So I thought I’d start blogging about one my current life adventures. First some relevant background. Who am I and what the heck led me here? Feel free to skip this first entry in this series if all you want is to read about my current life adventure. The next installment will talk about my dreams of owning an airplane and how that has evolved to the final choices I’ve made.
First my early life that got me to here as it relates to this adventure – growing up and falling in love with flight
I started out life as the oldest of what became four kids. I was born in Southern California as was two of my siblings. This was where my folks met. My dad had dual citizenship (Canadian mother and an American dad who I think was related to these early aviators The Boland Brothers ) and for reasons we will never likely know decided to leave Canada (the Toronto area) and join the U.S. Navy. This was during the Korean war. Dad served on the Essex:
When he was discharged he settled into the Southern California area and met my mom. They basically had the standard crazy love story, marriage and soon to follow was me. A coupe of years more, my brother, a sister then a move from paradise to well, not paradise!
My granddad on my mom’s side of the family had passed away and my mom wanted to move to the Phoenix area to be close to her mom. I understand at the time my grand dad passed he was working at John Wayne’s cattle ranch in AZ. One of John Wayne’s ranches in AZ:
Can’t say for sure, I never met either of my granddads. My dad loved my mom’s mom too so off we went to Sunnyslope AZ!
Ugh, I missed a great opportunity to sue my parents for the abuse it was to move us from a block away from the beaches to the “wonder” of life in the desert “backwater” that was Phoenix at the time. Here is what I should have been doing growing up:
But here is where is pretty much where I was playing instead! :
Soon my dad was able to secure a job with Motorola which he kept for life. To be closer to work he bought us a house in Scottsdale.
It was pretty rural at the time. In fact one of my earliest memories of the move to that house was my dad getting his Packard stuck in the mud as the major street we lived next to wasn’t paved! My mom still lives in that house today. They did pave that road shortly after we moved in. 🙂
So there I was, stuck in Scottsdale where the primary recreation was whatever you could find to do in a tumble weed filled abandoned cotton field. Not much it turns out.
But I am leaving out the few things I found to pass the time. We had a few mesquite trees to climb and play in, a creek to give us our only “water feature” for some time, a bunch of dirt piles we’d find dirt clods in to throw each other. Basic bored kid stuff.
Here are some of the things in AZ that didn’t suck growing up:
Occasionally we’d catch a lizard or once a pretty big desert tortoise! We kids fought over who got to keep it and the kid that did had it in his back yard for almost 20 years, in fact it was included as part of the home sale when he moved. It may be there today.
We had some other distractions as well. We were in the middle of an area with active air-force bases so on the lucky days we could watch the jets fly over and listen to the regular sonic booms! I loved that.
So much rambling and I still haven’t gotten to the point.
My dad introduced us to airplane modeling! He had built models growing up and had started it back up when he moved to Phoenix. He used to fly control line and free flight models with my uncle Larry. My earliest memories of that were not pleasant. I remember hating the loud motors. But as I got older I grew past that and found I loved aeromodeling! I spent almost all my time while growing up either building or flying models. From that I developed a love of aviation.
When I was about 10 years old my dad took us to an airshow at Falcon Field in Mesa, AZ (I actually have a hangar at that airport as I write this). They had a yearly airshow and it was there I got to see a fellow named Bob Hoover fly his Mustang. If I wasn’t hooked before I was hooked for life after that! Four point rolls, eight point rolls, sixteen point rolls!! One wheel landings, loops bigger that I could ever have imagined!! Oh and what a beautiful airplane and what an amazing pilot! Here he is in his Mustang:
I also got to see a Jenny with a wing walker! (Even saw it crash after it stalled into the parking lot! Haven’t seen one in the air since, I had no idea how special it was to see it then.) Note this isn’t the performer or plane I saw but you get the idea!
Next year Bob Hoover came back with a different plane too, his Shrike! Oh my gawd!! What a show that was! The man would shut down the engines and do amazing acrobatics! Wow oh wow!! Here here he is in that Shrike:
There was not a thing in Scottsdale I found interesting but I did live next to a big empty field. There I could fly all manner of models! Mostly free flight gliders and rubber powered models. Here are a few of the types of models I enjoyed:
My brother was more interested in gas powered control line models but I never really cared much for those. Control line models:
When I was about 12 years old my dad decided we should do R/C models. My dad being incredibly capable built his own radio system. Back when we started it the hobby was very expensive. My dad by that time was trying to keep a family of 4 kids afloat so money was tight. But he found a way to make it happen.
Pretty soon my weekends were always spent in the dirt the desert of north Scottsdale. At first random empty places but eventually a”crop duster” strip in the deserts north of Scottsdale. Our family fell into a very predictable routine. Every Saturday and Sunday sometime middle morning my dad would collect us and we’d load up whatever we had to fly into the family station wagon. At first everyone in the family went along, my mom, my brother and my sisters. We had a series of station wagons which I believe he bought entirely to be able to move the models. The fact the whole family fit was just a bonus! We’d drive out to the desert and he’d try to fly the plane. The first planes were simple single channel models. More free flight than controlled if I’m being honest.
This one of the first types my dad built, a Ken Willard “Good Neighbor”. This turned out to be a fantastic model and dad built several more for friends!
At one point my dad built a three channel plane that promptly got caught in a dust devil and was never seen again. We drove around the deserts for an entire day looking for that plane! This wasn’t uncommon and if you didn’t find the plane almost immediately you’d likely never find it. The cows that wandered that area would eat the model if they found it! 🙂
This is the type of model we lost. Dad’s had a Rand LR3 system and a Fox .07 R/C engine in case anyone cares. I recently bought an unbuilt kit of the model he lost. Someday I’ll build it and make a park flyer out of it. Curse you dust devils!
So with the loss of the model my dad really “doubled down”. He built a proportional radio and soon the weekend was spent in the desert watching dad try and teach himself how to fly. Dad being an out of box tinker had choose a popular race plane model for that. It was a very hard plane to fly and a terrible plane to try and teach yourself with!
Here is a picture of the type of plane dad chose to teach himself to fly:
Needless to say we weren’t spending a lot of time at the flying field. It was mostly unload, set up the plane, a crazy show for a minute or two as dad tried to control the plane ending in us kids running out into the desert to pick up the pieces! I think he rebuilt that plane a dozen times. He later built yet another race model. This time a model known as the Knarf. Once again dad being dad he even designed his own airfoil for it!
So once dad had crashed whatever model he brought out it was back in the station wagon, stop by a fruit stand run by a guy named “Jerry” for a cold pop and a bag of chips for each kid. After some time my dad finally realized that maybe some other type of plane would be easier to learn to fly with. A friend of his gave him a wing for something called a “Senior Falcon”. Here is a Sr. Falcon kit:
Dad decided he was inspired by the movie “Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines” and designed a plane inspired by some of the planes in the movie. He painted like some sort of WWI German fighter and “Das Fleigen Keiken” was born. Apologies in advance for the translation. It was supposed to called “The Flying Chicken”. Darned if that silly thing didn’t turn out to be an amazing plane! Here is a picture from the that movie that sort of looked like dad’s plane:
Dad was soon flying it flight after flight with virtually no bad endings! Well, he did once hit himself with it but only after it landed, he was so mesmerized by it landing he never thought to step out of the way! But it did the trick, dad went on to become for the time a very successful R/C pilot!
So over time we got another radio system for me and then my brother. My mom and sisters finally decided despite the pop and the chips after every outing that spending hot AZ days in the desert at a dirt strip surrounded by loud things that randomly crashed around them was not so fun. So they stayed home. My brother and I however couldn’t get enough of it. Soon I was building and flying my own R/C planes! Here are pictures of a few of the types of models I built and flew:
So as I got older my family had friends with full size airplanes and I learned another rule in our family. Under no circumstance were we to fly in a full size airplane! So even though we had friends that would have loved to have taken us up we were not allowed to go. One time a friend of my dad did show up with a Cherokee Six and my dad, my brother and I were flew once around the airfield. I think were were in the air maybe 15 minute. Otherwise no flying! I was also told as I got older my dad would support me going into any career so long as it was not aviation related. The U.S. S.S.T. program had just imploded and he considered it a poor choice of careers. He later added that as long as I was living at home I was NOT to take flying lessons. So I loved planes but was basically told models was it, the real thing was off limits.
Becoming a semi-adult!
So I went to college. I started out thinking I was going to become a physicist, then an physical oceanographer because of my love of the ocean, which again my dad made pretty hard for me to enjoy by moving us to the middle of a desert! Then I studied music for a couple of years, changed to buisiness data processing (yes they called it that back then) finally mathematics/computer science. That whole journey may come up in a future blog! The colleges I was proud to attend:
I got married because everyone else was getting married (married my best friend at the time), got divorced because everyone else was getting divorced (we were way better as friends than as a married couple!) I realize in the mid 80’s that I could do R/C again as my Ex’s issue with it no longer mattered. So I really threw myself back into that. There was a great new flying field in Mesa, AZ near where I lived and for about a decade I was pretty obsessed with R/C modeling. I even created a national scale racing class!
Here is that club’s (The Arizona Model Aviators) current flying field, they had to move when they lost the old location to a golf course:
It took me a bit longer to realize dad could no longer say I couldn’t get a pilots license. I didn’t have that moment of clarity till the mid 90’s. So when I finally did sort that out I decided to get my pilots license.
My timing was fortunate. A local FBO had just bought a fleet of DA-20 Katanas. The first in the U.S. In fact so early I wasn’t able to do my early training in them as the FAA still had come hoops in mind for the planes to jump through. But about the time I soloed I could transition my training to the Katana. What a wonderful plane that turned out to be. Soon I was the first person in the U.S. to get my private pilots license in a Katana!! Wooo!! I was a pilot!
I should mention about the same time a couple of friends became interested in racing a full size airplane at Reno and I pitched in to help. So the “Bad Idea Racing” team was formed and my friends acquired a F-1 racer. A Cassutt. The racer:
Of course life never quite makes things as easy as you hope. My career needed to get some attention and I was offered a job in Houston with Compaq. I’d spent virtually all my life in the Phoenix metropolitan area and I felt it was time to move and experience life someplace new. Houston and Compaq campus:
When I moved I soon became the president of the Compaq aviators and still flew regularly. In the end I really didn’t see the charm of Houston and ended up back in Phoenix. I was very very focused on the new job there and slowly found I wasn’t fly much. I had a number of friends that owned planes and they flew a lot but I discovered as someone that only rented I really couldn’t join them on most of their flying adventures. Occasionally I’d book a Katana and join for a breakfast or lunch flight somewhere but I’d be under the gun to get the plane back. So I really wasn’t flying much and I sort of put it aside. I have to say it wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying some other distractions, the music scene around Tempe was awesome so that became my primary focus. But the flying bug slowly went dormant.
Soon I was given the opportunity to join Microsoft and that moved me up to Seattle where I live today. But I quickly became discouraged even more regarding aviation. I didn’t see the weather as allowing much flying and the model aviation situation in the area really didn’t inspire me. I did make one last attempt to get back to flying. I flew back to Phoenix to do my BFR (the FAA mandated periodic flight review) over the Christmas holidays in a Cherokee 180. I also spent a few hours in a Katana just for fun. That was 1997.
I always wanted to build a plane and even rented a hangar at a near by airport to build it in shortly after that but I had a career and health scare that killed that dream. I spent a year basically unemployed and recovering from a near fatal blood clot! So while I remained in love with aviation my participation was reduced to air show and fly in attendance as a spectator. Stuck on the ground. I did still attend the Reno Air Races every year for my one “no matter what” yearly vacations but it wasn’t until a friend of mine got his pilot’s license and went in as a partner with his dad in a very “challenged” Cessna 170. Every once in a while he’d invite me to fly with him, mostly to eat breakfast at a near by airport that has a great small air museum. That little exposure however over time was the “sunlight and watering” that the dormant seed of my love of flying needed to stay alive and finally surface again.
I should point out my friend has since went on to acquire a show winning beautiful 170 and still invites me along once in a while for an aviation adventure.
My friends most wonderful Cessna 170:
So it has been a ramble so far to get here. Here is basically now. I realized about a year ago I was spending too much time waiting for the “right” time to start living my life. So late last year I did some soul searching and set on the path to finally check off one thing on my bucket list. OK, a whole family of things, all related to owning an airplane. So step one, get an airplane!
I’ve left out a ton of details and some great stories. I’ll save those for later blogs but I think by now you may have enough background to understand how I came to this place in life. A quick summary of where I am today. I realize I have had a life love of aviation. I realize I have not nurtured my inner pilot. I realize we have no idea how much time we have on this planet. I decided to start checking on a bunch of bucket list items and a first step to make that happen was to buy an airplane. There isn’t a single remarkable thing in any of those observations but now I have built a foundation to start to share the why of the clever plan I crafted to move my life forward. The next installment I will share the journey I took to pick the plane I have purchased. That should be much more interesting to read than this has been, I promise!
I will end the first of a series of blogs about how I “flew the coupe” with this. I have been lucky enough to date to have flown and been checked out in the following aircraft types:
So look for the next chapter soon. Look for “Flew the Coupe! – Defining the Dream of Flight – Part 2“