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A Feast for the Eyes: EAA Sport Aviation Weekend, Part 2

This is a continuation of my article on the 39th annual Kentucky EAA Sport Aviation Weekend. To see Part 1, click here.

We moved over to a beautiful little Cessna 172L Skyhawk, and chatted with its owner Keith Mountain. Keith, a native Australian, stateside for 35 years now, still has a strong hint of an accent that sets him apart from the Kentucky twangers (like myself at times). He explained that he has owned this Skyhawk for about three years – he sought it out for the 180hp constant speed prop conversion, plus the fact that both windows open. The latter was important for him since he does a lot of aerial photography.

Keith grew up with flying, as the farms where he worked frequently used cropdusters in the fields. When we joined the Australian army, he worked with C130s, Bell 212s and Caribous. He got all his ratings 25 years ago when he was considering a career in aviation.

Finally, we chatted with Jerry Depew from Knoxville, and his son Jeremy Hunt. They flew in with their Bonanza 35 C-model V-tail – Jerry joked that they were both "built in the same year – 1951". His Bonanza still has the original 185/205 hp engine, and has only replaced the glass and cylinders – other than a major overhaul, it’s a stock airplane. He’s owned it the same amount of time he’s been married – 17 years. "I asked her permission and she waivered. I thought about it, but kept her anyway!"

When I asked about what got him interested in flying, it was a family affair for him as well. "My father had an airplane, so when I was first flying I couldn’t see out of the windows! I could only see the ground when he turned left base or left for final."

Jerry also shared how he got his first job in aviation. "I just got my driver’s license – since I loved aviation, my first drive was to the airport. The pilots that hung out there asked if I was there to apply for the job. ‘What job?’ was my reply. They needed a lineman, and I asked what they do. So I spoke with the man in charge and got the job. I wound up endorsing my paychecks over to a flight instructor and got my license that year."

Jerry, the editor of the Knoxville EAA newletter, also enjoys collecting aviation stories like me, and shared a gem he heard from Peter Koza in Louisville. "Flying is NOT expensive. The cost of therapy and anti-depressants ARE expensive! Besides, if you take anti-depressants, you have no medical to fly, no libido, no sex, and then you are REALLY depressed!"

Enjoy these additional photos from the 39th annual Kentucky EAA Sport Aviation Weekend!

A Feast for the Eyes: EAA Sport Aviation Weekend, Part 1

The weather was perfect this weekend for a countryside drive from Louisville to the Falls of Rough. There, at Rough River State Park’s airport (2I3) was the 39th annual Kentucky EAA Sport Aviation Weekend, where pilots and aviation enthusiasts from Kentucky and surrounding areas to get together for the weekend. Activities, beyond the typical aircraft sightseeing and meeting old friends (or making new ones), included a poker run, spot landing contest, a Friday night hospitality room, and a Saturday evening banquet.

When my wife and I arrived, the poker run was underway, so many pilots were in the air. But there was still about 30 aircraft of many varieties hanging around, with their pilots grabbing from brats, burgers and potato salad, and sharing their experiences. We wondered around, snapping photos and talking to a few until the batteries on my camera faded away.

Nathan Robertson was minding his parent’s 1950 Cessna 195 when I wondered over – they were off chatting with some friends. His wife was changing their baby’s diaper in the back seat, which made me wonder if a car seat in an aircraft is still called a "carseat".

While his parents, Phillip and Tia, are career commercial pilots, Nathan only recently got his license. "Growing up around aviation, I took it for granted – if I wanted to go flying, I’d just ask them to take me up. When my friends wanted to go flying, and mentioned that they wanted to be adopted by my parents so they could be taken up like that, I began to realize this was something I wanted as well. I got my license in January, plan to get all my ratings, and possibly make a career out of it myself."

We also discussed the difficulty the younger generation faces when pursuing their licenses – Nathan had an approach to consider to fast-track it. "Get books and DVDs, study and get the written exam out of the way first. That way you can just do 20-25 hours flying to save expenses. Most people, like myself, focus on flying first because it’s more fun, but that can stretch out your training time and cost. However, if you decide to make a career out of it, in the grand scheme of things it’s really not that expensive!"

Part 2 of this article can be found here. In the meantime, enjoy these additional photos!

A Conversation with the Next Generation of Pilots

The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education (KIAE) is a one-of-a-kind endeavor, currently networking 20 high schools in the state to provide students direct experiences in aeronautical engineering, flight, aircraft maintenance, and space systems. When I asked Tim Smith, Director of Frankfort High School’s Aviation program and CIO for KIAE, why this was important, he said, "Programs like these will lead to more students enrolling in post-secondary opportunities in flight/aeronautics, aircraft maintenance, aeronautical engineering, space systems engineering, aerospace computer engineering, air traffic control, and aviation management/operations. Another important element of expansion is that potential grant opportunities and other sponsorships examine viability and scale of the initiative. So, it is important to show its implementation in a variety of environments. In short, the more students that are studying aerospace, the more that will enter the workforce."

Three of their students got to experience a different end of the spectrum when they rode along with a gathering of Yakolevs at Bowman Field in Louisville, KY (just outside GlobalAir.com’s office). See more on the gathering itself here. I spent a few minutes with Michael Dahl, Jason Smith and Seth Padgett just before they climbed into their respective cockpits for a bit of formation flying.

Michael Dahl climbing into a Yak to experience formation flying.

GlobalAir: What inspired each your interests in aviation?

Michael Dahl: My uncle took me flying in an open-air cockpit bi-plane right here at Bowman Field when I was 11 years old, and that summer I flew on a commercial airliner on our vacation to California - all that exposure to flying in a short amount of time got my attention. When I found there was an aviation-related program at Frankfort High School, I made sure to get involved!

Jason Smith: My mother often took me to the airport as a baby to let the sounds of aircraft calm me, so I’ve been interested a long time! I knew after seeing "Top Gun" that I wanted to be a fighter pilot – I even dressed like Maverick for Halloween once.

GA: You’re too tall to play Tom Cruise!

JS: (laughs) Well, this was a while ago. Then I got involved with the aviation program at school. I was also motivated by learning about the various mission aviation programs that exist when I was at Oshkosh, so I’ve also become interested in contributing there.

Seth Padgett: I was born in Germany, so I’ve been on aircraft since I was a child flying back and forth to visit family. I became more seriously involved through an aviation camp where we did flight planning, and from there Tim Smith turned me on to the KIAE program in Frankfort.

Jason Smith receiving a safety briefing on riding along in the Yak.

GA: What have been the biggest obstacles for each of you in pursuing your pilot’s licenses?

MD: I was always concerned about "what if there’s a problem during flight"? I had to tell myself to get past it and stop being afraid to try.

JS: For me, it’s the number of hoops you have to jump thru, plus the financial burden. But, even though it’s a cliché, you truly can do anything you set your mind to do.

SP: It’s so much easier to get a driver’s license – take a test, drive an instructor around, and you’re done. Earning your pilot’s license is such a time investment; it’s easy to get discouraged. You have to remind yourself that you will get there, just be patient and stay focused!

GA: We, in the aviation industry, already know that bringing youth to aviation is vital to growing the industry. So what would you want to share with kids your age that may be interested, but intimidated, by flying?

SP: Statistically speaking, flying is very safe. When you see how many check-ups and tests you have to do to become a pilot and take care of your aircraft, you’ll see there’s nothing to be intimidated by.

MD: If you’ve never flown before, or are scared of flying, find an airport and see if anyone is willing to take you up and experience it for yourself. Learn more about airplanes & how they work - that’s how I got hooked!

JS: I agree – get up and fly! Talking about it isn’t enough!

Seth Padgett scoping the taxi path as they maneuver for takeoff.

GA: Lastly, what do you plan to do with your licenses – personal enjoyment, or career aspirations?

MD: Right now, mostly personal enjoyment. It’s still a little early for me to look beyond to career options.

JS: I mentioned earlier about being a fighter pilot and doing missionary work – which requires mechanical knowledge as well, so I’m putting focus there too.

SP: I’d like to fly for the Air Force initially. Afterward, I’ll likely transition to flying for services like UPS, FedEx, Delta – many options! But also personal enjoyment for sure!

Shortly after our conversations, all six pilots met and discussed formations, with the three boys listening intently. The students then met with the pilots of their Yaks and got personal instructions for their safety and knowledge about occupying the second seat. I marveled at the focus they all had on the task at hand as I snapped a few pictures – my presence wasn’t even registering anymore. They were now sponges, soaking in everything about the aircraft they were climbing aboard!

A few gallons of avgas were added, the Yaks (and their accompanying Cessna 172R and Christen Eagle II) taxied out and took to the air. I managed to catch a couple of passes over Bowman Field before I had to leave for another appointment, so I didn’t get to stick around to get their impressions afterward. But I think it was safe to assume that it was nothing but joy and excitement all around!

Watch the Yaks, 172 and Christen Eagle taxi out for takeoff!

Soaring with Tubreaux Over the Seabase at Oshkosh

This year was my first trip to Oshkosh for EAA AirVenture. I knew going in that there would be too much to see in one week – especially when I was seeking great stories to take in and put to print. But volume wasn’t my goal – a rich experience was what I needed. And on Thursday, I received the richest experience that many people don’t – even experienced pilots. I took my first ride in a seaplane!

I rode out to the Seabase, wondering how many patrons have never set foot in this area of Oshkosh. After all, it is a bit of a drive – about 20 minutes by bus (free to get there, $3.00 to return), and since the warbirds and airshows are all right there and easily accessible, the temptation to "go with what you know" is strong.

But once I emerged from the walking trail from the parking lot and campground to the base itself, I couldn’t help but wonder what those that have overlooked it know what they’re missing! The lush green land overlooking Lake Winnebago exudes a naturally relaxing atmosphere. The shelter house, built to handle maybe a couple hundred visitors at once, plus a giant fire pit on the shore still smoldering, reminded me of many of my scouting experiences. If Henry David Thoreau was alive today, this is where he’d hang his hat.

While there were docks around, all were in use. So when pilot Jeremy Williams of Tubreaux Aviation (pronounced "Two Bros") landed and floated up in his 1959 P-18 Super Cub, I shucked my shoes and socks and waded on out. It’s no easy trick for a large guy like me to slide into the rear seat, but I wasn’t deterred! Once I was strapped in and headset was in place, we glided out into the lake, accelerated, and off the water a moment later.

Now I’m not a big fan of heights (I know, I picked an odd profession then, didn’t I?), but Williams’ skill on the stick made the ride as smooth as glass, and I never once felt uncomfortable. He offered to let me try my hand, but I was enjoying myself way too much to change it up. As with anything that’s truly great, the ride was over way too soon, and I climbed down the float back into the water.

Shortly thereafter, I sat down with Wyche Coleman, co-owner of Tubreaux Aviation, to find out more about what makes them tick. I was surprised to find that giving fluffy journalist seaplane rides was just one thing they do!

"Luke Lambard and I built a hanger together. I was constantly being approached by people wanting to learn how to fly, since there wasn’t a place in Shreveport at that time training for licenses. So rather than sending people to Dallas for instruction, we decided to branch out. Jeremy was our first instructor – now we’re up to five full-time instructors."

Coleman and Lambert didn’t stop there, however. "When crew chief Dax Wanless expressed a desire to open his own maintenance shop, we saw the need and made the investment. Now we have three full-time mechanics with 20+ years of experience as an A&P/IA, we’re seeking a fourth, and looking to add avionics as well. We recently added acquisitions and sales to services offered, although we’ve been doing this for years already. There is no other place in Northern Louisiana that can teach you to fly, help you buy your aircraft, hanger and maintain it, all in one place!"

Coleman, an ophthalmologist by trade, has been coming to Oshkosh for a while, first flying there as a part of the 2003 Stars of Tomorrow (all pilots under 30 at that time). Now his brother Kevin, at 23, was flying in the airshow for his second year.

Once our conversation had ended, I wondered around to get a few photos, take some more video, change batteries in the camera, etc. – anything I could think to do to remain at the Seabase just a little longer. When we return in 2014, you’ll likely find me there again!

Check out the video of the Super Cub coming in for a landing, from the open door cockpit!

180 degree panoramic view of the Seabase in Oshkosh, 2013

Do-It-Yourself Interior

Shawn Botts

Each aircraft owner has his or her own level of involvement in the aircraft ownership process. Some simply enjoy flying their airplanes and may do simple upkeep like GPS updates. Others, like myself, enjoy getting much more involved and saving money through owner assisted annuals and various other "do-it-yourself projects."

I have a mechanically inclined background. Some of my fondest memories of childhood were working in my dad’s aircraft maintenance shop. In 2011, I bought an ugly duckling S35 Bonanza knowing it had opportunities to partake in these projects. One of the first projects I took on was refurbishing the interior.

A good interior can be the deciding factor on whether a passenger is comfortable or not in the aircraft. I could see the look on passenger’s faces when they walked up the wing walk and saw what they were going to be sitting in. I personally knew I had a great running airplane, but my interior didn’t project that image. I constantly told myself, "I can’t believe someone willingly wanted this interior!"

About six months after purchasing the airplane, I began searching for interior options. When I decided It was time to do the interior I knew I wanted it to be a hands on project. A few companies, such as Airtex, offer many "do-it-yourself" options with fantastic results. I decided to purchase my carpets from them. They have templates for just about any interior component you need. It was a very simple process because of Airtex’s great customer service. The carpets were very affordable and look great. I also bought bulk carpet from them to refurbish the kick panels. The next task was working on the side panels.

I have friends who have high end custom interiors and I have always wanted one but could not justify the 20 and 30 plus thousand dollar price tag. I also didn’t want to simply recover the old battered panels either. This led me to one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Tim Hallock, owner of Aviation Design. Tim specializes in Beechcraft interiors and at one time was an OEM for the Bonanza and Baron lines. I met with him at Oshkosh and talked about his mail order products. He told me I had the second ugliest interior he had ever seen.

Tim’s signature side panels bring a very modern look to Bonanzas and Barons. I knew I had to have them. So Tim and I began figuring out how we could make a great interior without having the airplane in his hangar. We decided to use my old interior as a template to make new panels. I sent my old panels off to California and just a few days later Tim was calling back with the tracking number for my new panels. They arrived a few days later and all that was left were the seats.

My seats were the butt of many jokes among my flying buddies. The airplane came from Arizona and I imagine someone loved them out there. Like the side panels I wanted something a little more modern. My S model came with low back seats and small headrests. I really like the high back seats that came with later V35Bs. After doing some research with my mechanic, we decided that the new seats would fit in my airplane. I then began searching for a full set of grey seats and within a couple of weeks I found a set at Bonanza Parts. I was able to trade my old seats plus some cash to upgrade my seats. Once they arrived I decided not to recover them because they were still in decent condition. With all my interior parts in hand, I was ready for my big install.

I began the project and was pleasantly surprised at the ease of installation. The carpets simply velcro on the floor and glue onto a couple pieces near the front of the cabin. The side panels took some trimming and fitting to get them in. Tim and I talked about this and knew this was going to happen. He walked me through the process and it was a piece of cake. They fit great and the quality is unmatched. The seats simply slid onto the tracks and was the easiest part of the project. Of course it had its own set of "while you’re in there" sub-projects, such as cleaning gunk off the belly and adding sound proofing insulation. My mechanic was on hand to help with odds and ins during the project.

My do-it-yourself interior project was a fantastic experience. The entire project took me about three weekends worth of work. I get compliments on interior all the time and no longer get funny nicknames. By doing my interior myself I was able to save about 40% on the cost of a high dollar custom interior done by a shop. I definitely could have done my interior for cheaper but there were certain things I wanted to include in my project. If you enjoy working on your airplane, and want to spruce up your interior, I recommend doing it yourself. I would like to thank Airtex, Aviation Design, and Bonanza Parts for helping make this dream a reality.

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