Friday, October 04, 2019

I can't believe I missed September

Well, here we are in October already and I wonder where last month went! To tell the truth, it was a blur ... heat and home projects have a way of interfering with airplane fun and there was enough of both those things to keep me busy.

The really cool thing for September was the discovery of a new (to me) gadget for adding AHRS, ADSB-IN, GPS and iPad interface to both airplanes ... it's a portable box with a couple of rabbit ear antennae and it runs off rechargable battery packs. Nifty neat-o. For under $250 I can see the same information in my non-electrical system CallAir that the company used to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to see in the Gulfstreams I flew:
The next thing that had to be done was a leg-stretching flight to see how the Glastar performs on a representative trip, the likes of which I have been fantasizing for years. Friend George was the target audience and we met after an hour and a half hop from the mountains to the low country of South Carolina. Lunch at a fish camp was perfect, the ambiance and denizens at the bar stools just perfect, the guy tuning his electric guitar for the evening show was temporarily perfect and the trip, as it turned out, gave me a really satisfying glimpse of many such trips in my future. The only question that came up was why I was seeing a ghost airplane trailing me all the way down and back .. my nifty neat-o portable avionic will have to be tweaked a bit.
The CallAir and I made a couple of valley runs to see if anything was new .. I love flying that airplane, but I really do want to sell it to un-cramp the hangar space.

So that's the news for September 2019 from The Valley of the Old French Broad (River) ..

Sunday, August 25, 2019

August 2019 - Maybe My Last Airplane

Last month's saga continues:

A most welcome note from the northern reaches of Indiana ... an airplane once thought sold was available once more and was I still interested? The capital letters flew from my keyboard: Y E S !! And with that I was on an airliner to Indiana. 

There was a blizzard the first time I talked to someone about the airplane; this time it was heat and thunderstorms that all but washed out the county fair that was going on but the rides were ridden, the 4H ribbons were won and the Queen was crowned. The Queen also raises champion turkeys. There's nothing like rural Indiana. Solid people, honest people, in a place where old fashioned craftsmanship is the measure of a man.

The airplane is one I fell in love with about 15 years ago at a little fly-in in Florida. The owner/builder spent winters there and showed it to me with well-justified pride. He was a tool and die maker, had his own good sized company after starting out with a pencil and an easel in his living room. He was a hard worker and judging by the quality of workmanship in this airplane, likely the most meticulous airplane builder whose work I have had the privilege to admire.

Stoddard Hamilton Glastar
Sadly, the owner/builder passed on but I will thank him every time I have a chance to fly and work on this airplane. The  paperwork hurdles from the inner workings of the FAA were something else again; conflicting information abounded.  In the end I decided if I could wait all this time for what I believe could be my last airplane, I could surely wait a little longer.

Here it is, the end of August and I've been tracking the progress of the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch online. Every day they post their progress by the date paperwork was filed and finally my day arrived! I was joyous. Triumphantly, I searched my N-number only to be confronted by a notice that my airplane's status was questionable. Phone call to FAA: what's going on? I had copies of all the paperwork on the computer screen in front of me - it was all there and correct. The lady I spoke to was very nice and after digging further said the problem lay in a missing Bill of Sale from the executor to a person whose name rang no bells at all - there was no such person in the chain of ownership. A call to the title company with this news caught them completely by surprise but after a lot of back and forth the problem was rooted out and fixed. A simple clerical mistake could have thrown me back to the end of that 4-6 week line but for a persistent title company representative and a service oriented FAA examiner. I finally have clear authority in writing on an FAA form to operate the airplane until my hard copy registration comes or 120 days and that's ok by me.

Now: It's time to FLY! But . . . . .

Wouldn't you know it? It looks the same for the whole week. Thank heaven for little things that can be played with in the interim.

Friday, August 23, 2019

At the end of July 2019

July 2019 was quite a month . . . a week or more of ferocious heat (shared with our neighbors in the northern tier of states), then very pleasant days and cool nights. Oh, it did rain some ... washed away half of Louisiana to hear tell of it, but that was nothing until it reached the network news centers in New York and Washington. Oh the humanity! You'd think the world was coming to an end.

Back in January there was a spate of cold - blizzards in the northern tier. Someone, somewhere must have done something really, really wrong to deserve this kind of a swing in weather.

As it happened, an airplane I fell in love with some 15 years ago came on the market. The owner had passed away and the airplane was in the hands of his executor. This was back in January and the aforementioned blizzard was in full swing in northern Indiana where the airplane was hangared. I couldn't get there in the teeth of that awful weather but I reached a deal over the phone to send a deposit to hold the airplane until I could make the trip. Their lawyer was supposed to contact me with wiring instructions to an escrow account. That was a Thursday. I didn't hear from the supposed executor's lawyer on Friday so after breakfast with the airport crew on Saturday morning - photos of the new airplane shared and appreciated - I placed a call to Indiana only to learn the airplane had been sold to someone else! I was crushed.  In a few days I sent a nice note - no hard feelings but if the deal did not go through for some reason to please let me know.

Fast forward to July. I received an email note from Indiana that the airplane was still for sale - was I still interested? I wrote back immediately in all capital letters: Y E S !! There had been a mixup and this time I was put in touch with the real executor of the estate. Needless to write, I was on an airline flight the next morning. 

During the six months between January and July, the FAA Aircraft Registration had expired and cancellation was right around the corner. Those are significant words. Expired certificates have about 90 days of grace during which the airplane cannot be flown while the application for registration renewal goes to the back of a 4-6 week line for processing. Cancellation, on the other hand, means I own a paperweight. This is a big deal. 

Long story short, I checked the airplane out thoroughly and a trusted mechanic who had been tending it for several years did a condition inspection (it's an experimental category airplane). Paperwork and electronic dollars flew all over the place, and we closed the deal through a title company.

Not the end of the story.

A phone call with the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch on Monday reassured me about the paperwork process and I would have my registration in 4-6 weeks. Then the lady on the other end of the line explained that the airplane couldn't be flown on a copy of the application for a registration when the registration had expired. This was counter to what another FAA Registration Branch representative and the title company had told me before we closed the deal. Quick scramble and the airplane took up residence in the back of the hangar.

More next month .. stay tuned.

Friday, July 12, 2019

July 2019

This is not my usual post.

It has been a year for surprises, not all of them good. Our journeys around the sun are jolted from time to time. We go on but in a slightly different orbit. We do not "get past" the shock; things are different, our frame of reference re-framed.

The most recent jolt was the loss of two of our local pilots in the crash of a light airplane; who could have foreseen this? Two Flight Instructors, high time pilots, one of whom was conducting a Flight Review for the other. The preliminary report reads clinically, as it should. Just the facts. The experimental aircraft's airframe was built according to spec; no construction anomalies noted. A condition inspection was recently performed. The lab in Tennessee that inspected the airframe is very thorough. The final report may or may not find a cause. That last bit troubles a lot of people; our nature is we want to find a cause, a reason two pilots were lost, and that leads to conjecture. The only answer is to wait and see what the investigators find.

Closer to home, two families, friends of mine, are grieving the unexpected loss of daughters, bright, vibrant young women. The world stands still when the news comes, never quite the same again. A parent does not "get past" something like that, no matter how well-meaning friends may express it. I cannot imagine the oxygen being pulled from my life like that. I hope by just being there for them I can shore up their foundations in some small way.

On a much brighter note, because I am searching for one just now, I flew this morning into a beautiful sky. The low, morning clouds were thin and fast disappearing; the air still and smooth, a perfect morning for flying through the valleys that surround my mountain home. 

I hang my hat on the memory of flights like that to remind me of all that is right with the world, and I put that ragged old hat back on my head to a symphony of gratitude for the privilege and the gift of flying.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

June 2019 - June, sweet June, is FLYING by

Around here, June is for turning the page on another year of life and for long, warm, summer days filled with the smell of new-mown grass and FLYING, neighbor, FLYING !

The CallAir Cadet comes to life with a flick of the prop and goes exploring, usually in search of savory breakfasts or lunches but sometimes just for the love of going up and looking down. We live on a plateau at a little over 2000' above sea level that is ringed with some of the world's oldest mountains. A dodge through the mountain gaps south and east brings me over flatlands a thousand feet lower in elevation that slope gently to the sea, a little over 230 miles to  somewhere around Georgetown SC, the closest Atlantic coast. If you measure to the extent of North Carolina, Kitty Hawk, where all this flying stuff started, is just under 400 miles. There's plenty to do between here and there, whichever there you want to count as your destination.
Fortunately, there's lots to look down on. The folds of these mountains present an endless variety of views. That's the northwest arm of Lake Lure below, where part of the movie, Dirty Dancing, was filmed. My father was born in the bottom of where Lake Lure is now, well before the dam was built across Broad River. His first job was at the Lake Lure Inn. You could say my connection to this area runs deep.

More doings: 
A long time project reaches the test phase - Dennis and his prized RV-8 took to the air on June 15! A former Air Force pilot (7 years) followed by a 30-ish year airline career with Northwest and Delta, Capt Dennis is running his test flights like the pro he is, chasing the gremlins that always seem to come out of hiding. Paint will follow, as will many hours of pure fun. CONGRATULATIONS. DENNIS!

Then there is the Great East-West-East RV Adventure!

Four of our intrepid aeronauts launched an optimistic round-trip flight to dip their toes in the Pacific Ocean and succeeded beyond anyone's wild imagining ... nobody makes a VFR trip like that on schedule, but they did!
Mike, Mike, Jon and Simon at Carlsbad CA

For a rundown of their trip, take a look at

Fairweather Flyers, indeed!

Friday, May 03, 2019

May 2019 - All Glory is Fleeting

The trip to Sun n Fun last month was a real necessity for me and for the CallAir Cadet. We've spent the better part of the last two years tweaking and tightening and fixing all the little things that are discovered after a complete rebuild of an airplane. I've gotten used to its nuances and needs and it was time to strut its stuff. 
And so it was we launched forth from the Western North Carolina Air Museum and worked our way South (always capitalized) to Lakeland FL, home of a terrific aviation event since way back in the 1970s. The original Kissimmee Air Fair evolved into Sun n Fun; John and I went to Kissimmee with the family in 1973 or 1974 when he was just a little tyke and returned in 1979 in our Cessna 170, Daisy ..
You might gather that we like yellow airplanes - we do.
Of course we still have our patches, followed by more from Lakeland and Oshkosh.

It was a homecoming of sorts when John, now Captain John of NetJets, and I met up for three days of wandering around airplanes and airplane stuff and meeting some really great airplane people. 

The CallAir was parked first by the porta potties, way in the back of the antique and classic area but with some asking around, we were invited to bring the one of a kind airplane to the front row, literally, in front of the antique and classic headquarters building where it could be seen and appreciated. I can't write enough nice things about these people - they were just wonderful to us.

To our surprise, a gentleman stopped by the CallAir to let us know an award had been given to the airplane; I didn't know what but it came a few days later in the mail (we had to leave before the award ceremony). 
Much appreciated, but around the table at the Mustang on the Saturday morning after it came in, it was opined that the award could be either for the airplane or the pilot. I'm still not quite sure about that.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April 2019 - Sun n Fun, or "The Best Laid Plans...etc"

Lemme see now .. I'll be gone for maybe 5 days. Aside from the usual basics (things to wear, toiletries, enough cash to get by and a half roll of toilet paper [you never know]), there are the accouterments of modern life: flight bag with handheld radio, charging cables, spare battery and booster battery, iPad Mini with current charts, paper charts of a certain vintage (they haven't moved Lakeland lately), more battery packs for reserve juice, more charging cables, 110v plug adapters, iPhone for backup of the iPad with current charts, SPOT flight tracking gizmo, more spare batteries, more charging stuff (why don't they make all these charging cables one kind?), etc etc etc. When the weight of all the stuff is added up it doesn't really amount to much but it does take up some room, which is in short supply in the CallAir Cadet.

The route down was pretty simple: point South and go. Lakeland lies 179 degrees from Hendersonville which means, were I to fly high enough off the ground to use the hemispheric rule, my midair collision would occur at a relative angle of less than 180 degrees. A nod to Richard Bach for that observation. The shot of my route as actually flown is on the left, above. I had a choice: play with Shaw AFB's F-16s down to 500AGL or take a bypass to the west. I decided to skip that particular midair collision and took the western route.

The day was getting to be a bit long after taking a couple of weather delays enroute so I stopped at one of my several former cities of residence, Ocala FL. The FBO there is really nice and they were able to get me a hotel room at a great rate at the last minute. Rewarded with a steak dinner and a good night's rest I was off at first light to beat the rush into Lakeland. Sandwiched between two Stinsons on the Lake Parker arrival, I felt right at home.
Once at Lakeland and tied down in possibly the most remote spot among the Antique and Classic Airplane crowd, I hopped over to a well-kept secret: the 9/27 Club tent. A full breakfast awaited and the nicest crowd of people you'd want to meet, among them Captain John, my son. The 9/27 is a great option if you're tired of slogging around among the vendors or airplanes all day, in the sun and with every fried food imaginable. Give me comforts with my fly-ins, thank you. It's worth every cent of the premium to be able to sit down in conditioned air on a soft seat with good food, concierge service and a chilled glass at your elbow. The airshow jets aren't quite as loud, either. We watched the air shows outside in shade and, again, with great service until the loud stuff showed off their loudness. I sent the CEO a snapshot and She observed that not only did we have a tent with chandeliers, we had tablecloths, too.

Three days at Sun n Fun was all the Sun and Fun we needed. Son John escorted me to the CallAir Cadet (which had been moved in front of the Antique and Classic registration building on Day 2) and gave the prop a spin before he had to leave for home and laundry in preparation for his return to his jet job.

Then came the trip home. 

My first leg was back to Ocala for fuel and breakfast at their popular restaurant in the terminal building, then to Waycross GA. The folks at KAYS laid out a table full of barbecue and fixings for the pilots heading home. There were maybe 20 of us on the patio, all looking at a blob of weather that was drifting across the northerly flight paths, and more blobs in trail. Some of us went east of it (they probably made it home that day); some of us followed traditional thinking and went west, behind the first blob, and ran into  deteriorating conditions: Broken, then layered, then solid cloud all the way to the ground. 

My first escape was McRae GA where I found a Cub and its young pilot nosed up to the self-service pump.
 Don't let the picture fool you. The straight line wasn't straight between Waycross and McRae - there were numerous diversions as clouds opened and closed. Take a look at the picture on the right .. after the next leg to Dublin we were less than 40 miles to VFR .. so near and yet so far.

Nobody else around but a deputy Sheriff who was probably wondering what the heck anybody would be doing flying in weather like that. Young Pilot turned out to be a great guy named Michael - on his way home in a Cub that had been owned by his grandfather and his father. We took turns looking up and out and knitting our brows before the weather teased us into flying another leg that ended in Dublin GA, where we found a brand new FBO building, nice people, coffee, a courtesy car and a couple of training rooms with couches that suited us just fine for an overnight stay. 

Not long after we arrived, one of those airport memorable moments: A young family came into the terminal with their little boy who was excited to have seen airplanes flying over. Michael took them out to the ramp to show them his plane and I marveled that this kid's first exposure to airplanes was to a Piper Cub. Not only that, it happened that my first airplane ride that I can remember took place at this very airport, many, many years ago. Michael is 21, working toward his A&P license, and a terrific ambassador for our community. We need to bring along more like him.
 The next morning dawned with more cloud cover all the way to the ground. The ASOS called it a 500 foot ceiling, but Michael ventured that a bug must be sitting on the transmissiometer. Eventually the bug flew off and we had a pretty nice scattered to broken clouds kind of a day. The overall track home was a little ziggety-zaggety with all the weather avoidance, but still pretty close to the straight-line route.

The next morning, Michael and I availed ourselves of the airport courtesy car to catch breakfast and pick up a dozen donuts for anyone who might wander in for a flying lesson with Jeff, the flight instructor who arrived early. Michael in his Cub and I in the Cadet left Dublin within minutes of each other, he on his way north and me on my way northeast to an insurance fuel stop at Anderson SC and then home. Once at my home field I was elated to have flown the trip and very glad to be on the ground. Flight time for the trip down was 5.6 hours; for the trip home was 6.2 hours. Not bad at all.

Give me a few days to mow the lawn, attend to that pesky plumbing problem and wind down a little and I'll be ready to go again.