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.

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 you hear...

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 programming projects.