In my last article I told you what it took to get my wife in the air. As much as that short flight over La Jolla (San Diego) was fun, the goal was always, and forever will be, to use the airplane for family flying.
So after years of airport hopping, $100 burger runs (by myself I might add), and oh so many touch and goes, it was time to take the family on a real trip. Being the A type, “I can do anything” guy that I am (and yes, you are too) I decided on a destination: Puerto Penasco, Mexico, also known as Rocky Point. In the car? Nine hours. In the plane? Barely two. We all agree: Let’s fly!
If you have kids, you know that leaving the house is like a military operation that requires precision, accuracy and willingness to take a bullet for the greater good (“Honey, the kids are already in the car, you can pee later!”).
Flying a family in a small plane to another country? That is a whole different project. Charge the iPads, check! Ear muffs for the baby? Yes! Snacks, water, pillows, car seats, boogie boards, and of course my wife’s bag, which is probably 30 pounds all by itself, and has everything we need if we ever had to survive a nuclear blast. Now, did I mention I am flying a Mooney? Yes, a Mooney, which I would not consider very lush accommodations for a family with kids.
I am looking at the front door of our house and I see a mountain of luggage. “Honey, I said one suitcase under 50 pounds… I count four!” How is everything going to fit in that Mooney? That is just not going to happen! Luckily we had family members who were driving, so we basically gave them all of our luggage. OK, time to recalculate everything. Looks good, we are 10 pounds under gross and perfect on the W&B; let’s go.
Takeoff was routine, and enroute, was, well, enroute, beautiful all around, but don’t ask my kids, for all they know we are sitting in a bus or in the subway, because I don’t think they looked outside even once–the damn iPad is ALL they care about. Fine!
One hour into the flight and people started to move around in their seats. It’s tight in here, it’s hot, and I think (but I am still not sure) that someone went #2 in their diaper… not very princess-like, sweetheart.
The Mexican controllers are very professional, and provide clear instructions in perfect English. I am starting to feel like two hours is maybe pushing it. Fast forward an hour later and everyone is just eager to get out of the airplane. The iPads, the water, the snacks, they are all thrown in the back to make room for the people who are trying to move a leg before it cramps up. And the kids? Well, the kids would jump out if they know how to get the door to open.
We land in 110 degree heat; the bumps coming down are not helping. We taxi to the ramp, and I am amazed to see how fast the kids got out of the Mooney, completely ignoring the ten people with guns that are surrounding the airplane.
The Federales are super nice and helpful, my girl pets their K9, and he is friendly as well. The airport staff takes us into the commandant’s office, and he has air conditioning! Let’s stay here for a while (or for a few hours). The process is very smooth and relaxed; there is no rush, not for them and not for us. We made it, now it’s time to relax. The house we rented from Ed (a pilot as well) is right on the ocean and nothing short of amazing. Thanks, Ed!
I will spare you the details of the flight back, but I would just say that it was not any better, or any colder for that matter: we took off in 105 degrees this time. One hour into the flight and the same unrest routine starts again. Thank god for US Customs!
We land at Calexico and are greeted by two agents with a smile. Hot today? Ha-ha? Yeah, you have no idea.
Paperwork took less than three minutes. No, it’s not a typo, three minutes. They know we were coming (I guess that eAPIS is good for something) and we were out the door almost immediately. Hold on, what is going on? Where is everyone going? Kids? What’s with the sitting around? Get in the plane and let’s go home. Nope… not going to happen. They know what waits for them in my tiny sardine can, and they are stalling. We finally get home. That same night I get online and started to look for a six seater.
During the next few months I read anything I can find online about my six-seater options, and narrow it down to an A36 Bonanza or a Cherokee Six. One night, while reading in bed, my wife wakes up, annoyed. Are you still up? Why are you reading at 3 in the morning? Don’t you know the kids will be up in three hours?
The following morning (and by that I mean two hours later because the baby woke up and refuses to go back to sleep), I made my decision. I am going with the Six.
I will trade speed for space and comfort, because let’s face it: with three kids, two under 5 years old, you need all the space and useful load you can get. I make the announcement in the bathroom while she is brushing her teeth. For me it’s a huge moment, a moment of choice, a moment of resolve, a moment of happiness!
She drinks a little water, lifts her head up from the sink and looks at me thru the mirror… “Cherokee Six? Really? I heard it flies like a pig…” and walks out. A pig? A Pig? That’s what I get for months of research and sleepless nights? A pig?
Want to hear the really funny part? When friends and family go up to my wife and ask about our new plane, she has no idea. Is it a Piper? No idea. A Cessna? No clue. She has zero knowledge on the matter and she could not care less about what is the “professional name” (end quote) for the airplane. For all she cares, and for everyone to hear, she announces “My husband bought a pig.”