Good Morning everyone!
I’ve been gone for awhile, but I’m back now. It’s time to update you on what has been going on, and where my beautiful Twin Comanche is these days.
To review; Back on Aug 19th, 2021 I had submitted my resignation letter to FlightSafety. At that time I stated ‘This was not an easy decision to make, but my wife and I would like to enjoy the successes we’ve worked for before we get too old to play. I can only do that if I take control of my own schedule.’ I knew if I kept working there I would not be able to travel or do the things that my wife and I had been planning on.
Being Retired: So how do people do this? Be retired, I mean. I’m into my fourth month and I can tell you that you’ll figure it out. The biggest challenge I face is keeping my brain busy and fighting the inevitable boredom that happens when the weather is bad. The activities I love happen in Spring, Summer, and Fall; but rarely in winter.
I’ll start by saying that my highest personal goal will be to lose at least 40# this year. Personal weight management has been the only goal that has eluded me. I’m down 20# since Christmas, and hovering at this weight for a month now. I’m confident as the weather improves and my bicycling increases, I continue to lose this weight.
The balance of my time will be dedicated to traveling with my wife while using my toys. The Twin Comanche will take us places all year, and we’ll use the Harley on local rides and our first trailer trip to more distant locations.
Learning Electronics: I’ve also been self-teaching electronics while building a lab in my house. My grandson and I are designing a prosthetic hand for his school project, and I’m pushing the limits of my understanding to get this done. There is no end to the details I can dive into, and that fascinates me. I’ve always wanted to to this, so I’ll work on this when the weather sucks.
G280 Contract Flying: This has been an interesting twist as spring comes to a close. I’ve turned down 6 different trips since I’ve retired, but finally relented and went for my first class medical just last week. The moment I was given that paperwork I had a trip – my first time flying the machine I’d been teaching in. There was definitely rust I had to shake off, but I was with a great friend and I caught on readily.
I’ll remain current in the G280 through October, so I plan to keep doing trips until then. I believe there will be a demand for it, but I’ll also give a priority to the trips Bev and I plan to take. There is some talk among my friends about coming back to FSI part time, but there are no current plans to do that. These G280 trips are admittedly enticing, so it is possible I could work with them again in order to stay current. We’ll see what develops.
N833DF Update: The airplane is even more phenomenal. The weather is finally nice today, but I have a sinus infection that is keeping me at home.
Last Friday, I flew my airplane home just ahead of the presidential TFR to get it back in my hangar. The annual was completed for this year and no issues were found, except for evidence of a birds nest in the left wing.
I suspect that the nest happened while it sat on the ramp waiting for the annual, as I could not find any evidence of activity in the hangar itself. None-the-less, I added foam pool noodles to block the holes behind the ailerons. Birds will not quit once they find a home. Pool Noodles should do the trick and even blow off the airplane if I am completely brain dead during the pre-flight.
PowerTow: While the airplane was down, I also changed the oil and plug in my PowerTow. It had rust on it, so I applied my deplorable painting skills to clean that up as well.
I had neglected the oil for far too long, so it felt great getting my equipment back in order and cleaning up the hangar.
N833DF Avidyne IFD550: This radio is amazing and frustrating at the same time. Mind you – the frustration part is ALL ME. Between the jets and my Garmin experience, negative transfer is making the typical training flights I do for proficiency a little bit more difficult. Avidyne Technical Support has been right on it though. The three times I reported major technical problems with my radio/FMS/Navigator – it was quickly and accurately diagnosed as User Error.
Typically, I learn by doing and just go fly and figure it out. I was warned that this approach would not work well with this FMS, so I did read quite a bit before I went flying. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, experienced significant frustration trying to ‘just fly’, but am slowly getting more proficient and understanding how to interface with it.
Since I can’t fly today, I opened the Avidyne book by Michael F Bauer (“Flying the the Avidyne IFD”) and decided to read it from cover to cover. Every page this time, which will mean more now that I have real world experience with it. I’m excited to say that I learned several new things that explain some of my frustration (negative transfer) and will make this investment really pay off. I can’t wait to go try them! Just a few of the features I re-discovered include the mini flight plan option; adding multiple destinations and being able to hit the PROC key to cycle through those destinations to set approaches at each one; additional details about entering unplanned HOLDS and verifying them; clearing an entire flight plan easily; and understanding flight plan activation.
Flying the Twin Comanche: Part of our retirement plan is to travel more. Bev and I decided to start checking out destinations within three hours flying time of home base (KILG). The idea was to look for destinations where we’d like to hang out for a week, and be able to travel using our airplane or the Harley.
Our initial experiment was the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee. I got to know this areas as I flew N833DF back and forth to Dallas, Tx last year. Stopping in western Tennessee and in Kentucky I witnessed beautiful landscapes and busy recreational lakes. The area looked lush and beautiful, and I wanted Bev to see it.
The idea was to fly into an airport near Pigeon Forge; then look for places we might want to rent on a routine basis. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a cabin on a mountain or a lakeside view that would give us an annual adventure to fill our time.
The flight southwest took about 3 hours at 9,000′, and was the first time I had both Beverly and myself on oxygen. We had a smooth ride in mostly VFR conditions, and the scenery was spectacular. I have occasionally been preoccupied and taken this for granted, but not today. I was enjoying Bev’s company and pointing out where I’d been.
N833DF did have a glitch on the trip down. I noticed an intermittent voltage fluctuation, and identified a potential problem with the right alternator shortly. I performed a post-flight check and everything was fine, so I covered the airplane and picked up our rental car. We had landed in Sevierville, just to the north of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
The town of Sevierville was awash with electric buggies of all kinds. We were surprised at the activity in the town, and apparently timed our arrival to the start of an area wide car show. It looked like this was the place to be (for car lovers) and everyone from the surrounding area had come into the valley towns to fill them up. I went there expecting solitude and beautiful views, but landed among electric golf carts and buggies of all sorts carried senior citizens on the main roads. Ok – let’s see what is here.
Our room was nice enough, so we dropped our gear and started sniffing around on our iPads for a direction to go exploring in. That’s when I realized that the Tail of the Dragon was right here! The tail is a motorcycle route that is infamous for its challenging twists and switchbacks, and it’s be good to see it first in a rented Camry. We headed off to find it, with the secondary goal of spotting a place to rent cabins.
We rode the Tail of the Dragon to its southern end, where we found the Topaco Lounge. This restaurant was full of motorcycle riders with a flowing mountain stream adjacent to the dining area. It was really very nice. My hands were at 10 and 2 all the way over, but getting back by any other route would have added 2 hours around mountains. We headed back over the tail and cautiously drove the tail on back. I will NOT be taking Beverly two up on the trail, thank you. Box checked!
The Tennessee trip was worth doing and we very much enjoyed the trip. We did not find an obvious place to rent, however, so we aren’t planning a return trip any time soon. I do recommend this as a destination if you haven’t see it.
On the flight home I lost the right alternator completely. My A&P came up to meet me; found and repaired a broken field wire.
February 8, 2022. I’d been retired at this point for a month, so we decided to fly someplace warmer than Chesapeake City. Jekyll Island, Georgia had warm enough temperatures and was reachable with reasonable travel day in the Twin.
The trip included a stop in Lumberton, NC for fuel and comfort. We took the time to have lunch is their nicely appointed and clean lobby. I planned this to be a 5 hour trip with the winds we had, but could do it today in 4 hours. Having said that, I want to ensure my wife has the best time possible, so I make sure not to exceed 3 hour legs unless she is dead-to-the-world asleep. In the later case – we’re goin’!
I decided not to land on Jekyll island, but instead to use St Simon’s Island. I wanted a rental car and there are none on Jekyll; only open golf carts. My wife isn’t picky, but she does get cold. We drove the 20 or 30 minutes from St Simon’s to Jekyll and began exploring the island.
Let me just say we are going back. Granted, we were there in February and no one else was. Still, there is endless beaches; you can land on the island and be just fine with a golf cart; and the hotels are very nice. Bev and I plan to return in September, landing on the island this time. There is fuel there.
N833DF is going to our timeshare again in Florida in July. Last year we visited friends on the Gulf Coast and other friends in the Wilmington, NC coastal area. We did that trip by car then because I had an injured leg, but this year we’ll do it in style.
Motorcycle Trips: It’s still damn cold so I hope it warms up by next week. Bev and I have signed up with friends for a local ‘Ride to the Tide’ motorcycle ride. I’m definitely going, but Bev might hang back if it’s too cold. Like the airplane, I want her to be comfortable so we can properly enjoy these toys in our retirement.
Another trip is happening less than two weeks from now too. We’ll use our motorcycle trailer for the first time, and drive the Harley out to Huntington, WV for several rides in that area. This time we found an Air B&B to rent right on the river, and will use that as our base of operations. I’m nervous about using the trailer for the first time, and wondering what the Air B&B experience will be like as well. You don’t know until you try, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
That’s enough for now. Fly safe and be well!