Piper PA-18-150

The teacher

She looks like a canary surrounded by a swarm of predatory birds. Due in part to her small size, the yellow Piper PA-18-150 appears to be a fledgling among the warbirds at Hangar-7. Surprisingly, many of the Flying Bulls pilots have more respect for her than for her sisters.

The PA-18, which was first series-produced in 1949, is one of the most frequently built airplanes in its class and was initially used as a training airplane by the US navy. It’s an extremely demanding teacher that a grinning Sigi Angerer likes to describe as a natural selector of flying students because of its construction as a taildragger; it requires that pilots use a lot of feel during landing if they don’t want to end up in a headstand, turning over or hopping down the runway. The first models didn’t even have landing flaps, which quickly separated the wheat from the chaff.

That Sigi would obtain such a plane for his students says something about the exacting requirements of the Flying Bulls’ chief pilot, since he could have chosen to make his life as a flight instructor a lot easier. That was around 30 years ago when he was offered a retired Navy training plane and former aerial photography plane. At the time, airplanes with a sheet-metal skin were more expensive than the Piper PA-18- 105-SP, whose wings and most of the fuselage were covered with painted canvas. After some successful negotiation, the 1953 model with 105 hp and a top speed of 140 km/h, ready to fly and in good condition, changed hands for 50,000 Austrian Schillings – something like 3,600 Euros! Christian Schwemberger- Swarovski and Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz learned to fly on this grayish-yellow old timer, and later on so did Sigi’s son Daniel, who was already riding up front at age nine.

After a number of short flights around Europe – for which the lightweight, fuel-efficient PA-18 is ideal – Dietrich Mateschitz also caught the Piper fever and bought a second plane. This yellow PA-18-150, built in 1989, already had over 160 hp as well as landing flaps. After the warbirds came to the Flying Bulls, the two Pipers seemed to go into hibernation. Only “seemed” because Sigi kept tinkering around on his Super Piper with a view to his retirement. Consequently, the old lady with the gray fuselage has been equipped with GPS, an ILS (Instrument Landing System), a variable pitch propeller, a fuel flow indicator and a collision warning indicator. He’s still considering autopilot, Sigi kids – a step toward fulfilling a Sigi-Angerer-style dream: to someday fly the Piper to New York. Angerer’s motto: “All you need is a Piper. No sponsor, no tractor, no grand crew.“ You just have to be a highly skilled pilot – but he’s too humble to ever say so.

Sigi Angerer's Logbook

Auf der Alm, da gibt‘s koa Sünd!

Or is there?

Deadly sin no. 1 tailwind
Deadly sin no. 2 excess speed
Deadly sin no. 3 too high
Deadly sin no. 4 no full flaps

None of it matters at an airport, but it does on a mountain! Why? My landing strip is right next to the best inn with the most beautiful hostess and the best cook in the world: Winterstellgut! Landing there is well worth it. It’s about 200 meters up a steep slope, that’s where the Piper itself stays. Then there’s a buckle in the terrain, then flat for about 60 meters, then a fence, then tall, strong spruces (and “there’s no arguing with trees”). My sins were added together: the Piper touches down just before the buckle in the ground, I brake but the Piper doesn’t!

At the buckle it jumped back into the air, 60 centimeters towards the fence – the only thing to do is a ground loop, right rudder, aircraft turned slightly to the right, now full left rudder, tufts of grass flying around, Piper turns 180 degrees and is quickly moving backwards! Full throttle and the Piper is… pfff… six meters in front of the fence! My stalwart passenger Hans remarks that he wasn’t afraid. I did not discuss the subject, taxied slowly to the inn, answered any questions with, “Sure.”

And the food really was worth sinning for!

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