I have always considered myself more of a stick and rudder man than a modern pilot.

Not for me the fancy glass cockpits and autopilots that feel more like a computer simulation than real flying. I love the romanticism of flight, to feel the aircraft – literally through the seat of your pants and be at one with the plane – man and machine in synchronicity and harmony. 

I think that is what attracted me to flying tailwheel aircraft. They say when you can fly tailwheel then you can pretty much fly anything, as it is all about the feel of coordinated flight – stick and rudder. I was also convinced by my good friend Geoff Kertes, who is the most extraordinary pilot I have ever met. Geoff has over 35,000 hours in General Aviation aircraft and I am convinced that he literally flew in the timber for the Wright Brothers. Watching Geoff fly is like poetry, delicate movements and tiny adjustments as he deftly puts an aircraft through an extraordinary array of gymnastics, with the plane exactly where he wants it every single time.

So I found myself in 2009 looking for a tailwheel and this is when I found N5367C. She had been owned since 1950 by a family in Northern California and the owner, who had several aircraft and had recently embarked on the refit, unfortunately lost his medical and put N5367C up for sale. So I went to Healdsburg, CA and this is where I found her, with a newly overhauled Continental engine and in dire need of some cosmetic TLC.

Geoff and I went up and collected her and flew her back to Van Nuys. I had originally planned to just make a few basic updates and then get my tailwheel hours up. But I am not one for a job half-done and so I embarked on what became a fairly extensive restoration and update project. 

The mechanics were really good, the Continental engine had been overhauled by Lycon, she had a new prop, brakes, cables and glass. However, the paint had last been done in the early 80’s when brown was clearly quite the thing. My first task was to refit the cockpit and dash and update the safety equipment. We installed a new intercom, transponder and ELT plus some new gauges, strobes and cockpit lights. 

Then came the exterior paint. A friend of mine connected me with an incredibly talented painter in Compton who was a bit down on his luck and we agreed a deal to do an entire repaint at an extremely reasonable price. Little did I realize at the time that my new painter was somewhat addicted to recreational substances, maybe the paint fumes had got the better of him. This in itself was a bit of an adventure, as I had to advance him to buy the materials for the repaint, but not too much that he snorted the turpentine. In the end after a small detour where the plane was locked in someone’s hangar until I payed the painters outstanding debts, we got N5367C back to Van Nuys and she was perfect. 

My original plan was to restore her to the exact original Cessna paint scheme, but the 140As were in either red or green, and I prefer blue, so I painted her blue with the original design. I went to great effort to try and get it exactly right, all the way down to the decals and the wheelpants. I decided not to make the interior and panel exactly original as I wanted a plane that was serviceable and practical. So in the end, N5367C was not a concourse airplane, but built to fly and have fun and she did exactly that and we had lots of adventures.

The Cessna 140A was an evolution of the Cessna 120 and 140 that was originally produced in 1946 as a Two Seater with conventional landing gear. Cessna built 7664 of the 120 and 140s between 1946 and 1951 and the 140A was the first Cessna built with the dihedral aluminum wings. The 140A is distinguishable from the 120 and 140 by the single wing strut and the swept forward spring-steel landing gear. The 140’s are more rare and represented only 7 percent of the overall production of the 120-140s. 

My favorite flights in the 140 were the short hops out of Van Nuys to Santa Paula and Camarillo for lunch and to meet friends, I did a few long-distance trips, but most of my time with N5367C was spent in the pattern. For me the most fun in flying an aircraft is taking off and landing and I would spend hours at Van Nuys, Camarillo, Santa Paula and later up in Santa Rosa doing pattern work, practicing my skills at greasing her down on the numbers. Now living up in Northern California, there are so many places to fly up the coast and around the beautiful scenery of the wine country. Fabulous small airports without towers where you can land and be in the middle of nowwhere. Once you cut the prop all you here is the birds.

Some of my favorite flights are out to the coast to Point Reyes, flying up the coast to the Jenner and then meandering along the Russian River to Healdsburg, or flying down to Sonoma, Petaluma and Schellville with multiple touch and goes along the way.

There is really nothing better than flying a taildragger in the calm, still air on a warm summer evening, flying low over the vineyards, the long light as the sun goes down – you really feel at one with the plane.

For anyone looking to improve their flying skills, I highly recommend building tailwheel time. I sold N5367C in April last year and she went off to a good owner and a new home in Idaho. You never really own these planes, you just look after them until the next person. N5367C has been flying now for 70 years and with the right care and attention she will be around for many more.

Blue Skies!