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…

Life Changes…(June-October 2019)

We made the decision to wait out hurricane season in Brunswick, GA at the Brunswick Landing Marina. The marina is near a former submarine base in a backwater with lots of swampy land around. We felt it was a good choice to absorb the effects of a potental hurricane. I don’t think I’d want to live-aboard with the swamp bugs and humidity but it was a safe hurricane hole.

With the boat secured, we drive back to FL. We still have vehicles and airplanes to move. Our current “plan” (which tends to change frequently-sometimes hourly) is to come back to the boat in about 6-8 weeks and venture north towards the Annapolis Boat show in October, then either make the jump to the Med or head east then south to return to the Bahamas for a season.

We load two hangars of tools, parts and stuff that didn’t move onto the boat into my car and an enclosed trailer. Steve is driving our truck/camper combo and is towing an airplane. We made quite the sight as we caravanned towards AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI.

Truck/camper with Zenith on straight floats
Subaru w/3000 lb tow
My view for 3000 miles…

We have an uneventful trip to WI and rebuild the airplane. We also have a short window where Steve was able to fly commercial back to FL and bring our AirCam to AirVenture.

First time Zenith is on floats!
Steve flies volunteers from the Seaplane Base

During AirVenture, we decide we have to bring our life back on the west coast. A friend kindly offers a hangar for the AirCam near Chicago and we gratefully accept. Our little caravan continues west to CA and gets parked at home. We have enough time to put things away and into storage as appropriate, then we have planned travel to visit our daughter in Alaska where she is employed at her first “real” job after college.

Alaska was wonderful. Sarah is a CFI (certified flight instructor) training pilots to be seaplane pilots. She was able to take a few days to train me in preparation for taking my check ride to become a flight instructor also.

Sarah is an excellent instructor
Sarah also instructed her dad in flying the Pacer on floats

During our time in AK, Hurricane Dorian spun about 40 miles off the coast of GA before turning north. Fortunately, there was only 30-40 mph winds and no damage. The marina posted drone footage showing every dock and boat on their website. That was a relief.

Magenta circle is Brunswick, GA and ALWAYS

We also managed two additional trips during the fall. They had been planned around going back to the boat and the east coast but…life changes. The first trip was to Nashville, the second to NY, DC and Annapolis which ended in NC.

Sightseeing in Nashville
Trisha Yearwood-back on tour!
New York City
The wand chooses the wizard…at The Cauldron
You’re a witch!!!
30 year reunion, Annapolis, MD

We drifted down to NC. Sarah was meeting her cousin for a cross country drive and we would be headed back to CA because our boat shipping date had been delayed….again. All our plans have become very flexible. Our summer was very busy but also exciting as we adjusted back to the west coast.

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,


Newest Alaska float plane instructor

Our daughter recently graduated from college (Yay! SO proud of her!) and was hired over the phone as a bartender at our local ski area. She said that after finishing college in 3 years, she wanted an easy job–and her first day was a 13 hour shift.

After 3 months, she decided she’d been cold long enough. The ski area would be closing soon; she gave 2 weeks notice and booked a flight east. Her plan was to stay with her cousin a week, then come crew during the Gulf Stream crossing. Unfortunately (for us), she was hired (over the phone again) to be a flight instructor in Talkeetna, AK. As our repairs dragged out and her new job start date got closer, the window of time available for her to crew closed.

Steve and Sarah at Sun n Fun 2019

After a brief visit to sunshine, she’s now back in the snow getting ready to take her CFI check ride. I guess she really does like the snow! I’m so proud of her!

On the Alaska Ferry

First day of work-poor Prius

New “office”