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Why "N2056"?


N2056

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I originally posted this piece about a year ago on a different site. I'm using it here as it is a good introduction...

 

On all of the Flight Simulator related sites I have joined I have used the name 'N2056'. I will explain here the motivation behind that.

 

I've been involved in PC flight simulation from the very first program that played on my brother's Apple II a long time ago.

 

I was involved in real flying long before that. My father was the gateway to the incredible world of building & flying airplanes. Not models. The real thing. Right there in The Garage (capitalized out of respect for the hallowed ground that it was).

 

My dad worked as a teacher for the local school district. He started out teaching Metal Shop, and was working on his Master's Degree in Industrial Arts at San Diego State University. His Master's Thesis had to do with building an airplane out of aluminum in a classroom environment. The design he selected to build was the Thorp T-18. The T-18 was designed by John Thorp, an Aeronautical Engineer from California. His design was one of the first metal home-built planes, and is very popular to this day. It introduced the 'Stabilator', or all flying tail which also was later used on the Piper Cherokee. The Thorp T-18 first flew in 1963.

 

The Thorp T-18 was an ideal choice, featuring plans drawn to full engineering standards. He would assign parts to the students to fabricate, and the plane began to take shape. When the airframe was close to completion he negotiated with the school district to 'buy out' the plane, and brought it home to complete. I spent many fun evenings in The Garage, sitting in the plane imagining I was punching holes in the sky when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. When he registered the plane with the FAA it was assigned N2056 as the registration number. I was the faithful co-pilot. I lost count of the Saturday mornings where he would wake me up and ask if I wanted to go flying. I never declined.

The only air-to-air shot of the original plane

http://www.members.cox.net/kerr14/01980024.jpg

 

 

Sometime in the mid '70's we brought the Thorp back to The Garage to repaint it...

 

blog_attachment.php?attachmentid=3&stc=1&d=1220309052

 

The Thorp T-18 is a high performance plane, and eventually reality crept in and my dad began to feel that he was not able to fly the Thorp often enough to maintain proficiency, so the decision was made to sell the Thorp. The individual that bought it worked for the State Board of Education, and once when he flew into town someone recognized it and told us. We went out to see it on a rainy morning at Gillespie Field.

 

http://www.members.cox.net/kerr14/01980048.jpg

 

We never saw it again...in the summer of 1986 I recall my dad telling me that the FAA had contacted him regarding the Thorp, and that it had crashed & they were working on the investigation...many years later when the Internet existed I remember doing a search for 'N2056', wondering if I might find pictures. I found this...

 

NTSB Identification: SEA86FA165 .

The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 31278.

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation

Accident occurred Friday, July 11, 1986 in RICHLAND, WA

Aircraft: THORP T-18, registration: N2056

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

 

AT TIME OF MISHAP, ACFT PRESUMED TO BE IN RT-HAND APPROACH TO LAND IN 20-KT, 40 DEGREE RT CROSSWIND. WITNESSES FIRST OBSERVED ACFT DESCENDING VERTICALLY, OUT OF CONTROL, IN AN AREA CONSISTENT WITH THE 90 DEGREE APPROACH POSITION. EVIDENCE INDICATES ACFT CONTACTED SOFT, SANDY TERRAIN IN VERTICAL ATTITUDE, THEN FELL OVER TO UPRIGHT FLAT ATTITUDE BEFORE INTENSE POST-IMPACT FIRE INCINERATED MOST OF AIRFRAME. NO EVIDENCE FOUND OF MECHANICAL FAILURE/MALFUNCTION. SCENARIO INDICATIVE OF STEEP TURN TO CORRECT CROSSWIND-INDUCED CLOSE-IN PATTERN.

 

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

REMEDIAL ACTION..EXCESSIVE..PILOT IN COMMAND

AIRSPEED..NOT MAINTAINED..PILOT IN COMMAND

STALL/SPIN..INADVERTENT..PILOT IN COMMAND

 

 

Contributing Factors

 

PROPER ALIGNMENT..NOT ATTAINED..PILOT IN COMMAND

WEATHER CONDITION..CROSSWIND

 

To this day it is hard for me to read this without shedding a tear.

 

Eventually Dad went on to work as an Administrator for the school district. After he retired he returned to teaching to take over the Aviation Technology program at one of the local high schools. They were building a plane. They were building a Thorp! One of the things Dad had to do was acquire material. While at a local supplier getting sheet metal for the school project he noted a stack of factory polished sheets off to the side, and he negotiated with the supplier to purchase some of that material for his own use. With access to the needed forming blocks & tooling at the school he started making parts for his own Thorp. He decided that this would be a master project, and that no fiberglass parts would be used. These parts include the tips of all of the airframe pieces, the wheel covers, and the cowling.

 

During the construction my brother Steve discovered that you could reserve a registration number from the FAA over the internet for a small fee. A quick search revealed that N2056 was available, and we chipped in to reserve the number. As I recall it was presented to Dad as a Christmas gift. After 10 years of work N2056 flew again in March of 2004.

 

That's Dad, taxiing into "Eagle Alley" at Gillespie Field (KSEE)

http://www.members.cox.net/kerr14/thorptaxi.jpg

 

So why am I 'N2056'? I use it to acknowledge my tie to a man that made me what I am today, a plane that was a big part of my life as I grew up, and many happy memories involving flying...with my Dad.

 

I think I'll go to the airport this weekend...

Edited by N2056

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Very interesting story to go with your name. Shame the original aircraft was lost, especially with fatalities, it's never good.

 

Building an aircraft is something that really interests me, I wish I had the time/space/money to do so. From what I've seen and experienced, the aircraft you can build are very interesting and a lot of fun to fly. Hopefully it's something I'll have a go at later in life.

 

Thank you for that rather interesting story. Enjoyed it.

Tom

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N2056,

 

You write really well, thanks for posting. (And now I understand your avatar.)

 

Question: Your dad elected to make out of sheet metal parts that might otherwise be fiberglass -- what's the benefit?

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Mike, most T-18 builders purchase the fiberglass parts ready made. Dad made this his master work, and as a sheet-metal guy that meant that fiberglass was taboo! The tool that makes that sort of metal work possible is called an "English Wheel". Dad made his own, and taught himself how to use it. I think he's got the hang of it! :D

 

So to answer your question, the benefit for him was knowing he had done good work. As I recall, each cowl cheek is made up of several pieces...and took him about 6 months to get done!

Edited by N2056
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Thanks to the TV program "American Chopper", and others like it, I know what an English Wheel is.

 

I think that in another life I would have been happy as a machinist. The idea of sculpting metal with high precision has a strange appeal to me.

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Now I understand it! Sorry to hear that the little plane crashed. Oh well, the T-18s memories live on...
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