Thursday, August 30, 2012

Flying in

Now that I'm flying, I'm going to have to find more places to fly to. I see there's a poker run coming up in a week or so; I may do that.

I may also have to look up Cherry Grove, Minnesota, based on this video that was posted today.

Cherry Grove Fly in Minnesota from Kit Carson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My week doing an aviation talk show at AirVenture

Huzzah! The hard-working folks at EAA Radio (not run by EAA) have now made all of the interviews during Oshkosh 2012 available on the archive page. It's a good portrayal of just how magnificent this resource is for fans of AirVenture (or at least fans of flying).

Here are the ones that I was involved with. I'd forgotten how much goes into hosting a one-hour interview show (with multiple guests). I enjoyed doing the show because it was fun getting back to doing talk radio again. Also, I like talking about PEOPLE and I think aviation has great people stories to tell. I think I did OK. Just look at this list!

A talk show is hard work. In the end, it has to sound like a conversation and, at least the way I do it, an informal one at that. That's why at my campsite every night, you'd find me working on the next day's hour.

Click to listen (mp3).

Sometimes guests don't show up (it happened to me twice, once involving an RVer) but here are two segments I filled on with Mike Morgan. (Part I | Part II)

Brandi and Brian Unrein

What a fun interview this was. This young couple from the Atlanta area built and flew an RV-10 before becoming old people like, well, you know. They flew it into Oshkosh this year.

Chad Jensen
Chad, a former and future RV-7 builder, is now the manager of communities for the EAA. I knew him when. The EAA wasn't real thrilled to learn I'd be hosting a show this year, but I let Chad know ahead of time that I wasn't about to sandbag him with questions over this Board of Directors proxy controversy -- which I still don't quite understand. If I had, I'm pretty sure Chad would've been ready for it, anyway.

Alex and Alejandro Cuellar, Mike Rettig, and Paul Merems
This was a very inspiring interview about the effort by Van's Air Force members (and others) to make Alex Cuellar's wish to attend Oshkosh come true despite the medical challenges he faces. In the end, he and his dad were ushered into Oshkosh, treated like royalty (the Oshkosh version) and all of those who made it happen made the rest of us proud. It's a great interview.

Chip Yates
This guy was awesome and, as I told him, really had the "high beams" on. He set a record just before Oshkosh for hitting 200 mph in homebuilt airplane, just before the batteries fried. This is must-listening.

Don Hull
Don, from Alabama, is an RV builder who is flying his Cessna for now, and volunteering with Pilots n Paws, a neat effort whereby pilots help rescue dogs who certainly are in need of rescue.

Gary Bipes
Gary is from Hector, MN and I interviewed him on the final Sunday of AirVenture. He's a fascinating man -- a former combat photographer, worked for the CIA, was in the ag-spraying business. I wrote about him for my day job, too. (Part I | Part II)

Jack Beck and Marmy Clason
I've known this wonderful couple since I wrote this article in 2008. They started building their RV9 at, perhaps, the worst possible time in the opinion of some rational people. But maybe rational people don't know everything.

John Zimmerman
John is a VP of Sporty's and came in to talk about using iPads in the cockpit. I've got to get an iPad.

Lane Wallace
I'm honored to call Lane a friend. She's a great aviation writer and explorer. We talked mostly about her book, more so than aviation stories. Perhaps that disappoints a lot of aviation people but the world is deeper than that. We didn't get into it on the radio, but we had a fabulous conversation about parenthood after the show.

Lauran Paine Jr.
Likewise, Lauran Paine is one of my heroes. He's a writer who describes himself as "about as complicated as a fencepost." He's a Vietnam combat pilot, former airline pilot, and RV-8 builder too. When EAA Radio asked if I was interested in doing a talk show this year, the first person I thought about was Lauran. I was not disappointed. (Part I | Part II)

Lyn Freeman and Katrina Bradshaw
I think educators are really missing out on exciting their students by not bringing aviation into the classroom more. So do Lyn and Katrina who are with Build A Plane and are trying to link up airplanes and schools.

Bob Kelley and friends
Bob, of Indiana, helped organize a program to teach kids how to build an airplane. And the Eagle's Nest group did in completing -- and flying to Oshkosh -- an RV-12. He and a couple of the kids tell their story.

Paul Dye
Paul found the RV-1, the original RV, and helped organize the effort to get it back to flying status, have it tour the country, put it back in the hands of Van himself, and then have it flown to Oshkosh, where it was presented to the EAA. Paul is also with NASA and was the longest-serving flight director in shuttle history. He's also from Minnesota, which really tops pretty much the list of everything else he's accomplished.

Rick Gray
If there's a champion homebuilt project crowned at Oshkosh, it's pretty much a given that Rick Gray built it. Now he's a judge and he walked us through how homebuilders can do a better job of homebuilding. We also chatted about his RV-10 accident last fall, from which he is lucky to be alive.

Scott and Casey Stewart
If you're a fan of Van's Air Force, you probably recognize Scott as "DakotaHawk." This discussion involves how fathers and sons build airplanes and are bonded by aviation. Two fine people. It was a pleasure to finally meet both in person.

Mark Giron
What a fabulous and smart person Mark is. He's an official with the Federal Aviation Administration and he's also an RV-6 flyer. On the evening of this interview, he was to host a "safety rally" in the homebuilt camping area of Oshkosh. Only a few of us showed up, however, so here's your chance to hear what you missed, people.

Chris Briers
I admit, I didn't know much about the P750-XSTOL, which is a New Zealand plane used in many rescue and relief efforts. But I enjoyed meeting Chris and the test pilot, who is from South Africa and has an amazing resume.

Frank Johnson
Frank is a woodworker who got started making wooden props by finding a guy who was about to shut down a business. He said, "teach me," and the guy did. And now he teaches us all about wooden props.

George Richards
Building an airplane takes a fair amount of pluck, you know, and so does flying it into Oshkosh. George is a builder of a Falco. In New Zealand. That in itself isn’t unusual at all. He wanted to fly it into Oshkosh. New Zealand… you probably know… is nowhere near Wisconsin. The story of meeting his dream is inspirational.

Alan White
Alan is the builder of a Dyke Delta, a space-ship looking design that’s celebrating 50 years today and for about 39 of those years, Alan White was building one. He flew it into Oshkosh for the first time back in 2010.

John McGiness
John also has a dream. He's the developer of Synergy. His idea is half fighter jet, half futuristic airplane, all family.

Marisela Solesbee
Marisela stopped at the station to talk about her work. She makes quilts for returning injured soldiers of war. I overheard her conversation and found it fascinating (I wrote about it here) and was honored to be able to interview her.

Friday, August 24, 2012

After the accident

A man was involved in an aircraft accident more than a year ago. It claimed the life of his son. Since then, he's tried to figure out what went wrong and make sure other pilots fly safer. He's told his story to the Air Safety Institute which has produced an important video.

Typical of AOPA, however, it hasn't made the video embeddable, to spread the word better.

So set aside a half hour and go here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Flying with my sons - Chapter I

When I first decided to build an airplane 11 years ago, the intention was that I could use it to visit my kids away at college at some godforsaken land. They were young at the time and I just figured that how it would go. It didn't go that way; both stayed in the Twin Cities.

But now that it's done, I'm already seeing an entirely new role for the plane to play -- keeping them in touch and spending more time with them than I otherwise would. A plane makes a mighty nice flying carpet.

My son, Sean, hasn't flown with me since he was a junior in high school, when we had a nice trip to Sleepy Eye for a class project. The flight ended back at Flying Cloud when I messed up an instruction to make left traffic, turned left instead, and approached the departure end of the runway.

But after last week's homecoming, I invited Sean to fly with me up to Madeline Island in Lake Superior, which is a wonderful place, has a little strip, a short walk to the ferry, which takes you over to Bayfield and its many shops.

I calculated the trip would take a little over an hour and it was an hour and 20 minutes (gotta get those leg fairings on). We took the ferry to Bayfield, found a place to eat, played a game of pool and generally relaxed as the storm clouds we knew would roll in, rolled in.

As we ate we talked about flying and Sean said he'd like to fly someday, even though some of his medicines are on the FAA disqualification list. But, I told him, there's always light sport and EAA and AOPA are pushing hard to eliminate the Third Class Medical.

So now I have to find out whether it's possible that a CFI could use my plane to provide flight training. It'd be great to have him work toward at least being able to fly, even if he couldn't fly PIC right now. Either that or I need to get started on the RV-12.

By the way as we were walking from the airport to town, the police showed up. "Did you just land about 20 minutes ago? Are you 614EF?" the officer asked.

"Yeah, what's wrong?" I said.

"The FAA is looking for you, apparently you forgot to check in," he said.

I knew instantly what the problem was. We were receiving flight following from south Saint Paul and somewhat into Wisconsin, he instructed us to another frequency. I thought he had terminated radar service and so we just flew on without checking in. Dumb move. I don't know what the fallout from this will be. We'll see. But we were safe, heading for some good times, and I didn't much care.

On the way back to the airport, I thumbed a ride and a nice couple picked us up and delivered us to the airplane and checked the weather for us on their iPhone. We knew we were in for it a bit.

We stayed in the small terminal building while the rain let up and then made a run for it. There were thunderstorms in our path so we picked open sky between a pair and got the plane washed. A second line near Hayward, Wisconsin still faced us but I knew they'd be there since my flight briefing predicted they'd be.

So we watched some neat rainfall and had a double rainbow off our left wing. I had to go far to the east around a storm, and then punched through some rain showers into the good weather on the south side of the weather front, which was barely moving.

We were home free for a cruise back to the Minneapolis St. Paul area, where we saw a few hot air balloons over the St. Croix River. We touched down in Saint Paul and then checked the weather radar to calculate where and what we'd just been through. I was happy we didn't do anything stupid, and happier still that my son and I had a grand time.

The plane performed magnificently; the only problem seems to be that the transponder isn't reporting altitude or at least the recipients aren't receiving it. The Garmin 327 is showing the correct pressure altitude on its display; I don't know why ATC isn't receiving it, but another plane that was reporting while we were receiving flight following also reported that he "could see them on the box but no altitude." Hmmmm....

But those are things to be worked on another day. This was a day that the plane itself was secondary to what you can do with one.

"Thanks for taking me with you," he said as he headed for the car to head back to his home. "Next time I'll bring my good camera."

There's going to be a next time! Yes! Now I need a place to fly to that's as cool as Madeline Island.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Will sell eggs to fly

I had chickens as a kid and sold eggs to have some walking-around money. It never occurred to me that it would've been a good way to fly.

This kid is smarter than I was.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Images from the homecoming

Following up on last weekend's return of N614EF to the South Saint Paul nest, Mike Hilger -- who was good enough to fly down to Airlake Airport to escort me back (he also did that neat flyby in son, Patrick's, video -- sends along these images.

Pulling the plane out of Stein and Jed's hangar at Airlake. And, yeah, she got an especially thorough preflight.

Ready to go. I'm going to miss Airlake. The people there are incredibly friendly. I won't miss the 30+ mile drive each way, however.

Mike's plane. He just upgraded the panel. Oh, the things you can do when you work for SteinAir, eh?

The crew who greeted the plane at Fleming Field (KSGS). My son, Sean, is hiding.

Carolie gets the first ride, of course.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

N614EF returns home

On Friday evening, I passed the 40-hour mark of Phase I flight testing in N614EF, the plane I built over an 11-year period. That means it would come home on Saturday. So, bring it home, we did.

Son #2, Patrick, made the video and after he left, I provided rides to a couple of guys who've helped tremendously getting the project finished.

Brad Benson and I flew down to Red Wing because I knew that Joshua Wyatt's RV-9A had its airworthiness inspection on Friday. And when we landed, we saw Tom Berge's airplane. Tom was taking it up for its first flight.

Joshua did a fabulous job.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

EAA Radio: Gary Bipes interview

As I hear it, some EAA officials weren't entirely thrilled when they learned I'd been asked to be a host of a daily talk show during AirVenture on EAA Radio, which is not controlled by the organization.

But I enjoyed the week of many, many interviews, which I hope to make available here as EAA Radio makes them available. I'll miss the studios overlooking Runways 18/36. The building is being torn down.

Anyway, here -- courtesy of my day job -- is one of the many fascinating EAAers I met during the week: Gary Bipes.

When a young man asked me a couple of weeks ago if I'd be interested in interviewing his grandfather, he gave me piece of paper with a one-paragraph biography. It started, "Gary Bipes, born July 28th, 1942, was a Vietnam combat photographer from 1966 to 1967..."

That's when I stopped reading, handed the paper back to him and said, "I'd love to." Anyone who went into combat armed mostly with a camera probably has had an interesting life. I wasn't wrong.

"Our weapon was our camera and you were in the middle of the fighting," Bipes, 70, of Hector, Minnesota told me. It wasn't a job for just anyone, though. "Most wanted to get wounded right away and get out."

Combat photographers for the Army, he says, weren't particularly well liked by other soldiers. "They knew if there was a photographer along, there was going to be some bad stuff. We were like a bad omen. 'Don't film me when I'm being shot,' they'd say. "

"We got artillery dropped on us by accident once," he said. "I took pictures of a guy who was hit by white phosphorous and he jumped into water and I took a picture of him. They said, 'if you do that again, you're going to be a KIA.' If you're out there and it's your buddy, you don't want me getting glory out of the film."

He was nominated for a Bronze Star for helping soldiers cross a creek during some fighting. "Some of the guys couldn't swim and they were scared to death. I told the captain, 'I'm an old swimmer and I'll help them across,'" he said.

Through all the combat, he escaped serious injury. "I lost a camera once and I was crying and someone said, "did you get hurt?' and I said, 'no, but I lost the lieutenant's camera.'"

"I was well known in Army Times, New York Times... I was very proud," he says, well known enough that he was offered a chance to shoot combat photographs for Life magazine. But he wanted more; he wanted to go home.

The day he was drafted, he says, he wasn't allowed to say goodbye to his wife. And while he was in Vietnam, his daughter was born.


When he returned to the States, he worked for the CIA, shooting pictures of something he can't talk about, and worrying that he'd take pictures of something he shouldn't be taking pictures of.

When he returned to Minnesota, having learned how to fly when he was 15 and having learned how to fly helicopters thanks to the GI Bill, he was coaxed into flying a helicopter for a crop-spraying firm.

How he got the job remains to this day, a lesson on the value of the willingness to work.

"They had two candidates for the job," he said. "Me and this one guy who was a Huey helicopter pilot in the Army and I thought, ' I'll never get the position. They asked me, 'what if we need to you drive a truck?' I said, 'I'll drive a truck.' They asked, 'what if we need you to flag for us?' I said, 'I'll flag.' The other pilot said, 'I'm a pilot;I don't do ground work.'"

Bipes got the job and crashed the helicopter on his first day. "They said, 'you gotta get lower.'" He was flying a foot off the ground when the boom hit a knoll and crashed. He escaped and when his partner saw him crying, he told Bipes, "'get back in there and go,' and so I did." For 24 years.


Vietnam didn't get Bipes. The CIA didn't get Bipes. And a knoll in a farmer's field in Glencoe didn't get Bipes. Mosquitoes almost did.

His wife and daughter helped run his Hector hardware store while he flew helicopter spraying missions for Metropolitan Mosquito Control whenever it rained more than two inches.

On June 10, 1994, it almost killed him while spraying a swamp near the Medina Ballroom.

"You go into swamp, climb over wires, and go over to the next one," he said.

"I remember the guys loading it up, and taking off, and I have no memory of it," he told me, breaking into tears, something he says he still does with some regularity when thinking about the accident. "The lady that saw me said I went up over the power lines and I dived right into them. It was a big blue ball of fire. 'We thought you should exploded,' she said."

He was in the hospital for 30 days. A doctor was going to amputate a leg until he found out he was a pilot. He says he easily could be paralyzed today.

"It was on TV at home before Mosquito Control found out," he said. "My daughter was turning the channel so grandmother could watch the soap operas. They saw the helicopter wreckage, and they knew I was flying the orange helicopter."


He insists that airplanes are his first love and says his wife understands, though he tears up when talking about the wedding anniversary -- the 50th -- they celebrated at the big Oshkosh air show two weeks ago.

"When we were dating," he says, "we went to Flying Cloud (airport) and sat at the end of the runway and watched planes."

He still flies almost every day, he says and is still traumatized by the crash.

"You don't know what went wrong," he said. "You're living with 'what did I do wrong?' You live with that all the time. I'm getting better after 18 years. It's really a challenge."

Listen to the two-part interview with Gary Bipes, originally broadcast on EAA Radio on July 29, 2012)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A letter to an airplane

This week I'll finish the 40-hour Phase I testing period and bring the RV-7A back to South Saint Paul. This will, officially, cap the building process of an airplane I started in 2001.

It's also a good time to revisit a letter I wrote to the plane in 2008.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AirVenture attendance drops

Press release today by EAA. The attendance, the PR-focus to the contrary, has to be very disconcerting for the EAA. It shows a continuing decline. In 2008, for example, the attendance was 540,000. The 2010 attendance was down 7 percent at 535,000. And that was Sloshkosh, when nobody wanted to be there. 541,000 showed up in 2011

This year? 508,000, that's about a 6-percent drop.

We can quibble about the reasons for this but it's undeniable that AirVenture is not growing and hasn't been for some time. The numbers are pretty stagnant.

Anyway, here's the release:

Attendance: 508,000

Comment from Hightower: “We are pleased that attendance has topped one-half million again. That is a tremendous total considering the intensely hot weather, storms, and struggles in the overall economy. The aviation community knows that Oshkosh is the place to be to find out what’s new, and actually buy new equipment, components, and aircraft.”

Total aircraft: More than 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin.

Total showplanes: 2,489 including 978 homebuilt aircraft, 907 vintage airplanes, 336 warbirds, 105 ultralights, 97 seaplanes, 35 aerobatic aircraft and 31 rotorcraft.

Commercial exhibitors: 802

International visitors registered: 2,078 visitors registered from 71 nations, with Canada (479 visitors), Australia (286), and Brazil (216) the top three nations. (NOTE: This total includes only non-U.S. visitors who register at the International Visitors Tent, so the actual international contingent is undoubtedly larger.)

Media: 897 media representatives on-site, from five continents.