by Roger Fowler
N91BL (originally CF-RNN) was built by Dave Webb (an active xc pilot and Canadian Team member in the 70s). Tony Burton has 2 vivid memories of CF-RNN while he crewed for John Firth: the first was John and another pilot crossing the finishing line then pulling up to land from opposite ends of the same short runway at Elmira. Tony stated that he can still see smoke from burning rubber off band brake coming out of the HP’s wheel well as John veered off the runway and disappeared from the sight of all the onlookers over the steep (40 degree or so) built up bank on the far side of the field. He did a 180 on this slope but there was no damage done.
This is Roger landing HP-11A New Year's Day at the Harnett County airport in NC.
The other event was the night repair job after John landed across a road ditch and put a big dent in the fuselage structure forward of the controls including the very stiff steel keel piece. The cockpit structure had to be completely stripped out right down to the skin, and Tony remembers standing in the cockpit shell with a large sledge hammer swinging it as hard as he could on a block of wood held against the bulge. Much of the bend in the keel was removed by brute force but springback prevented it getting entirely removed.
Fuselage rolling out of the trailer.
John also flew the ship in the 1970 Worlds at Marfa (I think it was the only metal ship remaining). This was the occasion of a literal all-nighter after he landed on a road in the desert and then hit a road sign half way out the wing . Tony still remembers the applause of all the contest pilots as the ship was rolled out to the back of the assembled grid the next morning just in time for launch. RNN had a very adventurous life.
Panel has an altimeter, mechanical vario, airspeed indicator, Cambridge vario, Delcom radio and compass. The camera is mounted on the left side of the panel. The flap crank is also visible.