From the Cockpit Part 20: Bucker Bu 131

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 20 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

Rankin takes to the skies again with Steve Hawley (From the Cockpit Part 17), for a flight in Hawley’s favorite of the four aircraft he owns—the Bücker Bü 131. Buying and owning the Bü 131 (or any biplane) was never part of Hawley’s plan—not even when he was restoring it for the previous owner. “But after flying it once,” says Rankin, “he fell in love with it.” It’s a common experience, Rankin discovered, and one he would share.

Developed in the 1930s as a basic trainer for the German Luftwaffe during World War II, the Bü 131’s exceptional reputation spread to Japan, Switzerland, Hungary and Spain, which all received license to produce the aircraft for their own military use. Finally retired in 1968 (with the Spanish Air Force the last holdout), more than 200 or so survive in the United States. Hawley painted his banana yellow.

Being a biplane, Rankin assumed the Bü 131 would fly similarly to the Stearman—an American WWII-era biplane trainer—he flew in the first flight of his yearlong adventure. “But they’re just completely different aircraft,” he says. The Stearman, he describes as “robust” and “lumbering”—not a bad plane, but not necessarily an easy plane—whereas the Bü 131 simply feels like it wants to fly, agile and nimble. “A much more capable aerobatic platform,” he says. “And just all-around a bit zippier.” Cruising and banking through the South Carolina skies, Rankin understood why Hawley loved his biplane.

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Steve Hawley (left) and Ryan Rankin fly the Bucker Bu 131. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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