By Paul Lips
In March of 1980, our family purchased our first aircraft, a 1978 Seneca II. It was turbo charged and especially suited for Colorado Mountain flying. Its rate of climb was exceeded by record climbing interest rates, as prime soared to 21%, and aircraft sales nearly ground to a halt.
There was little chance of selling the plane in those market conditions and because it would have been impossible to rent a twin for a 14 year old taking flying lessons, it was decided we would keep the Seneca until I got my license. I soloed on my 16th birthday, and got my license at 17. My family justified my training costs by keeping me as an (indentured servant) pilot to fly the family for the next 8 years. My lack of a single engine ticket seems strange, but there were some special and unique memories created learning in a twin. While in college, I would fly home to Centennial Airport (APA) on Fridays and return to school in Rexburg, Idaho, early Monday mornings. Skimming the tops of the Grand Tetons, next to the majestic jagged peaks just above the swirling, glistening snow, or summer flights in the midwest, as I skirted or outran thunderstorms, are memories enough to insure that the hook was set and my passion for aviation permanent.
Lessons learned were sometimes more important than fun, like the time I was taking mountain flying training. I quickly pushed the throttles forward at the last moment at Lake County Airport (LXV), avoiding a gear-up landing. Or the night over the Rockies, going from Monterey to Mazatlan and running into the 20 year storm. To say it snowed in Mexico is one indication. It was the worst turbulence I ever imagined a light twin could handle; I was busy shining my flash light on the wings trying to measure ice build-up as the little twin bounced nearly out of control. I didn’t want anyone to panic, especially myself, so I kept my prayers silent, knowing the plane was in bigger hands than mine. Or a July 4th weekend that I took family friends to St Louis. There are famous caves that have been lighted and flooded for scuba diving. The passengers didn’t mention the extra equipment they would be bringing back or the time they needed to wait before flying after a dive. We ended up leaving St. Louis in the heat of the day. I had some fuel drained and the long runway was helpful. The flight was going fine until I felt a significant vibration and some noise coming from the right engine. I feathered the prop and shut the engine down and called Kansas City radio and advised them of my emergency. They offered two suggestions, Junction City KS, straight ahead six miles, 2800 foot runway or an Air Force base 30+ miles north with a 10,000 ft. runway. I chose Junction City. Now the pressure was on to find the chart, the airport, and the runway direction while descending at the best rate. It is a balance between taking care of the good engine, preparing for the chance it could fail too, and lining up for the runway and making sure we make the runway because there would be no go-around. On the ground, I called home and said, “Dad, I’ve got good news and some bad news.” As usual, he wanted the bad news first. I said , “There are eleven new holes in the crank case of the right engine. The good news is that we landed sa
fely in Junction City, KS.” From that day, my left hand grips the yoke just a little tighter, and I’m flying a little more serious and considering options minute by minute.
I’m excited about my new job as editor, although I’ve worked for Airport Journals for 10 years. My hand is now a little tighter on the yoke. I hope my passion for aviation will translate to not disappointing you as I try to bring you a fun, informative, and useful aviation information.
The 80th anniversary of women’s air racing is commemorated with the 2009 Air Race Classic, which will begin at Centennial Airport (APA) in Denver, Colorado on the morning of June 23rd. The first women-only air race, dubbed the “Powder Puff Derby” by humorist and aviation fan Will Rogers, was held in 1929. This year, 34 teams will make stops in Liberal KS, Sweetwater TX, Lufkin TX, Russellville AR, Grenada MS, Sparta TN, Jacksonville IL, Racine WI, and finish in Atlantic IA on June 26th.
The Colorado Chapter of the Ninety-Nines is holding a “Meet the Racers” event and would like to invite young people to meet the racers on Saturday, June 20th from 1pm to 3pm at Denver JetCenter East (13000 E Control Tower Rd, Centennial, CO). Each competitor has great stories to share and is truly a worthy role model. This event provides an opportunity to introduce our young people to the wonders of aviation. Please visit [http://www.AirRaceClassic.org] for more information about the air race, its history and the competing pilots.