I take my first flying lesson when I was 16. I logg 16 hours and
then run out of money. I don't take another lesson until 2000, when
I earn my Private Pilot certificate in two months and 39 hours. I
since add instrument rating, tailwheel endorsement and glider
rating to my certificate. I fly out of Reid-Hillview airport in
south San Jose, Calif.
I am working on a Light-Sport instructor certificate.
I am a former owner of a 1/4 share in a Skybolt. The Skybolt is
an experimental aerobatic biplane. It's similar to a Pitts, but
bigger, heavier and slightly less maneuverable. The visibility is
as bad as in the Pitts, or so I hear. Learning to fly it is a
humbling experience for me. It is faster and heavier than anything
I fly before, and forward visibility is bad to non-existent. With
the nose high for take-off or landing, you can't see the runway in
front of you, and the lower wing obscures most of the view
down. I'm grateful to Robin Reid for seeing me through this
transition. Robin is a 747 captain and the most personable CFI I
have the pleasure to learn from. I eventually sell my share--the
airplane takes more work to keep flying that I am willing to put
In April 2007 I go to Minden, NV to learn how to fly
gliders. Soar Minden's
Fred LaSor takes me through the glider rating add-on in 4
days. Here I'm glowing after my first glider solo. One of the
requirements for a glider rating is ten solo glider flights. I log
all of mine in one day, which is exhausting but feels great. I
remember feeling my proficiency and confidence levels rise with
every landing. In the far right photo, I'm recreating the
excitement of a particularly eventful tow with Fred (laughing) and
Neil the tow pilot (his back to the camera).
I like taking people for flights around the San Francisco
Bay. The sights are spectacular. The airspace is some of the
busiest in the nation, but the controllers are friendly and
incredibly accommodating. There is even a semi-official BAYSHORE
transition that you can coordinate with NorCal Approach that takes
you through class Bravo along the peninsula, over SFO and downtown
San Francisco. After circling over Alcatraz, you can go back the
same way, return over Oakland and East Bay, or head out the Golden
Gate, follow the coastline south and have lunch at Half Moon Bay
before returning. I take my friend Mark Harms on one of these
tours in June 2006, and he shoots some wonderful
photos from the back seat of a Citabria. I reproduce four of
them here, with a transcript of the radio traffic. Where else can
SPEEDBIRD 285 HEAVY, NORCAL APPROACH. Descend and maintain 5,000. Your traffic
is a Citabria, 2,500, eleven o'clock and 5 miles, has you in sight.
CITABRIA 91L, traffic is a Britsh 747, one o'clock, descending through 7,000,
restricited above you.
I learn to fly Citabrias at Amelia Reid Aviation at
RHV. After about 300 hours flying tricycle-gear airplanes, I want
to learn how to deal with taildraggers. Eric Raymond writes
that learning Lisp can "make you a better programmer for the rest
of your days, even if you never actually use Lisp itself a lot."
Taildraggers are like that--they teach you that you can do more
with rudder pedals than steer on the ground, and the discipline
you learn carries over into any kind of flying you do. "Citabria"
is "airbatic" spelled backwards. After I get comfortable landing
them, I start taking acro lessons, and I like it so much I
eventually buy a share in a Skybolt. Now most of my flying is in
taildraggers. Then again, I also use Lisp in my personal