Since I was a kid, I have been interested in flying and was really inspired by Richard Bach’s book–Illusions. I imagined landing in a remote field, taking people for rides, and flying into a beautiful sunset. I was inspired by the freedom, the adventure, and the beauty.
In 2006, I got serious about flying and bought a Spezio Tuholer–the experimental aircraft shown above. Open-cockpit, two seater… perfect for the barnstorming that I dreamed of. I had no idea how hard a journey it would be.
First, I couldn’t find an instructor who would teach me in the Spezio. It was a tail-dragger (tailwheel in the back, rather than nosewheel in the front), communication between the cockpits was tough because of the windnoise, and most people couldn’t fly the Spezio. When I finally found an instructor, he didn’t fit in the front cockpit because I was designed for much smaller people–way back when!
So, I ended learning in a Citabria. I found an aerobatic instructor and we learned a lot together–off-field landings, emergency procedures, etc. Because my instructor was aerobatic, he’d put the aircraft in all sorts of extreme and unusual attitudes, and then say, “Ok, jason, you got the controls” and I’d have to get us out of this. We even did unusual attitudes when I could only look at the instruments. Imagine, opening your eyes, looking at 3 instruments trying to figure out what’s happening. Airspeed 150 knots (which is fast), altitude dropping quickly, turn indicator all the way to the left… ok, I’m in a spin to the left diving to the ground… throttle to neutral, left foot on the pedal to stop the spin, gently pull up.
Well, my relationship with my instructor didn’t end well. We crashed March 8, 2008… the day before my birthday. Luckily, we both walked away alive, but I was left with a neck injury, which I will be managing for the rest of my life. You can read more about the accident and about my learnings soon.
I kept flying after the accident. I was committed to getting my license. I earned my license and then started flying the spezio. I had some grand adventures in the Spezio, flew it Burning Man and took 25 people for rides, and then flew it to Colorado. But the story of the spezio ended in a sad way too. My mechanic lost control of the aircraft on the ground. I was there and had to run for my life to get out of the way. It was scary. The airplane was destroyed. Click to learn more about the spezio.
And then another scary incident happened when I was flying an experimental aircraft that I was considering buying. The engine cut out over Estes Park. I didn’t know if we’d get out of the mountains, but we had enough altitude to glide to a landing at Longmont with about 1000 feet to spare.
After that, I switched to gliders and earned my glider certificate. I flew gliders in Boulder for two years, until 2011, when I realized that I actually enjoy being on the ground or by rivers. My dream of freedom of flying just wasn’t playing out like I expected it to. So, I’ve now hung up my pilot’s hat and am calling it quits. I’m sad that I’ll be managing my injury for the rest of my life, but my five year stint with flying has been something I will never forget. And I’m guessing I’ll get back into it at some point in the future when I can afford a good twin engine airplane!