So it was Friday morning. I was back in Seattle and in my office for another day at work. My plane was in the capable hand of Dennie in Bishop California. All working out as planned. Well, no, nature doesn’t like carefully planned things. I get a call from Dennie. The little bird was not happy that morning. I guess it wasn’t sure it wanted to leave the L.A. basin where it had lived since 1946 for the dreary Northwest of Seattle. When Dennie went to run it up it was clear the engine was not right. Another stuck valve! Bishop seemed to only have one A&P and it turned out he didn’t even get up till 10:00! So there was my plane and where that was going was not clear. Here is the plane in Bishop:
So all I could do was sit and wait. I learned that Rodney had also been trying to reach Dennie to make sure that he and the little plane were fine. When he found out the plane was down with a stuck valve the entire Compton gang was getting ready to hop into Rodney’s Comanche and fly out to sort it out! Have I mentioned how awesome those guys are! But they weren’t even sure where Dennie and the plane were. So we all waited by our phones and waited and waited and waited.
While I waited I studied the charts. I could see that the only reasonable way north from where Dennie was involved a lot of mountains and what looked like a single pass. Didn’t strike me as very Ercoupe friendly if the motor stopped doing the motor thing. So I waited and worried. Images of a shiny aluminum and yellow piles of scrap on some mountainside filled my mind. And I waited.
Finally news!! Dennie and the mechanic had sorted out the valve and added some Cam Guard and other stuff to reduce the chance of this happening again and Dennie was now in Fallon. The plane was flying fine! I could tell the Compton guys to stand down. All was good! Dennie shared that everywhere he went the bird drew a crowd. He also shared he was heading North via the middle or Oregon and hoped to make the Dalles by days end.
But there was still the ugly weather lurking in the background to ruin the plan. So that was the last status I heard and around 2:00 PM Friday. So I sat and waited and waited and waited……
In the mean time here is what Dennie was experiencing:
But weather. Did I mention weather? Well there was that! So here is what Dennie was starting to deal with as he got closer to the Dalles:
The weather was closing in on Dennie. Of course I had no idea what he was encountering. What I did know was the Ercoupe has only so much fuel and I found myself sitting in my office realizing the no matter what was going on the sun was setting and one way or another the plane and Dennie were on the ground! So I waited and worried as were all the Compton gang. I think they may have been worried even more!
Eventually I got the call I needed to hear, Dennie had been closed out by the weather and had not made the Dalles. He had stopped in Redmond Oregon. He was on the ground safe and the little bird was performing wonderfully! I asked him to update Rodney and I went to have a drink with my friend Olan. I will tell you my vivid imagination was not being my friend! Until that call I was conjuring all manner of terrible images of what might have become of Dennie and my new little bird! Stupid brain!! Sometimes its not my friend!
But things were on track. I let Dennie know I was optimistic he’d be on the ramp in Auburn the next day and I made some plans. Saturday morning I heard from Dennie. He woke up to find the little bird’s wings covered with ice! He wisely chose to forgo deicing chemicals on the fabric wings and was waiting for the sun to do what the sun does and melt the ice! So he’d be a little later than planned getting back in the air but the weather here in Seattle was looking decent. He said he’d call me just before he was going to cross the cascades so I’d know when he was coming. We agreed he’d fly an inspection pass before he landed so I could take some pictures.
So I headed out and bought some snacks and beverages, not to mention a few bottles of champagne to toast the hero’s arrival! Got the airport, set out the snacks and waited. Soon I got Dennie’s call and I walked out to watch for my plane’s arrival!! Around 12:30 I could see what looked like my plane coming in from the North! Yup, there was my little bird! My friends and I watched as Dennie flew the runway and then entered the pattern to land. I had agreed to meet him at the fuel pumps so I could top off the tanks. Soon there he was and most importantly there was my new little bird!!
We topped off the tanks and talked about who would taxi it back those last yards to its new home, my hangar. I felt he deserved the honors! So I drove back to hangar and he taxied the bird back to where my hangar is.
Supreme victory! My new plane was home!!
So summary. I own a beautiful classic Ercoupe! I made some great new friends in the process. The world now has a new “Coupe Whisperer” in Dennie. If anyone in the Seattle area needs a “Coupe capable” instructor Dennie is the guy!
A couple of weeks later I got a chance to talk to Dennie more about the trip and he shared he’d had a great time. He got to see a lot of the country he’d never seen before and the trip had given him a break he’d really needed from the daily grind. I was happy I’d found him to help out and he was happy he’d decided to fly it back. Win Win!! Do I wish I could have had been part of that adventure? Sure but I am sure I’ll be making my own adventures in this wonderful plane for years to come!
What we learned about my “Coupe”:
- it burns about 4.5 GPH in cruise
- Seems to go about 105 MPH
- the radio works great
- there is at least one instrument no one can figure out!
- it flies straight and true
- The reduced elevator travel does not make it hard to land
- oil consumption seems fine
- the engine seems to make its rated power
- it draws a crowd!
Right now I’m in sort of a holding pattern waiting for the weather and circumstances to let me get a few more hours in to get comfortable as pilot in command and finish the worlds longest BFR!! 🙂
Then look out world there is going to a wonderful Ercoupe in your skies all the time if I get my way! This dream has been a long time coming!
Now in many ways my adventure has begun! In the next installment I’ll share more about the plane and my plans for it becoming even more awesome! I think this picture that Dennie snapped captures the future I am hoping for!