Of note in our aviation life…

While postponed by the Covid restrictions, I was eventually able to schedule a slot at Baker’s School of Aeronautics. Steve and I braved airline travel to Nashville, TN, was able to visit with our good friends there and I began class to prepare for my A&P knowledge, oral and practical tests.

The 3 ways to take the tests are similar to pilot testing-have military equivalent, go through a 2 year school or show 30 months of training with an A&P supervising your work. I was able to document the 30 months to the FSDO and was signed off to proceed to the testing.

The first week at Baker’s is preparing for the 3 knowledge tests. First Airframes, then General and finally Powerplants. It’s done in this order because PP is typically the most difficult and passing the first two allows an applicant to continue to the Oral and Practical and get an A license and come back for the P license. There is a question bank and a practice test. Passing the practice test determines if you proceed to the actual test or need more training. I passed all 3 tests on the first try, finished the last one Saturday morning and had Sunday off (to watch the Navy-Army Game).

I mentioned the 3 ways to get to the testing and I was fortunate to come together with other more “mature” applicants with experimental backgrounds. The second week brought two more individuals to our study group. The study group was key because we needed to practice for the Oral part of the exam. With experimental experience, I had more experience than I thought but still learned a LOT from the discussion with the group. We also had a ringer in the person of Heidi! She was actually working as a mechanic and clarified finer points. But I get ahead of the story because all the Oral practice is done after hours.

The 2nd week at Baker’s is preparation for the Orals and Practicals. After a brief introduction, we are taken to the workshop and shown some of the more common projects then released to attempt them or work on the Orals. I was told my exam would be on Saturday but was moved up to Friday when a position opened up.

My practice rivets. Christmas was right around the corner and Steve always wants a hand made gift…
My first practice flare and Steve’s second Christmas present

I was nervous on whatever came next that I wasn’t working on. In the workshop, I felt I should be working on the Orals; at night, I wanted to retry something from the workshop. Of our group of 5, 2 went on Thursday, 2 on Friday and one on Saturday. We all passed but Heidi had the worst test the examiners had ever given.

The reason the A&P rating is the hardest I’ve every taken is because the test is long, randomly generated and very difficult to study for everything. There are 44 sections; the FAA generates 7 questions for each section. The examiner asks any 4, you have to get 3 correct to go to the next section. If not, you have to answer the remaining 3 or you fail the Orals. I passed the Orals and began the Practicals, also randomly generated. The whole process started at 6 am and I finished at 12:45.

The hardest FAA rating so far…

End of summer adventure, 12-20 Sep 2019

We have one last loose end to tie. Our AirCam is located near Chicago and needs to come west.

We complete basic maintenance on the AirCam over the first two days in IL. We are ready to go but weather puts us on hold. We spend a few days sightseeing in Chicago.

The Bean
Cruise along downtown
On the pier

We prefer to fly early morning before any turbulence develops. When we finally have the weather to launch, we say goodbye and thank you to our Oshkosh friends and take off.

We fly generally toward the southwest and are rarely over 500’ above the ground. It is amazing to see all the details of life going on below, feel the uplifts as the ground begins to heat and even wave to people below!

On our second day we encounter a storm line that forced us back to the north. We land in Beatrice, NE which became a highlight of the trip. The KBIE airport manager chatted at us when we called in, offered a courtesy car, local restaurant knowledge, hotel critiques and since it was still early in the day, suggested we visit Homestead National Monument just a few miles down the road.

On Homestead NM, replanted to prairie grasses

Homestead NM is not a very big monument. The part we visited was on about 10 acres of land and was part of the first homestead. There are 3 miles of trails and the museum is a 2 story building that you can walk through, reading everything, in about an hour. We were there for over 5. The history is interesting but the Park Ranger/curator/historian made a huge difference in our visit. There is a bank of computers that are connected to ALL the BLM homesteading records, military records, Ancestry.com and US census reports and we typed name after name into the search engines. Steve learned several interesting facts about his family’s relatives.

Headed southwest

The next morning we continue southwest. The AirCam flies at about 70 mph. We plan to fly 2 legs each day and each leg is about 300 miles. We sometimes fly a little less depending on the winds, weather and fuel available at the airports. The plane can stay up a little longer than the 4 hours in our plan but after morning tea, I can’t; however, it’s usually a coin flip as to who starts the fueling and who gets to sprint to the bathroom!

Water is life

We tackled an interesting technical dilemma when landing near Lake Powell. We had made reservations at the nearby lodge. Our directions were to call from the airport/parking lot (U07-Bullfrog Basin) and the shuttle would be along in about 15 minutes. From about 20 miles out and when we landed, we had NO cell phone coverage. The parking lot had vehicles and one other plane tied down but no people. Our solution–we used our DeLorme InReach to text Steve’s brother in CA the phone number to the lodge in UT. He called and asked for our shuttle. Twenty minutes later we were checking into our room.

Flying 500’ above the desert in Monument Valley was awesome. The AirCam has amazing visibility from the canopy.

NOT the Grand Canyon-NE of Monument Valley

We finally get stopped by a huge wind event but are able to land at North Las Vegas. Inbound to the airport, our plan is to tie down the plane, get a rental car and be home by midnight. That changed to “let’s just relax and spend the night in Vegas” which became “Wait! The Eagles are playing tonight and we can get opening night tickets!” Needless to say we spent the night in Vegas and drove home much later the next morning.

Back to STX (30 May – 11 June 2019)

I ride JetBlue to FL then the American Airlines flight to St. Croix. I’m back on island to fly for Seaborne for another week. First I need to complete annual training and another check ride.

Oddly (for a pilot), I love check rides. Don’t take that wrong, I study like crazy, obsess over small points that will never be on the check ride, have anxiety and don’t sleep well, but when I finally get in the plane, I feel awesome. This time the check ride is 2.5 hours. The only maneuver we don’t perform is the high rate of descent which is fun in the Twin Otter but not really a maneuver you need much since we rarely fly over 4000 feet. I pass and I get a day off then fly the line for 5 days. Great fun.

Flying the Twin Otter in the USVI

When I am not flying, I reacquainted myself with some friends over tacos and at Castaways, catch a movie, go to the Seaside Markets Wine Night, see my lizard friends and the beautiful flowers that are every where.

Twin Otter First Officer

Airline float plane-harbor to harbor

Outside my hotel room

Island iguana

It was great to be flying again but I knew I was missing out on the boat transit back to FL. Steve buddy-boated (kind of) with another Seawind then made the jump across the Gulf Stream. When I finished my flying week, the boat was already back to FL and I did not get to make one last trip to Nassau.

Like all things in life, one choice means that you miss out on some other things. So “make good choices”!

Safe travels,


Never flying wheels again!

We have an AirCam that we finished in May 2017. We put the completed plane on amphibious floats because we are both seaplane pilots hoping to fly for the only seaplane airline in the US.

In Sebring FL

The AirCam came with wheels but we bought already completed floats and flew our FAA required hours as a seaplane based at Fresno-Chandler Airport (KFCH). We flew N289WT to Oshkosh,WI that year then to Missouri. I stayed in MO to complete the 100 hr Inspections (really it was because of the eclipse-my Mom’s house was in the path of totality); Steve had business to take care of in Alaska and CA.

We decided we’d fly home the southern route and since there’s not much water-“let’s go back on wheels!” The switch was made; we didn’t fly back to CA but stayed in MO then back to Oshkosh as a wheeled home built.

The problem is that we have jobs now. All our maintenance is done in 4 day sprints because we only get a 6 day break each month. There’s a day of travel on each end, then a frenzy of work until the next month. I completed most of the conditional inspection during my 6 days in September; Steve then got the wheels off and floats assembled and on during his 6 days. Each month we’d tackle what was left on the list but the whole time we are WORKING on the plane and NOT FLYING the plane.

It’s killing us.

This week we are so close…



This one fitting took 3 days to attach. I noticed a kink in the line just above the connection-a failure in the gear UP line waiting to happen. The gear slot is about 4″ wide; the wrench gets about 1/12 turn to loosen or tighten. The hydraulic line has a nut, ferrel, insert combo that has to get perfectly aligned in order to get a no leak connection AND it’s all done by touch. In order to reach the fitting, I can’t see the fitting.

We got that connected today.

Then we had to bleed the system and do drop checks. Next we had to work bubbles out of the brake system. It was ok so we finally got to pull the plane out of the hangar to start the engines!

The brakes won’t hold at wide open throttle (WOT); one engine was perfect at 5550 rpm the other was 80 rpm too high; both idled too high for floats. This means I have to cut off all the safety wire on the high rpm engine, re-pitch the props, run up to check WOT rpm until it’s right. That can be an hour or days. When it’s right, I torque all the bolts one more time, install safety wire and run up one more time. Then start adjusting the idle down. I also still need to continue with bleeding all the bubbles out of the brake system…

Once the plane is finally ready, Steve will take her for a test flight and we will finally be able to enjoy her again!

Since most of our maintenance delays were a result of the hydraulic lines in both the gear and floats, we will NEVER go back to wheels.

But just in case, I’m painting them so they look good. 😉