created the Little Stinker, the Big Stinker, the Super Stinker and his latest design....the Macho Stinker.
We flew the same navigational procedure going north to Winter Haven, Florida to meet Betty Skelton, famous aerobatic champion of the late 40's, early 50's. She gave me a copy of her book "The Little Stinker", which describes the spectacular aerial adventures of the world's most famous aerobatic airplane, flown by one of the world's most famous aerobatic aviatrix. She has my highest admiration: a true pioneer of the aerobatic community.
Proceeding north, we made a left turn in Georgia, westbound, direction Texas. The delivery of my first accepted artwork was made to the Simuflite Center Gallery on DFW for the Flying magazine art contest.
Fort Worth is also home to Charlie Hillard, world aerobatic Champion of 1972 in his Pitts Special, member of the Red Devils and then Eagles Aerobatic Team. The office of his very successful auto dealership is filled with aerobatic memorabilia.
Swifty's reunion was held in Denton, Texas. Bad weather dominated, but a lot of fun was had by all. A Swift airshow, which included from the 85 hp aerial ballet version up to the 210 hp Swift Magic Aerobatic Team, concluded the festivities.
Our next stop was Grayson Co., Texas and the US National Aerobatic competition. I met Gene Soucy of Red Devils/Eagles Aerobatic fame, as well as the Showcat wing walking act and now on board his "N9J" Extra 300S. In between flying upside down, he captains a DC-9 to log equal time straight and level.
With the Lubber line splitting the big N we proceeded to Wichita, Kansas, to meet the designers of the latest Pitts challenger in the aerobatic community: the Super Stinker. Modern times have caught up with Biplane nostalgia; a computerized 3D model of the airplane is transformed into a highly detailed and accurate set of plans. Spearheaded by Ed Saurenman, the team of four designers is specialized in aircraft certification.
The northwest leg tested our knowledge of navigation and mountain flying. Swifty and I proceeded west through Wyoming, where the base of the Rockies plateau flattened out at 6,000 feet; our lethargic VSI had to bring us over the ridge of 12,500 feet. Circling down the Afton valley we kissed the ground and parked under the sign of Aviat, light aircraft manufacturer. I received a personal tour of the immaculate facility that manufactures Pitts S2B's and Husky's by Malcolm White, Chairman, Entrepreneur and Enthusiast.
After leaving Wyoming, we surfed eastbound to the big UFO beacon - Devil's Tower. The Black Hills of South Dakota gave us a presidential visit, although they were a bit stonefaced. Rolling down the Hills of Mt. Rushmore through the land of the buffalo and cowboy attire, we jet-streamed east across the Mississippi River, some 720 miles north from our western crossing, towards Wisconsin.
It was a perfect time to get a prime parking spot for the next Oshkosh EAA Convention! This visit completed my mission of obtaining seven co-signatures for my 200 limited edition prints. Tom Poberezny, President of EAA and teammate of the Red Devils and retiring Eagles Aerobatic Team, gave me a personal tour of the aerobatic section of the EAA museum; here the Red Devils formation team aircraft are trussed upward in the manner represented in my illustration and a replica of the first 85hp Pitts Biplane is parked beside the original certified S2 Big Stinker.
All too quickly it was time to return home across the Great Lakes, retracing the flight of the familiar route back from the annual Oshkosh pilgrimage for a happy reunion with my wife and daughter.
With the final 33rd inscription in my journey logbook, the total sums up to 62 hours of flight time, with 6355 miles travelled over twenty-three states and two provinces; truly an aerial odyssey into Pitts land, with a Swift flavor.