Flew the Coupe! – Part 4- Ercoupes and the search for mine!

vintage-ercoupe-ad

So I had settled on a plane.  Sadly I couldn’t  just buy a new one.  At one time you could buy a new one from department stores like Macys!

macys

I’d need to find a used one.  There seemed like a lot of ways to find one.  There are some great publications to list airplanes for sale.  These include “Barnstormers” and the old standard of “Trade-A-Plane”.  I had regularly subscribed to Trade-a-Plane for some years but had dropped my subscription by the time I decided to move forward and buy a plane.  I also knew there was word of mouth and the occasional plane for sale at fly-ins.  I started regularly keeping an eye out for that perfect plane.  Here are some of the places I looked to find planes listed for sale:

Barnstormers

Trade-a-Plane

I pretty quickly learned a couple of things.  The first is there isn’t just a single type of Ercoupe.  Over the plane’s lifetime several companies had built them and the designed had evolved.  So it was clear to me I needed to decide what model I thought fit my “mission” the best.  Recap of the mission:

  • Affordable
  • Safe
  • Classic and interesting for fly-in appeal
  • Not likely to required major expenses in the first years of ownership

At first I really didn’t know much about the differences.  As I started looking the first plane I ran across was in “Barnstormers”.  This seemed like a promising lead.  The plane in question was being sold by the founder of a great little Air Museum at one of my favorite regional airport.  Pt. Townsend.  Here is that museum, if you ever get a chance it is worth a visit.

Port Townsend Aero Museum

If you visit be sure to make time to eat the the wonderful Cafe on the airport.  Definitely try the pie!  All the pilots I know that go there love the pie!  Me personally I am a breakfast person so I can also recommend the chicken fried steak!

Spruce Goose Cafe

So the ad basically said the plane was a 1947 Ercoupe.  There wasn’t much details listed other than that.  To be honest I still didn’t know what to look for,  So I made a few calls and made arrangements to have a look at the plane.  I learned the “story” and found over time it was a pretty common story.  The fellow that was selling it really didn’t know much about it.  (this will become a reoccurring experience) He had known the previous owner who was an older gentleman that had a terrible health turn.  He had gone back to Texas and was not expected to live.  So he sold the plane while he still could.  The current owner had the plane put in the museum workshop and gone over to prep it for sale.  He really wanted to make it clear that the plane had nothing to do with the Museum and he was selling very much “where is-as is”.

I also got the feeling he did not believe this was the right plane for me.  He didn’t really have any interest in going through the airplane’s logs with me , he sort of showed them to me and said some lame comment about “do I even know what they mean”?  Kind of condescending.  All airplanes must maintain their histories in log books.  These log book are the legal record of the plane’s mechanical history.  All mechanical work on the airframe and engine must be maintained in these logs.  Not having complete and accurate logs can dramatically reduce the value of an airplane.  As we spoke it also became clear he had no fondness of Ercoupes!  I have found this a lot.  Many pilots really look down on the Ercoupes. 😦

The plane had been cleaned up a bit and polished up.  It was a pretty little plane.  My friend Olan really liked it! Also to be fair I was pretty freaked out at the idea of buying an airplane.  In the end I did confirm that I fit in an Ercoupe.  I had heard I might find them too small.  But honestly I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at or even to look for.

There was a older teenager there helping with the plane (it had a dead battery) He made the odd comment about the plane being under powered because it could hardly taxi up hills!!??  So as I ate a great breakfast at the “Spruce Goose” I planned my next step.  First off I decided not to taxi up hills!

I also  let the seller know I was interested and to let me know if another buyer came along.  When I first talked to him he didn’t think there was a rush on my part.  I found out you can order the complete record set that the FAA has on any particular plane.  So I ordered that.  It comes on a CD in about a week for only $10!  Sadly within a couple of days I came home to a voice mail on my phone.  Someone had bought the plane!  I see now it is registered to someone down in Oregon.  I hope it is a wonderful plane for the new owner!  Maybe we’ll meet up at a fly in and we can compare coupes!

Well, I needed a plan “B”!.  Here is that plane I missed:

img_20160626_093641168_hdr

So I missed this plane.  But I did finally get the FAA records on the plane and I learned a lot.  In fact I figured out that I may have dodged a bullet.  The plane had been basically crashed at least once.  Now if a plane is properly repaired that may not be an issue.  But still.  I also learned that I could not accurately determine how many hours this plane had flown.  I also could not verify the time on the engine.  This is important in particular with the engine.  If the engine has run too many hours it will require expensive rebuilding.

Basically this airplane came with a lot of risks.  I would be gambling on just how much work that I might expect to perform to keep it airworthy.  A couple of other things stood out.  The the fabric on the wings was replaced in 1964.   The good news is that the material used can easily be good that long but the paint used may not be good for that long if it spent time uncovered.   There is something called a “punch test” that is supposed to be performed on this covering regularly.  Recovering the wings on this plane could cost as much as $10,000.  I should mention newer materials are used and if the plane is stored in a hangar or under a cover they may last for decades.

I learned some fun thing about this plane though.  In the early 50’s it was owned the newspaper in Everette Wa!  If I had purchased it I think I would have removed the military markings and added some of the newspaper logos from back then.

In finishing this entry in the blog series I looked back at the records on the plane again.  There would some good things.  It had been upgraded to an alternator.  I am considering doing that to the plane I bought and it will cost me around $800.  It also had shoulder harnesses installed, again I need to do this and that will be another $800.  Finally it has the large baggage compartment modification which might be nice and that is another $700.  But it has the smaller 75 HP engine and has the lower gross weight limit.  Again there is the damage history.  Another thing looking at the photo again I see it has the larger rear windows.  Not as “classic”. Here is what that damage repair looks like in the FAA records:

damage

Again there was a troubling thing missing in the FAA records.  There is no record that the engine has ever received major work.  So there is no way to know what the true condition of the engine was.  If it needed a new engine that would easily add $10K to the cost.  It had changed hands a lot and been based in a variety of places.  Shelton, WA., Olympia, WA., Big Sandy, MT.,  Mesquite, NV., Las Vegas, NV., Alderwood Manor, WA., Mt. Vernon, WA., Snohomish, WA., Seattle, WA., Everette, WA. and Vancouver, WA.  The plane had dropped off of registration after some time in 1971.  It looks like the plane was registered in Canada as CF-CLP.  The original “N” number for this plane was NC3262H and it was changed to the current number when it was returned to the US.  The owner in Las Vegas requested N1210H, maybe that was a lucky number or something!  Again looking through the airworthiness records there seems like a lot of stuff missing.  Maybe there was more information in the logs but since the seller clearly had no interest in letting my study them I’ll never know.  By the way the guy selling it may the curious remark I should at least find one with the 85HP engine.  He didn’t seem to know how easily the 75HP engine was to upgrade to the 85HP engine.  Oh well.

So I’d missed a plane but I think I needed to have that experience to get my head wrapped around the process.  I call it the “waffle” theory.  The first waffle is never very good but they get better after that!  So I started asking around.  I was lucky enough to have become part of  a regional pilots group for the Pacific Northwest.  One of those members had a very nice Ercoupe.  Here is his Ercoupe:

moorecoupe

He made some great suggestions.  The first was that he believed there was an Ercoupe on an airfield called Apex Airpark that the owner had lost interest in.  So I decided to see if I could find that plane and drove out there.  Turns out it is an airport community. A runway surrounded by homes with hangars. What a really cool place to live!  It was on the other side of the Puget Sound from where I lived so I got a nice reason to take a drive.  Apex Airpark:

apexairpark

So I drove around not seeing any easy way to get on the airfield and ended up finding a resident that could help me.  Once I explained why I was there she took me to see the Ercoupe in question and shared there was a second one on a hangar that was also likely for sale.  So the first plane has been tied up outside and looked a bit neglected.  I may very well could have cleaned up nice and it may be airworthy.  It wasn’t clear.  The second one was in a hangar with a very small window.  Turned out that the owner of that plane was out camping and I did speak with him briefly on his cell phone.  His plane looked nice but I was told by the neighbor they thought he might want a lot of money for it.  They also said they thought it had an O-200.   In an amazing coincidence it turned out I had met this friendly woman who showed my the coupe and her husband  before at a fly-in event at the Paul Allen museum in Everette, they have a wonderful “straight tail” Cessna 172!  Airplane people are everywhere!  🙂  I hope to see them again someday at a fly in when I can show them my plane!

So I drove home, even got to take the Bremerton ferry home.  It was a nice day out and about and I thought may have a lead on two possible airplanes.  I called the number given to me for the first plane and left a message.  I never heard back from that owner.  I later saw that the hangared coupe had been posted to Barnstormers.  I hope they found it a good home.  That owner did eventually try to reach my by phone but my plane quest had taken another path by that time.

In the mean time the fellow with the Ercoupe that had given me the Apex Airpark lead suggested that he had considered creating a list of every registered Ercoupe from the FAA database and sending them all a postcard when he was looking for his. Basically, see if someone with a Ercoupe was thinking about selling theirs.  Made sense.   Hey, I am a data driven person.  I liked this idea.  So over a couple of days I scoured the FAA database for every Ercoupe in WA, OR, AZ and CA.  I felt these states would be easier to inspect and buy a plane for me since I lived in WA.

Turns out that exercise taught me a lot!  I also found another online database with the records of any accidents these planes have been involved in.  I also learned I needed to once again focus my search parameters.  I was drinking from the fire hose of possibilities and I needed focus.  So here is the summary of the data I collected.  I had 148 planes to search among.  I had a range of types.  The 415-c, 415-CD,  415-D,  415-E and 415-G. Engines ranged from the C-65, C-75, the C-85, the C-90 and the O-200.  I found out the FAA listed a full range of manufactures.  Engineering and Research Corporation, ERCO and Forney.  I had decided at this time that I didn’t want an Alon and maybe not even a Founaire coupe.   I found the Erco coupe to offer the most “classic” experience that I had decided was key to my perfect plane.

I should get one thing out of the way.  How do you say Ercoupe?

You say it like “Errr” Coupe, not “AIR” coupe.  Now the last manufacturer Forney renamed them to be Aircoupes and those you do call “AIR” coupes.

I should also mention that Mooney acquired the rights to manufacture the Aircoupe and modified it to serve as a primary trainer for folks interested in Mooney aircraft.  This was the M-1o or Mooney Cadet.  They changed the tail to look more like a Mooney and fitted a sliding bubble canopy.  I decided against those.  Here is an M-10 Mooney Cadet:

mooney-cadet

So a quick summary of the relative factors, first engines.

When the Ercoupe was originally designed there wasn’t a suitable engine available so Erco decided to build its own engine.  The came up with a great inverted inline four cylinder engine.  Here is what the engine looked like:

erco-engine

Here is what that first plane looked like with this engine:

il116

Pretty cool engine but it was expensive to make. So when Continental came out with an engine about the same HP for a quarter of the price the decisions was easy.  So they redesigned to cowling and the first production Ercoupe came with the C-65.  A 65HP flat four engine.  Here is a C-65:

a65_8

These engines lacked support for an electrical system and are rare to find in a coupe today.  The most common engine for the majority of the early Ercoupes was the C-75 or the 75 HP version.  Soon it was discovered that by slightly modifying the Carburetor, changing the prop so the engine ran faster you could get 85HP!  That was the C-85.  The C-75 and C-85 could support generators and electrical starters.  After some time Contential did a revision of the basic engine and increased the HP to 90HP by increasing the displacement and some other internal modifications.  This was the C-90.  My research found that the C-90 was the best engine for a coupe.  There was a 100HP engine, the O-200 that could be put in a coupe but because the propellor was not ideal the C-90 performed better.  So I decided I’d prefer to find a C-90.  But I knew now what the differeces were.  I should mention there is a hybrid engine that you can find where you combine a C-85 with the crankshafe of an O-200 with some other mods and you end up with something like a C-90.  Some folks believe this is the ultimate engine for an Ercoupe.  Sometimes this is referred to as a “Don’s Dream Machine” engine.  A topic for a future blog maybe!  So engines:

  • C-75
  • C-85
  • C-90
  • O-200

Now the variants of the coupes.  The first production coupes were the 415-C.  These were built by Erco.  There was a very limited run if 415-D coupes.  These features a higher gross weight.  This required reduction of the elevator travel and the result was that some pilots complained that they were difficult to land.  So Erco stopped making the “D” model and came up with the “CD” which was back to the lower gross weight and previous elevator travel.  There are very few real original “D” models but it is common to find “C” models that have been modified to the “D” spec.  Because there was a demand for the higher gross weight Erco developed a “split” elevator that combined with a spring that made the last of the elevator control noticeable to the pilot.  This was the 415-E and had the increased gross weight again. Some people have changed their elevator for this split elevator to “improve” the landing of the Ercoupe.  Erco went on to release a “F” and “G” model that were largely minor differences in trim level.  Here is the “split” elevator:

split

So then came the sad day where Erco left the airplane  business completely.  The rights eventually come to be owned by a company called Fornaire.  Supposedly Forney which largely sols welding equipment  was interested in the coupes to provide transportation to its salesmen!  With that change the Ercoupe became the Aircoupe.  These were the F-1 Aircoupes.  These came with the C-90 engine.  Fornaire basically sold the rights to a company called Alon.  These coupes can be found as the A1 and A2.  The have a number of differences.  They changed to a bubble style canopy the slid back to open and a host of other features like a larger backage compartment and a more “modern” dashboard.  They also came with the C-90 engine to start with.  I believe towards the end they came with the O-200 engine.  So airframes to chose from:

  • 415-C
  • 415-D
  • 415-CD
  • 415-E
  • 415-F
  • 414-G
  • F-1
  • A-1
  • A-2

I should also mention the Mooney Cadet,  they are rare and have a single tail.  I decided early on I wanted a dual tail!  🙂

Still I’m not done naming all the variables.  There is a category of planes call Light Sport.  You can fly these with no FAA medical, this was a desirable thing for some pilots that worried that they may not be able to qualify for a standard medical. The Ercoupes elegible for this category were the 415-C or 415-CD.  If an Ercoupe was ever updated to a “D” model it can never be used for Sport Pilot flight.  I didn’t care about as I had gotten my medical and the way the law recently changed I probably never have to get one again.

The other consideration was rudder pedals.  The Ercoupe was designed to not need rudder pedals.  They could be ordered as an option but were not needed. You can even add them if you want to for reason.  In Ercoupe the brake was still a single seperate pedal.  In Aircoupes you find the more conventional rudder pedal where the breaks are part of the rudder pedals as well.  So they allowed for differential braking.  I had decided early on I didn’t want rudder pedals.  By the way a woman that was born without arms got her pilots license in an Ercoupe because of the Sport Pilot rules and the lack of rudder pedals!

womanercoupe

There were a couple of other factors.  The windshield of the Ercoupe was originally a flat piece or wrapped Plexiglas.  Later on they came up with a bubble styled windshield.  The rear windows were smaller at first and later on some where fitted with larger rear windows.  Ercoupe wings were originally fabric covered but later on covered with thin metal.  Ercoupes came polished and with very little paint.  Over time many have been painted.  So as I studied coupes here was my dream plane list:

  • flat windscreen
  • small rear windows
  • fabric wings – lighter – more classic – my plane would live in a hangar
  • polished finish
  • Ercoupe not an Aircoupe because I wanted a true “classic” airplane for the fly-ins
  • a C-90 or at least a C-85
  • no damage history
  • hangared – reducing the corrosion fears
  • original styled yokes

So I was still looking at Barnstormers while I was creating my database.   If the plane was one I had the FAA records for I’d look it up.  I also was interested in several planes I saw ads for.  One of the first that caught my eye was this plane.  It is still for sale but I think it might be a sweet plane for a decent price.  I kept it on my short list.  The ad said there was damage history so I was little slow on this one.  I knew I had some work to do to learn this plane’s history if I got more interested.  Here is that plane, I hope its a nice plane and goes to a good owner.  From Barnstomers(it is now listed in Trade-a-Plane):

ercoupe1

I also made one more attempt to contact the owners of the two “apex” coupes with no success.   Here is a picture of the first Apex “coupe” I mentioned from Google Earth:

apex

There were some other planes on the market that did catch my eye.  A former grand champion winner from the Arlington fly-in was for sale for $40,000.  Here it is and now at a slightly lower price:

grandchamp

I felt this was more than I’d spend.  There was a beautiful one in TWA colors that was also pricey in Trade-a-Plane for a similar price.  Again too much money.  I also found someone from that Facebook group I mentioned that seemed to have a wonderful one.  It was painted red and featured a recently rebuilt/upgraded engine.  A crankshaft from an O-200 was used with other internal parts.  A very desirable engine.  Finally he had upgraded the electrical system to an alternator from the original generator.  This again a desirable upgrade.  He was asking a little over $30K and I did think about it seriously.  He was down in Oregon so picking up the plane would be simple.

Here is the very nice one in Oregon that sold very quickly:

06-11-2012-1

So that plane went on my short list.  I also found a very reasonably priced one on Oklahoma.   Seemed like maybe a good value but as I looked into how long it would take me to fly it back to Washington I decided to keep looking.   Here is the Oklahoma coupe:

ercoupe

But my search took an interesting turn.  One nice looking plane in Barnstormers looked interesting.  So I looked up the registration and found out that it had expired.  For some reason the registered owner had not bothered to renew the registration for over three years!  So on a whim I sent an email to the person listed in the ad to ask what the story was.

Well it was a the story I have heard before.  The owner had become ill years back (Parkinsons) and it finally was clear he would never fly the plane again.  The fellow that emailed me back said the plane was in annual and he had just flown it.  He said it was in beautiful shape and flew great!  It turned out to have an amazing for an Ercoupe instrument panel.  So I suddenly got the feeling I may have found the plane I was looking for.  My friend Olan pointed out the the in dash GPS was a good one and still worth $1K + alone.

gx150

I am going to confess that Olan’s comment about the GPS affected me more than it should of, but OK.  So once again the fellow that was managing the sale was not the registered owner and really didn’t know him or anything about the plane.  In fact he didn’t know anything about Ercoupes.  He was part of a groups of folks that hung out at the Compton airport and had agreed to help this fellow sell this plane.  Somehow he’d drawn the short straw!  He confessed he’d just dropped the price by $9K after a buyer had come up to look at it and was interested in buying it but later discovered this plane was a “D” and could never qualify for “Light Sport” status.  There had been some unpleasant exchanges about false advertising and the fellow managing the sale just wanted it over!

But still this one looked nice.

The price was affordable so I scheduled a flight down to LA to look it over.  I was so excited I booked the flight for the wrong weekend!  I scheduled it a week later than I intended.  I also realized I needed to get my pilot chops back.  I hadn’t flow a plane since late 1997.  I had gone ahead and got my FAA medical so now I was ready to get a Biannual Flight Review or BFR to make me legal to fly again.  So I had some work to do!

So I got down and discovered that this looked to be a very nice Ercoupe.  Here is what I found:

img_20160917_153212435

I looked over the logs and answered a few questions.  The engine had been totally rebuilt and upgraded to the 85 HP engine.  The airframe had been well maintained and the wings were covered with a modern Stits fabric.  There had been a little scare as during trying to get the airplane ready for my visit when the engine showed signs of a stuck  valve.  (that would come back later) So a mechanic had serviced the valve guide and that problem seemed solved.  Also the A&P who has maintained the airplane had decided he wanted to see the mags rebuilt.  So when I got to the hangar the mechanic was finishing off installing the fresh mags.  This work was not going to add to the price so I saved $1000 already!  So I taxied the plane around a bit and committed to buy the plane.  The plane looked to have an honest and documentable total airframe time of 1943 hours and 943 hours since total overhaul on the engine.  Very reasonable times.  The fabric looked awesome.  Add a new battery and fresh mags it seemed like a find.  A little of last minute haggling and I was going to buy the plane for $20K.  I couldn’t be sure how long it would take before I could take delivery so I have them a $500 down payment to cover a month of hangar rent.  Rodney, the fellow that was organizing this whole thing basically taped all the logs together and set the other paperwork where it wouldn’t be touched until I came for the plane.  By the way Rodney turned out to an amazing fellow!  He was a Naval aviator and retired TWA pilot!  He also was a very well know powerboat racer!  He even raced unlimited Hydros for a spell. Here is he on the water going very fast:

img_1459

Looking back on it Rodney really was a big part of my decision as it was clear he really wanted to help me decide if this was the right plane for me and once I did how to make it  happen.  As I got further in the sale he really helped pull some things together.  I was still tryng to learn how to buy an airplane and when I got home and looked over the log entries I found that the last recorded radios in the plane were no longer legal!  Yikes, but he assured me that wasn’t the case and helped me confirm it had very nice and legal King radios now!  Panic averted!  He also was extremely helpful getting more details about the details of the plane so I could forward the info to the bank.  Simple put Rodney was awesome!

I took photos of every document I thought I needed to satisfy the bank and the escrow company.   The fellow I was technically buying the airplane from wrote up a simple bill of sale by hand.  I had a beer and a shot of “fireball” with the cast of characters I met there and that evening I was on my way home.  In theory I had just bought an airplane!!  Soon I would learn it isn’t quite that simple!  Here is some of the paperwork I collected:

So this airplane sort of looks almost like that first one I found but she is quite a bit more special!  By the way, that first one was serial # 3887 and this one is serial #3381.  So this plane was built about 500 planes and a year earlier.

So I had ordered the FAA records for the plane.  What I found was very encouraging.  The plane had only three previous owners.  There was also no indication that the airplane had ever been involved in any sort of accident.  The plane seemed to have not been flown for nearly a decade and when the last owner bought it he seemed to have completed a very comprehensive restoration in 1971.  There were some other nice things.  Ercoupes had a problem with wing corrosion so the FAA had ordered all Ercoupes have thier wings inspected.  This one had the wings totally rebuilt with new spars!  Overkill!  Also the owner had re-skinned most of the fuselage.  The airplane had been properly upgraded to a “D” model which meant the gross weight was now 1400 pounds.   So it was now a “D” which is why the previous buyer passed on it and how I got it for $9K less!

The plane was sold new by a dealer in the L.A. basin and had remained there its entire life.  I would be the first owner to move it to an airport out of the L.A. area.  It had legally become a plane September 17. 1946 when it rolled off the factory floor.   At its peak Erco was cranking out 45 planes a day!

ercoupe_factory

Sadly my plane’s “sister ship” N2589H was sold at the same time by the same dealer but looks to have been totalled in 2006 in a landing indecent where it flew into a tree after a go around attempt somewhere in Georgia.

On December 3, 1946 this plane was sold via a mortgage for $4313.56 resulting a monthly payment of $179.74!   That is the equivelant of over $100K in todays dollars!  The last registered owner registered the plane in his name on September 29, 1971.  It was registered in his name till this sale.  It looks like the last time he renewed the registration was 9-15-88.  So the little the plane was flown till the sale was out of registration.  So more early history shows the plane actually was assigned its certificate of airworthiness on October 10, 1946.  Here are the avionics it was first delivered with:

avionics

In 1949 the wooden propeller was replaced with a metal one.

I also came to realize the plane was unique in other ways.  Notice that the top of the cowl did not have bumps.  No, this had the rare short tops plugs and shield cans.   These let the plane keep the original cowl and still have no radio interference from the ignition.  The rare shielded cans:

img_0390

The plane also had a rare sun screen in the center of the sliding windows.  This an opaque panel that slides between the two pull up windows.  You can see it pulled all the way over to the side in the above picture.  It also had some nice details like the combination wing tip position and strobe lights the owner had custom fabricated.  Here are those:

img_0420

So I was leaving Compton pretty happy.  I found a plane, now to just complete the purchase and get it home!

So I got home and shared the news with friends and set about getting the deal closed.  I had decided to finance part of the purchase to make sure I had some cash handy if I should find the plane needed some work when I got it home.  I had completed all the paperwork and the loan was in place.  I had used the bank AOPA had refered me to.  That part of this experience was great.  There company I financed this through:

https://www.usalliance.org/

I highly recommend them!!  But as part of financing with them was the need to use an escrow company to facilitate the deal.  No worries, seemed best for both parties.  But here was the unexpected snag.  The plane wasn’t being sold be the currently registered owner.  It was being sold by a close friend of his.  The airport gang was a bunch of extremely nice older folks that had bought and sold many planes but more in the here is a pile of cash, quick hand shake and simple hand written bill of sale.

The idea of an escrow company getting in the middle was not how they did business.  Add to that that the fellow that was primarily making this sale was not “online” in any way.  So electronically signed document, email or even final payment via wire transfer just weren’t going to happen.  So I scanned and sent every document I had collected to the escrow company and they looked it all over.  They pretty quickly said “uhm, nope” you don’t have anything signed by the currently registered owner that says the fellow that you are trying to buy this plane from owns the plane and has the right to sell it.  So a horrible game began, the escrow company fex ex-ed the required docs down with a completed return envelope.  A week went by and nothing.   Eventually I hear that the seller had sent back something via fed ex but to a different escrow company.  Grrrr.

So when the escrow company got what was sent back it was not the forms that the escrow company had sent but another hand writtent bill of sale with no signature from the registered owner!  In the mean time I get a somewhat panicked call from the daughter of the fellow selling the plane worried that I was trying to cheat them out of the escrow fee.  Ugh.  I assured her I was happily paying those fees.  I then got the escrow company to speak with her husband who was a lawyer to explain what documents were required.  So he promised to get the last required document completed and sent back to the escrow company that weekend.  Alright, all back on track.  In the mean time I am working on how to get the plane from Compton to Seattle. Also how to get current and checked out in the plane.

So you learn if you live in Seattle long enough the weather here stays pretty good till late September but starts getting questionable as October progresses.  So I could see my window to get the plane flown back was closing.  So early next week I contact the escrow company and they say no sign of the docs.  By the way they had said the doc could be faxed back.  So I get in touch with the daughter of the seller and she said it was mailed via normal post!!  Grrr.  She also wasn’t sure about the address other than it was the “right” one.  Double Grrr!  They had already sent something to the wrong address.  So I asked them to fax the documents to the escrow company, not sure how they said they could do it given they had been “mailed” but OK.  Two days later I got word escrow was satisfied for me to set a closing date.  So I set up a closing date of October 2o.  Now to get down there and collect my new bird!  Easy peasy, right!  Well, no…

I had realized I had a potential weekend prior to the trip to retrieve the plane to get an Ercoupe check out.  So I scheduled two and a half days with a fellow named “wolf Edmonds” who had a flight school operation with an Ercoupe .  Awesome I thought!  I could go down there (Oregon), get current and learn the quirks of my soon to be new plane.  I had the previous weekend tried to schedule some time with an awesome fellow named Dennie to start working on getting my BFR done.  But the weekend we scheduled had 20 knot winds on the ground and closer to 45 knots in the air!  Yikes, not ideal if you haven’t flown in 17 years like me!!  But I met him and we went up, I did a couple of pattens of the field a couple fo touch and goes and managed to not get us killed.  In fact I think Dennie was pleasantly surprised, relieved may have been closer!  We had to stop as the weather was getting worse but we talked about the trip to get the Coupe back.

He said he was totally up for flying down with me and us flying the coupe back.  In fact he sort of seemed excited.  I could get my Ercoupe check out and BFR as part of the trip!! What could go wrong. Particularly since I was going to spend a couple of days the weekend before the trip learning the coupe with Wolf.  I’d be current and we’d have a great trip home!  A plan with alternatives in case it went wrong!

So it did go wrong!  The weekend I was supposed to go train with Wolf had terrible weather.  Tornadoes spotted in the area!  The day I would be arriving we might have been able to fly for a couple of hours but it was going to get rainy and massively windy.  The day before the trip I canceled the airline tickets and canceled with Wolf.  Grrr.  But no worries I thought, I was still heading down with Dennie and I would train on the way back!  The weather in Seattle was looking bad the day we left but looked to opening up for a couple of days to let us get back.  So we committed and headed down to retrieve my new bird!  Had I mentioned Dennie while a very accomplished pilot had never flown an Ercoupe.  Yeah, well there was that.  But hey, as they say “no guts, no glory!”  Of course there is also that saying “there are bold pilots and old pilots but no old bold pilots!”  The good news was I’d already insured the plane and we’d be covered based on his qualifications and it was covered me taking training in the plane.

So in summary,  what did I get:

  • 1946 classic 415-D (well a C converted to a D) in excellent shape
  • Flat windshield
  • small rear windows
  • polished finish
  • fabric wings with excellent covering
  • mid time C-85
  • Extremely low time airframe
  • no damage history
  • full panel with a decent GPS
  • fresh mags and battery
  • original styled yokes (turns out mine are installed upside down to not block instruments)
  • some new awesome airplane friends!

Almost everything I was looking for!  The new friends were bonus!  Dennie and I found ourselves the morning of October 21 at the curb at LAX waiting for a ride to the Compton airport from Rodney and discussing the journey home!  Adventure was waiting!  I had just had a major birthday and was about to achieve a major life goal.  To take ownership of my own airplane!

The next blog entry will be about the encounter with the airport gang, checking the plane out, flying the plane and the way we all got back to Seattle!  It should make for a fun read!

The next installment!

Posted in Aviation, Creativity, Entertainment, flying, Musings | Leave a comment

Flew the Coupe! – Part 3 – The “Mission” of My Dream of Flight

mission

So in the previous installment I shared the wide range of airplanes I had considered purchasing.  I was really overwhelmed with options and it was clear I needed to focus.  I recognized I really no longer knew  exactly why I wanted to buy an airplane.  I mean I knew I wanted to fly, but that can mean a lot of different things.  Where?  With who? Under what conditions?  Was there an end goal?  How safe did I need to be while I flew?  How much was I comfortable spending to be in the air?  If I couldn’t sort all that out how I could I get the right plane?

What do I mean by  the “Mission”

So somewhere along the way I was introduced to the idea of the “mission”.  I don’t think I came up with myself but I did start to look at the problem with that focus.  So what does that mean exactly?  Its the idea that you understand all the elements of your flight and what the criteria are for success or failure.  It didn’t need to be exact in every detail.  It certainly wasn’t that I’d need to know to the minute or exact details of the flight.  I knew it wasn’t like I was planning to drop a bunch of bombs on someone but there were parallels that could give me focus.  So lets explore the major elements I realized should drive my airplane selection.

Private Planes for Travel

First lets talk about how someone might want to use an airplane.  One of the first of those for a lot of folks is to travel from place to place.  I have had some real experiences with just how much better  flying from place to place in your own plane can be compared to commercial air travel today.

The first was when a friend took me to the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas from Phoenix where I was living at the time.  Normally that is a relatively cheap flight of around an hour.  This was back when travel with airlines was a lot easier, no security checks and you could expect to get on the plane if you made it to the gate as late as a few minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave.  But even then there was still hassles.  You had to park your car in some big parking area and you walked a lot to get from your car to the gate.  If you had baggage to check more delays both departing and arriving.  It wasn’t horrible, certainly nothing as bad as today but it took time and it was a hassle.

So lets look at that first private plane experience was like.  We agreed on a convenient  time in the morning to leave.  I arrived at the private hangar that the plane was kept at.  The owner kept it at a larger commercial hangar that had the plane prepped and fueled when we arrived.  There was great parking there for folks using their business.  So I arrived, parked my car, met my friends, walked less than a 100 yards to the plane, got in and within 20 minutes we were in the air and on our way!  We probably spent less that 30 minutes from the time we got to the hangar to being on our way.  That same experience if we had decided to go commercial we would have been lucky to be in the air in less that an hour after standing in several lines.  So clearly the departure was a much better experience than if we had flown on some airline.

Now lets look at the flight.  We were flying in a Cessna P210 with something called a “Riley Rocket” conversion.  This meant the plane had a bigger engine and some other modifications to make it faster and more capable.  It could hold six folks but on this flight there were only four of us.  This is a pressurized airplane so we flew up quite high.  With planes flying high almost always means fast.  It also means smooth air.  We were probably only 15 minutes longer getting there than an airliner would have taken.  Of course  inside of the plane is smaller and no niceties like in flight beverage service!  But we got to Vegas almost as quickly as if we had flown commercial.  The arrival was easier as well.  We basically had a similar service to the one we had in Phoenix to leave the plane with when we got there.  So within 20 minutes we were in line waiting for a cab to go to the conference.  The fight home was basically the same experience in reverse with particular emphasis on the fact we left when we wanted to leave.  We were not limited to any airline schedule.  My only complaint was that in this particular airplane the cabin heater was not very effective.  So I was freezing on the way home.  This was early January and the outside temperatures at the altitude we flew home at was something like -10 degrees bellow zero!  Brrrrr!  Here is a picture of a plane similar to the one I flew in:

riley

So lets look at the costs for this arguably better experience.  This is about a $200K airplane.  It probably costs at least $250 an hour over all to operate (fuel+hangar costs+maintenance+annual inspect costs+insurance all divided by the number of hours it gets flown every year).  We probably used the plane for 4 hours total.  So the plan cost us $1000 for that trip but there were four of us so it cost us $250 a person.  At that time a round trip ticket was around $15o for a standard ticket and around double of that to fly first class.  So at first glance maybe it was almost the same costs in the end.  But lets see what we needed to make that true.  First we had four folks on the flight.  I am also not including the cost of the pilot.  Lets say you would be flying the plane yourself.  You would easily spend $10K to get the experience and training to fly that plane.  So it is a pretty expensive alternative in the end.  But it was a nice experience for that specific flight.  If we had needed to go to someplace further our flight time will soon be longer than  that a commercial flight.  And a long time on a smaller plane is not nearly as comfortable as a typical airliner.

I am also not considering that if the weather is poor it may be much safer to fly commercial than by private plane.  If you want to be safe flying in poor weather you need to make sure you continue to keep you pilot skills up and you airplane in good condition.  Critical instruments are going to determine if at the end of the flight you are still living or not.

Lets look at my second experience.  If you are like me you hate to fly commercial.  These days you have to plan for hours to get onto the plane.  You are asked to take off your shoes and submitted to all manner of scans and searches.  You will be charged for things every chance the airline can find a way.  Every bag will cost you.  Folks are always going to push the limits of carry on bags.  Also getting onto and off the plane is a long dragged out experience.  It just isn’t much fun.

So every year I attend the Reno Air Races.  These days I usually choose to drive there.  One year a friend was attending and he was going to fly his own plane.  A Beechcraft Debonair.  His was a very nice example and he is a very competent pilot.  So this a high performance single engine airplane.  It is capable of flying on instruments but is not pressurized.   So its were limited to altitudes below ten thousand feet for the most part.  So my friend had flown up himself and offered to let me fly back with him to Seattle after the event.  I jumped at the chance.  I had flown in the plane before with him and was very confident it would be a great flight.  A side note this was a couple of years ago when there were massive forest fires in the region.  So lets look at that experience.  Here is a picture of this type of plane:

debonair

I met met friend around 8:00 in the morning at the Reno airport where he had had his plane tied down with an FBO on the airport.  I returned my rental car on the other side of the airport and I got a ride to the FBO where his plane was.  My friend checked in at the FBO and paid the tie down bill.  He also made arrangements to have his plane fueled.  His plane easily held enough fuel to get us back to Seattle.  Prior to that my friend had filed a flight plan to allow us to fly an IFR route (basically saying you were flying a more precise route using instruments).  We didn’t need to but it allowed us to take advantage of some air routes and have the safety of having additional radar tracking of our flight.  By the time my friend settled up his bill and we got fuel we were in the plane and in the air 30 minutes after we had gotten to the FBO.  Very hassle free.  My friend quickly had us at our planned altitude and we headed home.  His plane had a beautiful very comfortable leather interior and we had noise cancelling headsets.  We could see how extensive the smoke was from the fires.  It was a very pleasant flight and around four hours later we were landing at Renton airport.  I grabbed my bag and I was at my desk at Microsoft around 2:00 in the afternoon.  This was probably sooner than I would have been back at work if I had flown commercial.  A great flight and a wonderful experience!

So what did this flight cost.  I am not totally sure I have the exact numbers correct but here are my best guesses.  This is a $100K airplane.  I know people that own boats or motor homes that cost more.  His plane over all probably costed $175 an hour.  He probably had to pay $500 for the tie down at Reno.  So total flight was something like $1200. Divide that by two and we get $600 a piece.  A little over double of a commercial ticket.  But so much more pleasant.

The point of looking at those two different flights shows that a private plane can be a very good way to travel.  I have other examples I can think of where friends flew their own planes places with really great results.  I am convinced that having a plane to travel can be a wonderful thing.

Shortly after I moved to Houston I went to  an airshow at Galveston airport.  A great airshow, I hope they still hold it! One thing that really impressed me was a fellow had flown there from Scottsdale, AZ in a home built airplane called a Questair.  They made a slight break in the event for him to head home.  This is a two day drive by car!  This was middle afternoon and I realized he was going to be home in time for dinner!  I was a little home sick and I thought how wonderful that seemed.  There had been another departure break earlier in the day for another airplane and that produced a slightly different result.  It was fun but I’ll save that for later but I will also say it left an impression!  Here is what a Questair looks like:

questair

I love them and would love to have one.  300 MPH!!  You can buy one for less than $100k.  Writing this I want to buy one again!! 🙂

So for quite some time while I dream of finally taking the plunge and getting an airplane I thought about that convenient traveling experience.  I thought that was the “mission”.  But I never found myself in a financial position to feel I could afford a plane for that.  So I never really moved forward with a plan and over time I seemed to lose the dream of flight.  Ot at least as a pilot anyways.

Fast forward to me slowly thinking of flying again.  I was still attending aviation events every chance I got and still thought about a plane but I was mostly letting other things in life distract me from the dream.  But over the last couple of years a good friend slowly brought that dream out in me.  I’d fly with him whenever I got a chance and we largely would fly someplace for breakfast or lunch.  Sometimes regional aviation events too.  Even once in a while we’d even camp out at the events.  It was really fun.

A pattern emerged.  I realized I really enjoyed flying “low and slow” to our various meals.  His plane was not particularly fast but the flying was every bit as fun as the meal!  I realized how much I loved seeing the classic planes we’d see at various fly-ins.  I also started really thinking about the cost of flying.  Finally while I did really enjoy flying in planes that were capable of serious travel I also realized I just don’t have any places I’m needing or wanted to fly to.  The speed of the plane wasn’t big of a factor for me.  I also realized most of the time I’d be flying by myself or on rare occasions a single passenger.

I wasn’t going to be trying to use my own airplane as the primary way to go on trips that had to be in specific dates.  I didn’t need the hassle of being able to fly in IFR conditions.  That my flying would be in good weather and just for the fun of it.

My “mission” would be the following:

  • Low and slow is fine, even desirable.
  • The journey was going to be as important as getting to the destination.
  • I wanted to fly regularly so I needed to be able to afford it.
  • I wanted to regularly  attend fly-ins with a “classic” airplane that might even “stand out”. (I remember going to a fly-in with two friends.  One had an amazing $100K plane that was a newer production plane.  My other friend had a pretty ragged older plane but it was a “classic”.  I was flying with the friend in the newer plane.  We were directed to parking with a hundred similar planes.  My other friend in the “classic” was  directed to a very premium place!  I realized I wanted to be in the “premium” place with my plane!)\
  •  I would mostly be flying by myself.
  • I was going to almost entirely flying during daytime in good weather.
  • It would be a bonus if my plane had a “story”!
  • didn’t want to take on the challenge of finding exotic parts to stay in the air.

So with all that lets build the equation to select the plane.

The criteria for my perfect plane:

  • No need to be particularly fast.
  • Two place is all I need.
  • Classic to be fun to bring to a fly-in.
  • Easy to fly – hey I’m not getting any younger so I don’t want to need razor fast reflexes to keep from bad outcomes.
  • Safe – I’d like to live way past 100!
  • Affordable – Low price to acquire and low cost to maintain and fly.  I didn’t want a plane where I didn’t know if I could afford the annual inspection!
  • Able to operate off of grass on occasion as some classic fly-ins are on grass.
  • Available – I had some rarer planes on my list and I didn’t want this to turn into a life long quest to find the right plane.
  • Maintainable – A rare plane I couldn’t get parts for could end up spending too much time on the ground while I chased some odd part down.  Or a plane I can’t find a mechanic for.
  • Quirky – OK, being honest I tend to enjoy quirky things more.
  • Electrical system – I wanted radios, transponders and I did not want to have to hand prop my plane to fly it.
  • I needed to enjoy flying in it and that meant seeing the world as I flew.  So visibility mattered.

So in the previous installment I called out a lot of possible planes.  Lets look at the ones that came close to meeting all the criteria:

Cessna 120/140

c140

The Cessna met all the criteria and I kept these on the list to the end.  The only negative I saw was I kept seeing the same excellent examples showing up to the fly-ins and sucking up all the attention and awards! 🙂  A great plane I decided wasn’t the “perfect” plane.  Also the visibility out of these while while flying is not ideal.

Short wing Piper’s

These really met most of my criteria.  The Tripacer was briefly in the lead after I met some owners after the last Concrete fly-in.  They made a really great case for the Tripacer.  I also will always love the Vagabond after a family friend flew one to our R/C flying sites when I was a kid.  I decided Tripacers have less fly in appeal than I wanted, Vagabonds are a little harder to find and I have heard too many stories about them being tricky tail wheel planes to fly.  May have been a solid choice.

Triple tail Bellanca

3-tail

Man I wanted one!! I finally decided a little too much money and a little more worrisome due to the tail wheel.  I hope there may be one in my future.  I have also been sad to see them not get the attention at fly-ins I think they deserve.

Globe/Tempco Swift

swift

Money and complexity made me give up on these.

Stinson 10A Voyager or (L-5)

voyager

Looked for one of these right till the end.

DH1 – Chipmunk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I decided outside my budget.  I hope there is a richer “me” in a parallel universe that has one!

PT-19 through PT-23

pt19

Maybe too expensive and I admit I read enough to make me think a little more tricky to fly than I wanted.  I also worried the engine could be hard to get parts for and open cockpit could be cold some times of the year where I currently live.

Curtis Jr.

curtiss-wright-junior

Just couldn’t find an original one.  I did find a couple of replica’s. 😦

Rearwin/Commonwealth Skyranger

skyranger

Looked at these till the end.

Funk

funk

I thought about these till the end.  I heard visibility could be an issue. They seem be hard to find. Maybe this is what I should have bought?   I will always wonder.

Luscombe

luscombe

Prices were all over the map and I wasn’t sure I knew why.  I was also a little scared by the reputation of being tricky tail draggers to fly.  I should mention a really awesome friend/pilot I know ground looped a Super Cub and caused a major amount of damage.  So maybe I am too worried about how I might screw up flying tail draggers.

Navion

navion

Too expensive and more “airplane” than I need for my “mission”.  Cool planes though!

The Reveal!!

So I am going to finally admit I’ve tricked you.  There is one plane I have not talked about.  It was a design that was built to be simple to fly and above all safe.  It featured a lot of elements no planes in the general aviation category had ever featured till it was introduced.  A number of them had been built by several companies over the years.  Parts were still available.  There was a very active owner community.  When they were first introduced you could get a pilot’s license in half the time than other planes because they were considered so simple to fly.  In fact they were designed to be more like driving a car than flying an airplane!  And bonus, there are enough of them to be available and affordable!  Finally they even have some “warbird” cred.  They were even the first airplane to ever be flown with a “JATO” rocket booster!!

So what is this “wonder plane”?  The Ercoupe!!  Here is an Ercoupe:

ercoupe

 

It is a low wing airplane with tricycle landing gear.  It has the rudder controls linked to the ailerons so you steer it like a car.  The elevator travel is limited to make it impossible to stall or spin.  It has great visibility and you can even open the side windows in flight!  A nice one will get attention at a fly-in.  An Ercoupe was even the Grand Champion at the Arlington Fly-in a few years back!

They are affordable to own.  The are so simple that the dreaded “annual” inspection can often be in the low “hundreds”!  Insurance will be as cheap as any plane you can own.  No special training will be required for the most part to safely fly one.  They are faster than many of the other classics.  A good one will reliably do 105 MPH while burning very little gas.  When I thought about it the Ercoupe checked all my boxes!  So when I thought about what I really wanted to get out of an airplane this was clearly the best choice!!

So although there were a lot of possible choices I realized I had finally picked the best type of plane and now I needed to commit.  To help with that I had a chance to talk to a couple of folks that owned Ercoupes and all I heard just let me feel confident that the Ercoupe was the plane I needed!

Now I needed to find one!  The next blog entry will talk about the process of finding a plane.  What I did to find one and the plane I eventually ended up with.  After that I will share some of the amazing things I learned about the Ercoupe and some of my plans for mine once I get it home to my hangar!

By the way, remember when I mentioned a second break in the Galveston Air Show for another plane to depart.  That second plane was an Ecoupe!  The plane left on a much shorter flight.  Back north to its home base at David Wayne Hooks airport.  There was a  headwind so strong (30 MPH) we could see the plane for almost 45 minutes after it took off!  The pilot of that plane may have taken nearly as long to get home as the faster plane flying back to Scottsdale!  At the time I thought maybe that was a bad thing but now I’m not so sure.  🙂 Ercoupes aren’t fast!  But if the journey is the real point of it all then with an Ercoupe all the more time to enjoy the journey!

As a bonus one more Ercoupe picture:

coupes

So be sure to check out my next installment!

Flew the Coupe! – Part 4- Ercoupes and the search for mine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Aviation, Creativity, Entertainment, flying, Musings | Leave a comment

Flew the Coupe! – Part 2 – The Vehicles in My Dream of Flight 

snoopy

So just what airplane to own?

So I have always thought about owning an airplane.  But just what sort of plane?  This installment of the series I’ll share what I first thought I wanted.  In the next installment I’ll focus on what I concluded was my “mission” and the plane I bought to meet that goal!

Homebuilt Airplanes

When I starting thinking about owning a plane I was naturally thinking I would just build one.  It didn’t seem much different than just a big model.  So I’d buy every magazine or book I could find about what it takes to build your own plane.  I even bought a set of plans for one.  So I started thinking I was looking for something fast and that could fly long distances.  So the first thing I thought I would build was a plane called the Rand KR-2.  This really was like building a large model.  It was designed around a Volkswagen engine.  I could still imagine building one.  Someday I still might! 🙂 Here is what a KR-2 looks like:

Here is a KR-2 someone is flying around the world! :

dsc03044-1

I joined the Experimental Aircraft Association and studied how to actually design and build a plane.  I subscribed to Kitplane magazine and others.  I will cover some of my thoughts and experiences related to experimental airplanes in later blogs.

EAA

Kitplane Magazine

An interesting analysis of the KR2

And I even started the process of designing some of my own designs.  I friend of mine got me interested in flying wing designs so I even have designed several of those.  I’ll cover those in details in later blogs.  Here are simple drawings of a few of my designs:

 

I also started teaching myself aerodynamics.  In a way I pursued that education in aviation my dad wanted me to avoid.  I developed my own airfoil software and some very useful spreadsheets to aid in basic aircraft design.  It even lead to me doing some engineering on a very high profile unlimited air racer.  Back in the early 2000’s I even had a very popular aviation web page.  I do plan to make one of those again.  Here is a snapshot of that site using the internet “wayback machine”.  Who knows, maybe some of those links still work!  My virtual hangar: Virtual Hangar

I do still hope to build my own airplane.  Maybe several!  But over time what I’ve really thought about doing is to revive this design.  I will be blogging about that as well in the future.  This is a plane designed in the 30’s that really was remarkable:

snyder-a2

Video of ARUP flying!

I also someday would like to build a replica of the early Boland flyer:

1910_boland_-1e-v_at_the_mineola_fair_grounds_1914

Boland Brothers Early Aviation

But for now these projects are going to have to wait.

It takes a lot of time and resources to build an airplane.  So I decided I should  buy an plane in the mean time.  I now see that I needed to stop thinking we have an unlimited amount of time to get around to do things I dream of.  I do have a lot of thoughts on building and/or designing planes.  I will cover that sometime in a separate set of blog entries.

Lets talk about planes over time I thought  I would like and maybe even could purchase.  Again what I thought was important most of the time was speed and range.  A bonus was given for “Classic” that might make it fun to bring to a fly-in or a warbird (ex military) for the same reason.  I never cared about acrobatics though so that has never been a factor in my candidate lists.  Finally everything about airplanes is a compromise.

Sometime the best plane is not the top plane in a single category.  Sometimes the best is the right collection of factors.  So at the end of the first installment of this series of blogs I shared planes I have flown. Some of those were planes I considered purchasing.

Finally airplanes can be expensive!  Not always just what it costs to purchase them but what it costs to fly them and maintain them.  When you look at the total cost of airplane ownership the initial airplane cost isn’t always the most expensive thing.  For example you can buy and ex military jet fighter for less than $50K but it will cost you $250+ an hour to fly and almost $10K in fuel just to be qualified to fly it!

You can go to a lot of airports around the country and you will see a sad sight.  Planes in various states of neglect.  Sometime not so obvious but others with flat and rotten tires, clouded canopies or wind screens, obvious missing parts that show that they have not been flown in some time. Almost every one of those planes started out as someone’s dreams but along the way something happened to make the owner no longer able or willing to keep the plane flying.  One thing leads to another and eventually the planes sit unused.  Sadly often they reach a point where they are repossessed by the airport hauled away as scrap.  Often the cost to put them back in the air is far past their actual value.  Sad to see.   All it takes is a bad discovery during an airplane’s FAA mandated annual inspection to create a financial crisis.  For example the discovery that the engine finally needs to be rebuilt could produce a $2oK bill.  Even a basically “normal” annual for a complex plane can be thousands of dollars.

I decided I wasn’t going to become part of that terrible cycle.  I would make sure whatever I bought I could keep airworthy and regularly flown.  This became a major part of my decision process.

We will look at what the average airplane will cost you over time a little further in the next installment.  First lets look at planes I considered and what I decided were the pluses and minuses.

Buying an existing production airplane

First the Cheap(ish) and easy to fly

The Cessna 150/152

 

152

The Pluses:

  • Cheap
  • Metal
  • Easy to fly
  • Average cost $20K but can be found as low as $10K
  • 100 HP
  • 100 MPH
  • 2 place
  • Very easy to fly
  • Hangar not required (but I have two hangars already! 🙂 )
  • I have already flown them a lot

The minuses

  • Boring
  • Common
  • Not going to stand out at a fly-in

A lot of pilots have learned to learn to fly in one of these.  There are a lot of these planes around.  It is a smaller two place airplane and not particularly fast.  A little over 100 MPH.  But simple to fly and low cost to own and operate.  This plane remained on my list for most of my search for a plane.

I have to say for a brief period of time I was sort of soured at the idea of buying one by something someone I respect a lot said about them.  He said he couldn’t understand why anyone would consider buying one just to fly.  I was younger when I was told that and I did sort of think I wanted something faster and “sexier”.  To do more than “just fly”.  Now I think a bit differently.

I should also include a couple of variants.  The picture above is an acrobatic version of the 152.  I don’t have any interest in acrobatics so that wouldn’t matter.  The other is the plane that Cessna built that was the “first version”.  That was the Cessna 120/140.  The 120/.140 plane had a conventional landing gear with a tail wheel which makes it a bit trickier take off and land.  While I have flown a plane with this type of landing gear I would have to take some additional training to get the FAA “endorsement” to be able to legally and safety fly that type of plane.  The Cessna 140 family of planes are considered “classic” which does appeal to me.  By the way I should mention a couple of things that can be done to the Cessna 150/152 planes.  They can be converted to tail wheel landing gear.  The engine can also be upgraded to one with more HP.  Some folks call the tail wheel version the 152 a “Texas Tail Dragger” .  Here is what that looks like:

texas-tail-drager

Bonus edition, the original “straight tail version of the 150 is in my mind a little cooler.  I almost bought a nice one of those at a bargain price several years ago but decided it was a little to claustrophobic for me.  That particular planed had been named “The Puppy” and I hope the current owner is really enjoying it!

 

Here is a “straight tail” 150:

cessna150-straight-tail

Cessna 120/140

c140

Everything I said about the Cessna 150 but this as well:

Additional plus:

  • Classic
  • A nice one will stand out at a fly-in

Additional minus

  • Trickier to take off and land
  • More training required to get the tail wheel endorsement
  • Some have fabric wings  (maybe I don’t care that much)
  • 120s don’t have flaps (flaps can be desirable)

There is a great book that inspired me when I was young about a lawyer who found flying a great way to deal with a midlife crisis.  He stared in a Cessna 140.  A great read:   Weekend Pilot  His Cessna 140:

weekendpilotsm

Cessna 140 Pilot Report

Summary – Hard to go wrong but not enough “stand out” for the most part except maybe the 120/140.

Piper Cub

Pluses:

  • Fun to fly
  • Classic
  • Cheap to operate
  • 40 HP to 200 HP
  • 70 MPH to 120 MPH
  • You can put it on floats!
  • A nice one will stand out at a fly in
  • Almost every pilot says that they want one at some point in their career
  • I have flown one a bit
  • You can fly one into and out of most anywhere

Minues

  • Fabric covered
  • Can be expensive to purchase
  • Tail wheel
  • Purchase price – as much as $100K

The Piper Cub is the basic airplane a lot of folks think of anytime they think about a small plane.  The “Cub” has been around since the late 30’s.  It started out with only 40 HP.  More modern versions have much larger engines.  The plane is entirely covered in fabric so you are going to want to store it at a minimum covered but ideally indoors in a hangar.  These planes have a following and as a result they are expensive.  They also in the “Super Cub” version which appears to be the same plane is actually not the same as the original design is a very popular plane for flying to more challenging destinations.  They can be excellent “Bush Planes”.  So if you want to fly out to camp or hunt/fish or just land on a short runway the Super Cub is going to be a great choice.  While I like the Cubs I never really thought of them as worth the money for me anyways.  The Super Cub also is a great planes to put on floats:

super-cub-floats

Flying an original Cub

Summary – Not a bad choice.  Maybe a little to pricey to acquirer.  Popular.

Short wing Piper’s

Pluses

  • Cheap to acquire – Cost to acquire $12K to $35K
  • Cheap to operate
  • Classic
  • Easy to fly for the most part
  • 2 to 4 place
  • From 65 HP to 120 HP
  • Simple
  • A nice one will stand out at a fly-in
  • 70 MPH to 120 MPH
  • Available

Minuses

  • Fabric – Some have been metalized
  • Tail Wheel
  • A lot of run down aircraft to pick through
  • Often fitted with an add on wing tip I hate (silly, I know, same true for some Cherokees too!)
  • Vagabonds and Chief’s sometimes do not have an electrical system,  I like radios and having and electric starter

So Piper built some other planes I considered.  I sort of lump them all together.  This include the Vagabond (a family friend crashed one in a local cemetery when he ran out of fuel 🙂 ), the Pacer/Tripacer , Chief and the Clipper.  These are generally two place planes and fabric covered.  Some have tricycle landing gear.  They can be reasonable affordable.  They are considered “Classic” for the most part.  They are generally very basic airplanes.  Some folks consider some models on the tricky side on the ground.  I definitely have always considered these aircraft as worth considering being the one I eventually owned.

Tripacer Pilot Report

Summary – High on the “short list”. Maybe not enough fly-in cred.  Some have a reputation of tricky on the ground.

Grumman AA1

aa1

Pluses

  • Affordable – I’ve seen them as low as $12K
  • Fun
  • Tricycle gear
  • Low wing
  • Bubble canopy
  • 100 HP
  • 110 MPH
  • Can be hot rodded
  • Available
  • Metal
  • Easy to fly
  • Canopy can be opened in flight
  • 2 place

Minuses

  • Known to not do well on short runways
  • Easy to overload
  • Concerns with de-lamination
  • Not going to stand out at a fly-in

I have always liked this family of airplane.  They actually started out designed as a kit plane from a fellow name Jim Bede.  Grumman bought the rights and produced a great little trainer plane.  These started out with the same engine as the Cessna 152 but many have had larger engines put in them.  I think they are great looking little airplane.  I like the low wing design and the bubble canopy.  You can even open that while flying!  They had two different airfoils over the life of the design.  The first one was “faster” and often called the “hot” wing.  The new wing was considered a better choice to train new pilots with.  I really have always thought about buying one of these.  Everyone says they fly great.   They do have some things to be careful about.  They are largely “bonded” together as opposed to “riveted”.  And some aircraft have had to be repaired when the bonding failed.  The possibility to modify these planes is great.  As I mentioned some folks put in larger engines and even change the tricycle gear our for conventional gear.  A “hot rod” version of this plane can reach speeds of over 195 MPH!  Overall they seem like a pretty decent little airplane.  The little Grumman stayed on my list right up to the end.  In fact I could still see owning one.  I haven’t made mention of the AA5 Grumans, they are 4 place and more horsepower.  These include the Traveler, Cheetah  and the Tiger I got checked out in them when I lived in Houston and I did think about buying one of them a little bit.  Still I don’t need a four place airplane.

Summary – Decent practical airplane that I would have done well with.  Not much fly-in appeal.

Beechcraft Skipper

skipper

Pluses

  • Good flyer
  • Tricycle gear
  • Low wing
  • bubble canopy
  • Beechcraft quality
  • Metal
  • $35K if you can find one
  • 100 HP
  • 110 MPH
  • 2 place

Minuses

  • Hard to find
  • Beechcraft prices
  • Not going to stand out at a fly-in

 

I really like the Skipper.  I hear it is a great little flyer.  They just seem a little too rare and when you find one a bit expensive.  Also anything Beechcraft builds is going to be expensive if you ever need parts.  Still I bet they are nice little planes.

Summary – Decent practical airplane that is a little hard to find and maybe pricey for what it is. I would have done well with one. Not much fly-in appeal.  Often confused with the Piper Tomahawk. 

Misc. Airplanes I thought about but rejected

These are planes I considered but rejected as I think you might be able to find one occasionally at a bargain price but I rejected with why I did.   This could turn into a bit of a “Goldilocks porridge” exercise.  For some of these the reason for rejection may not be elaborated on much.

Aero Commander Lark (or Darter)

lark

Pretty rare and all over the map price wise.  Reasonable performance but not very efficient.  I worried about parts.  Probably a decent plane but a little to hard to find in the end.  I did like the unique nature.  In the end it really wouldn’t get noticed at a fly-in.

Summary – Rare with not much upside

Piper Tomahawk

tommahawk

Not to be confused with the Beechcraft Skipper.  I just never liked this plane.  No specific reason.  I just don’t.  I know some folks love them, just not me.

Summary – I just don’t like them

DA-20 Kartana

da20

I simply love these!!  I do however prefer the Rotax engine (they swapped those out for a Continental engine and eliminated the constant speed prop). They are just too pricey for me to have considered.  If I was still able to rent one I would have never stopped flying and would be current today!

Summary – I love them but to expensive and a little hard to find with the Rotax

V Tailed Bonanza

v-tail

I love them and there are some affordable ones out there.  But they can be expensive to own and operate.  They are also complicated to fly and have a reputation of being “Dr. Killers” as folks with more money than sense seemed to be attracted to them when they first came on the market.  Turns out after a while a design “defect” was discovered that could cause the tail to break off at high air speeds so there was a fix designed for that.  Largely the real solution turned out to be don’t fly into IFR conditions with no training or preparation then become disoriented and lose control.  That is good advice for any plane.  Still, what a sexy plane!

Summary – Forbidden love.  I worried I couldn’t afford to own and fly one. Maybe too much airplane for the “mission”.

Beechcraft Musketeer

beechcraft-musketeer

A solid decent plane.  Of course Beechcraft parts are priced like they are made out of unobatnium!  Some folks say you can stall the flying stabilizer flaring on landing and damage the nose gear.  No idea if that is true.  The seem affordable and would be a not bad choice.  But in the end I’d probably just buy a Cherokee if I decided this is the kind of plane I wanted.  There is a great book about women hired by Beechcraft in the sixties to promote this plane.  Worth a read!!  The Three Musketeers!

Summary – Decent airplane but not perfect for the “mission”.

Mooney  M20

m20

Again I love these planes but a little more expensive than I wanted.  A little more complicated than I wanted.  Still a favorite plane to be sure.  At one point in the late 90’s I did almost buy a nice early model that had a wood wing.  At one time I would have bet you I’d own one!  These days, not so much.

Summary – Slightly too much of everything and not enough “stand out” at fly-ins

Bellanca Viking

viking

OK. there is so much I love about these planes.  Hand built wooden wings and fabric covered steel tube fuselage and tail feathers.  They are fast.  Supposedly fly like a sports car.  They are borderline affordable to buy but they are complex enough to be possibly costly to own and fly.  While they should stand out at a fly in they really don’t.  In fact most folks, even pilots know little about them.  Quirky high performance plane that at times I have dreamed of owning.

Viking Pilot Report

Summary – A little to costly in the long run and not always much “sex appeal”

Triple tail Bellanca

3-tail

The poor mans “Connie”.  I really love these and I could end up with one some day.  Just not now.  They are fast and supposedly awesome to fly.  A little quirky, for example the retractable landing gear is cranked up by hand (some have been converted to electric).  They have that same wood wing fabric combination in the later Viking.  They however came with an older Franklin engine.  That worries some folks as there are no parts being made for those anymore.  Since no one knows what they are they sometimes get missed at fly-ins.  Because  it is a retractable gear complex tail wheel airplane insurance can be expensive.  There is a very rare later version with tricycle gear.  So I love them but at this point in my pilot’s journey I can’t see getting one.  Someday maybe!

Cruisair Pilot Report

Summary – Someday somehow!

Globe/Tempco Swift

swift

Sweet little planes.  Beautiful with a reputation of being a little tricky to handle on the ground.  They are a little rare but when you find one it is very common to see the plane modified.  Bigger engines, bubble canopies and other modifications are popular.  There was even an attempt to being them back into production.  A nice one will stand out at a fly-in.  But pricey and I worried about insurance.

Flying a Swift

Summary – A beauty but at a cost.  To much plane for me right now?

Varga Kachina

kachina

So much to like.  In line seating, a control stick, war bird looks and affordable to own.  At one time you could even rent one at the airport I learned to fly at.   Looks are also a little misleading as its not a particularly high performance airplane.  Although the in line seating seems cool I think I like sitting next to my passenger better.  I just never could find one for sale.  If I had I have no doubt I would love it.  Of course as soon as I finished writing about the Kachina I googled and found one for sale at a decent price.  Ugh! 🙂

Summary – Lovely but seemed to me as rare as hen’s teeth and can be pricey

Stinson 10A Voyager or (L-5)

voyager

So a lot to like.  Supposedly a decent plane to fly.  I didn’t find many on the market when I went to look for one.  Some have Franklin engines which could be a problem.  I really fell in love with them after seeing a decent one for sale at a fly-in.  Some actually have a military past which is cool.  All I’ve hear is they are nice to fly.  They are rare enough that a nice one will stand out at a fly-in.  Maybe I should have looked harder?

Stinson L5 Pilot Report

Summary – The road not chosen

Stinson 108

108

Another plane I agonize about.  There are plenty of these around.  They are pretty capable and I hear nice to fly.  Some have the same problem with the Franklin engine although many have had the engine swapped out.  Some have been “metalized” which is to say some of the fabric replaced by thin metal.  These can also be put on floats.  In the end I really don’t need a four place airplane and I think I let the Franklin engine sour me on these.  This type of plane could very well have been a great choice.  Here is basically an abandoned one on floats near where I live.

img_20140507_172545163_hdr

Summary – I don’t need a four place plane and  I am not sure about the engine

Cessna 170

wvicessna170

I mentioned a good friend has one of these and I had a chance to buy his old one for a bargain price.  It’s a great plane for him as he has a family and they can all fit in it and go places.  But in the end I decided I don’t need a four place plane.  He even says he expects to “downsize” once his son has “left the nest”.

Cessna 170 Pilot report

Summary – reasonable but I don’t need a four place plane

Cessna 177-RG

177rg

I am mentioning this plane just because I flew one and liked it.  Just too expensive and more plane than I need for my “mission”.

Summary – Nice but more than I want to spend or need

Cessna 172

c172-2

Boring and four place.  A solid airplane but boring.  I did consider an older “straight tail” one of these but again, four places which is two more than I need.  If I need four places I’ll go rent one.

Straight Tail 172 Pilot Report

Summary – boring, maybe the “straight tail” would be better.  I don’t need four places

Other Cessna models I passed on.

  • C-182 – too much plane and pricey
  • C-172RG – too expensive and four place
  • C-175 – geared engine and rare

Piper Cherokees

cherokee

I like this line or aircraft a lot.  You can buy one that really is for all practical purposes a two place airplane.  That is the Cherokee 140.  You can also buy these that are honest four place airplanes, even one that is a six place airplane.  These are honest, mostly affordable and practical planes.  I thought long and hard about buying one of these.  In the end they just aren’t ever going to be fun to bring to a fly-in.  By the way I am not calling out the later “taper wing” Cherokees like the “Archer” and “Arrow”.  I’d probably want the “hershey bar” wing.  No reason, I just like them better.  Maybe I should have decided to buy a Cherokee 180, there was one in Houston I flew regularly that I sort of came to love.

Summary – Great practical planes but no “wow” factor.  Maybe what I should have bought.

Rockwell 112/114

rockwell

So If I ever decided I needed a more capable plane to carry a few people in this would be on my short list.  They have a wider than typical cabin and are supposed to be comfortable to fly in.  They sacrifice a little speed for that comfort.  They are supposed to be nice to fly.  But they are complex, more airplane than I need and too expensive I expect.  Still I wanted to mention them.

Summary – A great airplane for a very different “mission” than mine and outside my budget.

A few more exotics I did ponder

DH1 – Chipmunk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I definitely thought a lot about one of these.  They are supposed to be really nice to fly.  They are real warbirds and fun at a fly-in.  They are a little quirky in some ways.  The brakes for example are a combination of a single lever and a cross bar for steering.  They have a possible difficult engine to maintain.  Finally the price to buy one would have been a stretch for me and there don’t seem to be many on the market.

Flying a Chipmunk

Summary – Awesome plane that is a little out of my range and maybe difficult to own.

PT-19 through PT-23

pt19

I did think about one of these.  It would have been a stretch to have purchased for me.  I was also a little worried about flying one.  They were original military trainers.  I’ve heard conflicting things about them.  Also open cockpit may not be ideal for flying in the PacNW where I live now.  So worth considering but maybe not a good fit for “the mission”.

Summary – Fun and worth considering but maybe not a good first plane for me.

Curtis Jr.

curtiss-wright-junior

A very cool classic.  Pretty rare though.  There are some replicas around.  Could be fun but I decided just a little too challenging to find for my first plane.  I will keep my out for one and maybe in the future I will find one to acquire!

Summary – Cool plane but maybe too hard to find the right one.

Rearwin/Commonwealth Skyranger

skyranger

So I am going to admit I knew nothing about these planes till a few years ago.  I was camping at the local Concrete Classic plane fly-in with a friend and we were next to a beautiful example of one of these.  It was for sale for around $20K but at the time I really hadn’t settled on a plan to buy a plane.  The are either rare or common depending on who you talk to.  I hear they are decent to fly.  Maybe I should have looked into them more.  At any rate they were near the top of my list right up till I found and bought the plane I did.

Flying a Skyranger

Summary – Unusual classic airplane I could afford and I think enjoy. A strong maybe.

Funk

funk

So here is another plane I really didn’t know about till a few years ago.  I first saw one in an wonderful air museum.  The WAAAM Air & Auto Museum. If you ever get a chance to go there you should!  Its wonderful!  So I discovered the “Funk”.  Originally these were powered by a converted Ford Model B engine!!  Of course I don’t think there any flying with that engine anymore.  In the end I decided against the Funk as I am concerned I wouldn’t fit in one and I was worried about the visibility out of one.  If someone reading this has one and wants to give me a ride let me know.  Because on some many levels this seems like a near perfect plane for me!

Flying the Funk

Summary – Awesome classic I maybe should have looked into more. Maybe I still should!

Luscombe

luscombe

I thought long and hard about these.  They seemed to check off a lot of boxes.  Affordable, control stick, decent performance, classic.  They however have a reputation of being tricky on the ground.  One bonus a wonderful book was written by a woman about flying one around the country.  That book was a lot of my inspiration for my current journey.  Zero Three Bravo.  If you get a chance its a fun read.
Luscombe Pilot Report

Summary – Good choice but maybe a little tricky on the ground.  Always a favorite!

Navion

navion

Interesting plane.  Designed right after WWII.  Some say it was the civilian version of the Mustang.  I like the look of them.  Sometimes you run across affordable ones.  However its a complex airplane that could eat you alive financially while you own it and fly it.  Also maybe not as fast as it looks.

Navion Pilot Report

Summary – Nice classic that is just too complex and expensive for my “mission”.

Meyers 200

meyers-200

Rare, costly and complex.  Sure is a beauty though.  At one point it looked like it might be brought back into production.

Flying a Meyers

Summary – Rare, complex and costly.  Easy to confuse with a Navion

Other Misc. classic light planes.

I’m mentioning these for the sake of creating a complete list of things I considered.

  • Aeronca variants – decent if slow and a lot don’t have an electrical system.  Aeronca Champ Pilot Report
  • Interstate Cadet – Great classic, can be a little expensive and again some lack electrics.  A fun airshow act with a Cadet: Cadet Air Show Act
  • Taylorcraft – decent if slow and a lot don’t have an electrical system.  Taylorcraft Pilot Report
  • Culver Cadet and variants – Interesting little wood airplanes.  Used as target drones in WWII.  A little rare.  Maybe affordable.  A cool classic for sure but maybe a mixed bag to locate and own.  Maybe not.
  • Mooney Mite – somewhat rare and single place. Mooney Mite Pilot Report
  • Assorted homebuilt airplanes – I think there are some decent cheap options for getting into the air that folks built themselves.

Yaks in various forms

So these planes started being imported from China and Russia a while back.  You can find them still in crates for $30K.  That said you are probably going to end up spending some money to make them flyable.  I had a friend buy a Russian one.  It was fun but a little quirky.  For example the engine is started using compressed air and turns backwards from most normal engines.  Brakes are also operated using compressed air.  The reason is batteries do not do well in the extreme cold these planes were expected to operate in.  Very tempting I have to say.  But in the end just too much everything for what I feel comfortable buying right now.

Flying a Yak 52

Summary – Cool planes that are tempting in the same way the Sirens of old were that led you to your doom on the rocks!

Lake 180

lake-180

So I have to mention the Lake!  How does this not look like the perfect plane for the PacNW?  You can find them at affordable prices.  I’d need to get a seaplane rating and they are supposedly quiet expensive to own.  The Dr. that did my last flight physical owns one and says it costs him over $250 an hour to fly when he works out what the full costs are.  Still, pretty cool!

Summary – Cool but kind of out of my budget.

Republic Seabee

seabee

Again, this looks like a perfect airplane for the PacNW!  Sometimes they can be found for what seems like an affordable price.  At one time these were really common in the Seattle area.  A lot of the Dr.s bought them when they first came out .   The well know Kenmore Air was know as “specialists” for them.   These days they are pretty rare.  They were built right after WWII by the folks that made the P-47 fighter!  And they are built like it.  They aren’t very fast but can taxi right up to a beach and then you can walk through the front and not even get wet.   Then back off off the beach when you are ready to leave because the propeller can go into reverse pitch!  They came with the Franklin engine many folks say to avoid.  Over all these seem seriously cool but I think I would find it exceeding my budget to operate.  Still I love it when I see one.

Summary – Awesome but not for my tax bracket.

Searay Homebuilt

searay

OK, I can see myself building and owning one of these.  Once you get one I think you can enjoy flying it and not go broke.  I decided in the end however they are just outside my comfort zone price wise to purchase (for now).  Someday I hope!  Richard Bach wrote a wonderful book about buying one and then flying it from Florida to the Seattle area.  Travels with Puff

Summary – Someday but a little too pricey to buy right now for me.

In closing

So that just about covers everything I gave any serious thought to while I dreamed of owning a plane.  I left out some thing that were just to far out in terms of money, rarity, complexity or extreme in other ways to be considered serious options.  I will have to do a “when I win the lottery dream planes blog sometime”!

So I’ve shared the stuff of my daydreams and even some of my early never executed plans.  Now we need to move on to how my thinking evolved.  I realized that settling on what I wanted to get out of any plane I bought was key.  So the next entry into this series will be about clarifying the “mission” and the plane that clarity led me to purchase.  After that I can start into sharing the process, the early promise, the disappointments, some curious discoveries, frustrations and the actual reality of buying my plane.  There have been some interesting moment!

I hoped you enjoyed this and I hope you tune in the the next installment:

Flew the Coupe! – Part 3 – The “Mission” of My  Dream of Flight

 

 

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Flew the Coupe! – Part 1 – The Pursuit of the Dream of Flight 

1941-jato-first-flight

It begins!

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:

cv9_2

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:

john-wayne-700x357

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!

sunnyslope

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:

sandiego

But here is where is pretty much where I was playing instead! :

az

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.

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.

luke

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:

hoover1

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!

wingwalkers-12

UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 01: Miss Gladys Engle, one of the most daring aerial stunt performers, is shown balancing on plane’s wing. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

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:

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:

clflying-small

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!

willard

 

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!

esquire_2

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:

midget-mustang

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:

sr-falcon

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:

those-magnificent-men-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:

ama-field-picture

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!

da20

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:

cassutt

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:

c170

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:

 

t-34

So look for the next chapter soon.  Look for “Flew the Coupe! – Defining the Dream of Flight – Part 2

Posted in Aviation, Creativity, Entertainment, flying, Musings | Leave a comment

Guns Guns Guns!!

So I’m trying to take a break from Presidential politics but with recent events and have been deluged with a fire hose of gun nonsense I feel compelled blog about guns.  Today I want to talk about the guns themselves.  I find it amazing how many folks I run into don’t seem to know even the basics about guns.  in the future I’ll tackle the mess of gun rights and bigger picture issues.  But for now, guns, a bit of background about them, some myths, some facts, a little of trivial and hopefully at the end we can clarify some misconceptions.

Guns Guns Guns

Some background

GUN: A definition:  a weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells, or other missiles are propelled by explosive force, typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise.

Well that seems simple enough!  Time to go home!  Oh, wait, there may be a few more details to cover.  So a gun is something you use to in theory aim and fire a projectile at something.  They can trace their history back to cannons and before rockets and fireworks. Carrying around a cannon proved to be challenging and pretty much wasn’t going to work for concealed!  So the basic idea of exploding some mixture of chemicals to drive a ball out of a pipe evolved.  First developments were around making them work better.

Feel free to skip ahead if you aren’t interested in some of the history of guns.  Also I don’t claim this is all the best capture of the history of guns, I’m mostly leaving out things like dates and the names of folks that had a hand in all this.  I don’t claim to be a historian.  Maybe if anyone cares I’ll go back through this and add more of the details and maybe even point out some oddities and dead ends.   For example, did you know for a little while you could buy a hand held rocket launcher?

Gyrojet rocket gun

Where we all started and the path to now

Early on folks noticed aiming them was complicated by the fact the goofy ball seemed to have a life of its own.  Anyone who knows about baseball has probably encountered the knuckle ball.  Pitch a ball without any spin to stabilize and and air makes it go all over the place.  So gun makes developed a way to spin the projectile to stabilize it.  They did this by putting spiral grooves in the barrel of the gun (the long thing the bullet shoots out of for aliens just now visiting earth for the first time, oh wait you may have learned that already because if anyone saw an alien they probably shot at them!).  Interestingly enough some guns retained the smooth barrel for specific reasons.  Shotguns for example are generally not rifled.  Sometime you want to shoot something from a shotgun and have it act like a bullet and they do that by making special riffled barrels.

Other improvements came about to improve how you set of the explosion.  Earliest of the guns used a cotton rope with a glowing ember to touch a small amount of gun powder that led to the end of the barrel containing the rest of the explosive.  This was unreliable, and evolved to a spark from a piece of flint.  Again not very predictable or dependable.  The experience was basically point the barrel of the gun at the thing you wanted to shoot then pull the trigger.  While you waited for it to fire you kept aiming the barrel until it fired.  It could be seconds after you pulled the trigger  before anything happened.  That is if anything happened at all.  That brings up other factors.  Rain or other moisture made a mess of the whole process.  To load the gun you poured loose gunpowder down the barrel.  Put in some form of usually cotton wadding in the barrel, crammed it all with a long rod, then dropped in a bullet and more crushing it all down with a stick.  Then separately poured a little excess powder somewhere near  small hole in the end of the barrel to light with with either the flint or the piece of burning rope.  Cocked the whole mechanism that held the thing that will set it off, which connected to the trigger and you were ready to go!  If you get any of that wrong or your powder gets moist nothing happens.  So you heard expression like “keep your powder dry” which had nothing to do with baking or make up.

Matchlock rifle loading and firing

Flintlock loading and firing

Soon folks looked at other shortcuts.  At first you poured loose gunpowder down the barrel from a container often call a powder horn.  I expect because some times they were actually made out of a horn.  Someone realized they could save time by measuring the powder into prepackaged amounts in paper containers.  You could rip one open and poor the whole thing in.  Much easier.  Sometimes these were called “paper cartridges”.  Not a big leap to figure out how they came by that name.  They’d sometimes do things like cover them in wax to seal them.  You still had the whole mess about to set them off once you’d loaded the rifle.  I’m mostly talking about rifles put pistols are mostly the same thing only smaller.  Also note at this point most things single shot and then you had to reload the whole mess to shoot again.  There were some cases that supported multiple shots but this was mostly done by having guns with more than one barrel.  One other factor was leaving a gun loaded wasn’t reliable.

Example of paper cartridge

So the next thing was to figure out how to make igniting the powder more reliable.  So someone came up with something that is close to what we use today.  The percussion cap.  This was a preformed metal cap that had a small amount of a pressure sensitive chemical that would ignite when struck.  So now you had a sealed cap that ignited instantly when struck by a small hammer.  The cap would be fitted on the end of a small “tube” that led to the chamber with all the powder.  It was reliable and between each shot you just replaced it with a new one.  Now you had a reliable way to fire the gun instantly.  The time to reload we reduced dramatically as well.  Since the cap could be held in a way that it would stay in place the possibility of a single barrel multi shot gun came about.  The popular “cap and Ball” pistol would allow multiple shots between reloading by introducing a revolving cylinder that contained cap, the powder and the ball together.  This would rotate for each shot bringing the whole in the cylinder in line with the hammer and the barrel.  Hobbyist still enjoy firing this type of gun.  It was the gun “that won the west” and is featured in almost all westerns!

Cap and ball revolvers

So we still have weapons that are slow to reload.  So eventually folks came up with the idea of thing this all together in a single cartridge that could be loaded into the gun and easily replaced with another for each shot.  This is pretty much the bullet we know today.  It consists of the casing, usually brass that holds the thing together.  A “primer” is pressed into the bottom that will be struck by a hammer or firing pin to set it off and a bullet pressed into the end that is the projectile fired by the gun.  While its easy to think that a guns is fired by an explosion it is really better to think about the bullet being fired by the gunpowder burning rapidly and that hot gas driving the bullet down the barrel.  Just a quick note, shotgun shells are little different, they can be paper or plastic (the shell casing does not contain the blast it is the chamber that the cartridge in placed in that is pat of the gun that contains the pressure) and in that shotgun shell there is usually a basket with multiple projectiles.  More about that when I get to ammo.

Mostly Modern Gun Concepts we find today

So with the introduction of the modern cartridge a lot of things started to happen.  Since the cartridge has everything you need to fire the gun you could suddenly fire more times faster.  All you needed for another shot was a fresh cartridge.  One of the first ways we saw to enable multiple shots between reloading the gun was the revolving barrel.  This worked pretty well but meant you could only hold a certain number of shots in the revolving part between reloading the gun.  The most common number of cartridges in a revolver is 6.  Thus the term six shooter.  Some folks recommend leaving a cylinder of the revolver part empty and that empty chamber lined up with the trigger and barrel for safety reasons.  Some designs have managed to have up to 10 chambers but never became popular.  The revolver design is most often associated with the pistols but the basic revolver mechanism has been used in rifles and shotguns.  It is very reliable and this reliability made the preferred weapon for law enforcement.  Another bit of trivia, these types of guns do not work well with silencers.  There is enough high speed gas leakage between the cylinder and barrel to make noises when fired.  So  next time you see a movie with a revolver with a silencer know it was probably made by an idiot.

One final thing worth discussion.  Single action as compared to double action.  This is whether or not the gun can shoot by just pulling the trigger.  In a single action gun you must pull back and cock the hammer and then pull the trigger separately to fire a shot.  A double action gun can be fired by just pulling the trigger.  The trigger rotates the barrel, cocks the hammer and then releases the hammer every pull.  Some folks say that one type of action is faster than another.  But like everything it isn’t that easy.  Single action revolvers can be “fanned” by holding the trigger down and then rapidly pulling back the hammer.  You see this in a lot of westerns!

Fanning a pistol

Another modern development was the gunpowder itself.  Gunpowder was first discovered in China.  In its original form it had some limitations. It is a simple mixture of sulphure, charcoal and saltpeter (potassium nitrate).  You my have already learned that if you saw Captain Kirk make it to kill the Gorn in the Startrek episode “The Arena”!  Gun designers went looking for something better.  Black powder makes a lot of smoke.  It also has limitations in terms of the amount of gas pressure it can generate.  This led to the invention of modern or “smokeless” powder.  Mostly they found out that different chemicals could make a substance that smoked far less and had burning characteristic that could produce a more powerful weapon. One of the first chemicals they removed was sulfur.  So guns could get more powerful.  The powder was enough more powerful that original black powder that older guns designed for black powder could explode using newer powder.

Gunpowder compared

So with all these developments the race was on!  Guns were developed with different ways to manage the cartridges, varieties of guns were developed with characteristics that made them better for certain applications.  So lets look at certain elements that matter today.

The Core of Modern Gun Knowledge – Read from here if you don’t care about history!

Feeding and firing mechanism

So I’ve mentioned the revolver.  In this type of gun the cartridge is carried in a cylinder to the barrel and hammer.  This lets you shoot as many cartridges as the cylinder can hold between reloading the gun.  People being clever have created a number of ways to reload the cylinder.  Some guns the cylinder needs to be reloaded one chamber at a time.  Others an entire cylinder can be swapped. In another variant a device called a speed loader can be used.  The entire cylinder swings out from the gun, an integrated rod in the cylinder ejects all the cylinder chambers and the speed loader puts new cartridges in the cylinder, the cylinder is swung back and the gun is ready to fire again.  Both methods can be used to quickly reload the weapon.  At any rate with practice you can reload and fire a revolver very quickly.

A revolver being fired and reloaded quickly!

So how else do guns get fed cartridges.  Rifles often have a single shot configuration.  They may have a bolt you pull back to load a fresh shell or some sort of lever mechanism.  These are almost always the slowest type to reload but someone trained can surprise you.   Some of the lever types require the user to physically remove the old cartridge then load a new cartridge.  Some of these types of guns can store fresh cartridges somewhere in the gun and then feed a new cartridge when the lever or bolt is cycled.  The number of cartridges they can hold vary.  Five to ten are common.  Most of these types of guns required putting in a cartridge at a time to load.  Loading is slow.  Firing of this type of gun is as fast as you can cycle the bolt or lever.  These types of guns can be fired about a round every two seconds.  Really well trained folks can approach one shot a second.  There are also variations that hold the cartridges in some form of carrier that can be quickly replaced to make reloading faster.   I’ll get to semi-automatic and fully automatic guns in a minute.  But folks should be aware a trained shooter can shoot a lever action gun as fast and as effectively as a fully automatic weapon.  Here is a video of a 13 year old boy shooting a lever action rifler beating someone in a match using a fully automatic gun.

13 year old boy shooting a lever action gun fast

If you are old enough to remember the TV series the “Rifleman” the main character used a lever action rifle.

I should also mention pump action guns.  This type of gun is most often associated with shot guns.  These can also be fired pretty rapidly.  Shotguns also have the advantage that in that they aren’t designed to be carefully aimed. Some folks have demonstrated firing five rounds in less that 2 seconds.  So they can fire very quickly.  I should also point point out there are some shotguns that can be reloaded using quickly replaced “clips”.  There are even a variety of “speed loaders” as well.  Folks with their guns can be clever!

So now lets talk about types of guns clever people had invented.  At some point someone decided that could make a gun that reloaded a fresh cartridge mechanically automatically.  Some of these load and fire a single shot every time you pull the trigger.  These are called semiautomatic weapons.  There are rifles and pistols that work this way.  The next step up are guns that fire as many shots as quickly as possible as long as you hold down the trigger.  These are fully automatic weapons.  It is hard to buy and own a fully automatic weapon in America.  Some of these weapons can be set to fire a small number of shots every trigger pull to full auto.

Semiautomatic and automatic weapons are almost always reloaded using some cartridge carrier.  The can be clips that can hold from 6 to approaching a hundred cartridges or other types of carriers like small drums that can hold hundreds of cartridges.  These can be swapped out when empty very quickly.  This makes reloading these weapons very fast.  It can be slow and tedious to put the cartridges into these carriers but you can have multiples of these carriers prepped to allow a large number of shots to fired nearly contentiously for long periods of time.  These are those “high capacity” clips that folks talk about banning.  One the extreme end cartridge are held in some form of belt that feeds into the gun.  This allows almost unlimited amounts of cartridges to be fired.  That really doesn’t have much to do with discussion but I mention it just for reference.  Belt fed weapons are almost always military weapons.

It might be interesting to talk about how the mechanisms work to reload and prepare the gun again “automatically”.  There are two popular methods and some rarer ways as well.  The first most common these days uses energy from the burning gun powder to make some sort of mechanical black magic happen.  Not totally Rube Goldberg but one is to use the recoil of the bullet firing to drive back part of the gun, eject the old shell while a spring feeds a fresh round into position to be loaded by the mechanism being driven closed by another spring.  As part of this process the moving component of the gun cocks the hammer in preparation of the next shot.  If the gun doesn’t have a hammer then whatever firing pin mechanism is reset to strike the primer on the fresh bullet.  The is what you are going to find in most semiautomatic pistols.

“So Spacegrrrl, how else might you pull energy from the bullet to make a machine work?”  With the hot gas of course.  This is a system that bleeds some of the gas pushing the bullet out of a tiny port in the barrel and feeds that gas into some sort of mechanism.  A piston for example.  This is more complex and does not easily lend itself to use in a pistol.  It is however more common in rifle sized weapons.  This is a difference between two well known assault style weapons, the so called “AR-15” uses recoil force and the AK-47 uses gas.  There are some folks that believe that the gas system is more robust.  For this discussion its more of an interesting bit of trivia.

So there are other ways to drive a mechanical mechanism to automatically feed and fire a gun.  One of the earliest automatic weapons known was the Gatling Gun.  These used a hand crank to drive a mechanism that consisted of multiple barrels driving in a rotary motion.  Bullets were fed into the whole gizmo via a gravity fed rack.  The firing rate was a function of how fast you could crank it.  They were large weapons but at the time considered a “super weapon”.  Since good ideas often live on in newer forms some of the most lethal guns today are based on this multiple rotary barrels design.  The “mini gun” you can expect in any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is an example of these.  The can fire about as fast as you can spin them.  These days they are driven by an electric motor.  The most extreme example may be the gun in the A-10 ground attach plane.

A-10 cannon being fired

Another way to drive a machine gun is with a chain, these guns are called….. wait for it… Chain Guns!  These are commonly used in US military vehicles like tanks.  Again not really related to common guns we civilian types encounter.  You can’t really own these types of things anyways but some forms of them are in our popular culture.

That covers most of the ways guns are fed the ammunition  they shoot.  I’ll summarize it a bit more in a minute.  Now lets talk about styles of guns.

Gun Styles/Types

First handguns. These are small guns meant to be fired being held from a variety of positions.  They are easy to carry and conceal.  Hobbyist, military and law enforcement all use handguns.  They can vary from the feeding mechanism, the caliber, the ammo capacity and even the materials they are made from.  They range from the smallest derringer (small pocket pistons named for their designer) to extreme large caliber powerful specialty weapons the are at the limit of what you can hold and fire.  But lets talk about what most folks discuss today.

Pistols and Rifles (or long guns)

It can be confusing because technically I suppose you could call any gun you can fire in your hand a “hand gun”.  But for now lets call hand guns the class of weapons consisting of pistols.  Basically smaller weapons fired primarily while holding them in your hand.  Lets separate them from Rifles or long guns.  Called long guns because well, they are long.  The long guns usually has some sort of “stock” meant to be held against the shoulder when firing.  This can be to make the gun more controllable and possibly easier to precisely aim.

Handguns

Revolver type pistols

The most common hand gun is likely the revolver.  These are going to hold five or six shots.  They can be slower to reload but as I’ve explained trained shooters can reload these types of weapons quickly.  They vary in fire power form the “snub nose .38” you see in movies all the time to the “Dirty Harry Magnum .44”.  They are reliable and deadly in the right hands.  Very common in law enforcement.  They small barrel guns in particular aren’t known to be very accurate and smaller caliber versions may have limited ability to quickly disable a person.  Folks like to call this stopping power.  The imagined likelihood that shooting someone with the weapon would completely stop an attacker.  A “snub nose .38″ is considered to be a lower stopping power (by some) weapon that a motivated nut job might temporarily”shake off” and continue their attack.  A “Dirty Harry Magnum .44” is high stopping power weapon likely to injure a similar nut job so seriously that they would be physically unable to continue to attack.  What kind of bullet the gun is firing can make a big difference as well.  More on that later.

Semiautomatic pistols

Becoming more common is the semiautomatic pistol.  They have been around for a long time but are a little less common as they are harder to manufacture as they can be more complicated.  They hold their ammunition in some sort of carrier or clips.  Clips for these guns can hold from five to over 40 rounds of ammunition.  Clips can be swapped out very quickly and it is easy to carry more loaded clips to let someone shoot large numbers of shots nearly uninterrupted.   Once again the caliber of the bullet can vary.  The classic US military semiautomatic pistol was the “Colt 1911 .45 ACP”.  Types of bullets these types of guns are a little more limited as some  types of bullets can increase the chances of the gun jamming.  These types of guns are  less reliable than revolvers.  That reliability question has made some in law enforcement reluctant to carry these guns.  That concern seems to becoming less of a concern.   These gun have the same accuracy issues revolvers do but in theory reload fast and can shoot more between being reloaded.

Other than whatever laws may require for background checks both revolvers and semiautomatic hand guns are legal to own in the US.  Some locales may have restrictions on the maximum size of clips that can be purchased.

One other confusing thing to remember for some weapons the maximum number of rounds the gun can contain may be smaller when the gun is being used for hunting.

Machine pistols

These are small fully automatic weapons. They in general cannot be legally owned in the US.  I mention them because they are types of guns that can associated with gang violence. These types of guns include the UZI and MAC 10.  These have large capacity clips and firing rate approaching one thousand rounds a minute.  As a result of the short barrels these weapons suffer from poor accuracy.   Because if the size and ease of concelement these weapons are often used by high end security services and body guards.

Rifles

So it is worth calling out a few common types.

Sporting or hunting rifle

Lets start with the simple sporting rifle.  These are usually designed with some sort of feed mechanism allowing slower rates of fire and also designed to hold less ammo.  Sometimes just a single shot.   They were usually designed for hunting things like deer,  They have longer barrels to make them more accurate.  They sometimes are deliberately limited in the amount of ammo they can carry to comply with hunting laws.  Calibers can range from very small to pretty large depending on the intended usage.  Larger caliber ammo is usually associated with larger game animal hunting and also greater range of accurate fire.  These guns are used for all manner of sport shooting from “plinking” at cans type of target shooting to stalking and killing of large animals like elephants.  Personal note: I have had serious Bambi syndrome since my late teens.  Please try and limit your shooting to targets and not wonderful animals!!

Shotguns

A variation of long guns is the shotgun.  A shotgun is a smooth bore weapon designed to shoot a group of individual projectiles all at once. These are usually called shot.  They used to be various sizes of lead balls.  These days lead use is recognized as environmentally unsound so the balls are now more often made out of less toxic metals like steel.  Some folks feel lead is better as it is heavier and therefore flies father.  Shotguns shells are categories by their shot size.  They range from 12 “bird shot” used for things like dove hunting to “Double Aught”, 00 or buckshot used for hunting larger animals to other applications.  Some shotguns can also fired a shell containing a rifled slug for even more range and knock down power.  Some folks claim and shotgun firing a slug can shoot through a car’s engine block.  You pick your shell based on what you want to shoot.  For example you are going to use a larger shot (smaller numbered) to try and hunt a bird like a goose which flies higher and is larger so needs more “knock down” power.  Again, don’t shoot animals, even geese even if they do poop on stuff a lot.  An interesting thing to note is that the smallest shot loses a lot of energy quickly.  I’ve been shot by number 12 bird shot while dove hunting (yes, I suck having shot doves!) and I was far enough away that it didn’t penetrate the skin and only stung.  And people have been know  to load shotguns shells with rock salt to create a shell you can used against people in a mostly nonlethal manner.  A classmate in grade school was shot with rock salt while “borrowing” oranges out of an orchard at night. He said it stung like a “&^%^&$I!*^$” through his jeans but he was in class the next morning with a bag or oranges.  Similar ideas for nonlethal shotgun shells include “bean bags” and rubber bullets.

Shotguns aren’t sized by caliber but “gauge”.   This is the diameter of the shell and inner barrel. Modern shot guns tend to range from the small end of .410 to the high end of .12 gauge.  Another aspect of the shotguns is referred to as the choke.  That’s pretty much what it sounds like.  Its how much the barrel is “chocked down” at the end which will determine how rapidly the pattern of the shot spreads apart.  Back in them thar olden wild west days there were .10 and even .8 gauge shotguns.  These days those huge bore shotguns are no longer in use but every once in a while you get to see one in a move like “Appaloosa”

8 gauge shotgun

A final couple of things about shotguns.  Some folks believe a shotgun is a better gun for personal protection at home.  They mostly need to pointed, not aimed, often have a very distinctive sound when being “racked” in the case of a pump action shotgun (some say that noise is the most effective deterrent you can have).  The have great “knockdown” power and present a much lower risk of going through walls and injuring things like your neighbors!

There are some interesting modifications that are illegal.  The primary one being sawing off the barrel.  This is to make the shotgun easier to conceal.  One of the earliest gun laws was to make that practice illegal.

Finally there are barrels for some shotguns that are rifled specifically for shooting slugs.  And there are “rifled” slugs as well.  In the case of the rifled slug the grooves are to allow the slug to go through a barrel that has a choke.  The slug is not spun by the grooves but is stabilized by making the tail end of the slug hollowed out so it flies much like a badmitten birdy.   Finally there is also a thing called a sabot shell.  This contains a bullet like projectile held in a plastic cup to allow a “bullet” to be fired from the larger diameter barrel.  These require a rifled barrel for stabilization of the projectile.

Some other variants are the Street Sweeper, a short barrel shotgun with with a 12 shell canister ammo holder.  Another variant is the Alley Sweeper.  Same basic idea, a short barrel shotgun designed to be more easily used on restricted spaces.  Popular in millitary, law enforcement and video game applications.

Semiautomatics hunting rifles

There are again designed for some variation of hunting or targeting shooting,  They still have limited capacity for ammunition storage but they feature some sort of automatic reloading capability with each trigger pull.

Machine guns or Sub Machine guns

These are fully automatic weapons with larger ammunition storage and the ability to fire more than one round with each trigger pull.  The have longer barrels and some form of stock.  The term “sub” usually refers to the caliber of the bullet.  The most iconic sub machine gun is the Thompson with its distinctive round magazineand hybrid pistol grip.  This the gun most often associated with 30’s gangsters!   The “Tommygun”, the  “Chopper” carried around in a violin case!  Scourge of the “G men” everywhere when in the hands of someone that looks like Jimmy Cagney on the streets of old Chicago in old timey gangster movies.  It shot the same bullet that the 1911 Colt semiautomatic pistol fired.  It was small and easy to shoot.  It shot about 700 rounds a minute and could hold about 100 rounds.  They use a recoil based system to drive the mechanism.  Back in the day you could buy one mail order from Sears!!  A lot of these were built and used in the military and law enforcement.  You can no longer own one easily and therefore no longer available mail order from Sears!  They are very collectible and expensive.  There is a semiautomatic version that was manufactured for a while.

So lets talk about “proper” machine guns.  What is indisputable is they are fully automatic weapons.  You hold the trigger down and they shoot continuously.  What makes something a full machine gun.  As near as I can figure its the caliber of the bullet.  I know some folks that are licensed and legal machine gun owners so I got a chance to see them fire a whole range of this type of weapon at one of their “shoots” in the desert (more on owning and shooting one later).  I developed a favorite.  The BAR.  Browning Automatic Rifle.  If I owned one that’s the one I’d want.  Rare, collectible and pricey.  It fires a 30.06 caliber cartridge.  This makes this a very powerful gun with a lot of range.  It is sometime referred to as a squad weapon.  It could fire about 600 rounds a minute and it was a weapon easily capable of disabling a car.  It was the preferred weapon used by Bonnie and Clyde of bank robber fame.  These were not readily available to the general public so Clyde would steal his from the National guard.  He reportedly preferred to cut the barrels shorter to make it easier to use.  It uses a gas system to drive the reloading mechanism.  It is fed using a round box style “clip”.  Again I’m mentioning these more for completeness.  Machine guns are rare and not something regularly found outside the context of military life.  An interesting bit of trivia, my youngest sister is trained and qualified by the US army to operate a squad class machine gun.

Assault Rifles

We have finally arrived at the class of weapon that seems to cause the most arguments.  Probably why I wrote this whole mess in the first place.  So what are they, where do they come from and what are some of the complications?

This class of guns comes from what has become the standard regular issue weapons from most militaries these days.  They are generally a “select fire” weapon.  This means they are a rifle capable of full automatic continuous fire, short burst fire and single shot semiautomatic operation.  Short bursts are usually 3 shots or so.  These guns have some sort of selector to put the weapon in the desired firing mode.  These have medium length barrels to maintain accuracy and fire smaller caliber ammunition to make them easier to control and lighter weight. Some have provisions for enhanced sights and stocks that can be reconfigured to better fit the specific environment.  They feature reloading via some sort of clip or box ammo container for more rapid reloading of the weapon.

So the two weapons that seemed to spawned the guns we see and argue about today are the American M-16 and the Russian AK-47.

AR-15

These days it seems like America is more fixated on weapons designed to capture elements of the M-16.  These are often called Colt AR-15s even if they aren’t.  The Colt AR-15 is what got this whole mess started.  This gun was designed for civilian use.  It looks very similar to the M-16.  It had a high capacity removable clip, barrel lengths that are similar, a stock style very similar and fires the same ammo.  The 223/5.56×45mm round.  It however is only a semiautomatic weapon.  It can only fire one round with each trigger pull.  It uses the same gas operated style of reloading mechanism (Thanks Robert for pointing me at an AR-15 video that made me realized I described this as a recoil based system).  For whatever reason this design caught on and now they are extremely popular.  There are also a huge number of variations from multiple manufactures.  In fact some folks prefer to think of the AR-15 as a platform instead of a specific weapon.  Also, sadly some characteristics of the AR-15 have made it a preferred weapon for use by nut jobs in the commission of horrible acts.  At the center of most recent mass shootings you will find an AR-15 style gun likely played a part in it.  So why is that.

  • Availability – You can find them everywhere.  You can buy one at your local Walmart (if they are in stock, they are often out of stock because they are so popular)
  • Affordable – The huge numbers of these guns keep the prices down.
  • Quality and simplicity – USA, USA,USA!!  We make good stuff so most AR-15s are going to be reasonably well built and the designs are mostly reliable.
  • It won’t attract attention – Assuming you aren’t just waving it around buying one and taking one to a local shooting range isn’t likely to raise much attention.  Also for whatever reason we live in a country where buying a large amount of ammo doesn’t raise any flags.  Heck you can just buy the ammo online mail order, credit card please?. 😦
  • Capacity – The AR-15 can hold up to 100 rounds per clip.
  • Clip fed – you can swap out an empty clip with a fresh one in seconds.  So you can maintain a constant stream of fire easily.  You are only limited by the amount you can shoot until someone finally manages to introduce you brain pan with much deserved bullet.  Say hi for me to whatever deity you think is waiting for you.
  • Accuracy – The length of the barrel makes this a reasonably accurate weapon out to 500 yards.
  • Ammunition – The standard AR-15 round is the NATO 223/5.56×45mm round.  These are easily available and have some desirable characteristics.  It is a high velocity round so it has a flat trajectory and it penetrates things well.
  • Rate of fire – An AR-15 fires about as quickly as you can pull a trigger.  Pretty fast.
  • Nut Jobs lack imagination and superior reasoning powers – I’m going to editorialize a bit here.  It required no imagination to think that the best weapon to shoot up a bunch of people is the AR-15.  Its going to be easy to get so if you are a lazy “terrorist in waiting” its what you are going to choose.  Its a “me too” choice.  We’ve seen this used by so many times before.  Better choices will take more investigation and more work to acquire.  Also popular culture has sold this to everyone as the thing you use to shoot people up.  You see them in video games, movies and TV.  I could go on and on about why its a poor choice for the seriously f-ed up idea of shooting  lot of people but this isn’t meant to be a list of good ideas for demented killers in training.

The AR-15 as the mythical sport shooter modern hunter weapon?  This again my opinion but right up front.  I don’t see how anyone can make the case they should make the AR-15 their first choice as a hunting rifle.  There is no need for the capacity and the firing rate while hunting.  Additionally the round is a terrible round for hunting,  It lacks the knock down power for most game.  Its lower accuracy at longer ranges make other choices better.  The semiautomatic nature of the feed mechanism make it prone to jam when allowed to get dirty.  To be fair there are variations of the AR-15 that can make it better for hunting.  Remember, its more than a gun, its a platform!  So there are bigger calibers for example that improve the knock down power.

One the other hand as a target shooting gun it is fun. Folks that like to go to the range an blow off some steam by putting some holes in a target can find a lot of joy shooting one.  An AR-15 once again can be modified to use .22 ammo to make it cheaper to shoot.  If you like to tinker that “platform” fact makes owners find a lot of distractions personalizing their guns.

Do the upsides of the AR-15 make it worth keeping around given the propensity for mass murders to choose them as the “go to” tool of choice for performing their acts of pure evil?  If it was me I’d not lose a lot of sleep if I couldn’t own one but that is a personal opinion and I’m smart enough not to pretend I speak for anyone else.

The AK-47

The assault riffle of choice for the worldly militant/terrorist/Russian/Eastern European solider.  The Kalashnikov.   This gun was designed in late WWII in Russia.  It is a gas operated mechanism that fires a slightly larger and slightly slower round than the M-16/AR-15.  These are extremely reliable.  For a variety of reason they are not considered as accurate a weapon as an AR-15.  It fires about 600 rounds a minute and had an effective range of just short of 400 yards.  These guns exist in huge quantities throughout the world.  Estimates of 100 million of these exist.  That is approximately 1/5 of the worlds guns.  The quality of these guns varies wildly.  This isn’t a widely seen gun in the US but they are available and can be sold here if modified to be semiautomatic.  The AK-47 usually has a slightly shorter barrel length than the AR-15.  Once again this gun can use a “clip” which hold up to 100 rounds.   The AK-47 shares a similar stock style with the AR-15.  A full shoulder stock with a pistol style hand grip near the trigger.  This the gun you can expect most bad guys in movies in any setting outside the US.  One thing to think about.  Mostly all AK-47s outside the U.S. are fully automatic and  they are all basically the same gun manufactured under license.  This means if there is some idiot terrorist that has outside the U.S. connections they likely to could get the parts to make sure that had fully automatic capable weapons.  This was the gun so effectively used in Paris to shoot people attending a large concert.  I dread the day that mass killers in the U.S. start to shift their focus to getting these from their faith confused evil brothers outside the county. 😦

So in summary what are called “assault rifles” in the U.S. are guns similar to military weapons that manufacturer removed the features that would prohibit them from being sold to civilians.  They are guns capable of rapid single shot semiautomatic shooting using higher capacity magazines.  They mostly use ammunition developed for military applications.  There are many other types of assault rifles than the two I’ve mentioned here but they are usually rare and expensive.  Lets hope mass murders never figure that out because there are some that seem capable of being even more deadly in the right hands.  In the case of the AK-47 they ARE military weapons modified in the US by gunsmiths to remove the fully automatic firing capability.

Sniper rifles

Sniper rifles are a class of rifles designed to have extreme accuracy at long distances.  There are generally no laws preventing civilian ownership.  These guns are usually fitted with telescopic sights to all hitting targets at extreme distance.  These guns often feature an integrated “bipod” at the front of the weapon to stabilize it when fired.

The extreme case of these weapons might be the Barret .50 caliber sniper rifle can hit a target accurately at a distance of 1.1 miles. This round will penetrate an engine block.  These guns are fed with a 10 or 12 round clip and are recoil operated semiautomatic actions.  This ammo is considered armor piercing.

Other Gun Characteristics

So there are all sorts of things that affect gun performance.  I’ll discuss o few of those.

Caliber – This simply the size of the bullet.  Wow, that sounds easy, big bullets are better bullets.  Not exactly.  Smaller bullets can be faster.  And the size of the cartridge can mean more or less gun powder.  Calibers can range some as small as .17 to as large as .700 (that is a bullet about 7/10s of an inch in diameter).  As with everything there are trade off for each aspect of the ammunition.  At the extreme end of rifles you have long distance rifles designed to fire the same .50 caliber round used in large machine guns in WWII.

Barrel length – Longer barrels tend to make guns more accurate and allow the bullet more time to accelerate, so faster and that tends to go farther.

Noise – Its worth mentioning that some gun are much louder than others.  Factors all come together to determine how big the bang is when you pull the trigger.  Smaller caliber and smaller cartridges can make some guns quieter.  Even gun construction can make the sound they make vary.  Lets talk a bit about silencers or suppressors.  They are basically a muffler for a gun much like the muffler on your car.  They are not illegal exactly but you have to jump through more hoops to get one.  And they aren’t generally available “off the shelf”.  To use them you may have to modify the gun to attach them.  And some guns can’t use one.  Revolver style pistols won’t work with one because the hot gas of the shell has too many places to escape besides the end of the barrel.  Your classic “spy movie” silencer sound can only usually be achieved with smaller caliber weapons and sometimes special ammo.  For example when used on some guns ammo that is “subsonic” can be quieter.  They can be used to make a gun pretty quiet.  Some trivia, in the movie “No Country for Old Men” the primary villain (Anton Chigurh)used a shotgun with a silencer.  That really is possible if not common and in real life maybe even quieter.

Ammunition

Lets talk bullets.  I thing there is a lot of misunderstanding around bullets.  Your basic bullet is a shaped piece of lead.  It is shaped to make it fly through the air better and possible to penetrate its target better.  At some point folks said “I bet we can make a better bullet to do “X”.  So here are some variants common today:

Rim Fire vs Center fire – Chances are if you grew up in places where guns were common you may have shot the good old .22.  This is a common small caliber gun that featured cheap ammo.  One way they found to make the bullet cheaper was to make the casing also contain the priming mechanism, or that thing that lights we gunpowder when the firing pin strikes the bullet.   There is a small bit of that pressure sensitive chemical contained the folded “rim” of the case.  Cheap to make but not reusable.  Some types of ammo can reloaded with fresh gunpowder, a new primer and a new bullet then reused.  These bullets have a separate “primer” that is pressed into the center of the back of the casing.  This a “center fire” round.  At one time rim fire ammunition was available in several calibers (I have an old .32 caliber single shot rifle but I can’t get ammo for it anymore) but now is mostly the popular .22LR (“long rifle” referring to the length of the cartridge)

Hollow point – This is a bullet that has been hollowed out with a pit at the head of the bullet.  The reason for this is that when the bullet hits the target if expands and causes more damage.  These bullets penetrate less and can leave more energy in the target as they fully expand and stop in the target instead of passing through.  These bullets are usually though to cause the most injury and have the most “stopping power”.  Some times these bullets can have a plastic nose piece to make them better aerodynamically or feed better.  Sometimes these bullets can be “jacketed” with a harder metal (usually copper) to make them stronger for use in higher power rifles.  Interestingly these types of bullets are so deadly that their use in warfare is considered inhumane so they are illegal for use in war.  Humans being the odd beasts that we are still use these regularly as civilians and in law enforcement.  To be far, use by law enforcement may make sense as this type of bullet is less likely to ricochet.  Way to go humans!  Of course the USA being special snow flakes chooses to ignore international laws regarding this ammo and will start to use it in side arms starting in 2018.   Some folks have even discovered that the hollow cavity can be filled with heavy metals like mercury to make them even more deadly!  Good job demented killers!  There is even another variant of this bullet designed to expand to have multiple sharp edges.  Why smart people can’t focus on inventing other things like a clothes dryer that folds your clothes.  Oh well.

Metal Jacketed – Who hasn’t seen the movie “Heavy Metal Jacket”?  The tittle refers to the type of bullet used by most millitaries.  This is a usually lead bullet covered with an outer shell of a stronger metal.  This shell allows the bullet to survive being fired out the gun with much greater force without deforming.  They also feed more reliably.  The bullet also stays intact so that it penetrates the target better.  Believe it or not this is the “humane” type of bullet you are supposed to use for war.  They were designed with a couple of ideas in mind. The first is to make the feed through a weapon better.  The second was to allow more “power” to drive the bullet.  Jackets can be out of things like copper or steel.  This type if bullet penetrates and often passes through its target.  Some folks feel this makes this a type of bullet have less stopping power.  While no one wants to get shot with anything this bullet may cause less severe injuries than a “hollow point” style bullet.  Still, just don’t get shot and please don’t shoot people.

Frangible bullets – This is a type of bullet that breaks in to multiple pieces when it hits the target.  It is used in cases where ricochet or penetration is not desired.  This may be desired in settings like close environments or airplanes.  Sometimes these are made out of non-toxic materials and used for training to reduce the risk of injury.

Armor piercing bullets – These are bullets that are made out of extremely hard materials in order to make them able to shoot throw hardened targets.  There is a variation of these types of bullets worth considering.  The Teflon coated bullet.  This popular story is this is a bullet that has been designed to penetrate the materials typically found in bullet resistant vests and protective gear often used in law enforcement.  Actually that isn’t really true, most folks think that is what the coating is for.  It is to protect the gun barrel from wear when firing a bullet made from a harder metal.  Tests show the coating has little effect against protective vests.  But when they were first introduced it made for some great sensational news stories.  There are bullets designed to penetrate protective gear but this use a combination of shape, hard materials and high energy.

Tracers – This is a type of bullet that contains some sort of chemical that remains lit as the bullet flies after firing.  This allows the “gunner” to see the flight of the bullet.  They are mostly fired as a novelty in civilians uses.  They can be hard on the gun and a downside is that they also reveal where they are being shot from.  Laser sites may be a better alternative.  Those are just a laser aligned with the barrel of the gun so that the laser appears on the target were the bullet should be expected to hit.

Non-lethal projectiles – So some people have put their thinking caps on to see if there is something that can be shot at people to deter them but not seriously injure them.  So folks have invented wax bullets, plastic bullets, bean bag shotgun shells, rings and other things that shouldn’t kill someone.  The quest for something like that has been challenging.  Some alternative have been used over time but there is always a chance hitting someone in the right place with some of these could cause serious injury and that someone determine enough could continue whatever crazy act the are set on doing. I mention these mostly as a reference as to why in serious cases civilians and law enforcement can’t rust these alternative to subdue someone who is a serious threat.

Exotic ammo – There are some odd things that come up sometime.  While it isn’t generally used in handguns shells are made from depleted uranium.  This is a material heavier than lead that burns like magnesium.  Making a great material to used against armored things like tanks.  Not really something that has any part of a discussion about guns in the general public.  Other strange ideas.  Several murder mystery tales suggest the perfect murder could use a bullet made from ice.  Neat idea, it does not work.  You can make a bullet form wood however.  This has been used in the elusive quest for a decent non-lethal bullet.  There is a type of shell that fires small lead shot out of a normal rifled weapon.   Some times this is called “snake shot”.    Bad news if you are a snake but not particularly lethal is you aren’t.

Legality of all of this in the US today

So if you read all this so far WOW!  But I assure you this is all leading up to a point.  We need to understand the range of guns and the things they shoot to understand how that may affect our laws.  Lets review what we can own and what restrictions we have on guns.

Where do the laws apply?  First there are some federal laws that affect everyone.  Add to that most states add their own laws to those.  We’ll look at the different classes of laws to see just what we can and can’t do and how that might vary from place to place and by context.

Federal gun laws

So these laws apply to everyone in the US.  I am talking about people in civilian life and not those in the context of the military or law enforcement.  I’ll try and talk a bit about how some folks can expand their access to certain types of guns.  So each person’s right to own guns would appear to be guarantied by the constitution.  The second amendment seems to say we can all own a gun.  I’m not going to get into how to interpret that.  Folks have devoted their lives to arguing what it means from every side you can imagine.  It doesn’t even say guns, it say weapons.  Lets just agree that this part of the constitution says to most people that here in the US in some contexts owning guns is legal.  I want to focus on the specific laws that have come along since that do say specifically what we can’t own.

  • To own a gun in the US you need to be a US citizen or permanent resident alien.
  • You can’t own fully automatic weapons.  You can own certain automatic weapons in limited circumstances.  It has be be a weapon manufactured before a certain date and you have to purchase a tax stamp and fill out a bunch of paperwork with the government.  You can become licensed to either do security work or become a gun manufacturer or types of dealer or importer to gain access to newer and non-us built fully automatic weapons.  Again there are also certain types of trusts that can be created that are allowed to own some of these restricted weapons.  Bottom line, want to buy that new Uzi machine pistol you probably have to jump through a bunch of hoops, subject yourself to some background checks and spend a lot of money.
  • You can’t own a heavy weapon.  So no cannon or keeping that mortar granddad brought home from the big one.
  • Silencers or suppressors are also illegal and require a variety of legal hoops to pass through to own.  Once you’ve done that you can own one.  If you do get a manufactures license you can do most anything.
  • Federal law places restrictions on selling guns across state lines.
  • You can’t own a gun disguised as something else.  No gun that looks like a sixth finger like in “Man from Uncle”!
  • You can’t own a shotgun or rifle with a barrel below 16 inches or a total length less than 26 inches.
  • You can’t own a gun with less than a certain amount of metal in it as to make it undetectable to a metal detector.
  • You can’t but a hand gun of you are under 21.
  • You can’t have a gun in a school zone.
  • Buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer requires a background check before the purchase can be completed.  So any of this and you can’t get a gun:
  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

That is pretty much it as far as the federal laws are concerned.  Things that aren’t covered:

  • Carrying a concealed weapon.
  • Clip capacity
  • Gun firing rate
  • Gun range
  • Training requirements
  • Folks under 21 buying rifles or shotguns
  • Private sales or exchanges
  • Gun assembly from components for personal use
  • Ammunition types or amounts
  • Lethality

State gun laws

Here is where it can get confusing.  Lets look at a few common ones:

Concealed carry and open carry – Lets start with where you can carry a gun and how you can carry a gun.  I grew up in Arizona.  This was a so called open carry state.  This means it is legal to carry a gun with you unless specifically stated locations (like courthouses, public buildings and drinking establishments) if you have your gun out in the open in plain sight.  This includes your car (yes your rifle rack).  Now a days you can’t take a gun to school but when I was growing up I brought a shotgun to school during dove season so I could leave as soon as I got out to head to the cattle yards nearby.  Some states do not allow even open carry and place restrictions on where you can have a gun and how you can transport a gun.  State that allow you to carry a gun hidden from view or “concealed carry” have specific requirements to apply for a license to allow that.  There can be training requirements and background checks.  Even requiring individual approval by some local law enforcement member.  Some states have reciprocal agreements that let them honor “concealed carry” permits from other states.  Even with these permits there usually are restrictions where you still can’t have your gun with you.  Business owners can prohibit firearms.  Want to feel “safe” while looking for that Big Mac, well, learn a martial art because no guns allowed in McDonalds!

Hunting laws – States also often have laws that restrict aspects of gun use when hunting.  For example limiting the number of rounds held in a gun while hunting.  In some cases the type of gun can be restricted.  No hunting some classes of larger game with a gun not thought to be up to the task of a “humane” end for the animal.  No bird hunting with a rifle as the bullets fired up in the air can travel long distances.  Not a gun but no fishing with explosives!!

Where you can shoot –  Some states restrict where you can shoot your gun.   Some places you can set up some cans and shoot most anywhere out in the open so long as its safe.

Licenses or registration – Some states require anyone with a gun have a license to have it and/or may require all guns to be registered.

Additional restrictions – Some states require background checks for privates sales of guns.  Some states have placed additional restrictions on automatic weapons beyond the federal restrictions.  Some localities have restrictions beyond both federal and state restrictions.

Stand your ground laws – Some states allow individuals the use of deadly force in assure personal safety and the protection of property.  Florida has been in the news repeatedly as a result of their “stand your ground” laws.  Basically if you can prove you believed someone is putting you life in grave danger you can shoot them dead.  I got in a argument shortly after I moved from Texas (via Phoenix) about the use of deadly force in Texas.  An attorney who overheard a conversation of me telling some of my new friends of a story in the news about a property owner legally shooting a thief he discovered stealing someting from his property joined in and loudly told my new friends I was making it up and Texas had no law permitting any such thing.  Needless to say I was embarrassed and asked myself how I got something so wrong.  Well it turns out I was right and that attorney was being an asshat.  He was flat out wrong.  In Texas the “Castle Doctrine” allows “if someone is committing trespass or interference with your property and you must reasonably use deadly force to prevent arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime or criminal mischief during the nighttime. If someone is unlawfully on your property and attempting to commit any of these crimes, you will gain the legal justification for using deadly force.”  So be careful in Texas and Florida, don’t get shot!!

Gun storage – Surprisingly there is little law regarding where and how you store a gun.  There is a federal law that states if you store your gun securely or lock you gun and someone gets it somehow and something bad happens you can’t be held responsible.  A few states have laws requiring some sort of safe and secure storage, but mostly not many restrictions.  Want to put that loaded and chambered Glock “9” in a kids playroom in your home knock yourself out.  Its legal for the most part.  Of course it is a record sized bad idea and if some toddler plays “OK Coral” and bad stuff happens you will face all manner of criminal and civil repercussions.  So please be responsible.

The Raw Numbers

Now lets look at the magnitude of the problem.  First off, how many guns are there in the US today?   It is hard to have a firm number but most folks seem to accept that there are 300 million guns in the US today.  We seem to be manufacturing about 12 million guns a year (my numbers may be low as they are a few years out of date).  How are those guns broken down by type.   Best estimates is around 4 million of those are the “assault” type rifle.  Pistols and rifles appear to be purchased in approximately even numbers.  Shotguns are purchased in much fewer numbers.  Best guesses are rifles and handguns are 80% of the guns in America with that number being evenly divided between the two types, shotguns make up another 14% a couple percentage are “assault rifles” and the rest is misc.  Maybe a few of those rocket guns I mentioned at the beginning! 🙂

Making your own gun

Today we live in the age of the “Maker”.  We have technologies that make creating things easily a possible in a way we’ve never seen before.  3D printing, NC machine tools and other technologies make it very reasonable to make your own gun.  With 3d printing you can make a gun with no metal and it will shoot and can be lethal.  With current technologies it won’t last long but some have fired over 100 times before failing.  The printers to “print” these guns can be purchased for a few thousand dollars and could print numbers of guns.  Be a little more sophisticated and add a few metal components now you could have a more deadly gun that would be more reliable and expected to last for a long time.  A gun can be as simple as the “Zip Gun” which is basically a tube to hold a bullet and something as simple as a rubber band with a tack to strike the primer of the bullet.  Some of these can be as dangerous to fire as to be shot with.  But they can be lethal.

Assembling “real” guns, or ghost guns is a very real thing today.  The fact is that a manufacture can legally build almost all of a gun except for a single critical part that is used in the inner assembly of the gun.  This part (sometimes the lower receiver) carries the serial # of the weapon and it the part of the gun that is used to monitor the gun throughout its life.  So want a truck load of nearly an AR-15?  Sure just tell be where to unload the truck.  Oh, want some almost completed almost controlled parts, we’ll get you those too!  So what does it take to assemble your ghost gun AR-15?   A $1000 small computer controlled milling machine and $80 dollars of aluminum.  Oh, and about six hours.  When you are done you have a completely functional AR-15.  Legal to own.  No background checks and no waiting.  Cost, other than needing to buy the machine it won’t cost much different for one purchased at a gun store.  It will use the same ammo and the same clips as the off the shelf gun.

Being shot

Bang Bang, you’r dead!!!   Oh no, I’ve been shot, what now??!!  Good news, unless you get shot in the head or the heart you have an 85% chance of survival if you can reach a hospital while your heart is still beating.  In fact your survival rate is no different than a stab wound.  Bleeding out is a very real danger so try and stop the bleeding if you can.  So don’t get shot in the head and get to a hospital before your heart stops.  Better yet please don’t get shot (and don’t shoot other people)  Finally how scared should you be about being killed by bring shot?  Not very.  With the exception of young black males the chance of dying because you were shot are about the same as being killed in a car crash.  The night is dark and filled with terrors I guess.  You have decide how that risk will affect how you choose to live your life.  Me, I’m not running out for the bullet proof vest and stylish helmet.

Summary

So why did I write all this?  I wanted to create a “baseline” for everyone that wants to talk about the issues surrounding guns because I found so many people that just didn’t know what they were taking about.  So no possibility of actual intellectual conversations was possible.  I hoped to somehow create some sort of way to get everyone enough up to speed about guns to be able to talk about them.  It is a very complex topic.  The gun is an extremely easy tool to use to end life.  There is no denying that.  I also believe a gun can be a tool to prevent the loss of life and in the extreme, the loss of our freedom.  I think we have the right to have them. But I’m going to cover what I think and some of reasons I came to those beliefs some time later in a separate blog.  I know guns can be an enjoyable way to spend time.  Shooting the right gun at the right thing can be a very fun thing.  It can also present interesting challenges.  Gun competitions can be enjoyable.

Opinions on guns are infinite in their range and are the root of some of the most passionate discussions in America today.  Whether you like it or not America was a nation built on guns and is a nation of guns.

So lets blow up some myths:

Automatic weapons – No recent mass shooting involved an automatic weapon.  The killers used a semi-automatic weapon.  Automatic weapons fire a continuous stream of bullets so long as the trigger is held down.  A semiautomatic weapon fires only one bullet every time the trigger is pulled.  You can not easily acquire or own an automatic weapon in the US.  Every time you hear some talking head or someone saying we need to ban all automatic weapon you can say “Congratulations, we have!”  Because we have, they are illegal (or have lots of legal hoops to jump though and they are expensive).  You are also allowed to ignore that person who keeps using the wrong term or substitute the “Charlie Brown” adult “wa wa wa” voice sound while they speak.

Military weapons – What most people call military weapons are not.  The are civilian weapons in the style of military weapons but have been made to comply with US guns restrictions,  A real “assault rifle” is classified as a rifle with multi-select fire capabilities.  This means it can be set to fire like a standard semiautomatic weapon or a fully automatic weapon.  And we know fully automatic weapons are illegal!

AR-15s allow more rapid shooting – it can easily demonstrated non-semiautomatic weapons can be slower to shoot than other manual fire weapons like revolvers and lever action rifles when shot by skilled shooters.  Also fire rate does not always mean effective firing.  How many times have we heard of the stupid spray of bullets “drive by” where no one or only a couple of people are injured and more often than not the person intended to be affected.  Folks that are serious about shooting things when it really matters talk about lead on target.  Not how many shots were fired but how many went where the shooter intended and produced the effect desired.

AR-15s can be reloaded faster – This is partly true.  With a large capacity clip you can quickly reload an AR-style weapon with a single action.  However with training a shooter can quickly reload revolver style weapons.

AR-15 style weapons are more deadly – Depends.  They are deadly when used correctly to that end.  Many things are,  These weapons can shoot a lot of ammo and can be reloaded quickly.  It isn’t hard to carry a number of clips so the amount they can shot is high.  They however need to be aimed and can be unwieldy in closed spaces.  A shotgun or pistol can be far more dangerous in some circumstance,  Also the jacketed style of ammunition that is commonly used is less lethal than other types of ammo like larger caliber hollow point styled ammo.  The AR-15 is not as effective at longer distances when compared to more specialize long rifles.

AR-15s are great sporting rifles – Well, that depends.  They can be fun for target shooting.  They’d be illegal to hunt with in many circumstances and the characteristic of the bullets they fire makes them a poor choice for a lot of types of hunting.  I’d say the iPhone is a sub-optimal smartphone when compared to my Android phone but there sure are a lot of folks that like their Apple phones.  This is subjective so there is no right answer.  I personally can’t see myself to get one to hunt with but then again I don’t hunt anymore.  I have gone to the range with friends that owned them and I enjoyed shooting them.  But again I would likely buy some sort of semiauto .22   rifle or another pistol if I wanted to shoot regularly again.  Some people like tofu and I’ll never get it, but then I love spam and not many people I know share that love. 🙂

AR-15s are great for personal protection – Again not an easy call.  In some cases they would be very effective but more often that not the best choice may be a shotgun, the right pistol or even a baseball bat.  Running away, hiding and/or calling the police should always be considered if they appear to be an option.  Again I can’t make that decision for someone else, particularly not knowing the circumstances.

Its easy to keep AR-15s away from determined killers – Easy.  Flat out no.  There are too many here already, too many new ones being built and there are too many ways to make one yourself.  This is worse than the “closing the barn door after the cow got out”.  The cow has long since been moved to another farm and the barn has already burnt down.  More laws don’t stop criminals from breaking them.

High capacity clips are the problem – Even dramatically decreasing clip capacity only slightly slows down the time to reload the weapon.  It does mean a killer would have to carry more clips but that seems easy to overcome.  Also a determined  mass murderer could easily fabricate a higher capacity clip or acquire one illegally.  As to why you need them for sport shooters?  Again this is for a person to decide for themselves.  There certainly can be a case made for why someone shooting for fun would enjoy having a large clip.  Me personally?  I’m too cheap to want to buy that much ammo! 🙂

Glocks should be illegal because they are plastic – They have plastic components but there is more than enough metal to set off a metal detector.  They would be illegal if they didn’t.

Being shot is certain death – Actually outside of being shot in the head you can a pretty good chance of survival.

We are at content peril of being killed by a gun – Your chance of being killed by a gun are about the same as being killed in a car.

Gun violence is out of control – Actually gun violence has declined since the 1990’s in America.  Its worth noting that the most common scenario for gun deaths are suicides (mostly men) and domestic violence.

Gun owners are all “macho men” – 23% of guns are owned by women.

In Closing

So these are things I think you should know if you want to talk about guns.  Its a hot topic these days.  I hope to blog about guns in America in the future.  But please don’t waste my or any of my friends time telling us about whatever it is you think about guns if you don’t know about most of what I’ve covered here.  If you do don’t be surprised if I treat you like I’m not interested in what you think because I’m not.  In my head all I’m hearing is “wa wa wa wa wa” when you speak.  I need your thoughts about guns about as much as I need financial advice from my cat.  So learn a little and join the conversation with some idea what you are talking about.  If you read this and found errors or have ideas of things I should have mention please let me know.  I’d like to keep this around as a resource for folks that haven’t been exposed to guns to know a little bit more about them.

 

 

 

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Hello, I’ve come for an argument!

So I haven’t been shy about sharing my opinions about the current political situation we find ourselves in here in the good old USA.  I’m not going to talk about any of that today.  But I am going to talk about arguing/debating/discussing.  I was raised in a family with a father seemed to consider arguing as some sort of art form/hobby.  So I grew up around arguments and I can be sucked into one far to easily.  Add to that I’m pretty cynical.  Well, lets just say these days I am living in a target rich environment!

Lately though I find myself frustrated, annoyed and disappointed.  I don’t claim to know everything about everything.  I also don’t claim to be the best debater.  I’ve never studied debate or really thought about it but people, please raise your bar.  For every person that seems to have “come for an argument” with some preparation and a thought process I encounter a dozen of people that confuse an intelligent discourse with all cap shouting matches.

Argument Clinic

A funny sketch that actually points out to what really isn’t an argument.  Just contradiction does not an argument make.  I actually know some folks that know how to craft  a well reasoned and compelling response or critique.  I enjoy those exchanges and almost always come away a little better from them.  I might not agree or I might evolve my position.  But a good responses makes me rethink how I came to the initial position in the first place.

So to benefit everyone I’d like to ask folks refrain from the following behaviors.

Contradiction – Just saying “it is” or “it isn’t” didn’t work on the schoolyard when you were a kid.  It won’t work today.  Please don’t waste people’s time with any of that.

The emotional label response – These are almost always short and totally based on some conclusion about something with no supporting facts.  Just gut based emotional responses.  They are always subjective and never objective.  These are usually strong opinions offered as fact.  If you are going to just parrot back your opinion at least label it for what is and add why you came to it.  Any less than that I’ll ignore you and I hope everyone else does as well.  Please remember just Googling for a bunch of stuff that agrees with you isn’t researching anything.  What you are doing is just re-enforcing your already existing bias.  Eighty five google links aren’t going to change my mind unless I see evidence you researched it from all sides.  No vaccinations do not appear to cause autism and even if they did we are healthier because of them.  You probably are not affected adversary by gluten.   Giving sugar to kids dies not make them hyperactive.  There aren’t more suicides on a full moon.   Please do your homework.  There is a quote from the Movie “John Wick” I like.  “Have you thought this through? I mean, chewed down to the bone?”.  Try to show you have “chewed down to the bone” instead of just spewed whatever your gut felt have hearing some talking head on the “news”.

Assuming shared beliefs or values – I may not have your value system or beliefs.  If your argument is based on some  set of belief or values that you believe should just make me agree with you isn’t going to work for me or anyone else.  For example if you are trying to convince me we need more gun laws because you think guns are too dangerous to own then you aren’t going to win me over or most of the people I know.  I grew up with guns and believe otherwise.  Don’t assume everyone agrees with something you believe to be a fact that is really an opinion.  Fore example if you want to make a case about some position about gun safety have some facts, statistics, legal analysis of the relevant laws, examples in other places or context to support your position.  The same can be said about other things.  Clean energy is a good one, your idea of “clean energy” may or may not be mine.  I like nuclear.  This is often the frustrating “just because it is” argument.  Even kids see through that one.

Your smarter/better/more moral/prettier/whatever than me – Chances you don’t know enough about me to know.  I’m also smart enough to know I don’t always know no matter how much I study something and that sometimes the smartest things come from unexpected places.  You aren’t going to win any argument because of your degrees or past expertise.  You need to bring more to the argument than just who you are in almost every case.  Your background can help but shouldn’t be expected to be all you need to convince anyone you are right.  Chances are if you have what ever it is you claim would make you the authority you can then explain your position convincingly even without me knowing anything about you.  Another variation of that is taking the position that because you may belong to some “class” of people I have to accept whatever you say if its about “your class”.  I will never claim to know what its like to be in Inuit but just because you are you need to make more of a case if we are talking about something having to do with Alaska than just what group of people you belong to.  Explain how that experience shaped your view so I might come to understand your position.

Personal attacks – Simple.  If you’ve lowered yourself to that you’ve lost.  Telling me I dress funny or insulting my personal habits only makes it clear you have no valid argument and you’ve given up.  You are demonstrating a total lack of relevant intellect.

Making stuff up – I still run into this once in a while but it almost always fails quickly.  It is just too easy to check things out.   I used to encounter a person who wouldn’t hesitate to flat out invent things to try and win an argument.  Back in the college days for me it wasn’t easy to quickly fact check.  Today with smart phones a the google you will be busted.  Just don’t!

Faith – This is probably a subset of assuming shared beliefs.  I your position is based on faith then just make it part of your point.  I know enough to know in those matters there is no “right answer”.  It is totally subjective.  There is no winning an argument that has an element of faith.  Discussions for sure but no one will walk away the “winner”.  Faith is by definition “to know the unknowable”. If you believe something you think makes your life better, great, but don’t expect me to just accept something just because your copy of some book of questionable origin has a passage that threatens me with an eternity in an imagined unpleasant place.

Group think – Don’t claim you are right because more people think like you than think like me.  History is full of things the majority thought that were proved flat out wrong.  At one time what passed for doctors would drill holes in people’s heads to let out the evil spirits.  Leeches anyone?    54 percent of Icelanders believe in elves.  Numbers of like minded people do not a case make.

 

Giant leaps – If you are making a case that is based on some string of things make sure you’ve identified the steps.

e08abe33e06a8417779f8e12b58b0b83

may need a little more explanation!  I may come to see your argument if I know how you got there but please provide the path, not just the destination!

So these are just some of the things I see in the average argument/debate/discourse.  I have promised myself to try not to do them.  Don’t be surprised if I don’t take the bait if you try any of these with me.

So be prepared if you’ve come for an argument, I know I’ll try to be Spacegrrrl

 

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What we dream of being in life

So yesterday I rambled about things I have observed about my challenges in getting things that matter to me done.  I was going to share some more about our life, our goals and how other folks seem to get to be where they are.  And is there is even a “there” there.

So I think it was a famous racing car driver that said once in an interview that one of the things fans occasionally said to him that sort him set him off “was man I wish I was you”.  He said any time he heard that he’d think to himself if they really wanted it they would have done all the things he’d done to make it happen.  What the fan really meant was they sure wish they could suddenly have all the upside of that person’s situation without any of the down side that had to be overcome to get there.

Next time you see someone and you are thinking to yourself “man I wish I was them” step back for a minute and ask yourself why you aren’t them.  Chances are there will be some percentage of circumstance but more likely a large percentage of the reason if you made choices that put you where you are now.  That amazing athlete that let their life be defined by the exercise and practice that put them there.  Those cold morning they beat the sun, up to run 10 miles when you chose sleeping in that warm bed just a little later.  Or that writer who wrote millions of words and fought rejections along the way while you dreamed of the best seller stuck in your brain.  The amazing musician who plays every chance they get and who lived through those horrible gigs and bands for years while you started at your instrument and watch some more TV.

Do you know why the Beatles were so good?  The played thousands of hours in some of the worst clubs ever before facing endless rejection till it all payed off.  Some call it paying your dues.  Others talk about the Gladwell 10,00 hours thing.  So if you aren’t where you wish you were ask how much you’ve done to make it happen.  I know I’m where I am more because I chose to be.  Sometimes on purpose and other because not choosing is just another choice.  The sacred engine will always pull us forward.  So big things are hard work in most every case.  Welcome to the human condition.

One thing we can all be sure of is you are never going to get there if you don’t start moving in the right direction.  Set your sights and head out.  It won’t be easy,  you can’t know now what you’ll find on your way and you may very well come to realize there isn’t really a “there” there.  Its almost a sure thing what you think you will find will be different than what you thought you knew it was going to be when you got there.   Better?  Not as good?  No idea.  Different, for sure.  You may find you love it but for  different reasons that you thought you would.  Don’t despair.  Enjoy the journey, most of time its better than the destination.  Besides, you aren’t planning on stopping there when you’ve still got so much more to see, do, learn, experience, master, teach, share?  We all have more ahead.  Maybe in forms we never expected.  So each step in front of the other over and over, soon your over that ridge, the oceans in sight and before you know your frolicking in the surf.  Then find that next leg of your journey.  Even if those steps are small, they are still progress and that puts you closer to where you think you want to be.

Now onto another part of this puzzle.  Is there a “there” there.  Are you really being realistic about what its going to mean once you get to where you are going.  Are you being honest with yourself about why you want to be there?

What I’ve learned every time I get to know folks that “made it” I see that what the experience is for them isn’t quite what I would have expected.  You can find example after example of people that “got it” and how wasn’t always a sure path to happiness you might have expected.  For example being rich.  What most people seem to like the most about it is some of the freedoms it can provide.  The “stuff” that wealth brought rarely seems to be providing real happiness.  There are other costs a lot of folks don’t think about.

Take Paul Allen, very wealthy fellow, some great accomplishments yet he seems to get little joy from his musical collections (the EMP, he certainly doesn’t go there or take any active interest in it).  He has an amazing aircraft collection that he never spends any time with.  An old computer museum he largely ignores.  He has dozens of yachts, helicopters and jets he can barely use.  You might think you’d live his life much better but here is the point of it all.  No you wouldn’t.  To be him you’d have to be him, with everything that shaped who he is today.  Every choice he made that led to his wealth would have been the choices you would have made.  Everything that he has experienced that made him today would have changed you the same way.  No what you want is all the things he has in his life without the costs he’s paid and continues to pay to be him.  No one gets that.  Even if you were given all that wealth the practical burden of it may not let you enjoy it.

So is that “star” really happier overall than you?  If so I bet you can find a way in your life with your circumstances to be just as happy or even happier.  Prince, amazing creative genius leave behind a $300 million dollar estate and died from a drug overdose.  The list of similar outcomes in lengthy indeed.  Michael Jackson, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Robin Williams….

Its an interesting fact that lottery winners overwhelmingly are no happier or sometime even far less happy than they were before they won a year after they won.  Also paraplegics return to the level of happiness experienced prior to the event.  The bottom line is if you are looking for some giant thing in your life to make or ruin your life you are going to be disappointed.  Most major life events won’t make much difference in the long run.  Happiness and the lottery

So lets all do ourselves a favor and put away that “Grass Greener” meter and stop using it on our neighbors lawn.  Stop waiting for our ship to come it.  It did, it is what brought us here!  In the time it took for me to write this someone just had something amazing happen to them, was it you?  Would you really even know if it was?  We are surrounded by wonder and most of it goes by unnoticed.  Are you open to it if it shows up?  Henry Ford once said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”  Since I’m in a quoting mood here is another to remember good old Tommy Edison gave us “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

So where is there?  How will we know when we arrive?  Will there be snacks?  I’d start the wisdom of Buckaroo Banzia,   “No matter where you go, there you are!”.  So I think we’ve already arrived.  Maybe we should all start living like we have arrived!  I wish I could point at my life and say I live all this.  I don’t but I’m trying.  Anne Lamott is someone I find very insightful.  She talks about how to face the challenge of writing about birds “do it bird by bird”.  Move forward a step at a time, all I know how to do.  I do try and look back to once in a while to remember how far I’ve come.

She had another interesting quote “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”

Seems sort of salty caramel to me and leaves me smiling when I let it – Spacegrrrl

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