This is a continuation of part 3 (below)
I'll never forget getting the phone call I did on the morning of Sept 3rd, 2015.
My Dad called with the sad news that my mentor Capt. Barry Morris had passed away.
(click here to read the memorial page)
I was dumbstruck and left feeling completely empty. I had just seen him the same weekend of UPAC at his new home with his wife Linda. He looked great and we talked for close to 45 minutes about aviation, his retirement plans to finally write his memoirs. We talked about my plans to get airborne soon (although honestly, this was something I talked about all the time with him and yet never did get flying).
But Barry's passing did do something infinitely positive for me too.
It solidified that I've been wasting precious time. Time that I'll never get back.
There is an experimental engine builder in Florida by the name William Wynne. He specializes in Corvair automobile engine conversions for experimental and ultralight aircraft.
I was reading his blog on flycorvair.net as part of my research towards a build plan (his conversion plans are an amazing read). Ironically enough, one of his blog posts from November 2014 came across my screen that very same evening I found out about Barry. It talks about Time being the enemy. It really struck home with me. Give it a read here.
From this point onward, I refuse to be just a spectator in the arena of aviation. I paid dearly for my licence both financially and otherwise. I can get back in the air - I have the knowledge and the desire to learn skills I don't have yet.
This blog will be my journal. I hope to capture my process, successes and failures (that's how we all learn)..... an adventure in learning - long overdue.
This is a continuation of part 2 (below)
While at the UPAC fly-in, we checked out several other aircraft.
Some were very expensive, some were not unreasonable. We checked out a real nice Kitfox IV. High wing, great visibility and comfort. Could be put on floats easily. Cost might be an issue.
Some of them were obvious non-starters for what I want.
I flew Piper Cherokees while I worked on my night rating and learned to appreciate the view from high wing Cessnas even more. Low wings have their place, but are rarely put on floats (one of my future goals).
I had sat in a Challenger II at Oshkosh and was disappointed on the level of comfort for two reasons. I don't like the ergonomics - you sit with your legs fairly straight in front of you, which I imagine would get uncomfortable over a long flight. As I mentioned earlier, I want an airplane where passengers sit side by side. In a Challenger, the rear passenger sits with their legs beside the pilot in the front seat. I want to see the joy on my daughters' faces when I take them flying.
I have no interest in owning a gyrocopter or powered parachute. Don't get me wrong, their owners get lots of respect from me for what they do, but it isn't for me.
Long story short (right......) we both came away from the UPAC weekend with lots of good information and a better feel for what is available.
A few weeks went by and I continued to bounce ideas off Brenda of what might be a good way to get back into flying.
I've pondered for some time whether I want to spend a bunch of money on a complete airframe and just get flying. Unfortunately, I'm not a rich man and the thought of taking out a huge loan to pay for an airplane won't allow me to sleep at night.
I have come to the conclusion that the easiest and most economical route to get back in the air is ultralights, and that maybe the best path is to purchase a used aircraft that needs work and re-build it. I don't have a bunch of experience doing this type of work, but I feel these are skills that can be learned as I go (Google and YouTube are your friend, young Jedi). Even better, if this gets me moving in the right direction (towards flying) it provides the incentive and allows me the luxury of budgeting sections over time. This solves or at least takes some of the financial pain out of the equation. An added bonus? I can make the airplane into what I want, not just be satisfied with someone else's discarded dream....
This is a continuation of part 1 (below)
Personally, I sunk back into a funk. My dreams of flying again seemed to be slipping further and further from my reach. Renting from the local flying club is prohibitively expensive (I used to rent a Cessna 150, including fuel AND instructor for $68/hour. Now that same airplane costs $160/hour without an instructor!). Our wheel flying season is short here, so currency on type is difficult to maintain. Joining or purchasing a share in a local club aircraft was minimally less but with the same issues.
The nature of my job as a 911 dispatcher leads me to lots of downtime (between moments of terror) especially during nightshifts. We have access to the internet so I've spent countless hours browsing all the certified planes on Barnstormers.com, EBay, Craigslist and Kijiji. Although there are deals out there, I've yet to find a deal that met all my needs (right aircraft, price, insurance, hangar etc.) I know there has to be compromise in any of these to realistically expect to buy one, but the over-riding issue has always come down to money.
Now, I mentioned earlier that Brenda is "the world's most tolerant woman". She has constantly listened to my ideas and grand schemes to obtain an airplane ("you should see the deal I found last night, Honey!!"). She has always been wise council on this and other matters. I've said to others if we hadn't met, I'd probably be in jail due to my spending habits. Thankfully she got me back on the right course.
Over the last couple of years she has been there for me as I grew frustrated over the airport issues and a lack of flying time. She has patiently detoured with me on our travels to stop at airports all over Ontario just to have a look at what was there. We even explored North Las Vegas airport when we went to Vegas for our tenth anniversary - did I mention how much I love her!
Something that was on my bucket list for many years was a trip to the mecca that is EAA Oshkosh. So in 2013, my Dad and I loaded up our tent trailer, drove for two days and camped at Oshkosh for the entire week long event. It was a fantastic time and couldn't have had a better time with Dad.
This was an important time for me. I learned that my options for getting flying again were many and available for the asking. I think this was when I made the conscious decision that ultralights had everything I was looking for:
- able to carry a passenger in side by side seating, something that makes flying fun for me
- a LOT less government red tape
- ability to put on floats and winter skis
- ultralights are more than a lawnchair strapped to a chainsaw motor that they used to be
- potential to instruct others at a future date
- and several other reasons
In August of this year, during our annual weekend away from our daughters, Brenda and I attended the Ultralight Pilots Association of Canada (UPAC) convention and fly-in weekend. I wanted her to come with me and actually sit in some of the aircraft (ultralight and homebuilt) that were in attendance. Although Brenda understands most things about flying (I've taken her up in Cessnas in the past), we both wanted to get a better idea what's involved and how modern ultralights might be a viable (and possibly economic) alternative path to getting back in the air.
I managed to obtain a demo ride in an Ikarus advanced ultralight while at the show. It was the first time I had flown in a couple of years.
Although I was only up for about 20 minutes (and my skills are rusty, that's for sure), Brenda tells me that the smile on my face when I returned said it all.
But like all things "demonstrated" by salespeople, this was a $90K Cadillac ultralight. Gorgeous and fun but not something even close to my budget. It did have some of the features I was looking for, such as high wing and comfortable seating.
One thing I did notice right away when we were taxiing to the runway and also on the departure. The Ikarus uses the Rotax 912 series of motor. This motor, although a 4 stroke, runs at a very high 5000 RPM. I know that it is geared to turn the prop at a much more realistic 2000 RPM. I caught myself several times during the flight wanting to throttle back as I'm accustomed to in certified powerplants (Lycomings and Continentals found in Cessnas and Pipers). To be honest, I didn't feel comfortable at the time (it felt like the engine was working way to hard) but I suppose it's something one might get used to.
Well, you found me. This first post on my blog will be an introduction of sorts, of who I am and what this blog will be about. I know it's long, but feel free to join me (or not) as I ramble (I'm known to do that from time to time).
So.... please keep you hands in the cabin at all times and enjoy the ride!
I've been in love with airplanes and all things aeronautical for as long as I can remember. The root of this passion/obsession/frustration/elation is thanks to my father Jim, he too a life long airplane nut.
I could never begin to count the number of times when as a child we would go to the airport, sit and watch planes come and go, large airliners, small trainers, cargo. Airshows at the Canadian National Exhibition, Hamilton and even R/C meets were regular haunts. Dad was a draftsman by trade and I believe his interest in design and engineering played a big role in his interest in planes. He also grew up in close proximity to Malton airport (now Toronto-Pearson International) in an era of rapid advancement in aeronautic engineering (post WW2) further capturing his youthful attention. His historical knowledge is broad, his tastes varied. He never has pursued his pilot's licence however.
During the early part of my adult life, right after highschool, I worked in construction trades. Although the money was decent, I soon realized that I was in a career stream that would eventually bore me to death or kill me (I worked high steel). I needed a challenge, something to match up with what I liked to do.
After an extended layoff from construction and bouncing from odd job to odd job trying to make ends meet, I made the decision to return to school. What would be better than something in aviation?
I enrolled in the Aviation Management program at my local college and in 3 years (including co-op placements in Yellowknife NWT as a dockhand and with the federal government in Ottawa) I graduated with a diploma in Airline Management.
While at college, I used a significant amount of my student loan obtaining my private pilot's licence at the local flying club. In February of 1995, on a cold damp afternoon in central Ontario, I managed to convince the flight test examiner that I actually knew what I was doing and he signed my paperwork and shortly thereafter my newly minted licence arrived in the mail.
Beginning right after graduation in 1995, I worked as a dispatcher for a northern Ontario charter company for five years. During the next two years I continued to build hours and added a night rating to my ticket. Over time, my lack of money (actually to be completely honest, my lack of money management skills) prevented me from flying regularly enough to stay current and my hard earned licence began to gather dust and moths.
In the intervening years, I met and married my soulmate Brenda, often described by me as the "world's most tolerant woman" (more on this later).
A job change at the beginning of 2001 moved me away from aviation as my means of income. An opportunity came up with the Ontario Provincial Police as a communications operator (dispatcher) that was too good to pass up combined with no room for advancement at the charter company lead me to change jobs. We also bought our first house, started a family and aviation involvement slipped further and further on the back of the list of priorities - but never forgotten.
In 2007, the local airport near our home advertised a fly-in to celebrate the contributions of the retiring airport manager and his wfe, as seen in this article from the Almaguin News:
At the urging of my Brenda, I attended the fly-in with the hope of meeting others in the local aviation community - maybe even find a way to get back into the air. In hindsight, it was one of the best things Brenda has ever done for me.
On that day, I met a man who would eventually become my mentor on this part of my journey. That man, Captain Barry Morris, (retired test and delivery pilot of DeHavilland Canada) reignited in me that long dormant passion. As municipal councilor and chairperson of the airport committee, he was instrumental in organizing this retirement fly-in. When I looked around at all the people who came to present wishes and enjoy the company of like minded aviation people, I immediately thought this was a door to what I was seeking.
I introduced myself to Mr. Morris and we talked for quite sometime about his vision for the proper development of the airport. It had been run for years as a small grass field by the retiring managers and local flying club, never really making it into a regional asset for the five municipal partners that owned it. I offered my assistance and experience as a volunteer in any capacity to "get my feet back in that door" so to speak.
Capt. Barry (as I came to know him) and I became close friends and confidants in the following years. We combined our aviation knowledge and offered it to the airport committee as a whole as none of the other municipal representatives had any background in aviation at all.
We did everything in our power to leverage our industry contacts, market the airport through website and social media and celebrating milestones such as the airport's 75th anniversary in 2008 and the 2009 "Celebration of Flight" weekend for Canada's Centenary of Powered Flight. We met with high level provincial and federal ministers and business investors. We even obtained government infrastructure money to hire a professional international consulting firm that produced a airport development plan, including paving of one of the runways, attracting tax paying businesses and making the airport into the regional economic and employment engine it was (and still is) capable of being.
Unfortunately, despite all our hard work, a change in ownership structure by the municipalities (two dropped out and a third dropped out later on) and a municipal election that set the airport committee back a decade in experience led the airport to a stagnant once again. Capt Morris and I were treated very poorly by the new committee in the year following the Celebration of Flight and we both withdrew from committee to save ourselves or injuries from banging our heads against the wall put before us.
So the airport remains a grass strip for a few local pilots. The last two municipalities still can't get their act together and make a decision to save themselves. One is threatening to pull out of ownership and the remaining one can't confirm if they will continue to fund it, hand over operation to the local flying club or sell off the property completely.
I truly believe his vision for the airport was completely workable. We had a plan, we had investment lined up and expertise for the asking. Unfortunately the shortsightedness and infighting of certain other council/committee members doomed any plan from the beginning. So now the plan that taxpayers of the municipality paid for sits on a shelf gathering dust. What a shame.
Barry and I stayed in close touch despite our bad shared experience. He retired from council and moved to southern Ontario with his wife and actually became neighbours of my parents.
Continued in part 2....
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Husband, father and 911 dispatcher. Long time pilot with a licence that burns a hole in my pocket where my student loan money used to be. First time aircraft builder. Looking to fly my own airplane.