Flew the Coupe! – Part 21 – Woodstock , Deserts, Hurricanes, Green Chilies and SPACE! Part-2

New Mexico Here I Come!

So my very tentative plan was to take two days to fly Woodstock to Falcon Field (FFZ) in Mesa AZ where I have a hangar.  Spend a couple of days hanging out with family, eat some great food, get my hangar inspection done then the morning of the Ercoupe Convention fly in the morning from FFZ to Las Cruces.  That looked to be a very doable plan. So some background.  I haven’t flown a cross country for years and never in Woodstock.  So a lot of refreshing to do.

First Step, Plan the Route

It is 1400 or so miles from Seattle to Phoenix. Woodstock flies a little over 100 MPH.  Woodstock has 18 gallons of fuel in the wings and 5 gallons in the nose tank.  He burns a little less than 5 GPH.  Dennie, the fellow that  ferried Woodstock to Seattle from Compton said he as flying 4 hour legs.  He also said that the speeds and fuel burn numbers I was using seemed tp be what he experienced.  There are a couple of obvious ways to fly between these two cities.  When Dennie from Woodstock back he opted to fly up central Nevada and Oregon.  The Central Washington and cross the Cascades via I-90.

So I could do something like that.  When we went down to Compton to get Woodstock with me flying and he instructing to finish my BFR we had planned to follow I-5 up California, through Oregon then all the way to Auburn.  We didn’t do that as icing was reported along that route at the California/Oregon border. So he opted to fly the other route alone  and since he might have to climb to cross the mountains it seemed better to fly back lighter.  In the end he said he had Woodstock up to 13,000 ft 🙂

So I fired up a great flight planning tool called Fltplan and entered S50 to FFZ.  That gave me the direct route. Woodstock cannot fly direct!  So lets see what magic I could do to create a route.  So the first thing I realized was this flight had me a little intimidated.  1400 miles (turns out its more like 900 miles), several days.  I find that a lot to ponder all at once. So how do I make it something I could wrap my head around?  Well, break it down. I certainly don’t mind flying Woodstock for an hour.  That means 100 miles or so.  Two hours doesn’t sound much harder.  So lets see if I stop every 200 miles where I might go. Now to consider inland through middle Oregon and Nevada or more coastal.  The obvious I-5 route.  A quick look made it clear both could work.  However the middle of the states route had higher terrain and in some places fewer clear places to land.  So I-5 it was.

Day 1

Lets start to break that down.  So from S50 to Tillamook (KTMK) looks very doable.  That is 133 miles so 1 1/5 hours.  I figured land, top off the fuel and next stop would be Grants Pass (K3S8).  This was a little longer at 176 miles.  This would be at that 2 hour mark.  So I thought land, top off the fuel.  Grab a bite and then off to Redding (KRDD) another 130 miles or a little over an hour.  A this point I would have flown a total of 5 or so hours.  I figured one more hop and I could call it a day.  So where to finish up day 1?

Merced (KMCE).  This was about 210 miles or about 2 hours. That seemed like a good full first day.  Merced I believed would have a place I could stay over night and gram a meal.  It seemed lie a big enough town to be able to get a Lyft or a cab from the airport.  It would all look like this:

leg 1

Day 2

We start first thing in Merced (KMCE).  Top off fuel,check the oil and we are off to Bakersfield (KL45).  This is 139 mile leg and 1 and 1/2 hours.  We actually overfly the airport and head to Mojave (KMHV) another 45 miles.  This bring the first leg to about 2 hours.  We land, top off fuel, stretch our legs and head to Daggett (KDAG).  This is only going to be a NAV point as its only 68 miles.  We then head to Lake Havasu (KHII).  This adds 121 miles and a little more than another hour. This is fun because I flew to this airport on my long cross country when I first got my license. So we stop.  Eat lunch.  Give Woodstock a good once over and its on to Falcon Field (FFZ).  This is another 150 miles or about an hour and a half.  So leg two is about 5 and a half hours and we are tucking my bird into its southern nest in Mesa AZ.  Seems like a plan.  It would have all looked like this:

Leg 2

So would this have been a good plan?  Well it could have been.  Lets look at some of the possible highlights.  The route I chose did have some terrain.  It looks like I might have to be around 10K to get over some of it between Grants Pass and Merced.  Then again there would be some climbing to get over mountains between Bakersfield and Mohave.  Finally there are some airspace concerns to make sure I’m not flying through when there is Air Force activities or rocket launches.  The second leg has me near Edwards AFB.  What might I do to make it easier?  I could head more westerly and go to Crescent City/MC Namara (CEC) then to California Redwood Coast Humboldt CO (ACV) to Donsmore (D63) and then on to Redding.  That would have lower terrain but it is quite a bit out of the way.  Also I could always follow I-5 and I think the highest is only 4100.  So I think my route would have worked.  There could have been some interesting conversations around Edwards AFB but the worst case I would have to had to go a little south to Lancaster/Riverside (RC0).

The last Bit

So it would be FFZ to KLRU LAS CRUCES via Coolidge where there were other Ercoupe owners would have been 180 miles or less than two hours.  Easy Peasy.

Did it happen?

Well, something did happen.  I did get to the convention.  All the planning was a lot of fun.  In fact I get excited looking back on the plan.  Who knows what that adventure would have been like.  But Mother Nature had some other plans.  I’ll share what happened next entry but here is a hint.





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Flew the Coupe! – Part 21 – Woodstock , Deserts, Hurricanes, Green Chilies and SPACE! Part-1

Birds of a Feather Join in the West!

The 2018 Ercoupe National was going to be held in Las Cruces New Mexico.  This is a rare opportunity as almost all the National Ercoupe gatherings are in the Eastern part of the country.    Most of the events would amount to three or more days of cross country just to get there from where I live.

I made plans to do this trip as soon as when the registration was opened.  As a bonus we were told for an additional fee we could land our Ercoupes at the Spaceport there!  Of course I signed up for that and paid my fees!  Woodstock at a Spaceport!  I would have an entry in my logs that was a chance of a lifetime!

woodstock space 1

When I came up with this plan it seemed like I had some time to get some experience doing longer cross country flight in Woodstock.  I started looking at different routes.  I knew I had at least on handy thing.  I have a hangar in AZ where I could keep Woodstock till the actual convention.  So I had some flexibility as to when I could decided to fly down to Mesa, AZ.  It looked to be a simple half day cross county from FFZ to LRU.  So I had a plan to make a plan.  It looked like I had time to prepare.  Also at the time I was working for a company that had offices near my AZ hangar.  So in theory I could winter in AZ and enjoy flying Woodstock in AZ while working out of the AZ office.  Ah, if only life lined up with our plans!  But let’s summarize what I hoped would happen in late October 2018. (my thinking middle 2018)

I would take two days to fly Woodstock from Auburn Airport (S50)  to Falcon Field (FFZ)

Visit my family in AZ, celebrate my birthday, have the FFZ airport folks inspect my hangar (they require an inspection at least yearly to make sure you aren’t storing explosives,fire arms or running a crack lab in your hangar, all things that have happened at FFZ), eat some great New Mexican style food (a theme for the trip I hoped)

  • Fly Woodstock from FFZ to LRU
  • Hang out with Ercoupe owners for a couple of days.
  • Land Woodstock at the “Spaceport” and see amazing stuff.
  • Fly Woodstock back to FFZ and drop it off for an excellent winter flying season in AZ
  • Take a commercial flight back the Seattle after a little more time with my family.

So it should have looked like this:

Well, that all looked to me like a great week of aviation and South West adventure!  Also I’d finally get to meet all these Ercoupe owners I’ve gotten to know via social media and see how Woodstock compares with the other birds in his flock!

Yes, you have plans, good luck with that!

So how close did the plan end up matching what actually happened?  Several things needed to work out.  The first curve ball was that job I talked about.  As the summer progressed it was clear I would be seeking other employment.  The company I worked for is an awesome company but aspects of working there just weren’t working for me.  This meant it was no longer clear that if I got Woodstock down there I could leave him there.  The weather in and around Seattle that time of year made a flight back not so certain.  Weather would turn into a major factor as the universe rolled out my fate.  Still, even though I was looking for a new gig I could still be flying and I could sort out the details of getting Woodstock back or figuring out how to be down in AZ for the winter.  That goal still remains as something to do in the future.  But I could still fly during the summer to get more comfortable flying Woodstock cross country.   Right?

Summer in Seattle is always perfect for flying, right?

2018 again was a record fire season on the West Coast.  We had multiple days where it was IFR conditions in Seattle from smoke.  2018 was not going to be the year where I racked in the hours flying.  Add to that I was late getting Woodstock annulled so he was grounded till late June.   Here is what Seattle looked like during the day for weeks in Seattle (yes, that is the sun!):


So the smoke did finally clear in August.  The first day I went to fly Woodstock I agreed to a simple 30 minute flight to Tacoma Narrows airport for lunch where I learned that my transponder no longer worked!  That I covered in the previous blog post.  As a result I did not get to fly to the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum the first weekend of September.  I had hoped that would be a good warm up for my trip south later in the year.  So far not going well.

A Job Appears!

The good and bad news was soon I did line up a new job!  Yay!!  The bad news was I likely wouldn’t have enough vacation for more than a long weekend for the trip down.  That was still possible but since I had not cracked the “how do I spend the winter down in AZ with my plane” part of my plan there was a risk Woodstock could end up down in AZ while I was back in Seattle.  The good news is that the new job made the finances of the transponder upgrade feasible.  So there was that.

In the mean time I realized that I was also in a position to do something new and unique.  I have been attending the Reno National Air Races every year since 1984.  But I had decided to skip 2018 as it was clear there wasn’t going to be any fast planes in the unlimited class.  However there was going to be a Bell P-63 there and that would be a once in a lifetime chance to see one of those on the course.  Also a friend had recently acquired a Cessna Citation and had made a comment that he was always looking for a reason to fly it.  I had another friend who had never been to the Reno Air Races and I thought hey, we split the fuel and the tie down fees three ways it may not be that bad!!

So it looked like my next aviation adventure would be around experiences how “high rollers” get places!  This would be a VERY not Air Woodstock experience.  I have looked into flying Woodstock to Reno and it turns out I would spend almost as much time as I do when I drive.  And I do love to drive and if I drive it less likely to get stuck somewhere because of weather (OK, to be fair I have been snowed in while in Reno trying to return from the races).

Reno Bound!  Odds on my numbers please!  Yes, I’d love another cocktail!

So we booked rooms at the Silver Legacy and I made arrangements to take a long weekend off to go to the races!  It was a very interesting experience.  First of all I ended up flying right seat in the Citation.  Wow!  I was surprised at how cramped it is in the Citation, especially for the pilot and copilot.  My friend Sameer impressed me with his professionalism!   If he wasn’t a rock star as a software dev I know he could easily be flying any major carrier on the planet.  I certainly would not hesitate fly with him.

Here are the three of us biz jetting our way to Reno:


I wish I could say that I have tons of amazing stories from the air races.  Not really.  The P-63 was a sight and this year the F-1 class was won easily by a paraplegic pilot who built his plane himself!  He was definitely one of the heroes that week at Reno.  Here is  Justin Meaders’  Limitless racer:


Here is “Pretty Poly”, that P-63 I was talking about:


So that was Reno behind me.  I still had sorted out the transponder.  I did finally get that figured out as I talked about in the previous blog.  And darned if it looked like I could fly down.  I also sadly learned that the contract I was on at my current employer was not as I was initially told long term and I may not have to be in Seattle through the winter after all.  If I had to be unemployed it was about as easy to be in AZ as compared to WA.  So maybe Woodstock in the Sonora Deserts for winter could be a thing.  So back to flight planning.  Could I do it?  What would the trip look like?  Time to dig out my new EFB programs on my new tablet and see just what the trip would look like.

Given the length of telling this arc of the continued story of life with Woodstock I’ll close out part one here.  In the next entry I’ll share my flight planning experience and discuss how I finally settled on the route I chose.  We can walk through it.  I can not claim to be a “seasoned” cross country pilot so I’ll try and share the experience I had at first and how I finally decided how to go about “eating a car”.

Then I can get to what really happened!  Here are a couple of images to tease you to come back and read the rest of this adventure


So blue skies and tailwinds till “Flew the Coupe! – Part 21 – Woodstock , Deserts, Hurricanes, Green Chilies and SPACE! Part-2”


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Flew the Coupe! – Part 20 – Woodstock Learns a New Cheep for the FAA!

“Ercoupe 2756 Hotel, are you transponder equipped?”

I joined my friend Olan for lunch at the Tacoma Narrows Airport for lunch late last year.  That airport has a great place to eat for lunch and dinner and a tower.  When I contacted the tower they said they could not see my transponder.  Ugh!  Woodstock’s transponder was an older Narco AT-50A.  After I ate lunch I fiddled with the transponder but as I left the tower said they could not see my transponder again.  A Narco AT-50A like the one in Woodstock:


Where I am based I definitely need a transponder to fly legally so I was faced with a choice.  Fix the old transponder or replace it.  The FAA has mandated that by 2020 you will need an ADS-B capable transponder to legally fly in most of the U.S.  so I had been thinking about an upgrade for some time.

Just what the heck is really in my plane?

At first I suspected that the altitude encoder had failed.  But wait did I have an attitude encoder?  Maybe I didn’t!  I dug out an L.A. basin sectional and sure enough, the old owner could have flown Woodstock without one!   He was not within 30 miles of class B airspace.  That surprised me.   I went out to the hangar next chance I got and couldn’t see one.  I also combed the air frame logs and there was no mention of one being installed.  Hmmm.

If It Were a Snake it Would Have Bit Me!

So I went back to the hanger determined to crack this.  Looking at the transponder I noticed something:


So it must have had one.  And thinking back I had gotten the tower at Renton to see my transponder codes correctly in the past. So the transponder was dead.

There are some ADS-B solutions that use the existing transponder so maybe fixing it or replacing it was a reasonable choice.  A lot of the Ercoupe community seemed to be leaning towards units that use the existing Mode C transponder.  On top of that a friend of mine had already upgraded to a Garmin ADS-B transponder and he shared that old transponders were selling cheap an Ebay.  I had already planned to get an ADS-B solution in the plane and had started in August 2018 to figure something out.

Woodstock needs to be able to SQUIT??

ADS-B uses a Sqitter to transmit your GPS location and altitude to the air traffic control system automatically.  Older transponders would “reply” to radio signals sent to the airplane by the air traffic controller radar.  In the case of a Mode C transponder it would also report your altitude.  This would not report location.  Woodstock needed a unit to SQUIT!

What ADS-B Squitters Are There?

Uanvionix makes several models of their ADS-B.  One is a replacement of your wingtip light.  This was the first model to be certified.  These do not match the Grimes tip lights I have on Woodstock.  Here is the Uavionix tip light solution:



And here is a picture of the modified Grimes lights on Woodstock.  Note that my lights have been modified to incorporate a strobe light as well:


So the new light would not at all match.  The company was also working on a version that was a tail light.  Now that could be a possible.  That solution was not shipping at the time I needed to do this.  It is finally shipping as of 2-25-2019.  Here is the tail light version:



Here is Woodstock’s current tail light:



Also remember I would need to get my old transponder working.  A quick search of Ebay did not produce a huge bunch of working used transponders to choose from.  So it looked like the tail light ADS-B and a fixed old transponder would get me to nearly $3000.

The tail light version is $1900 plus whatever I needed to spend to revive my transponder.  The Narco AT-50A is so old as to have tubes and was never considered that reliable.  Narco had replaced it with the AT-150 and that has been discontinued for some time and Narco went out of business in 2011.

Also with this solution I do not get ADS-B IN capability.  With ADS-B IN you can see other aircraft with ADS-B Out in your vicinity plus weather information.  This seems like a desirable thing.  So I started looking at the options.

Here is what ADS-B looks like in the Avare EFB application:


I needed something with integrated GPS. Even though Woodstock has a GPS it is older and I was not supported by any ADS-B solution I could find.

The type of GPS in Woodstock:


The range of prices was large and most of the higher end solutions had large displays.  Not what I was looking for.  I wanted something to replace what I had in the same space.  Here is my old transponder:


That older transponder is a standard size So I was looking at a Garmin unit and a Stratus Unit of that size.  Status was running a special that included an integrated separate but permanently connected ADS-B in unit.  So I decided the Stratus was the way to go.  Here is the Stratus unit I picked:


The Clever Plan – Won’t Someone Just Take My Money!

So now I just had to find someone to install it. I had contacted Greg at Cornerstone Aviation.  He had once fixed a stuck valve on Woodstock and I contacted him first.  Great news and then other news.  He definitely could put one in.  He was even a dealer for the company that makes the unit!  He gave me an excellent quote! However, the other news.  He was moving his shop and couldn’t do it until he was set up at Boeing field.  This was August 2018.  Now it was no longer a matter of waiting for him.  I contacted him again and he indicated he was still waiting for the FAA to approve him for this type of work.  It wasn’t clear when he would really be able to install one.  So I needed to find someone else.

Ace Aviation is a great shop at Renton airport so I reached out to them.  They quickly came back with an estimate of around $8K.  Ouch.  I think they weren’t sure what was going to be involved in the Ercoupe install as their hours needed seemed high but I know they would do an excellent job.  Still I thought I might be able to do better.  After pondering I realized Spencers who is an excellent aircraft supply business had an avionics shop.  So I gave them a call.  They came back with a $4800 estimate WITH the ADS-B in, a new altitude encoder.  They also said they could get the install scheduled within a week.  Well that was definitely the way to go.  So I gave them a credit card for a deposit and they gave me a window to get the plane to Thun field, a nearby airport.  So we agreed on October 3, now all I had to do was get the plane down the 20 minute flight from Auburn, where Woodstock lives.  I wanted to do it on the weekend but the avionics shop was not open on the weekend.  I called the week before and I was told someone in the store could open the shop and get the plane in the hangar on the 5th.  I did not want the plane outside as there was rain in the forecast.  Saturday morning came around and I was unable to get anyone at Spencers to answer the phone.  When I did eventually get someone to answer they went back to look in the hangar and reported that they said they could not see where Woodstock would fit.  So a a weekend delivery was not in the cards.  Ugh.  In fact there was quite a bit of rain in the forecast and I was happy Woodstock was safe and dry in his hangar that weekend.

But it’s Just a Few Miles!

So weather was coming in the next week but I figured I could pull this off.  I let work know I would be in late Monday and I planned to get to Auburn airport early in the morning, make the short flight, drop off the plane then take a Lyft back to Auburn airport.

So Monday morning came around.  There looked to be some mixed weather but reports of conditions over Thun were acceptable.  First a little background information.  Thun field is on a bit of a plateau.  There is a small valley that connects Auburn airport with Thun field.  Auburn airport is on the floor of that valley.   S50 (Auburn) is 63 feet, Thun is 537 feet.   To be legal the clouds have to be at least 1000 ft AGL.  So it is possible for Auburn to be legal VFR conditions but Thun could be not VFR legal.  I had only flown to Thun a few times and I was not really sure  where it was.  In the past I’d gone in good weather where I could climb enough to find it.  This day was not to be that day!  I knew it was roughly directly west across the valley from a lake.  How hard could that be?  Well I checked the weather at Thun  again (they reported clouds 2K broken) and headed off from Auburn.  I could see there was a layer of clouds coming in and as I headed down the valley I could see the ceilings lowering.  I got down the valley to where I though Thun was but at that point the clouds were low enough that I no longer thought I’d be legal to fly that way  so I turned around and went back to Auburn.  I have a GPS in Woodstock so I thought I’d put in Thun to make the trip back there less of a guess.  Bad news.  I hadn’t used it in so long it needed to refresh and I reinitialized I wasn’t sure how to use it anymore.  Well I had several EFB apps on my phone, surely they would work!  Well, no, they didn’t seem to want to either.  I sat on the ground a while to see if the weather would break and took another look at the sectional.

“I Think I Can! I Think I Can!  I think I Can!”

The weather looked better so off I went.  This time it seemed even worse but I did know where the airport was relative to the roads in and I could make out the shopping mall on the road in from the east.  OK, I now had the IFR plan.  I Follow Roads!  As I headed over to the shopping center (there were no clouds that way)   I spotted an airplane go underneath me in the opposite direction!   Wait, “there is the airport”!  I could tell from the radio there were planes in the pattern but the clouds were still a bit of an issue.  The ceiling directly to the east of the field was definitely below legal limits.  But a tight pattern and I could make it!  So I called a 45 entry to downwind across the airport from the east and did the very best tight Woodstock carrier landing ever.  Woodstock is an amazing plane!!  Soon I was taxing to Spencer’s hangar.  Here is Woodstock when I dropped him off:


What a pretty bird!  I went in, signed some paperwork and then took a Lyft back to my car at my hangar in Auburn.  Back to work to finish the day.

Nice Folks Teach Woodstock to SQUIT

I’d left the aircraft logs with the shop and the next day I was contacted saying the shop needed a weight and balance for the plane.  I believed that there was a current one in the logs.  In the end we used what was in there and calculated the difference this install would have made.  I now have a “to do”.  When I find someone that can do it I will get a new weight and balance done on Woodstock.  All that remained was for them to let me know Woodstock was done.

That Thursday they said it was ready to pick up.  I let work know I’d be leaving early to pick up my plane.  The universe does not like plans around planes.  I should have realized that.   I knew that traffic on a Friday from where I work to Thun was going to be terrible.  So I told my boss I’d be leaving at noon.  Well, he said he’d like me to stick around a little longer to confirm something, but he needed to go into a short meeting.  three hours later he basically said “never mind” and I headed to the airport.  I needed to be at the shop before they closed at 5:00.  My navigator app told me I would just make it.  Soon however the app said there were delays on my route and the estimate was now 30 minutes after they closed!! So I started to aggressively look for ways to shave that time and I called the shop.  Turned out to be a good thing I did, they said on Fridays they often knocked off early!!  Yikes!  Well I definitely channeled my inner race driver!  Good news was I managed to make it just as they were shutting down the shop and they had Woodstock pulled out for me!  A quick review of paperwork and a cockpit walk through of the new unit and I was in the air to Auburn.

It was a beautiful day and 30 minutes later Woodstock was back in the hangar.  Now all I had to do was get a Lyft back to Thun and get my car!  Interesting thing about Auburn airport,   There is only one pedestrian gate near the office at the airport at the center of the field.  My hangar is on the far end of the airport from there.  Well, after a walk  I called a Lyft and I was off to Thun.  One thing I love about Lyft is the drivers are usually neat folks.  My driver was an interesting young  fellow who found the airport and small airplanes fascinating.  We chatted about planes and flying as he turned out to be the master of the back roads to get back to Thun.   I encouraged him to looking into aviation and I hope he did take that intro flight I suggested.  There was my car and my adventure was nearly over.  It was about 9:30 when I got home and my Woodstock SQIT project was done.

But was it?? Just before I got my ADS-B installed the FAA announced they were bring back a $500 rebate for planes getting a new ADS-B installed.  Woodstock had some dollars heading his way!!  $500  is enough to pay for most of Woodstock’s fuel in a summer.  The next morning I filled for the rebate online and got an email back with a reservation code to use once I flew a performance verification flight.  Basically you have to fly for an hour in airspace where your ADS-B can be seen then submit your flight information.  You get a report back and then you submit that in another page with your reservation code and PROFITS!!!  I had some other distractions queued up but I knew I could quickly knock that flight out soon.  Little was I to know!

Here is my newly installed Stratus:



So my list of Woodstock “to dos” was now down to:

  • Rebuild the nose gear, replace the faring and removed the snubber cable
  • Replace the landing an taxi lights with LED units
  • Add a wig/wag switch to the landing and taxi lights
  • Replace the wing tip strobes with LED units
  • Install some sort of G-Pro camera
  • Add some padding to the compass mount
  • Add an intercom
  • Get a second headset
  • Put in new rubber doughnuts on the main gear to restore the tail height
  • Figure out the VOR and the Mystery Gauge
  • Update the GPS map database
  • Polish more!

In the next installments we talk about my FFZ hangar, hurricanes, Tres Cruses, Spaceports, Woodstock’s rebate, my next BFR, Woodstock’s next annual inspection, the annual WA Aviation conference, West Coast Ercoupers and the 2018 Ercoupe Convention.

See you in the blue!!

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Beebo, we hardly knew you!

I am going to interrupt my stream of Ercoupe related blogs to comment about an incident and the fellow at the center of the incident.  And then ponder what the world has become for many people.  This has been a long time coming but the FBI has released its report and now we know in the end he chose to dive the plane into the island.

Recently in the Seattle area a ramp worker stole a 90 passenger turboprop plane, flew it around the area, did some remarkable acrobatics and then crashed on a lightly occupied island in the sound.  He remained in contact with the tower at SeaTac the entire time and the conversation was recorded and heard by many.  A quick search of YouTube will find you that and countless “tributes” to him.

I was in the area at the time and I saw the media explosion in the area.  The tower conversation was available almost immediately after he was a flaming crater on Ketron Island.  I found this act really affected me for many reasons I hope to share here.  First, who was Richard Beebo Russel?

Richard “Beebo” Russel


He was young, only 29.  All accounts had him as a friendly fellow, generous, religious and very likable.  He was known as an excellent football player when he was younger.  He was married and even ran a bakery in Oregon with his wife for  years.  The move up to Seattle to be closer to family.  He had an active video blog where he showed his travels that were made possible by the benefits of his airline employer.  He even made some amusing videos about his work on the ramp.  We’ll talk about that shortly.  I showed some interest in joining the military and was in college.  So from the outside, a hard working decent guy that was succeeding in life.  So how does a fellow like that end up in smoking hole on a nearly empty island in the Puget sound?  We can never know for sure but this wasn’t a spontaneous act.

First lets look at the daily grind he faced to make ends meet (assuming he was making those ends meet).   He was working on the ramp for Horizon Air.  This airline had managed to get an exception from the Seattle minimum wage law so he was making less than $15 an hour.  In fact Alaska Airlines sued when the minimum wage laws passed so they can pay a starting wage of $11.74 an hour.  I’m not going to talk about minimum wage laws but Russell was in a situation where he was making less that the McDonalds workers inside the terminal.  He was outdoors, in the rain doing grueling physical labor.  You cannot survive in Seattle on $11.74 an hour, much less raise a family.  Living outside Seattle directly like he did made it less horrible but his finances must have been a nightmare.  He mentioned minimum wage in his conversations with the tower during his flight.  Another thing that I found odd was he had been married for some time and no children.  This strikes me as unusual for someone with a religious background like his.  We’ll never know what was going on there either.  But despite outward appearances Beebo had some pressures.  All the folks that have talked about him make it seem like he was someone that always showed the world a happy face no matter the circumstance.  Easy going and the class clown were things often shared.


What else do we know, he loved aviation.  He fiddled with flight sims or at least video games.  He trained and was qualified as a member of the tug crew so he learned some basics of the airplanes he moved.  Things like how to start the auxiliary power units (APU) and the basics of steering the airplane on the ground.  He would have learned to use the radios to talk to ground control. What he probably wasn’t taught was how to start the engines or how any of the other flight controls would have worked.  He interacted with some of the pilot so he may have been shown more.  But one thing to share.  Most people if they were just sat in an airplane’s cockpit like the one he stole would NOT be able to get it started and taxi it out to the runway.  He had prepared for his over time.  Even finding the right plane and the right time required some planning. He had to find a plane with fuel, someplace where no one was on it or around it.  He had to take a tug, drive it across the airport, pull the plane around to allow it to taxi out.  He did that midday and wasn’t detected.  I was then several hours before he got it started and then made his run for the runway.  To take the plane for his final flight.

I don’t think he ever really thought about landing it.  I think once he started taxing out he knew he was in it in the end.  A plane like that flown for most of his flight would have been pretty simple to fly.  He did finally ask for some help getting the cabin pressurized.  He would have been light headed at times given he was over 10 thousand feet for some of his flight.  He flew over Mount Rainier which is over 14 thousand feet and then over the Olympics which are lower at closer to 8 thousand feet.  Then for the most part he was much lower.  He didn’t know much about the rate he was going to burn off fuel and I wouldn’t be surprised if he left the plane at maximum power for the entire time.  I think in the end he flew for around 45 minutes.  Towards the end of he flight I think he knew he wasn’t going to make any attempt to save himself or the plane.  He just wanted to end it in a way that didn’t hurt anyone.  He did at least one major bit of acrobatics that was caught on video by a number of people.  He said he wondered if he could do a “back flip” whatever that is.  He said he was going to try a barrel roll and ended up doing something closer to a split S.  He pulled out of that below 500 feet over the water.  He said after he thought that was probably going to be it surprised that he pulled it off.  He made a comment about fuel, a possible engine problem then shortly after folks on the ground the two pilots in the F-15s following him reported him crashing on Ketron island. With that final moment Sky King was born.  Just a guy who wanted to do a final barrel roll into a sunset.


In the end he said he’d hope his moment would have lasted longer and stated he’d never get hired as a pilot because “he was a white guy”.  I think there are some things that make this story worth discussing.  Firstly, Richard went out with class.  He did it not ranting about anything, he had some fun on the way out and did it without hurting anyone else.  Lets compare that with some other suicide by plane incidents.  MH370 resulted in 239 people dying.  A Germanwings copilot crashed his plane into a mountain killing 140 people.  Several days after Richard’s flight a disgruntled corporate pilot stole his boss’s plane and tried to crash it into his house to kill his wife.  He missed his house by the way.   Russel didn’t try to pin his choice on anyone else.  He owned it.

So Beebo snapped.  Well I think that isn’t quite right.  He took time and planned his exit.  I am sure stealing this particular plane was an “in your face” to his employer.  What were the factors that got him planning this end?  He joked that he wouldn’t get a job as a pilot because he was “a white guy”.  We are in the beginning of a massive pilot shortage.  So why would he think becoming a pilot would be impossible for him.  Remember, this is a guy trying to maintain a family in the greater Seattle area in less than $12 an hour.  You need a college degree and a lot of training to get into that cockpit.  There is no doubt the amount of assistance to get into college is limited for a “white guy”.  If you don’t believe it do some research.  Major universities are opening admitting they skew their submissions to “minorities”.  There are even lawsuits.  Scholarships are all targeted to women and minorities (but not asians!).  The U.S. air traffic control system was actively refusing white male applicants.  Yes, things for “a white guy” these days can be look pretty stacked against you.

Now onto what it would have cost Beebo to get that pilot rating if he had gotten that college degree.  Beebo would have spent somewhere around $100K.  Most pilots will spend years building hours by instructing or taking almost any pilot job available.  It is a struggle.  Some manage by entering the service but the bar for that is high.  And of course, you are in the service!  So I think it would have seemed impossible for a guy making less than minimum wage with a wife.  While things are slowly changing as some carriers are taking in people with no flight experience to train from the ground up.  But I think the chances of being lucky enough to get in on that opportunity were nearly zero for Russell.  He was already nearly 30.  Carriers are going to want to maximize the number of years they could get out of a new pilot of they make an investment like that.

So in the end we saw a broken guy go out with a flourish.  Beebo, I wish I knew you, we’d fly Woodstock the Ercoupe to Pt. Townsend eat a great breakfast and look at planes in the museum.  I hope you are in a better place.  We did love that barrel roll!

Blue Skies, Beebo, Sky King!

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 19 – Woodstock gets some bling!

Don’t just sit there, do something!

So with the fires this summer and the disruption of a job change I was not flying much.  So I made a list of things I should do to Woodstock.  I have thought about things I could do to make Woodstock a bit more distinctive and in one case a bit safer.

Woodstock can be slippery!

So it can be wet in the PacNW an even icy!  To get into the cockpit of my coupe you have to walk up the metal wing root.  It can get slippery!  They make special materials to create a non slip surface for folks to walk on.  Some folks call that “wing walk”.  I little internet research pointed me at a stick on material available in strips.  Several types exist.  I picked one that used a rubber material but no sort of mineral no slip material. (think the “sand” on “sand paper”).  I chose “RAC WING WALK” :


09-28210RAC wing walks are not made from the usual, sandpaper-like material, which can decompose and scratch both the wing surface and your knees. Instead, they use a low profile, synthetic rubber, that combines a comfortable feel with good gripping power.The RAC wing walk comes pre-cut to 26 1/2″ x 9 1/2″. Installation is easy with the aggressive, self-adhering backing. Each wing walk comes rolled in its own, 4″x3″x10″ box and installation instructions are also provided with each box. Black .

I ordered 3 boxes with the first order I made of stuff from Woodstocks first annual and it had been sitting around the hangar for some time.  Well, it was time to apply the stuff.  I could just lay the strip s onto the wing roots in some simple normal fashion or I could make it little different.  I decided to cut the strips into separate pads and then stick the down along the wing root.  Here is the result:

Note: I have since removed the air bubbles.  So Woodstock is less slippery!

Woodstock is cool enough for art!

I had wanted to add some nose art when I first got Woodstock.  I knew I wanted something but I still didn’t realize my Ercoupe was Woodstock.  That came when I started looking at possible images.  I searched all the popular (and sometimes less than popular) cartoons.  I even tried to contact a couple of cartoonists but never goat a response.  But I kept coming back to this:


You don’t have to spend much time with my coupe to realize he is this very happy little yellow bird.  So I came to call my Ercoupe Woodstock.  Perfect.  But then where would this art go.  I had been given awesome cowl badges that I had already mounted:


So the art wasn’t going to go on the nose.  Maybe the vertical fin.  I tried to find a local artist to actually get it painted on but no luck.  Maybe I could find some stickers the right size.  Well that did produce some results.  I found these:

IMG_20180219_122501 (1)

Those would be good but they were just the outline, I would need to add some sort of yellow fill or background.  I considered just air brushing some yellow in the rough shape of the sticker then putting the sticker on top of it.  But a friend suggested a local sign shop that might be able to create the complete image.  Additionally I needed to order some lettering.  A couple of weeks later I had it all ready to put in the fins.  I ended up ordering the image larger, maybe even too large but here is the finished result:

Came out pretty good if you ask me!  But wait, I wasn’t done yet!

Don’t Cool Car Hubcaps from the 40’s have the Maker on them?

I remembered seeing older American cars that had hubcaps that had the company name on the hubcap.  Here is an examaple:


Since Woodstock still has the original Goodyear wheels and brakes Woodstock has hub caps.  At the same time I ordered vinyl letters for the Woodstock tail art I ordered some lettering for the hub caps.  So now Woodstock has cool Erco hubcaps!


Pretty cool if you ask me!

I am still looking at things that might make Woodstock even more stylish.  I am considering a stripe down the fuselage.  Not sure about that yet.  In the mean time I continue to polish.  I think that the interior may deserve some attention as well but I think it is currently close to original and I am not sure how much I want to change that.

I am considering a radical change in the panel but that will be a LOT of work.  I have an IFR capable instrument panel which really is odd for an Ercoupe and definitely overkill for me.  Here is my panel:


Here is a good example of a close to stock panel:


Notice the glove boxes and the cool stripes and trim.  This is maybe closer to what I’d like.  Of course I should call out that my vacuum instruments don’t work and at least one gauge is a mystery!


I think it is related to the VOR somehow but I am not sure how much I will every use the nav radio these days.  I have a GPS in the plane and just bought a GPS capable tablet as well.

Well, if you own a plane you will never run out of stuff to do!

I’m trying to get caught up on the blogging so expect more blogs more often.  I have a few planned not related to Woodstock.  I’ll tag those differently to make them easy to know if you are interested in them.

For now back to thinking the thoughts that need thinking!

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 18 – Back at it

So it has been some time since my last blog.  Sadly the less fun things in life have kept me away from flying.  A couple of job related things and just the world.  Of course my last blog left poor Woodstock with a motor back to sound but a nasty radio gremlin.  So what has happened since then.

Copper State Fly In and a Visit to my Hangar at FFZ

So I went to the Copper State Fly in at FFZ in late October.  I had hoped that would be like I remembered it.  At one time it was one of the best fly ins in the country for home built aircraft.  My how times have changed.  It has become a very nice “open house” for FFZ but no home built aircraft to be found.  Also very few warbirds or classics.  So sorry to disappoint, no pictures or anything fun to report.  But I remain a huge fan of FFZ.  I still think it is one of the best airports in the country.  Sadly I learned the was an Ercoupe gathering nearby I should have gone to instead.  Still I got to see some old friends and family so the trip was definitely worth it.  I bet I go back again this year (for the friends and family and those elusive Ercoupes!)

Flying Defeated by a Battery!

So then it was winter in the Seattle area, I had a flaky radio and combined with weather I had no desire to fly.  One day in January was better than most and when I did go to spend some time in the pattern I found the battery dead.  Ugh, so I put it on a charger and decided I would try again next time the weather was good.  The next time the weather was good the battery was not.

Spacegrrrl gets a check up – Basic Med

I realized I needed to do something about my medical.  After thinking about it I realized I had a regular Dr.s appoint scheduled anyways so I sent my Dr. the “Basic Med” forms and asked her to do that examine as part of my check up.  Of course that was a breeze.  I took the online test and now I am covered under “basic med”.  They say to maintain my “basic med” I have to see my Dr. every 48 months.  Since I do at least an yearly check up of course that isn’t an issue.  Right now I am covered in the U.S. but things are in motion to make “basic med” legal outside of the U.S.  For now I am definitely able to fly Woodstock anyplace I expect to any time soon.

Aviation Trade Show 2018!




So February happened and that meant the annual aviation convention nearby.  I always attend.  There were a few fun things.  Besides the normal safety talks we have a fantastic speaker.  A famous SR-71 pilot “Brian Shul” .  A very inspirational speaker.  He overcame an amazing accident which left him badly burned to become one of the very few people ever to fly an SR-71.  He also became and amazing photographer.  This year there was not a dinner at the convention and even though there may have been a part Saturday night I didn’t look into it.  Here is a picture of Mr. Shul:


So with the convention behind me and a fresh dose of enthusiasm it was time to think about Woodstock,  I decided to try and get Woodstock’s annual inspection done while the weather here in Seattle isn’t so good so I got an owner assisted annual scheduled with the mechanic that did the inspection last year.  In the mean time I started to prep Woodstock for his check up.  I didn’t have nearly as many things to want to do to Woodstock as I did last year.

Woodstock’s Yearly Check Up

I knew of four things I needed to do:

  1. Replace my ELT battery
  2. Add some sealing to my engine baffling
  3. Get a better battery
  4. Solve my radio problem

One the first thing.  I took apart my ELT and removed the battery.  Once I knew what I needed I ordered a new one from Aircraft Spruce.  Problem solved.


Item 2.  My Ercoupe had a big gap between the engine baffling and the cowl nose bowl.  At one time it looked like there was some foam rubber attached to the nose bowl intended to seal this gap.  You want to seal gaps because you want to make sure the air is going where it needs to go to cool the engine.  So along with the battery order I added some strip rubber and the rivet kit to install better seals.  Here is the baffling before the rubber and the new rubber seals:




Now what to do about the battery.  I could just by yet another Gill battery or look into new technology batteries.  I had hear good things about batteries from Odyssey.  They make a “dry cell” battery that is much lighter.  I had heard of another coupe owner in the area that had put in one of those.  So I ordered one of those too.  This battery is much smaller so I would have to find some foam to secure the smaller battery in the original location.  Here is the new battery next to the old one:



So after I got the new battery I went on the hunt for the ideal foam rubber to pad the battery box.  That was more complicated that I thought but after store visit #4 I did find some material that looked right for the job.

So now to find the radio gremlin.  My radio has an integrated intercom.  It has an optional switch to turn the radio into an intercom.  I suspected it was this switch that was causing the radio not to transmit.  Here is the schematic:


Pin 6 is the push to talk switch.  So the “intercom” switch disconnected the “push to task” switch and connects the mic output to the internal intercom circuit.  My solution was simple.  Remove the switch from the circuit.  This took a little challenging gymnastics of my friend Olan and a soldering iron.  But soon the switch was no longer hooked up and the radio was back acting like a champ.

Nothing was left but to fly.  A nice day finally came around and I agreed to meet up with a friend back at Tacoma Narrows where I had last flown Woodstock.  Well the little bird flew great!  Well almost.  Here Woodstock is on the ramp in front of the Restaurant:


So what went wrong?  Engine ran fine, radio worked great but the tower reported that my transponder was not functioning.  Well, another squawk to sort out.  So I set about biting the bullet and trying to find out what a new ADS-B transponder will cost me.

Sadly a combination of other factors kept me from making the fly ins I so hoped to attend.  I was not able to confirm the transponder issue before Arlington (bad weather made me less sad about that) and I did not get Woodstock to the Concrete fly in either.

A job change forced me to miss flying with friends to Oshkosh as well.The it was the summer of fires!  Here in the PacNW we had a terrible summer with much of the time in smoke so bad as to close airports.  This was not the summer of flying.  But things are looking up for the fall.  I have gotten a bid on an ADS-B solution that I will have installed as soon as the shop cans schedule me in.  The new job will not allow me the time to fly Woodstock to the national Ercoupe convention in New Mexico this year but I will attend by flying there on a commercial flight.  It will be fun to meet more coupe owners and see how Woodstock compares to the other coupes around.

So stay tuned, coming up:

  • Some fun things to Woodstock.
  • Things to look forward to in the near-ish future.
  • A report of a quick trip to the national air races.
  • A post will be about blinging up Woodstock.
  • My ADS-B adventure.  The Ercoupe convention.
  • Some new gizmos I bought for my flying.
  • Some actual flying. Woodstock’s next annual.
  • The next aviation convention.
  • And finally a plan for a much more aviation focused 2019.

More soon!

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 17 – back in the air and drama!

So I had Woodstock back together with a healthy engine.  But the distraction of the Reno Air races meant I wasn’t going to be able to fly Woodstock for some time.  It turned out nearly a month.  Once back from Reno I needed to find a good weather day for a test flight and make sure the valve issue was resolved.  I wanted a short flight to check out the engine.  The first nice weekend was just after my birthday I made plans to meet my friend Olan at the great restaurant at the Tacoma Narrows airport.  This is about a 20 minute flight for me and I still probably had my tanks 1/3 full.  Maybe 2 hours of fuel.  But as I taxied past the gas pumps I remembered that old saying “nothing is worth less than fuel on the ground”.  So I topped of the tanks and headed out.

Spacegrrrl – the test pilot

If anything my engine was stronger than before (but maybe a little rougher?)  Soon I was tied up out front of the restaurant waiting for Olan.  Woodstock, as usual was getting admirers.   Here is a photo:


So we found the service at “The Hub” on the slower side but the food was great.  Olan agreed to follow me back to Auburn airport (S50) and we headed back.  Once again Woodstock was flying and the motor running great!  However as I switched from the Tacoma narrows tower frequency and back to Auburn I quickly learned there had been a gear collapse and the runway was closed until they could get the plane off the runway.  This was Sunday afternoon, so not a lot of folks around.  As Olan radioed me asking my intentions I discovered my radio would not transmit!!  I could received but the push to talk was not functioning.  Ugh, what to do!  I quickly tried to remember my “no radio” procedures and started to ponder what heading to either Renton or Pulayllup airports might look like.  Renton was very busy as this was a beautiful day and I did not like the idea of slipping into a busy pattern in Renton and staring at the tower for light signals.  Pulayllup would be better for sure.  But that would leave me hours from home and no good place to leave my plane.  What to do, what to do??

The Plan!

Well, good news, I had close to 5 hours of fuel!  So it seemed from the radio traffic at Auburn I should be able to wait for the runway to open.  In the mean time I stayed out of the traffic areas of the airport and tried to debug the radio.  I remembered I had a second push to talk switch so I unplugged everything and tried that.  No Joy! 😦  Then I plugged everything into the passenger side headphone jacks.  Again, no luck.  OK, all the time reminding myself to fly the plane.  So I put the original push to talk switch back into the pilot headphone jacks and turned my attention to the intercom switch.  One feature of the King radio I have (KX-155 which seems like a very nice radio) is an integrated intercom.  This feature is not that useful to my mind.   A switch puts the radio in intercom mode where the headsets are connected together to talk but neither can transmit or “”Xmit” mode where either headset can have a push to talk and can transmit.   Dennie had felt this switch had been an issue when he checked me out in Woodstock but it had never been a problem since.  So I kept flipping the switch back and forth.  After a frustrating amount of toggles I again could transmit!! The Evil switch!:


Communication restored!

So at this point the pattern was clear as everyone knew the runway was closed.  So I joined the pattern and stayed at pattern altitude for the whole circuit.  I continued my position reports and monitored the progress as they cleared the plane form the runway.  After a little more than an hour the plane was off the runway, but not so fast.  The airport personnel needed to sweep the obvious FOD from the runway and then walk the complete runway to make sure no parts were on the runway that could affect runway traffic.  Another 30 minutes and the awesome announcement went out.  Runway is open for operation!  Of course I was the first in the pattern and soon I was announcing “Ercoupe 2756H is clear the active.  I taxied Woodstock back to my hangar started to put the plane “back in the barn”.  Soon several folks showed up to talk about the incident and help me push Woodstock back into his next.  Of course 90 minutes of Ercoupe chat (Woodstock makes friends everywhere he goes!) and a beer for several of the airport friends I was closing the hangar doors and contemplating my next steps.

This was October 15, 2017  Two days after my birthday and as it turns out the last day I would fly Woodstock that year.  I would have a number of distractions, finding a new job, going to the Copperstate Fly-in and having my hangar at FFZ inspected.  Also a mandatory visit of my AZ family.  Soon I would be focused on the new job, the holidays and the mostly horrible weather.  I also needed to renew my medical so I completed the requirements for “basic med” and attended the regional aviation conference at Pulayllup in February of this year (2018).  I’ll be posting more blogs on Reno, the Copperstate fly-in, basic med, and the aviation conference.  I also hope to share some other random experiences with Woodstock (ID plate for example) and some musings on my plan for ADS-B compliance.  Not to mention my plan to deal with the radio issues, a better battery, some bling,   Finally a look so far on what owning Woodstock is costing me.  I am slamming this blog out as I know I have a lot of catching up to do so please know it hasn’t been proofread much! 🙂

As I’m writing this Woodstock is nearly back together after its annual and I’ll be sharing how that went.  All is shaping up to be an wonderful year of flying!

I’ll share one last photo of Woodstock at Tacoma Narrows airport:


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