What dreams are made of

As a growing boy, back in what was then Czechoslovakia, I was always dreaming of flying. It took many years before I realized my dream, and another forty years before I got my first plane. There are things in life I would not even dare to dream – and then it just happens. This year my Christmas present came a bit early. In fact, it was December the 6th when I got it. If I did not have a well-documented proof, I would think it was just a dream; but I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.

When my boys were growing up, I was too busy trying to get rich. What I did not realize then was that being rich does not have to involve money – not at all. To be close to you children tops money any time. God knows I tried, but I failed. I desperately wanted my boys to like planes. I tried to introduce them to building models. Unfortunately, the perfectionist in me would take over. I just had to fix their perfectly fine creations. In doing so, and without ever realizing my mistake, I permanently extinguished their possible flicker of interest in aviation. I lost an excellent opportunity to nurture my love of flying in my boys. If I had just remembered how crude my first models turned out when I was their age, the outcome could have been different.

Theoren and Grandpa Flying the RC Simulator

Theoren, age two, and Grandpa enjoying time together on RC Simulator

Now that I am a grandfather, life gave me an incredible gift – another chance of sort. My grandson Theoren, in his very early age, I think he may have been less than two years old, started to point to planes flying overhead. He did not miss even one. Then one day I sat him on my knee and fired up my RC simulator. Theoren would fly the left stick, while Grandpa would try to keep the model upright with the right stick. Theoren would fly the simulator for hours, that is if I could endure it. Whenever we have a Grandpa/Theoren day, it is always his first request when I ask him what he would like to do.

Theoren in DA-20 Katana

Theoren in DA-20 Katana with Grandma observing

There is no doubt that Theoren is interested in planes. One summer day we took him to the airport, I was flying DA-20s then from Sea Land Air. Theoren knew instantly where the master switch was. We had a hard time getting him out of the plane. Only when I pointed out some other planes to him, he reluctantly climbed out to go investigate. The day was nice and the “tire kicking” lasted at least an hour. I knew right there that we had a pilot in making.

Fast-forward two years.

Sunday, December the 2nd, I got en email from Theoren’s mom. It was coming up on to his fourth birthday, and he requested as his birthday present to go flying with Grandpa in Grandpa’s “big plane.” It must have been tough on mom and dad to even consider it, but as his mom put it: “he is a very persuasive little fellow.”

Getting ready for the big flight

Getting ready for the flight of our lives

The weather was not great on the morning of his birthday. It was raining all morning, but then around noon we got a break. It seemed like due to some divined intervention the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and other than some stiff wind, the weather started to cooperate. It was clear; Theoren would get his birthday present.

Theoren and Grandpa after takeoff.

After the takeoff, Theoren navigating

My little co-pilot, as I explained to him step-by-step the start-up procedures, followed my actions with focus and concentration. After flying Microsoft Flight Simulator for some time now, things must have look familiar to him. After our takeoff, he immediately pointed out the ocean to me. I did not realize it then, but it down on me later, that his favorite plane on the MS simulator is a Beaver on floats, which he flies from the Friday Harbor seaport.

Birthday cake

The happiness continues at the birthday cake with Dad

Night before the big day, Theoren’s mom slaved late to the night on his birthday cake, which of course had to look like Grandpa’s “big plane,” complete with the proper registration markings. As I reflect on this amazing day, it occurred to me that Theoren is the first family member who had flown with me in my “new” plane.

When I first bought my Colt, I knew that a 1961 vintage plane would need some tender loving care before I would consider it up to my standard. The measure of my standard was a simple question. Is it safe enough to take my grandchildren up in it? It clearly is.

As much as I felt competent to do the flight as a pilot, and knowing that my plane is safe, I am very grateful to Theoren’s mom and dad for giving me this early, unbelievable, Christmas gift. Judging from Theoren’s grins, we both had an unforgettable day. Thank you Morgan and Geof.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and may the soon to be here 2013 keep you in good health, bless you with happiness and harmony in life, and provide you with the prosperity to enjoy it.

Rowena’s

We just finished our regular Saturday breakfast at the airport’s Skyhawk Restaurant. The weather was clear but very windy. We considered going flying, but then Daniel suggested that a good strong coffee would finish off the, always-satisfying, breakfast quite nicely; Starbucks would be our next stop. On the way back to the hangar, I glanced at the crisp outline of the North Shore Mountains, and quickly concluded that we must go and have a closer look. Daniel, under my supervision, performed a thorough pre-flight check, quick radio contact formalities, an engine check, and soon we were bobbing in the gorgeous blue, but very gusty skies.

We did not have any specific destination in mind. I just knew that wherever we would end up going, it would be spectacular. On the way out, we climbed to two thousand feet, gave a courtesy call to the folks at Langley Tower, and aimed for the Mission Bridge.

On our way east

On our way for Rowena’s

Chilliwack, one of our possible destinations, was busy with local traffic, so I decided to press ahead. I thought this would be a good time to show Daniel where the jewel-of-a-destination, the much talked about Rowena’s airstrip on a golf course, with its fabulous restaurant, was. This idyllic destination for golfers, vacationers seeking quaint spot to relax at, and pilots in the know, is located just a short flight northeast of Chilliwack, on the northern banks of the Harrison River. Did I say short flight? I quickly glanced at our GPS ground speed, and I have to admit that even a 1965 VW Bug, running on three cylinders, would beat us to the destination. It sure was blowing. The wind was from the east, so if I decided to land, it would have to be west to east.

Coming in from the west, meant descending rather steeply over some very tall trees, then stay clear of a row of trees hugging the runway to the right, and once clear of them, gently slip it in for a landing on a rather narrow gravel runway. I remember Lloyd, Sieg’s filming buddy, flying this approach with Sieg and me in his 172. It seemed quite – well – challenging. I always envisioned that my first time landing there would be coming in from the east over the river, a much easier and shallower approach. It was a split second decision, and I was committed to land. It was quite uneventful landing after all.

Daniel in front of the Colt at Rowena's

That narrow gray strip is the runway

Rowena's restaurant

The clam chowder was excellent, and so was the coffee

Daniel admiring the view

It was a crisp, cool and a spectacular day to be flying.

The treas show a hint of ottum

Who would not love this place?

We fired up our Colt, and soon we were over the river heading for Harrison Lake for some more sightseeing.

Harrison Lake Resort

Flying over Harrison Lake, Harrison Lake Resort to the right.

Size of Harrison Lake visible here

It sure is one big lake.

We did not have quite enough of these spectacular vistas yet, so I suggested that we go to Hope. The last time I landed there was in the early seventies in a Cessna 152. It seemed like a great idea to reacquaint myself with this lovely grass strip, which many local glider pilots call their home. In fact, on the way in, we noticed a glider in tow heading for his ridge soaring fix.

My Colt and me at the Hope field

After many years at the Hope field again – this time with my own plane.

Daniel insisted that after such a long time, my first landing there in the Colt warranted a picture. Inside the “terminal”, as it is customary in many airports and aerodromes, hanging on the walls are paintings, photographs, and other memorabilia documenting special occasions in their history. OK, this is a grass strip, so what is a Boeing jetliner doing here? We learned from the description that an early model Boeing 737 once landed there, to demonstrate its grass surface landing capabilities. I am not quite sure how they pulled it off. There is no other way to get the plane out of there, so they had to fly it out somehow. Then again, the crazy Boeing pilots have been known to do stunts like rolling a 707 front of a crowd of potential airline customers, while almost giving a hard attack to their boss. Those were the days, which shell never be repeated.

The trip back home was a short one. With a 20 knots wind helping with the ground speed, it would have been tough for any car to beat us now. I elected to go for the Alex Fraser Bridge arrival. The tower cleared us for 07, and after a routine touchdown, we exited on “Charlie.” We bid the tower good day and with a sense of accomplishment, I added another 2.3 hours to my logbook.

It was one very satisfying day.