Garage Doors

I started flying in 1966 with my father when I was 11 years old in Dads old Taylorcraft. Dad worked at Hamm's Brewery as a forklift driver and seeing as how forklift drivers didn't earn what the bank considered "airplane owner" income - he decided to take out 6 loans at 6 different banks to purchase a new "garage door" to finance his airplane.

The bank was not the only obstacle to be overcome in his quest to fly, Dad knew that Mom wouldn’t support his interest or expense of flying so he decided early in his endeavor - not to tell her. Dad and I spent many of hours at Bensons Airport in White Bear Lake Minnesota with my mother believing we were at the archery range or on the lake fishing. Many times we loaded up the fishing gear and drove off to the airport with the boat trailer behind the car.

Mom felt sorry for us as we never caught anything big enough to bring home but was proud of Dad for not giving up on his son's interest in 'fishing'. The whole story came out when I was 15 when my father had a serious heart problem and wasn't expected to live. Laying in an oxygen tent, Dad wanted to come clean prior to making the final approach but blew it - when he told Mom about the airplane.... And then recovered.

Seeing as the 'garage door' loans had by then been paid, Mom allowed him to continue his flying as it had become obvious that I was getting ready to solo and would do so on my 16th birthday November 11, 1971. I give my parents credit for standing their watching there 16 year old kid take-off and land solo in a J-3 Cub that cold cloudy November day. I hope I will have the courage to do the same if and when one of my daughters decides to become a pilot.

Dad was a real 'horse trader' kind of a guy and over a period of about 5 years bought, traded, fixed up (painted), or rebuilt 17 different aircraft, never owning more than 2 at any one time. I remember one weekend we went through 3 airplanes. Started with a J-5 on Friday, traded for a Ercoupe on Saturday and traded that with a few bucks to boot for a Stinson on Sunday. Needless to say I had the opportunity to fly many different airplanes with him and many of his friends. I soloed just about every kind of airplane on the field although they were all vintage taildraggers and I never new what a VOR was for many years.

When I got out of the Air Force in 1977 I spent a few hours getting ready for my private license but for some reason or another (women) I never had the time or money (women) to finish up.

My Grandmother passed away in 1994 and left behind $1000 to each of her many grandchildren. On 12/31/94 a friend of mine invited me to video tape his possible solo flight as a ruse that turned out to be a trick to get me to the airport and into the airplane with his instructor. I remember sitting there wondering what all the gages and knobs were for but somewhere from the deepest depths of brain cell memory I preceded to take-off and land the airplane both to my surprise and the satisfaction of the instructor.

At that time I was recovering from a neck injury acquired during a bad chute opening while skydiving. I wasn't suppose to jump for a few months and the prospect of flying again was very interesting seeing as I hadn't flown in 17 years and still had 'some' skills left.

After reviewing old logbooks it was determined that I needed about 6 hours of dual to have the currency required for my private check ride. Well, I knew right then and there what Grandmothers inheritance was going to be used for... I was going to fly.. Again!

I took the private check ride two weeks later in a Cessna 172 after getting a new medical and cramming for the written test for three days. Although I'd put only 10 hours in a new logbook I passed the check ride and took my wife (who had listened for years to all the glory stories of my prior flying experiences with less than complete belief) for her first ride. The $1000 was spent and I had my license.

I kept racking up flight time and soon had the 100 hours needed to get checked out in the Cessna 182. After that came the Cherokee 6-300 which I must admit was a long way from the flying characteristics of any other airplane I had flown. I quit flying after each of the 5 one hour lessons in the Piper Six-pack. I would drive home thinking "I'll never be able to fly that thing" but would return within a few days to give it another try. Finally - I figured it out and soon was hauling the whole family around all at once without anyone having to stay home while the others went flying.

I spent 6 months working on my instrument ticket. Did the ground school before starting the flight lessons as I had learned that the cockpit made both a poor and expensive classroom. I got lucky in finding a CFII that I could be comfortable with. I needed a instructor who was at least as old as my log books and although I won't mention his name (as requested to prevent any association between him, me and the FAA, ) - Thanks Mike. - I mean Bob.

One night the owner of the skydiving drop zone called and needed a jump pilot the next morning. I knew he must have been desperate as it was a quantum leap for him to see PILOT Rick vs. SKYDIVER Rick flying his airplane. That led to many hours of hauling skydivers to 10 and 12 grand over the summer in a Cessna 182 and really bumped up the total PIC time. Although I love skydiving, I find myself having to flip a coin between flying the load or jumping with them. One of the rules of flying the jump plane - "Unless it's on fire - the pilot will remain in the aircraft".

I now have over 500 hours with 250+ hours in the Tri-Pacer. I fly IMC every chance I get and often fly as safety pilot for others. I'm not sure if I would ever be a good instructor though, the words "what the hell are you doing" keep popping out of my mouth when a good instructor would say "lets try that again".

I may need to wait until another (favorite) relative passes on before I can afford the twin time needed for the multi-engine rating. Or maybe I could get a loan for a .....new garage door!