Tuesday, August 07, 2018

This is hard. This is right.

The day after Valentine's day, I was at work on a video conference when my desk phone rang, I could see it was my wife calling and I let it go to voicemail.  No sooner did my phone stop ringing, and my cell phone buzzed.  Again, my wife.  OK, this might be important.  I muted the video conference and picked up the call from my wife.

"The foster care placement desk called with a brand new baby about to be discharged from the hospital and they need a home NOW.  Can I go get it?"

It?  Girl or Boy?  How long has "it" been in the hospital?  Do they have another plan?  How long do they guess "it" will be with us?

"He's a boy, and he is only 4 days old.  No other plan right now.  He's Native American / Alaskan Eskimo.  And they need an answer within an hour."

OK, let me finish this video conference, and I will call you back.

Four days is significant.  The last baby we had was held in the hospital for nearly three weeks while he was given morphine to ease the physical pain of withdrawal, and gained a pound or two.  But this new baby is ready to be released at only four days.  He must be pretty healthy.

I called Sandra back and we agreed together we were ready to dive into another infant.  In our mid 50's, we recognize new-born babies demand a lot of physical and mental stamina that is more often found in 20 and 30 year-olds.  Sandra went to pick up the baby.

I arrived home to find a tiny blond, blue-eyed (yeah, about that Eskimo thing...), delicate, frail, peanut of a baby that, at just over six pounds, occupied little more than my left hand.  His legs still folded up into his abdomen where they had been tucked for the previous nine months.  And he was tired.

For the next couple weeks, our new roommate could eat about an ounce or two at a time.  He would wake during the night every couple hours, and we would change his diaper, snuggle him up, poke a couple of ounces of formula in him, remind him "no failure to thrive on our watch," and tuck him back into his cradle.

Taking him anywhere with us required strapping him into a car-seat.  Because he was so tiny, we moved the straps down to their lowest setting and added the extra supplied padding around his head to keep him from being tossed about.  But even more so, it required tugging on his left leg to get it pulled out from under the car-seat straps.  More than once I had to unbuckle him to get his leg out.

About mid-March he started to perk up, and he would be awake for more than an hour at a time.  But he still slept a lot.  He started being able to eat a little more, and was going nearly four hours between feedings.  He loved his pacifier and it went everywhere with us.  We had also established a bit of a routine.  Being at work most of the day, I would step in when I got home. I would feed him about 7:PM.  He would often sleep on my chest in the evening while Sandra and I watched a show.  I also got the 11:PM feeding, which usually involved me reclining in the loveseat and falling asleep with him nestled up on my chest.

He continued to gain weight, unfold, and grow longer.  We found he was quick to smile, and had a very sweet disposition.  At the end of March we took him to Arizona to attend the wedding of one of Sandra's friends.  On the flight down, we gave him a bottle as we took off and landed to keep his ears clear.  As we were unloading, the elderly couple in the seat in front of us stood to collect their belongings.  Glancing over the seat they exclaimed, "You have a baby!" (yep, we noticed) "We had no idea you had a baby back there!"  He was just that good.

About three months he started sleeping through the night.

Our 17 year-old daughter soon claimed him.  She's not too keen on the frail little babies, but he was supporting his own head, and his ready smile provided entertainment.  He became a prized companion.  We would debate who's turn it was to carry him into church, or who got to sit by him in a restaurant.  In public, his toothless grin and clear blue eyes drew strangers in.  But you could see puzzled looks in people's faces.  Sandra and I are old enough to easily be his grandparents.  But our daughter, while old enough, would be a very young mom.  Some days we would let people wonder, others days we found subtle ways to explain. "We got him at four days old."  or "He's one of the sweetest babies we have gotten."

It gave people an opening for them to ask questions without us having to say "None of us gave birth to him, he is a foster-baby."

At the end of May he got his first ride in a personal aircraft.  After a short flight, we spent the day with good friends in Friday Harbor, and then enjoyed a delicious dinner.  That evening we flew home and tucked him into his own bed.

Being in foster care, and having received negligible prenatal care or medical attention, we monitor his development carefully and seek the support of professionals.  At four months we brought him in for a developmental evaluation.  Not only did he do well, he excelled.  Well beyond his physical age, his ability to track and manipulate toys was consistently at least double his chronological age.  At five months he started army-crawling around the room.

The months have passed quickly.  This Sunday he will be six months old.  But it appears he is on track to be moved to his forever family on Thursday.  I am going to miss his grin and the excitement of watching him discover the world around him.

He's not the cutest baby we've had, nor is he the one I have felt the greatest family connection to.  But he is one of the sweetest.  And every night as I give him is bed-time bottle and rock him to sleep, looking into his face I am reminded that he is a tiny, sacred life.  It is clear he knows he can trust, and that he is safe in my house.  He is easy to love.

Yet later this week I have to break that trust for his benefit, and he will need to learn to trust a new family.  And they are an awesome family.  Young Husband and Wife, four really nice kids, and a baby just a couple months younger than him.  He'll be loved, and played with, and trained, and tormented as the "little" brother...  There will be joy, and laughter, and disappointment, and success, and hope, and failure, and heartache, and achievement, but most of all, he will be loved.  Loved well.  Without us.  By the time he is two he will have forgotten his time at our house, and have no significant memory of life beyond his new family.

But at our house he will have been given a chance to grow, and to thrive, and to develop, and to know how to be loved.  And we will have done our job.

Later this week, we will sit on the kitchen floor, eat ice cream, and grieve our loss -- while celebrating his new hope.

This is hard.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

You Can't Legislate Morality

(or can you?)

When someone says "you cannot legislate morality," I think "what a bunch of crap."  Because really we do it all the time.  There is a whole body of law we make because we think something is moral or immoral.

Laws of Morality

There are some obvious laws we all agree on, and I like to think of these as the Non-Aggression-Principle laws.  Don't kill, don't imprison, don't steal...  pretty straight forward.  But there are also the don't deceive laws because they use trickery to kill, imprison, or steal.  And we often wander into some questionable areas, like "don't cut down your tree because I want the oxygen."  Don't throw your stuff out on the edge of the road because it could make me sick, or detract from beauty.  Don't build a theme park on your property next to my property...  But all of these derive from enough of society believing the act is right or wrong (moral or immoral) to bring about a law.  This category of laws evolves like this:  world view (religion, philosophy, person or object of veneration) --> morality --> need for justice --> law. We legislate morality all the time.

Laws of Convention

Sometimes there is no right or wrong in behavior, as long as everyone does it the same way.  A simple example is driving on left or right side of the road.  Is one side more moral than the other?  No.  But if some of us drove on the left, and some of us drove on the right, chaos would ensue.  Same with green mean go, red means stop.  It could just as well be orange means go and purple means stop.  We just have to do it all the same.

But wait there's more!

I realized there is another category of laws that I had missed out on.  All the laws above we can break, and if those laws above are broken we, as a society, must step in to meter out justice.  All these legislative laws require an "if you do this, then I must act to pass out justice on you" kind of response.  It turns out there are "laws" that exist without the requirement of legislation or predefined retributive acts of justice.  Gravity, Friction, Newton...

Natural Laws

There is this additional set of laws that cannot be broken.  We cannot break the law of gravity.  As hard as we try, we cannot make gravity go away.  We can create forces to counteract it, but a soon as we remove those forces, gravity wins.  Same with Friction, or "two sides of a triangle have to sum to more than the third."  You just cannot break these laws.  And as a dutiful adherent to Austrian economics, I would throw "law of supply and demand" into the list.  We can try to override it, but in the end, the law of supply and demand will create a bubble to burst our feeble attempt to defeat it.

The important thing about natural law is that the consequences occur on their own.  There are no gravity police standing around with ropes to pull people back to earth, no F=MA police near by waiting to squish folks who decelerate too quickly into the ground, a wall, or another vehicle.  Nature itself meters out justice without any help from us.

What is Really Meant

We cannot make people moral through laws.  We can't make them believe the same thing as someone else by making a law about it.  We can put laws in place to govern people’s moral behavior.  And we do that regularly.

Other Resources

Why We Can’t Help But Legislate Morality
You can't NOT legislate morality
You can't NOT legislate morality (again)
A counter view (requires linguistic gymnastics)

Saturday, June 03, 2017

On Taking Written Tests

As I prepare to take my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) test, my instructor sent me this list as advice.  I decided it is good enough to be shared:

I have a set of rules/test taking tips that I teach everyone to use.  Maybe it will help you, maybe not.  Please consider them and how to adapt them to your own experiences.

While in the test room, sit down.
  1. Relax, you have a long time to take the test.  You are paying for the use of that chair for 150 minutes.  Get your money's worth.
  2. RTFQ.  Read the full question and understand what they are asking for.  Don't guess, reread it for understanding.
  3. Write out all the Acronyms you can think of and leave room for more as you test.
  4. Write down all the formulas you can think of and refer to them later.  In the heat of battle, it is easy to make a mistake.  In times of stress, refer to steps 1 and 2.
  5. Draw and label all axis and lights and anything else on a drawing of an airplane, it may help jog additional memories while under stress.
  6. Know the standards.  Write the ones you remember and add to the list as you work.  Check all chart values.
  7. Read ALL notes on every page.  There will be parts of the answer in them.
  8. Make grids and tables.  Carefully keep everything in order, columns and straight lines and add labels as you work so you can go back to them and understand your work.
  9. Always use a straight edge.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Take off, Land, Refuel (Repeat): Ferrying a Cirrus SR22 - G6 from NC to Seattle

My good friend Eric decided he needed an airplane, so he bought the newest, fanciest one he was rated for.  He bought a new 2017 Cirrus SR22 G6.  Wow, lots of numbers and letters.  Funny thing about us guys, we can have entire conversations in just numbers and letters.  Maybe my next post will be about automobile tires.

The Cirrus is the current pinnacle of single piston-engine GA technology.  Others may assert their plane is faster, or carries more, or whatever, but Cirrus is the current leader of sales and product integration.  From the twin turbo charged 315 HP engine, to the composite air-frame, to the complete avionics integration, to the full air-frame parachute (called Cirrus Air-frame Parachute System or CAPS), Cirrus has done a lot right with this plane.

Early in the Cirrus' history, there were quite a few accidents, so Cirrus established a standardized flight training program with special emphasis on safety and consistent procedures.  This training has greatly reduced the incidence of fatal Cirrus accidents.  In my opinion, the manufacturer has a significant interest in their product NOT killing their customers -- nor even having a reputation of killing their customers.  So they take this training very seriously, even presenting it as elite, or mystical, or... almost to the point of an evangelistic theology zeal.  They don't say it out-right but it can seem like they are thinking "morally superior pilots have taken the Cirrus Transition training."  (Note:  Eric disagrees with my perceptions here.)

Since Eric and I had made cross country flights together in the past, we knew how to cooperate well in the cockpit.  Eric also wanted the comfort of the extra cross-country experience in the cockpit, so he invited me to join him on the flight.  The plane came with four days of transition training for the new owner, but none for me.  A couple weeks before the plane was to be picked up we procured the training materials, and I worked through them.  Eric and I went to a local flight school to get some experience in a comparable Cirrus to reduce surprises for me in the plane.

The Preparation

Every new type of plane has it's idiosyncrasies, and this one is no different.  And it is a procedure heavy airplane.  Check-lists are integrated into the avionics systems.  There are specific things you do at specific altitudes, there are specific things you DON'T do at specific altitudes.  There is a fair amount of right rudder required to keep the plane straight during take off.  The side yoke has a distinct feel that makes it different from every other plane I have flown, and it takes a while to get accustomed to the feel

And you don't "fly" this plane, you more manage its systems.  Power forward. Lots of right rudder.  Airspeed alive.  Nose up.  Climb straight ahead.  600 feet AGL acknowledge the parachute can be used.  Press the autopilot button.  Watch.

And the autopilot is the best one I have encountered in a GA airplane.

I got in a couple landings.  They were not as smooth as I had hoped or wanted, but they were adequate.

Eric took an airliner to Knoxville TN where he picked up his new airplane and got his transition training.  He then flew his plane to Asheville NC to spend a couple days with his family.  I took an airliner to Asheville on the 15th where we spent the night at his parent's home.  It was my first ever trip to North Carolina, so I got to check off another state.

Eric's parents made a family adventure out of bringing us to the airport in the morning.  They are spectacularly kind people.  Eric would be PIC for the flight, since it is his plane, his insurance, and he had just received all the training.  But he agreed to let me do a landing in Asheville so I could also check North Carolina off my "land in all 50 states" list.


The Cirrus has two large computer displays in the cockpit.  Hardware wise they are identical.  Functionally, the one on the left in front of the pilot is tasked as the Primary Flight Display (PFD) and has all of the instrumentation necessary for flight.  Things like airspeed, attitude, altitude, and heading.  The one on the right is tasked as the Multi Function Display (MFD) and can be switched for all sorts of other purposes, displaying engine gauges, or charts, or terrain, or flight planning, or even the night vision infra-red camera (this plane has everything).  In the event of a PFD failure, there is a red button between the displays that sets both displays to mirror the primary fight instruments and the engine gauges.  So for me to fly from the right seat, we hit the red button to put all the information in front me as well.  We did an uneventful takeoff, circled around for landing, taxied off to the ramp, and picked up our instrument clearance, and programmed the autopilot.

Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and began our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a monster 60-plus knot headwind pushing against our progress.  At 10,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

Up we went out of North Carolina, over Tennessee, Kentucky, the corner of Indiana, and into Illinois.  We did a touch and go and then landed in Salem IL just over 3 hours later to refuel.  My second new state.

We had hoped to make a landing in Missouri, North of St. Louis, but the winds were not giving us any help making forward progress and we were going to run late into the day if we spent too much time airport hopping.


In Salem, we relived any physiological pressing needs, refueled the plane, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 10,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

Had the winds allowed us to make it north of St Louis on the previous leg, and had we not continued to fight a headwind on this leg, we may have been able to stretch the trip from Asheville to Rapid City into just two flights.  But the wind had taken its toll and we stopped in Wayne Nebraska to top the plane off.


We relived any physiological pressing needs, refueled the plane, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we called for our clearance, and were met with a confused controller who could not locate our flight plan in the system.  Fine.  While sitting next to the runway, I filed another plan over the phone.  But the computer said our plan was not valid.  Their computer wanted us to route significantly north around a pair of Military Operation Areas (MOA).  I wanted to fly between them.  We debated on the phone.  We ended up filing a Visual Flight Plan, and then flying the exact same route I wanted for our instrurment flight.  We taxied out, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, picked up VFR flight following, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 8,500 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

We landed in Rapid City, tucked the plane into the FBO's hangar, and got a room for the night.  I have stayed in Rapid City twice in the recent years.  The first was on a family vacation and we stayed at the La Quinta adjoining the the Watikti Water Park.  The next time was with Eric on the way to Oshkosh in 2014, and we ended up at Fairfield Inn, This time we stayed at the new addition, The Residence Inn.  It is newer and the nicest of the three.

We spent that night debating going around a weather system to the south through Boise, or attempt to fly through or over it.  We deferred the debate to the morning when the next weather report was due.  We didn't rush too much in the morning.  The free shuttle took us back to where the plane had been safely tucked away for the night in WestJet's hangar.


We we decided the route to Missoula looked clear, so we loaded the plane back up, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 10,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

Air traffic control alerted us to traffic to the left of our nose and closing.  Eric and I searched the sky and finally spotted it.  Zipping past us on the left about a mile a way was a small L-39 trainer Jet.  Somebody was out having fun in their toy.

When we crossed into Wyoming we asked the controller if the MOA to our north was active and how high would he need us to be to get a direct clearance.  He asked if we could accept 13,000, but being an "odd-thousand" it is for east bound flight, and we were headed west.  We requested and were cleared direct at 14,000 feet.  We donned the O2 cannulas and twisted the knobs for the new heading and altitude.  At 14,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.  We eventually poked up even further to 16,000 looking for more favorable speeds, and hit 201 true air speed.

We eventually were vectored down for the approach into Missoula.  In preparation it appeared we were going to pass through a layer of clouds, so we prepped the TKS system and got a bit of deice fluid out on the wings.  Our route flew us around the clouds and we never touched any of them.

We borrowed the crew car from Minuteman Aviation and headed into town for a nice lunch.


From Missoula the weather reports were showing low clouds across eastern and central Washington, and scattered to broken layers in the Puget Sound.  So we decided to press on, refueled the plane, filed a new flight plan, and went through the departure procedure.  Back to the runway, we lined up, pushed the power lever forward, broke the surly bonds of earth, and continued our journey.  At 600 feet, we made our "CAPS available" call, switched to the departure controller, and hit the autopilot button.  The plane climbed into a smaller headwind.  At 14,000 feet the plane leveled off, and we sat back to watch it fly.

We cleared the Rocky Mountains, and we could see Spokane was under a broken layer of clouds.  Soon the broken layer layer became a solid bank below us.  Eric and I discussed how if we lost the engine over the clouds below. the parachute was a really good option.  It was not needed.  The controllers updated our routing, assigning us an arrival into the Puget Sound.  When we crossed over the Moses Lake airport, we asked the controllers about altitude assignments on the approach.  The controller was helpful and told us to use the approach for lateral guidance, and ATC would be assigning altitudes.

When we crossed the Cascade Mountains, the controllers told us to initiate our descent and began the vectoring process to the Renton airport.  In just over two hours. we were taxing Eric's plane up to its new home.


Two days, coast to coast, middle of winter -- never touched a single cloud. Amazing. Full Photo Album.
Adding North Carolina and Illinois

Friday, December 23, 2016

Bringing the SNJ back from Fairbanks AK to Lincoln CA: Part Three

...continued from parts one and two.

Kamloops BC to Oroville WA (USA)

The next morning was "warm" for Canada and the sky above was morning-sky-blue.  We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the hotel and caught a shuttle back out to the airport.  The wool pants and thermal underwear gave way to a fresh pair of jeans, the fleece was staying in my duffel bag.

The plane was waiting for us where we parked it the night before, but neither Andy nor I could remember the gate code (Note to self:  Take a photo of the gate code before exiting the ramp).  We found a cooperative airport staff member who escorted us back onto the ramp.

Penticton Regional Airport
Andy filed another international flight plan including a time window for us to arrive at the Oroville Airport.

We had plenty of fuel for our short flight across the border so we loaded our bags back into the plane, strapped in, and pointed the plane back down the runway towards Kamloops Lake and the Thompson River we had followed in the previous evening.  As the tail lifts off the ground I let it rise just enough to be able to see the runway ahead over the big engine obscuring my view.  The airplane lifts smoothly off the runway and resumes biting into the sky as I retract the gear.

We climb paralleling the shoreline until we clear the ridge on the south side of the lake and then turn direct on course toward Oroville.  I grew up in Washington, and I have been nearly everywhere in the state.  But I don't recall ever having been to Oroville before.  It sits just four miles from the border where customs agents are usually working the automotive crossing.  For us to clear customs here one of the agents is sent to greet us, thus the earlier time window.

Somewhere down there is the border
Crossing the border I look for the tell-tale line of trimmed vegetation, but in the arid climate of Eastern Washington, there is no vegetation growing from the rock to be trimmed back.

We extend the gear and make a wide left-downwind pattern and line up on the narrow runway.  And boy does it look narrow.  But this time I am ready for it.  I kick the rudders a couple times to loosen up my feet and get my heels on the floor rails and toes away from the breaks.  I get another landing I can be happy about, and Andy again says I am staying ahead of the airplane much better.

Checking for Atomic Bombs?
We parked in front of the customs "office," opened the canopies, released our seat-belts, and waited for the agent to come out to come meet us.  Eventually an ominous SUV pulled up on the other side of the fence and an Agent exited the vehicle.  He let us climb out while he interviewed us.

Then he got out his Geiger counter.  That struck me as really odd, but Andy had warned me that it would happen.  Since the older instruments are painted with "glow in the dark" radium paint, the geiger counter started squawking and squealing as soon as the agent got near the panel.  He glanced over at Andy and me, and Andy just shrugged and said "radium painted gauges in the instrument panel."  The agent move the Geiger-Müller tube over the panel to verify Andy's report, gave us an all clear, and walked back into the office.

Andy walked to the pumps while I climbed in the plane and went through the start-up checklist for the short taxi it to the fuel pumps.

Part of our reasoning for not refueling in Kamloops is that aviation fuel is generally more expensive in Canada than it is in the U.S.  Aside from being paid for in Canadian Dollars, it is dispensed in liters, pushing my limited brain to do two conversions in order to come up with the equivalent price.  But recently I discovered that SkyVector does these conversion for me automatically. Just click layers, select the FBO tab, check the type of fuel, currency, and units of measure.

Make your Flight Plan at SkyVector.com

Had we used it, we would have seen that gas was a dollar less expensive per gallon in Kamloops than it was in Oroville. Pretty cool.

Oroville WA to Bend OR

After refilling the plane we saddled back up and snaked the big SNJ down the narrow taxiway that was clearly made for planes the size of a Piper Cub to the south end of the runway.  I lined up the plane with the runway and pushed the manifold pressure back up to 30 inches.  As the tail lifted, again I held it just low enough so I could see the end of the runway over engine and we smoothly departed back to the north.  I retracted the gear and made a climbing 180 degree left turn back to the south, called up Air Traffic Control (ATC) for flight following, and continued to reach for cooler air above.

Crossing from WA to OR
We had been in straight and level cruise for a while when ATC came over the radio to advise us that Military Operation Area (MOA) we were flying in was "Hot," or in use, and we were sharing the airspace with some F-18's who were aware of our presence.  At 10,500 feet I was just above the bottom of the MOA airspace.  I offered to let the F-18's practice their intercept skills on us, but got no joy.

straight line to Bend
We continued straight and level south paralleling the Columbia River as it passed through Wenatchee WA, and then crossing over it on our way south past Ellensburg and Yakima.  Soon we were crossing the Columbia for a second time as we flew into Oregon.  Wind turbines were visible on the mesa above the river.

I had flown into Sunriver Resort in several times, but I had somehow overlooked how close it was to the cluster of airports including Madras, Bend, and Redmond.  We landed in Bend to refuel the airplane.

Due to some technical issues at work, I had several messages on my cell phone.  I attended to these while Andy refueled and oiled the airplane.

Bend OR to Lincoln CA

Our stop in Bend was just brief enough to resupply the plane.  Andy and I snacked on some protein bars, and re-hydrated before pointing the plane south again and picking up flight following from ATC.

Volcanic cone and crater
I had not flown south of Sunriver in eastern Oregon, and I am disappointed I had not done so sooner.  All across the terrain is evidence of the Pacific Northwest's volcanic history.  Everywhere you look are volcanic cones, craters, or lava flows.  It was totally fascinating to me.  I need to go back.

The air grew warmer and I was down to just a t-shirt under my unzipped flight suit, and the canopy was slid open in flight even against the added noise.  Andy and I cruised along straight line south towards Sacramento.

Near the Oregon - California border
We approached the Oregon-California border and the Goose North MOA as we continued south towards Lincoln.  I checked if the MOA was active and the controller responded that it was not.  Andy and I discussed the persistent Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around Beale Air Force Base, and how we may have to navigate around it.  As we continued south, ATC queried us about our knowledge of the TFR ahead.

I asked if he was referring to the one at Beale and ATC said that the Beale TFR was not active but indicated there was a second TFR closer to us due to a forest fire.  He had us stay at 10,500 feet as we passed through it while the fire-fighting helicopters hugged the terrain far below.  Not long after that we were cleared to start our descent.

ATC cleared us through Beale's airspace as we descended and maneuvered for a long straight in at the Lincoln Airport.  Andy pointed out a cluster of structures to the east of Beale's runway, and mentioned they were some sort of space communication something or other.  We were headed straight for them.  ATC had us turn about 20 degrees right so we would pass north of them as we lined up on the runway.

I was feeling pretty confident from my previous couple of landings, and as soon as the main wheels touched down, I pulled the stick back to pin the tail wheel on the ground.  But my airspeed was still a bit high, so the plane ballooned up off the runway, and I fought the stick for a hard "thump" back down on the ground.  "Pride cometh before a fall."  Every time.

The sun is setting on another adventure.
We were greeted by several of Andy's social circle who were happy to see his return to Lincoln.  We refueled the plane.  One of those who greeted us was representative for the local paper, Melissa, who was there to get Adventure Flight's ad published in the paper.  Andy pointed out the hangar, told me to bring the plane over, and he would walk over and open it up.  I offered Melissa a ride in the back seat as I taxied back, and she eagerly accepted.

We spent the next couple hours unpacking and sorting our gear from the plane, and tucking the SNJ into the hangar with its stable-mates.  I booked a flight home for the next morning.

That evening Andy and I enjoyed a hearty meal at a local Lincoln Pizza Parlor.

Epilogue and photos

A little over 16 hours in the plane, 15 landings, Four U,S, States, Two Provinces, Two countries, and a great adventure with a really good co-pilot.

See all the photos here:
See all the photos here

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bringing the SNJ back from Fairbanks AK to Lincoln CA: Part Two

...continued from part one.

Dease Lake BC to Smithers BC

Getting above the clouds at Dease Lake
We slept well and in the morning had breakfast at the Super A across the street.  We picked up yet another discouraging weather report and headed over to the airport anyway.

At the airport we are met by low gray clouds blanketing the surrounding hills.  We file a flight plan in hopes it breaks up enough to depart.  Around noon a commuter flight arrives with a load of passengers.  "PIREPS" or Pilot Reports!  Fresh from the cockpit.  I jog from the SNJ down to the commuter plane and locate the pilots.  They tell me of open sky just north east over the lake at the end of the valley.  Andy and I waste no time firing up the plane and taking off in that direction.  Sure enough the sky opened up and we climbed above the broken layer.  South we went, following the wide valley and highway below.

We skipped along at 10,500 feet above the clouds, it felt good to be making progress south towards warmer climates.  Already I was wearing the gloves less and the neck cowl fleece was no longer pulled over my ears.

About 20 miles out of Smithers, the clouds below opened up and gave a nice clearing to circle down.  We flew below the clouds along the valley floor the rest of the way to Smithers.  It was fun flight below the valley walls over the wide floor below.  We came around the valley, lined up on the airport, and landed.

Smithers is in a beautiful setting, a wide flat green valley floor extending north-south for miles.  It is known for steelhead fishing, while we were there the ramp had several helicopters and business jets delivering and awaiting passengers.  I could enjoy hanging out in this kind of peacefulness for several days.

We were greeted by friendly airport line crew and the airport staff came out to see the airplane.  I helped one of the airport staff climb into the cockpit and have her picture taken. They were very nice.  The airport manager came out and chatted with us for a while, making sure we were aware of the services they had to offer, assuring us they would be an excellent place to stay if we got weathered in.  At the time I wondered if he was really nice, or trying to say we should not be departing into the current conditions.  Either way, I really liked the experience.  Those Canadians really are nice.

Smithers BC to Williams Lake BC 

We took off pressing further south and were treated to a double rainbow as we climbed up over the weather, I wish the cellphone camera did it justice.  It was quite beautiful.

We were chasing a cold front, which also meant we are getting a fair tail-wind push.  The front was marked by stacked up clouds that required us to do some zig-zagging to progress around them until we passed the front.  There the mountains finally fell away as the clouds rose high above and the terrain spread wide around us.  The oil belching radial engine pulled us faithfully over the beauty of central British Columbia.

Again the miles were rapidly sliding behind us in 20 second increments, and in just under two hours I was lining back up on a runway.  This time at Williams Lake BC.  We refueled the plane, and called ahead to see where we could clear customs.  I wanted to clear at Paine Field, my home airport, but customs would not be available there,  So we checked Bellingham instead.  They would be open, but we had little margin of error to get there on time.

We filed our flight plan and completed the online forms for clearing customs a Bellingham.

Back into the sky we went.

Williams BC to Kamloops BC

We headed south by southwest toward the US border as golden hour lit up the sky around us.  The cold front that had been our helper on the southeast leg became our punisher on our flight southwest.  We pressed forward towards Bellingham in to headwinds spilling off of the mountains ahead.  Between fighting the headwinds for ground speed, and the rotors for altitude, our forward progress was slow and agonizing.  We tried lower, we tried higher, we tried tweaking the power.  We watched the GPS's estimated arrival time in Bellingham move further away.  Our ETA reached, and then passed the time limit customs had given us.  It was certain we could not push the plane any harder for an on-time arrival.

We turned left headed to Kamloops BC, and started sliding down hill.  The time passed quickly as the sun set behind us and and darkness enveloped the sky, we set the plane down for a straight in landing on runway 08 at Kamloops, just over one hour from when we left Williams lake.

We enjoyed an excellent dinner and a cold adult beverage at the Holiday Inn & Suites before drifting off to sleep for the night.

To be continued...

Bringing the SNJ back from Fairbanks AK to Lincoln CA: Part One

The Adventure begins

After the big adventure of flying the SNJ from Oregon to Alaska, I knew if the opportunity arose to ferry it again, I wanted to participate.  So I let Andy know I was ready to do it again when the time came.  Andy was agreeable, so I set out preparing for the return trip.

I learned a few things from the first trip, and incorporated them into my preparations.
  1. The airplane is loud, and even noise canceling headsets offer little relief.  Andy wore what he called his "Mickey Mouse" hat -- a leather helmet -- and said it helped.  I found that if I removed the cloth covers and pressed my headsets against my head, the noise was suppressed better.  So I looked into buying either a leather or hard helmet.  The leather helmets are not that much money.  Not sure why, but I also looked into low-profile in-ear headsets.  In the end, I decided to build my own low-profile in-ear headset.
  2. The airplane is COLD.  I brought long-johns, wool pants, warm gloves, and boots.
  3. My flight-suit's collar chafes on my neck.
  4. GPS is really handy.  I bought the North American database for my handheld GPS so I could have Canadian data.
I blew a handful of my Delta miles and bought a ticket from Seattle to Fairbanks.  After work on Thursday, my son picked me up from the office, went out to dinner, and then he dropped me off at Seatac.  Andy picked me up at the Fairbanks Airport later.

Downwind at Fairbanks
Friday was a day of wrapping things up at Andy's house and getting me and the plane ready for the trip.  My landings on the first trip were well below my personal standards, so Andy and I took the plane for a few hops around the Fairbanks pattern.  I had studied the manual in preparation for the landings, and worked to establish the correct airspeeds in the pattern.  Downwind, 120, base 100, final 90.  I worked on sight picture and power settings to achieve the speeds.  After six circuits, I felt I had a much better handle on how to manage the landings.

To help stay warm I bought a new fleece jacket and a fleece neck cowl from Proflite.

Saturday the weather was pretty rough and prevented us from leaving, so we took care of some chores around the house and explored around Fairbanks.

Fairbanks AK to Whitehorse YT

Sunday morning we arrived at the airport early to start our adventure.  There was a fairly low ceiling over Fairbanks but the forecast called for it to clear up as we proceeded east out of the valley towards Whitehorse.  We departed east out of Fairbanks and stayed low below the clouds over the Tanana River, and then turned left to pass north of Ellison Air Force base.

crossing the US / Canada border
Shortly after passing Ellison the clouds broke up enough for us to head higher.  We climbed up around a scattered layer and settled in for the flight to the Yukon.  We passed over Tok, Northway, and then the border.  I have been amazed both times I have flown over the border that we take the time, even in the middle of nowhere, to carve out the line between the two countries.  But there, out both sides of the airplane, you can see it extending through the trees.

Our arrival a short time later at Whitehorse gave me my first opportunity to land the heavily loaded SNJ.  And with Andy in the back seat, all our survival gear, a full tool box, and a couple cases of oil, we were heavy with an aft center of gravity.  I set the plane onto the runway with only a small crosswind, and fought it to a taxi.  Andy chuckled at me and said "you are about a half a second behind the plane."

Oh man, I thought I had it down earlier in Fairbanks.  But all that stuff in the back makes a significant difference on the amount of momentum I am working to keep between the main wheels.  I taxi to customs a bit dejected.

Two very polite female customs agents come out and greet us at the plane.  They start with routine questions.  Why are we coming to Canada?

Taking the airplane from AK to CA.

Why are you moving the plane?

For business.  Summer in AK, Winter in CA.

The questions continue.  They ask us to unload the plane.  Everything.  They ask us repeatedly if we have any firearms.  All the flight gear comes out of the cockpits.  All of the bags of charts.  All of the spare coats,  Then all of the supply fluids from the back, then snacks, and then the survival gear.  They ask again about firearms.  Then the toolboxes, then repair kits, then spare magnetos..  They open our duffel bags with our clothing in it.  They find the four beers in the snacks.  They ask again about firearms.  They search the tool boxes, inspect the gaskets and seals, and look at the magnetos.

Finally they have the plane empty, our stuff all unpacked and spread out over the ramp.  And they are convinced.  Yep, we are flying an old airplane from Alaska to California.  Have a nice day, and good luck getting all that back in the plane.  Thanks.  We repack our gear back in to the plane.

We take a potty break, Andy heads for the fuel pumps, and I fire up the plane and taxi to Andy.

Whitehorse YT to Dease Lake BC

We head south east out of Whitehorse towards Dease Lake.  The terrain below us is rugged but not too harsh.  Wide valleys and smallish mountains keep us distracted.  And soon we are closing in on the Dease Lake airport.  The runway sits on the southeast side of a good size hill -- some may call it a mountain.  The clouds obscure the top of the hill so we descend around the clouds and skirt the terrain, approaching from the south west, lined up for a straight in on the runway.  We call the airport radio operator to announce our intentions.  And they repeat them back to anyone in the area.  This is one of the funny differences between American and Canadian airport operations.  In Canada, it seems every airport has a radio operator.  But that operator is not a controller.  They are there to repeat stuff, but not approve of or grant clearances.

Refueling in Dease Lake
The runway is narrow with gravel on either side.  I set the plane down and start the pedal dance.  Again Andy says I still a half second behind the plane, and because of the narrow runway, Andy gives the rudders a couple kicks to keep me out of trouble.  We taxi to the end and shut down at the pumps.

The weather to the south is not encouraging, but we decide to try to run the valley to the west down to Smithers.  In the process of getting ready to go, Andy says something important to me in passing.  He mentions that I cannot wait for the airplane to be lined up with the direction I want it to be going, rather I soon as I detect movement, I should be countering it with opposite rudder.  Turns out, that is the one bit of advice I needed to hear.

Dease Lake BC to Dease Lake BC

We took off to the south and started following the GPS and the valley south.  We were low below the clouds over one of the most ruggedly beautiful canyons I have seen.  Sheer narrow cliffs squeezed the river.  There were no river banks here -- just water and rock walls for miles.  Eventually the canyon widened and train tracks appeared.  We followed them further south for a while.  And then about an hour out of Dease Lake, the terrain rose up and met the bottom of the clouds.  I was pressing forward to look for a gap, but could not find one.  Andy's voice came over the intercom confirming what I too was realizing.  "We can't get through there."

I slowed down and pressed the plane up against one side of the canyon walls and turned hard towards the other side.  In less than a third of the width of the canyon we were pointed back north, the way we came.  About 20 minutes up we turned west to pick up another valley that headed south, but it too was not looking promising.  Neither of us wanted a repeat of the long leg of first ferry trip, so we turned back to Dease Lake.

Again the narrow runway loomed.  I lined the plane up, bounced my feet a couple times to get the rudder away, and started bleeding off air-speed.  90 MPH on final I eased the plane on to the runway, and watched for the nose to move.  As soon and it did, I gave it opposite rudder.  We shut down for the day and Andy said "I think that is the best landing you have made in this plane."


We call the Northway Motor Inn to book a room and they offer to send a vehicle over.  We surrender to the weather for the day.

To be continued...