I woke up to gunshots. But first, the backstory.
A 5-day Enterprise trip started off with Naples, FL for a visit with
family. It's always good to see Mom & Dad and I count myself lucky to
not only have them, but to have them "all there." We talked for hours in
the space of a couple days, solved many world problems, learned a bit
more from each other and generally enjoyed life. I'm lucky to have these
Next up was Paul Czarnecki's Christmas/New Year's Fly In.
Pine Island @ PlanetPPG
Wow is this place improved! Tons of debris has been vanquished making
it much neater and increasing accommodation space. Paul, Donny, and
company have spent LOTS of time here and it shows.
My first day was educational for me. There are some things I do with
people I know that should not be done around people I don't. In this
case, it was inflating behind someone who was laid out just in front of
me with the intent to power up just enough to walk around them, kiting,
then launch. If the wing comes up crooked, I abort, which I did. It's a
fun challenge but the person in front of wasn't familiar with it, had
never seen it, and thought I was just going to run over his wing. Not
surprisingly, he was upset. Fair enough. After having words with the
pilot I realized that no, that was not appropriate. Later on we talked,
I apologized and we had a good time afterwards. File that away. Don't
"do a Dell." Lesson learned.
It was flyable every day but the best weather came and went before I
got there. This was the first time I was there for the banquet which was
held at a nearby restaurant. Good food, great people, and a great time.
Evenings were topped off by long chats around the fire, lots of food
and chatting about nearly everything under the stars.
The place is gorgeous, has few trees, fewer ant hills and more space
to land. There are still humps on the south third or so but one thing at
a time. It has enormous potential to be a really cool place for all
kinds of aviation.
I met and talked with Paul's partner in the airport, Jerry, and what
a gem he is. Same with his wife. We have friends there and I really hope
the airport succeeds in the way they envision. It's already dramatically
improved. I'm looking forward to flying the Bonanza down there. They're
talking about paving it but, even now it would be fine.
As you would expect, it's bumpy down low with wind over about 8 mph
but it takes about 10 mph to make me not want to fly low.
A higher operational pace makes following noise and pattern rules
more important. This is their home. I even got yelled at for flying low
across the runway. Although I looked before crossing, it's not the
procedure and, with such varied air traffic it's necessary to follow the
procedures, especially during events.
On Wed (12/31) it was windy enough to keep most pilots on the ground.
It wasn't dangerous, it just wasn't as much fun and most pilots had
their fill. A lot of kiting and kibitzing was had that day.
One pilot was adjusting his Spider, a South African machine
based on Parajet's Zenith. The pilot was having issues with
Torque and had made some fixes, namely straightening out a swing-arm. I
offered to try it out and took it up for a quickie.
Overall the frame and harness was reasonably comfortable but it did
have a good bit of torque twisting during launch. It was made worse by
me having to do a right on launch. At altitude I went to full throttle
and nearly twisted around.
After landing a bunch of us brainstormed ideas on how to improve the
situation and came up with the solution: pivot the engine
counter-clockwise on the frame so as to move the thrust line. The
pivoting wasn't my idea but it should work nicely. It was the strangest
thing -- this engine was mounted with only TWO bolts. The pilot had
reinforced it on his own but it came with only two bolts to hold the
It's easy to dismiss a machine but I've found that frequently these
sorts of problems can be fixed with minimal effort. It's a pain in the
process and must be done carefully, but the results can be beneficial.
Test flying is best done with some wind in smooth conditions. That way,
if it doesn't feel right, an abort is easy. No wind launches on twisty
machines can leave a pilot with no out -- you're moving so fast that an
abort means a fall.
Dinner, Movie, and Moving On
Given that the weather wasn't supposed to be that great on Jan 1 I
figured I would head home to bring in the new year with Tim. It was a
2.5 hour drive so I should make it home in time. After watching Tim
Gaskin's Bloopers 2, having some of Paul & Donna's delicious dinner, I
said my farewells and headed out. Given that it was only 8:40pm, I
should be home in plenty of time.
I headed north. About 40 minutes into my drive I got sleepy and
stopped for a short nap. I can commonly get 10 minutes of shut-eye and
press on nicely. So I pulled into a Walmart and went back to lay down.
That's a beautiful thing about motorhome travel: home is never more than
a few feet away.
Off to sleep. Now it gets interesting.
So there I was, sleeping. Soundly. After the first couple gun shots I
realized I was in the Enterprise. After a couple more, sleep fog cleared
and I remembered this was a Walmart parking lot; I did not want
to remain here so I put my rehearsed plan into action.
The plan is simple: get the gun, keep it out of view, take the
drivers seat, start up and get moving, preferably towards the nearest
After about 20 yards or so it dawned on me that it was midnight on
new year's eve. New year's eve. You know, with fireworks? Yup, those
weren't gun shots, they were fire crackers. Oh brother. I guess it
wasn't a 10 minute nap, either!
It also meant there would be no getting home before midnight.
Oh well, at least I was wide awake for driving.
What a great trip. What great people. Here's looking forward to the