I want to update you about exciting news on my airplane. Having found solid talent to care for every aspect of the airplane, all I had to manage was the logistics of moving it around. I’ll talk about that briefly before getting to the good stuff. Consider yourself as my therapist this morning.

Life is good, generally, but its busy and sometimes stressful. What a no brainer sentence that is. I’m leaving it in there anyway, since it fits so well with the experience.

My father in-law passed away last month. Both he and my mother in-law have been living with us for more than a year now, since we moved to Chesapeake City. Their health has been in decline for some time, but we have been blessed to be in a position to offer them a supported retirement on the water front of the C&D canal. It’s nice here and my wife is their full time staff for medical visits, taxes, meals, and every other one of life’s necessities. The necessary result of all that activity is that Bev and I have been tethered to our house completely. No romantic dates or dinners. No vacations. Just work and home.

With Dad gone now, Mom is in serious decline. Delores suffered another TIA yesterday (mini-stroke) that dealt her with another serious setback in functional abilities. We’ve been warned that these will continue until the last one happens, so Bev and I are not surprised. Hospice support has been excellent, but Bev’s workload continues to rise. Neither of us sleep normally, and are constantly tired. This isn’t easy.

Given the activities on the home front, Beverly is not available to help me move the airplane. That means that the logistics of dealing with remote airplane maintenance gets more complicated. Anything I do here requires mind-numbing logistics, and inconveniencing other people. I am having incredibly selfish thoughts, I get it. I will have others.

Regarding my work schedule. It totally sucks at this point, and has been bad for several weeks. I’m sure this is karma and payback for the crazy good schedule I’ve enjoyed all winter long. I am both a hypocrite and a pilot, so I complain allot to my boss and express my unhappiness. Can’t seem to help not growling about it, least he think everything is ok and Frank is the new night shift guy.

Having said that, the staff is down two instructors. It is just Frank and two great octogenarian aviators. The only solution to my complaining would be to give these two gentlemen more work. That isn’t a solution at all, so I have to make it clear that I believe the boss needs to reduce the accepted reservations in the pipeline to more reasonable levels. Oh – and the simulator is unreliable, so scheduled 4 hour sessions routinely become 6 hour sessions. All this snowballs with major problems and then we are working everyday. Thats just bullshit. This is emotion talking – it isn’t as bad as I make it sound. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

On the other hand, the pay is ridiculously good and I get to fly as a contract pilot on the side and get paid for that too. What the hell am I complaining about? I am doing what I planned to do 30 years ago, and getting paid far more to do it than I imagined possible in aviation. The money I make here allows me to keep a significant portion of our retirement money turned off. It also allows me to spend money on gadgets and fuel for my airplane without any fear of damaging my long term retirement funds. Perfect.

Back to the autopilot and paint projects: I am excitedly looking forward to completing those last steps of this long restoration. I’ll start flying more aggressively when both these projects are completed; restoring my proficiency in both instrument and night flying my airplane. Next year will be a travel year for Beverly and I, and we are looking forward to going places!

Autopilot work: I set up appointments for the autopilot work a month out with Lancaster Avionics. They had looked into the general condition of my equipment when I had the IFR certs done in February. Satisfied that I was taking care of things and had already replaced old wires and connectors with modern ones, they agreed to maintain my autopilot. I had restored and upgraded the autopilot right after I purchased the airplane in 2009.

Moving the airplane up to Lancaster airport (KLNS) from my new home base at New Castle County (KILG) was the easy part. Getting my butt to work the same day became the challenge. The work schedule complaints I’ve been having looked all the worse since they appeared to continuously complicate every option for arranging this move.

Kelly ended up being my air-taxi for the day. She has a very nice Cessna 150, and I found it surprisingly enjoyable to fly north at 200mph, and then south at only 90+ mph.  It was a great flight that got me home in time for work, and allowed me to drop off the airplane a day earlier than they needed it. I was assured they’d have me in a hangar for the overnights.

I did take the precaution of having my son Chris ready to drive south and take me home. It would have been an emergency option though, since that would hand him 6 hours of driving round trip. I probably would have Uber’d home or rented a car of it got to that.

I left the autopilot in the hands of Jim Goode, who I was so glad to have found. He is knowledgable and proficient with these old autopilots – the Altimatic IIIb systems. He told me to send him all the log entries, which I did, and that he’d call me if the work was going to be incredibly expensive. Good enough.

The day after I dropped off the airplane, my paint guy calls. Lancaster Aero is at Smoketown on a 2700′ runway with obstacles. I’ve gotten pretty good at flying into this airport in a light twin, given that it is below my personal minimums for light twins in short fields. Kendall moved up my paint appointment from 4/22 to NOW, so I obviously want to get over there and grab the opening ASAP. The pressure was on to get it all done!

Late Friday (yesterday) I get a call that the autopilot is fixed. I’m euphoric!  That’s exactly what I wanted to hear, that I’d have a system in working order. Jim tells me he’ll need a calibration flight before signing it off, and I’m even happier that he’ll take the time to do that. I can envision we’ll fly an ILS or two like I did with Ken Thomas of Penn Avionics almost 10 years ago. I’ll probably get two years of good service out of the autopilot now, before it needs to be serviced again. Bring it on!

So now I’ll be driving up solo on my birthday (4/2). I have an eye surgeons appointment first, so I won’t get up to Lancaster until 11:30 to 1pm. I’m hoping he’ll be ready to go and I don’t have to wait. I have dinner plans back home that night.

We’ll do the test flight and I’ll pay for the airplane. Then I fly the airplane about 10 miles to Smoketown, dropping it off to the paint guy before they close that office. From there I’ll have to Uber back to Lancaster airport to pick up my car. I’ll be smiling on the 1.5 hour drive back home.

I’m not sure how long they’ll keep the airplane to paint it, but I don’t care as long as it comes back ready to go. I plan to spend an entire day polishing spinners and doing general upkeep with it comes back. I can’t wait.

Fly Safe!!


By fdorrin

Recently rated Gulfstream 280 pilot, working on instructor qualifications. WestWind and Astra corporate jet flight instructor. Contract corporate pilot. Own and operate a PA30 Twin Comanche. CFII; MEI; ME-ATP; SES; Typed in DHC-8, B-25, IAI-1124, IAI1125, G100, G280. Retired engineer / executive - Delmarva Power, Conectiv Energy, and PEPCO Holdings, Inc.