The Canard community was all a buzz during May about an advertised Fly-In called The Great Colorado Mountain Canard Rendezvous for 2014. I really wanted to go. I was not sure if I could manage my schedule to allow me to go. With a wonderful level of support, encouragement and love from my wife I was able to fly solo to Colorado Springs for this 2014 Canard Fly-In.
The trouble was the weather. The Fly-In was to start Friday but as a VFR pilot, I was very discouraged by the weather forecast that was shaping up for a Friday morning departure. Thursday looked fine – for the most part. So I pulled the trigger and left a day early. I never seem to get an early enough start. I departed at 10:15 for North Texas Regional Airport (which is only 20 minutes North of my home airport) for a fuel stop before departing for Colorado. I landed and fueled up at the self serve. I finally departed for Colorado at 11:00 am. I flew GPS direct VFR with Flight following. My cruse altitude was 8,500 ft. At that time I had a main EFIS (Electronic Fight Information System) that did not fully work as the altitude encoder did not work. The Blue Mountain EFIS system did not have any updated charts, so primary navigation was provided by my iFly720 portable GPS. It worked well and I hand flew my airplane for a three hour flight landing at Colorado Springs, KFLY (Meadow Lake) airport at 2:00 pm. The only trouble along the way was moderate turbulence as I got close to KFLY. I also had to pee really bad. This was also my first fly in where I had to tie down my EZ. I got that done with my new tie down set up.
I felt so great to arrive safely despite landing downwind for the first time! My ground speed was so high! (That was also because of the higher altitude at Meadow Lake.)
I had no idea at that moment just how significant this Fly-In was to be for both for me and The Stagger EZ I call “Garfield”.
I met two new friends that proved to be not only good company, but also a huge help with transportation to and from my hotel room. Jamie Hicks also helped me prepare for my first air race which was huge. David Hardwick was just so helpful loaning me his jacket when it turned cold.
This fly in was my opportunity to meet and get to know this group of amazing aviators that have the same love for these strange birds called canards.
The first friendly face I met was Burrell Sanders. He was the host for the fly-in, and owner of Free Flight Composites, which does canard restorations, upgrades, repair and avionics installations being a Dynon dealer based at the airport. Burrell was so nice, and I consider him a friend. We ended up working together and talked often as I decided to leave my EZ there for a full avionics upgrade.
I guess my frustration reached a peak during the flight out to Colorado while hand flying. There were times I would find myself off course as much as 20 degrees! I wanted autopilot again. I wanted to be able to trust my instruments again. I had been considering this move for quite some time. I felt confident Burrell and his company could remove the old Blue Mountain avionics and install the new State of the art D1000 Dynon touch EFIS. In addition, I had full electronic engine monitoring added, full auto pilot and a D210 independent EFIS. When I first bought the Stagger EZ I knew I had to upgrade the avionics. Now was the time, as the engine overhaul, restoration of the rest of the plane was complete and so I left “Garfield”, my EZ there in Colorado Springs for a month.
It was great to see all the pilots and planes fly in Friday. I remember Rick Lee fly in his new Berkut all the way from Utah. IT was good to see him again.
Saturday morning proved to be very exciting. I entered the timed event air race. This was run like the Sport Air Racing League. Unfortunately, they changed the lap direction at the last minute. I had entered all the way points in my GPS. Now it was all reversed. I wish I had just left them alone but I tried to reverse them while in the line up but didn’t have time. I only managed to move one in the middle while trying to move up each way point. My GPS course now had a zig zag in the middle. EGADS. I found it half way through the course. Quickly corrected only adding several minutes to my time. Grrrr.
It was still a rush! Rounding the last way point which was a Plateau. I cornered it with a steep bank and set course back to what I hoped to be the airport. IT was an amazing experience.
I had been in touch with my dear sweet cousin Mary Williford Bayer. I invited her to the airport there in Colorado Springs. She does not live far. She and her two amazing kids all live in a city just outside Denver. Her oldest is Josh, 17 years old and her daughter is Megan. She was a little jealous when I offered to take her brother up for a short ride in my EZ. The sun was low, but still high enough for a 30 minute intro flight. I got Josh buckled up and we taxied out to the run up area. I set mixture for max RPM as our MSL altitude on the ramp was 8,600 feet! Lift off was not soon enough for me, although I did not let on to Josh. Climb out was docile given the high density altitude. Josh was so respectful that I let him take the controls for a short time. He loved it. Time for a landing came soon enough. Although the urge to do a low pass down the run way was beyond my ability to resist. WOW, what fun, down the center line we went with the throttle left all the way in. Zoom! up and out for a traffic pattern approach to a final landing as the sun was setting over the western rockies. The storms left beautiful clouds I’ll not soon forget. While taking Josh for a ride in my EZ, I missed a great talk from a former astronaut that flew around the world with Burt Rutan. That was ok with me. With a great barbeque dinner, a live band, and an intro flight with Josh Bayer made for a great time that Saturday afternoon.
Sunday was fly out day – except for me. I decided to stay to visit with Burrell about leaving my bird at his hanger for a full avionics upgrade. On Monday, Steve drove me to the international airport for a American Airlines flight back to DFW airport for the flight back home.
6 weeks later I flew back out to fly the Stagger EZ back home with two new Dynon EfIS systems, engine monitoring and auto pilot! Wow!