Dispatch from M02, Dickson Municipal Airport, Dickson Tennessee: What has 26 propellers and 52 tails? A fleet of Ercoupes!
This summer marked the 41st annual gathering of the twin-tailed birds of the Ercoupe Owners Club (EOC). Its fly-in convention, which is hosted in a different location each year, touched down this year in central Tennessee west of Nashville.
I flew in from New Mexico for the gathering, as did one other member, with other planes coming from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Still other members came by commercial air and one even came by car from California!This year’s gathering featured bluegrass and beer (after the planes were tied down, of course), a trip to the Grand Ole Opry, a maintenance seminar, member meeting, a fly-out to the Beechcraft Heritage Museum in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and a visit by a special guest star: The 1937 DC-3 Flagship Detroit.
Maintained and operated by the non-profit Flagship Detroit Foundation, the aircraft is the oldest flying DC-3 in the world. Originally purchased directly off the assembly line by American Airlines, it was one of 84 DC-3s operated by the carrier, and was in active service from 1937 to 1947.
The plane then passed hands many times, even flying for a time as a drug runner, and was hauling pesticide when the foundation located it in 2004 and began the restoration to its original airliner look, both inside and out.
Burning 100 gallons per hour, the DC-3 flew a pair of 30-minute sorties out over the Tennessee countryside hauling EOC members. Once in flight, we had the chance to go up to the cockpit and observe the crew at work. Talk about an office with a view!
So what’s it like going back in time and being a passenger in a DC-3?
Amazing! It’s a smooth, solid ride. The plane is quieter than I expected — less noisy than a modern 737 — plus that sweet thrumming of a pair of big radials in the background is more pleasing to the ears than the whine of a jet.
There’s headroom galore and legroom for the tallest of men. What the vintage seats are short on, however, is hip room, being quite narrow. And speaking of size, I checked for you, and, no, as you suspected, the airliner lavatory hasn’t changed in size in 80 years.
Of course the best thing about attending any sort of type club meeting is that you get the chance to spend time with other pilots and owners operating the same kind of plane you do — sharing grassroots knowledge, wisdom, and camaraderie.
It’s great to kick the tires of similar, but different, airplanes from your own. Especially with Ercoupes, which have evolved significantly and independently over the more than seven decades since they left the factory, comparing and contrasting the differences and similarities is a treat. Literally no two are the same!
But the clan gathering wasn’t just for us. Following a keynote presentation on speed records and air racing (by yours truly), the membership held its traditional auction to raise funds for the Fred E. Weick aerospace engineering scholarship at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
The scholarship honors the life and work of Ercoupe designer Fred E. Weick by helping to train and educate the next generation of aeronautical engineers.
Several generations of the Weick family were in attendance for the entire convention, sharing their memories of Fred and the Ercoupe, and hitching rides in member’s planes.
The EOC currently boasts 750 members and around 375 airplanes nationwide, as well as chapters in Canada, Latin America, and Europe. Contrary to what the name of the club suggests, you do not need to own an Ercoupe to join.
The next gathering of twin-tails will be in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in October of 2018, and anyone who wants more tail is welcome to come to the party.