Thursday, May 06, 2010

Bold Claims and Flying Machines...and some baseball

I've been saying for years that I was going to buy an airplane. I find that making bold claims is an excellent way to force yourself to do something. Unless the bold claims are too bold, like: "Blackberry bushes are the hardest thing to kill." In that case, I put a quarter in the bold claims jar rather than crusading against plant life. Digressions aside, repeating my wish for an aircraft finally coincided with an opportunity to use one and I stopped stalling.
I picked up a 1977 Cessna 206 on Aerocet Floats in Northern Minnesota/Wisconsin on April 20th. It was fitting that I found the plane of choice in the place I learned to fly them. Not to mention that fortune coincided with being in Minneapolis for Twins home opener in their new stadium.
Wes and I flew her from Minnesota to Seattle, stopping in Bismarck, ND, Fort Peck, MT, and Couer d'Alene, ID. The North Dakota and Montana stops were not necessarily at Seaplane-friendly ports, and Wes had his co-pilot work cut out for him with a lot of research to figure out where we could buy AvGas in parts of the country not so littered with water. The stop in Fort Peck was courtesy of a local pilot that hauled 5 gal jugs of gas down to a boat ramp so we could fuel the plane (and this was the cheapest fuel on the entire route!), then he offered that we could stay at his place for the night. This somehow evolved into helping him herd his cows. So I found myself, the proud owner of a new floatplane, cattle ranching in Montana.
In Seattle, we got delayed by weather and by the FAA, who of course couldn't turn around registration paperwork by Friday afternoon, but we were not allowed to cross an international border without it. So, we hung out with Wes' brother, caught up with friends, chilled in the San Juan islands and met Ed and Rebecca for drinks at SEATAC airport.
Wes had other obligations in Alaska that couldn't be delayed, so I took on Daria, his sister-in-law, as co-pilot for the duration of the journey north. We stopped in Nanaimo, BC where Canadian customs did not even ask to see the FAA paperwork I had spent days waiting for. In Port Hardy, BC, where we spent the night, the sea lions never stopped barking at the plane. I guess they're the real customs officers.
Our port back into the States was Sitka, AK... home of my recent herring spotting exploits, and then straight on to Homer, where Beluga Lake, the official seaplane base was still frozen. We landed right on Kachemak Bay and cheekily taxied into the boat harbor... ask forgiveness not permission.
Within 48 hours, the plane had her first work: Herring Spotting off Kodiak Island.
The plane and I are safely back in Homer now. This summer I will lease the aircraft to Steller Air. I will fly for that company. Our primary business will be charters around Alaska, tourist scenic flights, and trips to see bears.
The plane is in great condition, flies well, and has more bells and whistles than a bush plane knows what to do with. I've named her 'Beryl.' After Beryl Markham... similar in travel direction and hopefully in adventure.
I'm not very good at turning cartwheels in excitement, but I have found that pretty rewarding to task out to friends. Some people in Homer that I've developed a true affinity for insisted on throwing a 'wet the plane's head' party for me. I was reminded this is an event worth noting. And friends worth keeping. For if you're not going to commemorate the milestones in your own life, it is beautiful to have friends help do it for you.

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