N79FT A Skybolt Story

An Unintended Trip


On: Jul 07, 2014
In: blog
Tags: 9891U, flying

Heh. Multi-week moments of silence seem to start taking hold here. I haven't got much time to work on anything lately.

You see, I have finally decided that I am going to get myself something to fly while I work on the Bolt. I haven't flown for some months, and the withdrawal was settling in pretty badly.

Problem is, I moved to Texas about 8 months ago. Back where I lived before I used to own a 1/3 of a Grumman "N28797" Tiger; flying her at least once a week. I often would spend weekends bouncing between airports and hangar-flying in between hops, and took her to Oshkosh last year.

After moving, the only airplanes I was able to access were ratty Cherokees and Cessnas in a local flight school; and I could no longer go on my day-long hops just because it was too expensive. Writing $400 checks every time I went flying just... hurt, and I ended up not flying much.

So, a decision was made. I was to buy a plane.

A few strategically placed calls to my friends back in California immediately yielded a very good deal on a Grumman Cheetah (it had to be a Grumman of course) :).

Now, Cheetah is the same airframe as Tiger less 200 pounds of max gross and an O-320 instead of an O-360. Figuring that I now live on the right side of the Rockies and don't need to cross them much, my thinking is that Cheetah will actually suite my mission much better.

So, I hopped on a Winged Tubular Human Transporter, and was in CA a few hours later.

A mandatory airport shot. KAUS tower.

A mandatory airport shot. KAUS tower.

I was out of BFR; so we had to get that squared away first... No problem - AYA's Ben Rolfe, my good friend and Grumman mentor and fellow aficionado, told me that AYA was having a fly-in in Delano, and we went for it.

Oh man, I haven't flown a Grumman for a year! What a feeling it was to fly the airplane you truly know and love to fly, again.

Ben sharing bits of wisdom at Delano airport's restaurant

Ben sharing bits of wisdom at Delano airport's restaurant

Grummans (not quite a mile of them :) )

Grummans (not quite a mile of them :) )

Stu's Tiger

Stu's Tiger

The Bird of the Day: Ben's Tiger

The Bird of the Day: Ben's Tiger

..and finally, I meet the seller of my future plane at Abundant Air in Palo Alto. And the plane. 9891U!

Meet the Cheetah!

Meet the Cheetah!

LoPresti, Powerflow, and 160HP pistons STC. No wheelpants (will have to put those on, but okay for now). Basic panel. 400 hours on engine. Love it!

LeRoy loved her too. (LeRoy is my plush co-pilot. He likes Grumman Tigers the most, but liked this Cheetah a lot, especially 'cause of the colors. They got along real well!!!)

LeRoy getting acquainted

LeRoy getting acquainted

Over that week I was in CA after buying the plane, I have flew more than I have flew over 8 months in Texas.

I got checked out with Drew Kemp, my CFI and guru, gave some old friends a long-overdue ride over San Francisco, visited some more of the old friends in airports around CA, including the awesome Gary Vogt of AuCountry fame , and read lots of paperwork.

Funny thing: apparently one of the radios was stolen from this plane in 1995..

Stolen radio mentioned on this invoice

Stolen radio mentioned on this invoice

And finally, we were off to Texas!

Windmills in CA

Windmills in CA

LeRoy flying

LeRoy flying

Refueling in Apple Valley

Refueling in Apple Valley

CA-AZ border, Colorado River

CA-AZ border, Colorado River

Buckeye: approaching Phoenix. Lunch time!

Buckeye: approaching Phoenix. Lunch time!

After lunch in Phoenix, we took off... My second in command Dash noticed high oil temps -- and I reduced the climb, leveling off finally at 5500. The oil just did not want to cool! Half way between Phoenix and Tuscon, the oil finally got a bit cooler, and I attempted climbing some more, but no joy. The moment I start climbing, the oil would hit redline. After trying that a couple times, we decided to bail in Tuscon, and spend a night there. Plan was to take off at 5:30 in the morning, and get past high terrain that starts after Tuscon early in the morning.

Cooling off in the FBO at Ryan Field near Tuscon, we started looking for options. It was Saturday, so renting a car didn't work out. I found a business card for Jeannie's Taxi in the FBO and called her up.

Jeannie's great! She came out immediately, and took us back over a great little road winding thru the Black Mountain and Old Tuscon; and agreed to pick us up at 4:30 in the morning!! We also had a great conversation pretty much about everything as we drove.

Next came Demming, New Mexico. A sad sight of an Arrow stuck on a runway at a weird angle warned that something was amiss. Luckily, Demming had two runways so I landed on another one. Noticed guys at the FBO already rolling in a golf cart to a now obviously belly-landed retractable Arrow, and decided to just wait.

The FBO guys rolled in a few minutes later. "What happened? Did he forget?" - "He forgot". Oh well. Gas-Undercarriage-Mixture-Prop...

One of the guys started fueling us. They have already lifted the Arrow, extended the landing gear, and rolled her into a spare hangar by the time we were leaving.

Fort Stockton was our last en-route stop; and three hours after that we were approaching San Marcos, my temporary home.

17 hours.

What a trip.

I am no longer planeless.

Amen.

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