Sunday, May 16, 2004

I acquire my Ultralight

Well, after I quit taking instruction, I started looking for an airplane to purchase. Starley, the guy who introduced me to my initial instructor along with Danny, another friend of his, were continuing their training while my friend Buck and I were also training. They both finished about 6 weeks ahead of Buck and I and both acquired airplanes shortly after. Starley bought a recently completed single place Challenger and Danny bought an old Quicksilver MX that was about 10 years old at the time. I used to go out to the airstrip where we used to fly model airplanes and watch Starley and Danny shoot touch & go's on the runway. I was still looking for an airplane, but I had only saved about $2500, which wasn't going to buy much of an ultralight.

Several months go past and I'm now up to $3000 in savings, but I haven't found an ultralight in any condition within my price limit in my geographic region. I'm searching the internet one day, looking for an airplane, when I get frustrated and log off and disconnect (olden dial-up days!). No sooner than I hung up, the phone rang and it was Danny. He asked me if I'd be interested in buying his Quicksilver. He says he wants a two-seater and he is asking $3500 for his single seat MX. I tell him that I'll give him $3000 since that's all I haved saved up. He declines and we hang up, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. The next day I called him back and asked him if he would consider taking payments of $100 a month for the last $500 that I didn't have, and he agreed! We made arrangements for him to fly to the airstrip where we flew model airplanes. I met him at the airstrip, we tied down the plane and I drove him 30 miles or so back to his house.

When I left his house to come back to my airplane, I was so excited. I wasn't going to fly it that day because it needed some TLC. You see, Danny was a dump truck driver and he maintained his ultralight like he did his dump truck. One problem that happened to Danny on a recurring basis was that the bolt attaching one of his drive pulleys to the driveshaft kept breaking. The nut and threads would just come off the end! This didn't seem to concern him because the bolt never had come out of the pulley, just the end would break off. He always carried another bolt with him when he flew and each time he landed, he would check to see if it was still there!

This sort of mentality was prevalent on this airplane. I fixed the breaking bolt problem by replacing the pulley with an updated pulley. The new pulley had three bolts that clamped the pulley to the shaft. I re-plumbed all the fuel lines and hooked up the gauges that Danny never wired up. The day finally came where I would fly the MX.

It was a damp, slightly windy April morning. Temperature was about 65 degrees. I had a friend there to witness (and administer first aid if something were to go wrong). I started up the engine, let it warm up, strapped in and taxied to the runway. I pushed the throttle forward and quicker than I had expected I was into the air! My heart was pounding wildly and I remember thinking to myself, "What have you gotten yourself into now?" I have forgotten to mention that this MX had the rudder control on the stick. I trained in an ultralight that had rudder control on the pedals. The conversion wasn't difficult and I adapted very quickly, as I had no other choice, but this small anomaly was a source of much anxiety before the throttle went forward!

The flight was short. I just flew the normal landing pattern and tried to land. Remember, I hadn't landed an ultralight completely by myself at this time. This landing (it was certain that I was going to land....somehow) would be my first. I was WAY too high on my first attempt. The wind pushed me all over, and I had to abort and go around. The reality of the situation is that it was too windy to fly for a person who had never landed before, but too late to deal with that now! My second approach was better, and I did land but with a big bounce and about 100 feet farther down the runway than I intended. It was also right on the edge of the runway, but an inch is as good as a mile...right?

I taxied back to the hanger that I had helped Buck construct to house his brand new 2-seat Quicksilver the he recently completed assembling. I helped him to build the was fun and informative. I tied the MX down outside, next to the Buck's hanger and asked my friend for a cigarette. I had quit smoking for over a year, but I wanted one. One of the greatest and most apprehensive moments of my life had just been successfully completed and I wanted to de-stress! My friend said I looked like I knew what I was doing. Apparently he didn't have a clue! We left the airstrip and I was on top of the world for the 35 mile ride home!


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