Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mohave Flight

Click on the photos to enlarge if you want - Blogger crops them narrow.

This was written about 2013 and I forgot to post it.  All the photos by Jake except the megaphone photos which were found uncredited on the internet.

Here's a great video Jake made of the trip.

Jake and I went to a Cessna 180/185 flyin at Bullhead City AZ. We stayed at the Riverside in Laughlin NV, right across the river. It was really fun and very, very nice people.  There were just a few people I knew, but a lot I'd heard of or corresponded with. One other guy was from AK, and a few had come all the way from TX.

About 25 planes showed up.  This was during the first of the tower closures so I felt bad for the controllers who were on their last days of work.

While we were there we accompanied a guy I knew out to visit his friends 'ranch' in the California Mohave desert. It was great fun. There was some sort of strip, but I never actually saw it - we just landed on some tracks in the desert. Maybe that was it.

Our guide talking us down.

The Bacon Ranch I don't know the owner but emailed to thank him for maintaining this - it's a great spot. They have a facebook page;

I hope to make it back for the annual Mid October flyin some time.

Most of the other guys had big engines or 185's... I didn't even have a long prop at the time which generated debilitating inadequacy issues. 

When we were leaving, there was a lot of dust with everyone taxiing back to where we'd touched down, so Jake and I lost interest in the back taxi and just pointed more or less into the wind and punched it.

Jake in desert attire.

A wrecked homebuilt.  I kicked it for snakes first lol.

I want to go back and see this; "Desert Megaphone". I didn't see it when we were there because I didn't understand what or where it was - I was looking for a natural rock megaphone shaped thing and not on the top of the ridge. It looks like about a mile walk from the ranch. According to the internet "no one" knows what it's for or who did it.  I can't imagine any functional purpose and I've got to think the ranch owner has SOME idea who put it there...

Pretty one, and I think a stock engine?  I'd never met this guy before but he can fly close to me anytime.

Another nearby strip in the Mohave - I forget what it was called - some play on "Bacon" I think. "Breakfast" maybe? This was the first of my landings that day I bounced in front of witnesses.

Not sure which guy was from Texas lol.

I bounced my second landing in front of witnesses when we stopped at Kidwell airport in NV for lunch on our way back. I'd been there previously when flying out of Sun Valley, AZ.  It's hard to tell what state you're in and the Kidwell airport hometown reflects that; Cal-Nev-Ari.  There's a writeup on this lighted dirt strip restaurant at


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Looong Trip to AZ...

It was getting pretty wintry when I left.

Leaving Palmer I lost my manifold pressure gauge about 10 minutes out, so had to go back and have another installed.  Of course I had to drive to Anchorage, get it overnighted... the usual complications. So finally left again later the next day.

I saw this great rock formation in the Wrangells on the way by - the photo doesn't really do it justice, but maybe if you zoom in.  The rock on the left looks like a hoodoo and the structure in the middle top really looked like an Asian temple.

No problem getting to Whitehorse other than the usual Customs confusion with the tower. This has happened to me several times, I have CanPass so I don't have to call Customs but then the tower tells me I have to call even after I try to explain that I don't. So I start to think maybe they know something I don't (like Customs asked them to tell me to call?)... so I do... and Customs says "you have CanPass, you know you don't have to call right?".  Arrgh :-)

It was a nice night in Whitehorse, but my plane was alone on the ramp this late in the year.  I got there too late to go any farther.

The next two days were not so nice - lots of ice, low clouds and wind, so I saw a movie, Sicario, which was really pretty good and hung out a bit in my favorite Whitehorse coffee shop.

I stayed at the Airport Chalet, which is just fine and I've been wanting to try because it's MUCH cheaper than the Skky Hotel right next door that I have always stayed at previously.

Finally made it out of Whitehorse headed down the Cassiar for Smithers. I wanted to ride my bike down to town from the ski area, but that will have to be another time.  Bought gas in Dease Lake where the guy told me sometimes they leave for the day and you would just have to wait for them get back to sell you gas, yikes. 
About 1/3 of the way to Smithers I couldn't get past Bob Quinn Lake, which NavCanada said was an abandoned airstrip, and WAS a little overgrown and nothing there but some tanks for summertime helicopter fueling. I tried for Smithers another time until I didn't have enough gas to do anything but go back to Dease Lake, so I camped for 3 days and ran down my SAT phone waiting in blowing rain for it to clear up enough to do that.

It kept teasing me by looking nice, but the clouds were stacking up against the passes I needed to get out. There was a road maintenance shop a mile away that I walked to a couple times trying to get on their wifi but no one was ever around. There were a few housetrailers nearby and someone there let me use their wifi as long as I stood outside in the rain. And there was a payphone, so when I was pretty much 100% sure I could make Dease Lake I filed from the payphone and went back to Watson Lake.

I hung around Watson lake for 3 days, drying my stuff out with a box fan in the room.  I tried to get out every day, taking a $60 round trip cab ride to the airport. I was at the airport before sunrise and de-iced my plane with gallon jugs of warm water and a ladder. The good thing was meeting the owner of Scoop Lake Lodge who gave me (and any pilot) an open invitation to stop and stay.  I subsequently talked to a friend that does that as opposed to staying in Watson Lake, so that's a thought...
The first day I didn't even try to fly, the second I made it all the way down the trench almost to Ft. Ware (a little over 1/2 way) and got turned around, and the third day I went 600 miles non-stop (thank goodness for my new seats!) to Williams Lake. I wanted OUT of the Yukon.

I wanted to get close to the border (maybe Abbotsford) but, of course, the fuel pump at Williams Lake didn't work so I spent another night there.

Williams Lake

I made it to Bellingham the next day.  I tried to get flight following from Vancouver all the way down at 7500 feet, but three controllers told me they couldn't see me and to try another controller farther on, none of which ever worked. It was a little lower down towards Washington and I was worried about the visibility as I had to skirt Vancouver's airspace by flying over higher terrain but made it OK.  A couple miles from Bellingham I reported to the tower "I'm 3 miles out but you're pretty well hidden" and they said "You're well hidden yourself", but I saw it in plenty of time to get into the pattern ahead of an Alaska Airlines flight.

I rented a car (38 bucks!!!) and tied down at the very nice Command Aviation.  Good gas price too. Drove down to visit Jake and Hazel in Olympia for a couple days which was nice. I also looked at a Stearman for sale, which was OK, but not the one for me :-)

I met up with my friend Matt in Bellingham, hoping to see his new baby, Soren, who was born after I left unfortunately. But we went to Elizabeth Station for lunch which I'd been wanting to check out because they have "Crowlers" - 32 oz cans they fill and seal in front of you, which was fun.

Not too much trouble getting out of Bellingham - had to wait about 4 hours.  I made it to Bend and it was late in the day and not good farther South so spent 2 nights there waiting for it clear.  I was in Bend years ago and did not like it for some reason I don't remember, but I've been there the last two years and it's a nice little town. I didn't spend much time in town because the weather was marginal so I was at the airport all day waiting.  I gave up about 2, and as soon as I checked back in the hotel, it cleared right up, both at Bend and the destination. I was tempted to go but, while not completely inflexible, I am reluctant to second guess a no-go decision. You can talk yourself into something dumb. I was checked into the hotel, it was late enough in the day that there might not be enough time to get turned around and back to Bend by dark, so I bagged it.

The next day I made it to Winnemucca, thinking I could go the whole way but it was low on the NV/UT border so I waited around and made a late afternoon try for Ely but got turned around about an hour out.  I thought about Elko because it's a nicer town, but it's not really a whole lot closer and was blowing 30 so back to Winnemucca.

The FBO in Winnemucca is great - they've loaned me their car several times, but the town sucks. Why anyone that wasn't incarcerated would live there is beyond me. No good food and the restaurants and most of the hotels are smoky casinos.

And then I dropped my phone. Which complicates general aviation travel a lot more than I had considered - hard to get weather and Flight Service. Also explains the lack of photos.

But the next day was nice and not too windy so I made Ely, St George, ran around the end of the Grand Canyon because I couldn't find my Grand Canyon chart which turned out to be in plain sight the whole time and got home the day before Halloween which was good because I had part of Hanna's costume in the plane.  17 days enroute :-)


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Beer Engine Education

I was recently in England and had an epiphany about the beer engine.  I felt like a rube in the Continent - I should have known this a long time ago :-)

I was aware that the Beer Engine existed (it's a hand pump for beer) but thought it was an archaic method and that the recent use in craft breweries was just an affectation.  When I engaged a barmaid in Lincoln, England about how it worked, she took the time to give me a full explanation and demonstration.

They use a 'tap' to dispense carbonated lagers from kegs - like we're used to seeing.  They use the 'handle' (beer engine) to dispense ales from casks.  She was aghast when I told her we dispensed force carbonated kegged ales from 'taps' in the US; "Like a LAH-GAH?".

The beer engine uses a nozzle called a 'sparkler' that's like a shower head which they submerge in the beer when filling the glass.  It adds the carbonation and the head.  They control the head by pulling the nozzle out of the liquid if necessary to get more (what we'd call a mixed pour) and have a little plastic cap that seems to kill the shower head effect which they use if the beer has too much natural carbonation. There is some skill involved in pulling the handle to keep the correct pressure on the sparkler.

The net effect is that the ales have a very nice tight small bubbled, tenacious head and are a little flat through the body.  They don't have any of the 'soda' like body carbonation we're used to. It took me a bit to get used to it, but I really like the casked beer and it seems less filling.

I recently made a Brown Ale that came out to be too effervescent - it's carbonated in the body sort of like a soda.  I think it would have been perfect if not force carbonated.  Maybe I need to build a beer engine :-)

It was pretty interesting and I thank the girls at the Horse and Groom for taking the time to educate me.

There's a group there trying to raise awareness and promote cask beers - The Campaign For Real Ale.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Float Rating and FAA Certificate Action

I waited a year to tell THIS story :-)

I had a great time getting my float rating.  I flew this Supercub out of Laughlin, NV/Bullhead City, AZ down the Colorado river, landing and taking off all day.  It really was fun, in shorts and Tevas, 85F with the door open, wading through the warm water... :-)

The reason (other than I'd always wanted one) that I got the rating is because the FiddleAssAssociation wanted me to redo the checkrides for my Commercial and my Multi. They had retroactively de-certified the examiner I took those rides with and sent re-ride (the so-called "709") letters for 559 certificates, affecting hundreds of students. My letter said I had to surrender my license or redo them within 30 days or the FAA would pursue legal action against my certificate. 

My certified letter did not say this, but I looked the actual action up in the Federal Register and it offered the option of obtaining another rating, from a different examiner, in lieu of the re-rides.  

I called the FAA every day for 4 days without a callback or being able to talk to the Inspector in charge.  Apparently I was on a deadline but they were not. On the fifth day I told the receptionist that I'd get a call back that day or I was going to my US Senator and the FAA Regional director, which did the trick.  In about 5 minutes the FAA guy in charge called me back and confirmed that a float rating would protect my Commercial license and my Multiengine rating from "legal action". 

The FAA Inspector in charge said he needed to know which examiner I would be riding with so I provided the FAA with his name, the ride date, etc., and was told that as soon as I emailed them a copy of my temporary certificate, they would issue a letter saying there would be no action against my license.  The FAA guy was really pleasant, helpful and seemed to be overworked and stuck in the middle of the entire mess - which originated at the District level, not with the local office.  There were only two guys assigned to managing 559 certificate actions on a 30 day deadline. 

The float rating was about 4 days faster and $5000 cheaper than taking the other rides. So... did the ride, got the rating, had a great time. :-)  

1.  Coming out of Bullhead City at 0630, going 15 over the speed limit because I had a long way to go, I got pulled over. AZ has a crazy law: 
Officer "I can give you a 200 dollar 4 point ticket for speeding or an 80 dollar no point ticket for 'wasting finite resources'. "
Me "Do I get to choose?"
Officer "No, I get to choose but you HAVE been very cooperative."

2.  Subsequent to emailing a photo of my temp certificate to the FAA Officer in charge and being assured I would get a letter that said the entire thing had gone away... the FAA permanently suspended the examiner I'd taken the float ride with.  The same guy that they had pre-approved me to use.  Anecdotally, they suspended most of the Examiners at several big flight schools in AZ, NV and FL.

So I sweated that for about a month, and then received the letter saying this was all behind me. So it's all OK in the end.

But I'm still not a big fan of the FAA.  To put it mildly.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

AK to AZ 2013

Since Jake does a much better job than I, I'll just defer to him again...