By Kirk Tilley, EAA 1213044, EAA Canadian Council member
It was a cold cloudless day in February that found me whisking off from YYZ on our nation’s carrier to YUL with my best friend and flying companion Scott Knowlton and our AME friend Mike. Our quest – to find Charlie Brown! In fact, it was to do a pre-delivery inspection on C-GOCB (Good Ol’ Charlie Brown), a 1966 Cessna 150 Texas taildragger. Fortunately for us, the airplane was tucked away in a warm hangar at CSG3 (Joliette, Quebec). Charlie Brown was in the custody and care of a terrific pilot. She had purchased it with a pilot with the intentions of building time toward her commercial ticket. Unfortunately, the pandemic took its toll, forcing her partner to sell. That left her “holding the bag” — the bag with all the fixed costs of ownership and she reluctantly was forced to part with Charlie Brown.
With Mike and Scott in tow, we scoured the airplane to determine its condition. Mike summed it up in one word — “pristine.” This was one of the cleanest airplanes I had ever bought (and I have been fortunate to be the caretaker of five airplanes over the past 15 years since I started my aviation hobby). With great delight I finalized the purchase of Charlie Brown. It was now up to Mother Nature to cooperate in May to allow the snow to melt from our home base grass field CFC8 (Flamborough Centre) and a weather window along our route to fly Charlie Brown home!
Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I could not wait for the day to come. After a couple of reschedules the day was finally here! A 4:30 alarm is usually not a welcome sound on a Saturday morning, unless it is a flying day! Scott, who I was bringing along for the adventure, and I again made the identical trip from February, except that with a clear weather window and favorable winds at our back we would be bring Charlie Brown home.
After inspecting the required logs, paperwork, and the airplane, we were ready for the fun to begin. The sky was cloudless, and the wind from the east at all altitudes. As I sat at the controls in the left seat it dawned on me that I wasn’t ready to just blast off into the wild blue. I wasn’t going to let my bravado get in the way of our safety! So Scott, who is a flight instructor with thousands of instructional hours, quickly went from “passenger” to check pilot/safety pilot. As we settled at our planned altitude, I took over the controls. I quickly remembered how challenging flying in turbulent air can be. I have become spoiled flying my early morning/evening flights in my open cockpit P-70 (Powell Acey Deucy) where the only turbulence is flying through your own wake!
We had planned to fly over a friend’s strip near Gatineau, however we never did find it — it helps to have the correct lat and long! Somewhat disappointed, we turned southwest for our next stop, CNP3 (Arnprior) for a food break and fuel.
We touched down in Arnprior and knowing there was no restaurant available (it is sad how many of our small airports have lost their restaurants — but that’s for another edition for Bits and Pieces) we pulled out a truly Canadian lunch of Tim Horton’s sandwiches. As I watched some weekend parachutists float to earth, a father and young son showed up to eat their packed lunch to watch airplanes. As we sat at our respective picnic tables, the dad asked me – “What kind of an airplane is that?” After telling him it was a Cessna 150, he was amazed. The taildragger configuration with the large tires really changes the ground profile of the airplane.
Not wanting to spend much time on the ground, as we were completely mission-focusd that day, we fueled, had another look over the airplane along with the weather and took to the sky once more. This time it was my turn to take off, always an exciting time in a new airplane. Charlie Brown quickly showed me how he liked (and did not) to be flown. As much as I had practiced my flow mentally several times en route and had acquainted myself with the airplane, that first takeoff was “interesting.” Having Scott as my safety pilot was a welcome addition on the takeoff roll! Adding the new complexity of flaps on the climb-out, with no flap indicator inside the cockpit but instead having to look WAY over your left shoulder to make sure they were fully retracted, I once again proved my instructor correct — the airplane will go where you look and that was up and to the left as a familiar voice said “airspeed” in my headset ( and no it was not my inner voice). I had not flown an airplane with flaps in more than 10 years and it showed. After feeling like a humbled student pilot again, I finished my climb-out and again settled in to level flight, next stop CFC8 (Flamborough Centre).
We set the GPS, and the magenta line was going to take us right through the Toronto TCA and control zone for CYTZ (Billy Bishop Airport). We requested flight following just west of Peterborough. With Scott on the radios and me doing my best to hold the given altitude changes as the wind and turbulence were conspiring against me, we flew the City Tour Route right past the CN Tower! It was amazing. Listening to ATC instructions I again realized how rusty I was with “hearing ATC.” “Where are they taking us?” I asked Scott. (Have I mentioned the importance of a safety pilot?) They eventually terminated our radar service, and we set the transponder to 1200, becoming comfortable again with the more familiar area of Oakville and Burlington for this weekend pilot.
I tuned in Flamborough Centre and announced we were “Inbound to overhead the field and join the mid-right downwind for runway 15 (those that want to visit us at CFC8 be advised we are right hand circuits — and please visit!). My air picture became familiar again, my level of confidence with the airplane was now much higher than when I departed Arnprior, and I carried out a pre-landing checklist — and deployed the flaps! (They are going to take some time to get used to but that’s what circuits in a new airplane are for). I lined Charlie Brown up on final, with a healthy but manageable quartering crosswind and the airplane did not disappoint. We landed “firmly” and taxied to the tiedown area. It was not until I saw the field welcoming committee of our good friends Brian and Hope that I realized what a wonderful day we had just had.
Those of us that are GA pilots sometimes need mission-oriented days like this to not only hone some of our “perishing” skills, but also to remind us of what a fantastic “magic carpet” we have at our fingertips. Bringing home a new airplane also excites that feeling of something new to learn and master. I continue to think how lucky I am to have been introduced to this fantastic sport that has become a passion.
And now. the “rest of the story.” The reason for purchasing Charlie Brown in the first place was really to have a great airplane for my daughter to learn to fly on. After spending the next few days really getting acquainted with GOCB I proudly regaled my accomplishments of getting comfortable in the airplane and what a “great airplane it was and how fantastic.” Scott (always the one to bring me back down to earth) remarked, “That’s great you are enjoying your daughter’s training airplane” — as in don’t get too used to it as it needs to be available for her, NOT you! Alas, I guess I will have to be content with the excitement of my daughter learning to fly Charlie Brown. (Still, it was a really fun adventure!)