Cheers to Laura Gantt On Her First Solo Flight

posted in: Members' Achievements | 0
Share Button
Laura Gantt - First Solo Flight
Laura Gantt – First Solo Flight

I started flying in 1990 as an occasional fixed-wing transport nurse for San Jan Regional Air Care to make extra money for graduate school. I was also working in an emergency department in Farmington, New Mexico. A few years after I started doing transports in Cessna 414 and a Beech king Air, I was recruited to fly rotor-wing transports full time with Air Care.

Without hesitation, I can say it was one of the best jobs I ever had working for the best boss I ever had. Air Care usually staffed nurse-paramedic teams. All the paramedics were extreme outdoor sportsmen who did things like heli-skiing, and ice climbing. I owe my life to them, and the pilots that got us where we needed to go. There was one flight that involved me riding a horse. That picture is still being held for blackmail by the manager at Air Care!

For those of you who knew Josh Brehm, I met him while I was still at Air Care. I continued to fly with medical transport services off and on until 2006. Little did I know how different the pilot’s perspective was, even though I often rode back from transports in the front seat of whatever aircraft we were in. Josh and I often talked about me taking flying lessons, and we got in a few. After Josh’s death, EAA 1423 looked after me, and I got to know many of the members better than I had before.

In January of 2012, I decided to go to ground school at Dillon’s Aviation. Taft Stallings from EAA 960 signed me up for the ground school and then passed me off to another instructor, Al Pierce, who was fabulous; he put up with me for 18 months. I tried to keep the flying lessons and school a secret, but ran into Tim Woolard and Dennis Millsap at an FAA lecture in Kinston soon after I started ground school. Dang it!

Lots of things have come up during the 2+ years it took me to make it to solo, July 12, 2014. The hardest part for me was learning to land the Diamond 40, which is a really fast airplane that makes it around a traffic pattern quickly. My instructors (I’ve only had 7 or so) had to strategize a lot about how to get me over my anxiety about landing. Of course, Stuart Dillon is pretty sure that his 30 minutes in the simulator with me is what made the difference!

I’ve learned a lot and received great encouragement from chapter members (thank you!) and the folks at Dillon’s. In the final analysis, Taft was there when I soloed. I think Mike Roberson was too; he was on the runway in another plane. I know that Taft will be happy to have me finish my pilot’s license with the new guy, Shane Brown, who is also really good. Hopefully it won’t take another two years and 7 months for me to get through the rest of the license.

Text by Laura Gantt. Photo by Taft Stallings Photography.

Share Button

Plane Bored in Retirement

Share Button

I’ve been building airplanes for the last sixteen years. In that time, I’ve built and flown an RV-6A, an RV-10, and more recently an RV-12. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love building and I certainly love flying. However, don’t you sometimes get bored doing the same things over and over? Me too. So, recently I sidestepped a little and took on some non-aviation projects. First, there was the motorcycle that was going to be my 2013-2014 winter project. The guy I bought it from had already thrown up his hands in defeat. “We’ve tried everything,” he said. “It doesn’t have enough compression so it will have to be rebuilt.” Cool! I get to rebuild another motorcycle. I did one last winter, and it was fun. So, I got it home and prepared to pull the engine. But first, I thought, “Well, they have checked everything, but I’ll just confirm their findings.” So, if the compression is low, let’s check the valve clearance. They were WAY off. Come on, that can’t be it? I checked the compression. Perfect! So I buttoned everything up and hit the starter. Vvvrrooomm. Started right up. My winter project lasted almost two hours. Oh well…

I started thinking that I’m about to turn 50. So, I wanted a theme project. You know, one that’s 50. I found a 1964 Chevy C-10 Pick-up. Rusted, broken down, and on its last leg. Like me! So, my son-in-law, Matt, and I took on the project and we have been having a blast! We’ve stripped it to the frame, ripped the engine and transmission into a million pieces, and have already started to put things back together. We decided to blog about the process. I know, old dogs and new tricks, etc., but you can check it out:

Meanwhile, on the airplane front, another project fell into my lap. A Glastar GS-1, that’s languished for years, found its way to us. It’s partially completed, but the work done is largely un-airworthy. We need to rework a lot of parts, but there’s nothing that can’t be fixed. So, the GS-1 is in the queue behind the old truck. And after that, the RV-8 that’s still in the box – but that’s a story for another time. So, we have several years’ worth of work laid out for us.

Meanwhile, Lori and I enjoy a globetrotting lifestyle as aircraft builder’s assistants. We’re headed to New Orleans to help an RV-14 builder who is stuck building his fuel tanks. Next, up to Wisconsin to help an RV-8 builder finish that last 90% before first flight. Then, it’s off to Sun-N-Fun. Finally, return home and back to work. People ask me every day, “What do you do now that you’re retired?” I look them right in the eye and say, “Oh, nothin’!”

Text and photos submitted by Dennis Milsap.

Share Button

Tail Wheel Training

Share Button

I’ve always heard that getting a new rating or special endorsement is a great way to shake off the “cobwebs”. Especially after spending too much time on mother earth. So I decided to take advantage of a rare opportunity and get a tail wheel endorsement. I say it is a rare opportunity because most flight schools have given up this type of training or simply do not have suitable aircraft. Thanks to Charles Lewis, we have both!

Tail Wheel Training - Steve Spaanbroek
Tail Wheel Training – Steve Spaanbroek

Charles suggested we pick two days and dedicate them to the training. I agreed. Actually, I had reservations about this approach, as all of my previous training had been like most everyone else’s, one hour at a time. I kept those thoughts to myself and was glad I did, because it turned out to be the perfect way to learn new skills, and banish some old habits.

The day finally came, December 30, 2013. The weather the weekend before had been wet, but Charles was confident we could get it done. The plan: to start by slowly taxing the airplane, increase speed as competence, and confidence, (funny how they go together) permitted. We taxied the Champ onto the runway at South Oaks. Oddly enough, I felt immediately at home on the soggy runway, but then again I’ve spent my entire life on boats! However, due to the wet runway, it was obvious we needed another plan. Prop Drive, an adjacent street, served for a runway as we departed for Washington Warren Airport. After a few heart-stopping passes, we began a round robin of remote strips, most of which I had never noticed in all of the hours I had flown over the area. Having spent all of my hours looking at 150 by 6000 feet, landing at most of those places in a 172, seemed impossible.

I would hate to reveal any of Charles’ secrets, so in lieu of describing the training, I thought I would discuss the benefits of this training in addition to the obvious, learning how to fly a tail-dragger. First, I learned that those pedals on the floor are useful during taxi, take-off, and landing 100% of the time!

In fact, where I had always considered myself a fairly well rounded pilot, it became obvious that modern aircraft made coordinated flight far too easy. This has made flying less demanding, but also encouraged bad habits. That being said, far and away, the greatest benefit for me was the increased self-confidence. This came from learning how to truly “feel” the airplane, fly with greater precision, and most important, realize how many options there really are if the day ever comes that an off airport landing is necessary. All of these should make me a much better pilot when I return to Cessnas and asphalt.

I am not sure exactly what I expected to get out of this additional training, but I certainly did not expect that the greatest take away would be a reminder of what caused me to fall in love with flying all those years ago when I took my first lesson. Flying should be more about the journey than the destination. There is a reason we are referred to as an “aviation community”. Flying is as much about the people as the airplanes, and more than anything, flying should always be fun!

If you are debating whether to get your endorsement, get off the fence, and on the rudder pedals. You won’t regret it!

Text and photo submitted by Steve Spaanbroek.

Share Button

First Solo Cross-Country Flight

posted in: Members' Achievements | 0
Share Button

Israel Mueller - First Solo Cross-Country FlightOn December 28, Israel Mueller completed his first solo cross-country flight. Israel is taking lessons to obtain his Private Pilot License and is flying a Diamond DA-40.

His cross-country flight was from KPGV (Pitt-Greenville) to KTTA (Raleigh-Exec) and returning to KPGV. Below is a short video of his adventure.

Text, photo, and video submitted by Israel Mueller.

Share Button