FLIGHT OF THE FIRECAT
You never know who you will meet in this hobby. Though, you’re not likely to meet a celebrity, what you do get are opportunities to meet the amazing men and women who flew the iron that we so passionately model. Model aviation truly is a gateway into full scale aviation and for many, has been a vehicle that has influenced so many careers. This was the case for me and I know has been for so many others. It’s something that is extensible to anyone willing to try and really fosters a community atmosphere for those who participate. For me, flying scale gives me a chance to fly airplanes that I would otherwise never have the opportunities to fly in some form while also allow me to appreciate fully the beauty in the design. It is also a way to celebrate the amazing aviation history and achievements of those who have risked their lives countless times throughout that history.
An Unexpected Visit
So, about two months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman by the name of Bob Forbes as he was looking for a little help in getting an airplane flown that he had commissioned. Little did I know was that Bob was a retired Fire Bomber pilot who flew for TBM Inc. which was the company that owned and operated a fleet of F7F Tigercat Fire Bombers (along with C-2 Trackers and other aircraft). I should point out that with every Tigercat that’s careened my workbench I have long drooled over the paint schemes of these Fire Bombers countless times as I absolutely love them!
Bob arrived at my house on a Sunday afternoon for me to take a look at the airplane that he had someone build for him. As he pulled the airplane from his truck, I started to understand. Bob had a FlightLineRC F7F Tigercat refinish commissioned by Bob Vanderveen in Ramona and he was looking for some help getting it flown. As we looked over the airplane, he began to share some of his stories and mentioned that he had had the airplane commissioned in the scheme that it wore when he flew and qualified the airplane at the Reno air races. He also began to share how he had flown the Fire Bombers for many many years and that he had retired just a couple years ago (he shares some of those experiences in detail in the above video along with some C-2 fire bomber footage). So, getting the airplane flown was the least that I could do for him! Talking with and helping the pilots who flew the actual iron really brings these models to life and it’s so awesome!
PHOTOS CREDIT: Phil M. Schmidt
April 21st, Maiden Day
It was a beautiful sunny morning with a slight chill (and much anticipation) in the air as we arrived at the field and I unpacked the airplane. We took our time and made sure everything was right and ready. In the process we took a series of ground photos and then went through and did a quick range check. Everything spec’d out perfectly with the radio and talking with Bob, he was eager to see the airplane fly.
Taxiing the airplane out, she tracked perfectly straight down the runway as I set her into position. With a quick breath, I added power to the throttles and the airplane accelerated quickly. In no time, the airplane was airborne and away she went! She only needed a couple clicks of down elevator trim and she was flying straight as an arrow. Flying the airplane, it was great to hear Bob comment as he watched in excitement.
The airplane cut through the air with ease and looked beautiful doing so; it was inspiring to see fly. I performed a few rolls and vertical maneuvers trying to recreate some of the stories that Bob had shared and just had a great time with the airplane. After 5 minutes, it was time to setup for landing and so I dropped flaps and gear and brought her around. The airplane settled into a nice approach and settled beautifully in the flare to which Bob exclaimed, “awesome!” as the airplane rolled to a stop. We flew the airplane 3 times with each flight even better than the last. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
These are the days we remember most in this hobby, having a chance to live the experiences of the pilots who flew the missions and handled the hardware. It was an honor for me to be able to help out a man who has helped so many people and not to mention flown the airplane that I’ve long admired. Needless to say, this is a day I’ll not soon forget. Thanks for a great day Bob!