May 8, 2012 - A fond farewell: On
an overcast Tuesday afternoon, Wild Child departed X14 as my airplane for the final time. She has moved on to a new owner.
She has been a great airplane for me and I truly had the privilege of her ownership but all good things must pass. Her new owners
are a group of fun-loving guys who live in ..... wait a minute ...... Tavernaero! And Wild Child is really going home. She will
be living in my hangar in the Keys but under new ownership so she will not be far away at all. Congratulations, guys - you
have a great airplane. I wish you all the fun with her that I had.
Pompano Beach via
FL Keys (July 2011): My first Saturday back home. I have an airplane
full of gas; I have a beautiful sunny day and I have nothing planned. Air-trip!!!! The 4th Saturday of every month is the
fly-out for the Grasshoppers - a ladies flying group whose sole purpose is to fly somewhere and have a gathering - usually
associated with some meal. The group has been together for 50 years hopping from place to place throughout Florida and the
Bahamas. Today it was Pompano Beach.
Vern and I got up and out early to make a run to the Keys before heading north to Pompano. I knew they had been
working on the house but I have not seen anything since I have not been around. With calm winds and clear skies this morning,
it was the perfect time to go. The trip to the Keys was a bit slow. While surface winds were calm, we had about 10-15 kts
aloft, making our ground speed a paltry 88 kts and making for a long ride over the Everglades. It was nice to see that we
have gotten some rain in FL and the Everglades were starting to fill with water once again. The gator holes actually had water
instead of being dried brown masses.
Upon our arrival at Tavernaero, we were again pleased to find that rain had graced the Keys
as well: the runway was lush and green; there was no dust and everything was clean and clear. We plopped onto the runway and
taxied back - NOT making a dust cloud as we did the last time we came. There was not too much progress on the house - the
rough in plumbing was completed and some of the AC duct work was in. We spoke with the builder to learn that lots was to happen
this week to come with the AC. The kitchen cabinets are enroute and the bathroom fixtures are at the house. All and all it
is moving so I am happy.
It was a short visit but we wanted to scoot so we could make the Grasshoppers lunch on time, We flightplanned
a low route up the remainder of the Keys north - past Ocean Reef, Stiltsville, the Port of Miami, all of the Miami and Fort
Lauderdale coastlines and in to Pompano. It was a spectacular view and one we have not seen before. We always catch a glimpse
of the coastline as we head in from the Bahamas but nexer do we make the long trip along the beach. Even though I much prefer
natural sights, the concrete structures towering over the placid waters of the ocean were quite interesting and beautiful in their own way.
Lunch was at the local restaurant, Gullipes,
next to the golf course. The setting was nice, the food good and the company great. Over 40 Grasshoppers and friends gathers
for hangar flying and fellowship before scattering again to our respective fields to play. Our journey home was a quick one
- lots of tailwinds this time - but we ended dodging the afternoon thunderstorms that frequent Florida in the summer time.
Setting our sights on LaBelle, we managed to get in before the storms over ran the airport just around 1400.
It is time, once again, for annual for Wild Child so she will get some rest in the hangar next to a wingless
Photos of Pompano via Florida Keys Trip
Summer fun - July 2011:
It is a good think that I do not take too much stock in life plans and they always have a way of becoming de-railed.
The summer in Charlotte, NC got shortened when the project hit a wall. The
company has to go back and re-group to allow me to do the next phase of the project. I had planned on some mountain flying
but there were no weekend days that allowed me to romp through the mountains; so it was back to Florida.
I found a weather hole on July 20th where
I could get all the way home with little to no trouble. The weather and winds were calm and I was able to take the water
route this time as I had more confidence with the fuel endurance of Wild Child. I also DID NOT want a repeat of the really
awful visibility getting past the Okeefenokee Swamp fires that are still not out. The morning proved to be a bit hazy
in Charlotte and the airports surrounding the area were reporting MVFR and IFR. Not my idea of a time to launch VFR so I parked myself, played a little iPad Scrabble and waited until everyone
reported VFR and MVFR with a trend toward improving conditions. That opportunity came at 0800. With a little tail wind, I
would be home by 1500 and before the storms blew up.
The first part of the journey went well although the haze
was quite bothersome. It was very difficult to pick out a landmark any distance away to which to point the airplane for navigation.
It made me hasten the instrument scan to keep on track and be very vigilant for other aircraft in the area. The news report
said Charlotte has the worst air quality in the nation that day. I believe them.
My first fuel stop was in Walterboro,
SC at Lowcountry Airport. It was a short 1:45 flight but I decided that 2 stops gave me a lot better margin for oopses if
necessary, even though I could have made the trip with only 1 fuel stop. I got fueled, checked weather and was back in
the air in less than 30 minutes. Not bad but I will make the next stop even faster. The tailwinds were dying down and I
was keeping steady at 100 kts ground speed. Any less than that and my 1500 arrival would be in jeopardy. I made my turn toward
the southeast to get toward the coastline, hoping for a little better visibility.
I had flight-planned to fly off
the coast out to TYBEE intersection and down the V airway to KSSI but there was no horizon at all out on the water so I had
to follow the coastline on down so I had some means of navigation ... and some way to see a horizon to avoid spacial disorientation. There was mostly marshland along
this stretch of southern South Carolina and Georgia, with the occasion house - or hunting camp - strategically placed in the
middle of nowhere. I figured those would be my landing targets in the event of an emergency. As I neared my next planned fuel
stop at Fernandina Beach, I prepared how to make the quick get-away. I had a salad in my pack that I would snarf while paying
for fuel; I would have the truck fuel the plane to save time there and I would check the weather on the iPad using my mifi
so I did not have to wait for the airport wifi to kick in. I checked the weather to find an 8 kt wind blowing straight
down runway 26. Sweet. This should be an easy landing. I made a wheel landing and began to lower the tail wheel. As it
touched down the plane veered sharply to right and I had to stab hard at the left rudder to get her back toward the centerline.
So much for easy. What was I doing wrong? I must be really out of practice or something! I fought to taxi
to the ramp, slowing to a bare idle to the FBO. I jumped out of the plane - glad to be out - ordered fuel and
ran inside to check weather, eat my salad and use the facilities. I have a pile of small bags packed in the back and I am
thinking maybe my load shifted and there was something pushing against the control lines in the baggage section. After all,
I did hit quite a few bumps coming in to land. I will make a thorough pre-flight of the plane when I am ready to leave to
see if there is anything obvious that would have caused the taxiing problem.
As I approached Wild Child, I could see a bag that moved a bit over to the right side but it did not appear to be a problem.
Maybe it shifted over then shifted back? I inspected the remainder of the interior of the plane and found nothing unusual
so I started on the outside. The tail wheel: it is flatter than a pancake and cockeyed on the rim. Mystery solved. A little
air and I will be on my way.
I called the line man over and he said he noticed it was flat. He brought the air
tank and started putting in some air. The tire inflated and was flat again before he could get the air hose off the valve
stem. So much for my quick turn around. He called the local mechanic, Kevin from Island Maintenance. Kevin came out and went
back to see if he had, or could get, a tailwheel tire and tube. No joy. We decided to pull the tube to see if we could get
a patch for the trip home. I could land on the grass strip at LaBelle to lessen the stress of a pavement landing. When we
inspected the tube, we found it had torn at the valve stem and could not be replaced. There were no tubes to be found locally.
So much for my arrival home today at all.
I called Vern and asked him if he had a spare. He located a new tube
and tire in Deland so he got "The Beast" (Kirk Jameson's 180) and headed up on the rescue mission. As for me, I
headed to the beach! If I am going to be stuck, I will make the best of it.
There was Hertz rental agency
right there at the FBO. I asked for the cheapest car they had ... out can the ONLY car they had - an Audi! I got the up-grade
of the century: a premium car for a compact price. Things are looking up. I went out to the car and realized that I have not
driven a new-fangled key-less car and could not even figure out how to get it started. The rental attendant came and gave me "fancy car 101" lessons and I was on my way to find a nice place to stay. I happened on a Days
Inn that had a suite available -n the only one in the whole hotel with a jacuzzi ... I mentioned my being stranded and she
gave me the room for just over 1/2 the normal rate! Really sweet! I rented a bicycle, toured the town and waited for Vern
to call that he was arriving with the tire and tube. He got in just after 1700 hrs and had the plane fixed quicker than I
can tell the story of this adventure. We headed out to a nice dinner at The Surf, cruised the beach and hit the pool and outdoor
hot tub before heading to K-Mart to get him a change of clothes for the next day.
Thursday morning was another
stellar day and with a tire full of air, we were off at 0800 for the last 2:30 stretch. The haze had lifted and the air was
smooth, although by now we sported a 10 kt headwind, making my ground speed never see 100 kts! It was great to be back in
FL. I could see far enough ahead to select a point to which to fly; I was seeing familiar landmarks and looking at a land
full of lakes and waterways; we flew past the Disney TFR and knew that home was just a short 45 minutes away.
miles out of LaBelle, Vern passed me and went in to land first, having the faster plane. He had flown in loose formation with me the whole trip and it was time to break away. I dropped in behind him - this time it was an easly landing.
It was good to be home!
big adventure: I had only flown Wild Child locally – partly because I always had Wild
Mama to take the long trips and partly because she was really not meant to be a travelling machine. But with Wild Mama in
the shop having her wings removed and my finding the need to get myself from LaBelle, FL to Charlotte, NC, Wild Child looked pretty darn good for a long haul. First: logistics.
I have grown accustomed to having the C-182 cargo plane to carry all of my support equipment. Especially
when I was alone in the plane, the cargo carrying capacity actually exceeded my needs – bonus. But Wild Child, with
only 2 seats and a significantly smaller useful load, needed a bit of finagling to carry everything I needed to North Carolina.
The baggage compartment is smaller and can only be accessed through the cabin – there is no baggage door (something we will change if we ever re-cover
the plane) so loading everything over the back seat was a bit of a challenge. One that was tackled, my main suitcase had to
be strapped in the back seat like a passenger. Check. Finally, the survival equipment – water, first aide kit, ditch
bad and Moon Pies – had to be strategically placed throughout the plane where it would be in balance, out of the way
but readily accessible to the pilot. Check.
Full fuel on Wild Child is only
35 gallons so I had to do a bit more fuel management even though she sits a mere 8 gallons per hour. Again, not having taken
her on a long journey, I wanted to be sure that the fuel was not going to become an issue, so I planned 2 fuel stops instead
of the required 1 stop.
Weather was the last consideration. I put the Garmin
496 in the airplane so I would have a good moving map GPS with an updated data base but also so I would have some weather
reporting. Since Wild Child is a VFR airplane, I had to pick my flight time carefully. The plane was to leave Tuesday, July
5th, but the weather dictated a departure on July 4th. What a great way to spend Independence Day!
Packed and ready to go, I loaded the flight plan in the King GPS … then the 496 ….
and in then in the iPad which is what I was using for navigational charts – no room for the paper variety. That was work: I am spoiled as Wild Mama is cross-feeding everywhere. The winds were light and
the sky was clear and the departure was very uneventful. That is a very good thing.
puttered along about 105 kts – 115 kts ground speed most of the way out of Florida to the first fuel stop in Keystone,
FL. I kept to about 1700’ figuring it was an odd enough altitude that the likelihood of crossing paths with another plane would
be remote. Darn – no traffic advisories. Sure enough, 1 o’clock high right in front of me is another little putterer.
Good thing I was lower … then another 3 o’clock same altitude but I was ahead of that one. I sure missed having
the traffic advisories. I wonder how many other planes were close by that I never even saw?
Keystone, I met up with Bob Ohl, nephew of Jimmie Doolittle and boyfriend to racer, Susan King. While I missed Susan –
she was off going Museum business – I had a nice quick chat with Bob then got on my way. It was funny: another gentleman
was there greeting me upon my landing absolutely amazed that I was making the trip all by myself: “You mean, there is
nobody with you?” he asked in amazement. Actually, there was no room!
The next leg took me past the
Okefenokee Swamp fire TFR. I ran the TFR line to the east and saw where there had been many charred sections of ground, but
the bulk of the fire appeared to be out on the southerly end. Not so with the north side. By the time I was half way across
the TFR, the smoke started to appear and within a relatively short time, visibility dropped significantly and it was getting
hard to breathe with the strong smell of smoke. I climbed up to 3500’ to escape the small … but not the poor
visibility. I climbed up to 5500’ to escape …. absolutely nothing. I could see straight down but the smoke was
so thick that horizon and forward looking landmarks were gone. As the clouds were building high, there was nowhere else to
go so I remained put and very vigilant throughout the next hour of flight until I could finally come down enough to see past
5 miles. By then, I was well into South Carolina.
My next fuel stop was Aiken, SC. I missed the turn backwards from the taxiway to the terminal and ended up taking the scenic
tour to get back to the terminal for fuel. Duh. So much for my taxi diagrams. I made a quick fuel stop as the storms were
coming in from the west and I needed to be on the ground at Lake Norman before then. I darted off and climbed up to 2,000’
still in some haze but much better than it had been. I had only 1.5 hours to go.
Wild Child has been fun but I discovered you have to fly her all the time. Grab your water and you have climbed on a thermal
400’; divert your attention and read your charts and you have turned 10 degrees to the left; get stuck to the seat and
try to move – well, there I was out of luck as the harness system kept me stuck to the seats. Note to self – bring
a towel to sit on in the summer.
My 1.5 hours passed quickly
and I was ducking in under the Charlotte Class B airspace with Lake Norman in sight. There was a 7 kt wind (which is typically
nothing) bit it was a direct 90 degree cross wind so I had to do a bit of maneuvering for the landing. I slipped down over
the trees and aimed for the numbers. The runway at Lake Norman is 3100’ and very narrow so there is not a lot of room
for floating down the runway for a smooth touchdown. I took a bounce then planted her with plenty of runway to spare – and right on the centerline. Sweet success!
been a bit nervous about such a long trip in a VFR only airplane as I have been well spoiled by the speed and capabilities
of Wild Mama. But I had a lot of fun. I was not fatigued, although I was tired, but I did discover a few things: First: sit
on a towel – wearing shorts in a tight harness system leave little “wiggle room”. Second – Moon Pies
are messy when they melt and the door pocket of a Citabria is not the coolest place for a Moon Pie. Third: Even squirt type
water bottles can make a mess in bumpy air. Now that I have a little more tail wheel confidence – it is time to tackle
the mountains while I am here in the Charlotte area. Stay tuned for more adventures of Wild Child!
Wild Child is Waiting to be Wild:
After more than 2 years of waiting, I am finally headed off to get formal aerobatic training. I have signed on with Greg Koontz to be trained in his Decathalon - should be an easy transition to Wild Child. Greg has his home and training facility
in Ashville, AL and I will make that trek in November, after Wild Mama gets out of annual. Soooo, stay tuned as the adventure
Happy Mother's Day: It was a mother's day to remember. Not a cloud in
the sky for all of the morning and the beginning of the afternoon, even then just a few decorative puffies showed their faces.
But it was hot - 96 degrees in the heat of the day. You could see the heat waves eminating from the tarmac at the airport. Ooooo, did I say airport? Ahh, yes. A gift for Mother's Day was my little Wild
Child coming out of yet another extended annual - she seems to these major repair events. Well, in addition to the annual,
we had to install the aerobatic harnesses so the next phase of training can finally begin.
Wild Child emerged around the 2:00 hour and Vern took her on the post annual maiden voyage. He put her through the paces
with a loop, roll and spin and triumphantly returned no worse for the wear. My turn to play. I had not flown Wild Child
for at least 4 months so I was not going to be too brave. I figured that getting in my obligatory 3 landings and regaining
currency was going to be enough for the day.
The mid-day heat
was sweltering and I was dripping wet before I made my first take-off roll. I typically do not like piles of air blowing on me but today was an exception. The heat was not our customary wet heat: it was
that dry stuff that sucks the breath right out of your chest when you step out the door. The winds were variable - extremely
variable. I approached 14 for take off and the wind had already shifted to favor 32. Too bad. I am here now and I am going.
With a bit longer than normal runway roll, we were off - just Wild Child and Mama (no, not Wild Mama - that's
the plane!). With the winds continuing to swirl, I decided to stay in the pattern, get my 3 landings and call it a day as
it did not take too long before I figured that this was not the time of day to fly; but I did not care, I wanted to fly
the plane again.
Each landing was a bit of a ride: by the time I was on final, I managed to land with a tail wind - something I had not done
before in the tail wheel plane. Ground speed was just over 80 kts. - a bit fast so I was expecting a floater. Bounce, bounce,
bouce. Well, I got my 3 on the first try. Too bad I could not stop in between bounces. I finally stopped fairly far down the
runway and decided to taxi back as I was no so sure that I had sufficient room to depart between the heat and the tail wind.
Off again for the second and third landings. All and all not my best but it felt good to be back in the little airplane.
Tomorrow morning should be cool and calm. We will go out again -
just my baby and me.
EVERGLADES SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
- FEBRUARY 2009: On a beautiful winter morning in Florda after a seemingly long
and particularly brutal cold snap, we decided it was time to turn off the hangar heater and take Wild Child
out to play before she goes in for annual at the end of the month. We have been having quite a bit of fun with her with my
nephews and others; but I have not been able to start on the aerobatic training as I had hoped. Being so close to annual now
we just left the matter of seat harnesses to be done along with everything else.
But today was a day to fly and the Everglade
City Seafood Festival was in its final day. I had not been before but I knew it was quite popular and many pilots braved
he 2400' runway and crosswinds to go get some really good eats. Twenty-four hundred feet is a cake walk for
The air was cool this
morning and Wild Child was quite peppy. We flew "I.F.R." down highway 27 (that's "I follow roads"),
meandering over Immokalee, the Everglades and on in toward Everglade City itself. For those who have not been there, Everglade
City is a small town on the Gulf Coast - quite remote and removed form the rest of the Gulf Coast towns like Naples and Fort
Myers Beach. It is a very quaint little fishing vilage type of place but the population swells greatly for the annual Seafood
We arrived in short order and plunked
Wild Child down on runway 15 with plenty of room to spare. The approach is over water with both eand of the runway
dead ending in the water. Annually, about half dozen planes end up in the drink as the runway is narrown and short. It is best
taken with a low, slow approach, hitting the numbers to give you lots of time to roll out. It was early enough that we were
one of the first planes in for the day and there was very little plane action at that point so we hoofed it in to town for
There were vendors of all sorts - food, crafts, stuff, boats and the like. We were interested in the food primarily but we
did catch a few cool looking craft booths. We spied this huge vat of paella and immediately made out decision. This paella was chock full of seafood and veggies.
I make this dish and this one was far superior to anything thatI have ever made. We ate way too much then had to walk off
some of our discomfort. We ended back at the airport watching the multitude flying in now with a stiffer crosswind. What
fun! There was a "landing committee" sitting up on the second story porch overlooking the runway and the activity.
You could hear the crowd "get 'er down ... slower .... slower ..... brake, brake, brake!" While no one made the drink, several
were close and a couple of go arounds were in order,some much prettier than others. One fellow just took off and never looked back - nothing but tail!
We were done entertaining ourself and it was time to fly back home. Now the air way bumpy and that Florida
haze was back,making the ride home lots less spectacular than the ride over. We arrived back at LaBelle with a little plunk on the grass strip, tired, still full, but happy for a
*On a glorious February afternoon,
after nearly 5 months under reconstruction and annual, Wild Child has emerged from the repair shop for her christening. Vern pulled her out of the hanger and washed away the last 5 months of dust and grime which have accumulated during
the process. In all, she ended up with the wing spar AD being properly completed, a fresh annual, new regulator and alternator,
re-built carburator, new tires and wheel bearings all the way around, new brakes, new transponder, re-built turn coordinator,
new tachometer, new beacon and new hand grips with built-in push-to-talk buttons... and the list goes on. Suffice it
to say - she is good, clean and wanting to fly!
My first outing in her was from the back seat. After
such extensive re-constructive surgery, it is much preferred that the surgeon take the shake-down flight. So off we go,
Vern in the front,and I in the back. All went smoothly. Vern was touting the "great view" and "wonderful visibility"
in the aircraft. Well, yeah, from HIS point of view. He is tall and broad: I am vertically challenged and short bodied to
boot. I has a fabulous view of ... Vern's shoulders.
Anyway, I did get to fly her around a bit. It was a great
experience, bobbing and weaving my head around. I was told that flying a tail-dragger was an exercise in using peripherial vision, but I don't think
my view was exactly what anyone was talking about! Flying Wild Child was a blast. Vern put her through the
paces: stalls, slow flight, the full range of flight controls, spins, maximum rate climbs, etc. I just got to play a little
after he declared her officially fly-able doing simple things like ground reference manuvers, straight and level flight and
basic navigation without a moving map GPS, a/k/a "where the heck are we now???"
By the time we landed, a crowd had gathered as everyone knew today was her day. Today was her day, indeed, she
was open for rides and Brian was the first. Brian flies a Champ, among other things. For him, this was his Champ on steroids.
He and Vern took off and all we mere mortals on the ground could see was a cockpit full of smiles. Have fun. My turn comes