Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oh to be young again!

Oh, to be young again! I'm still trying to get rested from the gyro fly-in on the lake bed last weekend. It seems that all I did was talk, and visit . Matter of fact, I talked and visited so much that I'm surprised that my mouth isn't tired. It's not my mouth that's tired, but everyplace else on me is.

I used to bounce back fairly quickly when Docko and I would do weekend Airshow exhibits and gyro flight demonstrations at air shows. We would exhibit our wares and I would fly demonstrations all weekend then we would get back to the office on Sunday evening, unload, crash at home till morning then I'd do flight training every day for the next week. But lots of water has gone under the bridge since then. I'm not complaining ( Docko would say, " how can you tell?"), but it sure was easier to bounce back in the good ole days.

Last weekend was 'good ole days' too . It was a thrill to meet Britta Penca who flys an Air Command gyro. Next year I hope she is able to bring her gyro and fly here at the lake. Tina Tyler, another gal gyro pilot was there with her beautiful white Vortex gyro. Tina hasn't flown it yet but will soon. She did have the thrill of seeing her gyro flown by Scott Heger who does a pretty mean job of gyro flying.

Scott is the local hot gyro pilot. Oh man, I can't wait to move him aside into
# 2 place. I'll be up there again one of these days in my Born Free gyro...look out Scott! But then , like I said, lots of water has gone under the bridge so maybe my gyro flying will have mellowed in the time since I've flown... Nahh, not likely! We will see how it goes.

I will do things right when I get back into the air, starting with having my gyro gone completely through and anything that needs replacing, replaced. And I will also get a flight physical even though I am in good shape and feel great. One thing for sure is that I will lose some excess fat before I fly again. That probably will be the hardest thing of all to do! It's unbelievable how fast that ugly stuff builds up when one is retired!

My favorite activity since retiring is sitting and reading and now my bod is showing the results of non-exercise. I'm surprised that Docko hasn't thrown a thunderbolt down on me. I know what he would say if he was here. When I had an extra pound... just one lousy extra pound, he would say that I looked," healthy". Didn't fool me for I knew he really meant "fat". Then he would pinch the tiny (tiny in those days) fat roll around my waist and say, "healthy".

The thought of getting back into gyro flying has always been in my mind but it seemed so far away at times. But now two very good friends , both of whom are gyro pilots, have offered to bring my gyro up to speed and help me get back in the air. They volunteered to do this. It isn't every day you come across such good and selfless people who are willing to give their time as these two have. They are Teddy Udala and Bobby Bettis.

It will be months and months before my dream comes to be but it will happen and it makes my heart sing to know that I will fly Born Free again.

Till next time
Marion Springer

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Gyro Fly-in on the lake bed

Where do I start? The Ken Brock Gyro Freedom Fly-n was held last weekend on the El Mirage dry lake. There are two events of the year that are the highlights of my year. One is the Indian PowWow in Hesperia in May and the other is the gyro fly-in in Sept. Of course it goes without saying that any time my family visits is the crowning highlight of my year but the other two events are right up there too.

My granddaughter Lynette and her husband Amer were here for the fly-in. Early on Friday morning while we were having breakfast a gyro flew over and did a couple of circles around our place. My granddaughter says it is dangerous to be between me and the door when a gyro goes over for I simply must run outside and wave. Soon a second gyro came over and circled. I told the kids, "let's get a move on. they are telling me to come out and play".

As happens sometimes, the Santa Ana winds were howling...30 mph on Saturday and almost the same on Sunday. A number of gyro pilots did some outstanding flying in the wind, Scott Heger, in particular. Others flew when it was somewhat calmer.

New gyro pilot Dave Bacon did his share of flying . He too came up and circled my home. He is on the way to becoming a very good pilot. Mad Man Mike Schallmann from Arizona was here with his beautiful gyro. Mike has a metal semi-enclosure on his gyro and it is so shiny that if I didn't see him fly I would think he spent all his time polishing the gyro. His gyro sports a picture of nose art from world war 11 military aircraft. The picture is a beautiful woman in an exotic pose with the caption," slightly dangerous". Mike does fly the daylights out of the gyro and he too came over our place. Does that gyro shine in the early morning sunlight...dazzling!

Adam Goad from Oregon was here with his 90 hp. Mac powered gyro and he did his share of flying. I was lucky enough to get a wonderful ride with Dave Dunn in his RAF 2000 gyro. Dave turned the controls over to me but I couldn't reach the rudder pedals so I didn't get a chance to fly the RAF. Woulda stretched my legs to make them reach if I could. I was so happy to be going up in a gyro again that I forgot to take a camera and here I've been talking about needing a good picture from altitude of the lake bed for the new gyro book . Talk about having my head in the clouds ! But during the fly-in I can't seem to focus on anything but gyros !

Jake Jones from Wyoming was here . He was having engine prooblems so didn't get much time on the gyro.

There were others flying and visiting with old and new gyro friends. Fly-ins are so neat. There is always someone ready to help with whatever one might or gyro parts or whatever. Teddy Udala was right there to help us get our shade tent set up and the table and chairs in place and just to generally be there.

For me, one of the best parts of the fly-n was that there were two women gyro pilots there besides me. To have gal gyro pilots, Tina Tyler and Britta Penca there was a treat. Tina hasn't flown her Vortex gyro yet and Britta didn't bring her Air Cammand gyro but hopefully they will be flying at the fly-in next year....and I will be too! I retired when my husband passed away and I haven't flown since then. The reasons are myriad, but I have decided to get my gyro up and running and get back into the air and the very thought of flying Born Free again makes my heart sing.

For a full rundown on the fly-in check out the next issue of PRA's Rotorcraft magazine. New Ch. 1 president, Randy Wrisley will be sending an article to PRA. Randy had just gotten out of the hospital and went directly to the that dedication or what ?

So, suffice it to say the fly-in was great as was having my grandkids with me...Lynette is making noises that she wants to learn to fly there to be another woman gyro pilot in the Springer family ?

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Next Week Is Here

You have heard of people who never put off doing something till tomorrow when they can put it off till next week ? Well, that's me. And now next week is here and I'm not ready for it. The Ken Brock Freedom gyro fly-in is this weekend, Sept. 22, 23, and 24. I have neglected cleaning out the other bed room in my home for ages, coming up with one excuse's too hot today...I've got other things to do today...It's too late to start it now, I'll get at it early tomorrow....No, gotta go to town on a grocery run tomorrow. Well, OK, then I'll do it next week. Next week is here! and the bedroom is still not mucked out and I expect to have guests in there tomorrow night . How did I get in this mess????

For one thing , my mind is not focusing on house cleaning period. Jake Jones , a long time friend and gyro pilot pulled in a few days ago and I've spent some time visiting with him catching up on gyro doings. Yesterday another gyro friend, Tom Carlisle from New Mexico came in towing his Dominator gyro. It had been a year since I saw him so there was more catching up to do.

Today was a run into town for groceries and errands, so no house cleaning today. As we came in I noticed several other gyro pilots with their gyros in tow coming onto the dry lake. It's gonna take a lotta restraint to stay home and clean that bedroom tomorrow when I want to go visit. But the time has run out so I will clean house early then hope to get down on the lake bed and talk the talk for a while afterwards.

When I was a young mother of four small children, I was a slave to
cleanliness...clean children, clean house, clean and pretty me with hair all done up and wearing a dress ( Heavens,never jeans, but a crisp clean frilly dress). My husband worked hard in construction and I thought he deserved to come home to cleanliness, everywhere...children , home and me and a good dinner on the table.

I would get the children their breakfast, see that they were all scrubbed and clean and in clean clothes then send them outside to play. Then I would spend hours cleaning house. When the house was spic and span I would shower, take the curlers out of my hair and put on a ruffly dress. Within minutes after my stepping out of the shower the children were back in the house, dirty, grimy, hungry and the house looked a cyclone had hit it.

So keeping children and house clean was a full time job and I can't remember all being spotless at the same time ! I learned to live with it and adjusted to dust balls under the beds, dirty foot prints here and there and all the rest. I finally learned that there were better things to do than fight dust and dirt all day long! It's an endless cycle, it just keeps comes back. The problem is though, that sometimes you just have to do some cleaning. So, tomorrow bright and early the bedroom gets cleaned...that is unless one of my gyro buddies shows up and we start talking gyros.

The guests who will be using the bedroom are my granddaughter Lynette and her husband Amer. They have seen my messy home before and will still love me even if I don't get the room clean before they get here.

I had a call from my friend Linda Delaney saying that she and John couldn't make the fly-in this year. I will miss them . They couldn't make it last year either. The reason was that they had just finished building a hangar and were in the process of building a new home. This year they have a house on the market and must be there to meet with prospective clients. I will be happy when Linda and John get some time to come to the fly-in and just enjoy being with the gyro pilots, or just some time to come visit.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

If the lake could talk, what stories it could tell

This is an article I wrote awhile back to be included in another gyro book I'm currently writing . I cut and pasted the article to this blog page. There is a very interesting photo of the crashed gyro in the original article. Unfortunately, the photo didn't come along when I cut and pasted the rest of the story here and I don't have the skill to put the picture on the blog. I find computers much more difficult to operate than gyrocopters! Maybe I can have my granddaughter move the photo to the blog when she comes to visit. Anyway here is the story.

If the lake could talk, what stories it could tell.

My entertainment for one summer on the El Mirage dry lake was a group of people who were determined to fly a two place Air Command gyro by remote control. The gyro was not a model but a full size gyro .

I first learned of them when Bill Davis , a gyro pilot , had seen them on the lake while he was flying . Bill had landed nearby and visited with them . He told Docko and me about their plan to fly the gyro without a pilot . It sounded interesting so Docko and I drove to the other end of the lake to take a look . I had been flying earlier and was still wearing my orange flight suit .

We parked the van , got out and approached the group who were gathered around the parked gyro . As we walked toward the gyro I could see that they had placed a platform across the wide seat of the machine and the platform seemed to be full of instruments .

One of the group came out to meet us . We told him we had heard of their project and would like to see their gyro if they didn’t mind .

Seeing my orange flight suit instantly put the man on the defensive. “ You must be the other gyro pilot flying this morning “, he said . I replied that I had been flying earlier and would be in the air again before long . Things went downhill between us from there .

When he learned that I planned to fly again he began giving me my marching orders . “ We don’t want you flying anywhere in this vicinity……We do not want you to come closer than …..You are to stay away from…..

Who would want to fly near where they were attempting to fly a gyro without a pilot ? Not me . Common sense would dictate that one keep some distance from their activities .

I was a professional flight instructor . I knew the FAR’s ( Federal Aviation Regulations ) , I had common sense , and besides I didn’t appreciate being talked down to .

So, before he had finished his tirade we left without bothering to look at their
machine . Later in the day word reached us that their first attempt to fly the gyro by remote control had failed and the machine had been badly damaged . They had packed up the bent gyro and gone away . I couldn’t muster up any sympathy for them . “ Serves them right “, I thought .

The next week they were back . The Air Command had been repaired and it also had been modified . Week two was a replay of the first week . They wrecked the gyro again , packed it up and went away .

That same scene was played out over and over during the summer . They were never able to fly the gyro but they kept trying and each week they would bend the gyro , take it away , repair it , modify it , and try again the following week .

We would see the modified gyro as we drove across the lake bed or I would see it from the air as I flew my gyro . Before long it had been modified so much it no longer resembled an Air Command , or any other gyro for that matter . Still , they hadn’t been able to successfully fly the machine .

Then one day the leader of the group drove up to our home on the edge of the dry lake . “ We need help “, he said , “ we’re having trouble trying to fly the gyro . This morning we tore the nose wheel off while trying to make a take off ".

I replied that it sounded to me like whoever was trying to fly the gyro didn’t know what he was doing . I had offended the man . He informed me that he was the one who was handling the controls . He added that he was president of some such remote control organization and that he had vast amounts of knowledge and flying of radio control model aircraft .

Diplomacy is not one of my strong points , so I blurted out , “ yeah , but what do you know about flying gyros ? “.

“ I have had gyro flight training “ , he replied . “I had two hours of instruction from a guy in Florida “. Well , I knew the ‘guy in Florida ‘ . He instructed in gyros but was not a certified flight instructor . ‘ The guy in Florida ‘ had told me himself that his students received 20 minutes of actual flight time per hour of instruction .

So this man with the remote control , full sized Air Command had traveled 3000 miles from California to Florida for 40 minutes of gyro flight instruction and now that he found he didn’t know how to fly the gyro he wanted some free handy tips from me . Fat chance ! That went over like a lead balloon with me !

“We have been hoping you would make some landings and take offs near us so we could see how you do it “, he said . “My , my “, I thought . “ It hasn’t been so very long ago that you didn’t want me flying within a country mile of you . Now you’re singing a different tune . Oh, how sweet it is !”.

He said he was having trouble with the take off and wanted me to brief him on proper take off procedure . I asked how ‘ the guy in Florida’ had taught him to make a take off . “ Oh, he never let me touch the controls on take off “, he replied . So how did this man think he could make a gyro take off the ground if he didn’t know the first thing about it ???? Amazing , simply amazing .

I gave him my standard line that I couldn’t teach him to fly just by talking about it and suggested he take a full flight training program . He insisted he didn’t need that much training and grudgingly said he would take one hour of instruction . That didn’t happen because it wasn’t our policy to offer flight training by the hour .

So he went back to his group and they continued with their crash , rebuild and modify program for a couple of more weeks but they threw in the towel after a final spectacular crash of their gyro .

Bill Davis had happened by just after the crash and saw the wreckage of the remote controlled Air Command scattered about on the lake bed . He landed and talked with the group . They were looking at a video of the last crash and were trying to figure out what happened . They invited Bill to view the video of the gyros’ last hurrah with them .

According to Davis , they had finally gotten the gyro into the air . It flew a short distance then they tried to land it . The landing was extremely hard , and caused the gyro to bounce 15 to 20 feet up into the air . At the top of the bounce the operator did the absolutely worst possible thing he could do . He had shut the engine down !

The gyro did the only thing it could possibly do….it dropped in . The mast folded , the blades dug in , and the gyro was totally destroyed . That permanently ended their crash , rebuild and modify program .

Two things killed the gyro – one man’s huge ego and his cheapness . What a shame.

Marion Springer, CFI-Gyro, Ret.



Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another good day

I hope your day was a fine as mine was. I went down to the dry lake to visit with a long time gyro friend Jake Jones, from Wyoming. He is set up down on the lake bed with his gyro, A Bensen with Skywheels blades, and is ready for the fly-in next weekend. It was good to see him again.

Tina and Dave bought a motorhome this morning and brought it out to Kienzles. Talk about having it all...they will both have gyros at the fly-in plus their own motorhome right on the flight line. Couldn't be better!

Something interesting...Dave had a call from the movie star Angilina Jolie, asking about using his gyro for a photo in Vogue magazine. They wanted a gyro for the star to sit in for pictures for the magazine. Being a totally unselfish guy , Dave thought Tina's gyro would be more photogenic so he suggested her beautiful white Vortex gyro instead of his KB2 to be used as a prop. A price was agreed upon. Tina and Dave were excited, as anyone would be. Later on Dave recieved another call from the star saying that the powers that be at Vogue thought the gyro looked too dangerous so the deal was off.

There may be other opportunities for Dave and Tina to use their gyros in the entertainment field because quite often film studios make movies and commercials on the dry lake and they have used local gyro pilots and their gyros in the past.

Billie Willis was hired to fly his gyro in a film. His flying consisted mostly of flying around beautiful girls who were wearing smiles and not much more. He was compensated for flying and I'm sure he earned his money for I remember it was a very hot day and they didn't get finished with the filming until dark. But, I sure didn't hear him complain about his work that day!

Pigeons, pigeons...yesterday I brought a tiny new baby pigeon into the house. I would guess he had hatched out about an hour or so before I found him. For some reason he was out of the nest . Not being able to get about on his own, he obviously had been put out of the nest by an adult pigeon, possibly his mother. The other newly hatched chick was in the nest and was being cared for.

I put the new baby in the nest with Coo and she took him in. Her own egg hatched early this morning . I was hoping she would feed the baby I brought in yesterday, but she says ,"nope, nothing doing ". She lends the baby chick her body warmth but I feed him...Oh well, we comprimise. So far today, he is doing well as is Coo's own new baby.

So, all in all, it was a good day for me and will get even better as the fly-in draws near and more gyro pilots will be coming in. Even better than the fly-in is the fact that I will be seeing my granddaughter Lynette, and her husband Amer in a few days . They are coming down for the fly-in and to visit . It's always the best of anything to be with family.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Friday, September 15, 2006

Murphy's Law - times two

You've probably heard of Murphy's Law . It the law that says " if it can go wrong, it will". Here are two perfect examples.

Several years ago they put up a VASI system on the airport at Tracy. VASI is a Visual Approach Slope Indicator. The system emits colored lights to aircraft on final approach to indicate that the A/C is or is not on the correct glide slope to land in the first third of the runway.

The VASI system was set up about 20 or 30 feet to the side of the runway. When the man who was working on the system was just finishing up, a Cessna landed and the pilot lost directional control of the airplane. The plane veered off toward the VASI light-bank and sure enough, hit it square, taking it out. When the poor workman saw the Cessna headed toward him he ran for his life. No one was injured except the VASI lighting system. Murphy at work.

Another time I was to do an air show routine in my gyro at an air show. The FAA has called all the performers in for a pilot briefing.

One of the air-show performers was a lady who did a comedy routine in a Piper Cub. Her act was a woman who supposedly didn't know how to fly but got into an airplane and took off and flew very erratically while two men in an automobile chased the aircraft down the runway while trying to flag her down. The act was called, ' Grace the Ace'.

The pilot briefing ended and we all prepared to leave the room. The lady, Grace, stopped at the door, turned back ,and said to the room at large," Oh by the way, I forgot my glasses today and I can't see a thing without them". I thought she was just being funny and still don't know if she was serious or not but later events says maybe she was serious!

When her turn came to fly, the MC announced that her driver had not been able to attend and asked for a volunteer to drive the chase car...again I don't know if that was for real or part of the intrigue. Someone spoke up said he would drive, so he and a camera-man got into a car and followed Grace as she taxied in a weaving manner down the runway.

Grace in the Piper, took off and did a 180 degree turn at the end of the runway and headed back down the runway at a very low altitude heading direclty toward the approaching car.

She was too low, as it turned out. One wheel of the aiplane struck the top of the car and broke the A/C wheel off. The wheel went sailing through the air.

The pilot did a fine job of landing on one wheel in the grass along side the runway. The car driver and the cameraman were not injured but were probably scared out of their wits.

I've always wondered just what did go wrong that day. Murphy again, I guess.

And finally, about the birds here at home. Yesterday I set the young rust colored pigeon free and he is adapting very well out with the other pigeons that hang out here. Then this morning I transfered Hop Along in his cage into my house. No big deal to the dogs or cats that live with me. Just another bird to them I guess. And surprisingly, Hop Along seems very relaxed to be inside with us, much more so than when I would put his cage out on the porch. Out there he always seemed ill at ease and nervous. Could it be that he knows his vulnerablity and worried being in close proximity to the wild pigeons ?

And then I looked out and saw 15 wild desert grouse at the water pan in the yard. That was something new! I saw them once a few months ago outside our gate. That day when they saw me they walked away very stately , looking so tall and aloof. I was glad to see them inside the yard today...probably the outside pigeons were not so happy about it though, for they were all standing back watching the ( to them) intruders. After awhile the grouse wandered away, walking single file and aloof. Neat birds.

May all go well with your day. Mine got off to a good start this morning with a call from Ed Alderfer, a friend and long time gyro pilot. We chat on the phone frequently and try to get some of the world's problems solved...just kidding...we talk gyros, what else?

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's A Small World

Sitting out on the front porch again today I was looking out over the El Mirage dry lake. It is a most wonderful playground. Folks come in motorhomes and camp out for awhile, sometimes for days . Most of them bring dirt bikes, land sailers, dune buggys, gyros, ultralight aircraft, or some type of recreational vehicle. Some don't bring anything at all and I always think they might just be enjoying the peace and quiet away from cities, freeways, and telephones.

Then there are some who skate around on a pair of roller skates with huge wheels holding a sail out in front of them and sail around the lake bed . The sail looks like a regular sail from a boat except much smaller. They use the wind to propel them about and the more adventurous ones will leave the smooth surface of the lake bed and go scooting around the sage brush and sand dunes. That can be challenging !

I was always curious about those things but had never seen one up close until one day I came upon a man who had his sail on the ground and was making some adjustments on the equipment. I stopped to chat with him.

He told me about it and said it was fun and I should try it...I told him that gyrocopters were my passion. "Gyrocopters", he said..." have you ever had a magazine article written about you flying your gyro ? ". I told him that I had many times . When I mentioned among other publications, the National Inquirer, he said " That's it! That is where I saw an article about you and gyros".

We talked a bit about the article and I mentioned the name of the photo-journalist who did the story for the National Inquirer, a fellow by the name of Jamie Budge. Well small world. It seems that the very same Jamie Budge designed the sails and wheels system that that the man was working on . Jamie happened to be on the lake that day so we had a very pleasant reunion.

I remember when back in Tracy, the call came in requesting some time with me to do a photo shoot for the article. Our training schedule was booked for months ahead so I put them off. My granddaughter, Lynette, was visiting with us at the time. She went ballistic. 'YOU DO NOT PUT THE NATIONAL INQUIRER ON HOLD, GRANDMA!", she said. She was mortified that I would do such a thing, but our customers had to come first.

Eventually we made time for the photo shoot and we arranged for my granddaughter and her mother Linda, to be present. It was a big day for all three of us. The photographer took pictures of my daughter and granddaughter flying with me. It was probably the first time ever that a grandmother flew her daughter and her granddaughter in a gyroplane.

The girls flew with me, one at a time, in the side by side Air Command gyro. I always use a twist grip throttle on the control stick on my personal gyro but on the Air Command, the throttle and the control stick were seperate. And I only had two hands. So to take pictures with the camera that had been mounted on the front of the gyro I would get us set up with the right airspeed and have whoever was sitting beside me hold the throttle while I used the remote control to operate the camera. It worked out well and we had a fun time , all three of us.
a good day and good memories for us all.

Till next time
Marion Springer

Flying Under Cluster Baloons

Flying Under Cluster- Balloons
I stopped one day to talk with a young man who was filling some large balloons with helium then tying them to something in the back of his pick – up truck . The balloons were sizeable; he said they were weather balloons . He said he wanted to find out how many helium filled balloons would be required to lift a man. As I’ve said before, you never know what interesting thing you might come upon on the El Mirage dry lake. I stayed awhile, visiting with him and lending a hand by holding the balloons while he tied them off to keep them inflated.

I went home , he went away and I forgot about the incident until a couple of months later when one very still morning I looked toward the lake and saw what looked like a man dangling beneath a cluster of balloons about 200 to 300 feet above the lake bed . I counted 7 balloons. A strange sight indeed. I watched mesmerized, as the man and balloons slowly gained altitude and drifted toward the southwest . I estimated his altitude eventually to be at least 4000 feet above the ground. “What a scary height to be at supported only by a bunch of balloons,
“ I thought to myself “. “And they say gyro pilots are strange “!

I heard nothing about the man and balloons until several years later when our local newspaper had a feature article on him . He is John Ninomiya and he is one of less than a dozen cluster-balloon pilots in the world .

The time I saw him hanging above the lake bed under the silvery mylar balloons was his first flight under cluster-balloons and he did indeed reach 4000 feet altitude that day. Since his first flight and the article several years later, John had become proficient as a cluster-balloon pilot .

According to the newspaper article, after his crew inflates the balloons they tie them to John’s harness, and also to his arms, legs and feet. To ascend he releases ballast, ( bags of sand or water ) . To descend, he pops a few balloons. At the time the article was written, John stated that the highest he or anyone else had been under cluster-balloons is 2,400 feet altitude …now that’s getting up there !

My hat’s off to the cluster-balloon pilot, but I’ll stick to gyrocopters.

Marion Springer

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Settin' on my front porch

There is a porch swing on my front porch and when the weather is nice I enjoy sitting out there and looking out over the desert. I can see for miles and miles and it is all so peaceful.

My nearest neighbor is one mile away and the only noise out here is what we make. Peaceful, serene and just wonderful is how it is out here . Oh sure we have our hotter than hot days in mid summer, but they don't last forever ( it only seems so at the time ). Winter is tolerable. Usually each winter we will have one storm which will leave a little snow on the ground that usually doesn't last through the day ( thank goodness ).

We don't get much rain out here and when we do get a summer thunder storm we appreciate the rain so much we just go out and stand in it, arms out-stretched and face to the heavens! Yeah, the desert suits me. Docko maintained that mostly eccentric people live way out in the desert...people who generally can't get along well in society. I'm sure that's true and that's why we have a 6 foot chain link fence around our keep eccentric people out, not to keep this one in.

Just because I've always been wrapped up in gyrocopters, just because one of my children gave me a set of screw drivers for Christmas and another one gave me
motorcycle hand grips as a gift, doesn't make me eccentric does it? Just a little different, maybe, always following a different drummer than the other mothers in our neighborhood.

I had a long and wonderful life in gyrocopters. I'd like to say that fame and fortune was mine but in reality there was a certain amount of fame but no fortune. But so what? I didn't fly to get rich any way. I flew becasue I think I was meant to. So at this point in my life I like to sit out on the porch and in my mind maybe relive some of those gyro flights, or maybe just look at the quiet beauty of the desert or, watch the wild pigeons and the road runner birds that come around .

There might have been a time in my life that I wouldn't have wanted to live out in the desert as I do now. People change as time and life goes by. Years age Docko and I visited a flight school in the Salton Sea area of Southern Ca. You didn't just stumble onto the place for it was set way out in the desert. it was very remote from civilization. The only person in the office at the time was a beautiful young woman about 20 years of age. The other staff members were out flying and she was there alone. She mentioned that she and her husband had been there for one year and said they had lived in San Bernardino before moving to Salton Sea.

I asked her how she liked living out in the desert away from towns, etc. She repied, " When I moved out here the world came to a stop". I would like to ask her the question again when she reaches her golden years. Bet her answer would be much different.

So I sit on the porch with the two dogs, and with Hop Along in his cage near by and just enjoy being there. That's not to say that we don't have moments of excitement out here. Take yesterday, for instance. Earlier in the morning I had put a young rust colored pigeon outside, set him free. I had taken him in several weeks ago when a setting hen pulled all the feathers out of his head. She was beating him up and he couldn't get away from her. So yesterday I felt he was ready to leave the safe house and I put him outside. I kept looking outside all day checking to see how he was time when I looked out I saw a big hawk with a full grown pigeon in his clutches.

I ran out, grabbed a shovel, waved the shovel about and made a lot of noise. The hawk tried to fly off with the pigeon but the weight was too much and he dropped the pigeon. The frightened pigeon was OK and he flew under the house where he hid out for the rest of the day.

I went looking for the young rust colored pigeon and found him cowering in a corner of the porch. Boy was he glad to let me pick him up and take him back inside the house. That was all the excitement he could stand for one day. "It's a bird eat bird world out there ", he says. I will re-release him in a week or so when his heartbeat returns to normal and we will see how it goes for him then.

today the Southern California Timing Assn. is having a meet on the lake. So for today, it is dusty and not quiet, but later today the racers will all be gone and peace and quiet will return to our little piece of desert.

There will be a bit of noise and excitement ( the good kind) on the lake bed on Sept. 22, 23, & 24.That's the time of the Ken Brock Freedom fly-in. Gyro pilots from all over will be here. I'm looking forward to it.

till later,
Marion Springer

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Engine outs and gyro tales

Dave Bacon , a new gyro pilot was flying his McCulloch powered gyro over the El Mirage dry lake a few days ago and he experienced his first engine out landing. It happened at the worst possible time, as he was flying low , around 100 feet alt. and down-wind.

To Dave's credit, he did it right, got the nose down immediately to maintain airspeed and landed . He bounced a couple of times but kept the gyro up-right...not an easy thing to do, especially for a new pilot and his first engine out, not to mention the landing being a down-wind landing. You done good, Dave!

Several years ago I saw an experienced gyro pilot nearly lose his gyro when he made a down-wind landing to please someone who wanted a picture of him landing. He obliged the fellow with the camera and landed down-wind on a taxi strip. The wind was blowing about 15 mph...that meant he touched down rolling 15 mph faster than he would have had the landing been made into the wind. Rolling along fast after touchdown, he lost directional control and went off the pavement and into the rough. He barely was able to keep the gyro upright.

I wonder what went through his mind when he got the machine under control and taxied back past where the fellow with the camera had been and saw that the fellow and his camera were gone. Wannna bet the guy would have been right there to get a picture of the wreckage if the pilot had rolled it up?

Some time later the same pilot was returning from a short cross country flight in his McCulloch powered gyro. I saw him enter the pattern , then start his descent then he was out of my line of sight because of hangars between where I was and the runway he was landing on.

When he next came in sight he was walking his gyro in. When he finally made it to the office, he said, " Be careful what you wish for". He said that as he was preparing to begin his descent to land, he thought to himself. " I wish I had the intestional fortitude to shut the engine off and land dead stick". As if it heard him, the engine quit cold at that instant and he got his wish for a dead stick landing.

He had been pushing his luck by flying those cross country trips on a 6 gallon fuel tank and that day he barely made it back to the home base. The fuel out-let line was in the center of the bottom of the tank. When he lowered the nose of the gyro to begin his descent, what little fuel there was remaining in the tank went to the front of the tank and there was not enough fuel to cover the out-let so the engine, starved for fuel, quit. Naturally.

One day as he was returning from one of his out and about flights, he took a short cut back to the airport and flew very low , something like 60 to 70 feet above the ground and right across the parking lot of the local Military Logistics Depot. I'll never know what he was thinking...or maybe he wasn't!

Before he reached the airport. some three miles away, my phone started ringing , the local police, the depot officials, and the feds, all wanting to know ' who was that pilot?'. "How do I know ?" I asked them. "I didn't see him ". It was a silver gyro they said. " Well, that doesn't tell me anything". I replied, "most of the gyros are silver".

When he taxied in and shut the gyro down, I told him he was a wanted man and why. I never saw anyone load up a gyro and skedaddle as fast as that pilot did. The next time I saw his gyro it wasn't silver. It sported a fresh new green paint job.

Back to engine outs...I had my first one when I was learning to fly the gyro and was making touch and goes at the Old Naval Base. I planned to stop after the landing I had just made but Docko waved to me to make another pattern. I took off and the Mac quit...out of fuel. I hope the statute of limitations have have expired by now, for the feds frown on pilots running out of gas. It's a violation of the FAR's. Anyway, I landed it OK.

Another time the Mac quit on me was during an air-show routine. I had just recovered from a vertical descent and had started climbing back to altitude and the engine quit. I landed OK. The engine started up again and ran fine. Docko figured it was ignition. that's when he started working on a dual ignition for the McCulloch engine.

The third and last time the McCulloch quit on me was when a piece of silicone came loose in the Super Mac, dual carb, reed valve system and the center main bearing siezed from lack of lubrication.

I always favored the 90 hp. McCulloch engine. For power to weight ratio it couldn't be beat. I only had three engine outs in the Mac during all my years of gyro flying. Two of the engine outs were from carelessness, the fuel one was mine. the silicone one was someone else's who had worked on the Super Mac, and the ignition one was the third one . we think it was ignition, but it the cause was not determined definitely .

I made several precautionary landings when the engine was running rough though. Once we had traveled to Rockford, IL. to a gyro fly-in and and trailered the gyro. The engine started running rough on a cross country flight so I landed on a country road. Docko determined that the needle vlave in the carburetor had taken a beating during the long drive to Rockford. After that he took the carb off when we were going to trailer the gryo for a long distance. My second precautionary landing was when a piece of silicone came loose inside the seat fuel tank and plugged the fuel out-let. The engine started cutting out so I landed while I had a place to put it down.

A funny thing here...I landed that time on a paved street in a housing development where the houses were still under construction. I walked a long way to find a phone and called for Docko to bring a trailer then I went back to wait for him to show up.

As I was sitting on the curb beside my gyro in a street way to heck and gone from any town or other houses, a bicycle rider came by and passed about 6 feet from me. I guess I was invisible for he didn't even offer a greeting. I think he was afraid I might ask for his assistance if he acknowledged my presence.

Well,that's it for today. I hope all went well for you today.

Till next time
Marion Springer

Monday, September 04, 2006

Another 12 day

Yesterday was another 10 plus 2 day. Early in the morning my son Dave, called on his cell phone and said, " you have company". It was two bike riders and one of them was a gal. My son had just opened the gate for them. " send them in", I said to him. We keep the gate locked at our home because of my poor hearing...I don't like to suddenly be surprised by a stranger in our yard that I hadn't heard drive in, and that happened a time or two before we started locking the gate. I am home alone most of the time and we are way out it the boonies so there is no sense taking unnecessary chances. What about my watch dogs, you might ask...well they are usually in the house under my feet, of course.

Anyway, my two visitors were new gyro pilots, Tina Tyler and Dave Bacon. They had come out to Kienzel's to clean out Dave's hangar, make an adjustment on his prerotator and of course fly...Dave would fly, that is. Tina's new Vortex gyro will be read to fly in a few days.

They both wanted to know how Hop Along was doing. You might remember that three weeks ago Tina had clipped his useless broken wing off while I held him and Dave provided moral support for both of us although Dave had scrubbed up and was was ready to help with the surgery if needed. He also provided the name , 'Hop Along', for the one winged pigeon. A perfect name!

So Hop Along got to see his friends and get his picture taken by Tina.

It happened to be feeding time for the two baby birds that are in my home so my friends visited with me while I fed the babies.

After a while they left to go back to the hangar...was I surprised to see Tina riding a motorcycle? Not at all. There was a time she planned to be a lineman
( linegirl, linewoman, linelady,?), for Edison, the power company. In fact she had worked three years for them toward that goal...and I thought I was a tomboy!

When the critters were all fed and settled for the day I went on down to Kienzles. I stopped by to visit with my gyro buddy , Teddy Udala. I think he has finally got his priorities right...he was hard at work on his new KB3 gyro and not working on his moblile home . Atta boy, Teddy.

By then it must have been 103 degrees so Tina and Dave and I took refuge in their motorhome under the air conditioner and talked the talk. Our location is nearly 3000 feet above sea level and with the high ambient temp of 103 degrees it made for impossibly high density other words , not good for gyro flying , but excellent for hangar flying, so that's what we did.

One of the subjects we discussed was harassment the gyro pilot often suffers at the hands of fixed wing pilots. It's an aviation caste system out there, a fact of life that was made clear to me during my many years of operating a gyro business and gyro flight training on Tracy Airport in Tracy Ca. Tina had a taste of the FW harassment during her gyro flight training when a fixed wing pilot kept deliberately cutting her and her instructor off in the pattern.

One day on Tacy airport, a student and I were in the gyro and were traveling down the 25 taxiway and had gone about 3/4's of the way down when a fixed wing aircraft tuned onto the taxiway and headed toward us. When he saw us the pilot slowed down abruptly and began a turn out into the median section...After a few seconds into the turn I'm sure it registered on him that it wasn't an airplane already on the taxiway but only a darned gyro! The pilot turned back onto the taxiway and continued on toward us. He clearly expected us to get off the sidewalk for a real aircraft. He hadn't met up with me before...I wasn't about to be pushed around when I was right so I continued on .

Just a few feet further on the airplane pilot gave up and moved out into the median, as he should have done, and would have, had we been in an airplane. Just so you know, I would not have pushed it to a dangerous point.

I've said before, if you fly what is considered to be an unorthodox type of aircraft ( doesn't have fixed wings ), you will be considered to be a member of the great unwashed by many airplane pilots. Once you get off the sidewalk when an airplane pilot demands it ,it will be expected of you forever after. In all fairness, I must say this is not true of all pilots of fixed wing A/C but it holds true for a great number of them. I always endeavored to keep myself and my gyro FAA legal in case I ever needed to prove that I had every right to be flying my gyro on an airport.

Common courtesy should be used by all pilots, no matter what they example day while landing my gyro I inadvertantly cut off an airplane which was on long final. The pilot made a go-around and when he landed I walked over and apologized for cutting him off. He happened to be an instructor with a student. He was very gracious about the incident. He said it had worked out well because it gave him an opportunity to demonstrate a go-around to his student.

I was in the wrong and I admitted it and apologized. Result, there were no hard feelings toward me or toward gyros from the CFI. I never have had a fixed wing pilot apologize to me for his errors and deliberate meanness toward me when on the gyro!

But I digress...I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with the gyro pilots yesterday. We all speak the same language. It won't be long before Tina is taking her place in the air with the rest of the rotary winged pilots.

Two final notes before I sign off for today...a beautiful green VW powered gyro came over our place and waved hello, this AM. It was Steve Mcclennan out and about. And about Hop Along...he is doing very well. In the mornings I put his cage on the back porch where it's shady and he can enjoy fresh air and see other pigeons. This morning for the first time there were two wild pigeons nose to nose to his cage visiting with him. I hope they were visiting with him and not just coveting the food in his cage! Anyway, it was his first interaction with other birds since his injury. Poor guy doesn't realize they would kill him if he was free...nature's way is to get rid of the weak. He will be safe with me. That's not to say he won't have a few anxious moments when he is brought into the house and sees the menagerie that lives with me. But he will survive the excitement, I'm sure.

Till next time.
Marion Springer