Well before Tiffany even thought he might someday find an autogiro, he called Harold Pitcairn’s son, Steve, looking for drawings. “I told him I’d like to build one. He said, ‘You could not build that airplane without one to look at, even if you have a plan in your hand. It is unbelievably complicated.’ And I’d been building airplanes for 30 years.”
Challenges included identifying, locating, and fabricating parts, virtually all of which were unique to the autogiro. The fuselage required welding repair, and the rotor dampeners had to be rebuilt. “We hunted for the rotor brake—it turned out to be a Crosley brake, and there were a lot of Ford car parts in it too,” says Tiffany. We had the biggest problem with the mast head that the rotor attaches to—it is a weldment, or tubing that is jigged up and welded together at precise tolerances. Nothing was square; it had to lean over a degree and a half, it had to tilt back two degrees, and then it had to be welded to the front and rear mast poles. It was a nightmare; we went to four different machine shops, and all of them threw up their hands and gave it back to us. A machinist in Albuquerque ended up making it.”
Other hurdles included satisfying Federal Aviation Administration paperwork requirements so that Tiffany and his partner on the project, Jim Hammond, could register the autogiro and then apply for its airworthiness certificate; and finding someone qualified to fly it. To fly such an aircraft, a pilot must have a rotorcraft-gyroplane rating. Virginia resident Andrew King was willing to complete his instruction and check ride in Alabama.
King says that flying the PA-18 is “like being carried off by a prehistoric bird. There are these little tiny wings out there. When I turn, the shadow of the rotor blades is moving so slowly across the wing, you think: That can’t be holding this thing up either. It flies pretty well.”
-- Sparky Barnes Sargent
- Sun ’n Fun, Lakeland, Florida, April 13–18
On the Road Again
Middle America, this one’s for you: a traveling airshow that re-creates a time when an airplane landing near your town was the event of the summer, and townsfolk watched the horizon for the return of the barnstormers. This summer the American Barnstormers are flying 20 Golden Age charmers on a seven-city tour across the northern Great Plains. Love open-cockpit flying? On this third tour, the American Barnstormers will once again sell biplane rides in a Travel Air, New Standard, or Stearman.
- Mason City Airport, Mason City, Iowa June 17–19
- Marv Skie-Lincoln Airport, Tea, South Dakota June 20–22
- Watertown Regional Airport, Watertown, South Dakota June 23
- Aberdeen Regional Airport, Aberdeen, South Dakota June 24–26
- Bismarck Airport, Bismarck, North Dakota June 27–29
- Jamestown Regional Airport, Jamestown, North Dakota June 30–July 2
- Chandler Field Airport, Alexandria, Minnesota July 3–5