Monthly Archives: May 2017

A Solo Flight – Celebrating Milestones

milestones

I enjoy being a pilot, aircraft and hanger owner, but these joys are accompanied by a fair amount of responsibility.  Even as a private pilot, periodic flight reviews (BFR) and medicals come with the privilege.  This was the month for both of those activities.  Since I inherited my Dad’s 1961 Forney Aircoupe, I have flown my BFRs in that craft, but this year I decided to have it done in a Cessna 150, the airplane in which I learned to fly, solo and certify in as a pilot in 1992.
I was able to find one to rent at Westport Airport, a wonderful place in the heart of Wichita, KS.  I have a long history with 71K, aka Dead Cow International, where the Jayhawk Wing of the Commemorative Air Force is based, so I was pleased for this occasion.  Westport should be on your list of places to visit if you come to Wichita.  A quaint oasis of the past meets the present if there ever was a place.  If you are really fortunate  you will meet Earl Long and many other aviators that make up the back-drop of the aviation fabric of the Air Capitol.
Milestones By Comparrison
The Forney Aircoupe  and Cessna 150 are very close in performance, but after flying, almost exclusively, my Coupe for 20+ years, I felt quite out of place.  There are differences that change how one interacts with the plane:
  • The Coupe is a low wing, the Cessna a high wing, thus visibility is quite different.
  • Although my Coupe has rudder pedals (early models do not) they are less critical than in the Cessna, because….
  • The Coupe’s engine is mounted to compensate for the “P” factor, pulling the aircraft to the left, where as one must use rudder to compensate in the Cessna
  • The Coupe uses a hand brake, the Cessna, toe brakes integrated into the rudder pedals
  • The Coupe is about 300 pounds lighter than the Cessna and has a much lighter touch in the controls
  • The trim on the Coupe has less impact on how the aircraft flies than on the Cessna
The best comparison I can give is the difference you feel when getting into a rental car versus your own, it just feels foreign – times ten!
My BFR instructor gave me ample time with the Cessna to get reacquainted, going over checklists, locations of various instruments and gages, etc.  on my own.  I  was as ready as I would be, but still felt a fish out of water for most of the flight.  On top of that, it was less than smooth and I had to fight thermals the entire flight.  It was less than a stellar performance, but my instructor was kind and decided I was not a hazard to myself or others, signing me off for two more years.

Continue reading A Solo Flight – Celebrating Milestones

Daddy – An Airport Story in Three Parts

“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.”  – 
Langston Hughes

This is the last of three installments of a short story about vision, an airport and flying. 

I soloed January 10, 1992 and received my single engine land private pilot  license in June.

daddy
Rooks County Airport DedicationVision and Dreams

On July 4, 1992, I flew the Aircoupe to the national Ercoupe convention being held in Newton, KS, just north of Wichita.  My family was also there, and I flew Daddy as my first passenger, in the Aircoupe, and as a licensed pilot that day.

Daddy ‘s piloting days may have been over but his vision for an all-weather airport lingered.     During the years I worked at Wichita, Daddy and I had several conversations about the FAA airport trust fund that was available for communities to develop local airports as a part of the national transportation system.

Moving Away

In 1995, My FAA career took me to Brussels Belgium during which time the coupe was tucked safely away, looked after by friends and family.  Mom and Dad moved to Wichita where they cared for our home during our stay overseas and to help with their transition to retirement.  I flew each time I was back for a visit.  In 1999 I returned to the states.   I was assigned to the air traffic safety office in Fort Worth Texas.  Daddy’s health was failing.

I found a living situation at an airport near Fort Worth where I was able to acquire a hanger with an apartment. In this space I could keep the coupe, my car and have a home away from home for this last season of my career.  I looked forward to having Daddy visit our hangar home, but that was not to be.  In March of 2000, Daddy died from multiple melanoma cancer having only seen pictures of the Coupe in her newest home.  As far as I know, He was not aware of the new plans underway for the airport he had envisioned.  Yet the seeds of the vision and dream were growing. Continue reading Daddy – An Airport Story in Three Parts

Dreams – An Airport Story in Three Parts – II

“Worse than not realizing the dreams of your youth would be to have been young and never dreamed at all.”  Jean Genet

This is a continuation of a previous post.  Enjoy!

“The day arrived and on September 14, 1969,  Daddy became a certified private pilot.  He logged 1114.45 hours of flying time over the span of 19  years and one month, almost to the day.  His first lePaul Hancock Pilot Certifcationsson was at the Phillipsburg, KS airport in a J-3 Cub on October 14, 1962 and his last logged flight was from the Plainville airpark on September 21, 1981.  Most of the hours flown were in Aircoupe N3052G.  In high school, I was a frequent flyer passengers.

The coupe became Daddy’s transport, companion and therapy; his place to dream and escape. It would be years before I understood the relationship he had with that little plane. The coupe remained at the Plainville Airpark until 1991.

Dreams Fade

In the late 1960s and into the early 70s, in addition to running his auto parts business, Dad became involved in local government, both as councilman and later as mayor.  So as time progressed, the coupe’s time in the air began to dwindle.  In the mid to late 70s, economic downturns and health issues, infringed further on Daddy’s ability to spend time in the air.  There were rumors that Dad had offers to sell the plane, but he needed to keep her close, even if she had to sit quietly on the ground looking south from her open hangar.

Activity at the airpark came and went.  The one major issue:  water.  The field was well drained and a perfectly fine grass strip but rain, snow, ice and other kinds of moisture hampered consistant use.  In fact, there were no all weather airports in all of Rooks County.  In 1978 he and several others began to work on a plan to correct this.  The vision was modest:  simply black top the airpark runway.  Plans and proposals were made with rationale far beyond just a few guys with a hobby.  As mayor, he could see it as an extension of main street for business, as well as providing access to medical flights, and other emergency needs.  Perceptions, costs, and local politics got in the way and plans ended up on the shelf. The time was not yet.

Dreams Transition

In the meantime, I had left home, married and began a career with the FAA as an air traffic controller. When that career brought me to Wichita, KS in 1988, I decided to finally get my private pilot’s license.  I had wanted to do this since I first flew with Daddy, and had even begun training at one point, but the right time had finally arrived.

In a phone conversation with Dad, I asked if the Coupe was flyable. His answer was evasive:  “it was flying when I last parked her in the hangar”.  I asked how long it had been.  “A couple of years”.   I asked if I could use it to build the hours I needed to get my license, his response after thinking it over, was “if you can fix it, you can fly it”.  I had no idea what was invdreamsolved.  I later discovered it had been 11 years since her last airworthiness check.  It was going to be work.

My flight instructor and I flew his plane to Plainville to assess the situation in the fall of 1991.  She was in sad shape. It took two more trips with different assortments of mechanics before,  on a cold March day in 1992 she departed Plainville Airpark on a ferry permit for her new home in Wichita.

In the meantime, I had continued my flight training and realized the Coupe would not be the plane I would build my flight hours in. The plan had shifted.  Daddy was ready to share her with me, and so we took joint ownership.  When I was not supervising a shift at the Wichita air traffic tower/TRACON or working on some aspect of my pilot training, I was assisting the team of mechanics bringing N3052G back to an airworthy condition.”

Comments Please!

I know, this was more about an airplane than an airport, but one exists for the other! The  final installment of this airport story and vision next time.

Dreamers – An Airport Story in Three Parts

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…”   ― Wilferd Peterson

“I turned left onto a half-mile final for a south landing.  There it was, five thousand feet of new concrete; an airport thirty years in the making, carved out of farmland in rural Kansas.  My Kansas.   My roots.  My spirit welled up as I made my final traffic call, “Rooks County Regional Airport traffic, Aircoupe three zero five two golf, on short final for runway one-eight. “  The little red coupe seemed to perk up as I trimmed her to follow the visual glide path to a flawless, slightly cross-wind landing.  I could almost hear Daddy smile from that great cloud of witnesses as we taxied off the runway onto the ramp toward the waiting crowd.

dreamersI had been following the progress of the new Rooks County Regional Airport (KRKS) since I learned, during a 23 year high school class reunion in 2006, that plans were back underway for an all weather airport near my hometown.  So when I was invited to the dedication by a former classmate, I knew I had to fly the     Aircoupe back “home”. Continue reading Dreamers – An Airport Story in Three Parts

How Stealing Diminishes Generosity

generosity“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”  — John Wesley, Letters of John Wesley

Our neighbor’s son car was stolen while parked front of their house at 4:30 in the afternoon a few days ago.  An old Honda, not worth much by market standards,  served as reliable transportation for this young working man.  The culprits were kids with a master key (apparently) who found a moment when the son was home cleaning up between jobs.  The police were notified, but in their world an old Honda does not rise to the top of the priority stack. It was unsettling to say the least, and generosity was no where in my thoughts.
No one likes being stolen from.  I know that seems obvious, but it needs to be said.  Again.  Out loud.  Stealing has become a sport, and in response we are told and sold all kinds of things to avoid “being a victim”. Like it is somehow our fault.  Our fault for having things, or a reputation or even an identity that is so tempting to others that they somehow can’t resist stealing it.  Non-sense.  It is not our fault.
A Change of Mindset
When I have,
  • earned the means to purchase an item, no matter the price, it is mine.
  • behaved in such a way so as to have a good reputation, that is mine to own and even enjoy.
  • acted in the marketplace and in my relationships with others so that my identity is an asset, it is mine and mine alone.
To steal and/or hi-jack these things is not only a crime or illegal, it is wrong.
I am weary of authorities, who I am sure are weary of dealing with people who misbehave as a life-style, implying that somehow I did not adequately take precautions so as not to become a victim.  Again, non-sense.  I grew up in a world when you could leave your keys in the car, did not lock the doors to anything and slept securely at night.  Ladies purses were strictly off-limits, even to husbands and kids.  Toys and bikes left in the front yard remained there safely over-night or until Mom said to put them away.
This is not selfish.  This is the right of ownership.  I have blogged on this before in my “Boundaries” series, but there is another aspect to consider.

Continue reading How Stealing Diminishes Generosity