Things have a way of working out. The other day I was flying with Sammy and his son Hondo out to the Julian Pie Factory located, interestingly enough, not in Julian but in Santa Ysabel. You can read more about the Julian Pie Company HERE.

Anyway, when we landed at the pie factory and started talking to this nice couple from Alaska. We were explaining to them that we had gotten permission some years ago to land, and that we had had up to five helicopters here before.

Hondo (Radar)

About the time we were talking about that, Hondo (better known as Radar thanks to his ability to hear and then spot any helicopter long before anyone else does) calls out an R44 inbound. Sure enough, before long we have two birds in the parking lot.

And there were two…

After the pilot of the R44 climbed out, he told us that there were at least two more ships inbound for the pie factory. About that time I had been talking to Bob and Darryl (N18PD). They were just getting ready to leave Big Bear (L35) so we convinced them to head down to PIE (my waypoint name in my GPS for Santa Ysabel).

As Hondo and I chatted with the pilot from the R44, we hear the unmistakable sound of an Eurocopter EC-145. Big, heavy and fast. The EC-145 is a twin-engine helicopter. Very nice, very beautiful and very powerful. This particular helicopter belonged to the LUNA boat parked in the San Diego bay.

And then there were three…


As luck would have it, yet another helicopter was soon on the horizon. This one owned and operated by Corporate Helicopters in San Diego. These are the same folks that are currently doing the maintenance work on my MD500. If you ever get a chance to visit Corporate located at KMYF, I highly recommend it. You will not find a nicer group of people! Be sure to tell Ivor that I sent you!

So in comes Ivor flying his AS350 AStar.


And then there were four…


With no idea when Bob and Darryl might show up, we all headed into the restaurant to get something to eat. Of course, just about the time our food arrives, we hear the unmistakable sounds of an Enstrom FX-280 approaching from the North. OK, so we really didn’t hear it coming, but we knew when they would be arriving since they had texted us when they landed in Hemet for fuel! So while everyone ate, Hondo and I headed out to be the welcoming committee for Bob and Darryl. The landing area was getting full for sure now!


Now there were five!


All five ships…


Once we were all done with lunch, Ivor suggested a small side trip to a private airstrip where we could all land and get some good photos. So off we went!


Four of the Five


The R44 had somewhere else to be so he did not come along, but the rest of us sat down on the strip and spent about an hour talking and looking over all of the helicopters. It was a nice time with some great people and some awesome flying machines!




Another great day of flying! Another great day of memories!

Darryl and the boys

The weekend after Christmas afforded another great opportunity to load up the helicopters and head for the Arizona desert to get in some tent camping, helicopter style. In this case it was a new experience for me as my best friend Darryl and his son Josh would be joining Tommy, Riley and me in a second helicopter.  Our good friend Bob was allowing Darryl to borrow his helicopter so we could make this a two-ship, and hence a five person camping trip.


Leaving Deer Valley

My part of the trip started out at Deer Valley Airport (KDVT) located northwest of Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport. Tommy, Riley and I hoped aboard N756TB, my Mooney Bravo and pointed our noses westbound. We left just ahead of this little weather system that had been brooding to our North for a few hours. It was time to be on our way.


Riley’s first trip in the Mooney

Since this was Riley’s first trip in the Mooney, he got to ride shotgun on our way to Palomar Airport, our home base. (KCRQ) It was an amazing ride, some clouds and a beautiful sunset over the Salton Sea made for a great trip back to California.

The Salton Sea from 12,500′

The next morning, we packed up the boys and headed to our favorite waterhole in Escondido – Starbucks. After eating a wonderful and nutritiously balanced meal, we headed for the airport. For the trip out, I would carry all of the camping supplied in the back seat of the 500 (since the Enstrom does not have a back seat and its baggage compartment had the auxiliary fuel tank installed). I would take Riley as it was his first helicopter trip and Darryl would take Tommy and Josh in 18PD.


Josh, Tommy & Riley


On the way out to our camping spot, we landed in a ravine  just before arriving at Blythe airport to let the boys stretch  their legs and get some fresh air. Long helicopter trips for people new to that style of travel and movement can be a bit much sometimes. The nice thing about the helicopters is you can pretty much land them anywhere, airport and runway not needed!


Our second ship – N18PD



A beautiful sunset


Once we landed at our campsite and got everything set up, it was time to watch a beautiful sunset and get our campfire going. Darryl and I had already visited the new campsite, verified that there was no one around for many, many miles and set up a fire ring and collected a bunch of old, dead wood for use as fuel!


Enjoying the fire


We had a very enjoyable evening of camping. The boys hiked about, got some shooting lessons from the master himself (Darryl), stuck themselves with cacti pretty good (drawing blood in several cases) and generally had a fantastic time. We brought all of our food, water, etc in with us and sat down for a nice meal made from Mountain House dehydrated camping food. It did not take long for our MSR multi-fule stove fueled by 100LL to boil the necessary water for the food. Anyone interested in camping should check out Mountain House, the food is absolutely amazing and the cost in very good.


Breakfast time…


After spending the night in 35 degree weather, we were up and about looking for something warm to drink. In actuality it was not bad at all since we had REI and Northface 20 degree sleeping bags. About the only thing the bags did not save us from was the ongoing snoring of Darryl which kept everyone (but him) awake through the night! The boys have all suggested a different tent on the other side of the landing zone for Darryl for our next trip!


A short stop on the way home


Heading back from the camp site to Carlsbad, we once again made a quick stop for some fresh air. The boys took the opportunity to scout around a bit and find some old cow bones which promptly went into their pockets.


Catching up on their sleep


Ah…on our way back to Deer Valley after a good weekend of camping. Tommy and Riley are both sleeping, the vibration and drone of the Mooney has that effect on some people, just ask my sister!


Joey in the Mooney



Mooney N1087M

Once the decision had been made to purchase a Mooney, then came the hard part – finding the right Mooney. Everyone that knows me knows that I am a gadget guy. I like electronics, I like gadgets. So of course I looked for the Mooney with the most number of gadgets. I also looked at things like engine and airframe times, but those being mostly equal, the race would fall to price and gadget factor.

The Bravo was the right price range for what I was looking for in a plane, and that plane was perfect for my primary mission – from KCRQ (Carlsbad, CA) to KDVT (Deer Valley, Phoenix AZ). I was sure I would use it for other things as well, but that was my primary mission and one pretty well suited for the Bravo. Typical flight time for me between CRQ and DVT was figured around 1:45 at 17,000′. I could not wait to get the plane.

After spending a few weeks looking around and inquiring about different planes, I finally picked N1087M. The plane was located at KFXE (Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport) in Florida. The plane was at a reputable Mooney shop, a pre-buy was completed, logs were checked, a deal was struck and escrow was put into place. The last step was insurance. OUCH…this was going to hurt…I had ZERO time in a Mooney, much less one like the Bravo. One thing I had learned about the Mooney – you really needed to respect the plane and it’s approach and landing speeds.

After discussions with my insurance broker, I had everything lined up. I learned that I needed two whopping hours of dual instruction before I could carry passengers in the Bravo and that full-coverage insurance with zero deductibles was going to run me less for an entire year than a single month of insurance for my MD500. I was elated, this plane was getting cheaper by the minute!

Mary and I climbed aboard a commercial flight to Florida and later that day we arrived at KFXE and started the final inspection and test flight of the Bravo.

Getting the Bravo ready to go


After getting the dual instruction needed and learning a little bit about the panel and radios, Mary and I loaded up the Bravo and set off to bed, arising early the next morning to begin our trip across the country. Our route would take us over the Everglades, up over Tallahassee and eventually all the way to California. We topped off the 120 gallons of gas and off we went!

In part 2, I will share our route and more photos from the trip!

Our Intrepid Explorers!




Citation Jet

This particular blog entry is going to start a section on how I came about owning a Mooney Bravo and what it took to get it home and get it exactly the way that I wanted it. Watch for other entries on the Mooney!

Well, like most things in my life, I am never quite content with the way things are or how I get from place-to-place. It was not long ago that I loved the smell of jet fuel, the whine of the Williams engines and the exhilaration of the acceleration to V1 in the CJ as I headed for Phoenix. It started to wear off  as I realized that flying a jet capable of carrying seven people by myself was pretty boring. It really started to wear off when I realized that getting into and out of Phoenix, even in a jet capable if FL410 was a game for the airlines and I got jerked around by ATC pretty much every time. Often I was told to descend to 17,000′ right after crossing into Arizona. OUCH…the CJ burns a LOT of fuel at that altitude!

So my trips back and forth to Phoenix were running about 1,000 pounds of Jet-A each way at those altitudes. Thats about 150 gallons for those in the av-gas world. Let’s see…at $5.00 a gallon, 300 gallons round trip…hummm…..$1,500.00 round trip to DVT in the CJ. That does not count my Tap-Elite engine costs, etc – just the fuel costs. And I was going almost every weekend.

It became obvious that I needed something a lot more economical from my little trips to Phoenix, the fuel along was costing a small fortune.

So I set out to research another airplane. I have the 500 for times when I am not in a hurry and the weather is nice. I have the CJ for times when the weather is really bad or when I need to move 7 people all at once, but I needed something in-between. Something that was inexpensive to purchase, yet quick enough to make a short run out of the 350ish mile trip. I had owned the Cirrus SR22 and it was a great plane, but I was hoping for something a little bit quicker and nicer on the eyes. So I looked at, and discarded the idea of the SR22, the F33, A36, PA-46 and others. Nothing was catching my eye.

Then I ran into an article on the Mooney Bravo. Ah…now that was a good looking plane. It looked like it was doing 200 mph sitting still on the ramp. Not too big, four seats, plenty of power, plenty of fuel and most importantly, pretty inexpensive to operate. Now I had to actually find one that I wanted and was priced just right.

So after searching high and low and looking at engine times, avionics, interiors and talking to a lot of different folks that owned Mooneys, I choose a Bravo (N1087M) in Florida. Due to a mishap with its former owner, it had a factory new engine, factory new prop, a Garmin G600 and the EDM930 already installed in the airplane. I didn’t much care for the interior, the panel layout or the tail number, but all of those things can be changed.


So here is a picture of N1087M after we got her home. I will be posting several more articles chronicling the trip home from Florida in the Bravo with Mary!

Stay Tuned and thanks for reading.



A different kind of camping…

I have always enjoyed camping. From the time I was a young boy and had the opportunity to camp out with friends or just by myself, I enjoyed camping. I enjoyed the allurer of pitching a tent and sitting around a camp fire, waking the next morning smelling like smoke and ready for another day of adventure.

As I have gotten older, my perception of camping changed a bit. Once attached to the fleet while a US Marine, I had the opportunity to “camp” in some really interesting places during some really interesting weather. These spots ranged from Camp Pendleton here in Southern California, to the Northern Training Area (better known as NTA) of Okinawa Japan, to Camp Lejune back east and beyond. Pouring rain and freezing weather did nothing to slow us down as we huddled in out shelter half (so named as it took two of you to end up with a shelter “whole”), freezing to death (or so we thought). Eventually we resorted to wearing our gas masks and “heating” our tent by burning the triox heat tabs that came with our MREs! We had to wear the masks as the fumes from the trioxane were toxic! But we were warm and that was all that mattered. Those triox tabs were worth their weight in gold during are much loved Marine Corps camp outs!

One would think that I learned my lesson utilizing tens to camp with, but even after the Corps I kept at it. Friends and I would load out campe gear and head for the Sierra Mountains in California to camp out next to some stream or other in the national parks. Again, we learned as we went and generally had a great time.

Part of “tent” camping is figuring out what you can take, who you can take and how long you can go. As some of you have seen my other “tent”, a lot of those questions are not relevant. At 43′ in length and enough room to sleep 17 (yes, we have had 17 people in out trailer sleeping) the only two questions you need to ask yourself’s are 1) How much is diesel and 2) Where can I stuff a 43′ 5th wheel!

Trailer Camping


So now I am even older yet and still enjoy camping. I enjoy the entire process of camping. To me, simply “camping” is not the joy. Planning for the camping is part of the fun. Where are we going? How are we getting there? What are we taking? Who are we gong to take with us? (this of course is dependent on the “What are we taking” question). Once we figure out all of those questions, then we get to figure out the logistics.

First we plan, then we pack, then we travel and then we set up, then we start the fire, then we burn everything in sight (if you have the boys with you), then we set up the portable toilet (if you have the girls with you) then we figure out what we are going to eat, then we figure out how we are going to cook it, then we spent two hours messing with our miniature multi-fuel stove until it reaches the temperature of the sun like it is advertised to do, a single degree cooler just won’t do it, then we burn ourselves boiling water on our “hotter-than-the-center-of-the-sun” multi-fule stove, then we eat our wonderful dehydrated Mountain House meals (which I might add taste far better than Marine Corps MREs)!

So all of this, including the final tearing down and cleaning up and returning home are fun times for me. I like to include others and we have a great time. The goal, of course, is lasting memories. Create great memories in the minds of the kids and they, in turn, will do the same for their kids. That is the hope anyway.

So this last camping trip that I took really pushed the limits of all of those things. First, it was a camping trip for just three of us. It would just be Tommy, Carter and me on this trip. One reason was the selected mode of transportation and the amount of camping equipment we had to take with us.

The first step of the trip started with me flying the Mooney (1990 Mooney M20M Bravo) from Carlsbad, California to Phoenix Arizona at 17,500′ and roughly 200 knots ground speed (230 mph). I topped off the Bravo with 120 gallons of 100 octane fuel. You might ask why I needed so much fuel for such a short trip.

Well, in my mind, the ONLY time you can have too much fuel is if you are on fire!


Flight from CRQ to DVT


Mooney Bravo Panel at 17,500′

So I climbed aboard my fire-breathing piston steed, climbed from sea level to 17,500′ in just under 15 minutes, leaned out my mixture and winged my way towards KDVT – better knows as Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix Arizona. I leveled out at 17,500′ and utilizing the EDM930 (far right of the screen) was able to lean out my fuel mixture to about 17gph and then I sat back and enjoyed the flight. One hour and forty-six minutes from startup, I shut down at Atlantic Aviation at the Deer Valley Airport!

Savvy Analysis Data Dump from my EDM 930


Once I picked up the boys at Deer Valley, we climbed aboard the Mooney for the return trip.  Since I didn’t have enough oxygen canulas to go around and I figured the boys would not appreciate the bad headache (or worse) they may have after flying home any higher than 12,500′, that is where we stayed for the return trip. A little slower and a little higher fuel burn, but they enjoyed themselves on the way home and we had great fun completing the first leg of our journey.

The boys in the Mooney


So the next morning after a healthy breakfast at our local Starbucks, we head for the airport.

Breakfast At Starbucks


Ok, so now the next part of the trip comes into play. We are heading for the open desert to go camping. No phones, no water, no electricity, no civilization, no anything that we do not bring with us. That means we have to bring everything with us! Food, shelter, water, sleeping bags, firewood, cooking equipment, kids, you name it, we have to take it. Needless to say, loading our “camper” took some time and a lot of reshuffling and repacking and (eventually) deciding what did not have to actually go with us. We ended up sitting on the ground since we took almost everything but the chairs!


Packing Job!


After finally making sure everything we really needed was packed (notice the chips on top?) we finally get ready to pull pitch and head for the Arizona desert. Our target is a secluded mesa about 50 miles South East of Blythe. Besides myself and other campers with me, I have only seen one other person at this site ever! It makes for a perfect get-away, no noise from other people or campers, no traffic, nothing. You need a helicopter, a parachute or a lot of rope and determination to visit this particular campsite as no known roads exist to get to it and even if there were, its difficult to drive almost straight up!Thankfully I carry enough fuel in the 500 to get from CRQ to DVT non-stop, so we were able to make our camping spot with enough time to setup camp before losing daylight!

After a very exciting flight out, we prepared to set up camp!


See how excited he is?


Unloaded camping gear


And of course, what would camping be without a camp fire? Sadly someone forgot the hot chocolate AND the marshmallows! Guess I better check that list better next time!


Nice Campfire


One of the nice things about being out in the middle of nowhere (in the winter) is that it gets dark very quickly. Eventually the boys run out of  scraps of stuff they can burn, and they are only willing to go so far from the campsite to find other dead stuff, so its off to the tent we go where the boy splay cards and I read my ipad.


Game of Cards


So off to sleep we go (at 8PM). Our queen sized North Face 20 degree sleeping bags and REI mats keep us completely warm and toasty during the 40 degree night. No animals (human or otherwise) sneak up on our campsite, there are no no blowing winds or weird noises to bother us during the night. And thankfully (for me) no need for the boys to go visit the “bathroom” in the middle of the night!


Camping gear ready to be packed back in the 500


After a great night of camping, we are ready to pack up the helicopter and take the short flight back to Phoenix. The boys decide the camp needs an official gideon and head out on the hunt for an “all natural” flag that can be left to identify our camping spot the next time we fly over.


Camp Gideon


We managed to get everything (and everyone) back into the helicopter for the short hop back to Phoenix. A great time was had by all and we are already looking forward to our next Helicopter Camping Trip.

Once more great memory to add to the books!


Tommy in the rear with the gear!



Carter rides up front on the way home




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