Looking Back on 2005 PAGE 199.

December 24, 2005: I spent part of the morning and early afternoon today updating this web site with the events from yesterday.  When I compose these pages, I recall the English Teacher I had in high school who started me on this odyssey of words and pictures that you now read.   I am telling my story in a way that you can all share with me.  I just read my posting from December 25, 2004 and relived some of my original excitement as I forged ahead on my airplane construction project.  I had some thoughts earlier today about some of my travels in the airplane since it was completed. 

As I sit quietly tonight putting my thoughts into this forum, I have many things racing through my mind.  I was relaxing down in the living room, channel surfing and finding some of the traditional holiday reruns and some other things earlier in the day that were very interesting.  I realized that having this time to myself presents me with an opportunity to reach out to ALL of my family around the world, not just my relatives here.  It is a gift to be shared with an insight into more than just my experiences and adventures during the life of this project to build and fly an airplane.  I was watching the Travel Channel earlier today when they had a show on trains in America that visit national parks.  Seeing that show reminded me of my goal to put a video system into my airplane to do aerial movies across the USA in places we all want to see.

Thinking about what has happened in the past year, I realize the timing of it all is a bit amazing.  I lost my job at a time when money was not an issue for me.   The airplane was already paid for from my inheritance, and I still had money in savings.  I appreciated the extra time I could devote to the project during the spring of 2005 and into the summer.  The airplane came together in a matter of weeks at the Collegedale Airport with my local friends dropping by to observe my progress and to lend a hand when needed. 

I flew away on my birthday FIRST CLASS to Oregon (using frequent flyer miles) for transition training that would allow me to fly my airplane safely.  June 8th was a good day for the inspection of my project, and made an excellent "birth day" for my Star Ship "Enterprise".  The phase one testing of my airplane was completed in "record time" according to some other builder/pilots I have met since then.   The timing of my first flight out of my test area on "Independence Day" was certainly convincing.  That short flight did not qualify for a true "cross country" flight since it was only 45 nautical miles into Georgia.  Just a few days before, I flew all around the limits of my test area on a non-stop flight that would cover almost 625 miles over the ground in 4.2 hours and burn 22 gallons of fuel.  All of that with just one takeoff and one landing.

I got the airplane into the paint shop on July 5th and out of there on July 23rd.  I had half a day of prep time to start putting my interior into the cabin before flying off to the world's biggest airshow the next day: AirVenture 2005 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  After some last-minute work that consumed that Sunday morning of July 24th, I was finally flying away from my home air field in the early afternoon and beginning an adventure that many pilots want to experience.  I was running on autopilot during the short flight from Folks Field to Collegedale since it was familiar territory.  I don't mean the airplane on autopilot, it was ME!  It was not long after my departure from Collegedale with full fuel tanks and the state of Tennessee passing behind my wings that I realized I was on this great adventure to Oshkosh!  New vistas were presented to me with every mile:  Fort Knox, the winding course of the Ohio River, the farm lands of Indiana and Illinois.  I flew all the way to Oshkosh and only saw two airplanes and they were both airliners, one near Louisville, Kentucky and the other one west of Chicago, Illinois.  When I arrived at the first VFR approach waypoint for Oshkosh, I was all alone in the air over Ripon, Wisconsin.  I was being given a personal welcome by the controller when I reached FISK, and a ticket to the BIG RUNWAY at Oshkosh for my arrival.

After my landing at OSH, I taxied to the Home Built Camping (HBC) area and found that I was the last airplane to arrive on that Sunday evening just 30 minutes before the airport closed for the day.  My parking spot was convenient to the showers and restrooms in the campground, and I was the last of the FOUR airplanes on that row.  Three of the airplanes were Van's RV-9A's!  That was amazing since there were only about 160 RV-9 and RV-9A airplanes flying at that time.   As I was setting up my tent, I heard my name called by a good friend and RV-9A builder, David Edgemon, when he stopped by to see me.  Part of his project is documented in this web site as my regular web visitors all know.

I checked in at "Home Builder's" headquarters the next morning to pay my camping fee and get my daily passes for AirVenture 2005.  When the volunteer gave me my yellow "Perseverance Award" ribbon, I realized that I had done something that so many other builders had not done - - completed and flown my airplane.  He asked me if I wanted to have my airplane judged and I declined since I knew the paint job was less than perfect.   This was the second day of the week of adventure, and it started with a sunny sky, but ended with a thunder storm that night that tested the strength of my tent pegs with 50 MPH winds.  I was glad I had bought the large steel spikes for the four corners of my 7-by-9-foot tent.

The week had some high points when I finally met Abby Erdmann of Flightline Interiors.  She had customized my seats and wall panels to be unique and she enjoyed doing it!  I also had some of you out there who stopped by to say hello.  Another high point was when one guy came up to the airplane to tell me he knew all about the "Enterprise" and had been looking forward to seeing it up close, instead of just in these web pages.  That was when I realized I had done a good thing sharing my project with all of you via this web site.  The other high points of the week were well documented in the aviation trade press:  Space Ship One, Global Flyer, Glacier Girl, etc.  All these unique flying machines were in ONE place at the same time - - OSHKOSH!

AirVenture started my week, but the end of the week was to be just as good for me personally.  When I left Oshkosh on July 28th, I began a cross-country trip that would have been a big deal, even without the first part of the week being spent at Oshkosh!  I saw three of the five Great Lakes in North America!  I had a visit with a cousin who shares my interest in genealogy.  I flew a distance of more than 1,100 miles in one day and spent the weekend with friends in New Jersey and Rhode Island.   I flew down the Hudson River and saw New York City up close and personal from a new vantage point, the cockpit of an airplane I built in my garage!  And I got to visit my son and his family in Pennsylvania and get home on the same day.  That day had weather in the Shenandoah Valley that required me to take the long way home and get down low in the Tennessee River valley to fly home in VFR conditions safely.  I was appreciative of the broken clouds and sunshine over the big lakes between Chattanooga and Knoxville that day.  The thunder storm over the Collegedale Airport was not a problem when it was time to fly the last few miles to my home field.

The 2005 Labor Day weekend provided a new travel experience to Texas to see my oldest son and his family at a time this year when AVGAS was less expensive than auto fuel.  My second trip to Texas in mid-October and the LOE5 RV fly-in near El Paso was a time to meet new friends and some internet-only acquaintances face-to-face for the first time.  With the paint on my airplane corrected after my Oshkosh trip, the airplane was judged as the "BEST RV-9/9A" at the "Land of Enchantment 5" RV fly-in at the Dona Ana, New Mexico airport.  I won a trophy and the recognition of other RV-builders for my paint scheme design and adaptation to the RV-9A airframe.

After that trip to LOE5 in October 2005 was behind me, I was ready to get back to work in my profession, the broadband cable, satellite, or broadcast television industries.  As I write this page, I have one serious job opportunity that may present itself in January 2006.  Wish me luck!  My savings are getting low now.   Winning one of the big lotteries would solve a lot of problems for me and those I love.  Just having a good job would be a big help and appreciated very much!

The short weekend trip to Florida over the Veteran's Day weekend in November was fun.  I had good tail winds going south and again on the trip home to Chattanooga.  I also had a chance to use flight service to get updates on the weather as I made my way home through a weather front with the gaps I needed to remain VFR in the last 100 miles flying past Atlanta and to my home field in North Georgia.

And finally, this week before Christmas 2005 gave me the chance to see family and friends, to share a day of good memories, and get home before the sun set on a "good day" to fly near places I have called home for much of my life.  I hope that all of you have a good holiday season, whether it is a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" or whatever!

I think I hear sleigh bells and there is no snow outside, just rain falling as midnight approaches.

Good Night from East Ridge, Tennessee!

Jerry K. Thorne, December 24th, 2005.  Your email comments are welcome to email1.gif (2101 bytes).