Finally the all proud N500ME is carefully removed and C-GOHW is placed on the Tail. We really liked the new ident GO Hans Wilhelm or GO Hans & Willy (his last name is actually my first name) and also OSCAR HOTEL WHISKEY just rolls of the tongue as easy as it is looking at this beauty of a CH-701SP. One couldn't be more happy and proud! And one should know, that when ever this tremendous Fat & Happy Feeling overcomes you, something is about to burst your happy little bubble. And so in this case. Well, tighten the seat belts in your lazy chairs because you are about to go on ride from dream through despair right down into your deepest darkest nightmarish hell you can only imagine as a friend, fellow aviator and flight instructor.
Now lets start with the actors of this little episode mainly our main character, Hans. He is what one might consider slightly past the spring chicken age, with the soup pot still distantly, but nevertheless gently whistling his name. Usually that's where all seasoned roosters end up sooner or later.
As for myself I lag slightly behind, I can see the odd steam coming off the pot, but haven't my heard my name nor smelled it for that matter. But that might have to do with the fact that both of us generally try to remain upwind from this ungainly end. Always dotting the i's and leaving very little to chance may have been working in our favour too, ..thus far. Now I wouldn't say we are notoriously obsessive compulsive, just a little more "Swiss" than the average Canadian, him more than me since I only have a Swiss Grandma, the rest being Austrian and therefore I feel somewhat watered down in this how many corners make a perfect square department.
Next lets pick the perfect day. How about a nice June day with blue skies, no wind, the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of chirping birds in the air. While we are at it, lets make it the first Anniversary of our departure from Zephyrhills, Florida and the official day of the 701 Dream was taking flight. And here we go:
The rather perfect Day - Runway 15 Grass @ CZML
After a long flight across the country, followed by numerous hours in the Circuit doing touch and goes, full stops, high speed taxis, aborted take offs, forced landings, precautionary approaches, ..in short "the list" covering as much as one can cover before as an Instructor you decide it's time to take off the training wheels and send them down the road, pardon me, runway in this case by themselves.
What could possibly go wrong on a day like this? How about everything and than some! Two facts right up front, one being that I'm a big boy at 6'2" and 2??+ and the other that early CH-701's flew on a Rotax 503 just fine. Now having explained myself upfront, here is how the story unfolds. The goal for Hans' first solo outing was to do some high speed taxis and get a feel for the aircraft with the reduced load of just him on board. Lets just say that by the time he added half throttle on a downhill run the 701 lofted upwards, which would not be totally unexpected but not the goal of the exercise now was it. Nope! NoSsiree! Realizing his initial mistake Hans decided to cut power by pushing the throttle all the way in, which to his surprise really yawed the aircraft, (yup, they do that at full power) and about the time it hit full power and a real good Yaw to the left, ..he cut power. And that is C-GOHW or Cee it Goes Over High Wires or wire fences for that matter. And then The Noise stopped, no screaming engine, no breaking trees, no singing birds, no nothing, silence, that really ugly silence and the moment you realize everything just went to sh...!
"I never touched the fence!"
Hans was ok, the poor birdie not so much!
Thankfully a Kiev Propeller that just shattered away.
Jogging down the runway to the place he disappeared into the foliage left me rather out of breath, I confess. By the time I arrived, Hans was out of the airplane, not a scratch, not a bump on him. Only problem, ..he was on the other side of the airport fence. Another jog back to the truck and a drive around the airport to get Hans, who by the time had arrived on the nearby highway.
Can't even see the plane from the Highway, ..let's just go for coffee and breakfast. I quit smoking some time ago, but was in dire need of a real good shot of caffein, maybe even a little Irish Cream instead of milk might be in order!!
Walking into the nearby restaurant we run into Nick, the airport manager and we tell him about our early morning mishap. Did you turn the ELT off, comes his first reply. Of course not, hell, ..lets order breakfast and up I go again to check on the ELT. It never went off. The impact and the settling down into the greenery has cushioned it enough to never trigger the switch. Lesson learned on that one, I guess you oughta crash a bit harder to trip the thing.
After breakfast, line up some help such as my good friend and ever willing co-pilot/student Ken J. to start cutting out around the plane. Call for the picker truck and try to minimize any additional damage to the aircraft. In retrospect, would I have to do it again, I'd pull the wings right away. But we were just over the fence and the insurance adjuster most likely rather sees a whole airplane. Couple hours of work and out she comes, looking like a big joyride attached to the crane. Maybe we can make some money with it at the Arlington Fly In since it seems they have been getting more joy rides than aviators over the last few years.
"The Arlington Joy Ride"
And there goes the dream! One year to the date that we departed Zephyrhills and its all in shambles. Or is it? Going over the aircraft and looking at the repairs, it seems starting from new might be the way to go. After the insurance adjuster brought in some AME's from Vernon to appraise the rebuilding cost the decision by the insurance was to right it off, with an option to purchase the remains if one is interested. After lots of discussion between Hans and me we came up with a plan and decided to purchase OHW back. It's a gamble, especially the engine and prop strike. So as a step one, the wings and tail came off, the fuselage went into my Toyhauler and the road trip to Rotec in Vernon was on its way. A couple nights at the local beach in my trailer relaxing and word came back that the engine and re-drive are fine and no damage was found. Well, in that case, how hard can it be to rebuild this poor ol' gal. Can't be that bad, folks are starting from scratch and kits all the time, furthermore the folks at Zenithair and Zenair are super good to deal with and parts are just a phone call away.
As they say, nothing is ever final, it's just a new beginning!