It all started when I got an email early this summer from one of my Ninety-Nine friends. Oh, just to be clear, I don’t have 99 friends. I have friends who are members of the Ninety-Nines, the women pilot’s organization. Anyway, she was writing to invite me and my “famous Ercoupe” to the annual the Land of Enchantment Fly-In in Albuquerque.
Actually… now that I re-read her email, I see that the invite didn’t include me at all. It says, “We’d LOVE to have your famous Ercoupe come to the fly-in.”
Huh. Somehow I hadn’t realized that before…
Anyway, at first I thought that it was just a generic, hey come to the air show kind of invite. But as our correspondence evolved, it was clear my friend had something else altogether in mind. She wanted the Plane Tales Plane to be one of the show’s static displays.
Now, for those of you who are new to the airshow scene, a static display is a parked aircraft set up in a central location at an airshow. Planes on static display don’t generally fly in the show—hence the name—but people can get up close, ogle the plane, sometimes touch the plane, and take lots of pictures of it.
Not just any plane can be on static display; they are usually a rare or exceptional plane. Or, as in this case, a famous plane. Yep, a lot of folks have been talking about the Plane Tales Plane locally, on the state level, and even nationally since my recent speed records in her, so I guess she really is a famous Ercoupe.
Me, apparently, no so much so.
And, of course, this year is the 75th Anniversary of the Ercoupe type certificate, so pretty much every flying magazine in the world has had an article about Ercoupes lately, so people want to see one in the flesh, as it were.
Naturally, I was tickled that she was going to be one of the centers of attention. It was no small honor to be asked, and not an honor that I took lightly. I got right to work on an interpretive sign, which, thanks to Lisa, I learned could be made in PowerPoint and then printed on thick poster board at the FedEx Store:
Now, I admit to being new to the whole airshow scene, but even so, I knew that if people are going to be scrutinizing your plane up close and personal, it needs to look it’s best. And that, I suspected, was a job best left to a professional. So I called the folks at Cutter, the ritzy FBO at our state’s big Class-B airport to get a price on a thorough airplane scrubbing. The answer: Three hundred bucks for a complete wash, wax, and detail job.
In for a penny, in for a pound is the motto of owning an airplane, so I dove in. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect for my money. Maybe I was pissing it away, I thought. Maybe they won’t be able to do any better than Lisa, Rio, and I do with the garden hose at the hangar. (Funny how Debs always manages to disappear when the plane needs cleaning.)
The day before the airshow I got up at oh-dark-thirty and ferried Tessie over to Albuquerque. It was a no-wind day, the flight was fine and fast, and I didn’t make my traditional fool of myself with air traffic control. I got the plane to the right folks, paid up my three hundred smackaroos, and went off in search of a Starbucks. I’d been told to drop by Bode (pronounced Boad-ie), the folks doing the detail work for Cutter, later in the day to make sure everything was working out.
When Rio and I dropped back in six hours later we were invited past the large red and white sign that said: “Absolutely no customers allowed beyond this point.” I looked around for our plane but couldn’t see her anywhere. The only Ercoupe in the hangar was one that had just been painted. Then I noticed something funny about the ‘Coupe’s N-number. It was Tess! Beautiful, clean, Tess. So shiny you could see your reflection in her skin!
Her wings and sides glowed. Her glass looked brand new. Her struts gleamed silver with no hint of oil. Her tires were midnight black and looked as if they had just been put on, having never kissed a runway. I stood stunned, mouth agape. She looked better than she ever had since we’ve owned her.
In fact, I didn’t know she could look so good. It was like I’d just bought a brand new airplane. There was no question I got my money’s worth.
Next time, on Plane Tales, our 68-year-old airplane has her Debutante Ball.