Flight Stuff



This is a followup blog to “Bringing Home The Bravo – Part 1

So in my first couple of Bravo posts, I shared with you why I choose the Bravo and the process of actually starting to get it home. In the second part I will talk about the actual trip itself and how it went!

Mary and I took off from KFXE first thing in the morning with the goal of making it to KDVT the same day. The Bravo holds 120 gallons of fuel and at 10,500 to 12,500′ we planned for most of the trip, we would have a true airspeed of 185 to 190 Knots. So we could make the entire trip in a day with two fuel stops, weather permitting!

It was great having someone along besides just myself. When I told Mary I was going to pick up the plane, she immediately signed up for the trip, even after I told her I had never flown a Mooney before! Of course, the Mooney has no bathroom, so the planned stops had to take that into account. With 120 gallons onboard, it was more than possible the plane could fly longer than either of us! We targeted about four hours but since we were flying VFR, we could adjust that as necessary. It turns out that our first leg was actually 5.2 hours! Not too bad!

On our way

Our first leg took us Northwest out of the Fort Lauderdale area towards Palm Beach, across Lake Okeechobee and up over Sebring. My goal was to get away from the Everglades as quickly as possible, and not head out over the Gulf but rather stay over dry land as much as possible. Since I was very new to this plane and the area, I wanted a safe route in the event something happened.

Making our way up Florida

As we started out the trip, I decided to stay at 8,500′ although we would eventually get much higher enroute back to California. The 8,500′ was a comfortable altitude based on the current weather and winds and we had a nice view too!

Sunrise in Florida


We were not doing too bad on our fuel consumption at 8,500′. The EDM-930 was showing about 17 gallons per hour at 180 knots true air speed. I had the power dialed down to 2400 rpm and 30 inches of manifold pressure which was showing me at an 80% power setting.


EDM 930


As we continued toward Tallahassee we climbed to 10,500′ and at the same fuel burn our true airspeed and our ground speed increased. Not a huge amount, but it did increase! I can tell you, the EDM-930 is a fantastic piece of equipment and replaced all of the analog gauges in the Bravo.

Hanging out at 10,500′


Once we made Tallahassee, we plugged AXE into our GPS and headed towards Louisiana. The weather was still nice, but we could see some stuff building, nothing major but we would need to keep on pushing if we were going to make the trip in one day. They were starting to call for convective activity over central Texas and we still had a long way to go before we passed it.


Heading to KAEX


Coming up on KECP


Since this was our first long trip in the Mooney, we were playing with all of the gadgets the previous owner had installed. The Garmin G600 is a fantastic panel and the EDM930 gives you a very powerful view of all of the engine parameters at a glance. Of course, I would eventually redo the entire panel and interior to suit me, but that is a post for another day!

This was Mary’s first long cross country trip in a small airplane and she loved it. We had a fantastic trip and we really enjoyed the unique experience together.

Enjoying the ride


Looking good


So our first stop was in Alexendria Louisiana (KAEX). THe first leg of our journey took up 5.2 hours on the hobbs (which included taxi & run-up). In Alexendria we pumped 83 gallons of 100LL into the Bravo. At 5.2 hours on the hobbs, we averaged 16 gallons per hour over the first leg of the trip. The first leg was right around 800nm.



So after a much needed break, some fuel (for both the plane and for us) and some walking around, we were ready to take to the skys once again. We took off and headed towards Texas and watched as the weather started to build. By my calculations we could make it past the building storm, passing south of it without getting too close to the system.


Storm building


Picking up the storm on XM


Building fast!


Moving past the storm….


Phew…we made it past the system without getting caught up it in much at all. We ended up with a little turbulence and jumped between 8,500′ and 12,500′ to try and smooth it out, but in the end we just put up with it until we started our descent into Roswell, NM.



Our leg mileage from AEX to ROW worked out to be roughly 650 nautical miles which we did in 4.3 hours. Once at ROW we pumped 69 gallons of 100LL giving us an average of 16 gph for the second leg.

Our plan was to fuel and jump back into the air right away, but there was a frontal system that basically planted itself between us and Deer Valley (Phoenix Arizona) so it looked like we were going to be spending the rest of the day and night in Roswell NW. Thankfully we had our ID cards so we could move about freely without being worried about deportation!



One of the very cool things about Roswell (at least for me) was all of the aircraft sitting on the ramp. All kinds of jets from carriers all around the world sit in Roswell collecting dust and waiting to be purchased or put back on the line. It was an awesome site!

Sitting on the ramp at KROW


So after a wonderful day walking all over Roswell and picking up some shirts for us and the kids, we climbed aboard 87M and headed south towards El Paso to get around the White Sands Missile Range. No sense making ourselves more of a target then we needed to be!

Heading towards El Paso



DVT Ahead!


So with another 450 miles behind us we landed at Deer Valley Airport (KDVT) on the Northwest side of Phoenix Arizona. We used 52 gallons of 100LL and it took us 3.5 hours on the hobbs to make that leg.

Mary and I at DVT


Of course, all of the kids wanted to see the plane and check it out.

The girls like the plane…


Alien Encounter!


The following day I climbed about the Mooney and made the final leg to CRQ, my home base. The trip was amazing and it really gave Mary a feel for flying small airplanes. She helped with all the checklist work the entire trip and now she has started ground school for her private pilot’s certificate. Overall, another wonderful memory building experience!

Florida to California




For those of you that have been around me for any length of time, you know that I am hooked on helicopters. I love airplanes for sure, but I crave my helicopter flight time and the incredible sense of freedom and enjoyment that comes from flying helicopters. I love the rush of hovering, confined area landings, pinnacles, helicopter camping, pretty much anything to do with helicopter flying.

So it should come as no surprise that I tried (yes only tried) my hand at RC helicopters. I went through a good number of “Ready to Fly” helicopters ranging from palm sized to the Axe CP series helicopters. I think I still have five or six controllers laying around from all of the wrecks that I had and all of the helicopters that I purchased and tried to fly. Once thing that I found out is that just because you can fly a full sized ship, does not mean that you can fly an RC helicopter. So I gave up on the idea.

Then a fellow helicopter pilot and friend introduced me to one of his friends Ray. Ray knew how to fly the RC helicopters like no one else I had seen. We took the day and flew our helicopters (by invitation) to a remote RC helicopter field and spent the day watching all of the folks fly their helicopters. Ray was a master. Nitro and electric he made them hum. I found out that Ray is actually sponsored for his flying, and I can see why.

So Ray and I started up a conversation about me learning to fly RC helicopters. It started with what my eventual goals would be. In my mind, this was a no brainer, I would eventually like to be flying a 1/4 scale turbine powered MD500 like these shown below:


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The problem is that these machines can run upwards to $15,000 to $20,000 by the time you have them all built up and a real turbine jet engine installed. The engine alone is the cost of a small used car! The controller that I wanted – the cost of another small used car and then all of the other cool features that you may need (ok, want) all add up to a lot of investment. Since I had trouble keeping a $150 RC helicopter flying, I KNEW that I needed help long before attempting to tackle a project like this one.

So Ray suggested that I start with an electric helicopter, but not one of the small, ready-to-fly (RTF) helicopters, but one that we actually put together ourselves, with our electronics and controllers, our batteries, our wiring, basically built to our exact specifications. Changes could be easily made by fabricating parts on Ray’s 3D printer and then testing them out until it was just the way we liked it. Once Ray told me that he would help me become a real RC helicopter pilot without wrecking my investment in the process, I was hooked and ready to move forward.

The next step was to decide what my “learning” ship would consist of. I was thinking the Align 700 or 800, but Ray steered me toward the Goblin 770. It was an amazing looking ship and better yet, it was flybarless and pretty much all new technology. In addition, we could customize it any way that we wanted for what I was trying to accomplish.


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So the Goblin 770 is on back order along with many of the parts I will need to put it all together. In the mean time, Ray suggested that I pick up a flight simulator and start playing around with that in my spare time until everything came arrived.

The controller I choose was the Futaba T-18MZ, a controller that would allow me to learn, but yet give me the awesome capabilities I would want to have with my 1/4 scale turbine when the time came.

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So with all that in mind, Bob, Darryl and I along with a friend’s son flew up to Ontario on Saturday and attended the Academy of Model Aeronautics convention. WOW…a lot of very cool stuff there for sure, and easy way to spend a lot of money on a hobby that looks like it can cost as much as the real thing. In fact, you could get your helicopter private pilot’t certificate for much less than the cost of a nice turbine 1.4 scale. But there is no doubt that the cost of ownership for the RC is far less than the real thing.

Time will tell if it is anywhere near as fun. Stay tuned as I keep you up to date on my project and my learning!

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!




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