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Swifts flock to Corvette countrySwifts flock to Corvette country

  • Paul Barnett flies his 1946 Globe Swift GC-1A during the 2015 Swift national convention at Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport near the Corvette museum at Bowling Green, Kentucky, on June 13. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • The sleek two-person retractable taildragger has attracted an army of admirers, and modifications are commonplace, according to Swift Museum Foundation Director Jim Jones. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • Will "Buddy" Keintz of St. Louis, right, gives a ride to a World War II aviator in Keintz's polished Swift called "Silver Girl." Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • The 2015 Swift national convention convened near the museum home of another American legend, the sleek Corvette muscle car, at Bowling Green, Kentucky. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • A Swift with an updated cowling is parked and ready for takeoff. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • The polished fuselages of a row of Swifts are lined up wingtip to wingtip during the national convention. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • The polished aluminum skin on a Swift reflects clouds at the 2015 Swift national convention at Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • Swifts mark a missing man formation during the annual convention. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • A painted Swift is on final approach. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • A Swift with a modified cowling lands at the 2015 Swift national convention. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • A trio of Swifts makes an overhead pass during the annual convention. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.
  • The polished fuselage of a Swift reflects the sun at the 2015 Swift national convention. Photo by Todd Bengston/Swift Museum Foundation.

When pilots think of aircraft that were ahead of their time, they are likely to stumble upon the sleek Temco Globe Swift. The two-seat, post-World War II retractable taildragger built a cult following with its aggressive three-point stance, shiny bare aluminum skin, and menacing cowling. For the 2015 Swift Museum Foundation National Fly-In Convention, aircraft owners brought their modernistic machines to the National Corvette Museum, home of America's iconic Chevrolet Corvette roadster in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on June 13.

Some Swift pilots say the airplane's silhouette and sexy lines can be traced to the design queues of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk or a North American P-51 Mustang.

“If you ever stop and look at a Swift tied down on the ramp, and then look at it some more, it seems to be just tugging at those ropes and saying ‘come fly me, come fly me,’ ” said Jim “Frog” Jones, Swift Museum Foundation president.

Pilots are supported in their ownership of these classic 70-year-old airframes by the museum foundation, which owns the type certificate, engineering data, and tooling. The foundation also has an inventory of parts to keep Swifts airborne.

Besides showing off their aircraft at the annual gatherings, Swift pilots also participate in formation flying events demonstrating precision air work. In 1999, Swift owners created their own formation training regimen based on the acclaimed Formation and Safety Training (FAST) warbird program.

“Our Swift National had formation training and ground school, and several people checked out as flight lead and section lead,” said Jones, a Swift owner himself for 40 years. “There’s even a group of Swifts that performed at this month's Paris Air Show.”

Swift owners say the airplane lives up to its speedy namesake, with a 150-knot cruise speed while burning 10 gph with the larger engines. “It’s truly a magic carpet,” said Jones. “I’ve flown my airplane to Alaska, to California, and to all of the lower 48 states, except for four.”

Multiple aircraft are on display at the Swift Museum Foundation in Athens, Tennessee, where visitors can view the prototype, production examples, and a pair of rare T-35 Buckaroo U.S. Air Force trainers. The museum is located at the McMinn County Airport, about 82 nautical miles east of the Tullahoma Regional Airport, which is the site of AOPA’s final 2015 fly-in. The museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and visitors are encouraged to call first if they want a guided tour.

“After 70 years, the Swift has a heritage, a history, and a soul,” Jones said. “It has personality. It’s something that you just fall in love with.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Single Engine, Taildragger, Vintage

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