I just purchased a Navion. What do I need to know?
By Nick Kanakis
First and foremost: Welcome to the Club! The Navion is a rare bird with a cadre of folks who are eager to help you learn to fly, care for, and steward your new ship. If you’ll permit the pontifications of a punk kid who doesn’t know a thing about Navions compared to most in this group, I’ll humbly submit the following:
- You are not an airplane owner. You are a caretaker. Ownership comes to those who operate Cessnas or Pipers. That’s not knocking those airplanes, but rather acknowledging that you are now entrusted to keep this wonderful machine flying for another 80 years to come. Stewardship means many things: skill in flying, pride in presentation and lots and lots of preventative maintenance.
- Navions fly like Navions and nothing else. Don’t let a CFI doing your checkout convince you to fly it like a Bonanza or a Mooney. Knowing nothing about your flying background, I humbly suggest that you take the time to fly with a high time Navionner and discuss some of the idiosyncratic characteristics of the Navion wing. She flies like two different ships (one below step and one on it) and learning to master this is not only a science, but one of the purest joys of airmanship in aviation. There is no reason to prang the ship in, nor land with a side load. MLG trunions are becoming harder and harder to find. Always triple check your gear. Understand what happens when you lose an engine, how quickly you’ll sink, and how to get the gear down in a pinch.
- 3) Join the American Navion Society, and the IV Navion Club, and the Midwest Navioneers and The Southern Navion Air Group and the NW Navioneers and every other Navion group out there. Get to know it’s members, you’ll find that Navioneers are some of the nicest friendliest and helpful folks on the planet. I travel a lot for work, and routinely stop in to see my Navion family all over the country whenever time and opportunity permit. Fellow Navioneers are some of my closest friends and mentors on the planet. Yes, the machine is a hunk of steel and aluminum, but what makes flying them so much fun is the people you can fly them with and the places you can go together. Also, those interactions and memberships can yield parts, and mechanical expertise when you and your A&P are scratching your heads. Remain humble in your interactions with everyone who flies them. Even with 11 years and hundreds of Navion hours under my belt and 6 years of blood, sweat, tears and curses in a restoration, I’m always reminded of how little I know about these machines and how much more I have to learn.
- Maintenance. Maintenance. Maintenance. Navions get a bad wrap for being maintenance hogs. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that Navions were built as GA airplanes and aren’t made of unobtainum despite what many would lead you to believe. Often, as owners, when we dig into an 80 year old bird, we’re not only correcting years of use and wear, but also often years of neglected maintenance. Fix it right, with new or new old stock parts, and take the time to consult the structural repair manual, maintenance manuals and the collective expertise of the community. Don’t let the airplane deteriorate under your watch. Find a good Navion mechanic and leverage their experience over and over and over. Someone who worked on a Navion back in 1993 shouldn’t be considered well versed, but there are a litany of mechanics all over the country if you look in the right places who can help address any issues you come into along the way.
- Honor their legacy, but be true to your own airplane’s. While many Navions were L-17s with a certifiable warbird linage (if that matters to you) most were not. Honor the caretakers who’ve come before you by sharing the Navion story earnestly, humbly and truthfully. Mark her up in civilian livery of the airline you fly for or in the markings of your favorite P-51, but own the reasons you do it and don’t make claims or boast for egos sake. Our birds deserve credit for the incredible machines they are and not for being something they weren’t.
Lastly, enjoy the hell out of her. Treated well, your ship will take you, your family, your friends and countless new ones on adventures unlike anything you can expect. I suppose that’s true of all airplanes, but the country-side seen over the glare shield and wing of your Navion will become a hallmark of memories yet made. Go to fly ins. Compete in races. Hone your flower bombing and ballon busting skills. Those trophies and the ribbings they produce will always bring a smile to your face. Learn to fly formation if you haven’t before. Take a neighbor kid, or your own, or your grandkid up and watch them enjoy Navioneering for themselves.
I know that’s a lot, especially from a nobody, but I hope this helps you keep the joys ahead of you fixed on the horizon rather than stumble through the misnomers, and unexpected along your journey. To paraphrase a truly great navioneer: “That’s just the view over my glare shield.”
Clear Skies. Tailwinds. And GO FLY YOUR NAVION!
By Nick Kanakis on Facebook