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Who is this Knightflyer guy?

Welcome to Knightflyer's landing strip!    
page updated December 13, 2006


 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
-opening of "High Flight" by G. Magee, 1941

The airplane a private pilot normally flies are smaller, and they have a ceiling maybe one third of the Spitfire that Mr. Magee flew in the Battle of Britain.
Yet... we still dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings. True, it takes a little longer to climb to altitude, but a Cessna is quite capable of getting up over a low-hanging cloud layer. My first encounters with airplanes were when we'd take my dad to Stapleton International airport to drop him off for business trips. I loved to look out the windows at the airliners, and as a young boy will, imagine myself in the cockpit flying them. 

Update 12/06 - I'm facing reality here. I simply don't have the money for this, and possibly never will.  Well over a year has passed since I set a "goal" of scheduling the practical by 11/05. I got in a little flying, but could only manage to get enough money together to fly once every couple of months. I'm really not even close to solo, and I have given up, defeated again. Short of some sort of miracle happening, I doubt I'll get a license anytime in the foreseeable future. 

That was over 30 years ago, but some dreams refuse to quietly die or fade away. It is my intent to make this the year I get that elusive license. Here's my plan to make it happen:

done - Choose a flight school, by March 31, 2005.
done - Choose an instructor by April 1, 2005.
done - Research software (flight simulations, possibly others) to augment the training process, and purchase by April 1, 2005.
done - Finish emergency fund by April 1, 20051
done - During March, build the anticipated monthly cost of training into the April budget
done - Schedule lessons by April 15, 2005.
done - Choose doc for medical by May 15, 2005
done - Schedule medical by May 31, 2005
Take written by August 31, 20052
Schedule practical test by November 20, 2005

1. For the last year, we've been rebuilding our emergency fund of 6 months expenses. Most of my extra income has gone into this effort. 
2. I took the written and passed with a score of 93 in August 2002. You have to complete the license within two years of taking however, or you have to retake it. 

While this schedule has written deadlines, there's nothing that says that line items can't be completed early. For instance, I've already begun researching software, and know that I need to get hold of CH Products flight simulation yoke and pedals. As such, I've started watching for a deal on ebay. To pay for this, I'm planning on continuing my extra part-time jobs, although I do intend to reduce the number of hours I'm available or it won't leave any time for training. 

Passed my medical without a hitch. Have my doubts about getting the written done by the end of August (it's the 10th, and I haven't started studying, but maybe this is the incentive I needed to panic...) - DAS. 

Experimental Aircraft...

The Short Story (with aircraft pics!)
I've wanted to build an experimental for quite awhile. I first became aware of these aircraft in the early 80's, when I bought a copy of "Kitplanes" magazine. I had found out that Cessna and Piper had quit building new light aircraft due to litigation problems, and everything new and exciting seemed to be happening in the experimental arena. 

Cessna and Piper are building again, but frankly all they did was roll out the same old stuff. Cessna finally put a fuel-injected Lycoming on the venerable 172 and upgraded the seats, but the airframe is essentially unchanged. They also offer a glass cockpit this year. Piper's designs are just as old, and due to their own money problems it seems unlikely they've had any significant updates. 

This lead me to Experimental. This stuff was cool! The first plane I fell in love with was the Lancair 320 (see below).

Photo courtesy of Lancair.

Fast, sleek and sexy, this bird made the spam cans look slow & ugly by comparison. Problem was, I was shy around $20k to buy a kit, and didn't have a place to build either. For the moment, it remained purely the stuff of fantasy, but it was entertaining to think about flying from Denver to Albuquerque in about two and half hours. I was spending an inordinate amount of time driving to and from Albuquerque at the time, but that's another story - 'nuf said. 

In the short story, I got married, and the mission profile suddenly changed to 2 +1 (my wife and step-daughter). So, I started looking at other aircraft, including the Cozy Mk IV, and a big chunk of bird called the Bearhawk. The neat thing about the 'hawk was it could easily carry four adults, and you could, in theory, put club seating in the back so-as to carry 2 adults and 4 kids. Get my drift here? Yep, our family just kept growing... Pretty soon, even the 'hawk wouldn't lift all them.

Photo courtesy of Bearhawk Aircraft.

Now at the time, the Bearhawk was built from scratch, and the odds of me completing that level of project were pretty slim. All the same, I was on the Bearhawk builder's list for a long time, and came close to purchasing the plans now and then. My wife reined me in, and kept me from making a several-hundred-dollar mistake there. It's still a lovely airplane, and you can get kits for it now too!

I downgraded my expectations, and began looking at a little airplane with a much-shorter build time and a beer-budget (as airplanes go). This one was the Sonex. Instead of a cross-country mission expectation, I had changed to a "go fly when I can slip away" profile, which the Sonex meets perfectly. 

  Photo courtesy of Sonex Aircraft Limited

I joined their building list, and really thought I'd start building. Time went by, but money stayed tight, and I hadn't made any progress on the elusive PPL. I am now making progress on getting my license, but haven't bought plans or anything - yet. This still seems like the most likely project, if I go the home built route. 


The Rest of the Story...
Solving the "place to build" seemed like the best place to start, so I started looking at houses (somewhere around 1986'ish). What I wanted was something that could serve as a hanger, preferably with a bedroom attached. I couldn't find anything I could afford on that first round of house hunting, so I stayed where I was for a couple of years until I started looking again around 1992. I wound up with a townhouse and no garage as my 'starter' home. Not quite what I had in mind, but it was a start, right? I had set my interest in flying on a back burner and let my membership in EAA expire. It didn't seem achievable. In reality (and hindsight), I just didn't know how to handle my money, and my best opportunity for a career in aviation had  passed by. Indeed, it may well have been my only opportunity; only time will tell.

A few years passed, and I finally decided that the school district I was working for didn't have anything left to offer a computer tech as far as a career path, so I parted ways with them on excellent terms. I landed (no pun intended) at Random Access, who had the big US West contract to repair their computers. Cool job, and along the way I ran into this pretty lady who worked on the 8th floor (we were based on the 7th). We started dating and were soon inseparable. Now our building was in the Inverness business park, which is right under the downwind portion of the pattern going into Centennial Airport. She found it a little distracting sometimes as we'd be chatting out front after work, as an airplane would sail by and I'd pause to look up and check it out. It wasn't too long before she suggested that I go and find out what it would take to get a license since I was obviously interested in airplanes. 

I started taking flying lessons around the same time we got married, but it was expensive and I didn't have much of a formal plan. My wife questioned whether this was progressing correctly, which I misinterpreted as discouraging me from pursuing the whole thing. My self-confidence isn't the greatest, and it didn't take that much to discourage me. Part of her worry about the expense was due to the fact that we went from two incomes to living on just one (mine) after being married. I dropped out, with the intent of going back "sometime real soon". A year passed, followed by another... We moved into a new house, and while out picking up take-out Chinese food, I happened across a catalog for Emily Griffith Career Opportunity school. I wound up taking their ground school, and passed the written with a score of 93 in 2002. 

This whole time I'd been making noises about getting a license or even jumping over into aviation as a career. The problem always circled back to what really makes airplanes fly though - Money. I simply didn't have the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to get a commercial license. I had managed to save almost enough to get a private license, when we decided to finish the basement of our new house, and I watched as all that money flowed into the basement. Square one again. 

Today... well, if you've made it this far, then you've already seen the plan above (unless you read things backwards or jump around like me...). The current plan is to get a private license by the end of the year. After that? Don't know... I've still thought about finishing a bachelor's degree, most likely through UVSC's web-based aviation-degree program. I recently made a new friend at church, who already has his PPL, but who is in exactly the same boat as me. He too has a family of 8, and you just can't rent an airplane that big. That, and the cost to fly is difficult to manage on one income. He too has thought a bit about experimental so who knows...maybe I'll drag a partner into the aircraft building hobby. ; )

But first, let's get that elusive ticket to fly, shall we?


And finally, this was too good not to share:

This page is maintained by Dave Steele, aka "Knightflyer"
You can email him at dave.steele at lmco.com 
Sorry no hotlink for email. When they institute capital punishment for idiot spammers with web-spiders, it'll be back.

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