Going Direct: My New Plane

For the past few months, I’ve been looking for a good used plane, and I finally found the one I wanted, a 1964 Cessna 182G in good condition, with low total time, an engine and prop with lots of life, and a nice paint job. It needs avionics in the worst way, so my next couple of months will be focused on making that happen in new and interesting ways.

The story of how I found my Skylane is worth a mention here. In the process of looking for a great used plane, I encountered several not so great ones, a few flaky sellers and one real gem. I got the gem.

I bought my plane from a private owner, a remarkable guy named Ed Byars, near Clemson, South Carolina. Ed had owned the Skylane for a couple of decades, and his son, Guy, who provided invaluable help with the sale, has a near twin of the plane, too. I could write a feature article about what Ed has accomplished as a pilot and a builder, but suffice it to say for now that he really loved this Skylane. I felt as though my coming out to South Carolina to see it was as much Ed getting a chance to see if I deserved to get it. I apparently passed the audition, and I couldn’t be any happier. Ed’s close-knit group of friends and family brought home the fact that general aviation really is a family and a community affair. When I was there, I got a chance to meet Ed’s wonderful wife Betsy, an award-winning author of books for kids, and his mechanic buddy Eric Barnhill, who from day one understood how much I loved the plane and helped me check it out from top to bottom.

After a couple of days in town, I felt like I’d made some new friends. On Saturday morning, as I departed on my long trip home to Central Texas, Ed and Eric stood by the side of the short private strip where the Skylane used to live and watched me take off.

It was an airplane going from someone who’s owned a lot of them—Ed says he’s lost track—but for whom this was a special bird. It’s going to someone who feels exactly the same way about it. I’m beyond grateful that Ed has entrusted his great old Cessna to me. After all, what are we to airplanes if not caretakers? They’re more than machines to those of us who really love aviation, and I’m guessing that Ed figured out how I felt about planes pretty early on.

New Plane

NTSB Making Stuff Up?

In my online editorial the other week, I took the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to task for opening up its membership to drone pilots. Check out that piece here, and while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to our eNews.

While I was critical of the organization for its opening our association to drone flyers—after all, we need all of AOPA’s attention, not part of it—I have to give Mark Baker and crew the credit for calling it like it is with a couple of important issues.

The one that got my attention was AOPA calling out the NTSB for what it diplomatically referred to as “speculative” statements of probable cause. I’ll be less diplomatic and say it very directly: The NTSB is making stuff up. In a couple of recent findings, the board found as probable cause that the pilot had been incapacitated. Now get this, it wasn’t because there was any evidence that the pilot had been incapacitated, but because it could have happened and there’s no proof it didn’t. Yes, you heard that right. In both crashes, the medical examiner ruled the cause of death of the pilot to be blunt-force trauma, which the NTSB used as proof of prior incapacitation, since the examiner was unable to verify incapacitation because of the damage done to the body in the crash. Yes, once again, you heard that right.

It comes down to the NTSB making these things up, and that’s troubling, because the Board is specifically in place in order to take politics out of the investigation process, not inject it into the reports it issues.

So why did they do it? Your guess is as good as mine, but it smells like some kind of political effort to influence the data, at the very least, to show that pilot incapacitation is a high-level threat. Apparently, the fact that there’s no evidence won’t stop the NTSB from making up a little evidence to prove this myth is true.

Sun ‘n Fun Controversy

As you read this, it’s been a little while since the Sun ‘n Fun fly-in took place. If you didn’t have the chance to attend, that’s too bad. It was a lot of fun.

There were a couple of big stories, including the successful certification of the Mooney Ultras, the Acclaim Ultra and Ovation Ultra. The company is under new leadership, and it’s headed in a direction that should make its competitors take note. It’s investing in new manufacturing capabilities, it has a forward-looking business strategy, and it’s reconciling its relationship to its history and to its past by looking back with respect while looking forward with all its intention and investment. The Acclaim Ultra is the fastest piston single by a good margin, it’s substantially improved inside and out, and it features the latest in Garmin G1000 avionics, with the new NXi suite.

There was a lot of other good news in Lakeland, and a lot of it was micro news. There were cool ideas everywhere. There were new apps, including a cool augmented reality app from Seattle Avionics. There were new products, like MyGoFlight’s inexpensive and compact head-up display. There was entrepreneurial spirit everywhere you turned, too. I met Rachel Payne, a young businesswoman and diehard pilot who’s taking the world of online aircraft parts sales by storm with her site, HangarSwap.com. Check it out. And there were cool new products, too, though nothing got my attention quite as much as the announcement that TruTrak had gotten approval from the FAA to install its Vizion autopilot in a pair of light Cessna singles, the Skyhawk and the Cardinal. In reality, TruTrak’s autopilot isn’t a new product. It will just be new to pilots of Part 23-certificated airplanes, and that, along with all the other changes that might follow on in the wake of this approval, could change everything about the used plane game.

So, while there was concern over where GA is going, it would be hard to tell from the activity and enthusiasm at Lakeland the other week.

And for those in aviation who’ve been predicting the demise of the annual Spring rites at Lakeland Linder, you might want to rethink your doom and gloom. This was the best Sun ‘n Fun I’ve seen in years.

And for those who say the future for GA isn’t bright, I say simply that you’re wrong. At Sun ‘n Fun, I saw example after example of young people with the aviation bug, from the high-school-aged members of the Lakeland Aero Club, who assembled without any assistance a full-motion Redbird simulator at the show and had enough energy left over to make pancakes for everyone who came to check out their handiwork on Thursday morning. (And kudos to our friends at Redbird for helping make that happen.)

Lakeland Aeroclub

I met a young woman, Rachel from Machias, Maine, who had the experience of helping build Aircraft Spruce’s One-Week Wonder, a Zenair sport plane, at Oshkosh a few years back by pulling a single rivet. That’s all it took for her to decide that she had to get in on the game herself.

Today Rachel is about halfway through building her own Bush Hawk taildragger, and she’s financing much of that effort selling aviation-themed Rachel-designed jewelry from a store on wheels that she and her folks take to aviation shows around the country. Rachel, by the way, is just 15. You can buy some of her cool designs on her site, rachelsjewelrymachias.com, which she runs while going to high school and taking flying lessons and building a plane.

So, next time you hear somebody badmouth kids these days, you might want to tell them about Rachel, and the kids at the Lakeland Aero Club and the thousands of school kids who traveled to Sun ‘n Fun to watch the Blue Angels and meet them in person. Something tells me it’s these kids, the ones with their heads in the clouds, who are our future, and not just our aviation future, either.

If you want more commentary on all things aviation, go to our Going Direct blog archive.

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