Category Archives: Diary

Water Time – Film Review

Somehow the film Water Time by Allan Weisbecker made it onto my hard disk and it was well worth watching albeit frustrating.

Frustrating because it confirmed my own experience with my fellow human’s acceptance of new facts that violate their ready-made conceptions – namely none, zero, nada, zilch.

But I never heard such honest statements as “No, I don’t change my mind – whatever the evidence might be!” What I personally get most of the time is rejection or attempts to question the validity of evidence or fact.

Over the last years it has become quite evident to me that the root of all evil is government. For the simple fact that they claim for themselves to be above and beyond any morality. We teach our kids that taking things away from other kids is stealing and we should not do that. Yet when the tax collector calls it tax and does the same thing – it somehow is something other than stealing – but it’s not!

This is such an obvious truth but try to explain this to somebody who has paid taxes for all of his life and could not admit that this is morally wrong – simply because he would have to admit that he was wrong for all of his life.

It appears that to admit being mistaken is very difficult for many and it is easier to insist to have been right all along.

WaterTimeDVDFinal

Boys Staring at Goats

One fine winter up in the mountains…
(isn’t it amazing that there are, in that densely populated Southern California, still places where boys can go out by themselves and explore – and make friends with goats – and stare at them?)

(Click on an image to start a slide show.)

His Diary – Her Diary

Her Diary:

Tonight, I thought my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. I was shopping with my friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment on it. Conversation wasn’t flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn’t say much. I asked him what was wrong, He said, ‘Nothing.’ I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn’t upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly, and kept driving. I cant explain his behavior I don’t know why he didn’t say, ‘I love you, too.’ When we got home, I felt as if I had lost him completely, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there quietly, and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent. Finally, with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About 15 minutes later, he came to bed. But I still felt that he was distracted, and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep – I cried. I don’t know what to do. I’m almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster.

His Diary:

Motorcycle won t start… can t figure out why.

I was there before Doctor Who

Thanks to the power of the Piratebay I was able to watch the new Doctor Who episode (season six, episode two) only hours after it aired in Great Britain. Part of this two-parter was filmed here in the US of A. After the show I looked up Glen Canyon Dam because I had a feeling that I knew something about it.

And sure enough, I found out that I had flown over it quite a few years ago on my big adventure flying around the western part if the United States (cut short by some Utahian weather.)

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I had been writing a flying blog before there even were blogs and so I thought this is a good opportunity to revisit that old story and put it into a proper blog.

Her we go…

The Big Adventure

This one flight was supposed to be the biggest I had ever done. I had been up all the Pacific coast from Burbank to Seattle, but this one should go from home sweet home in Burbank around the Grand Canyon up through the Rockies all the way to the Canadian border, back to the Pacific Coast and then the rest of the trip that I already knew – down the coast to come home a hero.

It did not quite work out that way, but it became a big memory nonetheless.

The flight was planned to be together with Griselda, a very good friend who was to come over from Germany for it. I was the designated pilot and she had to be the co-pilot in training.

I intended not to disappoint the trust she just had to put into my flying abilities and so I really got into a thorough planning for the flight. It was clear that I needed some more survival kit than the average California flier has with him or her – the credit card, thus I invested into a real survival kit. I also needed chocks and ropes for tie-down because there were some very desolated airstrips on our agenda. The idea of rolling up in a sleeping bag under the wing of trusty 08L on a grass strip in nowhere-land made chills going up and down my spine. That would be adventure!

Naturally I learned everything I could get my hands on about mountain flying, but the uncertainty kept hanging around if I would be able to handle whatever would come our way. As with everything in flying you have to experience it first hand before you know you can handle it. But at least I got all the theoretical education to have the best cards possible. Playing them would show me if I understood the game.

Griselda’s arrival date came and the first day I tried her acceptance for air work. I was happy. She would be a good co-pilot. She enjoyed being up there with the elements just as I did and seemed to have an inborn feel for yoke and rudder.

The next day was the “Beginning of the Great Adventure.”We were up with the sun, which was very unusual, at least for me, and 08L was loaded with so much gear as she has probably never seen before.

Loading 08L

The first leg would lead us east across the Colorado River into Arizona to Sedona, the Red Rock Country.

We get clearance from Burbank for the ‘Golden State’ departure, climb out to the north-west and are released to own navigation after leaving three thousand feet. This whole area is very familiar to me and I feel so at home that I do not need any navigation equipment but my eyes for this part of the flight. We fly towards and over the deserted airport of Agua Dulce. Already at over six thousand feet, the few planes left down there are the little toys that I played with as a kid.

To be honest I am still a kid and I still play with my plane, the toy just became a bit bigger. The only thing I have to be careful with, is to look more serious about this flying business. If you are a grown-up, you are not supposed to play. You use the plane to save time, to arrive faster, to avoid the traffic jams. Right! So why then do I fly for a burger to the Elephant Bar in Santa Barbara? I guess if I think hard about it I will find an adult reason. But not now.

As we come, still climbing…

Still Climbing

…over the mountain ridge and into the Mojave Desert we encounter an air-mountain. You don’t know what that is? Are you really a pilot? OK, maybe you can’t know that, maybe I invented that for my passengers. It’s one of these very steep, invisible, slopes upward, where you have to pitch up the nose and try with all available power to make it to the top and not to lose all your speed and slide back down again. Certainly your airspeed will bleed off but fortunately you will just barely make it to the top and with great relieve you slide down the other side of the air-mountain after a moment of light heart and stomach. On the way down you gain speed again and might have to follow some gorges that require you to bank the plane left and right and left briskly, but eventually you can level off at about the same altitude you started at before encountering this terrible air-mountain. [Editor: this was written for an audience of pilots who know that there are no air-mountains and this is just an excuse to play roller coaster with your passenger.]

Your heart will go fast for all the fun you had, but you look at your passenger with a serious expression, wipe the sweat from your forehead and assure him or her that we made it and that it was not that bad.

So I am a naughty child, but please, I’m not so bad that I do this with a victim, excuse me, passenger who might really get scared. With Griselda I could definitely do it, seemed she enjoyed this game as much as I did.

Now it is time to tune in some navigation equipment. We have all these neat things aboard to play with so we better use them. It’s Hector VOR first, then Goffs. We climb up to eleven and a half thousand feet and leave behind some bumpiness that developed over the desert. From this height we can already see the Colorado River ahead, how it cuts through the dead land leaving a band of green life crawling through the brown rugged wilderness.

Yet this stays soon behind, we tune into the next vortac, I believe it is EED, and we enter the land of the baby Grand Canyons. They really look like it! Really, if you don’t believe me, go there and take a look yourself!

Griselda has the yoke now most of the time. She sure has the time of her life. I can share her joy. There is nothing better than leaving the ego home, in the garage, together with the car, and just enjoy the happiness of a friend.

Finally we tune into the Drake VOR, the last point before we have to trust our eyes only to find the destination. I might cheat a bit because I know that Sedona is thirty-four miles from the Drake VOR on the 063 radial, but hey, as a pilot you learn to always have an alternative. I have been to Sedona once before and I try to remember the topology and how all this looked the first time but I can’t really tell, so OK, I will cheat a little. And finally there it is. I recognize the high mesa, the big valley that looks like a huge sink-hole leaving the surrounding sheer cliffs of red rock that gave the country its name. And from the bottom of this empty pit rises an island that refused to go under with the rest of the country, and on top of it the Sedona airport.

Dial in now the Unicom frequency of 122.8 and see if somebody is home to give us salute. But instead of the more appropriate “Yippee, we made it all the way from Burbank, California and we are so glad that we are here safely”, I have to bury the child for a little while and announce us as, “Cherokee 08L, five miles west, airport advisories please”. One last check on the maps. Wind is from the south-west, so we use runway 21 with left traffic, well setup in the pattern, nicely coming down, a landing I can be proud of, taxi to the tie- downs, shutdown radios, engine, electric …… Wonderful Silence!

Wonderful Silence

We made the first leg, and for me this feeling of accomplishment after a long flight never seems to wear off, even after doing it so often already.

We had planned to stay just a day and then continue around the north-east corner of the Grand Canyon and north into Utah, but then it was so beautiful and Red Rock country gave us so much to see and experience that we decided to stay an extra day. This should become only the first delay on this trip with more to come.

The area south of the Grand Canyon is more or less a desert. And my experience in the little desert at my front porch – Mojave desert – had taught me to get up early to beat the violently rising air, once it gets hot in the afternoon. So the plan was to get up with or even before the sun on the day we had to say good-bye to Sedona. But having this built-in morning-tiredness, I did not quite manage to do so. Sitting comfortably down for breakfast at the coffee shop overlooking the Sedona airport, we justified our failure to get up early with a firm “One has to get enough sleep to be able to handle all possible difficulties that come our way and it’s also important to have a good meal before going up!”

Armed with that, we finally got up in the air at about eleven, and yes, the air already had started on its way up and down and up. In other words, I was to fight turbulence for all this leg. For me this is mostly only uncomfortable during the first half hour into a flight. After that the body, who is the one screaming “I don’t want to die” either gives up or learns that the danger is not so eminent as it believed. I still have to work hard to keep the pointy part of the plane forward and the dirty part down after these first thirty to forty minutes but at least nobody is dramatizing that death is unavoidable, sudden and very painful. I was amazed by Griselda’s attitude towards this kicking around. She seemed to actually enjoy it. And the bad boy that I am, I kept her ignorant about the fact that I probably would not know how to properly react should we get kicked inverted. But it did not happen and after I got used to the permanent fight I also started to enjoy the trip.

After takeoff we had circled the big red rocks…

Big Red Rocks

… in the Sedona valley that look like forgotten teeth in the mouth of a Greek grandfather. I mean they look much more impressive than that but the form reminded me (and I try to be a bit poetic here – so bear with me please). Now we are heading north north-east towards the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon. VOR receiver 1 is tuned to Page (PGA, 117.6) and the first time in my flying career my finger uses a CG chart to follow the flight path. Sectionals are just too cumbersome for all these long stretches of flight.

Page VOR

It is old wisdom that each coin has two sides: the one is this relentless fight with the winds but the other side is the magnificent visibility. For an hour or more we can see the big chasm that the Colorado River dug in millions of years. And ahead, too far to estimate the immense ridges of the Rocky Mountains. We really want to get into the middle of that? But that will be tomorrow. For now things get interesting as the numbers on the DME grow smaller and smaller and we can see the Colorado where he rests…

The Colorado Where it Rests

…before he has to continue with his task to saw the earth into two. As we fly over the dam we see that man has helped him to extend his nap…

Glen Canyon Dam

… by building this wall where he can lean on before he throws himself into the depth. [Editor: This is the dam in the Doctor Who episode 2, season 6 where Rory gets shot – or not.]

From this vista point we have a breathtaking view into and along the first part of the Colorado’s journey towards the Hoover Dam where he will be able to rest again.

Our journey also goes on, we are turning west and head to our next navigation point, St. George. This is a new state for me, I have never been to Utah before. Either the turbulence has diminished somewhat or my acceptance for them grew bigger, but I can enjoy the landscape we cross much more. To our left are side valleys that strive to reach big brother Grand Canyon, and to our right looming rugged mountains that make us look so small sitting behind our propeller with the intention to conquer them. No, not defeat them, just have a little competition.

Our destination for today lies straight north, but this is the first concession we have to make to this one big mountain – we have to go around him, he will not let us climb straight over him. But we do not mind, the trip is the adventure, not the arrival.

Nearly arriving at St. George, we consider to interrupt our journey but the tanks are still half full and we are challenged by the big valley that opens to the north and which we decide to follow on our way into the northern states. Without any experience in flying in these big mountains that are everywhere, we really have to trust our navigation equipment. Once we have turned 08L’s nose into the right direction the view again agrees with what we expected to see from looking at the map.

So we follow the valley northbound, tuning in Cedar City VOR and then Milford. 08L, always the nose up a bit, working her way through the rising terrain. We will not be able to make it to Salt Lake City with the remaining fuel, but with a feeling of accomplishment from our first encounter with the Rocky Mountains we finally tune in to the Delta, Utah VOR and decide to land there, give 08L to eat and also feed us and finish the flight for today.

Delta, Utah VOR

How could be know that we would get to know Delta, Utah very well.

Finding the airport is no problem at all. It lies in the middle of a huge valley, flat as a board, checkered with fields, but surrounded by high mountains. Just two thousand feet above ground we can see our destination for miles. The field is completely deserted, the owner of the local crop duster business doubles as the local FBO and we call him to come back from town to help us with food for 08L. We hitch a ride with him into town and realize only then how lucky we were that this town actually has a hotel and that this hotel even has rooms for us. With the feeling of pride for getting here – Columbus could not have felt better – we go for Dinner and do not think too much of tomorrow’s flight.

We only know it will go north, past Salt Lake City and well into Idaho.

As I wake up the next morning, ready for more mountain flying, the day on the other side of the curtains looks suspiciously dark. Crawling out of bed and peeking out of the window into a very cloudy sky, it slowly trickles into my still sleepy mind that the weather in the mountains in fact changes very fast – just as I had learned in all  my theoretical studies about mountain flying.

OK, so yesterday it was the clearest weather I ever saw, today the clouds hang definitely low, but it should also change back to the real weather quickly! But flight service can not confirm my hopes. It looks as if this weather will stay with us for a while.

I don’t actually consider going IFR. We are in an area where the numbers along the lines of the low altitude IFR charts [Editor: this is the minimum altitude that you have to fly when on these air ways] are bigger than the numbers in the handbook after the entry for service ceiling [Editor: the altitude the plane can actually reach before the air gets too thin]. Drilling our way through the gray masses into the blue and into freedom is not an option.

There is a family restaurant just outside the hotel which does not know that it will become our head quarter, and there, over breakfast, Griselda and I discuss our options. There are not that many. But first we should get a car and check out the area. It’s cloudy, but the weather beneath them is quite decent. And Delta, Utah even has a rental car company. Unfortunately they are out of cars – tomorrow one is expected back.

Happy people as we are, we enjoy MTV, talk about the good old days and have all the time in the world to write to our loved-ones left at home. We are still certain that it will be just a day that we can relax and it will do us good.

Isn’t that strange? The times when you trust the weather forecast, you should not have, now I didn’t trust it but I should’ve. The next day looks pretty much the same. At least around noon we get our car and thus some mobility. The first trip is out to see how trusty 08L is doing. Under the cloud deck it’s pretty good flying weather, so we go and check out the area from the birds view to get an overview. Griselda does a take-off nearly without assistance. She really has a feel for flying.

Finally the next day promises that we can continue, only the calendar opposes this idea. It does not look as if we can still make it up to the Canadian border. We change plans and decide to go more into the general direction of ‘back’ but stop at my friend Ron’s place in the Sierra around the corner of Mount Whitney. We leave friendly Delta, Utah with still quite a bit of clouds around,

Still quite a bit of clouds

but it’s dissipating and I get to show Griselda how neat it is to get to the same altitude…

Same Altitude

… of the clouds and then just drill a hole into them.

Drill a Hole

Soon we leave the last clouds behind us and point the nose towards Las Vegas. Still around some mountains, but the general direction is the City of Blinking Lights. The trip back seems to be a lot shorter than the way up here. A bit over two and a half hours bring Griselda and her pilot into Las Vegas North Terminal for some food for trusty 08L and the people traveling with her.

Griselda's Pilot

This is the first airport where I see a self-service gas station for aviation fuel. It’s pretty cheap, under 1.80, [Editor: those were the days…] but we get the idea that, as we go up into the restaurant and have a crew prepare and serve our lunch, so we could also have some crew help our 08L to get fed. I am still wondering how she would have handled the self-service all by herself.

After lunch we call Ron up in Badger. Yes, he is there and we are welcome, just buzz the house and we pick you up at Jerry’s airstrip. Jerry is a great guy. I met him a couple of years back when I was still on my primary training. A native Badger and retired army pilot, Barney, had been happy to have a pilot, even if it was only a prospective one, whom he could show around and introduce him to the people in the area who had something to do with flying. Jerry was one of them. He was over seventy and lived up there in the woods with his wife Lucy. The one item he was most proud of was the wooden propeller on his ’49 Bonanza, that he still regularly flies out of his 2200 foot private airstrip at 4000 feet elevation.

This was the air strip Griselda and I would go into. But first we had to find our way over the Sierra Nevada. These are high mountains! From Vegas we have trusty 08L’s nose up into the sky all the time. Finally we reach about 12000 feet and there just isn’t any more altitude to win. It’s pretty hot and density altitude is probably a lot higher. We can’t quite make it along the straight route to Porterville. A pretty big guy is in the way. The sectional gives his height away with far over 12000. Respectful as we are, we bid him a hello and fly around.

Once we have crossed the Eastern ridge of the Sierra, the highest part, we can start to let down. On the way down we have to dodge some very beautiful clouds that try to rise over the ridges of the Sierra to bring some rain to the desert hidden behind. But experience tells that they will not succeed. On the other hand this failure brings gorgeous green valleys in the higher up-sloping part of the Sierra on the western side of the ridge.

Eventually we intersect the one radial beaming out of Porterville North that will bring us right to Jerry’s airstrip. But before we get there, we go down some more and make our low pass over Ron’s place. This reminds me so much of the old barn stormer stories that I can nearly feel the wind blowing into my face in the open cockpit. But only nearly, good young 08L is not really drafty. Climbing back up to 5000 again and see that we find the airstrip now. It’s not that easy. Finally we make it out, turn base and final and see this unbelievable small airstrip over the nose.

Unbelievable small air strip

Past experience discloses that trusty 08L will fit on it but from up here it sure does not look like it. And true, as we get closer, this little strip of flatness appears more and more as a place where our 08L can come to a well deserved rest. Soon we are close enough…

Close Enough

… power is cut and airspeed reduced as much as possible. It is not the best landing but we all get down nicely, in other words in one piece, Griselda is thrilled by the adrenaline flash, and soon we tie down our trusty girl for the night. Certainly we have to make a photo of World Traveler Griselda leaving the plane before Ron comes and picks us up.

World Traveller Griselda

With all this feeling on being on top of everything after the survival of the bigger part of the trip this World Traveler has to show off how she would have looked as the Ace Pilot in her Sopwith Camel.

Ace Pilot

We have a great day at Ron’s Badger Inn. The weather is as it should have been while we were stranded in Delta, Utah, but what’s the complains, we enjoy it now.

The next day will bring this world trip to an end. After a good brunch Ron drives us back to Jerry’s airstrip and we first have a chat with him, Lucy and some friends of them who came up with a beautifully restored Piper Cub, this old nobility of general aviation. I first get dependable 08L from the place where she slept for the night to the beginning of the air strip which coincides with Jerry’s yard. We turn her around to point down the runway, and I, trying to be the nice guy, waste a bit of this already short strip in order not to sand blast the Cub behind me. We wave good-bye, full throttle and down we go the strip, faster and faster.

Only not quite fast enough when we nearly reach the end of the runway. But that’s not a problem for such an accomplished pilot as I am now. The runway is on top of a pretty high ridge and at the end of the runway the terrain falls off steeply for several hundred feet. I can use that! With under sixty knots one jump over the edge and nose down into the chasm. Not really that dramatic, only to gain speed through the dive. Getting the speed up to seventy, seventy-five and start climbing. No problem.

Only the crowd that had us waved good-bye, had a different perspective. They looked down the runway. Trusty 08L reached the end and disappeared. Ron told me later that all of them started to breathe again when we reappeared after our dive, flying over the strip, happy 08L rocks her wings and we follow the Dry Creek down to Woodlake, navigate to Porterville, get some gas there and embark on the last leg, climbing to over ten thousand feet to get over the Grape Vine, then slide down all the way from the Gorman VOR into the home port Burbank.

It feels much more like HOME now, and there is the urge to tell approach and the tower controller about our trip. But no, we have to be grown-ups, the excitement has to be put on the back burner and we announce our arrival with a simple

Burbank Approach, Cherokee 08L, Magic Mountain out of six thousand, landing Burbank with Information Xray.

On the Trails of JD Flora – Revisited

Last year I took my son out to Death Valley for a day – and night – he loves to be in hotels! We stopped in Stovepipe Wells for the night and continued on to Furnace Creek the next day. This trip was done on the ground but it still reminded me immensely of a research mission the custodian of the Logs of JD Flora and I conducted many years ago. I reported about that mission on the web in something that today would be called a blog. The pages are still there but hidden in the deep crevices of the internet, so that I though I dig this all out and present it here again – on a real blog.

Here we go…

What!? You don’t know who J.D. Flora is? I would say that you better find out. Otherwise this story will not make very much sense. I will wait here until you are back …….
……
……

So, now you know our hero. You also know or will find out that Dr. Joachim Steingrubner, the lucky person who found the logs of J.D. Flora and I went onto a mission to follow the tracks of our hero.

From the logs we learned about J.D.’s one flight to Tehachapi, Mountain Valley. There, on his heading of 10 degrees at a distance of 12 miles he encountered the unexplainable – at least for us. Will we ever find out what happened?

On another flight J.D. Flora, or Jetty, how he is now sometimes called by his fans, made a flight to Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek, again with unexplainable but steamy events happening.

Dr. Steingrubner as the historian and chronist as well as the researcher of the J.D. Flora logs decided that a mission was in order to follow the trails of the subject of his research. I was to participate in this project as the pilot in command. The interested reader can follow the trail on a World Aeronautical Chart.

World Aeronautical Chart

On a fine sunny morning we met at the Pilot’s Co-Op at Burbank airport, ready to follow the trails of J.D. Flora.

Dr. Steingrubner had the appropriate excerpts from The Logs so that we could review it for our first leg. From the IRC communication between SFYNX Remate Agent 3 and J.D. we learned:

SFYNX-RA3> From your recent e-mail I conclude that you want to
SFYNX-RA3> go flying today or tomorrow morning.  How about going to
SFYNX-RA3> Tehachapi for a snack ?

JDF> It's quite a humble, but healthy cuisine they got there, but I'll
JDF> consider this.  Any reason for this ?

SFYNX-RA3> Of course.
SFYNX-RA3> From Tehachapi, if you fly heading zero-one-zero
SFYNX-RA3> degrees for 12.5 nautical miles, you'll see a small
SFYNX-RA3> landing strip in the desert between two small hills.
SFYNX-RA3> Cross the runway East to West abeam and fly
SFYNX-RA3> an approach of one-seven-zero degrees, land and
SFYNX-RA3> taste the space over there for some time....

JDF> Will see... so, but what's the purpose ??

That should be not a big problem. The only unusual aspect is that the charts really do not show any landing strip in the area in question. We know that J.D. in fact found and landed on the indicated airstrip, but unfortunately no progress has been done in decoding the time lock so that we still don’t know what really happened and how J.D. returned. We only know that he survived, so we were in good spirits.

Preflight, engine start, clearance (Golden State Departure like usual), and off we were into the blue yonder. Climbing up to 4000 first to get over the mountains just East of the Newhall pass. Getting the nose up some more lining up for Agua Dulce, giving a mental wave to one of my very first ‘other’ airports during primary training.

East of Newhall Pass

Climbing out more towards the north east to clear those peaks and catch a nice glance at the San Gabriel Mountains to our right. After we clear those mountains we see the huge Palmdale Airport off to our right.

San Gabriel Mountains

Palmdale Airport

Big, but mostly useless for me because it’s an Airforce installation. But only ‘mostly’ useless because during my instrument training that was a good place to practice approaches.

I guess these guys in the tower and on approach were pretty bored and probably glad for any Angelino pilot who came by and needed their help. My instructor at this time, Wyn Selwyn – wonder what he is doing now – answered my question of what would happen if I would actually touch down there with: They would nicely invite you in, offer you a cup of coffee and then give you this half foot stack of forms to fill out. He should know – he was a pilot in the army.

Then turning north getting into the real desert that can be really green if it gets some water as for example from the California Aquaeduct. After that a straight loran course to Tehachapi, Mountain Valley.

Real Desert

California Aquaeduct

Our plan was leave out the landing in Mountain Valley and to cross it and head straight to the mystery target 12.5 miles zero-one-zero. But it was late enough to justify an early lunch so we dropped down and had some chili and banana bread watching some gliders being helped up into the sky by these sky tractors – boy, do they really look like tough tractors.

Mountain Valley

Then looking north into the area where there should be this mysterious air strip.

Looking North

Taxi down to the end of the runway, full power and a practice for soft field takeoff. It’s not really soft, but more oiled gravel – still, you don’t really like to do this for long if you are the one who has to pay for the maintenance. Liftoff, and a quick rocking of the wings abeam the glider flight school to say thanks.

We set the loran to all zero on leaving the airport and head zero-one-zero. When the readout shown 12.5 miles the view confirms what the maps had told us. Still, we circled in bigger and bigger circles but could not make out anything that is or might have been an air strip.

Somebody really has to decode this googledigoog in the logs one of these days.

So it was off then to our second target. Stovepipe Wells. We passed California City and did not have to maneuver too hard through this narrow corridor because we got a clearance to enter the MOA and could fly straight towards our goal. Closing in on Death Valley we passed something that surely looked like salt lakes but we were not sure if they really were and we also did not want to stop there to taste.

Salt Lakes

Soon we enter Death Valley, fly up the western valley north hound and then around the bend crossing Stovepipe Wells to take a look at the place of JD’s steamy adventure. Nothing really to see down there except a few parked planes. And as it’s better to get some fuel for the flight back we turn south heading for Furnace Creek.

Soon we make out the Death Valley airport and soon are on base turning final.

Base Turning Final

Shortly after that we turn final and ten minutes later trusty 08L is tied down in the strong wind and we are picked up by a courtesy van and taken to the resort where we hope to find a trace of JD Flora.

Final Furnace Creek

Tied Down at Furnace Creek

In the lobby we talk to an old woman who remembers this nice man who gave her such a generous tip and she also recalls the cabin where he stayed and she kept particularly neat for him. She wants to know what happened to this real gentleman, but we have to tell her that we actually are the ones looking for information.

Furnace Creek Lobby

Cabin where JD stayed at Furnace Creek

She asks us to say hi to him when we find him and keep his promise to stay longer the next day and she wonders if the nice lady, who had missed him by just one hour, ever managed to meet him. There! Now we know something that JD did not – hmm…

It was time for us to head back, pre-flight and ready to take the desert once more.

Getting ready to take the desert again

08L has the biggest trouble climbing in this hot weather even though – and this was a first – her altimeter was well below zero before takeoff. But we manage to get over these ranges south of Death Valley and as soon as we can reach what’s now Joshua Approach we ask for and get a clearance through the MOA and head straight back towards Burbank. We cross Rosamont Airport and shortly thereafter admire the big runways and markings at Edwards Air Force Base – the alternate for the space shuttles to land when the weather is not good enough for them in Florida.

Rosamont Airport

Markings at Edwards Air Force Base

Things start to look very familiar again now and soon we start to let down and are in our close home territory.

    “Burbank Approach, Cherokee 08L, over Agua Dulce, eight thousand five hundred, landing Burbank with Information Zulu.”

Luscombe, Lucy and Piper

Digging through ‘things’ I have collected over the year, asking myself which be thrown out because I have not touched or needed them in years, I ran into some papers that certainly meet the two characteristics but which I nevertheless don’t want to toss out. Just scanning and keeping for later is certainly an way out of that dilemma, but I go one step further, I put it out on the web because I can imagine that there are others beside me who might enjoy this.

So, here it is…

The following advertisement appeared in several aviation publications in 1987

The only reason I know this is because one of the protagonists, Lucy, gave it to me personally. In other words, I can answer the question “Who’s Lucy?” Together with this ad, Lucy also gave me an excerpt from this advertised book. These are the pages that I did not want to waste.

Not all of the dealings at Luscombe Airplane Corporation in 1939 were of a serious business nature. July saw the culmination in marriage of a romance that had started nearly a year before. Lucy Rago, a local girl from the West Trenton area, was an office girl hired in 1935. In September of 1938, a young male customer flew into West Trenton with his distributor to take delivery of a new “50” only to find that his plane was still under construction. Because he was low on money from the trip and couldn’t afford to just wait, Jerry Coigny was hired to work on his own airplane. The office area was off-limits to the factory floor
staff, but Jerry was more than just an employee; he was a customer, thus allowed to wander through the office area at will. This afforded Jerry and Lucy much contact with one another; enough to fall in love during the two weeks Jerry worked on his aircraft.

Lucy Rago at her desk in Ron's office

After Jerry left the West Trenton area, he and Lucy corresponded daily. As Jerry was racing and barnstorming in his little Luscombe, much of the news his letters contained concerned the performance of his airplane. When Lucy thought something pertinent to the
further development of Model 50s, she would carefully cover the personal messages with masking tape and take the letter to higher management. Almost before her back was turned to leave the room, the tape would be off and the personal sections read.

Lucy in a Luscombe with an experiemental wheel control

Occasionally, Jerry would write a letter to Don Luscombe himself, who at this time was still president, always adding, “Tell Lucy hello”. Don used copies of some of these letters in sales literature. Occasionally when a customer wrote the company concerning this literature, the P.S. “Who’s Lucy?” would be included.

The Christmas following their meeting, December 25, 1938, Keith Funk, another Luscombe
employee, knocked on the door of the Rago household bearing a gift. Jerry had sent Lucy’s Christmas present to the factory, an engagement ring. Lucy later said that the gift made Funk the “greatest Santa Claus in he world as far as I was concerned!”

More letters carried the young lovers through June when Jerry sent news of the sale of his first, wellused Luscombe. The official telegram arrived on June 9, 1939, Jerry Coigny’s deposit and order for a new Luscombe Model 8A was confirmed. The little plane became known as the “Honeymoon Special”, which was stamped on the firewall. When the order was written, Lucy was jestingly listed as extra equipment. After that, customers would jokingly request an “extra” like companion, wife, or girlfriend.

Jerry arrived on July 1, bearing gifts for Lucy’s family. Because of conflict between the families of the couple concerning their wedding ceremony, Jerry and Lucy decided to elope. The other girls at the office helped Lucy smuggle her personal belongings into the factory where they were stashed until the proper moment.

July 12 finally arrived. The little Luscombe 65 horsepower airplane was loaded with Lucy’s belongings and decorated with signs, crepe paper, and old shoes.

The Honeymoon Aircraft

J. H. Torrens, current President of Luscombe, gave a farewell speech and presented the couple with a Lear Radio. Lucy’s co-workers provided her with the necessary “something old, something borrowed, something blue”, and off they flew.

Jerry and Lucy Coigny

A short flight took them to Dylestown, Pennsylvania where they were married in a short civil ceremony. Another flight took them to Wings Field in Ambler, Pennsylvania where Don Luscombe and his wife picked them up and drove them to their estate at Gwynedd Valley. The honeymooners stayed the night with the Luscombes and left the next morning for Grants Pass, Oregon, where Jerry had established a fixed-base operation and flying school.

Jerry Coigny's airplane before leaving the factory - Serial-#804 - NC-2591

Thus far the story of Jerry and Lucy (all images from the Jerry and Lucy Coigny collection).  Maybe the book is still available and if you are interested in the Luscombe story, try the address in the above ad.

Just as a little glance into the past, here the price and equipment list of these aircrafts as in the story above. This ways mailed out to dealers and prospective customers shortly after Lucy and Jerry got married:

FLY-AWAY FACTORY, TRENTON, NEW JERSEY
AUGUST 1, 1939
LUSCOMBE “50” (Continental A-50 Engine) — $1895.00
LUSCOMBE “65” (Continental A-65 Engine) — $1975.00
LUSCOMBE “65” SEAPLANE (F.A.w.) — $3170.00

STANDARD EQUIPMENT INCLUDES

  • Wood Propeller
  • Single Ignition Engine
  • 17 1/2 Inch Tires
  • Fully Enclosed Tunnel Type Cowling
  • Carburetor Heater with Hot and Cold Air Control
  • Two Full Size Doors
  • Dual Controls (Stick)
  • Oleo Landing Gear
  • Altimeter
  • Airspeed Indicator
  • Tachometer
  • Oil Pressure Gauge
  • Oil Temperature Gauge
  • Imitation Leather Upholstery (Seat Cushions)
  • Pushout Window
  • Individual Quick Fastening Safety Belts
  • First Aid Kit
  • Quart Pyrene Fire Extinguisher
  • Logbooks
  • Service Manual
  • Five Cubic Foot Baggage Compartment
  • Upholstery, in attractive leatherette, on both doors, with pocket in each door
  • Upholstery in same material on forward cabin walls
  • Rubber heel mats on cabin floor
  • Door Stops

Now, you might wonder, how do I, your friendly author, fit into this story.  Here is what happened.

A few years after the book in the above ad was published I started flight my training. During a visit with a friend who had a little motel in Badger, close to the southern part of the Sequoia National Park, I met a local who took interest in me and my flying because he had been a pilot during the war. He took me on a visiting spree around the area to meet local pilots.

One of them had the most amazing private air strip: Hangar on top of a hill, the short 1000 foot runway steep runway down the hill. Gravity helped to gain enough speed to get to minimum take-off speed at the bottom of the hill. On landing – the other way around – gravity helped again, this time to slow the plane touching down at the base of the hill, racing up the hill and coming to a stop in front of the hangar. Until now I have no idea what would happen if a plane would run out of speed during the climb up the hill, because the hill was definitely too steep for an airplane under propeller power only.

Another local pilot was Jerry Coigny. He had a more traditional air strip, if you can call it that – It started at the edge of a bluff and ended in his back yard. The similarity was that again, independent of wind, you took off in the opposite direction as you landed. The back yard was just big enough to turn a small air plane around. No, not just one turn. You pulled into a tight 90 degree left turn a little bit up an incline, pulled back power and gave full right rudder and let the plane roll backwards in a right turn. Then full power and left rudder to complete the 180. On my first visit I did not really know all that. Jerry was now a retired airline pilot but was still flying is 49 Bonanza (with a wooden propeller!) in and out of his air strip located at about 4000 feet elevation. He showed us around his estate and was very fond of his restored antique cars.

I finished my flight training, collected flight hours and experience and ended up buying a 1983 Piper warrior. A sales brochure of the warrior was the other item that I should have thrown out but could not, so I can share it here.

At a bout 4 or 5 hundred hours in the plane I felt able enough to take on bush-flying. I got in touch with Jerry, he gave me the exact coordinates of his property which I could plug into my Loran (GPS had been too expensive for me then) and I got on the way. I buzzed my friends motel first so they could drive up to Jerry and Lucy’s house to pick me up and I continued on to find that bush pilot’s dream runway. I was used to runways like Burbank so, a strip consisting of two narrow paths in the grass just wide enough for my wheels was quite a change.

Jerry and Lucy's private air strip

This is also where I learned how to turn around at the end of the runway – in Jerry’s back yard.

Over the years I flew into Jerry and Lucy’s air strip and it was always a different restored antique car that we or I were picked up in from the tie-down in the middle of the strip. The last time I was there, Jerry had unfortunately passed away.This is when Lucy gave me the story that I told above. Now I don’t know how the story ends, if the air strip is still there and even if Lucy is still wandering amongst us – probably not, because it’s way more than 10 years ago that I was up there last and Lucy was already old then.

Often, when a couple is together so long and happy, the second follow rather soon so that they can have new adventures together. If they are together again in the everlasting hunting grounds then I am sure that they fly around in a Luscomb, Bonanza or maybe in some cute little white space yacht.

Ode to Dad

Dad, it must be about forty years ago that you tried to let us participate in your experience of reading the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda. This was, I believe, your first venture into the world of spiritual awakening.

And I did not understand – and laughed.

Sure, I have the excuse that I was young, but I am an old soul and should have understood if I would have just listened.

I also know that I have used you. I remember that one time when I wanted to have a stand for my slide projector but was too lazy to build it myself. I had a clear vision of what and how I wanted it to be. But I came to you pretending ignorance and asked your advise. Then steered you so that you came to exactly what I wanted. You were so happy that I took your advise that you then built it for me. I know you had the feeling that you needed to show me your worth, but I used that shamelessly and I can’t say that I am proud of succeeding.

When I used my control then, I was cocky about my abilities but I promise that has changed radically.

Now I see that it was you who allowed me to grow up without worries. That gave me the opportunity to develop the ability to manipulate and control. I sure hope that this was not the only ability that I developed. I am grateful for that opportunity – – now.

Now I am reading Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” myself and I finally understand why you were eager to share your feelings with us.

Time is of no significance – so, finally, I can listen to you and tell you what 40 years ago I was not able to do – – – COOL!

Sunset in the Mountains

Even though in Southern California, we can now feel that the summer is over and the winter is getting closer. The reason is altitude. Six thousand feet above the ocean will give you some sense of seasons, even in the sub-tropics. It is only three weeks away from the time where we had the first snow last year.

Over the last week trees have put on their autumn outfit and are now wearing all brown after a short phase of a green-brown combination. Sure, there are many trees that will remain green all year, but the oaks around here now invite to collect colorful leaves and put them between the pages of a book to dry and preserve.

Days become noticably shorter and now, as I write this, half past five, it is completely dark. But a bit earlier I noticed a symphony of colors developing above the mountains and I was able to capture a glimpse of it…

Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy 2) Finally Open Again

After being closed for more than four years, the Hwy 2 between La Canada and Wrightwood is finally open again! Rumors were heard in April that May would see the day when repairs would finally be completed.

A landslide had taken down part of the road in 2004. Estimates had then been that it would take until 2006 to have those damages repaired but in 2005 more landslides had destroyed even more of the road and so to took a bit longer – three years to be exact.

The latest rumor was that the road would be open for Memorial Day 2009 – which was last weekend. So, on Friday, to avoid the traffic on the 210 and 15 going around the bend, we drove up Hwy 2 in the hope that rumors would be true.

And they were! At the turn-off towards Palmdale, the Angeles Forest Highway, there was the sign: Wrightwood – Open!

Traffic was very light probably because the new (old) road will have to be re-discovered by the residents over time. We were not the first to take the road this Friday but certainly were amongst the first. We did not save any time in comparison to taking the 210 and 15 (without traffic) but the ride was definitely much nicer.

On the following Monday we took the same route back, for one expecting traffic on the 15 and 210 flowing back into LA but also to set the trip counter to see how long it really is – not trusting Google Maps completely yet.

And it was a beautiful drive! Saw two deers on the road – I guess they will also have to rediscover that its not all their turf any more – some mini-glaciers and beautiful scenery…

hwy2-reopened-01-20090526

hwy 2 reopened - 03

So, what’s the result of the distance measurement with the trip counter? Google Maps is pretty close and if you just want to get there with the least costs it is probably better to take the trip around the bent through Rancho Cucamonga (love to say that) when going outside of the rush hour – easier drive, less wear on the car and possibly a bit shorter on the clock, not on the odometer – that’s about seven to eight miles more.

But it is great to have the option of taking the leisurely drive through beautiful mountains.

Ritalin and Parenting

While driving down the 101 here in Los Angeles I noticed the following sign…

Ritalin and Parenting

… and it made me think.

NO – Come on! There is no such sign in Los Angeles – – – yet!

But you can find bad surprises in places where they are really surprising – – huh?

Anyways, I want to tell about an old friend of mine. A friend I had hung out with during the last year of high school and most of the college days, and I thought we really knew each other well.

Me moving to the US of A interrupted that friendship somewhat, but meeting each other after both our divorces and a few year of hardly hearing from each other, the spark was there again immediately and we could talk as if no time had passed when we met on one of my visits to Germany.

But I went back to California, we both got married again and had kids – OK, our wifes had. Then it was his time to visit us here with the whole family.

During on of our long talks he told me that his daughter had become so difficult in school that she was now on ritalin. That blew my mind! I mean I hear all those bad stories about our school kids being drugged into obedience but I had never met any such kid. I guess because my reality is so that this stuff does not enter it. But then the only first degree of separation person to introduce me to ritalin is my old best buddy from the college days.

I guess our realities did develop into different directions. Even though I don’t really think in his case it was a replacement for parenting because he was and is a loving father. He must have gotten some really bad information, and that’s the danger of it, that if you are not actively looking for the correct information and trust ‘experts’ you might be traveling down the wrong path.

I know how that is!