Sunday, December 2, 2012

... On 37

A lot can change in two years. The last time I put together a post like this, I was in a decidedly morose state of mind. "The future doesn't feel quite as exciting as I used to believe it to be," I wrote on September 19, 2010 on my 35th birthday, with a self-photo taken at my desk that was all-too reflective of my overall mood.

Things are a bit better today.

As the first full year of what I hope will continue to be a fairly successful freelance writing career nears the end, I'm celebrating my most lucrative month ever. I billed close to $2,000 more in November than in my next-best month, back in February. Freelancing is always a feast-or-famine proposition, and December is usually slow... but I'm happy (and still amazed) to note that even my "worst" month of 2012 still gave me more than what I made at the old office job. I'm also happy to note that I've diversified my client base, with assignments from several new companies and, most notably, Aviation International News.

Even if the Great Freelance Writing Experiment crashes down tomorrow, I'll have no regrets in opting to pursue this full-time. It's incredibly vindicating to be paid for doing something you love doing anyway. I just need to be careful not to burn out.

Unlike the last time I made my living in aviation, though, there are ways for me to enjoy that outside of my job. At this writing - which comes over eight months since my last post, eep - I've also accumulated 26.7 hours as pilot-in-command of Remos N28GX, including a Class C checkout by Jim Crone, my CFI in Florida, who had the time to fly with me while traveling through the Land of Enchantment on his way back home to Seattle.

After that flight on May 1, my first "long" cross-country was from Santa Fe down to Belen (E80) and back. That was also my first trip there since I soloed back in July 2004; it was amazing how familiar it felt to be back in the pattern again, this time without an instructor onboard or even watching me from the ground.

I've also flown down to have breakfast at the Bombing Range Cafe at Double Eagle II (AEG) and I've done three sets of touch-and-goes at the Sunport (ABQ.) I even, finally, made it to Moriarty. I've taken friends (and Mom) out to Cabezon Peak, and I've helped encourage another as he makes his way through flight training. Seeing Ray make his first solo two weeks ago was one of the highlights of my year. I'm looking forward to taking mountain flight training next year.

Being a regular visitor up to SAF has also allowed me to ingratiate myself into the local airport community, as a member (and soon-to-be Secretary) of the Aviation Association of Santa Fe. One of the major tasks ahead is helping to come up with projects to build enthusiasm for the airport in the community - a daunting task, but also a challenge I'm looking forward to, and trying to meet with an open mind.

Another highlight this year was being published in a book published by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper. The compilation "At War At Home: The Cold War" assembled stories about area residents who played a part in forming the nation's post-World War II defense network, as well as those who fought in Korea and Vietnam. My Aunt Peg let us know about the book earlier this year, enough time for me to write a short feature about my Grandpa Darmody and his work with SAC and the ballistic missile program.

It's only one-third of a page, but it matters to us. Mom put it best: it's gratifying to know that even a brief history of her father's contributions is now recorded in a place outside the family. It was also a fitting postscript, as she and I finally made it up to Omaha in August, so we could see the final resting places of my Grammie (below) and my Grandpa Sayers.

This year also witnessed a family move, into a house that - despite many faults and flaws - I could actually see owning someday. It's the first actual house that's been in my name, and while it's a rental for now, and I doubt this would be the one I'd buy... just the fact I'm thinking like that tells me I have a more 'grown-up' outlook on my life than I have had before. I guess that comes from having a family to take care of in the first place.

So, all in all... 2012 has been a pretty good year. I also have precious little to complain about at three months in to my 37th time around the sun. I'm grateful for my live today, in part because I know how fleeting such things can be. There are no guarantees that 2013 or 38 will be as kind, so I have to appreciate it all while I can.

And I am.

Friday, April 20, 2012

'Bout Damn Time!

I've been pretty lax with posting on this site lately, but at least I can honestly say that's been for very good reasons. So, there's that. 

Since February 3rd, I've been making a living solely through my freelance writing. I'm extremely fortunate that, so far, business has been booming. It felt like quite a leap to leave the office life behind once again, particularly when you never know for certain when your next check will come in the mail. Again, I'm very lucky to have a regular, steady client that keeps me busy, while also allowing me some time to pursue other clients, as well as own my personal goals.

About those goals. If you've been following this blog for awhile, you might recall that I earned my Sport Pilot certificate (don't call it a license) back in April 2008. Three months later, I flew a Gobosh 700S (below) from Denver's Centennial Airport (KAPA) to Moline, Illinois (MLI) with stops in Hastings, Nebraska (KHSI) and Shenandoah, Iowa (KSDA.) It was 10 hours and 667 nautical miles of fun, exhaustion and education. Along for the ride was Dave Graham, who at the time was a VP at Gobosh Aviation (he's since moved on to American Legend, hawking very nice Cub clones) and was on his way back home. It was the most substantial chunk of PIC time (for pilot in command) I'd been able to log up to that point; I swore it was only the beginning.

Fast forward to March 2012... and I haven't flown as PIC since that trip. As they say, life gets in the way. For starters, there had been no light sport aircraft to rent anywhere near Albuquerque; the closest plane, an Evektor, was up in Farmington. That was probably for the best, though, since I hardly had any extra money to spend flying anyway.

That situation began to improve last summer, though. I learned that an outfit up at Santa Fe Municipal Airport (KSAF) was offering a Remos GX for training and rentals. By this time the "freelancing gig" was starting to take off, though there were other priorities before I could take the time to start flying again. At this point, I was also convinced I'd need to go through flight training all over again, since it had been so long since I'd flown. I had less than 15 hours since earning my certificate.

By mid-March, however, I'd decided to just go ahead and do it. Recreational flying is not a very practical activity; there's always something better, more necessary, or more practical you need your money to go towards. But it had been too long... and if I didn't take the chance now, I could see a time 10 years from now when I'd wish I had. So, I emailed Michael at New Mexico Sport Aviation, and asked if I could spend some time going over my plan. 

Michael and I met on a Tuesday. He quickly allayed my concerns about how long I'd need to regain currency. A pilot certificate never expires, per se; you just need to remain healthy enough to fly, and pass a biennial flight review. In addition to owning NM Sport Aviation and Remos N28GX, Michael is also a CFI, so he could administer my flight review while also checking me out on his aircraft. We set a timetable: he said it would take three flights, I thought it would be closer to five.

It only took three, and it probably could have been less than that if I'd been more brave. For our first flight, on that same Tuesday, we took the plane out to the practice area southwest of SAF and puttered around the sky for a half-hour or so. My only goal for that flight was to get up in the air again, and become more familiar with the Remos. 

That short flight was more than enough to convince me that I wanted to do more - just not on that day - so we scheduled another flight for the following Thursday. This time, Michael had me demonstrate stalls, slow flight, and emergency procedures, before shooting a series of touch-and-goes at SAF. That was another 1.4 hours in the book... and after we shut down, he said our next meeting could be the flight review. One week later, that review passed without incident, and on April 5th I officially became a pilot again.

Since then, I've taken the Remos up solo for some intensive pattern work - 1.1 hours, 10 takeoffs and landings. I plan to head out to the practice area next week to practice maneuvers, followed by a cross-country down to Moriarty (0E0.) Why? Because although I've been to Moriarty more times than I can count... I've never flown there.

That pretty much brings us up-to-date on things so far. I do plan to start posting here more frequently, and I have a new incentive to do it - my new business website, "Approach Lights" will still be my personal creative outlet, one that I hope might gain a new following through the business site. We shall see! (If you're reading this post after coming here from my other site, please leave a comment and tell me what you think!)

Until next time --