Return to Factory

(This is part of A Summer of Flying.)

Iowa City to Detroit Metro, hoping the storms will move

Iowa City to Detroit Metro, hoping the storms will move

Packing up the plane the next morning (when I discovered the broken antenna), I realize that so much of the trip is repetitive. Here I am again, with the roller bag carefully stowed in the luggage area, the nose plugs and gust lock on the floor of the back seat, the canopy open in the late morning sun as I check the oil and test the fuel from the drains. Another walk around the plane, wiggling the control surfaces and checking the antennae (one loose). As I noted the Hobbs time on my kneeboard and looked over my little scribbled notes for the blog I wondered how repetitive the blog was. After over sixteen hundred hours of flying, was I thinking anything new? Even if I was, were there reliable ways to express that newness? Given the structure of the blog, where each entry is written in such isolation, it is possible that I am repeating myself over and over, especially when writing about the longer trips where I sit at ten thousand feet and watch the landscape slide past under the plane. Continue reading

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The Dropoff

(This is part of A Summer of Flying.)

Santa Monica Departure

Santa Monica Departure

We started out at the end of June. It was sort of luxurious to have the front seat as an empty space to pile my bag of necessities (Kind bars, iPad mini, water) and Dexter seemed like a young CEO climbing into the back with his laptop, iPhone and small fleecy blanket. But it was very sad to take off into the eastern, summer sky without Nell and Rudy along. Continue reading

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A Summer of Flying

It looked like it might be the last amazing summer of crossing the country with the family. And then Nell took a job on The Muppet Show for Disney and Rudy took a job as a counselor at Great Books. Dexter still had commitments, though, so it wound up being a lot of flying either solo or with Dexter along. 

We have owned N971RD for nearly a decade. The plane sits outside on a tie-down at the Santa Monica airport and if it were a metal plane we would probably need to have it re-painted. Instead, we need to have the vinyl stripes (and registration letters) replaced. And, due to a crazing problem in the plexiglas, we need to replace the canopy. That work can be done most easily at the factory (shipping the canopy is a little nutty), so I need to figure out a way to include London, Ontario in my route for the summer.

As I add the entries these will become live links. The summer breaks down into the following pieces:

  • The Dropoff – getting Dexter to Iowa City
  • Return to Factory – bringing the plane back to where it was created
  • The Pickup – bringing Dexter to the East coast
  • Returning Home – Dexter and I fly west

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Walking Away

Hard Landing

Hard Landing

Who knows how long the article will stay up, but CBS Denver is reporting that a two seat version of our plane had engine trouble and wasn’t able to make it all the way back to the runway at Centenniel airport in Denver. Instead it landed hard in a grassy field just short of the runway.

The two people got out and walked away. That’s what I like to hear. (Dexter and I flew into that very airport two summers ago, with thunderstorms nearby and darkening skies. I was very glad to be on the ground.)

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Don’t Close the Airport

nimbyI sent this off to my congressional representative this morning. I also sent copies to my two senators and the Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration. I don’t pretend that it will do any good, but every now and then the NIMBY people start to bother me and I go off on a rant.

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Learning to Fly

I belong to two different online flying communities. The first focuses on our plane, or all of the planes by the same manufacturer. That’s the Diamond Aviators Net. It is very relaxed, informal, and very polite.

Statistics on Cirrus accidents showed that if the pilot was not a member of the online community of owners and pilots they were 80% more likely to be involved in an accident. That made me love my online pilot community and when a fellow Diamond pilot switch to Beechcraft airplanes and said that his new community was also great, I joined up.

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NorCal Hopping

Although I have been flying every week, we really haven’t been taking trips in the plane. That’s too bad, since it really contributes to my mental stability, something I thought about a lot on the two hour twenty minute flight from Santa Monica up to Concord, California. I don’t need to say anything about the Germanwings accident that hasn’t been written better by other, more knowledgable people, but mental stability is important.

For the first hour of the flight Dexter was at the controls. He and a few of his friends from school have started to get a little interested in learning to fly and I’ve talked about how the more time you spend holding an altitude and following a navigation line the easier it will be to learn the rest. So Dexter did the takeoff, turned us to follow the coast and climbed to 10,500 feet over Point Mugu. After an hour of keeping us on our purple line and within fifty feet of our desired altitude he declared it exhausting and handed his duties over to Otto. Minutes later Dexter was asleep. Continue reading

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Many Buffalo

Happy Hiking Couple

Happy Hiking Couple

But not enough of them seen.

Here are Rudy and Helen out on Catalina, just before we started the usual 2.2 mile Airport Loop hike around the airport.

It feels like we haven’t spotted the buffalo in a while. This was the fifty-ninth time I have been to the Airport in the Sky, although that’s probably under-reporting by a couple. That was the number fastest and easiest to grab out of my logbook.

Usual Loop

Usual Loop

The hike was a little slower than usual, but it was so beautiful that it was nice to see more of the landscape in detail. If you click the map you’ll get all the fine print on the hike over at RunKeeper. I think the buffalo are missing because of the drought.

I asked the manager of the airport once if he enjoyed the job and he said the only thing he didn’t like was having to chase the buffalo off the runway with a tractor. They get stubborn and go past the cattle grates and need to be forced back to their pastures.

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Seven Years Back

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

I used to have half a dozen photographs of this crash. The fellow who sold me our plane sent them to me. He knows I am always thinking about walking away from a forced landing. This one was just so close to my nightmare scenario, with a dream outcome, that I would open the photos and look at them every now and then, especially when we were headed out for a longer trip. I am not sure what I did with them, all I can think is that I decided I was looking at them too often and I deleted them. Continue reading

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Never Bent

I’m pretty sure when I mention to people that I fly a small plane the first thing they think of is a small plane crashing. That’s when the little planes make the news, so that’s probably what is in their memory. Of course, I think about it pretty often, as well.

The thought of crashing is overwhelmed by all of my memories of amazing trips across the country with the entire family on board, all the first flights friends and family have taken in the plane, all of the long, interesting flights I have flown on my own, and the very important flights with instructors. When my mind drifts to thoughts of our little plane three quick images parade past: the view past Nell as the wheels lift from the concrete and we rise over our little beach town and I can see from the ridges of the Santa Monica mountains to the curve of the Santa Monica bay; the perspective from my seat down past the wing to our airport and Venice as they slide beneath the leading edge and we head south over LAX; and the boys, usually lost in their own worlds already, looking either way out their own windows and listening to their podcasts or dubstep. Continue reading

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