Jan 21st

My first engine out

By Maarten Lobker

My first flight of 2016 turned out to be much like the stock market - going down quickly for no apparent reason.

I am flying a 2006 Northwing Apache ST (currently branded as a NW Navajo) with a Rotax 582. Only 231 hours total time, well cared for. However, as eluted in the title, I had my first engine out a few weeks ago.  I'm sharing this story because I learned a lot in the process and it reminded me that even the most trusted engines can fail.

It started with a non-eventful 20 minutes flight from a drylake to KBVU. After a short pause at the FBO, I restarted and took off again. At 200' above midfield my engine seized without warning. I had enough runway to put it down safely (thanks Leo Fitzgerald for training me well). Once on the ground I was able to restart and put it on a quiet taxiway to do some tests. Fuel, mags, temperatures, high RPM, etc... all looked good. So I gave it another try. Unfurtunately, just over 200' it seized again. This time I was prepared. Once on the ground it would not restart.

Back in the garage I took the entire fuel supply apart and checked & cleaned the usual suspects. Fuel pump, filters, carburators, spark plugs, etc... all good. I replaced the fuel pump anyway. After all that, the engine ran again, so I decided to give it another try. This time I had help (thanks Lauren Attaway) and we opted to test on the dry lake. Unfortunately, same story all over. I felt like an early aviation pioneer, barely reaching 50'. The engine was completely locked up this time.

Time for an overhaul.
A quick visual inspection showed scratches on the rotary valve, so we sent it to a repair shop (Thanks Glen for transport help). Once in the hands of a  licensed Rotax mechanic, I got the call that this was one of the worst cases he had ever seen. Failed crankshaft bearing, damaged piston, damaged engine casing, and metal shavings that went through the rotary valve.

While the cause of all this remains unclear, there are a few things that may have contributed:

1.  I bought this trike used with only 145 hours, but it had been stored for more than 2 years without use. I learned that low hours on an older trike does not mean everything is ok. Sitting still for too long is bad. 

2. I pre-mix my fuel with high-grade Amsoil. However, the oil pump was still installed on the engine, basically running without functioning.

3. I used the same fuel after my trike sat for 4 months this summer. I know, that's a no no. Won't do it again.

Lessons to be learned. I'm sharing all this, hoping it will help others. If someone has another idea of what might have caused it, feel free to contribute.

I'm happy to report that I got myself a brand new engine yesterday (thanks Steve Beatty). Leo F. helped me install and test it. Runs like new :-)

Jan 14th

For Sale - Flight Suits, Gerbing Electric Gear

By Craig Valentine

I have 4 winter Flight Suits for sale, including an older red/black summer Ozee, a like new red/black Ozee Millinum, new gray HMK Snow Mobile Suit and a superb blue/yellow Fladden Suit for cold WX. 

Additionally, Gerbing liner jacket, vest, pants, socks and gloves for 12v. 

Everything in XL or XXL. I'm 6'3" and 215 pounds. Figure roughly 1/2 price for everything except less for the older summer Ozee suit.

Craig   cvalentine10@gmail.com   510 220-4905   Photos available

Dec 9th

How do you like the current WAG 2015 - Dubai - Microlight/Trike competition course and task format.

By Tony Castillo

What are your thoughts regarding Trike/Microlight competition and what should the course be like, and what tasks included so it is a safe and more even competition for all trikes of similar characteristics.

Here is the course, as I understand it begins with a distance measured take off, a fast run around pylons, a fast pass for speed measuring, then climb to 1000 and engine off precision landing. Each task is judged and poits awarded (or taken out).


Microlight / Trike Course - 2015 WAG Dubai

Nov 9th

Could a more hybrid delta wing (some rigidity & added-control surfaces) be in the future for trikes?

By Tony Castillo

Prandtl-D Aircraft by NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, in Edwards, CA, could this be the future for some of our trikes?


Aug 17th

Engine Out (Emergency) Landing on 4th of July

By Michael Rosiere


This past July 4th I had a engine out on take-off. 


After a touch and go at American Falls airport, Idaho I had engine failure that I could not recover from at about 250-280 feet above the ground.

With myself and a passenger I knew I didn't have enough time to turn around and land at the airport.

Everything that I had been taught and practiced for, for such as in an event like this kicked in automatically. I informed my passenger to prepare for an emergency landing.

I brought the nose of the wing down to maintain air speed and pulled up the landing gear and decided on a location to land.

I had three main obstacles to get over: a couple of buildings, a road, and an irrigation system.

I made it over the road and split the buildings. After that I had to flare the wing slightly to maintain altitude over the irrigation system.  I chose to flare the wing knowing I might loose lift after the irrigation system but decided I rather fall out of the sky at 10 feet then hit the pipes at about 55 mph ground speed.  Fortunately I was able to get over it and still retain enough energy to create lift.   

At this point all I had to do was bring it down into a landing in a very bumpy potato field. I set the back end down and kept the nose of the aircraft up as long as I could to bleed off as much speed as possible. And at the last couple seconds I lowered the nose down and we came to a stop.

I turned to my passenger Joe and said you just survived your first emergency landing (of course it was also my first). He threw up his hand and high-fived me and said something along the lines "that was an awesome landing".

Joe is one of the bravest people I know. He remained quiet and calm during the whole event and afterwords I asked him why he didn't say anything. He said he wanted me to be able to focus on what I was doing.


I had only 40 hours of Pilot in Command logged when this occurred over a month ago.  I can honestly say that I was completely calm and was thinking very clearly during what most people would consider a scary event.  I attribute this state of mind to the training that my three CFIs gave me( Doug Boyle, Dave Myers, and Joe Lorenzen). 

They more than prepared me for what could and did happen to me.  One of the most important things that was ingrained into me by them was 1st Fly the Plane!, 2nd Fly the Plane, 3rd Fly the Plane.  I had many decisions to make during the event that unfolded very quickly but the one thing I did throughout was FLY THE PLANE!


I was able to land the aircraft without even a scratch.  After pulling the landing gear up, those floats worked out great landing on that potato field perpendicular to the rows.  After washing it down later I could only find a couple spots where a little paint was rubbed off.  By the way, I was able to get the aircraft out of the field when 8 farmers helped to lift and walk it out to the dirt road where I was able to load into on to its trailer.

I waited to post this hoping I could give everyone the info on what cause the engine out.  We could not find a smoking gun.  With the help of a A&P who also specializes in Rotax engines we went over the entire engine and focused on fuel flow through the whole engine.  We saw a little debris in tank which we cleaned out.  He believes it was not much.  We replaced the fuel pump with a new one and put a backup electric one on.  I have flown twice since then trying to recreate everything leading to the engine out (first over water, lots of runway if needed) with about 6 touch and goes and then into full throttle.  No issues at all.  I flew over mountains here in Utah this past weekend for two hours also with no issues. 


I believe all is well with it but will continue to always be prepared as I was before and also was trained to do.


Aug 14th

Night Ride Home

By Bryan Tuffnell

Picture this: it's 2 a.m., raining, and forty knot winds are trying to rip your trike from its tethers.  You're trying to de-rig the wing in this dark tempest, assisted by a tall, striking blonde woman you met a dozen hours ago, you're both nearly naked, and fifty yards away a couple of others are engaged in a similarly near-nude hectic battle with the elements... 

This story starts over a beer, because, well, nothing worthwhile begins with a salad.  It was in a bar, a long time ago, when Steve and I decided that we should make an epic cross-country flight; one that would have maidens singing and old men raising their glasses. 

"I just need a few days' pass from Joanna and the kids", Steve tells me.  "Can you get some time off?"  I assured him that I could.  Being an underemployed bachelor has its advantages.  "Sounds good", he says, pushing an empty glass my way.  "Your round."

We made extraordinarily detailed plans: we'll take camping gear, enough kit for passengers in case some landowners whose property we'd turned into an impromptu airstrip or campground cared for some aerial recompense, and, uh, some maps.  Sorted.


Day one, Saturday.  For a couple of guys who'd long talked about a multi-day triking adventure, we were remarkably unprepared.  After faffing around at the hangar for hours, shoving camping gear, clothing, spare helmets and headsets under seats and into borrowed saddlebags (cheers Doug), Steve and I discovered that we were equally gifted in organisation.

            "What about plates?"

            "Bugger.  I forgot."

            "Cutlery?  Wine glasses?  Corkscrew?"

            "Ah... bollocks, no."

            "Lighter?  Matches?  Flashlight?"

            "I've got a flashlight... Here, see!  No, wait - the batteries are flat."

By the time we'd cleared the supermarket and petrol station (and were now proud owners of a complete set of plastic cutlery and paper dinnerware) it was mid afternoon and plain we weren't going far that day.  Steve beats me into the air by half an hour as I finish packing and sort fuel, with a loose arrangement that we'll meet at the Culverden strip.  On the ground, I'm pretty sure that I can find the strip. Once airborne I'm not so sure.  Perhaps I'd better consult the GPS.  Argh! The air is quite rowdy, and the GPS batteries are flat.  Nothing for it but to change the batteries in mid-air.  I can do that, no worries.  Well, not too many worries. Oops. Where'd that battery go?  Ah well, I've got plenty of spares in my pocket. Bollocks, this is harder than you'd think.  Might have to land somewhere and sort this out.  

Chance hangs on slender threads. We both landed in a paddock at Waikari after rejecting Sam Mahon's sheep-infested strip in favour of a paddock next to the main road.  Next to a couple of hitch-hikers, in fact.  Jill was enjoying a break from lecturing at Canterbury University; her brother, Neil, was looking after Big Sis. 

          "Hi, I'm Bryan, better known as Tussock, and the shambles disentangling himself from his headset is Steve. Oops - sorry - I wondered where that battery went.  Where are you going, and why are you giggling?"

And so two became four. 


We made Hanmer Springs that evening - hardly a milestone in aviation, but there's a comfy hay barn for four right on the airstrip, and hot pools and restaurants and beer a bit of a walk away.  Steve, keen to play the part of the seasoned aviator and master navigator, assured us of a short-cut into town that he found on his GPS; half a mile later we were wading through a "little" river that AirNav Pro had somehow neglected to inform us of. 

I discovered that Jill and I had a hatful of mutual acquaintances ("She's your ex-girlfriend?  Really?  I went through Med School with her in Dunedin, and flatted with her for a couple of years while I wrote my PhD..."), and that we had opposing views on running barefoot (in fairness, her qualifications as a High Performance Coach for Olympic-level athletes carried almost as much weight as my I-read-a-book-about-it-then-tried-it-twice experience, I have to admit.) Steve and Neil discovered a shared penchant for grubby jokes.  We swapped tall tales of past derring do over a curry and pint - Steve's martial arts prowess, honed over decades; Neil's foreign diplomatic skills, practiced in war-torn countries on behalf of the United Nations; Jill's extensive international sporting career in a multitude of disciplines; and my famous ability to recite Monty Python lines while belching.  We chased dinner and diatribe down with a soak in the thermal pools.

Now clearly, seeing your new mate's sister in a rented swimsuit somewhat too small for her calls for discretion, tact and good taste.  Steve and I, of course, had none.

           "Neil, mate!!!  Your sister's better than a 10!"

            "No wonder you're a zero. Jill got all the good looking genes."

            "Got any other sisters?"

            "Ever considered having a sex change?"

            "I'll pay."

Neil assured us that revenge is a dish best served cold.  In the pool, we talk a little about ourselves and make bad jokes.  Après soak, Neil and Steve looked all set to paint the unsuspecting town of Hanmer Springs some indiscrete shade of red, so Jill and I decide to leave them to it and we wander the long dry way back to warm sleeping bags in the luxury suite of the barn at the airfield.

Steve's 2 a.m. shout had us all awake, up and running.  WIND!!!  A front is coming through from the south, and we need to protect the trikes.  Hence, the near-naked scramble in the dark gale to get the wing down...  A brief blast as a front rolled through from the south, and then all was calm again.  Amidst the rustling of nylon as we're all climbing back into our sleeping bags in the darkness: 

       "Steve, if I can't control myself and molest you tonight, it's your fault 'cause of what you were wearing."


Day two, Sunday.  Dawn.  A cloudy, cool and calm, post-frontal day.  I'm awake - wide awake, and there's a tradition to uphold.  After the usual struggle to align the mast and wing, ZK-JPR (known to his mates as Jasper) is ready for flight.  Before the first rays of the rising sun kiss the clouds over the Amuri Plains, the barn is quaking to the tune of a Rotax.  Heh!  After the customary beat-up, I land and taxi back to the barn to find Jill has already left for an absurdly early morning run with Neil, each awoken prematurely by Steve's sonorous snorings which were continuing to echo around the valley. 


Steve keeps up a constant chatter on the radio.

            "What do you reckon, big boy... ah, this rain must be wearing our props out... hey, Neil wants to know if Jill is warm enough... I think there's too much cloud to get through the pass..."

            "Jill wants to know if you ever shut up?"

            "Yeah but this rain's getting worse.  We'll have to land somewhere soon."  

I want him to shut up as well.  I'm aware that we're going to have to land or turn back, but there's a happy team in my trike and this reality business is an unwelcome intrusion.  Jill and I are singing Neil Young's 'Thrasher' over the intercom, accompanied by the crackling Rotax and whistling propeller.  We had left the Amuri basin shortly after takeoff under a solid overcast, nursing a forlorn hope that we'd find a way to get on top and fly over the high mountains in this area - I really wanted to see again the summits of Gloriana, Faerie Queen, Trovatore and Mt Technical; peaks I knew from climbing - but the prospects were slim.  Instead, when we turned into the Waiau Valley we were confronted with lower cloud and intermittent drizzle which turned to light rain as we flew north.

I wish we could fly - not in a trike, but really fly, like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, for us to be able to extend out arms and soar through the falling rain, climbing and swooping and diving and rolling, and go above this rain and the murk and into the sunlight above.  I want to walk among the billows of the cloud-tops and rest on their vaporous domes.

But it's not to be.  A quick conference on the chat channel has us picking a paddock on the river terrace below; a low pass confirms the choice and we're soon setting down on the soft wet grass.  The tents go up, and given Steve's incredible nocturnal performance the night before (his snoring repertoire includes plausible imitations of chainsaws hard at work on tough trees, trains leaving stations during a blitz, and spectacular aircraft collisions with rugged granite cliffs), the tents are located some distance apart and I'm feeling sorry for Neil.  By midday the rain has set in and my tentmate and I are snuggled into sleeping bags co-reading 'Puckoon' and giggling like schoolkids.  For the rest of the day we trade stories, ideas and dreams, while the primus keeps up a steady supply of chicken soup which we drink from plastic cups bought from the Rangiora supermarket.  Nightfall settles on the Waiau Valley and I am supremely content.  By midnight there are stars punctuating the night.           


Day three, Monday, brings a crisp, clearing dawn and the promise of wonderful flying.  Ribbons of cloud are wrapped like skirts around the surrounding summits; the sky above is a perfect vault of blue.  No one stirs until the sun warms the tents and soft billows of steam rise from the paddock.

Day three is also the day the day Steve's engine refuses to start.  After a battery-threateningly long R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r we try hand starting.  I manage maybe a dozen modest tugs on the starter cord before gasping and stepping aside.  Neil looks sideways at me, grabs the starter handle and gives perhaps thirty solid pulls without puffing.  I rub my left shoulder and mutter about it not being right since fending the lion off my cook in Botswana.

       "It might be damp from all that rain.  Let's give the plugs a wipe, dry off the ignition leads and check the carb bowls for water."

       "Perhaps we can get Steve to fall asleep facing backwards.  A couple of his snores should get us a hundred miles or so."

       "Or we could be repelled from here by one of your Python jokes."

It takes until late afternoon, and a battery swap, before getting started.


Jill and Neil have the front seats today.  We're underway at eight thousand feet on a bluebird afternoon.

       "Relax, take a deep breath, Jill; you're doing fine.  Hey, see that little tarn on the ridge to our right?  I camped next to that a month ago.  Wow!  Look at the light on Lake Christabel - isn't that something?  That's the Freyberg Range and Cannibal Gorge in front of us, isn't it beautiful?  And that's the Spencer Mountains to the right.  Let's fly over th..."




She’s doing a pretty good job of flying straight, making gentle corrections with an athlete's touch; and I’m giving no more than the occasional nudge on the training bars.



            “What’s the name of the peak just to our right?  The one with rocky spur running down towards us?”

            “That’s Mt Duessa.”

            “I’d like to climb it.  Can we climb it?  And sleep on the summit and watch the stars unwind through the night, and give cute new names to the constellations and eat chocolate covered raisins until dawn, then…"




We fly over the Main Divide, not shhhing at all but singing Pink Floyd.  Jagged rock summits flecked with snow rise above tussock basins beneath us.  Narrow valleys flanked with forests tapering down to deep gorges slide under our wings.  I love this.  This is my home.

Murchison is a short grass paddock dotted with cows.  It takes a couple of passes to clear enough space for a pair of trikes to land.

            “How’d you go, Neil old sport?”

            “Bloody amazing. Fantastic!”  Big grins.

            “More fun than burning your sister’s toys, eh?”

            “Too right, mate!  Brilliant!  And easy!  No wonder even you two can do it.  I'm shouting dinner tonight!”

             “Aw mate; you have no idea what you've just committed yourself to.  Steve only eats as much as a small African nation.  You could shout us a feed at Beachwoods if you’re prepared to peddle a few of your body parts to some back-alley Angolan surgeons.  Tell you what, we'll restrict Steve to six deserts and keep the wines down to hundred dollar bottles…”

And no tents tonight - we’re in the height of back-country New Zealand salubriousness - cabins at the campground.  Yay! 


Day four... Tuesday, and I’m feeling a little guilty.  We’ve got two passengers who were going to go to Motueka, and after four days we’re STILL at least an hour’s flying away and now we're trapped in a solid blanket of fog.  We're going nowhere, slowly.  Neil isn't concerned.

         "Look, Motueka was never important - it was just an idea for somewhere for Jill and I to go to for a sibling bonding holiday.  Things are different now.  Different dynamics, new adventures.  Steve and I are a team now anyway, God help me.  This is brilliant fun, in spite of the terrible company."

         "Then do we keep aiming north for Motueka, or head for the West Coast and home over the Alps?  Better flying, amazing scenery, big mountains, somewhere different?  There's a definite risk of being trapped by weather, but it's not a bad place to be stuck…"

Jill and I go for a long run, up the Matakitaki Valley to the gorge.  We swim in the river as the sun dissolves the fog.  We lie on the granite boulders, basking in pools of sunlight.  Then we fly west.


There were kayakers all over the white-water of the Buller - O'Sullivans, Ariki Falls, Jetboat rapids and Earthquake Run had paddlers bouncing their kayaks in the froth.  Jill was inspired.

            "Picture yourself…"

            "…in a boat on a river…"

We chorus over the intercom:

            "…with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…"

So we Beatled our way down the forested flanks of the gorge, with me casting slightly anxious glances to the side, searching for non-existent places to put down should the engine quit.  Motorcycles are parked by the Iron Bridge, and others are riding towards us on the gorge road.  Neither Steve nor I can resist a flyby, so we drop down low over the road.  A forest of arms bending to an unseen breeze wave to us as the bikes slow.  We're cut from the same cloth, trikers and bikers. 

We follow the Grey River downstream, easy now with a narrow strip of paddocks between the forested valley walls.  Sewell Peak and Mt Davy announce that the coast is near, and the township of Greymouth soon appears.  For one of a handful of times in my flying life we land on a sealed runway.  There's the satisfying chirp of the mains on asphalt… hold off the nosewheel… bit more… and we're down, and taxiing to the buildings.  We watch Steve and Neil land, tether the wings, and dinner is fish and chips on the beach.


It's late in what is a perfect West Coast day, still and cloudless, and Jill wants to make the twenty-ish mile flight down to Hokitika in the last of the light.  Why not?  Steve and Neil choose to stay in Greymouth for the night, probably swayed by the temptations of a supper from the local all-you-can-eat buffet, and will join us for breakfast tomorrow.  We take off, Jill in the front, and she takes the controls as soon as we're airborne.

The short journey south is nothing short of magic.  Mt Cook and Mt Tasman stand tall and proud, dominating the view to the south, and the expanse of Alps between here and there is clear and magnificent.  We're flying right along the coast, the long strip of beach beneath us and the swells of the Tasman Sea breaking on the sandy shore.  With the hand throttle set I have no need to touch the training bars and I'm free to soak everything in, to wring the greatest joy from the sweep of scenery from the sea to the mountains, the expanse of ocean nudging forested plains and rolling hills that yield to the majestic glaciated stretch of the Alps beyond.  The sun is touching the horizon now, and the alpine snows have a full blush of evening alpenglow.  We're not Peter Pan and Tinker Bell but we're close enough, flying through this scene and I love this, intensely.

            "Wow, Jill… this is a highlight of my life.  Thank you."

            "Mine too.  This is incredible… unbelievable.  The best day of my life." 


Day five, Wednesday.  We watch Neil, in the front seat, following Steve's pointed arm from the back, taxiing their trike up to the Hokitika Airport terminal building - close behind an Air New Zealand twin turboprop.  Steve and Neil get out as the Dash 8 disgorges its passengers, and there's mutual bemusement.  Jill runs up to her brother and crushes him in a hug.  Steve looks around and bleats.  Bah-h-h-h.

            "I was pretty nervous about its prop wash", Steve says, pointing to the Dash.  "We were well clear of it in the air, but it took ages backtracking and taxiing.  I didn't want to park anywhere near it in case it starts its engines again while we're on the ground.  Where are you parked?"

            Jill grins.  "We've got a hangar.  Tussock's got friends in high places.  The airport manager, Drew Howat, watched us land and he's done us proud.  Apparently there are only two commercial flights a day into here, and the rest of the time this building is locked.  Drew gave us the keys to the entire terminal building, and we had the place to ourselves last night.  We slept in his office upstairs.  We're welcome to stay here as long as we want, and we've got free use of a car.  C'mon, we'll get your trike into the hangar and go for some breakfast."

            I chime in.  "Drew is a trike pilot too but he's a decent bloke, not like us at all.  I've only met him a couple of times before, on previous trips here.  He's been good to us.  We've got fresh gas, too."

We could fly home today if we chose, but no one is keen.  Steve and Neil opt for an afternoon flight south along the coast to Franz Josef.  Jill and I take Drew's recommendation: we fly up the rugged Whitcombe Valley, around Mt Evans and the Bracken Snowfield.  I know the area from previous visits on foot, and it's every bit as dramatic, stunning and awesome from the air.  It's big country: precipitous rock faces, deeply crevassed snowfields clinging to anywhere flat enough for snow to stick, jagged skylines.  It makes me feel tiny in the little trike. The air is beautifully smooth on the western side of the Main Divide, but as we cross to the east above the Ramsay Glacier the turbulence becomes extreme - a couple of wire slaps and involuntary ninety degree turns has us in retreat.  We're hammered as we go back to the western side, but it turns perfectly smooth again as we follow the Alps south.  We hear Steve and Neil on the radio, and meet them and a B20 3-axis microlight above Harihari.

            "Looks like we've got ourselves a convoy."

 We fly together back to Hokitika.

With the trikes tucked away in the hangar, we take the car to Hokitika Gorge.  Rainforest drapes grey granite boulders in a sheer ravine; the turquoise water flows like a benediction beneath.  We dive in to the river, our protests about the water temperature echoing from the canyon walls.  The attempt at thawing in the sun evolves into an extended sandfly squashing session.

This has to be our last night here; the weather cannot last.  No one wants to talk about tomorrow.  Steve and Neil have taken the two tents ("A tent each!  I can sleep in peace tonight!") and they've gone in Drew's car to the campsite at Lake Mahinapua.  Steve has family duties; they will fly straight back to Rangiora in the morning.  We will take our time.

Night falls.  I want to be alone for an hour, and go for a walk along the beach under a nearly full moon.  When I get back, Jill unlocks the doors of the Hokitika Airport Terminal for me.  She's wearing an airline captain's cap she found in the office and a shy grin.  She presses an eight-page letter into my hand.           


Day six, Thursday.

            "No, sorry Jill, it's too risky.  We've been over plenty of tiger country before on this trip, but I've always felt that if push came to shove and the engine quit, I'd get it down well enough for us to walk away.  Moonlight isn't enough."

We're parked on a patch of grass in the Rakaia valley.  The Tussock luck has held and the manager of the nearby sheep station, Darryl Thompson, has offered us a room in the shearers' quarters for the night.  I've taken him for an aerial tour of his domain.  Our crossing over the Alps was spectacular, and everything is perfect - why chance wrecking everything by flying through remote NZ in a trike at night? 

Jill is pensive. 

             "So how do you balance risk and reward?  Do you stop when the probability of something going wrong reaches a threshold, or do you accept a higher risk when the rewards are greater?  In mountaineering, and in whitewater kayaking, don't you go for the finest line you can - the closer you cut the corner, the greater the reward?  How is it in flying?"

Now there's a question.  How do you slice the pie?

               "I don't know that I consider it in the same way.  In flying, you must know how to fly.  It's nearly entirely subjective because the only variable is the engine, unless you're committing to a window of weather.  There's nothing really to reach out and grab you."  

               "Yet in mountaineering, say, there are moments where the joy or wonder or satisfaction is so intense that you're willing to risk all your future happiness for the joy you feel in that brief span of time.  There are minutes or hours that you would sacrifice years for."

               "Yes, absolutely true.  It's the old saying about having more life in your years, not years in your life.  But two mountaineers might entertain a risk that a pilot wouldn't expect a passenger to take."

            "So you'd fly by moonlight if you were alone?"

            "Perhaps... yes."

            There's a pause.  The warmth of the sun is exquisite.  The river is reciting its gradient and the boulders of its bed.  The peaks are etched sharply against a cobalt sky. 

Jill breaks the silence. 

            "Do you know Joni Mitchell's song 'Night Ride Home'?"

I laugh.  I don't know the song, but the title gives away her thoughts.  She sings the first verse:

     "Once in a while

     in a big blue moon

     there comes a night like this

     like some surrealist

     invented this Fourth of July

     night ride home"

 Wow.  Now I get it - this is Jill's Big Blue Moon; this is her moment in time.

             "Ok, let's get an early night tonight.  So long as there's no fog and the sky stays clear, we can wait until the moon is at its highest and its light is filling in the valleys and fly back up to the Alps.  We can do a loop around the Main Divide, and then come back to here for some more sleep."

We lie in the sun, reading 'Puckoon' and giggling, eating cheese and crackers.  Later, we walk up Double Hill to watch the sun set behind the Alps. 


Day seven, Friday, midnight.  It's cold!  We're wrapped in every item of clothing we can manage.  Moonlight floods the valley with a blue glow, and there's magic in the air.  It feels as though the moonlight makes a faint distortion of distances when we leave the ground, but it may be nothing.  We follow the Rakaia, climbing steadily, and then fly over the Butler range to Erewhon Col.

The mountains have dark, sinister faces where shadows fall, and snow-speckled grey slopes where they're touched by moonglow.  From a distance the snowfields look like white blankets draped across the crags to soften their contours; up close the appearance is of billions of diamonds, their crystal faces catching and returning the moon to space.  We spin around Mt Whitcombe and Snow Dome, and can clearly see blocks of ice in Vane Stream that have tumbled down the slopes from the Essex Icefall.  Evans River flows in a catacomb between the truncated spurs that flank it.

The Sapphire and Radiant glaciers are just that, in dazzling contrast to the valleys they flow in to.  From a low pass over the Heim Ice Plateau I can make out the spot where fifteen years earlier Geoff, Doug and I had pitched our tent.

Clouds are boiling up on the western side of the Alps; pillows of grey vapours that catch our moonshadow and turn it into faint halos; Saturn's rings around an umbra of black.

Malcolm Peak is a spire in the night.  I recall that years ago we found an aluminium film canister that had been blasted by lightning in a cairn on the summit; presumably left there by Ebenezer Teichelmann a century earlier.  We cross over the top of the Lyell and Frances Glaciers and into the sublime world of the Gardens.

The Lambert Glacier and the Garden of Eden and Garden of Allah are three expansive ice plateaux that cloak the peaks of the central Alps.  I want us to be Peter Pan and Tinker Bell again - beneath us they are timeless and still, studded by peaks that keep them apart, and seem close enough to almost touch. 

We circle around the Arethusa Icefall and swoop through Angel Col.  The little rock rounds at Adams Col and Icefall Lookout - places I had camped when I'd come to slay the dragons - are dark smudges in the night.  We fly along the Devil's Backbone to The Great Unknown, and turn east over to the safety of the Rangitata Valley.  We're shivering when we land. 


Saturday evening.  We're standing in Steve's kitchen while he puts the finishing touches on a couple of pizzas.  Steve's daughter is bounding around with the exuberance of a puppy with a full bladder, clearly enjoying having her father home and guests to bounce off.  Joanna is pouring drinks while Neil regales her with epic tales of our journey without taking his eyes off the pizza.  Jill looks like a million dollars in a skirt and blouse, fingers around the stem of a wine glass as she follows Neil's chatter.  Steve gives me a big wink, and tells me a lie:

            "Jo says I don't snore."



May 8th

Steve Morse possibly looking to sell his Apollo LSA airplane

By Abid Farooqui

Hi Guys and Gals:

Steve Morse (yes the rock guitarist of Deep Purple fame) owns and flies an Apollo LSA that we assembled at Zephyrhills in I believe 2008 or 2009. The plane flies almost every day or two by Steve and he loves it but he is a tail-dragger enthusiaist and would possibly be willing to part with the pane to order a replacement tail dragger version.


It has a BRS, MGL Enigma EFIS, Partial backup analog panel, 2-axis auto-pilot and the works. 980 hours. Located in Ocala, FL.

If you don't know who Steve Morse is, see:



Serious inquries please. 

Asking price is $56k.


Apr 14th

Roll Trim Experience

By Drew Pawlak

This past Sunday evening I went up for the first flight of Spring in some nice calm weather. What was unique about this flight is it was my first flight after installing a Roll Trim Kit on my Revo.  Installation of the kit was fairly straight forward. The entire process took about 4 hours to install the wheel spat mechanism and dash switch. Up until this point, I was using a "stick on" ground adjustable trim tab which I never seemed to get positioned just right.

For those of you who have watched my videos and seen some of my commentary, getting the trike to fly hands off at all speeds has been a point of frustration. For those with adjustable speed trim - you will probably recognize the issue. After much trial and error with the manual trim tab, I was able to get my trike to fly mostly straight at a nice 75mph cruise. However, if I trimmed slower or faster a slight turn would be induced.

On this first flight, I gave the in flight adjustable trim kit a try and I am VERY HAPPY to report that I was able to take out any turning tendencies perfectly WHILE IN FLIGHT! Furthermore, as I adjusted trim speed, I was able to easily and immediately take out any induced turn with the roll trim. I had my Revo flying hands off, at multiple trim speeds, with no turning tendencies by using very little adjustments of the roll trim kit.  I found myself grinning ear to ear as I flew for long durations without having to touch the bar.  It was a joy to have a trike that flew straight as an arrow no matter the speed. 

For those flying in trikes with adjustable trim speeds or if you have any sort of mild but annoying turning tendencies, this is THE feature to get!  It can be frustrating and tiring when your trike just won't fly straight. After proper wing tuning and adjustments are made, this little device compensates for variations caused by weather, humidity and speed changes. It proved its worth training with Larry in Florida on his trikes and now will make all my flights in my trike that much more enjoyable.  As I continue to work towards my Sport Pilot goals and with some upcoming cross country flights to complete, this device will make those longer duration flights all that much more enjoyable, accurate and safe. I can't recommend it highly enough! It is without a doubt one of the best investments I have made in my short triking adventure.  A must have option on any future trikes I own and fly.

Safe Flying All!

Jan 23rd

SilverLight Aviation Rotax 912iS power Offer for a limited time

By Abid Farooqui
SilverLight Aviation is able to offer a special price for Rotax 912iS powered trike option right now. Usually this option and installation would be $8000 extra but for a limited time and number of orders both on our trikes and gyroplanes we are able to offer this upgrade for only $4000 above 912ULS price. That measn you can have a 912iS fuel injected Delta Jet-II or Monsoon with the high performance Cheval 12 cross country wing loaded with other options including a BRS for $76500.00. Act now while the offer lasts.