The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Happy New Year 2020!

Wow, 2020.  Seems so futuristic.

Sealab 2020 (1972)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s 2020 seemed so far away with it’s underwater cities and moon bases.  Here it is and we don’t live underwater or on the moon.  Instead we’ve expanded to living in tents on sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

But I’m not going to turn this into social commentary.  I am, however, going to take a look at the past 10 years and how much things have changed for my family.  Way back in 2010 I was building my second airplane with the help of my kids.  I did the majority of the work but they did help on many components.

We were attending church at Central Valley Presbyterian where I was a deacon.  Also, Cristy had to make an emergency trip back home to the Philippines because her father passed away. That’s how the decade began.

In 2011 I sold our pop-up tent trailer in which I had taken the family on several camping trips.  The most memorable of which was Zion Canyon National Park.  I also flew the Rans S6 to Oshkosh, WI for EAA Airventure.  My oldest graduated high school.

In 2012 we took a family trip to Maui.  Yep, all of us, mother-in-law included.  However, my daughter had broken her ankle just prior to the trip… and then came down with a cold!  She didn’t get to have much fun in Hawaii, poor thing.  But she made up for that later.

In 2013 life was pretty much on auto-pilot.  Going to work, going home.  Home-schooling our daughter was coming to an as we put her in a private school so she could get some socialization and a real-live high school diploma.  Two kittens named Jovie and Truffles showed up in my son’s pockets one day when he came home.  Truffles still lives with us.  Jovie moved on shortly after he came to live with us.  Cristy and I also took a trip to Oregon to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.


In 2014 I was beginning to explore full-time RV living.  I started coming up with a plan to travel from property to property for my employer to do network work.  However 2015 would put an end to those dreams, temporarily.

2015 was a harbinger of change for our lives.  Our daughter graduated from high school and we changed churches.

2015 was also when I had an accident in my airplane.  I landed up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and took the landing gear off.  Hey, it could happen to anybody!  Unfortunately, it happened to me.  We got a big insurance settlement and everything was good.  I was putting the airplane up for sale anyway.  It was at this point Cristy and I were seriously looking at RV’s so I was looking for a more portable form of aviation.  I found it in the form of powered paragliding.

2016 was a gut punch.  I was told that my entire department would be laid off that year.  Also my son was going through some extreme behaviors.  It seemed like my life was about to hit rock bottom.  SEEMED.  We started putting my son in group homes which he kept getting kicked out of due to his behaviors.  But 2016 was the year God truly moved in our lives.  He found a home that was able to really work with my son.  And He found me a job.  This is when I started working at San Joaquin General Hospital.  To celebrate my getting a job we took a family road trip to SoCal.  I also got a Ham radio license so I could legally use a Ham radio on my powered-paraglider.


In 2017 life started getting somewhat better for us.  My son was living in a home only 5 miles from where I worked.  My daughter was getting very involved in church and starting college.  Cristy and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii.






Also, Angela finished the Spartan Race

By 2017 I had sold my powered paraglider and had bought my powered parachute.  Cristy and I had also started walking more, trying to get in shape.

2018 was another year that brought a lot of change.  Mostly in me.  Through walking and intermittent fasting I was able to lose about 50 lbs.

This is me just prior to losing weight…

And this is what I looked like post weight loss…

2019 was a sad year.  We lost my sister Sheila to cancer.  We lost my wife’s cousin Jaime to kidney disease.  I was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.

2019 was a happy year because we became part of a small group at our new church.  We received a lot of support from them and they came along side us in prayer many times.  The doctors were able to remove all of the melanoma.  I also sold my powered parachute and began flying rental airplanes.  I got back into regular airplanes after a young man from my old church took me for a ride to pay me back for all those times I took him for rides when he was learning to fly.  Now we fly together whenever we can.

2019 ended with my son being removed from a bad living situation in the group home he was in.  He now lives back in town with us, which, he has been asking for quite some time.  My daughter also bought a poodle this year.

It’s been a tumultuous decade.  We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last 10 years.  Who knows where we’ll be 10 years from now.  Not sure but I sure like where we are now.  I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 10 years for anything.  I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and Providence countless times.  I see God’s love in those around me every day.  I don’t expect that to change much.  I’ll keep doing what I can to reflect God’s love to those around me.








Missionary Flying

When I was building my airplanes, I always wished that I could somehow use my gifts in aviation for the Lord.  I wanted to fly in the missions field.  But the guys that do usually have tons of flight hours and sponsorship.  I gave up on ever being able to fly for Christ.

However, I got an email this week that really encouraged me.  The email was from a missionary who is getting ready to purchase my old Rans S6ES.  This plane was badly damaged in a landing accident in the Sierra foothills.  I was trying to sell the plane anyway so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment.   The missionary was wanting confirmation that the plane he was going to buy really was my old airplane.  After sending me a few pictures I was able to positively confirm it was my airplane.  The outside looks completely different but the panel is just as I had built it.

Even though I will never fly the mission field it’s good to know that I contributed to Christ’s Kingdom in some small way.


I won’t fly in the missions field but my airplane will!  Soli Deo Gloria!

PPC Assembly Day 11

Progress for today:

  1. Strobe mounted and wired in.
  2. Fuel tubes and squeeze bulb fabricated.
  3. Battery ground cable installed.

I found that I mounted the started solenoid in the wrong place.  It can still work here.  The only problem would be the longer rear wire.  If I can’t tuck it away safely, I’ll move the solenoid.


Let’s Talk Airplanes – The Rans S6ES

I recently received this comment on post to this blog:

“We became acquainted on BCP and I’ve always kinda looked forward to seeing your posts. A parachute, really? Ha! Just kidding. When I took the 120 hour LSRM course at Rainbow aviation I got signed off to do work and annuals on those.

But that’s not the point. I broke my back in late January and am now starting to get around a little better. Life is moving on. I don’t want to be a builder. I bought a CH-701 kit and have done nothing in about 3 years. I want to start flying again before I croak or lose my mind. So, I can’t even get in a Cub type and the wife won’t stand for a tandem anyway. After lots of thought, I think I need an S-6 of some sort. You of course are the resource that comes to mind. I need to sell my 701 parts and half a dozen guitars first probably but I think I can swing $40K or so.

Sails? Conventional covering? ES? ELS? S? What? I don’t know anything. Like Sargent Shultz. It would be nice to find one registered ELSA so I can do all the work and sign offs but finding an A&P is not impossible.”

Excellent questions.

The Rans S6 is one of the bargains in aviation today.  You can still buy a brand new one from the factory for far less than $100K.  You can build one for less than $50K.  You can buy one used for less than $40K.  They are good, honest flying airplanes.  They have Cub like performance and are as docile as a Cessna.  Stalls are straighforward.  The S6 is not prone to wing drop on either side, just a slow shudder and straight over the nose.  The wings also fold on these units if you’re into that sort of thing.  I NEVER folded my wings but that option is there for those who desire it.  The visibilty out of the cockpit is STUNNING.  You have a large windscreen, low panel, the roof is a skylight, and the doors are all clear Lexan so if you don’t paint the bottoms of the doors (as many do) you have great visibilty to the side and down.  The controls are positioned very comfortably and are right where you would expect them to be.  A big plus in my book was having the flap handle right next to me.  The Johnson bar was easy to reach and deply or stow quickly.  No need to bury your face in the instrument panel just to reach the flap bar like on the older Cessnas.

However, there are a few things you need to consider when buying or building one.

  • What engine?

Rotax 912S. 100 HP.  Easy decision.  While the plane will fly admirably on the 80HP Rotax 912, the extra 20 ponies the 912S gives you are well worth it.  You will have the Cub like performance you are hoping for which can get you out of a lot of bad situations.

  • Dacron or regular aircraft fabric

I wouldn’t be afraid of either one.  Dacron is generally tougher than standard aircraft fabric, and easier to put it.  But it is transluscent, you can’t see the underlying structure of the aircraft but light will shine through Dacron.  It has a somewhat shorter lifespan that traditional covering but can last every bit as long if the aircraft is hangared.  I never had any problems with my dacron coverings but it does make the aircraft look “ultra-lighty” and some guys don’t like that.  The benefit to using regular airraft covering is that you can paint it any color you like where the Dacron color choices and striping is limited.  The drawback to regular fabric is… you have to paint it.

  • Nosewheel or tailwheel

Ah, this debate shall rage throughout the ages.  I have only ever owned tailwheel aircraft because I enjoy the challenge that comes from flying them (or should I say, taxiing them, taking off, and landing them.)   Tailwheels just look like they belong off-airport and they work very well off-airport.  I love tailwheel aircraft.  Having said that I would recommend a nosewheel for a couple fo reason.  First, the nosewheels on these airplanes are built STOUT.  You’ll be able to handle any sort of off-airport work you want (except perhaps for the ribbing you’ll get from the tailwheel pilots).  But you’ll be able to land anywhere they will.   Second, resale value.  When I was selling my airplane I had several callers say “no thank you” when they found out it was a tailwheel.  Give these airplanes can be flown in the light sport category you’ll have much better resale value when it does come time to trade up, down, or sideways on a different airplane.

So those are my impressions from building and 5 years of flying my Rans S6ES.  If you have questions, let’s hear them!  I love talking airplanes.

And to the gentleman who posed the original question, I’ll give you a call. 🙂

Those that have and those that will

I did.  I had put my plane up for sale, and was getting ready to drive my daughter 300 miles so she could perform in a music festival.  I decided to take a quick flight up to a local airstrip in the foothills to pick up a book I bought.  Wind was calm at the field and everything looked good. I made two passes from the north, and then two more from the south to see what the best approach would be. I decided that given wind on the ground and obstructions it would be best to land from south to north. I set up and was making a picture perfect approach. However, I ended up coming in short and my landing gear impacted a berm at the south end of the runway that I had not seen from the air. (You can see the direction I was approaching from in the second picture, note how the field looks flat leading to the tree line, it isn’t it is undulating.) The top of the berm is level with the runway, and runs downhill to the south. There was an optical illusion in play that made the ground look flat when it really wasn’t. After impacting the berm the airplane bounced about 10 to 15 feet in the air and then impacted the ground approximately 50 feet from the end of the runway. The aircraft slid maybe another 5 feet or so after impact. The engine stopped immediately on impact.

With the sound of the plane’s ground impact still echoing in my ears (somewhere between a loud pop and a bang) I slowly moved my feet and toes to make sure they were fine. Moved my legs. All good! But ooh, my back! I crawled out and called my wife. She was just happy I wasn’t hurt. At least not much. Nothing but a skinned knuckle and sore back.

The plane was picked up by Plain Parts and stored at their location in Pleasant Grove.  At the time I didn’t know of anyone who could work on my plane so the insurance company found a guy. After one month had gone by and we hadn’t heard from him I called Rans and they recommended Rainbow Aviation in Corning.  My plane moved there and I am now waiting for the repair estimate.  Depending upon the price the insurance company could elect to total.  So, we’ll see.



My S6ES Coyote is for sale

Yes the time has come for my beloved Coyote and I to part ways.  I really enjoy this little airplane.  We’ve had a lot of adventures together.  But I need to get some college money ready for a certain someone.  Plus I’ve become convicted that I need to downsize my life drastically.  Selling the airplane and hangar are the first steps towards doing this.  So with out further ado, here are some links to sites with the for sale info:

My Barnstormers ad:

Link to my “For Sale” Flyer:

Christmas comes to Red Hills

With getting prepared for Christmas and the bad weather I haven’t been able to fly much.  Then on the 26th we finally had some good weather!  I jumped in the plane and headed up to Jack Moyle’s strip up in the Red Hills.  As usually his three dogs came bolting out at the airplane before I had even shut down.  That’s quite the sight the first time you see these three bruisers running at you.  But they are in fact the welcoming committee and did their job just fine.

Jack came out and met me and we walked back up to his house.  Myrna met us as we came in from the cold.  I handed them a gift-wrapped box of chocolates as a Christmas gift.  Well, since it was the 26th I guess that could be considered Boxing Day.  We had a nice visit and caught up with what has been happening the last few months.  Jack and Myrna are still having their Easter get together to which all pilots are invited.  We also set the date for the 2nd Annual Red Hills Fly In for Memorial Day weekend.  A great way to kick off the summer flying season!

Jack had things to do as did I so this was a relatively short visit.  They are the most wonderful folks you could ever hope to meet.  Jack had just rolled the strip and with the recent rains it looks absolutely wonderful.

High Sierra Fly In 2014

It’s taken me a few weeks to actually write about my flying camping trip in Nevada.  There are several reasons which will become apparent.

I was originally scheduled to depart on Monday but decided I needed an extra day to get ready and that gave me one more day with Cristy anyway. Smile  So after loading the plane up on Monday afternoon I was ready for a Tuesday morning departure.  The plan was to fly up to Owyhee Reservoir in eastern Oregon and camp a couple of nights there, then head down to the High Sierra Fly In near Yerington, NV.  That WAS the plan.

It was a beautiful clear Autumn morning.  I flew direct from Oakdale, via Georgetown, then on to Susanville.  I like this route because it is a lower route over the Sierras.  The only downside is, you’re over them that much longer.  But since I was heading north anyway, this seemed the best way to go.  I landed in Susanville for fuel but was delayed an hour there.  One fuel truck was out of fuel and the other one wouldn’t start up.  And the motor needs to run for it to pump fuel.  So I had to wait while the line gal drove the empty fuel truck out to their fuel depot to fill it back up.

After finally fueling up in Susanville I departed again to the north.  It was getting pretty late in the morning and the bumps were already starting.  I still had 5 hours to go to get to Owyhee and I decided that I didn’t want to spend 5 hours in the bumps.  I elected to divert to Solider Meadows instead.  Soldier Meadows is a working cattle ranch that is also a bed and breakfast in.  They also allow camping.  They also have an air strip!  However, I figured (wrongly) that I would not have enough fuel to reach Solder Meadows and have enough fuel to get to the next airport.  So as it happened when I came to that realization (again, wrongly) I was flying over the Black Rock Desert.  Now they have the Burning Man festival there every year and I know they land airplanes down there.  I thought it might be fun to camp on a huge dry lakebed.

So I flew around and looked for a likely landing spot.  I found an area that seemed okay.  I set up for my landing.  As the wheels touched down everything felt fine so I allowed the plane to slow… and then my wheels broke through the surface crust!   I felt the sudden deceleration and instantly knew what was happening.  I put in full throttle but the plane wouldn’t accelerate!  I looked down at my main wheels and they were rolling but were up to the axles in hard crust and mud underneath!  My tailwheel was acting like a plow blade, just dragging along below the surface crust.  I was able to jockey my tail up into the air but then the mains sunk even deeper and I felt the airplane starting to nose over!  Bad.  I relaxed the stick and the tailwheel went back to being stuck in the mud below the surface.

I finally slammed the stick back and forth a few times and that was enough to keep the tail up and the mains finally climbed atop the crust.  It only took a few seconds of that and the airplane was airborne again!  I climbed out and pointed myself straight for Winnemucca!  I decided at this point I would much rather stay in a hotel, get a hot shower, and sleep the rest of the day!

I landed in Winnemucca.  I fueled up at the self-service fuel pump.  The VERY pretty line girl came out to help anyway and told me all about the airplane she had just bought and how she wanted to fix it up.  I asked her if she was married (not for me), I told her I couldn’t believe that.  She was a young pilot’s dream.  I also noticed some water under my plane.  Dang.  It turned out that one of the guys in the main hangar was a light sport mechanic.  He offered to take a look.  He found several loose hose connections and tightened them up for me.  He refused to take any money!  After that the line girl offered me their courtesy car.  I drove into town, got a hotel, took that hot shower, and then rested the remainder of the day.


The next day was much better.  I drove back out to the airport, returned the keys to the car, hopped in my airplane, took off and started following I-80 southwest.  Once I got to Lovelock I skirted the restricted airspace to my east and then continued on towards Yerington.  The actual destination was 11 nm northwest of Yerington in a dry lakebed that we call “Three Shotgun Shells.”  It’s called that because that’s what the guy who landed there first found.   As I approached I saw a camper and an airplane already on the ground.  I tuned to our pre-arranged radio frequency for the lakebed and called my intentions to land to the east.  I heard our event organizer Kevin welcome me and told me the lakebed was in great shape.  I was a little nervous given the previous day’s events.  Especially when  turned final; the lakebed was shiny, like it was wet.  I was assured it was hard as concrete and when I touched down and rolled out, it was indeed harder and smoother than my home airport.

I turned and taxied to the south side of the lakebed, being directed to miss some debris that had not yet been cleaned up.  I picked a good spot to camp and then shut the airplane down.  I spent the next hour or so setting up my tent, putting in the ground anchors to tie my airplane down, and then just relaxing under the wing of the plane.  Soon another early arrival showed up.  A super nice guy by the name of Wally who does REALLY interesting things in the Middle East when he isn’t flying in the desert.  I mostly just relaxed the rest of the day, watched the sun set, ate my MRE for dinner, then relaxed around a fire with Kevin and Wally.  This was as peaceful as the event would be.


The next day we flew to Minden to meet some of the guys that were flying in early. (Ha!).  We had a great breakfast at the Taildragger Café.  I did some local site seeing by air, flew to Yerrington to get fuel and call Cristy (there was only spotty cell coverage at the lakebed) and then back up to Three Shotgun Shells to relax and watch the arrivals for the rest of the day.


The next day, Friday, was the first actual day of the fly in.  Kevin held an early morning safety briefing.  He talked about what frequencies we should use, what places were available for landings, etc.  Each landing zone was classified by skill level, did you need big tires, etc.  I elected to go to the wimpy landing spots for guys with little tires and little experience.  I could probably handle tougher spots but I don’t feel the need to do that.  The first place our group landed was a place called The Long Road. It was just a long dirt road.


It was while here that we surprised an old guy that was camping just off the road.  I wonder what he thought seeing all these airplanes come taxiing over the hill?  It was also here that we heard a loud bang.  That bang was a tire being blown by a gentleman landing his plane at one of the tougher spots up the hill.  He hit a concrete block with his landing gear and pretty much totaled his airplane.  He spent the rest of the flyin driving back to southern California with his buddies to pick up a truck and trailer to haul his broken airplane home.  THIS is why I only land in the sissy spots.

The sissy group took off again and we landed at a couple more spots before heading back to Three Shotgun Shells.  I actually left a little early to gas up in Yerington, buy lunch, and call Cristy.


A dry lakebed called “Far East”

That’s Wally leaning on me.  This was one of the many dry lakebeds we landed in on this trip.  This one was called “Split Second Decision”

The next day the fly in was in full force!  All in all by the end of Saturday we had 103 airplanes camping on the lakebed!


Saturday morning consisted of more fly-outs and breakfast runs.  There were a lot of planes in the groups.  Too many for my comfort so I just went off on my own and filmed some video.  Here is what I came up with.  This is a video of me landing at Far East, and Three Shotgun Shells. Sorry no pretty music, just engine and wind noise.

Saturday night was the crown jewel of the event!  We had a free catered dinner provided by Men Wielding Fire.  We had fireworks, we had a flame thrower, we had a bonfire!  Lost of camaraderie and good times.

But almost like a foreshadowing of things to come, a gentle breeze started around 9pm. By 10pm it had picked up.  By 11pm when I was heading to bed, it started blowing harder.  By 1am, my tent was laying down on top of me.  I’d estimate it was blowing 40 kts gusting to 50.  This went on until about 4am when the wind finally died down enough that I could stand my tent back up.  I fell asleep for about two hours and then woke up at 6am and started breaking down my camp.  It was still a little breezy but not bad.  And the breeze was out of the east now rather than the north.  We were taking off to the east and the breeze would help all our heavy airplanes got off the ground that much earlier.

I could up with my buddy Joey Myers and asked him if he’d like to fly back as a flight of 2.  Always nice to have company over the mountains.  He readily agreed and we fired up and taxied out.  Joey got out to the run up area first.  I halted my taxi for another airplane; Tyler Adams in his Savannah.  His engine was running and I thought he wanted to taxi out as well.  He did not. He throttled up and took off to the north rather than to the east as others were doing.  He rolled maybe 150 feet and was climbing.  I waited for the dust to settle and then continued my taxi.  I got to the runup area and was just starting my pretakeoff checks when someone called on the radio “Guys, we have one down.”  I looked up to see a fireball trailing thick smoke coming down from the north side of the lakebed.  There was debris fluttering down all around the smoke.

It was Tyler.  I thought that his wings came off or something.  It was right where he would have been.  I came to find out that another airplane, a Cessna 170 piloted by Tom Weis that was on downwind struck him.  Both men died instantly.  Lots of people ran over the small rise to try to help.  I elected to just kneel beside my airplane and pray for the men and their families.  I knew both of them online at where we all met and planned this fly in.  But I only met them in person at this event.  I still considered them good friends since I had known them for several years.  After praying for a while I got back in my airplane and took off.

The wind was still blowing pretty good up at altitude.  My airplane which only goes about 100 MPH was showing a ground speed of 137 MPH.  It was relatively smooth until I reached Lake Tahoe.  It started getting bumpy and then I had to swerve to avoid two airplanes coming from Lake Tahoe at the wrong altitude.  A near mid-air of my own.  The ride over the mountains was bumpy and unnerving.  I followed Hwy 50 all the way to the valley and then hung a left to head south.  20 minutes later I was making a lousy landing at Oakdale.  I didn’t care.  I was home safe.  I would see my family and take a hot shower and be able to hold my wife all night, unlike my two friends.


So would I go again?  You bet I would!  How do I feel about this trip?  Bittersweet.  I love the fun we had and the camaraderie.  It is so refreshing to spend time with a couple hundred people who really understand you.  It’s refreshing to spend time alone with your thoughts in the middle of nowhere.  Losing Tyler and Tom was a punch to the gut.  I have been blaming myself off and on… if only I had not stopped my taxi and made Tyler wait…  But I remind myself that it isn’t my fault.  It’s no one’s fault.  We had two able pilots in the pattern.  It was their responsibility to see and avoid.  Plus, sometimes accidents just happen. They are no one’s fault.  I take consolation that these men spent their last hours on earth doing something they loved with a bunch of kindred spirits.  I also take consolation that when it’s my turn… God will catch me.

God bless you both Tyler and Tom.  May God provide for your families.   You have seen the face of Christ and no longer worry about this life.  Hope to see you both again one day.