Thursday, January 01, 2015

Three New for the New Year

Good Lord, can you believe that it's already 2015? I can't; time seems to speed up as I get older. Dawn and I are celebrating New Years in Portland with our good friends Brad and Amber. Like myself and a great many of my flying friends, Brad moved from the regional airlines to the majors this year. Also like many of these friends, we started around the same place (instructing together at ADP) and our career paths have sometimes intertwined, at other times gone in very different directions, and yet we advanced to the next level within a month of each other. We agreed that the process of training, IOE, and probation/reserve/commuting made this year seem far shorter than the last few years in which we were senior in our respective positions. In my case, the last two or three months have seen a few other major developments that put me decidedly behind on this blog. I don't want longtime followers to have to wait to read about them in my Flying column, so here they are all at once: Three new developments as 2014 rolls over to 2015.

1. I'm off probation and (almost) back in MSP!

I completed 400 flight hours in the Mad Dog in early December, finishing my probationary period! Practically, this doesn't really mean a great deal, merely that I'm entitled to union representation in case of disciplinary action. The reality is that if you screw up in an especially egregious manner, the airline will attempt to fire you even after you're off probation, and while on probation you still generally have to screw up in an rather egregious manner to get fired. In my case, I don't see myself acting much differently after probation. But it's a milestone nonetheless, and one that allows you to breathe a bit of a sigh of relief that you're not quite so under the microscope; you've essentially been accepted as a permanent part of your new airline. I was allowed to read the probationary pilot reports submitted by the captains I've flown with thus far, and they were all rather complimentary ("He really likes to hand fly!" read one of the latest).

Concurrently, I was finally converted to my new base of MSP for the February bid period. I wrote about being awarded MSP several months ago, but the contract allows the company quite a lot of flexibility in when they actually make the award effective. Because there were so many New York-based Mad Dog FOs attempting to get back to MSP, the company couldn't let us all go at once without severely affecting their New York schedule. So, I had to wait a bit, but a month from now I'll again be driving to work. Nice!

Taken with a non-wifi camera...100% legal, probation or not!

Isn't that beautiful!? Oh yeah, the sunset is nice too!

2. There's a new Yellow Cub in the Yellow Cub Club

I've written extensively here and in Flying about my adventures in N77532, the Yellow Cub Club's 1946 Piper J3C Cub. This plane had been in the club since the mid 1970s, the last time it had been recovered - and the use was showing. We were faced with the prospect of being without an airplane for a year or more while we restored 532. The thing is, we're a flying club, not a group of old airplane restorers. The good news was that we've had excellent financial stewardship over the last few years, resulting in very healthy reserve levels. Ultimately we decided that we could afford to sell 532 and then buy a pretty, already-restored Cub. This all happened over a 3-week period in October. Happily, 532 went to a friend of mine, a guy I knew from my last airline who was in my class at my current airline. It's in South Dakota and is being flown by a newly-formed flying club that plans to fly it for a year or two more and then restore it. There's a good chance I'll get to fly 532 again.

The airplane we acquired as 532's replacement is actually older, a 1940 model J3C, but was restored in the mid 1990s and late 2000s. NC28092 is a very pretty bird - one I'd be happy to display at any fly-in. She's also a bit sprightlier than 532 despite only having a 65 hp Continental - perhaps due to lighter construction, perhaps due to less time since overhaul. She cruises quite easily at a solid 80mph. I hope this fine example of the breed makes it to Oshkosh in the next few years, though she probably won't be flown by me for reasons I'll outline below. In fact, I plan to sell my share in the Yellow Cub Club come spring, despite being their new maintenance officer.

One of my last times flying N77532, with my father-in-law Tom. I flew 7 family members this late-summer weekend. 

NC28092, the new Yellow Cub in the Yellow Cub Club!

 Very nice Cub!

3a. We have a new Piper (dog)!

Dawn and I have been talking about getting a pup for ages but have delayed because of how much we're gone from home. After Dawn's brother's dog gave birth to a litter of 7, we finally decided to just make the adjustments necessary to bring a pooch into our lives. Dawn visited her brother in October and picked out the cutest, calmest, and most loving pup in the litter. Well, the "calm" part was certainly temporary, for shortly after taking him home he started letting out his alter-ego personality that I call "Demon Dog!" Regardless, he's still very cute and loving, and even in his persnickety moods gets a lot of laughs out of us. After a lot of deliberation we decided on calling him Piper, largely Dawn's choice as I was resistant to an aviation-centric name. Once I met him I realized that the name suited him perfectly. It has, however, caused a bit of consternation among our friends because of another addition to our family since the pooch....

Piper at about ten weeks old. It's crazy how much he's grown in the six weeks since this.

 3b. We have a new Piper (airplane)!

This is pretty crazy, I can still barely believe it even as I type it. Dawn and I are airplane owners. Not just 1/12th owners, as we are in the club Cub; sole owners of our very own airplane, a 1953 Piper PA-22/20-160. I'll write more about the process in a separate entry, but we've known for a long time that we would eventually buy an airplane, and this fall decided that the timing was right to start getting serious. I wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly, though; we had really just started looking. This one was exactly what I was looking for and came at a very good price. A friend, fellow aviation writer, and airline pilot of some notoriety helped me ferry it home from Montana - more about that in the next entry. But long story short, there's a pretty little yellow airplane all of our own, sitting in its own hangar at Flying Cloud Airport (FCM), awaiting some seriously awesome adventures together! Dawn and I have big plans for trips with Piper (dog) and the Pacer (airplane). Piper the dog has actually already flown in Pacer the airplane twice, and seems to like the back seat rather well!


Ben Read said...

Happy new year, Sam, and thanks for all the excellent, illuminating posts. Congratulations on all these milestones!

Tom B. said...

Congrats on all Sam; looking forward to hearing about being a mad dog pilot in MSP.

Blogging with Spencer said...

Sweet back in MSP!! And a new airplane to boot!! Living large !

D.B. said...

Very nice! Welcome to the joys (and trials) of aircraft ownership!

typingtalker said...

Sam wrote, "A friend, fellow aviation writer, and airline pilot of some notoriety ... "

That friend wouldn't be the owner of a Cessna 185 Skywagon would he?

Sam Weigel said...


As a matter of fact, he is :-).

alaskdrifter said...

Nice looking Pacer! Make sure to check out

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Anonymous said...

Just thought I would let you know that N77532 is being loved by its new owners (and me, the 17year old nephew) the plane is truly a joy to fly and I am making many new great memories in it!