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.

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.

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…

Disconnected

Connected

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. 😉