Day 6 was a non-flying day that we spent enjoying Italy. Most of us walked around some and hung around the pool drinking ans talking smart. One couple rented a Lamborghini and spent the day terrorizing the local villagers. He told me that he got it up to 170 mph at one point and seeing him zoom past me at one point I believe him. I tried to get a picture but the whole fast cars and point and shoot camera thing doesn’t work so good.
So when I left off I was kneeling in-between the pilot and co-pilot of an Epic LT while they were doing a missed approach during bad weather in Wick Scotland desperately trying to keep my mouth shut and not tell them what to do. We blasted back up away from the runway and the controller said to prepare for an immediate return for an approach to runway 13. Now normally a pilot will take a few minutes to pull up the approach plate (chart) study it, set up the frequencies, dial in the approach on the auto pilot, and make sure he’s ready for it. Having a controller switch runways on you like that is crazy. As we banked away from the airport I looked back and could see the runway in a break in the clouds. “Runway in sight! Ask for a quick visual approach!” I’d managed to hold my tongue for almost ten minutes, a new personal best. The owner steepened his bank, cranked the big Epic around, dove through the crack in the thick clouds, and put her on the runway. Nice.
After we landed the next plane in our group shot the approach but was forced to go missed due to low clouds. Then the rest of the group showed up and were stacked up every thousand feet in a holding pattern over the runway while the plane tried to land a second time. 35 minutes later the last of our Epics were on the runway after another of our planes was forced to go around when a VFR plane landed ahead of him but didn’t clear the runway in time. Why was a VFR plane landing in such horrible conditions you ask? Because the Europeans charge huge fees to fly IFR and some guys just fly in the clouds and lie. The whole thing was kind of a cluster but we managed to get everybody on the ground and didn’t bend any airplanes. Twenty minutes after the last plane was on the ground the first one was back in the air and on the way to England.
Some old guy once said “An object at rest tends to sit on his rear end until acted on by guilt, desire or, more precisely, your wife’s desire.”
So there I was, enjoying my last month of vacation,( don’t hate the player, hate the game) when “she who must be obeyed” reminded me that number one son was due home soon from wherever the heck he was and that I’d foolishly promised him that I’d teach him to fly airplanes and stuff. Not even the overstuffed leather recliner I hibernate in could muffle the groan. Like I’ve said Now don’t get me wrong,……………….
The date on that un-finished post was April 8th. Since then I’ve been kind of busy. Now I know I’ve used that lame excuse many times in the past when I’ve let this blog get just a little bit stale but this time it’s justified, really, swear to God.
Now of course I don’t have time this morning to catch you all up on what I’ve been doing in as great detail as I’d like to but I have a busy day of skydiving ahead of me and time is something that I don’t have an abundance of these days.
So here’s the short list of what I’ve been up to these last two months.
Teaching number one son Connor to fly– We were hitting it hard for a few weeks and he was doing good but both our lives have gotten busy and we haven’t flown together for a few weeks. He’s been doing great though.
Bought a new house– Cathy and I lost our collective minds and instead of paying for Connor’s housing while he goes to the University of Wisconsin Stout we decided to buy a rental house to put him in and maybe make a little money while we were at it. Did we buy one of the existing and operating student rental houses that were for sale you ask? Why no, we decided to buy a house that was built in the 1800’s and that has been vacant for the last 30 years. The epic story of how Cathy, Connor and I have brought this great old house back to life would take forever but I’ll get to it someday, really……I promise. I will say the last month has been filled with many many days of renovation that aren’t over yet. I have to meet a plumber, carpenter, and insulation guy this morning before going to work, just as an example. Up to this point we’ve been doing the majority of the work ourselves. That has been the biggest time sucker upper.
Getting my CFI (certified flight instructor) rating- Along with teaching Connor to fly I was working on finally getting my CFI done. I studied and flew and worked with an instructor that I liked and was on the cusp of taking my ride when my instructor stopped answering my calls to set up the next appointment. Turns out that he had a heart attack. He’s not dead but is out of the game for the foreseeable future and that delay has stopped me in my tracks. I do have the name of another instructor but now that I’m in the meat of the skydiving season I really don’t know where I’ll find the time. I’ll have to make time somehow.
Running the skydiving school– Goes without saying that flying and jumping out of perfectly good airplanes full time keeps me kind of busy. (It’s a pretty good job. It does have it’s up’s and down’s though) Ba da boom.
Getting ready for another Parkinson’s Disease event– Next Tuesday will be the 4th time a local jumper will be doing a large number (300) of jumps in 24 hours to raise money for Parkinson’s and I will be one of the two pilots who will do all the flying. We will be using a PAC 750 XL (low wing turbine) and will be making an takeoff and landing every 3 minutes for 24 hours. Should be fun!
Last but not least I’m going to be FLYING AROUND THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!! I leave July 5th. so stay tuned for more details.
That’s all I have time for for now. I’d promise to post more but you’ve all heard that promise before now haven’t you?
Yesterday morning dawned cold and clear. The readout on my car’s dashboard read 27 degrees F as I pulled out of my driveway for the long drive to the big city and the flight school I’d chosen to help me get my CFI rating. Another readout said 6:30AM Ugh. But the cold early Sunday morning drive would be worth it. The weather forecast was good and I’d finally get to start the flying part of my flight instructor training. Crappy weather had grounded me for the last week and I’d been getting just a little bit cranky. When I got to the flight school Leslie (my fellow CFI candidate) had already pre-flighted the Piper Arrow (good boy!) and the line boy was pulling it out of the school’s heated hanger, Nice! No lift killing frost to scrape off, a warm cockpit to climb into, and an easy to start warm engine. A good start! Then I met our flight instructor for the day. He wasn’t the chief instructor we’d been working with so far but on of his younger minions who was carrying a flight bag the size of a steamer trunk. I mean really, who flies with that much crap? We weren’t going to fly more than 20 miles from the airport for crying out loud. Then to make matters worse the first thing he did was to put that monster of a bag into the cargo compartment behind the rear seats. I mean if you’re going to fly with that much (apparently vital) equipment at least have it available. Oh well I didn’t care, it was a beautiful morning and I was going flying.
Then the instructor had to go and spoil my good mood by informing us that instead of working on the flight maneuvers we’d need to perform during our upcoming FAA check ride we’d instead spend out two hours of flight time getting us checked out to fly the mighty 200 horsepower Piper ArrowII. Great. Additionally, seeing that there were two of us it was unlikely that we’d finish up with both of us. More great. He then asked if either us had any Arrow time. Leslie had none and I told him that I had logged about 50 hours flying one, leaving out the fact that I’d flown one from the US to Rome, Italy many years ago. Seeing that Leslie would need more work the instructor elected to put him up front first. It was at this point that I should have elected to stay on the ground and spend the time studying for my written test. Instead I climbed into the back of the tiny plane to observe the teaching methods of the instructor. But as we were taxing to the runway I was wondering if I’d made the right choice. I didn’t know the instructor at all and I knew Leslie was relatively inexperienced. There was no reason for me to be taking the risk of flying with two unknown pilots in a small plane. Stupid.
Leslie lived up to my expectations as a new pilot with clumsy radio calls to the tower and a not very smooth takeoff but it wasn’t all that bad so I sat back and observed. The first thing the instructor had him do was steep turns. A pretty basic maneuver where you roll into a 360 degree turn to the left followed by another to the right. You’re supposed to hold a 45 degree bank the entire time and not gain or loose more than 100 feet. Pretty simple. But Leslie struggled. He pitched up , he pitched down, his speed varied all over the place. In his defense he was flying from the right seat for the first time and if you’ve never done it before it’s kind of like writing left handed. I didn’t care that Leslie wasn’t doing perfect, what I did care about was the fact that the instructor wasn’t monitoring our airspeed very closely. I could see the airspeed indicator clearly from the backseat and watched as we got slower and slower. At one point while still in a steep bank we got so slow that the aircraft started buffeting, (a sign of an imminent stall) and I could tell the instructor had no clue. “How do you not feel that?” I wondered. If we stalled while in a steep turn we’d almost surly go into a spin and seeing that we were only 1500 feet above the ground I didn’t have a ton of faith that the two knuckle heads up front would recover before we made a big smoking hole in the ground. I finally had enough and said “Watch your speed!” over the intercom. The instructor was a little shocked at how slow we’d gotten and admonished Leslie about how we were close to getting into an accelerated stall. I held my tongue but thought “isn’t it the instructors job to keep the student from killing us all?” The rest of the flight was kind of like that. Leslie doing a fair to poor job of flying and the instructor doing the same job of instructing. Thank God we were out of time after the last landing because if we weren’t I was going to get out and walk back. It was that bad.
When we got back the instructor told Leslie that he’d need at least one more flight to be fully checked out and seeing that we were out of time that I’d have to come back another time. Great, so I basically wasted my entire morning for nothing. Well, not for nothing. I did at least cross that instructor off my list of pilots I’ll ever fly with again.
Why is it that every time I write another post for this blog I first have to apologize for not writing posts for this blog? Oh, I see, it’s been a long time since I got off my ever sagging rear end and put something up. So…sorry…. again.
But this time I really do have a good excuse, sort of. Number one son Connor is coming home from Black Hawk Crew Chief school in two weeks and I’ve been promising him for years to teach him to fly. Not his body or parachutes but airplanes. Now I know what you’re thinking, why don’t I just send him to the local flight school where there are snot nosed kids flight instructors who teach young men and women like my son to take to the wild blue? Well, it seems that Connor wants to learn from his dear o’l dad himself. Touched I am, honored, slightly misty, and more than a little put out. The problem is that even though I’ve been flying for 31 years I never quite got around to getting my Certified flight Instructor rating. And that means, you guessed it, I have to go back to flight school! Argggg! I’ve never wanted to be a flight instructor. I do spend a ton of time teaching people how to skydive and you might think that that would be harder and more dangerous but when a student screws up badly during a skydive I can just let them go, open my own parachute and wish them luck. Ok, I might chase them below the hard deck in freefall, if I really like them, but I still have an automatic opening devise that will deploy my reserve chute in time to save me, I think. But when you’re teaching some knuckle head how to land a plane in a crosswind things can south quickly, sometimes faster than an instructor can grab the controls and recover from. That kind of pressure can wear on a man after a while.
But Connor wants to learn from me so I guess I’ll jump through all the hoops and get my CFI rating. After all I taught him how to ski, scuba dive, drive, hunt, fish, chase girls, and skydive. I might as well go all the way.
Anyway, like I warned told you here are some of the pictures I took while back country skiing in Canada last month.
Well the results are in and we lost exactly ZERO members of our skiing party to avalanche, helicopter crash, scurvy,cannibalism, or alcohol poisoning during our epic back country skiing adventure. Ok, we did almost lose someone down the outhouse hole but that’s just because he’s old and has nodiscernible rear end. What is back country skiing you ask? It’s insane practice of climbing mountains in order to ski down them instead of using chairlifts like civilized folk. To be able to climb steep snowy mountainsides you need skis with special bindings that allow the heel to move freely for climbing, like cross country skis, and then be locked down for skiing the epic power you find at the top. You also attach climbing skins to the bottom of the skis for better traction that allows you to climb some pretty steep grades. BTW if you’re wondering if climbing thousands of feet is a lot of hard work, it is. So why do we do it? Because we love to climb, OK we love the amazing deep powder we find at the top way more but we still love the climb.
The spot we chose to ski this year is the Bolder Hut located in the Purcell mountains of British Columbia, Canada. This hut is only accessible by helicopter so in addition to some great skiing we all got to take a pretty cool helicopter ride in the mountains. Here’s the approach to the Bolder Hut.
The flight was a lot of fun but I’ll have to admit I didn’t really know where the pilot was going to land us until we made the last turn. Before that it looked like he was flying us into a dead end box canyon, not that I was scared mind you, just that I’m kind of a control freak and I like to know what’s going on at all times. That’s not weird…….is it? I’ll tell you all more about the trip and post tons of pictures later. You’ve been warned.
As I’m sure you’re all aware Hula Girl is famous again. What? You’re not? Well, you really need to get out more. I went and saw Dead Pool last night and in the middle of the movie Dead Pool’s blind roommate trips over a Roomba and guess who’s mounted on said Roomba? You guessed it, Hula Girl! For those of you who are not fans of “Dangerous Flights” (losers) Hula Girl is my side kick/good luck/co-pilot who’s been flying with me for about 25 years. Her first claim to fame, besides knowing me, was being featured on the show when I had to fix her broken legs before mounting her on the glare shield of the Bonanza I was ferrying to Argentina. Since that episode aired I have actually gotten fan main for Hula Girl and have people ask me about her all the time. OK, not really all that much but some anyway. So apparently she got herself an agent and has broken into film. Good for her. I just hope she remembers all the little people. Oh, and I loved Dead Pool, it was hilarious.