Not too long ago I traveled up to Red Bluff to do a pre-purchase inspection on a Pterodactyl. The ride there was very quick and crop dusters kept my head on a swivel. I think I counted four of them on the way up there.
As planned, Bob and his wife Cynthia were waiting outside of the gate. They swept their card and the gate opened up. Bob pointed us (my mom and I) towards his hangar and sure enough it looked like there was a Pterodactyl in there. Out on the hangar driveway was Bob's 80 hp Sonex. It had bullet holes and rip marks stickered on. I thought it added a lot to the plane.
Bob asked me how I "got bit" and I explained how I fell in love. He shared his love story as well and before we had much time to chat, he looked at my mom and said something like "Before it gets too hot, would you mind If I took mark up in my plane." This completely knocked me off my feet. I hadn't expected this at all. Bob said something like "You had to have known." I guess I came blindfolded.
In all the other planes I'd flown in, I had memorized all the v-speeds. I do this so that if my pilot were to become unable to fly I would have a better idea how to land. This time I'd be leaving the ground without that information.
We taxied to the hold short line of runway 15 and did the pre-takeoff checklist. Both mags were good, carburetor heat was working and everything else told us that it was time to fly. I was dying from the heat that the bubble canopy was giving us so I was very eager to get airborne. We then checked for traffic, made our radio call and crept out onto the runway. Bob brought up the flaps and applied full power ahead.
Soon enough we were moving into the third dimension and my flying withdrawals were overcome. I was amazed at how it handled in the air. No Cessna will ever be like it. If I was blindfolded and put into this plane, I would have guessed that I was flying in an Extra 300. We were doing 40 degree turns, descending turns, sharp climbs, etc. I'd never felt as much G in my entire life.
When Bob handed me the controls at first, I was amazed at how responsive the plane was. No wonder why it felt like an Extra 300. After a second or two, I was able to hold altitude while turning but it certainly wasn't as easy as it was in the two Quicksilvers I'd flown in. Since I didn't have all the v-speeds memorized, I asked if I could stall it and Bob had no problems with that. At least I knew the stall speed.
If everyone had the chance to fly in a Sonex, we'd all have one and airport congestion would actually be a problem for the General Aviation and Sport Pilot guys. Flying faster than a Cessna 150 and burning only 4 gallons per hour is impressive. At 8,000 feet it gets 37.5 miles to the gallon. At sea level it gets 32.5 miles to the gallon. People, this thing probably gets better fuel economy than your car!!! Why aren't you flying!!!
Sonex is probably really happy with me right now and since I'm not getting payed, I'll stop giving them a free advertisement. The flight was amazing to say the least.
After getting out Bob and I checked out the Piper Cub that had just landed from a flight. It was beautifully maintained. I'd probably say that it was in better condition than the day it rolled out of Piper's factory. I'll have to get myself a ride in one of those one day. The pilot had flown ultralights back in the 80s, so we had something to relate to. The Cub was another thing that I hadn't expected to see that day.
We finally moved over towards the Pterodactyl. I was amazed at how light the hang cage was. I could easily lift it. Granted, the wing wasn't attached but it was still impressive. Bob immediately pointed out that it would need new gas tanks and new wheels. Overall, it was in better condition than I expected it to be. I noticed a few rusty nuts here and there, but there were no major surprises. What a contrast from the last Pterodactyl I looked at.
Bob and I got out the wing and unzipped and unrolled it from it's bag. The bag had seen it's time, but the wing was beautifully colorful. I attempted to push a hole through the fabric and did a good job of hurting my finger. The sails were in fantastic condition. There were some mud dauber nests in the bag, but they had done no damage to the sail. Bob explained that they appeared during his possession. The previous owner, a Pterodactyl dealer, had kept it in it's bag, inside a heated room.
Oh...and did I forget to tell you? Bob's throwing in a pair of floats! They do need some repair work though. The flight with Dennis and his Quicksilver was nothing but pure fun! Eventually I'll probably get some extra training and do some float flying! I'm not really sure where I will fly it though. The only two places I can think of is the delta where I flew with Dennis and Folsom Lake.
After putting the wing back away, Bob and I spent about an hour sitting down going through the manuals, receipts, float information, etc. He wanted to make sure I knew what I'll be getting myself into if I decide to take on this project. We also went through a box full of extra stuff which contained a strange altimeter, tie downs, the float hardware, a control stick, bicycle brakes, a throttle, and some other miscellaneous hardware.
Bob gave me a leather briefcase full of Pterodactyl information, a box full of aviation magazines, and the large box of extra stuff to go through. He told me to go through it and get a good understanding of what I need to do to it before it's flyable. He doesn't want me to end up with a project that I'll get lost in the middle of, resulting in discouragement in aviation.
It's been a week since my visit and I've spent all my time going through every word of every document relating to the Pterodactyl. What's my final decision? You'll have to find out next time on the hyperbole channel.
Safe, fun flying folks,