The Society of Aviation History visit to Airmotive Specialties in Salinas gave us a great opportunity to look around the restoration facility. One of the Mustangs was not being worked on though. It was due to be picked up by its owner that afternoon. As a result, having had a break for lunch, we headed back to the ramp to await the departure.
The aircraft was run up on the ramp outside the hangar and then taxied to the opposite end of the runway for takeoff. We anticipated the takeoff and then a further pass before he left. I figured the first time I might go with a slow shutter speed for fun. The second one I would be a bit more conservative in order to make sure I actually got a sharp shot.
After the two passes the aircraft headed off en route. Getting a bit of airborne Mustang time was a cool addition to a great day.
The Society of Aviation History organized a visit to Salinas to the facility of Airmotive Specialties. Owned and run by Dave Teeters, Aviation Specialties provides a number of services but the thing that brings them most attention is the restoration of warbirds with a strong focus on P-51 Mustangs. During our visit, there were seven Mustangs in the hangar in various states of restoration. There were some other types too as well as some more commonplace types undergoing maintenance.
Dave has spent his life in this business having started working for his Dad before setting up on his own. He supplies parts to his Dad’s business and vice versa as they both operate in the same field. Dave has really committed to the processes and capabilities needed to restore these vintage aircraft. His team is one that he has trained and many of his staff have been with him for years. He has also invested in technology. So many parts for these aircraft are hand crafted but Dave has acquired numerically controlled machines to assist in producing a large number of components. These machines are also capable of digitizing the outline of existing components to allow him to reproduce them as needed.
The investment in these machines is substantial but the pay off comes in how quickly he can produce replacement parts once the process is done. Hand crafting these parts is an intensive business and, when sufficient are needed, the business case is straightforward. Even so, there are still many pieces that require the hand skills that are in short supply and are becoming rarer. Dave maintains capabilities with many old tools and techniques in order to make sure that they can always provide what the customers need.
The hangar was full of interesting projects in various states. Some were disassembled completely with rework on fuselages and wings plus various subassemblies. Others were fully complete and were just in for ongoing maintenance. A great looking Beech 18 was at the front of the hangar along with a P-51 due to be picked up by its owner. A couple of Robinson R44s were also parked in with a JetRanger – one of the R44s flew off later in the day.
Dave provided great access to our visit and was exceedingly generous with his time. He explained exactly how they work and answered any questions the group had for him. The hangar has some nice facilities for customers but, while they were very comfortable, the contents of the working area were of most interest to us and Dave gave us freedom to wander as we wished. It was a great time. Many thanks Dave.
I love helicopters and getting to see two in close quarters at Salinas recently was the sort of thing to make me smile. An Astar had come up to drop someone off and was heading back out again. Meanwhile, a local Robinson R-44 had been moved out on to the ramp next to it for its pilot to have a local flight. They ended up starting up and departing at almost the same time. What I hadn’t realized was that the departure path for both of them was going to take them right past me.
I had figured that they would start up and then hover taxi to the runway before departing in the runway heading. Instead, the approved profile made use of the taxiway next to where I was. The result was that they both pulled to the hover and then turned in my direction before accelerating right by. That was a lot better than I was expecting. The need to gain speed before climbing to minimize time in the “avoid curve” means that you get a nice low view of a helicopter when it takes off. This is far better than the fixed wing alternative in my view.
An oft quoted idiom in aviation is that if it looks right it flies right. I’m not sure whether that was deep in the minds of Pacific Aerospace Ltd when they designed the P-750 or not but this is an aircraft that is functional and useful but I doubt too many people will consider it pretty. It is a workhorse. Some sections of fuselage which minimize the use of double curvatures to make production simpler and cheaper. Add to that the reliable PT-6 seemingly bolted on the nose and a wing with a thick section and some simple dihedral at the tips and you have a plane. If you want to take a decent load of skydivers up to altitude quickly and get back down just as quickly for the next load, this is your sort of plane.
This example showed up at Salinas while I was there. It parked on the ramp for a while before heading back off. It has a rear door suited to skydiving and the name on the bottom suggests that is what it does. I first saw one of these at East Troy in Wisconsin where it was also carrying skydivers. The diving approaches both examples used show just how quickly this plan can get back on the ground. The first time you see it, you may think something is wrong but it is just the most efficient way to get to the next paying customers.