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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Two souls on board

When I said yes to this adventure, there was never a question of whether or not I’d take someone with me. When the front cockpit of the Student Prince is not occupied, I find it such a waste of an experience for someone as well as for myself. It’s always better when good times are shared!

Because I am flying across the country to attend a fly in hosted by lady pilots for ladies who own and fly vintage, tailwheel airplanes, I also knew immediately that it would be perfectly appropriate to take another woman. A dear friend of mine, one of the most dynamic and fun loving souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing was my first choice. She and I are both pilots (we’ve actually flown business jets together!), we get along like a house on fire, and we had talked about doing a trip together in the Prince. I pitched the idea to her and she was enthusiastic but alas, carving the time to take the trip was not possible and she had to decline.

Quite honestly, there were very few people who fit my ideal criteria for this trip: Female, adventurous, fun, flexible, capable, and able to take off for an unspecified amount of time. I also wanted to take someone that I share a certain kinship with. The kind of person who will not only wade headlong into some crackpot scheme with me, but when we laugh together and look at one another while tears roll down our cheeks from hilarity, we are really reveling in the experience of feeling alive in the moment and connected. It was a tall order, and fortunately for me there was one such person who fit the bill to a T.

Chrissy and I have had most of our adventures while riding our horses together. We have bonded deeply through many fantastic miles covered on horseback and our common philosophies and ideas around the care and well being of our beloved animals. I enjoy and appreciate her homespun commonsense, her fantastic wit that is all her own, her sharp intelligence, and her keen sense of adventure. When I asked her if she’d like to fly across the country with me, I was tickled when she shouted, “YES!!!” while jumping up and down. If she were a dog she would have been wagging furiously. Her husband Javan kindly agreed to part with his wife for a couple of weeks. Since he has been severely afflicted with the flying bug for quite some time, I think that possibly the hardest part about letting Chrissy go was the fact that he had to stay. Happily, he will begin flying lessons this fall, and his wife will return with stories from the sky to inspire them both.

I am fortunate indeed to have such wonderful souls in my life and I look forward to sharing this experience with my good friend and making memories we will never forget, nor will we want to….




The pressure gradient is building…

As a professional, life long procrastinator who has perfected the art of scattering my energy and doing anything but getting prepared for (fill in the blank)____, I recognize within myself the signs of my gathering focus at last.    Like an airplane pulling out of a dive at low altitudes at the last possible second and making it look purposeful and graceful, I should be used to my patterns by now, but as I’ve stated in the past, introspection is not in  my nature.    This blog has forced me to actually look at some ingrained patterns and they are bemusing to say the least.

Tomorrow I finally have a whole day in which to really start packing and organizing for the trip.  As usual, the Student Prince is ready.  It always seems to be this solid, reliable entity  patiently waiting in the hangar for me while I spin my wheels, yell at my husband, put my underwear on outside of my pants and finally climb aboard.  Oh man, I can’t wait for that prop to spin and the wind in my face.  Perhaps I’ll take a ceremonial box of brownies along to jettison when finally airborne.  Maybe I’ll let my passenger have the honors, I’m sure I’ll have driven her half mad by the time I harangue her over packing more than two pairs of socks.  “There’s no room! Can’t you wear them both?”  “Why is your face turning red? Don’t run away, you can throw the brownies overboard!

On the list to pack/do:

tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes (not too many), grease gun with extra cartridge, Marvel Mystery Oil, engine oil, cockpit covers, tie down ropes,  wheel chocks, rags, window cleaner, mount the borrowed handheld radio, take headset apart and put it together again with borrowed headset helmet, mount borrowed GPS, earplugs, sunscreen, airplane flight log, passenger log, camera, iPad, chargers for everything electronic, extra batteries for GPS , MONEY, CREDIT CARD~ (The first law of aerodynamics, money)

…..and then the cussing will begin in earnest when I start the seemingly impossible attempt at stuffing it all into the airplane.  This is where dogs and husbands suddenly find porches to go under, and expeditions to go on…I am not the most patient person, but I am not to blame, it’s hereditary.  Read my blog post: “Overboard” if you need proof.

Oh yeah, and then because the world will wobble off it’s axis if I don’t: Tell the husband how to water plants, feed the pets, pay the bills, drive the car and chew gum.  And, in case they are heartsick (they better be) with my oh so long absence I can’t forget to: Ride the horses, pet the dogs, and hug them all and tell them that they will all really survive (barely) without me.

Then there’s that very last pilot exam I promised to give, the two corporate jet flights still to be flown and the going away party at the airport being given in our honor by wonderful dear friends.  Did I mention that I am not bored?

Oh yeah, and I need to set up a firm appointment to have my artist extraordinaire paint “Lady Summer” on the cowling.  Hopefully he will use a quick drying paint.  Or I guess it can blow dry.



Going to Mecca with a Prince

“There once was a Master come unto the earth.  Born in the holy land of Indiana…..”  

Thus begins the story of a reluctant Messiah, Donald Shimoda, the main character in Richard Bach’s book, Illusions.  Donald is a modern day barnstormer who flies his pristine Travel Air 4000 antique biplane around the mid west, dropping into hay fields and selling rides.   Another barnstormer joins Donald and the two begin hopping rides with their two airplanes.  It doesn’t take long for the newcomer to notice some strange phenomena associated with Donald.  His Travel Air uses nary a drop of fuel or oil, never has any grease or oil on it, (which is unheard of for an airplane with a radial engine),  it  never, ever smashes an insect with it’s wings or propeller, and passengers who fly with Donald are miraculously cured of  ailments.  Shimoda dispenses sage, Yoda like philosophy while making perfect three point landings in impossibly small fields, vaporizing clouds at will, and floating 3/4 inch wrenches.

Like a crow, focusing my attention on the shiniest objects in my range of vision I have concluded that historically, I have been quite short sighted.  With the impending trip, I am discovering ever more shiny objects further afield..  Namely, the fact that there are a ton of small airports east of the Missouri and one in particular is issuing an especially compelling siren song.   Lee Bottom Flying Field appears to be the ultimate biplane paradise.  Thousands of feet of meticulously trimmed emerald grass serve as the runway alongside a lovely curving river in a lovely pastoral setting.  The airport is no wannabe, it’s been hosting airplanes since the 1930’s and not just any airplanes, but lots and lots of biplanes and other vintage fliers.  Rare ones.  Airplanes many have never even heard of.  And they all  converge on this piece of beautiful topographical history in droves.   Sometimes in the hundreds,  row upon row of multicolored brilliance, these flying pieces of heritage flock to Lee Bottom in an aviation pilgrimage of sorts.  The airfield hosts what they call Sinful Sundays and the faithful touch down on its hallowed turf surface to partake in ice cream and antique aviation communion.  I have rapidly come to the conclusion that my trip would not be complete if myself and the Student Prince did not partake in the pilgrimage to Lee Bottom Flying Field.  It would be a first for both of us.  I wonder if they will daub some Marvel Mystery Oil between my eyes in an aviation blessing?  Well, I’ll settle for the ice cream at least.

Oh and where exactly is this mythical airfield which hosts the rare and beautiful winged ones?  In the holy land of Indiana.


Crossing paths

The magic of adventure and connection is alive and burgeoning and I have yet to point my compass east. The synchronicity of the timing involved with a “chance” meeting I had today still has me shaking my head in wonderment.

I had flown my trusty little Cessna 120 south to Olympia, Washington this morning to conduct a pilot exam. Upon the completion of the test, I was busy with administrative details on one of the flight school’s computers. Tucked into a side room, it would have taken a very observant person to notice I was even there, much less to note what I was looking at on the monitor. Nonetheless this is exactly what happened. A gentleman I had never met appeared over my left shoulder and said that he recognized what I was working on. He introduced himself as a fellow pilot examiner from Montana. He had just stopped in at Olympia in a Cessna Citation jet en route to Alaska. I asked him whereabouts in Montana he was based and he told me Billings. I did a mental review of our intended routing through Montana and our closest proximity to Billings. I told him about our planned odyssey and that we intended to stop at Laurel. He laughed and said that Laurel is actually exactly where they are from and that he just so happens to be the director of operations of Northern Skies Aviation at the airport. I couldn’t believe it!

His passengers showed up shortly after our brief exchange, but I made sure to give him my contact info as he was preflighting the jet. Later, I received a nice email from him after he had arrived in Juneau.

I am now looking forward to visiting with my new friend Kent in Laurel, Montana, showing him the Student Prince, and supporting Northern Skies Aviation by buying some avgas.

I had done some preliminary research on Laurel just yesterday, and it is a fantastic
little airport with a very busy general aviation scene, a great history, and every biplane pilot’s favorite, a grass runway!

Isn’t this great? I haven’t even left yet, and I’ve already added a new member to my sky family. This sets the perfect tone for the whole journey.