When I first decided to build an airplane 11 years ago, the intention was that I could use it to visit my kids away at college at some godforsaken land. They were young at the time and I just figured that how it would go. It didn't go that way; both stayed in the Twin Cities.
But now that it's done, I'm already seeing an entirely new role for the plane to play -- keeping them in touch and spending more time with them than I otherwise would. A plane makes a mighty nice flying carpet.
My son, Sean, hasn't flown with me since he was a junior in high school, when we had a nice trip to Sleepy Eye for a class project. The flight ended back at Flying Cloud when I messed up an instruction to make left traffic, turned left instead, and approached the departure end of the runway.
But after last week's homecoming, I invited Sean to fly with me up to Madeline Island in Lake Superior, which is a wonderful place, has a little strip, a short walk to the ferry, which takes you over to Bayfield and its many shops.
I calculated the trip would take a little over an hour and it was an hour and 20 minutes (gotta get those leg fairings on). We took the ferry to Bayfield, found a place to eat, played a game of pool and generally relaxed as the storm clouds we knew would roll in, rolled in.
As we ate we talked about flying and Sean said he'd like to fly someday, even though some of his medicines are on the FAA disqualification list. But, I told him, there's always light sport and EAA and AOPA are pushing hard to eliminate the Third Class Medical.
So now I have to find out whether it's possible that a CFI could use my plane to provide flight training. It'd be great to have him work toward at least being able to fly, even if he couldn't fly PIC right now. Either that or I need to get started on the RV-12.
By the way as we were walking from the airport to town, the police showed up. "Did you just land about 20 minutes ago? Are you 614EF?" the officer asked.
"Yeah, what's wrong?" I said.
"The FAA is looking for you, apparently you forgot to check in," he said.
I knew instantly what the problem was. We were receiving flight following from south Saint Paul and somewhat into Wisconsin, he instructed us to another frequency. I thought he had terminated radar service and so we just flew on without checking in. Dumb move. I don't know what the fallout from this will be. We'll see. But we were safe, heading for some good times, and I didn't much care.
On the way back to the airport, I thumbed a ride and a nice couple picked us up and delivered us to the airplane and checked the weather for us on their iPhone. We knew we were in for it a bit.
We stayed in the small terminal building while the rain let up and then made a run for it. There were thunderstorms in our path so we picked open sky between a pair and got the plane washed. A second line near Hayward, Wisconsin still faced us but I knew they'd be there since my flight briefing predicted they'd be.
So we watched some neat rainfall and had a double rainbow off our left wing. I had to go far to the east around a storm, and then punched through some rain showers into the good weather on the south side of the weather front, which was barely moving.
We were home free for a cruise back to the Minneapolis St. Paul area, where we saw a few hot air balloons over the St. Croix River. We touched down in Saint Paul and then checked the weather radar to calculate where and what we'd just been through. I was happy we didn't do anything stupid, and happier still that my son and I had a grand time.
The plane performed magnificently; the only problem seems to be that the transponder isn't reporting altitude or at least the recipients aren't receiving it. The Garmin 327 is showing the correct pressure altitude on its display; I don't know why ATC isn't receiving it, but another plane that was reporting while we were receiving flight following also reported that he "could see them on the box but no altitude." Hmmmm....
But those are things to be worked on another day. This was a day that the plane itself was secondary to what you can do with one.
"Thanks for taking me with you," he said as he headed for the car to head back to his home. "Next time I'll bring my good camera."
There's going to be a next time! Yes! Now I need a place to fly to that's as cool as Madeline Island.