Steve Craig, a North Lawrence resident who has one of the last remaining Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter planes, chatted online with World Online readers Wednesday evening.
Shawn: My name Shawn, and I want to be a pilot when I get older. What can I do to learn more about flying?
Steve Craig: I would encourage you to read as much as you can about aircraft developments and history. Depending upon your age and your parent's thoughts on this, I would encourage you to come out to the airport and take a flying lesson with an accomplished instructor. The Federal Aviation Administration establishes a minimum of 1000 hours of flying time for attempting to qualify for a type rating in an aircraft such as the Wildcat. Additionally you should have a fair amount of time in high performance in tailwheel aircraft. Your first flight is solo... there are no 2 seat Wildcats.
Warbird watcher: Do the guns on your plane work? Have you ever fired them?
Steve Craig: The four 50-caliber Browning machine guns are not operational. The receivers have been demilitarized for obvious safety reasons.
Jayhawk: Can you land the Wildcat at big airports, like KCI? I wonder where the biggest airport you've ever landed that plane at is.
Steve Craig: The FAA regulations establish operating limitations for all high horsepower fighter aircraft, which restricts them from operation from class "B" airspace such as KCI's. However the plane can be flown into any other major airport and could be flown into KCI with prior permission.
Cessna Pilot: What's the hardest thing to do when flying your Wildcat? I read somehwere that the landing gear has to be cranked down by hand.
Steve Craig: The landing gear as to be cranked up with your right hand, and it takes 29 turns for each retraction or extension. Lowering the gear is fairly easy as gravity helps. One of the more uncomfortable tasks in flying the Wildcat is retracting the gear shortly after take-off because you have to take your left hand off the throttle, retract the gear with your right, and fly the plane with your left hand - all shortly after getting the plane airborne.
Wildcat Fan: (And no, I don't mean K-State) How many air shows do you take the plane to? How do you decide which ones? When's the next chance to see your warbird fly?
Steve Craig: I hope to get it to eight or 10 air shows this coming summer. I decide which air show based on my schedule, weather, and expected attendance. I try to fly it on nice weekends in the local area.
Roy Daniels: What happened to Butch O'Hare? The only official news I ever heard, when he got back to the States, was he got the Medal of Honor. But we heard, on the rumor mill (you know how rumors get going in the Navy) that he'd gone into a test program for some kind of night fighter that was being developed for the Navy. We heard he got killed in a test flight. Do you know what happened to him?
Steve Craig: He was the first navy pilot awarded the medal of honor in WWII but was tragically killed a year and a half later flying in a F6F Hellcat on a night mission in the fall of 1943.
Ann: To what do you attribute the growing popularity of air shows around the country?
Steve Craig: Pilots and non-pilots alike seem to be interested in airplanes. I also believe that many people are naturally drawn to history and particularly to stories of heroism and sacrifice.
Frank: I have a son who is very interested in airplanes, especially World War II era fighters. I would like very much for him to see your plane when he gets back from college this summer. What air shows will you be performing at?
Steve Craig: I'd be delighted for both of you to come out to the airport and see the plane and talk about it. Feel free to call Hetrick Aviation at the Lawrence airport.
Dale: What aircraft would you most like to pilot which you haven't had the opportunity to do?
Steve Craig: I'd love to have an opportunity to fly the F8F Bearcat, another WWII navy/marine corps fighter. I'd also like to have the opportunity to fly the P40 Warhawk, an army WWII fighter. It was basically the army's counterpart to the wildcat.
Airdale: Of the aircraft you've owned and flown, which would you say was the most exhilerating to fly?
Steve Craig: Of the planes I've flown, the Mig-15 is very high on the exhilaration scale. But my favorites are the Wildcat and the P-51 Mustang, an army air corps fighter.
Jason: Mr. Craig, is this the first warbird you have owned and if not what other planes have you owned in the past?
Steve Craig: This is the high horsepower fighter I've actually owned. I have flown some other fighters, and have owned some high performance modern tailwheel aircraft. A number of years ago I also owned a PT-17 Stearman. I also have a number of hours in the T6/SNJ trainer aircraft.
Dave: Do you still fly commercial?
Steve Craig: I have a commercial license. I do not fly commercially - years ago I did, but I really use it for personal transportation and it's become really a hobby.
John: How did you get to the point where you can fly that warbird you have? I'm an aspiring pilot and am curious about owning my own someday.
Steve Craig: You asked a very good question but one that's difficult to answer in a few words. Feel freet to call me as I'd like to answer your questions fully.
River City: Do you have a special hangar for your plane?
Steve Craig: My hangar was at the airport long before the city built their new T hangars.
Moderator: That wraps up our chat with Steve Craig. Thanks for joining us.