North Into Autumn

It was early in the summer of 1996 when Peter first tried to convince us to move to California. He was heading up the team I was a part of from our company’s west coast office; I was one of three who made up a satellite of the team in Boston. It was a hard sell – I loved Boston – but Peter has always been persuasive. For every reason I could raise, he had an overriding argument.

“The weather’s better here.”

“But I like the seasons.”

“We have seasons here, too. They’re just better behaved. You want winter? You go visit it up at Tahoe. It doesn’t hang around like a bad guest that won’t leave, like it does where you live.”

I ran out of objections, and we headed west three months later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seems fitting to remember that conversation now, on the last days of summer. California is still ablaze, literally and figuratively, with heat and drought and fire as I head north to Seattle, where the cool rains of autumn have already set in.

I’m shirking parental duties for a week to make belated good on a promise I’d made to myself years ago. Section 61.56(a) of the Federal Aviation Regulations states that, in order to act as pilot in command of an aircraft you must have, within the last 24 calendar months, undergone a Flight Review. Flight reviews are benign things – you just spend a couple of hours with an instructor who puts you through the paces of takeoffs, landings and airwork with a simulated emergency or so. The idea is to make sure you’re not too rusty, and to get some guidance on areas where you can improve your flying.

But 61.56(d) allows that a successful checkride for a new rating can take the place of a flight review. So some pilots (myself included) have used this escape clause as an excuse to “up our game”. Due for a flight review? Okay, how ’bout pursuing an instrument rating instead? Or a commercial pilot certificate? Or becoming a flight instructor?

In the almost 30 years I’ve been flying, I’ve only managed five add-ons (which means I’ve had nine flight reviews). But this year I was resolved to get back on the ratings wagon. I’ve long been enthralled by my friend Jay’s tales of flying floatplanes out of Minnesota lakes, and what with so many formative years in Seattle, the rumble of a seaplane low overhead is practically the sound of homecoming. Plus, a seaplane rating is supposed to be one of the simplest and most fun to add on: schools typically budget two or three days of flying before signing you off for the checkride. I was due for my next flight review at the end of August, so why not?

Why not is because just about every other pilot on the west coast who was due for an August flight review was thinking the same thing. Calling around, I found flight schools who offered seaplane training grouped into two camps: 1) those who wouldn’t return my phone calls, and 2) those who were booked until the middle of October.

Doomed to yet another flight review, I made the best of it, putting our trusty Skyranger through the paces with long-time friend and instructor extraordinaire Martin. But Devon recognized the look of disappointment in my eyes. I include the ensuing conversation below to show how relentlessly persuasive she can be:

Devon: “You know, you can still get a seaplane rating. It doesn’t have to be in place of a flight review.”

me: “But…”

Devon: “…”

me: “Okay!”

I put out more queries and got a call back from Rainier Flight Service up in Seattle, who thought they could fit me in late September. I booked tickets and a rental car, and begged a place to stay with friends. Things got a little touch-and-go last week when it looked like Rainier’s plane needed some, ah.., unexpected work done on it, but as of yesterday, we’re good to go. Tomorrow morning, I report to the Renton seaplane dock at the south end of Lake Washington to begin training.

Assuming, of course, that the weather doesn’t intervene.


[Many thanks to my Patreon patrons! I’ve posted three stories so far, and am hoping to post a new one every couple of weeks or so until I’ve cleared out the backlog.]

6 responses to “North Into Autumn

  1. Pablo you’re a man of action. Have a great time however I’m hoping you’re not interested in putting floats on 6JA.


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