Flew the Coupe! – Part 11- A big milestone, a conference and more

Legal to fly again!!

So I finally managed to become a legal pilot again.  After 8-ish hours and many many landings in a Cessna 172 I got a CFI to sign off my BFR.  With that I am a legal pilot in the eyes of the FAA.  That means I shouldn’t have to do that again for another two years.  Probably longer because I expect to add some to my ratings in the form of a tail wheel endorsement or a seaplane rating.  Doing that resets the two year clock.   Here I am with my freshly endorsed log book!


So a big step completed!  Now I need to do a check out with Woodstock, my Ercoupe and after that my adventure really begins!

The Annual Aviation Conference in the PacNW


Every year there is a national aviation conference in the greater Seattle area.  Puyallup, WA to be more specific.  So I attended Saturday of the two day event.  I attended a couple of sessions, one on air racing in the 30’s and 40’s in the U.S. sponsored by the Historic Flight Foundation. It was very enjoyable.  Here are a couple  of the racing planes discussed:

Laird Super Solution

full size replica RT-14

I also attended a session on the most common insurance claims in the General Aviation world.  It turns out hangar doors and tow bars are evil!  Also not running out of gas turns out to be a good idea.  The session was informative and even inspired me to go out and make sure there wasn’t anything in my hangar that could injure my Ercoupe Woodstock.

There was a session about a new program the Washington Department of Transportation is putting together to let pilots track all the different Washington airports they have visited and then get rewards when they have visited a specific number of them.  This will be a lot of fun and should be launched in 2018.  If you get the top level you could end up with a free flight jacket! 🙂

The final session I remember was about ice. Airplanes and ice are not a good combination unless its ice in a drink after a great day of flying!  Here is an example of airplane icing:



So the rest of the time I wondered around the convention floor to see what all the vendors and organizations were promoting.  Here is what that looked like:

IMG_20170225_172315881_HDR (1)

I didn’t find anything to buy.  I had hoped maybe I’d find someone there I’d like to hire to do a new interior in my plane but I didn’t see anyone there I would consider.  I did get a couple of calendars of this years fly ins and other aviation events.  This year should be a great year for me returning to flying.  I now have several “must attend” fly ins in 2017.  This include:

  • Paine Field Aviation Day
  • Arlington Fly In
  • Concrete Washington Fly In
  • Wings over Republic fly in (these guys always handle out awesome apples!)
  • Hood River Fly in (I probably have to miss this one to go to Reno instead)

I also paid to become a “premium” FATPNW group.  This is program that has an annual fee and gives the members a number of discounts for products and services related to aviation.  So with that I have become member number 50.


After Saturday I went to a party at Spencer aviation and had some wonderful BBQ and an adult beverage or two.


All in all the convention was as always a great way to get charged up for the upcoming flying season here in the pacific northwest.

Another way to spend money!

So it is time for my plane to get its annual inspection.  I have opted to do an “owner assisted” inspection.  The FAA lets the owner of the airplane do a lot of the basic parts of the yearly inspection.  This can save a lot of money.  So I’ve been asked to remove the interior, the cowling and wing fairings in preparation of the actual mechanic coming out to do all the legally required inspection and any work as a result of what the mechanic finds.  This yearly requirement can be intimidating as the costs can be high.  I know folks that have spent in excess of twenty five thousand dollars to get this yearly mechanic sign off.

I specifically bought the plane I did as it is a type of plane that is known for having lower cost annual inspections.  So I am crossing my fingers that nothing expensive is found.  I am hoping that I spend less than one thousand dollars.  I expect my next blog will be about that annual inspection experience.  I pulled out Woodstock to organize the hangar.  Here it was out in front of my hangar last Sunday:


Last Sunday I started the process by buying some tools,  organizing the hangar to make some more room around the plane and then removing the cowling.  I wanted to remove the wing fairings but they are held on by a type of flat head screw that no screwdriver I have ever seen would fit.  Here is the mysterious screw, it seems have a very narrow straight slot:


So I need to find a specialty screw driver of modify one to be able to remove those panels.

In organizing the hangar I may have also run across mouse droppings!  Rodents can get into a plane and their waste can cause enough corrosion to make a plane damaged beyond repair.   So I have to learn if I really have a rodent problem.


Another curiosity.  I need a special tool to be able to service my plane’s spark plugs.  It is some sort of “pin wrench”.  The folks that helped sell me the plane sent me home with what we thought was the right tool but it turns out to be for something else.  So my friend Olan made something in the mean time that should work while I go on a quest for the correct tool.  Here is the spark plug can and the wrong wrench:


One other thing I did last Sunday was learn more about polishing aluminum.  My friend Olan owns a wonderful polished Cessna 170 and he gave me some pointers.  Olan’s Cessna 170:


We did a small section of the horizontal stabilizer.  We found what looked to be a bird dropping and I was surprise out how much corrosion it caused!  But once we got that cleaned off I found my plane is going to polish up like a jewel!  The previous owner did a fantastic job re-skinning most of my plane and the keeping the metal in awesome shape.  I can’t wait to polish the whole thing up and share some pictures!  Here is the small section after just a little polishing:


Finally a decision or two but a few remain!

So I will be going with Airtex for the new interior for my plane.  I will order it once I am sure there is no giant expense in my future as a result of the annual inspection.

I am still wanting to add shoulder harnesses to my plane but another thing I didn’t find was a company that offered those for the Ercoupe.  So I will see of the fellow doing my annual inspection has any ideas.  Same goes for a couple of minor things I’d like to do electrically to my plane.

So that it for now, I’m a legally a pilot again!  My plane is getting its annual loving from a mechanic.  I’m hoping I won’t end up broke when that’s over.  I have some great plans for enjoying being a pilot again in 2017!

The future is heading this way and I can’t wait for it be get here!





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Flew the Coupe! – Part 10- More Misc. in the middle of the weather standown

So I felt it was time for an update on my journey to return to flight.  No major announcements in this post but I thought I’d catch you up on the backlog of little things.

Secondary Costs of Buying a Plane

Let’s start with some details about the some of the secondary costs of buying an airplane.  So some background:

For folks that have been following the blog you may remember that n October I purchased a 1946 Ercoupe.  It was ferried up to Seattle from Compton, CA.  Yes my Coupe is “Straight out of Compton”!  So just know when you see me roll up that taxiway I will represent.  The Ercoupe is a very gangster ride! 😉  Enough of the humor.  The plane was “delivered” to Auburn, WA (S50).  It was purchased using an escrow company who completed the FAA paperwork to transfer the registration.  So I learned there seems to be two steps for folks bringing in an airplane from out of state into Washington state.

  1. Pay the WA. state use tax.

You are expected to pay a onetime use tax fee when the plane comes into Washington.   The rate is based on where the plane is “first used”.  So in my case I went to the state revenue office in downtown Seattle.  Well 4th ave anyways.  The office was mostly empty when I went and the folks were friendly.  They wanted to verify my paperwork using the FAA database.  They want to determine the age of the airplane to figure out what it was worth using some sort of “blue book” reference they use.  What I learned:

My FAA registration does not indicate the year my plane was manufactured.  Even after I told them the year my plane could not be found in their “blue book”.  So I did have paperwork from the Escrow company that showed the purchase price.  They accepted that but let me know that I would have to prove that if later on the state agency wanted to challenge the valuation.  That seemed pretty unlikely.

The next thing they needed to know was where is the plane kept.  The rate you are charged varies by where the “first use” occurs.  I know there are some folks that have got a tie down for an initial period of time somewhere is a lower rate.  I looked at that and decided I’d just go with S50.  I soon discovered they could not locate using whatever software they use the Auburn airport using the airport identifier.  So they ended up basically figuring it out using something like Google maps.  So we had a rate.  For folks wondering about what this will cost here are my numbers.  I paid $20,500 for my plane.  I ended up paying them $1945.  The do not take credit cards.  You must pay via check or cash.  Also be aware if you are a cash sort of person they will only take case for a subset of their hours.

So I got two copies of my receipt and I was told I would need to submit one of those when I went to register the airplane.  So on to the next and I believe final step.

2. Register your airplane with the State of Wa.

So I believed you needed to mail in some sort of application to do this but I saw someone I work with mentioned they had done it using the phone and then online.  That was an excellent hint!  So I called them up and they had my account set up in minutes.  They could verify that I had paid the use tax previously using whatever system they use.  So twenty minutes later I’d logged onto my new account and paid $65 via credit card.  I am told I will get some sort of registration card in the mail.  Washington no longer uses stickers.  Just some paperwork I think you keep in the plane.

So there it is.  Total cost:

$1945 + $65

As I understand it I will be billed annually to renew the state registration much like my car.

So I will also share an alternative I considered.  I also have a hangar in Mesa, AZ.  FFZ – X5.  I considered registering it in AZ as that would have reduced this to a $45 a year expense with no use tax.  But if you look at the rules I would have been “cheating” and who knows what would happen if I was caught.  So I decided it wasn’t worth it.  I am however trying to figure out a work situation that would let me spend my winters down there and my summers up here.   But all that would mean is I think my annual registration is pro-rated for however much time the plane spends in each state.

So there it is for folks that have either just bought a plane from out of state or folks considering it.  As with everything that flies all it takes is time and money!

Progress on Flying Woodstock

So I have not yet flown my plane myself.  I am still working on my BFR and the weather and other factors have not been my friends.  The FBO and instructor I’ve selected here in the Seattle area seem to require several weeks at a minimum to schedule a plane and the instructor.  There is no way to know that far ahead of time what the weather will be.  For example while I’m writing this I have things lined up for some flying this Saturday but the forecast are predicting rain.  So it is likely I won’t be flying.  So the progress I’m making is slow at best.  I am seriously looking at alternatives.  Maybe an out of state trip to someplace with better weather.  So I am still not sure.

I did learn of some local resources that might help.  There is a flying club with a couple of Ercoupes  about 90 minutes from where I live.  They have a CFI that I could not only finish up my BFR with but also get an Ercoupe check out.  Still I am at the mercy of the weather.  On the good side I have no deadline so even if its frustrating I don’t have to be flying by any certain date.

More I’ve learned about My Airplane

So there is a lot of controversy within the Ercoupe community about some aspects of the planes.  One of things folks disagree about is the nose gear.  When the plane was originally designed the nose gear was designed to fully extend and a small faring would move up in place to make the nose gear more streamline.  When the Ercoupe design was acquired by Mooney there was a change made.  Mooney wanted a simple trainer to get pilots to transition to the other Mooney planes.  So they changed the tail to a single rudder.  Added full rudder pedals and added a cable called a “snubber cable” to limit the travel of the nose gear downward.  This makes sense.  Students needed to learn to hold the nose off and use the rudder for directional control when landing.  So the nose gear needed to be held up.  So the cable held it off during the flair.

For some reason owners of the older Ercoupes thought this cable thing must be a good thing and so many added this to their older planes.  This also means they needed to remove the faring.  So this is a strange decision since the only real way an Ercoupe with no rudder pedals has directional control is to have the nose gear in contact with the ground.  That long nose gear extension is to make sure that the nose gear is on the runway when or shortly after the plane touches down.  The original designer of the Ercoupe said they should not have the cable added to the nose gear,  In fact it sort of appears that it might not even be legal to add the cable to an older plane.

Mine has the dreaded cable and does not have the proper faring.  So I’ve decided as soon as I can find someone in the general Seattle area to do the work I am having me nose gear put back to original configuration.  Here is my current nose gear, notice the cable:


Here is an original nose gear with a faring:


Here is an original nose gear in the air:


See how the nose gear extends down completely down and the faring has moved into place.  This is how the plane was designed to work.  Here is an Ercoupe in flight with a snubber cable:


See how the nose gear never really extends.  In fact it looks so short that when flaring on landing it may not be on the runway until the plane has been on the ground for a while.

So the summary is I am going to have my nose gear put back to original.

Progress on Maybe a New Instrument Panel

So my instrument panel is decidedly not original.  And I really like the original panel.  The Ercoupe came with two glove boxes!!  Here is a nice original Ercoupe panel:


I think that looks great!  So I have located and purchased a stock panel with no instruments of course but it did include the glove box doors.  So I am going to have to decide what to do but I think I may strip that panel and make some sort of closer to stock replacement for my plane.  Here is a picture of the panel I currently have.  It is pretty nice in its own way so I can’t say I’m replacing it as a high priority.  Here is my current panel:


So no firm plan for a panel upgrade yet.

Update on a New Interior

So I decided I really wanted to put a nicer interior in my plane.  I was ready to commit to an interior kit from Airtex. They make a nice interior for the Ercoupe.  I discovered it was not so simple to order.  I tried to order the interior twice with no luck.  I eventually learned there was a months long lead time to get the interior from them.  Ugh.  So I did some more research.  I wanted to know just what the original interior looked like.  I learned that the company that currently owns all the rights to the Ercoupe actually had some of the orginal material in their warehouse and I contacted them.  I was not able to get them to get me a sample or even a picure.  So I set about trying to learn more.

Here is what I found out from the fantastic Ercoupe Tech Yahoo  Group, here was an answer I got to the question about the original interior :

 “But what I have seen in my 20 years of working on Ercoupes I will attempt to describe. Looking at the reprints of the catalogs of both Skyport and Univair, and adding what I have seen/removed from Ercoupes I would describe the interior a little differently than you have indicated.
    You are correct in that the floor was made from aircraft grade plywood (5 layers glued up into a 1/4″ piece) Which was cut out to enable removal & replacement fairly easily. The kick board (where you rest your feet in front of the floor board) must be removed before you can remove the floor board. The floor board and kick plate were covered with a carpet fastened down with snaps. I have no idea of the color, but I would guess a medium gray.
    The seats were two individual cushions (most likely containing horse hair) also gray in color with maroon piping around the edge. The seat back was sewn on a piece of heavy canvas that had brass grommets placed around the edges so in it could be fastened into the seat frame with a lacing cord to boot lace hooks fastened around the edge of the seat frame. I believe there were pockets in the seat back in which some cushion material was placed, but I have not seen an original. Replacements came with various foam inserts.
    There were side panels (called soundproofing) which were made of a lightweight gray vinyl sewn to a thin cotton backing with a material that looks a little like fiberglass (but I think it is something else) in between the two. I have attached pictures of the front and back of the “soundproofing” material and you can see the wavy stitching utilized to hold the materials together. This material was glued to the firewall and fuselage sides with some sort of cement (it takes hours and hours of scrubbing with MEK to remove the cement).
    I am not certain how the material, with pockets sewn on them, was fastened to the sides of the fuselage (by the pilots knees), but it had to be removable in order to access the fuel lines  behind them. It may have been some form of fibre board with a few screws.
    The instrument panel was quite intricate with chrome strips about 3/16″ apart run vertically down the glove box doors and center of the panel, There was a maroon paint applied between the chrome strips. All the knobs were of a maroon color, and there was a maroon welting placed between the instrument panel and the glare shield. The glove boxes were made of heavy cardboard and fastened to the inside of the instrument panel with small screws.
    You are also correct that the baggage compartment was made from canvass. I had a zipper in the bottom to facilitate inspections without removal, and it also had a gray vinyl cover that snapped over the top (to the seat back) that had the same maroon piping trim as the instrument panel.
I had another person describing it as much like a Model T interior.  Here is a photo of the original interior:
So I may be rethinking some things.  I may not add carpet and settle for refinishing my existing floorboards.  I am also thinking something simple grey with red stripe for the seat material.  Not as sure now as I think I was before.  Ah the joy of owning an airplane!

More thoughts on the Paint Scheme

I wish I could say I’ve settle on how I want to improve the trim on my plane.  I have settle on a name.  From here on out I will think of my coupe as “Woodstock”.


I want to put the Woodstock image on the plane but I’m still trying decide on the nose like typical military nose art or maybe back on the vertical fins.  That will depend a lot on how I decide to embellish my plane.  If I go the military trainer look then on the nose.  If I go with an upgraded civilian look then maybe the vertical fins?  I have learned a bit more about original paint and the side logo vs. the brass side badges.  I have confirmed that my plane likely came with the side badges.  Most of the time there was no side stripe with those.  I also learned that most of the planes came with silver wings and sometimes had red trim on the leading edges of the vertical fins and on the wingtips.  This is very close to what I think mine looked like new:


Primary differences would have been the “N” numbers would have been black and my plane has the center sun shade.  Also my plane came with a wood propeller.   At some point my planes wings were painted yellow.  I don’t know if that was before the previous owner replaced the fabric.   Notice the nose gear  That is what I hope to get back to.

Here is an example of a side stripe with the nose badges:


Anyways, still pondering trim.

Shoulder Harnesses

So I want to add shoulder harnesses to my plane.  There are a lot of options but I haven’t found one yet that seems to suit my plan for my plane.  Most seem to assume you’ve removed the original hat shelf in the back and maybe done the bigger baggage compartment mod.  I’ve decided I may have to cook up a system of my own.

Other Misc. Stuff

So I did my first oil change.  I went down the rabbit hole that is Marvel Mystery Oil.  Many folks swear by it.  The either add it to their oil or put it in their gas!  It is sort of a mystery,  For example it turns out one of the ingredients is lard!  It was used extensively my the US military in large round engines during WWII where it was purchased by the barrel full.  Many owners of classic planes swear by it and even add it to their fuel today but it is technically illegal as the FAA does not approve its use.  So went with W100 aviation oil and I am adding Camguard which not only improves lubrication but really reduces corrosion.
I also bought and started fresh log books from both my planes air frame and engine.  Airplanes maintain separate log books for the engine and the air frame.  I have to admit I still have more to learn about how to log stuff for my plane.
I’ve also bought a few more things.  I have a fuel check cup for the plane.  I also bought new center tank cap and float assembly.  Mine was showing signs of wear.  Finally after talking to someone at my airport about polishing planes I bought some of the more coarse polishing compound.  I also picked up a few more Ercoupe related manuals.

For now:

Well I hope these are more regular and more interesting once I really start flying but I’ll try and share things as I encounter them.  Once it warms up a bit I will spend more time at the hangar with the plane, take some more pictures and share some other projects.  For example I still need to fix my nose bowl, my wing tip strobe light and I will be having my plane’s first annual inspection soon.
Till then happy skies!
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Flew the Coupe! – Part 9- Not much happening but the waiting

So I thought I’d share an update.  Things here in Seattle have ground to a halt when it comes the Ercoupe adventure.  Weather is not my friend this time of year.  So I am still needing some time with an instructor to get my BFR behind me and that just isn’t happening.  The FBO I have chosen never seems to have a plane available and the instructor I’ve chosen is even harder to book.  Since very few days here this time of year would be days I’d want to fly in I have settled down into a holding pattern.  I’ve looked for things I can do while I wait.  So there have been a few things I’ve either done or tried to do.

So I have named my little bird.  I’d like you all to meet “Woodstock”!


Seems to fit.  I’m still trying to decide where I’ll be putting the image on the plane.  There is certainly the traditional nose art location but I am also considering the vertical fin.  That may end up depending on how I decide to enhance my airplanes markings.  While my plane really does lend itself to the pseudo military trainer scheme many Ercoupes seem to sport I am also considering staying with a civilian scheme.  The good news is I don’t have to rush to decide.  I am slowly learning more about how the Ercoupe came from the factory.  They really weren’t particularly fancy.  Basically no paint on the fuselage, silver wings.  Some had the Erco logo painted on the cowl, some came with the brass badges.  A wonderful fellow name Andy Pomeroy gave me a pair of those badges and I have already put them on the plane.


Looks pretty nice if you ask me!

So lets talk more about what I learned about civilian paint schemes for the Ercoupe.  So at first they came with a painted on logo, then they got the badges.  Its still a bit fuzzy as to when the swap happened.  Here is the panted on logo:


There are even factory drawings that show that as part of the original paint.  So looking at old photos and posters here is what you find.


So the brass logo but no stripe.  A little red trim in this case.


So painted on logo, side stripe. paint on both the wing and vertical fin leading edges.  Silver wings?  It also has the center sun screen.


So here are two Ercoupes in front of the factory.  One definitely has the brass logo plate.  No stripes on the fuselage and no leading edge trim.  Both look to have the center sun screen.


Nose brass plate logo, no stripe but a little trim on the wingtips.  No center sun screen.  Note the wire antenna from the canopy back to the top of the fin.


So bare, no logos, no stripes.


So here is a Macy’s ad.  Hard to tell if there is a cowl badge and I really don’t see a stripe on the fuselage but there is clearly trim on the wing and vertical fin leading edges.  Here is another Macy’s promotional photo:


What a happy family picnic!  Not sure how they all got there in that plane but sure!  So painted on logo on the cowl, side fuselage stripe.  No sign of trim on the leading edges.

Here is a picture from the Smithsonian:


No cowl logo, no fuselage stripes.  This plane also has a nose gear faring.  More about that later.

How about a promotional photo with Jane Russel!


Cowl brass plate logo.  No fuselage stripes.  No sign of leading edge trim.  Cool circular period directional antenna!

So summary is there really seemed to be a lot of randomness in the way the planes were painted new.  So I think I can take some liberties if I decided to stay “civilian”.

So if I decide to keep it “civy” I have to device a coupe of things.  For example do I add a fuselage side stripe?  If I do what color?  Do I use vinyl or paint it on?  Do I add leading edge trim?  How about the “N” numbers in the vertical fins?  Do I move them somewhere else like the fuselage or maybe incorporate them into some trim on the vertical fins?  How about some other vertical fin ideas?  Here are some photos of “coupes” with a “swoop”.




So I am pondering how to make my new to me plane “my own”.  So while I wait for the weather to improve I can plan out my mods.

I’ll share at least one silly airplane related thing I did.  I made a Christmas ornament match my plane:


Another thing I’ve been actively looking into is a new interior for my plane.  I set out to just order one from Airtex and have gotten no response.  They seem to have a huge lead time so I’ll start after the holidays and try again.  In the mean time I may have changed my mind about a few things.  The Ercoupe did not come with carpet.  Just a wood floor board and I am tempted to leave mine like that.  Here is my floorboard:



Nothing special, just wood. I’ll decide what to do about that after I’ve flown the plan a bit.  Maybe OK that way but carpet is easy to do.

I am still trying to decide what to do about the instrument panel.  Mine is far from original and I think something closer to original would be nice but again, I’m putting that off for when I’ve flown the plane more.

Now one thing I can get to almost immediately.  Polishing!  I can see I have a lot of that in my future!  I bought one of these:


And I’ve talked to some folks that know more about polishing than I do so I think I need to buy at least another one.  Parts of my plane are going to require more than this polisher can manage to bring them back to where I’d like them.  Some places on my plane are going to need to need some attention it seems.  For example:


We’ll see if I run out of energy once I get into it as the plane looks pretty decent to me.  Who knows?  I do know at least at this point I would like to have a nicely polished plane!

Another thing that was pointed out to me is that my cowl could fit better.  The top piece seems to be a little too wide to fit right.  Someone said I need to possible “shrink” it.  I have no idea whats involved in that.  Maybe I’ll figure that out once I get this fixed.  My nosebowl has a crack.  I have several folks that say they can weld it but I need to take the prop off to get the nosebowl off.  Well the plane is not being flown so now if the time to do it!  Here is the crack:


I also still need to fix my wingtip strobe light.  Now I know what I have and what I need to do.  So the previous owner took standard Grimes wingtip lights and welded on a mount for a standard Whelan strobe assembly.  My strobe tube seems to be blown so I can buy a replacement from places like Aircraft Spruce Specialist. Here is a standard grimes light and mine:



And here is what I think I need to fix it:


The only complication is my light is riveted together so I have to drill the rivets and then replace them with a screw and nut of some sort.  First step is to figure out where my drill is!  Actually my entire hangar needs to be reorganized but the cold is very demotivating!

So other things I’ve found out.  I have Cleveland brakes!  This is a very good thing as I understand it.  Parts for the original brakes are hard to come by and the original brakes don’t work as well.  I do need to clean my calipers but just another project!


Another thing I’ve learned is my nose gear has something called a “snubber” cable and has had the original faring removed.  I need to fly the plane some to decide what I really want to do but I think at this time I will restore the nose gear to its original configuration. Originally it came with a small metal faring that would move to streamline the nose gear as the weight of plane came off the gear and it extended.  Some planes still have them, many do not.  I think I want to put mine back.  To do that I need to remove the “snubber” cable.  These cables were fitted to newer coupes and many owners added them to their older coupes.

Another thing related to the landing gear.  My airplane may be sitting too tail high.  There are rubber components on the main gear that can flatten over time and make the tail sit too low.  This becomes a problem because the Ercoupe needs the nose wheel on the ground to steer.  So if the tail stays low the airplane can be uncontrollable in a cross wind.  Something I need to check out.

So I can say I’ve made progress on other less interesting things that are part of buying an airplane.  I paid the state of Washington my “use tax”.  That was $1950-ish dollars I would have liked to spent on something more useful for the airplane.  Now I need to send the proof of that to the WA aviation folks to get my WA state registration.  Paying the use tax was pretty straight forward although I discovered that my FAA registration does not list the aircraft manufacturer year so I had to swear to that verbally.  Also whatever blue book they use to verify the airplane’s value seems to not include the Ercoupe!

So that’s about all I have to report as “I fly the Coupe”.  Sadly no real flying to share.  But soon I hope.  I am looking into putting a “Go Pro” in the plane to share more of my adventures with videos.  Not sure about that yet.

So if you have any ideas about how to add some paint/vinyl trim to Woodstock let me feel free to leave your ideas in the comments!  Also if you run across any interesting Ercoupe photos please let me know!  Here is one I ran across I really like!


Note, painted on cowl logo, fuselage stripes and no leading edge trim.  Very few people know that the Ercoupe was the preferred airplane for bears to fly! 🙂

Here is another, this is the Ercoupe that was the first airplane to ever fly with a JATO.


So painted on cowl logo, side fuselage stripes, red leading edge trim.

So this really it for this installment.  I’ll leave with a suggested site.  If you are familiar with the show Top Gear you certainly know Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.   They started a social sites for fans of motorsports mostly call Drive Tribe.  I add an aviation tribe there call “Oh To Fly”.  Please give it a visit and consider joining!






Posted in Aviation, flying | 2 Comments

Flew the Coupe! – Part 8- It’s all the little stuff!

So I thought I’s share some more details of my plane and talk a little more about things I want to change.  Let’s start with things I don’t plan.  No, even though I live on a lake that is one of the busiest seaplane port in the word  will not be putting my coupe on floats.  Sure seems like it could be cool though! 🙂

One of the first things I am upgrading.  My interior.  Here is my current interior.  I expect it may be very much like it came out of the factory.  I think the seat back may be original.  I think the same might be true of the baggage compartment.  I think the seat cushions are likely recovered but in a material close to original.   I expect the same is true of the side panels.  The plane has a wooden floor and no carpet.  Here are some photos of the seat:



The baggage compartment:

Side panels:

The floor is just wood:



So there is nothing horrible about any of that.  In fact it is probably very close to how my plane came off the factory floor.  Much of my plane is how I think it was when it was manufactured.  But, I can do better!

So I am going to add carpets, replace the side panels and seats.  I think dark grays will be the pallet.  I believe I can put in all the new interior kit myself.  I also realize looking at the floor picture there is some sort of bracket there I have to figure out.  For folks that wonder I expect the interior will set me back about $1500.  This should include the baggage compartment.  While I like the large baggage compartment upgrade I am not sure I’m going to do that.  I will definitely share that process when I get to it.

Other things I expect to address.  Here is my “hat shelf”:


You can get a carpet cover for that so I think I’ll get one of those as well.  I discovered something I need to research.  Here is the dataplate for my plane:


My plane was upgraded to a “D” and and 85HP.  I wonder if this was supposed to be updated?

Another interior item that will be replaced.  There is a cover over the dash that is made out of the same material as the seats.  I will replace that with some matching material with the new interior.  You can see it here:


So another small detail that I like I am going to reproduce.  It looks like that gas float assembly on my plane is worn and the float not floating so well.  Good news is that I can buy a new one from Univair.  However mine has a sort of fin at the top.  The come as just a wire.  Someone fit mine with a little folded over piece of brass.  Here it is:


So lets talk about things my plane has plenty of. Antennas! Here are all the antennas on my plane in no particular order.  Transponder and I’m not sure.  The plane had a Loran once.  If you know what that small “V” shaped antenna is let me know!

This I believe is a VOR antenna and the tail position light:



And now the Comm and GPS antenna:


I think I have at least one antenna I don’t need and the GPS/Comm antenna does not feel very “period”.  I understand the radios work well but I am thinking some changes are in order.  For example if the GPS comes out maybe I can go to a simple whip for the comm radio.  Something more like this:


I can’t say yet I know where my ELT antenna is.  And I have no idea what the “V” shaped one on the bottom is.

Now lets look at my panel.  Here are some pictures:










So a couple of observations.  The panel is certainly not in any sort of standard layout.  And at least one instrument needs some “luvin”.  The artificial horizon needs to be adjusted/serviced.  But this begs a larger question.  Is this panel not really consistent with my “mission”.  So certainly all legally required instruments stay.  And when it comes to engine instruments more is better I think.  But do I need an artificial horizon? These old sperry instruments date back to WWII.  Another question do I need a VOR?  I am not so sure in the age of GPS.  Anyways, I am seriously thinking of refurbish an original panel.  Moving the avionics to one of the glove box locations and ditching all the not needed for IFR instruments.

Other things I’n noticed on the plane.  I have some polishing challenges.  Here is some corrosion I found on the top of the canopy area:


If you know anything about polishing let me know what to do!

Another thing I decided not to worry about.  My plane is missing the cabin heat “muff”.  Dennie said be found the plane stayed plenty warm.  I may take advantage of the ducting and move it to just fresh outside air.  Here is where the missing heater part should be:


A simple thing I need to sort out, what to do about the “head clobbering device”!.  The compass works very well but seems to be perfectly positioned for people to hit their head on!



I need to pad it or something!

So mostly I thought I’d share some details of my plane.  Here are some other photos:

So if you have any feedback please feel free to share!

There should be a future installment will be about the history of the Ercoupe but the next installment is just about passing some time while I get flying my new bird!

Flew the Coupe! – Part 9- Not much happening but the waiting

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Flew the Coupe! – Part 7- I’m the dog that caught car, now what!

So I did it!  I bought a wonderful plane.  A 1946 Ercoupe in great shape.  So lets take a brief inventory of my remarkable little plane.

  • Low total air frame time
  • Polished fuselage and tail
  • Medium time engine
  • Pretty full panel with at least one mystery gauge!
  • Decent radios
  • Average interior
  • “C” model upgraded to “D”
  • 85 HP engine
  • Single leg nose gear
  • Fabric wings in excellent shape!
  • New battery
  • Fresh mags
  • Very simple paint – yellow wings with big “N” numbers and the “N” number on the fins

So most of that is great, now onto the obvious squawks.

  • Mystery gauge – will I solve that puzzle!  Time travel??  Warp drive???
  • Mediocre interior – maybe original even – brown Naugahyde – This picture shows the brown material my plane has:


  • Paint scheme could use some “pizzazz”!
  • Wingtip strobe light dead
  • Room to maybe improve the panel for what I want the plane for

So what are my plans and priorities.

Fix the wingtip strobe light.  My plane has a very unusual custom tip light that combines a standard Grimes fixture with a custom created housing for the strobe with is a standard Whelen strobe.  I think the strobe bulb has died.  Here is what that looks like:


I think I can order the strobe tube once I’ve confirmed what I have.  Aircraft Spruce seems to sell them:


Put in a new interior.  So far I think I am going to do the Airtex kit.  Here is an Airtex Ercoupe interior”


I’ve ordered their material sample kit and I am in the process of picking the materials and colors.  I am leaning towards grays for the carpet and seats (it doesn’t have any carpet at the moment).  So premium cloth for the seats and vinyl for the side panels.  Still pondering but I think I am close to a choice.

I thought about fitting Cessna 150 seats which I understand is a popular mod but I think keeping it close to original is better.  I also considered adding the large baggage mod but I think I’ll pass on that.

I want to add shoulder harnesses.  Alpha aviation seems to sell a decent solution.  The Alpha Aviation shoulder harness kit:


They also have another mod I think I will do soon.  They have a modification that adds a solenoid on the main battery line to remove the high current draw through the main switch.


I am also hoping to have some sort of ground power charging plug added to the plane so I can keep a trickle charger on the batter while the plane sits in the hangar.  Life is too short for dead batteries.

Other upgrades I am considering is upgrading the electrical system to have an alternator instead of a generator.  “Plane-Power” looks to make a decent kit.  I may hold off on that for a little while.

One of the first things I knew I needed was a decent polisher.  I’ve already bought one along with a supply of “Nuvite” polish from “Perfect Polish”.  So I now own one of these:


I am sure I will become fast friends with this gizmo!  I know I have many many hours using it!  I expect to buy a couple of other polishers as well.  Some sort of smaller one to polish harder to reach places and maybe some sort of basic car type polish for first step polishing work.  If you know anything about polishing airplanes please share!

So lets look at some other places  in my plane I am looking at making changes.  My instrument panel is unusual for an Ercoupe.  Here is a picture of the original panel:


Not many instruments and a couple of glove boxes!  I’m  not sure how many instruments you really need in an Ercoupe.  Also note that there aren’t any radios.  Ercoupes almost predate radios!  But today you are going to want radios!  So lets look more at my panel.  It has many more instruments and some radios.  Sadly you will see there are no longer glove boxes in my plane. 😦  Here are some pictures of my panel.  See if you can identify the mystery gauge!


So lets look at what I have.  King Com and Nav Radio.  A Garmin in panel GX-150 GPS.  A marker beacon receiver.  A transponder.  An artificial horizon.  A turn and bank indicator.  A mystery gauge!  Also note that my control yokes are upside down.  The panel is covered with this sort of “spun metal” finish.  The previous owner considered this an IFR capable panel.  I am going to admit I am not sure I plan on a lot of IFR time in my Coupe!  Also the Sperry “Gyro Horizon” looks to have been used in WWII bombers!  And it seems to see the world with a definite tilt.  It never straightens out. 😦  It needs to be removed and somehow serviced/adjusted.  I am told the clock works really well!  OK, so one thing I don’t have to worry about! 🙂  I should note that as part of the plane prepping to come home the 1946 tachometer decided it had had enough so it does have a new tach.  It has vernier throttle and mixture controls. I am not sure I like those.  Maybe I’ll get used to them.

So I considering finding a more original panel and trying to maybe get it to looking something more like this:

panelMuch more  period looking.  I have considered moving the radios to where one of the glove boxes was in the original panel.  I’ve seen folks do that.  As with everything all you need is time and money.   Does anyone know how the panel goes in and can then be removed?  I haven’t figured that out yet. 😦

Dennie suggested the I get rid of the GPS as he is a huge fan of iPads with the right software.  My friend Olan thinks the GPS that came with the plane is a decent one.  Not sure.  It does need the navigation file updated but that is available. I’d love feedback on the right way to evolve/devolve the instrument panel!  I don’t see it as the highest priority but I think it will be part of my plans.

So how about some things I decided for now to to change:

The nose gear.  At first I though the dual fork gear was a must.  I no longer think so.  So I don’t plan on any changes to my nose gear.  Also the original Ercoupe came with a funny little faring that would line up behind the gear.  That was supposed to be good for 1 MPH! 🙂  My plane has a thing called a “snubber” cable the limits the nose gear travel downward and would prevent the faring from working properly.  Here is what my nose gear looks like (note, not my gear, just a picture I found like mine):


Another thing I considered was adding a split elevator and basically making my “D” an “E”.  Dennie says my plane lands fine and I haven’t flown it yet so I will hold off on that idea till I’ve decided for myself.  So no immediate plan with the elevator.

I do have at least one minor sheet metal repair to get made on the cowl.  I have a crack in my nose bowl.  This I understand is very typical.  Here is the crack:


Kind of nasty.  No worries.  I’ll take off the prop and get the nose bowl looked at by someone with the right skills to set it right.

I am also going to add some non-slip walkway material on my wing roots as they get very very slippery!

So another thing I know pilots are thinking about now.  What am I going to do about the upcoming ADS-B transponder upgrade that the FAA is imposing?  I am going to ignore it for now.  I will be leveraging the unlimited power of procrastination!  I don’t need to do it right away and I think there are just too many things improving in that area.  I think there are cheaper and better options in the future.  So I’m holding off on worrying about that for now.

Now to some fun things.  I think I am going to add some trim and even name the little bird.  This presents me with a number of options.  As for naming I am drawn to Woodstock.  Snoopy’s good friend who is an eccentric little yellow bird.  Seems to fit the character of this plane.  Here is Woodstock:


So now how to embellish my little plane.  So it is very pretty as is but kind of plain.  Yes a plain plane!  At first I was pretty excited about some sort of military theme.  You see a lot of Ercoupes in various military trainer schemes.  There is even one that legitimately has a military scheme.  Lets examine some of the elements of those.  First my plane is going to largely stay polished.  Let look at a popular military trainer with the sort of makings I am considering.  The Ryan PT-22:


By the way Harrison Ford crashed one of these a little while back trying to land in a golf course after his engine failed. So lets look at individual elements.

  • Yellow wings- Check!
  • Polished fuselage- Check!
  • Stars roundel on wing – add that?
  • Striped rudder – add that?
  • Glare flat paint on the top of cowl – add that?
  • Yellow painted horizontal stabilizer and vertical fin – paint those?
  • Fuselage side markings – add those?

Lets look at some very pretty military painted Ercoupes:




So none of those planes actually have any sort of military history.  More about coupes in the military in a later blog. But they have been made to be a “tribute” to WWII military trainers. So here is my military paint check list with my current thinking:

  • Yellow wings- Check!  Yup I am keeping those.  By the way my plane has HUGE “N” numbers on its wings.  I like that.  In fact they are the numbers that were assigned when it was first registered with the FAA.  NC2756H.  My plane is old enough to even have an “NC” number which is what they did back in the 40’s and 50’s was assigned the second letter to be the airplanes category designation.  You can see some of the “N” number on my planes wing in this picture:


  • Polished fuselage- Check!
  • Stars roundel on wing – I think I will add those.  On the top left wing anyways and a big one!  Now what type, you have an number of choices.

Here are the range of semi-appropriate roundels:






I think I like the first one best.  The start with the red ball center.  It isn’t “period” correct but this isn’t going to be a “correctly” marked airplane anyways.

  • Striped rudder – Yes.  I think I want to do this.  Here is my rudder now:


So right now it has my “N” numbers.  I am thinking I am going to remove the “N” numbers from the movable surface and either put smaller ones on the fuselage or move them to fixed portion of the fins.  Whatever I do I’ll do to both sides.  The on the movable part I think a vertical blue stripe then alternating red and white stripes.  Something like this:


So I am definitely thinking something sort of like this.  Maybe with Woodstock image on the fixed portion.

  • Anti-glare flat paint on the top of cowl – I thought I wanted that and now I am pretty sure unless I discover there is an issue with glare I’m leaving the cowl entirely polished.
  • Yellow painted horizontal stabilizer and vertical fin – I like the look but again I am going to leave the horizontal and the verticals with the exception of the rudders as I previously described polished.  Maybe after getting tired of polishing so much I will leverage the awesome invention that is paint!  But for now, no changes.
  • Fuselage side markings – Hmmm.  Maybe move smaller “N” numbers there?  At one point I researched what was done with military trainers.  What I found was there was no universal guideline.  It was largely up to the airbase where the plane was based.  What was usually done was a leading letter for the base designation followed by the airplane serial number.  So I’m from AZ and there are three air bases there that might fit.  Luke AFB, Williams AFB and Falcon field.  Luke would be “X”.  So X3381.  Falcon Field was “BP” and Williams was “Y”.  So OK, that is  possibility but what is the regulations about that on a civilian registered plane.  Well it isn’t clear.  You definitely have to have “N” numbers of a certain size but I couldn’t find any indication you can just put on other numbers if you want to.  But lets look at the one of the  truly military Ercoupes that happens to also be immaculately restored.  Here is that plane back then:


and now one painted to be the same but is not the same plane:


Beautiful plane!  Those are about the size of the Roundels I am thinking of adding.  I’m not sold on the red trim or the yellow on the tail feathers.  But there are those rudder stripes!   I also wouldn’t have a fuselage length side stripe like that.  But there is “I25196”.  By the way “I” indicated Mather Field (CA).  The serial number as it was painted originally.  I couldn’t find anything in the regs about that being OK.  You can see the smaller “N” number on the fuselage back by the tail on this picture of a replica I am thinking about.  So “X3381” on mine?  Or “BP3381”.  I do have a hangar at falcon field!  Or no serial number?  I am no longer sure.  The more I look at that original picture the more I’m convinced the new scheme may not be that accurate.  The original photo does not have the upper cowl flat black.  I also don’t see evidence of the wing fairings being painted.  There is something going on with the main gear too.

The original didn’t have hub caps.  The new plane has painted ones.  OK, so here is another picture of the original plane today.  It now has an “E” on the serial number on the nose.  A beauty for sure but a bit of a mystery!  Here are some photos of the original XQ-13 as it exists today:






But can I legally do the “tribute” military serial number with airfield designator?  If you know the answer let me know!

So one thing I am doing for sure is adding these side cowl badges:


A really nice fellow at Auburn airport gave a me polished up pair of these!  I can’t find any history on these.  But my cowling sides already have the holes to mount these.  So there is something “official” about them I think.

It looks like Ercoupes started out with a painted Erco emblem that was part of a side stripe.Something like this:


At some point I believe that Erco did add this marking and a stripe from the factory.  But I have no real idea.  If there a coupe expert that can explain the history of the logos I would love to hear it!

So I have wondered what if I wanted to stay with a civilian scheme.  So I researched as best I could how they were painted new.  Not so exciting.  Most seem to have been polished with the wings painted silver.  I can’t even find out for sure if they were ever painted yellow like mine.  So Ercoupes back in the day came out of the factory pretty plain.  Here is a pair in the early days:


Note there looks like there might be those badges on this planes.  No painted logo or stripes.  I would love to learn more about how they came out of the factory.

So a word about the silver wings.  It is common to make the first coats of aircraft “dope” used when covering fabric wings have alumium powder in it to make the fabric more resistant to the sun.  So it ends up a very pretty silver.  So silver wings are basically because they weren’t being painted!

That isn’t to say there haven’t been some interesting civilian Ercoupes!  I thought a bit about sunburst on the wings.  Basically adding some red sunburst.  I think it was Rodney that suggested the sunbursts did not belong on Ercoupes.  He said the only plane that deserved sunburst wings was the Pitts biplane!  Here is a wacky twin Ercoupe with sunburst!



Most of the nicer civilian painted coupes that keep the polished surfaces seem to have a side fuselage strip and maybe a little trim on the vertical fins:




There was a beautiful Coupe I saw a picture of in TWA markings but I haven’t been able to find that picture again.

Anyways.  Those are the sorts of things I’m thinking about the make my coupe “Mine”.

Lots to think about!  Again, all it takes is time and money!

I’ll leave this for now with some pictures I found of my plane with the previous owner at California fly ins.  Next installment I’ll share some more pictures of my plane and talk about a few things in more detail.  If you have an opinion about some of my ideas for my couple please feel free to add some comments!  Now lets enjoy NC2756H:







More soon about the wonder of the Ercoupe and of course the wonder of mine!

More about my plane!


Posted in Aviation, Creativity, Musings | 1 Comment

Flew the Coupe! – Part 6- I learn I worry too much!

So it was Friday morning.  I was back in Seattle and in my office for another day at work.  My plane was in the capable hand of Dennie in Bishop California.  All working out as planned.  Well, no, nature doesn’t like carefully planned things.  I get a call from Dennie.  The little bird was not happy that morning.  I guess it wasn’t sure it wanted to leave the L.A. basin where it had lived since 1946 for the dreary Northwest of Seattle.  When Dennie went to run it up it was clear the engine was not right.  Another stuck valve!  Bishop seemed to only have one A&P and it turned out he didn’t even get up till 10:00!  So there was my plane and where that was going was not clear.  Here is the plane in Bishop:


So all I could do was sit and wait.  I learned that Rodney had also been trying to reach Dennie to make sure that he and the little plane were fine.  When he found out the plane was down with a stuck valve the entire Compton gang was getting ready to hop into Rodney’s Comanche and fly out to sort it out!  Have I mentioned how awesome those guys are!  But they weren’t even sure where Dennie and the plane were.  So we all waited by our phones and waited and waited and waited.

While I waited I studied the charts.  I could see that the only reasonable way north from where Dennie was involved a lot of mountains and what looked like a single pass.  Didn’t strike me as very Ercoupe friendly if the motor stopped doing the motor thing.  So I waited and worried.  Images of a shiny aluminum and yellow piles of scrap on some mountainside filled my mind.  And I waited.

Finally news!!  Dennie and the mechanic had sorted out the valve and added some Cam Guard and other stuff to reduce the chance of this happening again and Dennie was now in Fallon.  The plane was flying fine!  I could tell the Compton guys to stand down.  All was good!  Dennie shared that everywhere he went the bird drew a crowd.  He also shared he was heading North via the middle or Oregon and hoped to make the Dalles by days end.

But there was still the ugly weather  lurking in the background to ruin the plan.  So that was the last status I heard and around 2:00 PM Friday.  So I sat and waited and waited and waited……

In the mean time here is what Dennie was experiencing:

But weather.  Did I mention weather?  Well there was that!  So here is what Dennie was starting to deal with as he got closer to the Dalles:

The weather was closing in on Dennie.  Of course I had no idea what he was encountering.  What I did know was the Ercoupe has only so much fuel and I found myself sitting in my office realizing the no matter what was going on the sun was setting and one way or another the plane and Dennie were on the ground!  So I waited and worried as were all the Compton gang.  I think they may have been worried even more!

Eventually I got the call I needed to hear,  Dennie had been closed out by the weather and had not made the Dalles.  He had stopped in Redmond Oregon.  He was on the ground safe and the little bird was performing wonderfully!  I asked him to update Rodney and I went to have a drink with my friend Olan.  I will tell you my vivid imagination was not being my friend!  Until that call I was conjuring all manner of terrible images of what might have become of Dennie and my new little bird! Stupid brain!!  Sometimes its not my friend!

But things were on track.  I let Dennie know I was optimistic he’d be on the ramp in Auburn the next day and I made some plans.  Saturday morning I heard from Dennie.  He woke up to find the little bird’s wings covered with ice!  He wisely chose to forgo deicing chemicals on the fabric wings and was waiting for the sun to do what the sun does and melt the ice!  So he’d be a little later than planned getting back in the air but the weather here in Seattle was looking decent.  He said he’d call me just before he was going to cross the cascades so I’d know when he was coming.  We agreed he’d fly an inspection pass before he landed so I could take some pictures.

So I headed out and bought some snacks and beverages, not to mention a few bottles of champagne to toast the hero’s arrival!   Got the airport, set out the snacks and waited.  Soon I got Dennie’s call and I walked out to watch for my plane’s arrival!!  Around 12:30 I could see what looked like my plane coming in from the North!  Yup, there was my little bird!  My friends and I watched as Dennie flew the runway and then entered the pattern to land.  I had agreed to meet him at the fuel pumps so I could top off the tanks.  Soon there he was and most importantly there was my new little bird!!

img_1487We topped off the tanks and talked about who would taxi it back those last yards to its new home, my hangar.  I felt he deserved the honors!  So I drove back to hangar and he taxied the bird back to where my hangar is.


Supreme victory! My new plane was home!!

So summary.  I own a beautiful classic Ercoupe!  I made some great new friends in the process.  The world now has a new “Coupe Whisperer” in Dennie.  If anyone in the Seattle area needs a “Coupe capable” instructor Dennie is the guy!

A couple of weeks later I got a chance to talk to Dennie more about the trip and he shared he’d had a great time.  He got to see a lot of the country he’d never seen before and the trip had given him a break he’d really needed from the daily grind.  I was happy I’d found him to help out and he was happy he’d decided to fly it back.  Win Win!!  Do I wish I could have had been part of that adventure?  Sure but I am sure I’ll be making my own adventures in this wonderful plane for years to come!

What we learned about my “Coupe”:

  • it burns about 4.5 GPH in cruise
  • Seems to go about 105 MPH
  • the radio works great
  • there is at least one instrument no one can figure out!
  • it flies straight and true
  • The reduced elevator travel does not make it hard to land
  • oil consumption seems fine
  • the engine seems to make its rated power
  • it draws a crowd!

Right now I’m in sort of a holding pattern waiting for the weather and circumstances to let me get a few more hours in to get comfortable as pilot in command and finish the worlds longest BFR!! 🙂

Then look out world there is going to a wonderful Ercoupe in your skies all the time if I get my way!  This dream has been a long time coming!

Now in many ways my adventure has begun!  In the next installment I’ll share more about the plane and my plans for it becoming even more awesome!  I think this picture that Dennie snapped captures the future I am hoping for!

img_1488The next installment where I talk a bit about my new plane!

Posted in Aviation, Entertainment, flying, Musings | 3 Comments

Flew the Coupe! – Part 5- It’s mine but now to get it home!


And the story resumes the morning of October 20.  So I’d bought a plane.  Escrow had closed the previous day and paperwork had been filed and payment made.  So mine new coupe was waiting for Dennie and me to get it to its new home S50, or Auburn WA.  The initial plan was simple.  We looked to have a break in the weather and I would pilot the plane with Dennie looking over my shoulder keeping us safe.  I’d get my BFR and my coupe check out all in one!  I’d been studying the charts an particular the complexities of flying around in the L.A. basin.

My clever plan was simple.  I’d snake myself around or under the controlled airspace until I found I-5 then fly IFR all the way home.  That is “I follow roads”!  That would have me leave the L.A. basin via Grapevine.  I thought we’d make our first stop in Bakersfield to look the plane over.  Check that the oil consumption was OK and from then I thought the first day we’d make somewhere at the Northern CA border.  Around Redding maybe.  At least to Red Bluff.  An overnight there then over the mountains via the pass the I-5 goes through.  Stop maybe around Medford to fuel up, then press on to somewhere around Portland.  I thought that was a doable Friday.  The Saturday morning we could easily make it to Auburn with a late morning arrival!  WooHoo, pop some champagne and celebrate!!  I’d be a legal pilot, I’d know my coupe and I would have an adventure for the record books!!

So I’d shared this with Dennie.  While he agreed in principal he was more concerned with weather and felt there was a real possibility that icing would prevent us from getting from Redding to Medford.  He favored a more eastern route that would put us through  middle Nevada, middle Oregon and finally Washington on the Eastern side of the cascades.  I wasn’t so fond of that route as I knew that area and knew there was high terrain and mountains almost all the way.  No, I liked I-5.  A 900 mile runway if something with the plane went wrong.

But OK, I was happy if Dennie liked that route.  So I’d packed light, only a change of shirt and underwear in a backpack and I had my flight bag with a headset and charts.  Dennie was similarly packed with just the minimum.  I quick mention, on the trip down to LA we’d come to an understanding of his fees.  He does this just because he loves to fly and we agreed on an embarrassingly low fee per day.  Things were looking promising!

So Dennie and I waited on the curb at LAX Thursday morning and waited for Rodney to pick us up and get us to the Compton airport.  Yes, my plane was straight out of Compton!  Thug life!!


So Rodney got us to the hangar and there was my little bird!  I’d already agreed with Dennie that he’d focus on checking out the plane to his satisfaction and I’d focus on collecting things like the logs and doing the last bit of business with the seller.  Once Dennie was happy he’d take the plane up to be sure he was happy it would make it back up to Seattle.  In the mean time I was discovering a pile of stuff that went with the plane.  Soon Dennie was heading down the taxiway and the down the runway.  Woo, there was my new bird in the air.  She was a beauty!  While he was flying around more and more stuff was being found and collected.  About 30 minutes later Dennie was in the pattern and taxing back to the hangar.  He had a smile on his face and I was contemplating the great adventure that we were about to embark on.  Here is Dennie just before his first flight:


So soon Dennie was back on the ground it was time for us to load up the plan and head North!  So I decided up front Dennie would be flying at a minimum the first leg.  The L.A. basin is tricky!  I have no ego at this point.  I just want the plane home.  So I start loading the plane with all the stuff that came with it.  Soon the very small baggage compartment is full.  Rodney is offering his advice to Dennie about how we should circle the airport for a specific period time before we should fly away including regular radio reports!  Rodney is telling Dennie about how far he should let the take off roll go before he aborts.  Rodney, you are my hero!!  He was so worried something was going to go wrong!

So lets talk about the worry.  Airplanes need to fly regularly to stay healthy.  This wonderful little airplane had been sitting in this hangar unflown for nearly nine years.  So there was no way of knowing just what might go wrong when we flew this plane. If this had been a plane that was flown daily when I came to collect it I could be comfortable assuming that it would continue to operate as expected.  But we needed about ten hours to know if there were gremlins.  So for the first few hours in this flight I felt we were very much test pilots.  I am not sure I have much of the right stuff!

But just look at Dennie, he looks to be made of the right stuff!!!  This trip would soon show he is!

OK, Dennie was good to go!  I and everyone starts loading the plane up with all the stuff that came with it and after about 20 minutes we are ready to depart!

OK, snag number one. Although I thought the plane had an intercom we could not find a place for a second head set to plug in!  After about 15 minutes we decided I would not have an active head set.

Then I found out there was no way the seat belt would fit me!  OK, I am a meat and potato(e)s American!  So we had to remove the seat and the seat belt and eventually had me buckled in!  Another 20 minutes rolled by.

The airport gang lined up an we finally taxied down to start our adventure.  Rodney, man I love him is having one last talk with Dennie.  “So where is your abort point on your takeoff run?”  WTF??  Are we Lindbergh flying to Paris?  Man I must look fat!!  But sure. I think Rodney had decided I must weight about 390 pounds!!!  Anyways.  We taxi down and line up for takeoff!  I am sort of freaking out but I am ready!  Dennie guns it and we are flying in 900 feet!  Compton has 3500 feet of runway!  We are flying!! I am scanning all the instruments.  The engine instruments look awesome!  The rate of climb varies from  500 feet a minute or higher.  The airspeed indicator is wobbling around 100 MPH.  Lets take a moment to discuss.

The Ercoupe is designed to fly on the wing and everything should happen around 70 MPH. If you want to climb do it at 70.  If you want to land you do it at 70.

So the airspeed indicator is 70 years old.  To register over 100 MPH it rolls around.  I am looking at it and very encouraged,  Even though the needle was wobbling I was seeing 100 MPH and I thought we were on our way.  Dennie, not so much.  He was pretty freaked out and pointed at some of the gauges and said we needed to land!  So he kept in the pattern and turned final.  We landed and taxied back to the hangar.

The airport gang at the hangar was puzzled and I got out of the plane.  Dennie said he didn’t think we could have climbed enough to get over the terrain to get home.  I did not see the same indications but I decided immediately it didn’t matter.  I just wanted the plane back in my hangar in Auburn.  I would have gladly hired Dennie to ferry the plane home on his own.

I did know though I needed to be there to deal with the airport gang.  So wow, what to do?  As soon as I got out of the plane I found the airport gang was agitated!  In fact someone said they wanted to figure out how to shoot us down because I’d never payed for the plane!!??

So Dennie and I talked a bit and it was clear he was not comfortable with both of us flying back together.  He didn’t think the plane “felt right” and we were overloaded.  Sure, all I wanted was the plane home.  So I took everything out of the plane’s baggage compartment and we agreed Dennie would fly it home. As he taxied out I asked him “last chance, are you sure?”.  I don’t think he understood what I meant.  What I meant is if he didn’t feel safe flying it home I’d be happy putting it on a trailer and driving it home.  I think he thought I was making one last plea to take me with him.  Not the case at all. So Dennie set out for Seattle!  Here he was before he left:


So I go back into the hangar and Dennie taxies away.  The hangar crowd has become quite hostile. While that is happening I am trying to get an airline ticket back to Seattle. So I am using my phone (which is nearly out of battery!) to buy an airline ticket.  In the mean time the airport gang is telling me I must be some sort of cheat as the seller has never been paid!  Gah!  So I leave the Alaska airline site mid ticket purchase and call the escrow company.  While I’m doing that I find Frank, the seller can’t remember how he asked to be paid!  Luckily this was enough distraction for Dennie to taxi away!  Soon I see my plane racing down the runway and heading away!!  Fly Dennie, Fly!!!!

So I get the escrow company on the phone.  Frank the seller had asked for a cashier’s check fed exed to him as payment,  Since the sale had closed the day before the check was in route and I got a fed ex tracking number.  I got the number and even let Frank’s friend talk to the escrow agent.  We even called Fed Ex and confirmed the check had been delivered to Frank’s house.  I went back to buying my ticket home.  A couple of the airport gang came to tell me Dennie was going to treat us to a high speed low pass before he headed out.

I just finished confirming my ticket as I got to see my beautiful little plane buzz by!  The airport gang said they clocked it at 115 MPH!  So I watched as my beautiful little bird set off in the distance.  Frank, the seller practically forced a beer in my hand and I set about putting all the stuff we’d taken out of the plane into my bags. Rodney started freaking out a bit as he was worried he couldn’t get to the airport in time to make my flight.  Someone had told him it was almost two hours later than it was!

So there I was at LAX again boarding a flight for Seattle.  Not too much to report.  They had changed the gate  for my flight and not announced it but I found out just in time to make the flight as they were closing the doors.  I also realized that all the stuff that had been put in my plane for the flight back was easily 30 plus pounds as I hauled i through the airport.

So I was heading back to Seattle via Alaska Airlines and Dennie was flying my little bird via who knows!  I was happy this was the right decision but I was clearly missing out on an adventure of my life.

As I hauled my bags through the airport it was clear we we over gross when we took off.  But we were full fuel and that would burn off.  The airport gang said we were in the air in less than a thousand feet and did not know why we’d come back and landed.  I felt we were doing great!  But Dennie was not comfortable with how he perceived the plane was flying.  In the end we had decided for the first leg at least he was pilot in command.  It was his call and not my place to second guess.

So I got home with no issues and soon I got a text from Dennie.  He had made it to Bishop, CA and was safe and down for the night.  He had chosen the Nevada route.  He’d flown over the Mohave airplane boneyard and was having a great time!!  Here is a picture of his early leg:


So I was home Thursday night.  Dennie was in Bishop CA. with my new plane.  There was no taxi in Bishop so he had to walk something like three miles to get to a motel! Yikes!  He had never been in the desert so he wonder about snakes and all manner of desert creatures as he walked to town!  He worried about Gila Monsters and was worried about mountains as I drifted to sleep that night. I’d caught desert creatures as a kid but I knew Dennie was heading for some unfriendly topology.

So summary.  I probably took possession of my plane,  I did fly IN it for about 15 minutes.  I had every reason t believe it was on its way home.  I did see it fly very well at gross or more.  I made a note to find out why the airspeed indicator wobbled and decided I needed to buy an intercom.  But progress.

As I write this I’d be lying if I didn’t admit regret missing out on this adventure.  I was 6 months into the journey of buying a plane, a lifetime dream and as I write this I have not flown my own plane for even a moment and still haven’t flown more than 30 minutes as pilot in command in the last 17 years.  I am not on track but I digress.

So day one.  I have taken possession of my new plane and it is closer to my home!   in the next entry I’ll share possibly the most difficult day in my life.

The next chapter – the plane heads home!

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