Antique aircraft grounded by gusty winds Thursday
Plane tethered to keep from blowing over.
Charlie Gay not only had a wild ride in the sky last Thursday but on the ground as well.
Because of turbulent winds tossing him and a 1943 Stinson Gullwing around in the air, the pilot landed the aircraft about 3:30 p.m. at the Gothenburg Airport.
“I couldn’t taxi in because it was so windy that I could blow over,” Gay said, noting that the vintage plane flies at 60 mph. “The wind blew me back on the runway 40 feet.”Gay said airport manager Dennis Brown helped him tether the aircraft to an Oldsmobile parked on one side and a van under the opposite wing as winds, according to the plane’s airspeed indicator, gusted at least 60 mph.
He noted that he and Brown knew how to be creative when dealing with aircraft in challenging conditions because both lived in the Alaskan bush in Talkeetna during different periods of their lives.
The pilot, who now owns an airport and plane rebuilding shop in Tunkhannock, PA, was en route to Boise, ID, in the Stinson to deliver the rebuilt craft to its owner.
When he encountered gusty winds, he tried to land at the North Platte airport but had to abort because of strong side winds. Gay could have landed on another runway but it was full of cement trucks.
So he flew to Gothenburg, where he could touch down—into the wind—on a wide, grass runway.
“In a plane like this, grass is best because it drags the tail which makes it easier to keep straight,” he explained.
Although Gay checked into a local motel, he became concerned about the safety of the Stinson during a thunderstorm so he returned to the airport.
Gay spent most of the night rocked by the wind in the aircraft, manuevering the rudder when the wind picked up the back of the plane, and watching the storm on the weather radio.
Earlier in the day, when he left Iowa, he said the wind was turbulent until he got to about 8,000 feet.
When he needed to refuel, Gay began flying at a lower altitude in central Nebraska.
“Right above the ground, it really got wild,” Gay said, noting that the wind was probably the worst he’s encountered during his flying career.
The pilot left Gothenburg on a sunny Friday afternoon and made it to Laramie, WY, where winds picked up again.
Gay said it took him six years “on and off” to restore the Stinson, which was used in England during World War II.
Side and floor windows allowed Allied crews to watch for, and snap, photographs of enemy ships in the ocean, he explained.
“Flares and buoys could be dropped from holes in the floor,” Gay said.
After the war, the plane was transformed for civilian use.