That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence…

In my continuing efforts to someday fly a deHavilland Beaver, I was having a look at the Murphy Aircraft site. They make a kit built plane that is very similar to the deHavilland Beaver, called the Murphy Moose. It’s smaller than the Beaver, but it’s got a big round engine, and they have a float kit for it. It would almost be perfect for me.

The problem is their web site. It sucks. The very first page has an announcement that they hired their first full time webmaster, and either this webmaster is an idiot, or they haven’t had time to fix the crap. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of broken links. Part of the problem is that some of those links are the classic “thinks they’re a web master because they stole a copy of FrontPage” mistake of a href="file:///S|/Kelly%20Eros/Order%20Info.htm".

But the worst mistake is I went to their order info page (no thanks to that link) to order an information package and DVD. And whoever wrote that page is a moron. First mistake – after you enter your name, you get a pop up telling you that you haven’t put in all the other required fields. No shit Sherlock, that’s why I haven’t hit Submit yet. But then the real problem: you put in your information and your credit card data, and click “Submit”, and instead of getting any sort of confirmation that your information was received, you get two Thunderbird “Compose Mail” windows popping up with an empty mail to “”. Because for some bizarre reason, the Submit button, as well as being a real form submit button, it’s also a mailto: link. WTF?

Examining the web source, you can also see the biggest newbie mistake ever: the web form has the email recipient coded as a hidden field in the form itself (which means that a spammer could use their server to send spam by changing the email address), and the form action is _vti_bin/shtml.exe/Order%20Info.htm. Looking at my web logs, I can see that _vti_bin/shtml.exe is a known open mail relay program searched for and used by spammers.

This company’s web presence is done by amateurs, and not very competent amateurs. That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence about giving them $50,000 (or however much a kit costs) of my money.

Blue sky dreaming

I’ve been dreaming about flying float planes for most of my life. Especially after sore knees and hips made it increasingly hard to reach the silent lakes of my youth via canoe and hiking boot. I always remember that time on a remote lake in Algonquin Park where a park ranger dropped into our lake in a deHavilland Beaver and paddled the plane ashore. He was there to set up some toilets at a new campsite that wasn’t on our map, but he stopped over to check our permit and make sure we weren’t cutting down live trees.

Since then, I’ve often thought how cool that would be, to fly a Beaver into a lake that was only known to a few paddlers, and after the engine stopped making pinging noise as it cooled down, just listening to the loons and the breeze in the trees. I got to experience some of that on the Alaska cruise as we stood on the float of our Beaver for a few minutes.

Vicki and I were talking about it the other day, and she suggested that when I retire (or it becomes impossible to find my sort of work anywhere outside of Asia), I could fly floats as a second career. A little research shows that there are a couple of hitches to that:

  • Nobody will hire a float plane pilot without hundreds if not thousands of hours of float time.
  • Nobody (with the possible exception of Twitchells Seaplane Base in Maine, but that’s a long way to go before starting your flight) will rent you a seaplane except with one of their instructors sitting beside you.
  • Probably most importantly: float plane flying is strenous work, since the customers will expect you to do all the loading and unloading and dock work.

But before I throw out the dream entirely, I did some more research, and some more dreaming. On the dreaming side, there is Georgian Bay Airways, which as well as initial and advanced float plane training, also has a Career Bush Pilot Program where you get 50 hours of training, including 1 in their Beaver. I wish I’d known about this when I was 20 years old – they hire one or two of the students from this program to be dock hands for the summer, and you’ll get some more time flying both their Cessna 180s and Beavers. They tell me that last year’s two dock hands got an additional 50 and 80 hours flying time.

But on the more pragmatic side, I’m probably not going to be able to do that. But I could at least get prepared – I need two things: a commercial rating and a float plane that I can put a lot of hours into. So I’m looking around to see if there are any other local pilots interested in a small partnership on some sort of float plane. I can’t afford one of my own, but I might be able to swing 1/2 or 1/4 of a sufficiently old Cessna 180 or similar. These new Light Sport Aircraft are tempting, but the only LSA ambhibian is a boat-hull flying boat rather than a float plane, and none of the commerical operators seem to use flying boats so I doubt the flying time would count for much. I’m not sure if I’d even fit in a CubCrafters Super Cub on floats.

Before I get the commercial, though, I’ve got to fly a lot more. I’ve got the minumum hours for the requirements, but frankly, I consider myself a safe pilot, but not a great pilot. I have always flown “good enough” instead of “as good as I possibly could get”. I just don’t fly enough, and because of that I don’t nail my airspeeds and altitudes, I don’t use the rudder enough, and I’m not totally smooth. But I know I can do that stuff with practice. So that’s my goal this year – to get 50 or more hours of flying, and some of that time going out to do real airwork to get more than just proficient at the normal Private Pilot maneuvers before I start thinking about learning the commercial maneuvers.

Has it been two years already?

Well, it’s been approximately two years since my last HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) orientation for contract employees, so it was time to renew.

They’ve moved it even earlier, to 7:00am. And it is just as boring and unapplicable to my type of contracting as I remember it. But at least the guy giving it this time was a much more positive person.

I had to get up much earlier than usual, and get out of the house promptly without checking my morning email or anything. I had hoped that I’d be able to catch up with my Treo in the HSE training, but of course they hold it in a basement with no cell phone coverage.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that I had anxiety about getting up earlier than usual so I kept waking up in the middle of night to check the clock to make sure I hadn’t missed the alarm. I swear, I remember checking the clock about 3 times between 2:00am and 2:30am, and then again a couple of times between 5:00am and 5:30am. But of course when the alarm did go off at 6:00am I hit snooze, forgetting for the moment that I didn’t have enough buffer time in my schedule to allow for snoozing. Fortunately I remembered a minute or two later.

You know, I love this job. I bitch about my cow orkers and management every now and then, but that’s true of any job. But the work is challenging, it’s interesting, and it’s in a field I like (ok, it’s not GIS or aviation, but it’s close), on a language and OS I like developing on. And it pays more than my previous job, which means I don’t have to ask myself “can I afford to go flying this month” or ask my friends for money to help run the server that does our shared mailing lists, but most importantly it means we didn’t have to ask “how are we going to afford to have three kids in college at the same time?”. Being bored for 45 minutes at a god-awful hour of the morning once every two years is a small price to pay for that sort of freedom.