Friday, November 16, 2007

Doodling With Bean

Back in September, 2006 I promised that a story about woodcock hunting "would be 'up' one of these days soon."

That day has finally arrived. Please check out Spaniel Journal for the details.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Just Like The Good Old Days, Only Better, In The Cessna SkyCatcher

In 1984, I went to Anchorage courtesy of my wife and Alaska Airlines. Nancy’s agent had passed her name along when the airline contacted him, looking for an accomplished road racer to give a clinic or two, press the flesh, rally the troops and hand out roses to the finishers of the all-ladies marathon they were sponsoring. In return, Nancy received a 10-day all-expenses August vacation in Alaska, complete with all the fixin’s. Alaska Air even offered to convert Nancy’s $1,000 honorarium into a $1,200 ticket for me. And so I soon found myself wobbling under the weight of my 3 oz. flyrod, and 200 lbs. of Nancy’s essential impedimenta, as we weaved through a fluid tangle of idling taxis and taxiing float planes at the Anchorage airport.

A highlight of the trip for me was an overnight fly-in to a remote salmon camp. I’d never flown low and slow before in the likes of a deHavilland Beaver over such a beautiful landscape. The experience was, as the saying goes, transforming. When by chance I bumped into my friend Stan N. at the pickled herring case of a super market around New Year’s, I enthused about my flights in the light plane. Did I say that Stan is a flight instructor? By the time I’d tossed the Vita Herring in Sour Cream into my cart, I had a date for an introductory flight in May, 1985.

The plane that I first left seated on that memorable May day turned out to be a well-worn Cessna 150. Over the following months, I learned a whole lot about old N5383Q. How it sipped red avgas. How the seats reminded me of folding lawn chairs, but stronger, probably. Maybe. Since its flap indicator was broken, how to count screws and scratches inside the flap hinge to get the proper flap angle. Light planes like the 150 weren’t nicknamed “Spam cans” for nothing.

Flying the 150 was both instructive and fun. But its charm – what I still miss after 22 years – was the feeling that my linkage with the aircraft was personal. The little plane simply connected with me as seamlessly and comfortably as a pair of broken-in boots or my good old dog.

I haven’t flown much in recent years (Hint: It’s too expensive). But just the other day I chanced into an advert touting Cessna’s new “SkyCatcher.” The text and glossies revealed a part–composite two seater that features a “glass cockpit.” Upon some reading at the SkyCatcher’s blogsite (you can read it, too, here), it was clear that Cessna is marketing this sweetie as a “personal aircraft.” I suspect that other not so young pilots who trained in a 150 will be taking a nostalgic peek or two at the SkyCatcher before the first production unit rolls onto the tarmac in 2009. I know I’ll be checking on it, just before I see whether my financial plan has been funded by the lottery.