August 14, 2009
By Jill W. Tallman
Scott Ackland flies the Luscombe 8E over Frederick, Md. Photo courtesy Sam Yu, The Frederick News-Post
A 1940’s-era taildragger has been pressed into service as a photo platform by one of its owners who works for a Maryland newspaper.
Edmond B. Gregory of Frederick, Md., is chief financial officer of “The Frederick News-Post”, a family-owned newspaper that is published six days a week. Gregory is also part-owner of a 1946 Luscombe 8E. He learned to fly in the two-place, all-metal 8E and earned his private pilot certificate in 2005.
As CFO, Gregory is always looking for ways to cut costs for the business while providing value for “News-Post” subscribers. He saw an opportunity to reduce the amount of money spent to hire aircraft used for aerial photography. He carries a “News-Post” photographer aloft in the 8E, which he has rigged so that the side window remains open while the photographer aims his camera outside.
Nearly every aerial photograph published in the last three years was shot from the Luscombe, Gregory says. Burning about seven gallons per hour, the 8E is a cheaper platform than a helicopter. “I think we’re spending about 25 percent of what we had been spending to lease a helicopter,” says Gregory. “It saves us a lot of money.”
And it enables the photographers to get the shots they want quickly in today’s 24-hour news environment. When a tornado blasted through southern Frederick County on July 31, photographer Sam Yu asked Gregory if they could go aloft that Friday afternoon to view the damage left in its wake. After carefully checking the weather, Gregory and Yu were able to get photos for the newspaper’s Web site and Saturday edition. “That flight in the Luscombe cost us $25,” Gregory adds.
The partnership has made several improvements to the airplane, including a new alternator and a new wiring harness, a second venturi, and a rehabbed artificial horizon, and has restored the airplane’s original directional gyro. “It’s in the best shape it’s ever been in,” Gregory says.
From a photographer’s point of view, the side-by-side Luscombe does have a few drawbacks: “When you’re shooting from [it], you have to stay out of the slipstream as much as you can because you don’t want your camera jostling around,” says Yu. “You have to lean back in the cabin.” He shoots out the side window, and discovered early on that the airflow under the wing might keep the window open—or it might not. Gregory resolved that issue by designing and building a removable metal brace that keeps the window open throughout the flight.
Shooting around the wing and the strut typically means the pilot has to conduct more than one pass to get the shot, and Yu has to shoot at a high enough shutter speed to remove vibrations from the photos. “I try to compensate for the motion of the airplane, try to follow the subject,” he says. “It seems to work pretty well.”
A nonpilot who loves flying, Yu considers the Luscombe “a hoot,” and says he trusts Gregory’s piloting and decision-making skills. “Being a CPA, he dots all the i’s and crosses the t’s. Safety is in the forefront of his mind. He’s always thinking about that. If the weather conditions aren’t [right], he’s not going.”
Fly along with the US Coast Guard's Advanced Helicopter Rescue Training program. That's where best pilots, mechanics and rescue swimmers train to save lives.