With 30 hours of taildragger time in Brian’s logbook and 25 hours in mine, we focused in on an early model 150 hp Decathlon, and in January, found a promising 1975 example for sale. Challenge number one: we live in Surrey and Langley British Columbia, Canada, and the Decathlon was located in Kitchener, Ontario (CYKF), some 2,000 miles as the crow flies.
The purpose of the trip was to see the prize that waits at the end of a hard journey. To show my son how all the work and effort will pay off. At school. With flying. In life. And, to spend some time alone, just the two of us, before competing pressures and the passage of time naturally pull us physically apart.
“I think I might fly the BE-18 a few minutes next week. If you want a sneak peek, the left seat is yours…” Dan said in a Facebook message to me. It didn’t take long for me to say that I’d be there if I could. You know, as long as the world didn’t end or something.
Sometimes life lets you make the most of an opportunity. With my friend’s new house near Chino Airport, I could offer this trip in about two and half hours total travel time, with two of those hours in the air in a Piper Arrow II. There was the opportunity: a trip made-to-order for a VFR pilot.
A Piper Cub is the essence of seat of the pants flying, with a stick, a throttle, and practically nothing else (OK, there is a tach, altimeter, magnetic compass, and airspeed indicator if you can see them through your instructor). It’s as close to being a 1920s barnstormer as I’ll ever get!
Our trip started off at Hampton Roads Executive Airport (KPVG) in Chesapeake, Virginia. This adventure was planned as a father-daughter trip for some much needed bonding time. Plan A was in effect, which was to be gone nine days and visit some very prestigious locations or a pilot’s bucket list of places to fly to.
Dawn lit the eastern sky as the Skyhawk’s engine came to life. I was about to begin a journey that would be as epic for me as the flight across the Atlantic had been for Lindbergh. At age 61, I was flying from Galion, Ohio (GQQ) to Winter Haven, Florida (GIF).
“We never fly too much above 500 feet around here,” Michelle said as we began the climbout from the grass strip at the Kosrue Aero Club. “I know it seems low but remember we don’t have any mountains to worry about.”
Last May, three of us decided to hike from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim in one day. Now this is a 25-mile hike, down about 15 miles and 6000 feet to the Colorado River and then back up to the North Rim another 10 miles and about 5000 feet; a challenging hike at the best of times but the real difficulty is the temperature.
Sometimes only an airplane of your own can make a trip possible. My wife Christine and I proved this a few summers ago when we took our Cardinal on a whirlwind tour of half the country.
Now that I have decided to allow my license to run out of hours and not renew, old pilot’s reminiscences come to the fore in flying circles. But none of my subsequent flying has, for me, the excitement of my time over Africa.
Well, this will likely be our last opportunity to see the some of the high points of sightseeing that are a convenient flying distance from Chicago. So, we each made our list of “must sees” and what emerged was this eclectic list.