Goodbye Old Friend
N8439T 6/30/92 - 12/05/19
This was an article I never wanted to write. Last week I was forced to sell my airplane after 27 years of ownership and something like 1400 hours in the pilot's seat. Unfortunately, running a flightsim fan site is no way to get rich and the past couple of years have been especially tough.
As a new pilot in 1991 I quickly got tired of renting and started looking for a plane of my own. The FBO at KOWD actually included an aircraft broker who went looking for me. After some months of looking he found a plane for me to look at, that was based only a few miles away at 6B6. Though more than I had planned to spend, he convinced me it was a good find, a loan was made and 1982 Piper Archer II N8439T was mine. My first logbook entry as a new owner has "New Plane!" in big letters.
N8439T In 1992
I was soon taking family and friends up for rides, going siteseeing, going to an air show, visiting Nantucket:
Earliest photo of me in N8439T, on visit to ACK
It's hard to think how long ago this was. 1992 was before the Internet was a thing, before every person wandered around with their head stuck in their phone. Before FlightSim.Com! Back in those days the hub for flightsim activity was FSFORUM on CompuServe, and local BBS like the one that I ran at the time.
N8439T Late In 1992; note snow
N8439T original cockpit; it never did change much
In 1993 with two flightsim buddies we made the ultimate flightsim pilgramage to where many of us started (virtually) flying: Meigs Field in Chicago. It was kind of a storming weekend when we did this, so some actual IFR was flown by one of my co-pilots, but we made it to Chicago and got our photo on the famous Meigs Field ramp.
N8439T on the Meigs Field Ramp in 1993
The plane got lots of use in those early years as I had a number of enthusiastic friend wanting to go flying. In 1996 when FlightSim.Com was started, it first became part of the flightsim world, as a major feature in our first logo.
N8439T featured in the original FlightSim.Com logo from 1996
Anyone remember that logo? The plane looks the same but boy does that computer look old...
Over the years lots of interesting places got visited, though I seldom had the opportunity for overnight trips. One did take me to visit friends in Pennsylvania and a departure from Brandywine Airport into some dodgy weather that as a VFR pilot was a challenge, though I made it home to KOWD just fine.
N8439T departing Brandywine PA
N8439T first became part of the flightsim world in 1992 when I created an FS4/AAF version of it from scratch. This was even before FlightSim.Com was online so not sure how many others used this file, but it is in our file library here.
During the era of FS2002, N8439T again became part of the flightsim world, as DreamFleet created "Archer!" for FS2002 and eventually FS2004 as well. This was one of the best GA recreations available at the time and I suspect at least some of you reading this have had the chance to fly the virtual version of the plane thanks to DreamFleet.
DreamFleet's Lou Betti and Nels Anderson at photo session
Being part of a flightsim project involved a trip to New Jersey where lots of photos were taken. The result was a sim aircraft that really looked like the real thing. Amazing after all these years, it's actually still available:
Archer! available for purchase from Flight1 Software
Over the years N8439T occasionally got used for FlightSim.Com road trips, such as a visit in 2001 to Reading PA during their big airshow to interview the MAAM-Sim team. Perhaps the highlight of the flight was hearing the Reading tower announce "B-17 hold for landing Archer".
In more recent years, N8439T has appeared in some of my blog entries, like this time on the ramp at Owls Head ME in 2010.
Another blog adventure was my "Three Island Tour" in 2011, including a landing on the very short runway on Fishers Island NY.
N8439T Parked At Fishers Island
In late 2001 I moved the plane from KOWD to 6B6, Minute Man Air Field in Stow MA, which by coincidence was where the previous owner based it too. Should you want to fly into 6B6 yourself, iBlueYonder makes a nice scenery of it for FSX and Prepar3D that is now sold by Orbx.
Orbx - 2B2/6B6 Plum Island Airport and Minute Man Air Field
Getting involved in the EAA chapter 196 at Stow meant flying Young Eagles, a nationwide EAA program designed to get kids interested in flight. It involves at a minimum an introductory airplane ride along with some ground introduction, but kids can go on as far as they want, including things like summer camp and even scholarships for private pilot training. Over the years N8439T has been credited with over 600 Young Eagles missions...that's a lot kids.
On the ramp at 6B6 in 2000 most likely during a Young Eagles rally
So many memories...so this all leads up to the present day. My last blog entry was sort of a preview of what was coming. The observant reader would have noticed the "For Sale" banner hung from the prop in an article about the "joy" of digging a plane out of the snow. In other times I would have just waited for the snow to melt, but I needed to deliver the plane for a pre-buy inspection.
This required getting the plane to the buyer's chosen mechanic, and they just happened to pick my old home airport at KOWD and as it turned out the guy doing the inspection was the same mechanic who worked on the plane for many years when based at KOWD. Small world.
So I would need a ride back and that ended up involving a bit of a round robin flight. The plane that was the subject of my Simsbury Fly-In article had just completed having its new engine installed and needed to be picked up at KCEF. So off we went, on a very windy day which made me glad to have a runway designed for B-52's as the destination.
On the ramp at Westover checking out the Tiger with the new engine
After a few minor issues the other plane was ready to go and I headed to KOWD. The landing at KOWD was not quite as challenging and I pulled up to a building that was very familiar, as it's where I took lessons all those years ago, though now under new ownership.
On the ramp at Norwood shortly after landing for the last time
After checking in and getting some coffee arrangements were made to tow the plane to the maintenance hangar. While waiting I hear my name, and what do you know, one of the guys working there remembers me from back when I was based there.
N8439T towed to maintenance
I watched it get towed away. After waiting around the nice terminal for a while my ride arrived and we flew back home. A few days later the sale was completed, and it was so impersonal. A bunch of digital signatures on digital documents, a few clicks and that was it.