Well, I'm sure not to many of you (if any at all) did anything to celebrate the 100 years of powered flight today but this airplane nerd did.
The plan was to use a friends airplane and takeoff at exactly the same time that the Wright Flyer did at 10:35 EST but mother nature had other plans today. My friend/coworker and I arrived at the local airport (and our alma mater) at 9:00 to begin our day. Weather called for plenty of visibility and ceiling/cloud heights all day to accommidate our little adventure with only the chance of occasional snow showers.
First, it was freakin' cold up here in NE Ohio with plenty of wind to chill you to the bone. We got the airplane ready with plenty of time to spare and headed back inside to wait about 1 hour before we started up. About 15 minutes after we got inside the snow started. Lake effect snow was in full force and lowered the visibility to less than 1 mile at times. We were going to have to wait for it to let up before we tookoff. 10:35 EST came and went without a break in the snow. We tried without success to find some sort of coverage of the Kitty Hawk events on TV but not a peep from a single network or PBS station. I realize that not everyone is an aviation fan but do we need to see Katy Couric talking about hand bags and coats?
Eventually the weather broke and we were back out to the airplane for our ceremonial flight. First problem we encountered was the chocks bracing the front wheel were frozen to the ground. We scrounged up a sledge hammer and took care of that. Then we discovered that the snow had iced up the wings. We broke out the deice fluid and fixed that problem.
Now with all of those issued addressed we were strapped in and set to go. Crap, the engine wouldn't fire off! It would barely turn over once let alone enough to start. I got out and pulled the prop through a few times with the hope of loosening the oil in the cylinders since it was so darn cold. We ran back up to the hangar and looked for some help from the maintenance folks. It turns out that this was this outfits last week at the field before they moved out (some issues with their cost caused the airport to ask them to leave). They were pretty bitter and didn't care to do much of anything to help. Thanks.
All we could hope is that the batteries were sluggish due to the low temps. Back to the plane to try to start it again. The plan was to try to jolt the batteries alive by increasing the draw on them. We turned on a few systems and tried a couple more starts. No luck. Well, we were pretty disappointed that the big day was going to pass us by without us ever getting off the ground. I figured we should let the airplane sit for a few minutes and give it one last try. We did, and it still didn't work. Argh. Well that was about it.....