Interest in Aviation

My interest in aviation began around ten years old when my father completed his Private Pilot’s license. As a bridge contractor from North Dakota, he used general aviation as a method for business travel. After an early partnership in a tail dragger Cessna 180, Dad bought a nearly new 1963 Cessna 205 while I was still in High School.  At age 17, Dad signed me up for ground school at the local airport and gave me a half dozen flying lessons for Christmas.


Although I had many hours observing and occasionally manipulating the controls, it was a real thrill to actually solo after 8 hours of flight instruction on cold clear winter day at Jamestown, North Dakota. A few months later the Private Pilot written test was easy.  Following high school graduation and a summer job of operating a pay loader and driving a redi mix truck, I passed my Private Pilot flight test on my 18th birthday on July 27, 1965.

The University of North Dakota had an active flying club that rented Cessna 150’s for $6 per hour. I managed a few hours of flying each month during my freshman year in mechanical engineering.  Another summer of driving redi mix trucks funded more flight training.  I returned to UND that fall with about 250 total hours and a FAA commercial license with a flight instructor rating. Soon my time was divided between classes, fraternity, and several flying students. My first student solo was almost as exciting as my own first solo.  Upon graduation from mechanical engineering, I had over a 1000 total hours (mostly giving flight instruction).  My attempts to fly with the military were thwarted due to corrected lenses for distant vision. (Today, extended wear contact lenses provide 20/20 vision for days between removals)

Aviation remained a major hobby and flight instruction a part time job during my initial career in the commercial HVAC industry.  Aviation also opened many doors with fellow aviators and associates.  Teaching flying shares many skills with marketing a technical service like HVAC. Like sales it requires good presentation and communication skills, time management, and personal initiative.  In May of 1977, I flew the airlines to England to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my namesake, Charles A. Lindbergh’s (no relation discovered… so far) nonstop solo across the Atlantic. There I rented a Cessna 150 (BBJW) and flew from Biggin Hill to La Bourget, France. I am not sure whether it was more exciting to fly across the English Channel or find myself south of Abbeville, and still an hour from Paris with the French air controllers speaking very little English.  As Shakespeare said…” All’s well that ends well..”

featSo far, I have owned two airplanes that were both tail draggers: a 7ECA Citabria with a partner, and later a 1950 Cessna 170A with a modified Franklin 165 engine.  In 1983, Hugh Grady the previous owner of that 170 and I flew round trip from Palo Alto to the 170 convention in Yellowknife, Canada via North Dakota.  (50 hours in 12 days)  A few years later, that airplane won Best Modified 170 (N325DE) at the San Diego Convention.

The middle 1980’s, I joined a local real estate developer (whom I had flight trained) and used his Cessna 210 to identify and purchase apartment buildings for investors. This became an opportunity to combine interests in the West, photography, and aviation with new skills in real estate economics. Gradually my writing style expanded from the technical quantitative engineering to the more historical, descriptive, and persuasive.

As a history buff since high school, aviation history soon became a natural focus.  Air shows and the numerous aviation museums in California alone are a great resource. While the Air and Space Museum in DC, and the San Diego Air Museum are favorites, there remain many museums still requiring a visit such as Wright Patterson in Dayton, OH, and Naval Aviation in Pensacola, FL ……(the Hiller Museum in San Carlos and Wings of History in Morgan Hill are local gems!)

After selling my Cessna 170 in the 90’s, I rented airplanes and did some part charter flying with a local company that used Cessna 210’s.  Today, I mostly rent Citabrias from Aerodynamic Aviation at Reid Hill View airport in San Jose.  The visibility and lower cruising speed of the Citabria make it a great platform for aerial photography.

In the fall of 2004, that underlying interest in the lore and history of the US West culminated with a purchase of a 7 year old quarter horse mare named Hannah thanks to a friendship with Anne Whitten. Anne had decades of experience with horses, owned a ranch in Idaho, helped me with horsemanship, and later introduced me to Stu Whittelsey when looking for another place to keep Hannah.  Like flying horsemanship requires a lot of featskill and practice. They each have controls for speed, turns, etc. However, flying is inanimate and the airplane behaves the same way if controlled under the same conditions.  Unlike an airplane, bad rider habits get ingrained into the horse.  And like the rider, a horse can be in a different mood every day and can sense and then react to rider uneasiness. Nevertheless, I found all the work, money, training, and time worth it when after a period of time that connection occurs between the horse and rider. Consistency, good technique, and lots of hours in the saddle appear to be essential.  And like flying recurrent training is very helpful. I believe Hannah has a lot of potential for search and rescue. She is aware of her surroundings, sure footed, very strong and if ridden confidently can be calmer than many other horses during challenging events on the trail.

Stu had room to board Hannah for just a few months and during frequent local trail rides in Woodside, we realized our mutual interest in aviation history.  Soon after reading “No Foxholes in the Sky” written by Harry Conley and Stu, I was invited to what has become the Eagles Forever monthly luncheon group at the Circus Club in Menlo Park.  Although it would have been great to meet Harry Conley before he passed in 2000, the Eagles Forever remain an enjoyable and informative fellowship.

After several years of attending meetings, events, and participating in both the Spring and 5 day Fall Ride, I was invited by Stu (a member for over 35 years) to join the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County.  MPSMC was founded in 1942 by a local group of horseman to help patrol the coastline. Since WWII, MPSMC have supported horsemanship, search and rescue, trail maintenance. And while having a lot fun on a 20 acre facility in Woodside, they also sponsor many events such as the annual July 4th Junior Rodeo.