The Meandering Moose

A meandering moose gathers no moss...He will simply eat it along the way.

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Did you know moose can fly?

Seriously. Do you think 8 reindeer can haul Santa, his sleigh, and ALL of the presents for all of the boys and girls around the world, in less than 24 hours? I think even FedEx would be hard pressed to accomplish that feat. About every year, there's a posting on the Internet about how fast Santa would have to move in order to deliver all of the goods in that time. It's clearly impossible.

The true story is that the reindeer team is the show team. They get all the publicity, all the photo ops, and all the glory. In the background, the moose teams are hitched up, and are moving product. Think about it. 8 moose per sleigh. Now, you're talking power. Think those reindeer antlers can let them fly and haul a useful load of presents? Nah. You need moose antlers to generate that kind of lift.

Well, OK maybe not. Regardless, I am taking flying lessons. I'm planning on getting my Private Pilot certificate before December 17, 2003 (which, for those of you still hiding under a rock, is the Centennial of Flight). I'm flying Cessna 172s (Skyhawks) at the Easton Municipal Airport, which, fortunately, is outside of the ADIZ. We can still fly just like we used to be able to, before the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. One of our freedoms is the freedom of flight. I'll not let those bums take that from me.

Status update, 12-Jan-04: I've sucessfully passed the phase check with another instructor. All we need is some good flying weather, and a few more times around the pattern, and I'm good to solo!

We made it down to the First Flight Centennial at Kitty Hawk. Originally, we got tickets for the 16th only, since the tickets for the 17th were sold out sometime in October. When we got there, we asked a Park Ranger if she knew where we might be able to purchase tickets for the 17th. She said that a gentleman had JUST given her 6 tickets, as his family was ill with the flu. So we got tickets for the 17th! Pity the weather was so lousy; they weren't able to fly the reproduction 1903 Wright Flyer.

I did walk the flight line where Wilbur and Orville flew a century ago, pausing at each point where the Flyer landed each time. The 4th flight was some 864 feet, and they stayed airborne for almost a minute. I tried to imagine flying that distance for the first time, and tried to picture what the beach looked like at the time. Sacred ground, I am glad that the National Park Service has control of the land, so it will be preserved for future generations to marvel at what happened there in 1903.

I only hope that this celebration re-invigorates a national interest in flight, and causes some reflection as to what aviation has meant to the United States and the entire world, over the past century.

Some brief thoughts on the September 11th terrorist attacks, lest we ever forget, or allow time to mellow the shock...

Aviation history is bathed in the blood of soldiers as well as civilians; it is the military utility of this technology that has been the driving force, particularily during the urgent days of armed conflict of two world wars, over the past century. It is only the airlines and general aviation that has made the world a smaller place. It is ironic that the terrorists of September 11 chose to use these tools of peace as weapons of mass destruction. I can not, and will not, ever forgive them for this.

I build UAVs for a living. My dream is to wake up one morning and see on CNN one of my planes crashed in a heap on top of Osama bin Laden. Preferably with a full payload of pig fat.

May the fleas of ten thousand camels infest his armpits for all eternity.

April 16, 2004:

It seemed like I was never going to get here. Today, it all came together. The weather was perfect, the skies pretty empty, but just enough traffic so I knew the radio was still working.
3 practice landings with Yogi, and then he got out, and I did three more to meet the FAA solo requirement. I still need some practice with the round-out, but the approaches were all in all pretty good. There must have been a wind layer at about 500 feet that was causing everyone to overshoot the turn onto final, but on flight #2 I had to extend the crosswind leg to gain some distance from the C-172 that was ahead of me, so that pattern turned out very nice indeed.
The sad part is that N24326 is going to be leaving the fleet soon. Apparently, the owner/leasors of the airplane wants it back to do some flying himself! I know I've been putting quite a few hours on that bird. Now I've got to select a new favorite from the fleet.

For those counting, the tally right now is 22.7 hours, with 1.1 of solo/PIC time, and 0.5 hours of simulated instrument. Total landings are approximately 129 daylight and no night landings yet.

Now, onto cross country work!

22 August, 2004: First Solo Cross Country! Flew to Cape May County (KWWD), Ocean City Maryland (KOXB), Salisbury / Wicomo Regional (KSBY) (plus the required tower work), then back to Easton (KESN). Total 3.2 hours.

11 September, 2004: Completed second Cross Country Solo flight! What a way to spend September 11th! I flew to Cape May County (KWWD), and back to Easton. On the way back, I did some practice for the Practical Test--turns around a point, S-turns, slow flight, dead reckoning. I looked up at one point, and there was a B-52 flying about 3,000 feet above me headed West. Talk about an awesome sight. It gave me a bit of a start at first. Then, as I was entering the traffic pattern at Easton, I heard the call "Mustang entering 45 degree for downwind, runway 4 Easton". Yes, a P-51 Mustang was behind me in the pattern. There was a mini warbird gathering at the airport. I saw a Bird Dog, an Avenger, the Mustang, what looked like a Kate, and a German airplane that I had never seen before.

Current tally: 44.7 hours total, 10.5 Solo, 5.1 Solo Cross Country, 3.0 hour Simulated Instrument, 3 hours night Cross Country Training. Total landings are 205 daylight, 12 night.

Well, right after I got back from my "9 Days in Iraq" (look for the book...due soon in bookstores :-) ), the weather for the week was supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, and I looked at the logbook and realized that I pretty much had everything I needed. So I rented the plane and an instructor for a check ride and they thought I was ready. So I then went into high gear reading and re-read absolutely everthing for a week.

Net result: October 8, 2004 I got my license in N24787.

We went on holiday in the middle of December for our somewhat belated honeymoon.

As a part of this vacation, the group had a chartered flight (an Embraer something or another) between Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. The interesting thing on this flight was the fact that these guys did a VFR / rectangular approach into the airport.

On the flight into Alice Springs, in a B-737, we also flew a VFR approach! As I understand it, Alice Springs does have an IFR approach, but the weather is usually good enough so flying VFR in is fairly typical. I imagine that the pattern is a bit bigger than one in a Skyhawk, though.

While on vacation, I got an e-mail from Easton Aviation: N24787 is available for purchase. We discussed it, and decided there might be some merit to this.

January 3, 2005: Completed 1.1 hrs flight time in ZK-JPJ, a Cessna 172 based in Queenstown, NZ in true mountain flight conditions. This area is probably best known for the Deer Park Heights, where the final battle in Return of the King was filmed, and for the backdrop mountains (The Remarkables) that were used, unadulterated, as backdrops in the movies. Now I'm going to have to buy the movies and look carefully. Apparently, the local equivalent of the EPA forced the producers to restore the filming sites to pristine condition after the shoot (up to putting the original plant back in its original place), but since Deer Park Heights is privately owned, the owner decided to leave some of the structures up, and it's one of the few places in NZ with stuff remaining from the shoot. We'll have to have a look at it next time!

February 10, 2005: After the formation of Opus Aircraft, LLC to manage the assets, N24787 is now our airplane. It's still operating in lease-back with Easton Aviation as a training asset, and generating some positive cash flow (most of the time), or at least enough for me to fly a couple of times a month for free, essentially. Actually, I pay them to pay me. Kinda strange, but it makes the paperwork that much easier. We had enough to make the down payment; the rest is being financed at 6.1%.