How we flew 1000 hours in 23 Months

Ways to fly more...or
How we flew 1000 hours in 23 months

by Paul A. Rosales

This story was published in the April 2003 issue of EAA's SPORT magazine. On June 4th, 2002, I sent the following e-mail to Vanís Aircraft, EAA headquarters and all of our friends who watched us build our plane: "Victoria and I are proud to announce that today, exactly 23 months after my first flight, we put our RV-6A away with 1000.1 hours on the hobbs! We flew to Santa Monica for lunch and planned it so we were near our home airport in Lancaster, California, for hour #1000! In almost two years, weíve landed in 36 states and plan to land in at least 13 more. Many have asked how we do it: no secrets here: #1) We have three jobs between the two of us #2) No kids #3) All house chores are done after sunset! We plan our weekends around the plane, and itís been great meeting new and seeing longtime friends all over the country. All this would not have been possible without the support of Van's Aircraft and EAA! We thank you!! Our 5 years and about 3000 hours of building are now a distant memory, and we offer this advice to current builders. Make a sign to hang in your workshop; "Perseverance, and not skill, is required to finish this plane!" Blue Skies and Tailwinds, Paul & Victoria Rosales" I canít tell you how excited and proud we were to reach such a milestone and be able to share that with those people who helped make all this possible: Vanís Aircraft, EAA, family and friends! Since my first flight on July 4, 2000, weíve made sure that we fly our plane every weekend whether it is a local flight for lunch or a more distant flight for a three-day weekend. Many ask, "How do you do it?" The answer is not as grandiose as you might expect. But first, some background on my wife and me, and the how we came to love EAA! A LITTLE BACKGROUND My Father was a private pilot and airframe and powerplant mechanic long before I was born. While growing up, I spent many weekends at the airport. Flying was a normal way of life for my three brothers and me. Mom really enjoyed the quiet time home alone while her Ďboysí were flying. I always knew that one day I would be a pilot and own a plane! In 1978, I started flight lessons at age 18. During this time, I attended junior college during the day. At night I worked as a substitute custodian for the Lancaster School District to make money to help pay for flying and college. Little did I know that these long days would come back to life years later and factor into owning and flying an airplane. Two months before earning my private pilot certificate, I started dating my future wife, Victoria. She waited at the airport while I took my checkride, and she was my very first passenger. With a license to learn in hand, we been flying together ever since. I consider myself very lucky to have a great flying partner to share the skies with. We both love to fly! After graduating from Cal-Poly Pomona in 1984 with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, I started work for the Lockheed Skunk Works on the F-117 Stealth Fighter. As a condition of employment, I had to work swing shift. As my first job out of college, I gladly accepted this. With a great job, we set a goal of owning an airplane by age 40: Year 2000. We figured we should be a lot better off by then! We managed to fly an average of 2 hours per month because, like most other newlyweds, we worked hard to own a home. We didnít have enough money for a new car so we both drove older cars. In 1990, while still working swing shift, I read in the local paper that the same school district I worked for as a custodian needed substitute teachers. I didnít start my swing shift until 4 pm and was just sitting around the house anyway. The district was glad to have me back as a teacher, and I was hired to substitute teach classes for grades K through 6. With my new teaching assignment, I left the house for school at 7:30 am, left school at 3 pm and then drove 60 miles to Burbank for my shift at Lockheed. I returned home by 1:30 am, was in bed by 2 am, and woke to do it all over again the next morning. I didnít teach every day so I was able to catch up on my sleep. The extra money sure came in handy, and I came to find that I really enjoyed working with and teaching the kids. I donít recall who said it first but I have always believed that "Sleeping too much takes away from things that matter most." FINALLY: A PLANE Years of hard work finally found us with some extra money in early 1994. Iíd done my homework and found that we might be able to afford the payment and operating costs of a $30,000, four-seat airplane. Weíd even gone as far as find one in Tennessee and had a pre-purchase inspection completed. Are we ever thankful that the plane failed the inspection because that was the day I bumped into an acquaintance, Tony Ginn, at the supermarket. We had known Tony from jet skiing on the lake, as we had several mutual friends. I was aware that Tony was a pilot, but I never saw him at the airport. You donít hang around the airport much when flying only two hours per month, so no surprise there. I told Tony all about the plane we were going to buy and how the deal had fallen through. Then Tony started asking questions like "Why do you want to buy? Why do you need four seats? How often would those seats be filled? What do you want to do with your plane?" He had asked us so many questions, and I was embarrassed that we didnít have good answers for him. Finally, Tony asked us if we had ever considered building a plane. Victoriaís first thought was "You donít build planes, you buy them!" "He then told us about the Thorp T-18s hat he and his family had built. He showed us pictures and told us all the fun places heís flown to, all in a plane that he built. WOW!!! We attended our first EAA Chapter 49 meeting in November, 1994 and became EAA members shortly thereafter. We are forever grateful to Tony for introducing us to the Experimental Aircraft Association and homebuilding! The thing I remember most about that first conversation with Tony was him telling us to go home, sit down, and write down everything we wanted to do with our plane: DEFINE A MISSION!!! We went home and came up with a great list of things we wanted from our plane: 1. Go FAST (to get us around the USA!) 2. Fit two people and Ďrealí baggage 3. GO FAST! We discovered that our mission list meant the 30-year old plane we originally wanted didnít. We took our list to our EAA Chapter meeting, and after talking with many of the members, we believed it possible that we could build our own plane. After sharing expenses in a Lancair flight to Sun ní Fun in 1995 and using our list, we decided on an RV-6A. It met all the requirements, and most important, it fit our budget. BUILDING THE RV-6A We bought the tail kit in summer 1995, and for the next five years, we made completing the airplane a priority. I continued to substitute teach during the day (to pay for the plane) and work at Lockheed at night (to pay bills), and Victoria worked as well. For the most part, we built the plane on weekends, and except for our annual one-week vacation, we worked on the plane every weekend, both Saturday/Sunday (min 12hrs/day), no exceptions. As Dick VanGrunsven of Vanís Aircraft once wrote, "You cannot lead the life you lead today and build this plane in a reasonable amount of time." I never forgot that, and I had my perseverance sign in the garage. We continued to fly rentals two hours per month so I could stay current. If Victoria was unable to lend a hand, numerous EAA and personal friends were willing to Ďrun the bucking barí. I canít even begin to name all of you but I thank you again! We finally finished in June 2000, with friend and professional test Pilot Norm Howell taking first flight honors on Fatherís Day. I followed two weeks later. What an incredible feeling to fly a plane you built!!! Now with ~1400 hours (May 2003), itís obvious that we fly a lot, and we do this by planning each and every weekend around the plane. We find that we use the plane in the same way that people use there automobiles: going to air shows, visiting family and friends, taking vacation, sightseeing on the weekend, or taking a quick flight for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Instead of building on the weekends, we now fly on the weekends! TRAVELING THE COUNTRY Working at Lockheed allows me a three-day weekend every other week, so Victoria and I look forward to getting away from home on those weekends. How do we decide where to go?!? Thatís the easy part! EAA events take priority, and that list begins with EAA AirVenture Oshkosh! EAA regional fly-ins are next followed by events listed in both EAA Sport Aviation magazine and on the EAA Calendar of Events website. Family and friends round our choice of destinations! We also get good ideas for trips from Pilot Getaways magazine. The premiere issue featured a picture of a plane taking off from beautiful Telluride, Colorado. When that issue came out, we were in the process of building wings and we knew that one day, weíd fly there! Soon after the skies opened to general aviation aircraft following September 11th, we exercised our privilege to fly and flew nonstop to Telluride for the weekend. We find that flying at 160 knots really Ďshrinksí America. Here are a few examples: One hourís flight time from Lancaster in Southern California can have us in: San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Monterrey, or Las Vegas $$$. Two hours can find us in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, or the Phoenix/Sedona/Grand Canyon. Three hours brings us to Durango/Telluride/Grand Junction, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Boise, or Klamath Falls, Oregon. A good day of flying for us is no more than two three-hour legs, with a minimum one-hour ground time in between. Those two legs can get us to Seattle; Coeur díAlene, Idaho; Billings, Montana; Cheyenne, Wyoming, Goodland, Kansas; or Amarillo, Texas, in one day with good weather! Some of our most memorable trips include flying to EAA AirVenture 2000 (our first big trip, profiled in the April 2000 EAA Sport Aviation); Christmas time with friends in Indianapolis; riding the Silverton Narrow Gauge Train in Durango. Colorado; flying to Florida in hopes of watching a friend launch aboard the Space Shuttle; and flying above the Arctic Circle at Fort Yukon, Alaska, in formation with great friend and EAA Lifetime member Gary Sobek. We find this old saying is so very true: ĎA mile of highway will take you one mile but a mile of runway can take you ANYWHERE!í FOOTING THE BILL We continue to work three jobs between the two of us to pay for all of the flying. As a result, there is little flying happening during the week. I once read that many Americans spend on average, $350 to $550 a month on a car payment. In lieu of a car payment, we spend about $300 a month to cover the fixed costs for our airplane (including hangar rent, property tax and insurance). Our direct operating costs are about $30 an hour, which includes an engine reserve and nominal maintenance costs so at about 10 hours of flight time per month, we start approaching the cost of a car payment. Remember the old cars I told you we drove years ago? We choose to have a Ďplane paymentí instead of a car payment so today Victoria drives a 10-year-old car, and I drive a 30-year-old car. Donít laugh! By doing this, we have a 2 year old plane in the hangar that averages 180 mph!!! We continue to share the same chores we had during the building process but now we do them in the evenings. My chores still include changing the car oil in the garage, but I do it after sunset, after I get home from the airport. I still mow the lawn under the streetlights in the front yard and using halogen floodlights for the backyard (I have great neighbors who donít mind my nighttime yardwork as long as Iím done by 9 pm!) When it comes to dinner, Victoria cooks and I do the dishes. We then settle onto the couch to Ďwind-downí and discuss the events of the day and future plans for our trips together. YOU CAN DO IT, TOO! If you would really like to own a plane but think it may be too expensive, figure out the cost for owning the car for which youíre making a monthly payment. Be sure to include everything - your payment, insurance, gas and maintenance. Youíll be surprised that the money for your plane could be in that payment if you donít mind driving an older car with cheaper car insurance! Weíve met so many new friends around the country that would not have been possible without having built our plane. Weíre really having fun, and we canít imagine life without our plane. We look forward to flying it every weekend! The most meaningful comments weíve received are from people we met at EAA AirVenture 2002. Many let us know that they saw our plane on the ramp of their airport, in one of 49 States weíve had the privilege to visit. "Hey, I saw your plane on the ramp at (fill in the blank) airport in; Seattle; Dallas; Key West; Boston; Denver; Washington DC; Kitty Hawk; Chicago; Fairbanks" Yes, that was us :-) Be sure to say hello when you see us on the ramp! Paul & Victoria


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