Spring and summer are wonderful times for flying in the great Northwest! Although Mary and I got to fly our Warrior all around the west coast, I also was able to fly in a number of other fun and unique airplanes during the wonderful spring and summer of 2018. Here are a few highlights:
Doug Happe and I started the spring flying early with an enjoyable flight up to Arlington with Bob Kellner and Dave Walbridge, in Doug's Lake amphibian. We checked out Ellie’s restaurant, for top notch food and service. Since Doug is flying his RV-7 predominately, the Lake is no longer flying the NW skies, but has been sold and is enjoying amphibian flying with a new owner in Florida.
In early April, while conducting an owner assist annual, the #4 cylinder on our Piper Warrior failed its compression test, and after troubleshooting, we found the cylinder was bad. With excellent support from Larry Reinecke and Dave Cummings, I was able to acquire and re-install a new replacement cylinder in the Warrior. While completing final engine checkout, Dave Cummings offered flights in his amazing STOL SuperCub and the amphibious Caravan that he manages. Dave showed off the great cockpit workmanship of his SuperCub, then demoed a very short takeoff from taxiway A2 at Renton, plus the fine handling characteristics of his Cub. I'd definitely enjoy owning and flying a Cub like this, especially with floats as an option!
After the SuperCub flight, I helped Dave and Larry prep for a couple of check flights in the gorgeous amphibious Cessna Caravan that Dave manages, troubleshooting a small engine oil leak. Dave invited me along for two flights in the Caravan, and I got familiar with the cockpit setup and flight control feel on the first flight. While obviously heavier in roll than a small Cessna, the Caravan had a nice solid feel while still being responsive to control inputs. We flew a couple of approaches and water landings on Lake Washington, then returned at sunset via the water boat ramp to continue troubleshooting the small oil leak. After tightening a loose fitting, we took off from the hard surfaced runway after sunset, where Dave let me fly the majority of the night test hop, which included a night approach and night landing, with excellent coaching on power settings and flare heights from the high perch of the Caravan cockpit, way above the large floats. The landing was surprisingly smooth, and the big prop on the PT6A engine made for quick braking on the rollout. The Caravan is a very smooth flying airplane, but power management is very critical to a smooth approach and landing.
With the successful replacement of the #4 cylinder in our Piper Warrior, it was time to head to California to break in the new cylinder and visit the kids and grandkids. We stopped in Concord to visit the Oakland family for a few days, then added Theresa to the fliers list as we headed to SoCal, letting Theresa get some flight time, then crossing over LAX to land in Torrance for a fun visit to the Long Beach family. On the return flight to Concord, we stopped in to Camarillo to enjoy lunch at the Waypoint Cafe and enjoy the visiting Collings Foundation B-17 'Nine-O-Nine" parked near us. We had previously flown in the Collings B-17G in 2014, so we enjoyed the re-acquaintance. 3DC flew extremely well for all 20 hours of the Washington-Oregon-California adventure, successfully breaking in the new cylinder with no issues, cool cruising temperatures and low oil usage.
When we stopped on the return legs from Torrance to Camarillo to Concord for an overnight with the Oakland family, Brian had arranged a late afternoon San Francisco Bay sightseeing flight with his boss Dave, in Dave's Cirrus SR-22. After landing in Concord with 3DC and dropping off the ladies, Brian and I drove to Hayward Executive airport, just southeast of the Oakland International airport, where we joined Dave to pre-flight his SR-22. We took off for an impressive San Francisco Bay tour, cruising by Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate bridge, then cruised along the Pacific coast. Although there were typical low clouds along the shoreline, we were able to find a break in the clouds right over Half Moon Bay, enabling us to fly in, check out the Half Moon Bay airport environment, then blast off back to Hayward before the clouds moved in more seriously. A great flying day with over 5 hours in the air, with 4.1 hours as PIC (Pilot-In-Command).
I've been helping Justin Drafts keep the oil circulated in the radial engine by flying his Nanchang CJ-6 while he's on travel, and testing the Aithre CO detector in multiple airplanes. I also had the chance to fly with Justin in the Nanchang during his May visit back to the Puget Sound. We took the opportunity to do some close-in sightseeing in the Cascades, getting great views of the still significant snow pack around Three Fingers mountain in May.
After I completed my Commercial Single-Engine-Seaplane (SES) course at Kenmore Air, I was given the opportunity of a 'ride along' in a Beaver during Kenmore's regularly scheduled flight operations to the San Juan Islands. I was lucky enough to get paired with my main instructor during my SES course, Garrett Caldwell, who was now fully employed flying the Beaver line with Kenmore Air. After loading passengers at the Air Harbor in Kenmore, we slid south on Lake Washington and turned directly on course at low level to Orcas Island, for our first stop at the harbor near the Rosario resort. The Beaver is a classic floatplane, and all our water landings showed off both Garrett's skill and the Beaver's toughness during the smooth approaches and water landings. After Rosario, we took a short hop to West Sound, then cruised south back to Seattle at low level, spying a surfacing gray whale en route. We had a fun approach into Seattle's busy Lake Union, then a quick hop back to the Air Harbor at Kenmore. Great sights and sounds flying a Beaver!
Summer is the perfect time for checking out the San Juan Islands, and Ma and I explored Friday Harbor first, then Eastsound on Orcas Island, followed by Roche Harbor to refresh our island hopping skills. On our return from Roche Harbor, Ma spotted two large male Orcas, which we tracked for awhile before heading south for home.
Walt Cannon invited Ma and me to join him at Paine Field, then fly in loose formation with his newly painted Zenith CH-701 to the airport a nearby Whidbey Air Park in Langley, WA (W10). Walt and his wife Deb joined us for an excellent brunch at the Mukilteo Coffee Roasters Cafe in the Woods.
At the end of June, the Northwest weather turned cooler, but still allowed for a successful formation clinic at Bremerton. I was able to fly Justin's Nanchang for some great four-ship practice, and also hitched a back seat flight with 'Mitch' Mitchell in his Canadian-registered Nanchang C-FZAT for some more great four-ship training.
I joined Walt Cannon for some flights in his Zenith CH701 to and from the 2018 Arlington Fly-in. While there, Walt competed in the Spot Landing and Short-TakeOff-and-Landing (STOL) demonstrations, showing off his new 'very orange' paint job. I always enjoy flying the extremely short takeoffs and landings, plus the great visibility, from Walt's 701.
Ma is always looking for new places to explore by air, and when we heard the Oregon Pilots Association was hosting their annual Mulino Airport Blueberry Pancake Breakfast, we had to check it out. The weather forecast was for 90's in Oregon later in the day, so we took off early from Renton and arrived at the Mulino State Airport (4S9) at 8:20AM to an already busy fly-in. The blueberry breakfast earned a ‘two thumbs up’ rating, with fast and generous service by the Oregon Pilots Association team, and lots of fun airplanes to checkout on the field. While we were admiring the other airplanes on the field, a couple came up to us, admiring our Warrior, and asked if it was for sale, since they'd been looking for a good Warrior for awhile, and after checking out our new interior and ADS-B setup, wanted to buy her. No Way! Adding to the welcome was a reduction of $0.50/gallon to $4.59/gal for self serve 100LL. Approach and departure through Portland's Class C, just to the north, was smooth and easy.
After completing my seaplane course in the SuperCub at Kenmore, I was itching to continue flying on floats in other aircraft, and also wanting to check out some of the local Cascade mountain lakes. I found out that James Polivka, who had flown the photo ship for my Warrior photo shoot, was current in the BEFA Cessna 172 on floats, and would happily share costs for some local lake float plane flying. I helped pre-flight and position the Cessna in the water at the Renton Seaplane base at the ramp near the north end of the hard surface runway. James and I flew to Calligan Lake, northeast of North Bend, in the Cascade foothills. James flew down the canyon to the southeast of Calligan Lake, then flew a steep curving approach to the west for a recon run and low approach. We flew a second approach with a smooth water landing on Calligan Lake in perfect water conditions. I flew down the ridge, over Snoqualmie Falls, over Issaquah and on to Lake Sawyer, where I flew a right pattern for a recon pass with a water landing and immediate touch and go due to an approaching boat wake. I then flew a second pattern to the left for a smooth water landing, then performed the takeoff and departure to Lake Tapps. James flew a left pattern at Lake Tapps, and dropped me off at the dock for photos as he flew a few approaches and water landings, with great Mt. Rainier background views. After Lake Tapps, we completed a water landing just off the end of runway 34 in Lake Washington. Great seaplane refresher!
Chris Marshall has completed an impressive upgrade to his Cessna 150 panel, and recently installed an Avidyne 440 to top it off for full IFR capability. Chris and I flew two enjoyable early morning flights, before the smoke and haze got too thick, and checked out the Avidyne by shooting a couple of ILS approaches to Bremerton and an ILS to Tacoma Narrows. Chris' 150 has to be the best equipped I've seen, and it flies as easy as any 150. Great low cost IFR training platform.
As the summer smoke and haze from Canadian and US fires finally subsided, Doug and Anne Happe in their RV-7 and Mary and I in the Warrior flew to Tacoma Narrows for an enjoyable lunch at The Hub. On our return flight home to Auburn and Renton, respectively, we enjoyed the clean air and normal Northwest skies for some formation flying over Lake Tapps and the Enumclaw area, both getting some decent air-to-air photos.