Category Archives: Reminiscence

A not quite International Airport

(This is a little story that I wrote in my blog before there were blogs.)

I loved this little air strip of Jerry and Lucy up there in the High Sierra. But I was also afraid of it. It’s one of the places that pushed me to make the decision to learn to fly. Imagining the romantic feeling of flying a bi-plane, wind in your hair, into a strip out there in the wilderness. Here is a strip like that. I call it Jerry’s paradise. Because it is! The last time I was up there, Jerry told me they had been there for thirty-seven years now with no intention to leave.

Nearly every aerodrome looks small when seen from the distance. However, most of them get bigger when you come closer. But Jerry’s airstrip, even when you are close enough to make a decision to land…


…still looks really small.

During primary training, my instructor always complained when I did not land exactly on the centerline. I never really understood it, because on a runway like Burbank’s 8 there was so much space on both sides, so who cares about the couple of feet to the left or right? On Jerry’s airstrip, you just don’t have a couple of feet to the left or right. There only is the centerline.

After touchdown on Jerry’s airstrip, I always tried to get trusty 08L stopped before reaching the middle of the strip because there is a mown area to the right of the actual runway to tie down a couple of visiting planes. Never managed to do so though. Always still had a bit too much speed and had to run all the way to the end of the strip, turn around in Jerry’s yard, and taxi back to the tie-down. One of these days I will manage – I promise!

Takeoff, in contrast, is rather easy for me. This one time my friend Ron, with whom I stayed for the weekend up there in his mountain hotel, dropped me off at 08L’s parking space and took a nice series of shots of my take-off. I thought I share these…


Going through the pre-engine-start checklist




Increase power to start rolling – and it takes quite a bit of power to start rolling on the grass and dirt.


Taxi back towards Jerry’s Yard.


I really had to figure out how to turn in Jerry’s Yard without getting out of the plane to push. It’s a bit too narrow to turn directly, so I use the technique I learned in driving school for turns in narrow streets: All the way to the right, then a sharp left turn toward the curb, followed by backing up with a right turn – –  only 08L does not have reverse! Fortunately, the yard slopes up, so my left turn goes up a slope a bit and gravity helps me to go backward – – then another left turn and the 180-degree turn is done.


Aligned with the runway with Jerry’s yard behind me, Checklist, Ready for Take-Off! No need here to announce my departure on Unicom frequency – first, there is no Unicom frequency, and second, Jerry would have told me had somebody else announced his arrival.


Gaining Speed – 30 Knots


Rushing by Ron at 40 Knots


Reaching Rotation Speed at 60 Knots


Staying in Ground Effect to Gain Some More Speed


Leaving the Earth Below!

Reaching 4500 feet, 500 above the strip, I turn around, fly over the field once more, and rock the wings to say goodbye. Then it’s climbing nearly all the way to Bakersfield to get up to 9500 to get enough altitude between me and the Grapevine. Crossing Gorman VOR, I start letting down slowly until I’m at 5000 over Magic Mountain

Airial Shot of Six Flags
Six Flags
which looks so insignificant from up here. Still, I don’t think anybody would ever get me into Colossus, Ninja, or Viper.

And then, just a little bit later:

“Burbank Approach, Cherokee 8308L, over the Magic Mountain, five thousand, landing Burbank with Information Alpha.”

Kokain – a Blast From the Past

This is how Youtube works…

I was reminded of of the song “Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern” which I had taught myself to sing and play on the guitar many moons ago back in the old country. I wondered if I would find it on the Youtubes – sure enough, there it was.

But what then caught my eye was Kokain by Hannes Wader, another song that I could play and sing, with all the lyrics memorized. And this was a rendition of a much older Hannes Wader, so, obviously, I had to watch it and got sucked into another few Hannes Wader songs.

But Kokain was the best for me – that’s why I share it here…

Oops – sharing not enabled, so here’s just the link on the Tubes:

And so you can all sing along, here are the lyrics:

Ich kam von Frankfurt nach Berlin
Drei Koffer voll mit Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain
Hallo Taxi, schnell zum Ku’damm, Ecke Tauentzien
Meine Frau und meine Kinder schrei’n nach Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine Frau heisst Evelyn
Ich weiss nicht, liebt sie mich oder mehr mein Kokain
Cocaine, all around my brain
„Liebster“, sagt sie, „Rate mal, was kitzelt so schön
In der Nase, schmeckt nach Scheisse, wirkt wie Arsen?“
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Mein Sohn ist zwölf und ewig angetörnt
Ich verbiet’ es ihm, damit er endlich laufen lernt
Cocaine, all around my brain
Seit gestern weiss er endlich, wer ich bin
Wenn er mich sieht, dann ruft er: „Pappa, hattu Kokain?“
Cocaine, all around my brain
Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine kleine Tochter ist jetzt grad’
Auf ‘nem Trip, den sie letztes Jahr schon eingepfiffen hat
Cocaine, all around my brain
Sie sieht aus, als wär’ sie dreissig
Und sie macht auf zwanzig, dabei ist sie acht
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Meine Tante dealt seit einem Jahr
Seitdem geht sie über Leichen, fährt ‘nen Jaguar
Cocaine, all around my brain
Immer wenn sie kommt, bringt sie ein Stückchen Shit
In der Radkappe für die Kinder mit
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Mein Onkel kam vom Alkohol zum Kokain
Jetzt will er sich das Kokain mit Schnaps entzieh’n
Cocaine, all around my brain
Seit gestern liegt er im Delirium
Ab morgen steigt er wieder auf die Droge um
Cocaine, all around my brain

Hm, hm, hm, hey!
Oh Mama, komm schnell her
Halt mich fest, ich kann nicht mehr
Cocaine, all around my brain

Opa hat den Gilb, wartet auf den Tod
Freut sich auf Jimi Hendrix und den lieben Gott
Cocaine, all around my brain
Oma geht es augenblicklich auch nicht gut
Seit ihrem letzten Flash spuckt sie nur noch Blut
Cocaine, all around my brain

Ich merke schon, dass ich jetzt aufhör’n muss
Oh Mama, Mama, Mama, komm mach mir ‘nen Schuss
Mit Morphium und Heroin
Opium und Rosimon
Oder gib mir Lysergsäurediäthylamid
Mescalin und Nepalshit
La, la, la …

My Old TRS-80

TRS-80 top modelOne of my first ‘investments’ I made after college, when I started making a boat-load of money (that’s how it felt, at least) with my new job, was a TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack.

Today I ran into an article on Mashable about that Trash-80 that brought back memories of sitting on that machine for long nights, the ash tray overflowing, discovering all the things you could do with BASIC.

Despite my feeling of being totally rich, my pay check of nearly 2000 Deutsch Marks would not allow me to buy anything but the entry model of this computer. At that time the US Dollar was around 4 Marks which brought the price of that computer to an amazing DM 3000 – one and a half month’s pay. This made me think about what that top model Tandy computer would cost in today’s Dollars – – – turns out to be over 26 thousand Dollars!

And looking at the exchange rate from the other side – I made only $1500 in today’s Dollars and I thought I was rich? Now I wonder if the exchange rate of DM to US$ really reflected the relationship of cost of living. A quick Google search reveals that in 1980 a bread in the US cost about 50 cents, while a bread in Germany cost DM 2.50 – so the exchange rate is at least in the ballpark.

Maybe I should have moved to the US right after college – I might have been able to afford one of those fancy floppy drives from Radio Shack…

In case the TRS-80 catalog on Mashable ever goes away, here’s a copy…

A Hollywood Experience

Rainer SchoeneOne of my early Hollywood-experiences occurred in the late 80s – the place was the Irish pub ‘The Cat & Fiddle‘ on Sunset Blvd.

My buddy and I hung out there pretty regularly, had learned that just a single extra dollar in tips was well worth the investment for much faster and friendlier service and were, that fine summer evening, out in the patio, slurping our Guinness.

The table next to us was occupied by two guys, one of them a very tall, and cool, guy that looked so familiar but I could  not place him. I heard somewhat of a German accent, but that did not help much at that time.

If was a few days later that my buddy dragged me to the gig of a German guy he had met a few days earlier. As yours truly is from that area of the planet as well and ethnic support is a given I was glad to comply.

Even this big Hollywood is a small place and so I was only mildly surprised that this tall guy I had seen at the Cat and Fiddle was there as well. The gig was great and I still have a video document of this band, Bigger than Blue, even though this is not of the gig, which was much wilder and much more hard rock.

Already at that time I perceived the vibes between this tall German guy and the cute, absolutely petite, singer of Bigger Than Blue, Francesca Capasso.

To make a long story short, the tall German guy turned out to be a very well-known German actor, Reiner Schoene (Schöne), whom I had seen in television shows when I was a lot younger. He and Francesca started dating and we (my buddy and I) had a few parties at our house with the whole Bigger than Blue and so Reiner was there, obviously.

Francesca and Reiner did get married and had a little farm in or around Agua Dulce but, despite efforts to do so, we never managed to visit and the contact went away eventually, especially after Reiner moved back to Germany and he and Francesca separated, unfortunately.

So, why would I write all this after more than twenty years? Simple, when going through my old music collection, I found demo tapes of Reiner as well as Francesca and the most amazing piece on that was a song, written and performed by Reiner, telling the beginning of the story…

Real Photos, Real Early

Right after I had discovered – many years ago – that taking photos was not only for American tourists in Hawaiian shirts visiting Germany but could actually be an art form, I ran into a book that introduced me to tabletop photography.

One tray of slides remains from this era, and now I can share those after I managed to digitize them. It was actually time to do so as one of the boxes with those slides must have been exposed to some humidity (or the slides had not been properly developed) as there were spots on them like fungus.

Without further ado, here is my 70s take on tabletop photography:

Open the Album – click on three dots top right and select ‘Slide Show’…

A little story on the “Warp Drive” – this slide was added much later than all the others and is a picture of the device I built which earned me my masters in physics. It’s a drift chamber as used by my alma mater’s experiment at CERN – the place where the internet was really invented, and no, it was not Al Gore, who did that.

One of the more interesting things about the setup in the photo is that little brass cylinder in front of the shiny surface. It is actually a source for radioactive radiation that I used to test and adjust the chamber. Once I wanted to interrupt the beam of radiation for a quick demonstration and put my finger between the probe and the detector – the assistant responsible for me nearly took my head off for doing that.

Google, the new McDonald – Responsible for Many Big Butts

Stumbling over the new Google Maps ‘MapsGL’ feature I was sent around the planet. First I went to the Westminster Abbey in England to check out – no, not Westminster Abbey, but – how 3D buildings look in the new Google maps.

After that I went to Rome, Italy to look at the Colosseum, first from the satellite view and then I admired Google’s switching over to a 45 degree view when zooming in.

OK, that’s what Google wanted me to do, but I am not the person to just follow what somebody tells me to – I want to explore! So, I tried Stonehenge, England. No 3D building or 45 degree views there but I was still amazed that this little spot on our planet gets so much attention from all over the world.

As I had never been to Stonehenge I now wanted to try a spot that I knew from a personal encounter to compare notes. The first that came to mind was the monastery of Montserrat in Spain, close to Barcelona. After just a minute with the help from my friends at Google I was there:

Click to go to the Google Local Page

That sure brought back memories. I had been there twice, once during a long stay in Spain with two buddies, and once later with a date. The interesting bit about the second visit was that then and there I decided to not do vacations any more. That was some thirty years ago and I have pretty much kept that promise to myself. Did not really miss anything, but made up for it by doing things a bit more radical. For example, instead of vacationing in California, I just moved there.

But when visiting there virtually after so many years I also realized how easy that trip had become – just a few mouse clicks and I was half around the world. When I was there the first times, I first had to get my body into Spain, then driving up that winding road, buying a ticket for the aerial tram and getting up to that summit.

Sure was good exercise and I was slim and trim (not that I am fat now!) But now makes me wonder how many big butts Google might be responsible for by just getting people to places virtually.

Google could be the next McDonald!

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 of the United States (cut short by some Utahian weather.)

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, 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.

Here 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 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 in a real survival kit. I also needed chocks and ropes for tie-downs because there were some very desolate airstrips on our agenda. The idea of rolling up in a sleeping bag under the wing of trusty 08L on a grass strip in nowhereland made chills go up and down my spine. That would be an 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 firsthand 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 northwest, and are released to our 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, and to avoid 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 just 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 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 relief, 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, a 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, and 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 enjoying 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 sinkhole 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 a 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. The wind is from the southwest, 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 northeast 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 goodbye 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 as 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 jolting I also started to enjoy the trip.

After takeoff, we circled the big red rocks…

Big Red Rocks

… in the Sedona valley that looks 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 northeast toward the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon. VOR receiver 1 is tuned to Page (PGA, 117.6), and for 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 over millions of years. And ahead, too far to estimate the immense ridges of the Rocky Mountains. Do 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 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 Colorado’s journey toward 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 of 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 interrupting 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 in 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 her 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 we 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 airways] 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 headquarter, 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 that 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 bird’s 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 toward 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 in 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, which he still regularly flies out of his 2200-foot private airstrip at 4000 feet elevation.

This was the airstrip 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 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 barnstormer 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 unbelievably small airstrip over the nose.

An 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 of 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 complaint, 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 theirs 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 airstrip 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 sandblast the Cub behind me. We wave goodbye, 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 goodbye, 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.

JD Flora on the RPF

Flemming’s Facebook wall post about Mr. Hubbard prompted me to dig through the Logs of JD Flora to find that one log that I enjoyed most as it so succinctly describes life on the lowest rungs of the group with the lofty goal to clear the planet. I particularly liked the character Marty – why? – because that is yours truly!

Log #81 – Rehabilitating the Rehabilitating

East Hollywood, July 25th, 1984, 11 pm

Marty claims that he never really was on the RPF’s RPF.

Really, he says, he never was on the RPF in the first place. He simply rejected the RPF assignment from the beginning, wrote an appeal to RTC, and assumed a waiting position.
This created a considerable problem for the RPF leadership. To them, there are just two possible choices once you have been assigned to the RPF: “Bow or Blow”.

When I saw the ethics officer or the Bosun talking to him about the redeeming values of the RPF and how great it would be to do the FPRD, their eyes and gestures expressed yet a different message:

“You got a car outside in the parking lot, more money than the entire staff of the Complex together – so why don’t you just blow the joint. We’re all looking in a different direction, nobody will try to hold you back. Just leave us alone !”

But no, Marty appeared at every muster in bright clothes, a sharp contrast to the dark blue, greasy outfit of the rest of the bunch.

What an embarrassment to the Bosun!

What if some staff watched the muster and discovered this disgrace to the entire RPF? Worse, what if some exec would report her to the RPF I/C ?

It was not that Marty would have tried to interfere with anything that happened on the RPF, nor that he would have spent his time elsewhere (although he was driving around in his huge Ford station wagon and went to the movies every once a while). He was just present, watching the show, often expressing utter amazement.

For example, when I together with some other not-so-tall guys went under the galley. This was a three feet high gallery underneath the galley for the purpose of routing excess water (and other stuff which I don’t want to mention here) into the public water disposal system.
Every once a while, things were getting clogged, and someone, usually from the RPF’s RPF, had to crawl in there through a tiny window in the wall of the floor underneath it. Equipped with rakes, the water and other things were getting moved into the drain openings.

At that occasion, I happened to witness some of the largest cockroaches on this planet. And I overcame the claustrophobia that I had after a while, too. The very special smell that one was taking on after such a mission made people turn around in shock more than a hundred yards away.

It took easily three days with lots of showers to get rid of the worst. Still, many weeks after this, when I was back at my parent’s home, my mother complained about a very strange and peculiar smell on me, and she couldn’t quite figure out what to make of it.

Back to the RPF. It’s time for ‘success stories’:

Paul waves his hands. He had been in Ethics for three straight weeks because he refused to own up to his own overts as witnessed by his aggravation after getting slapped by DM.
The Bosun points to Paul. “Your turn tonight, Paul!”. She smiles, knowing that his little speech will be an impressive testimony for the effectiveness and righteousness of the RPF, herself, the Church, the Founder, in short all decent people. Screw everybody else, they’re criminal minds anyway.

Paul: “Well, you all know that I’m here on the RPF for what seems a very long time. But one thing I realized after the great sessions I got from my twin Pete and after the excellent ethics handling I received for nearly a month. Actually, I realized so many things, eh, just too many to list.

“Eh. Really, I was so unethical for so many millions of years that it is a true miracle that everything, I mean EVERYTHING, could be cleaned up in just a couple of weeks in Ethics on the RPF!

“I finally as-ised the source of my constant out-ethics completely and I’m ready to go back on post again. It is absolutely amazing how effectively the RPF rehabilitates even the worst out-ethics! I want to thank the Bosun, of course. Without her my rehabilitation would not have been possible. I’m so grateful, I don’t find the words for it really…”

Paul sits down again and all people clap their hands.

The Bosun is flattered and tries to hide it.

“Great success story, Paul. Thanks for sharing! Who else wants to share a success tonight?”

Marty turns around on the chair to pick something up from the table behind him. The Bosun freezes. It looked like Marty would have raised his arm.

In panic, she whirls around and starts staring at the huge blackboard behind her. After being immobilized for a moment, she is shouting: “That’s it. Let’s give the Commodore a hand.” A standing ovation follows. Three hipp-hipp-hurrays. More applause. All for and to a picture at the wall.

Only Marty remains seated reading in a book.

I hear a soft, deep voice behind me. I look around but there is only an empty cabinet.
Something feels strange around and about me. It seems as if time would run slower and then faster again. Like impinged upon by a ripple in the fabric of space and time, my perceptions warped.

Then I heard the voice again.
“How would YOU go about it?”

– End of Log #81 –

In case that awakened your appetite, all three volumes are now for sale on Amazon and I am proud to tell you that I had the honor of editing and applying last touches to volumes II and III.


40 Years in Space

Originally Written November 2007:

I ran into a collection of imagery of space from the 50s and 60s of the 20th century. Isn’t that amazing how that sound, speaking of the 20th century as so long ago?

One of the images I seemed to remember was of an outpost on the moon created by Frank Tinsley.

Frank Tinsley - Outpost on the moon

But then there was an image of a very early Perry Rhodan novella – and THAT was fascinating. I had not quite started to read science fiction when this novella first came out, but some six years later I certainly read this novella when it came out in the second or third edition – so I knew…

Perry Rhodan - Venus in Danger

… “Venus in Danger” – novella #20!

For many years after coming to the wild west I had my family in Germany collect Perry Rhodans for me and then send them to me in batch, but this had stopped now about 20 years ago.

So I have to admit, I am not quite up-to-date any more.

A few month ago I had realized that and found out that I could actually subscribe to an electronic version of the newest issued and get them in my email in-box. I had not subscribed at that time as I did not think I would have enough time to read them, but at least I got myself a little fix in form of a free issue that was offered – novella #2300!

Can you believe this – 2300 – at 52 weekly booklets that is about 46 years.

Perry Rhodan - Harbingers of Chaos
Harbingers of Chaos

So – what has changed in the last forty to fifty years?

Certainly the cover design feels more modern, but I am sure that the next half century will eradicate that difference. Then there is the price – the old one about 20 cents (at the exchange rate at that time) and the new one weighting in at about $2.50 – with the inflation rate I guess the price has remained stable.

Then there is one noticeable difference. The subtitle of the series in 1962 was “The Great Space Series” but today it’s simply “The Greatest Science Fiction Series.”

OK, now to work – gotta finally read my free novella “Vorboten des Chaos” – and maybe, just maybe, it’s so good that I will indeed subscribe.

Update 2011: I actually never managed to read the free sample and only stumbled across this blog post because in a server crash I had lost many of the images used in this blog and I just noticed there was another blog post without its pictures. So, I set out to find them again and, in the process, ran into some new info…

  1. We are now in the last quarter of the cycle 2500…2599, the second cycle nearly done after I checked last – about right at 52 novellas per year;
  2. There is now an encyclopedia of Perry Rhodan;
  3. A bigger part of the series is now available electronically and if bought in bulk (50 or 100 novellas at a time) it’s rather inexpensive at Eu 1.25

I would not want to read Perry’s on the computer – maybe that was one of the reasons I never finished my free sample, but now that the Kindle is only $140, one hundred Perry’s plus the Kindle is about the same price as buying all the physical novellas.


Luscombe, Lucy and Piper

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

So, here it is…

The following advertisement appeared in several aviation publications in 1987

The only reason I have this ad is, that Lucy, mentioned in this ad, 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 the advertised book. These are the pages that I did not want to discard…

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 experimental 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 the 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, well-used 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 Doylestown, 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 are the prices and the equipment list for these aircraft types as in the story above. This was mailed out to dealers and prospective customers shortly after Lucy and Jerry got married:

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


  • 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 had been published I started my flight training. During a visit to 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 airstrip: Hangar on top of a hill, the short 1000 foot 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 momentum 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 – yes, the same as in the story above. He had a more traditional airstrip if you can call it that – It started at the edge of a bluff and ended in his backyard. The similarity was that again, independent of wind, you took off in the opposite direction as you landed. The backyard was just big enough to turn a small airplane 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 backward in a right turn (you know that light aircraft don’t have reverse, do you?) Then full power and left rudder to complete the 180. On my first visit, I did not really know all that, but Jerry taught me later. He was a retired airline pilot and was still flying his 49 Bonanza (with a wooden propeller!) in and out of his airstrip 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 a few months later, started to collect flight hours and experience, and ended up buying a 1983 Piper warrior. A sales brochure of the warrior was one other item that I could have thrown out but fortunately not, so I can share it here.

At about 4 or 5 hundred hours, 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 friend’s motel first so they could drive up to Jerry and Lucy’s house (the very Lucy that eloped with Jerry decades ago) to pick me up and then pressed on to find that bush pilot’s dream runway. I was used to runways like Burbank so, a strip consisting of only two narrow rungs in the grass just wide enough for my wheels was quite a change.

Jerry and Lucy’s private airstrip

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

Over the years I flew into Jerry and Lucy’s airstrip a few times and it was always a different restored antique car that we or I were picked up in from the tie-down area 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 I told above. Now I don’t know how the story ends – if the airstrip 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 partner left behind often follows 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 Luscombe, Bonanza, or maybe in some cute little white space yacht.