Would you be interested in reducing your soaring expenses one-third to one-half? Then read what this author has to say on …
By Edmund K. Gravely
(Soaring May 1978 pages 41 and 42 -- Provided by Dan Rihn)
We are ever seeking ways to make our sport easier, safer --- and less expensive. But let’s face it, there is no route to “cheap” soaring. Probably the way to enjoy the sport at lowest cost is to rent. Ownership, however, has its rewards, and Soaring readers may be interested in one very successful joint ownership.
Six years ago, three of us here in eastern North Carolina went into a joint ownership adventure. There were obstacles in this part of the country which we couldn’t overcome individually. Foremost was the matter of getting a sailplane launched. There was no commercial operation within a five-hour drive. However, we figured we could do it ourselves since we were all pilots holding rather sophisticated certificates. Steve LaFevers has a Private license, Airplane/Glider/Instruments; Ray Galloway, a Commercial license, Airplane/Glider/CFI A&G; and, myself, an Air Transport license, Airplane/CFI A&I and Commercial Glider.
Our first order of business was the selection and purchase of a glider. Weeks of pouring over Soaring’s classifieds produced nothing but telephone bills. Then on a stopover during a business trip to the Far East I found Elton Ballas’ HP-11 for sale in San Diego, California – N251F with SSA competition number 1F, One Fox. That was it. One cross-country telephone call and the decision was made. Displaying a degree of confidence in my judgment that bordered on idiocy. Steve and Ray mailed their share of the cost to complete the deal.
A test flight was in order, but first funds changed hands.
“If you don’t like it, you can have your money back,” Elton said. “If you like it, or you bend it, it’s yours.”
El Mirage, with its’ three long, wide runways, was a good site for the test flights – a neophyte in an HP-11 needs room! The HP overran the towplane at 500 feet on the first turn and forced a release and landing that was uneventful but thrilling to the pilot. The second flight sealed the trade. (If the truth be told, those flights had nothing to do with it. The decision had been make when the craft was first viewed in Elton’s driveway.)
A rental automobile, a hurriedly bought towhitch, and five days of transcontinental driving brought the four of us together for familiarization -- Steve, Ray, myself, and Fox One.
Some of our early adventures may be amusing to recount. Ray (affectionately known as “CFIG”) made his first flight at Chester, South Carolina, observed by some of Region Five’s top talent. The approach was beautiful to the touchdown area, but then he kept floating and floating and simply didn’t land! Mid-field spectators screamed, “Flaps! Flaps!” but One Fox cruised by four feet in the air, flaps unmoved and advice apparently unheeded or ignored. Just before running completely out of field, he landed to everyone’s relief. After the walk back we learned the trouble. The flap control in N251F works backwards – handle forward means flap down! CFIG had discovered this in time so no damage was done – except perhaps to ego.
Ego suffered severely during the next few weeks. Following our carefully established rules of operation, we went to Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, for towing and local landing practice (grass runways.) On the first flight, who was to forget the gear and land on the belly? You guessed it – me. CFIG’s distressed expression softened into suppressed rage when inspection revealed only grass stains on the gear door. Then came the lecture complete with finger pointing!
“The next time you’ll have a landing check list. Follow it!”
Good advice from a well-qualified CFIG.
The next weekend was at Goldsboro, a site with a hard-surface runway. CFIG had kept the glider during the week, and sure enough, when we assembled it, there was a landing check list neatly taped to the instrument panel: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4: no words, only numbers: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4.
“Number 1 is gear down, 2 is Gear Down, 3 is GEAR DOWN, and 4 is flaps as needed. Understand?” Two trainees allowed as how they understood their instructor, and the day started.
It was CFIG’s turn to fly first. The first flight was excellently executed with approach and landing right on the center line (are you ready?) gear up! This time the white centerline paint replaced the gear door paint; the finger pointer became the finger pointee. Embarrassment reached gargantuan proportions, but no damage had been done and flying continued the day long.
The next weekend was Steve’s turn. As it turned out he was the only one with presence of mind, as he heard the gear door scraping on the runway, to pull One Fox off again, lowered the gear, and finish the rollout on the wheel. By now the gear doors did need a little sanding and touchup paint. We restored it to like-new condition in about 15 minutes.
After the required qualification and local practice flights. Steve made our first cross-country effort. On landing in the inevitable plowed field after completing a prodigious 11.4 miles. One Fox settled in from about four feet, tail low, fully stalled, with the stick all the way forward! We had a problem. The airworthiness certificate was in order, the aircraft logbook was well-kept, showing changes made but nothing unusual. Weighing indoors on accurate beam balance scales pinpointed the trouble. Early in its’ career, N251F had had its’ own V-tail replaced with a T-tail, designed, perhaps, for the HP-14 rather than the HP-11. This had moved the center of gravity aft beyond acceptable limits. It took thirteen pounds on the nose bulkhead to correct the pbalance for our lightest pilot.
We’ve since had many adventures, none harrowing, and have had a very successful partnership. We think our success is due to rules of operation, which we carefully considered and adopted beforehand and from which we have not deviated.
We organized into a non-stock membership corporation for convenience purposes. The corporation owns the glider and buys the insurance; only one signature (an officer) is necessary to buy and sell. The corporate name: One Fox, Inc.
As I’ve said, we have had a very successful partnership. Each of us has had the pleasure of finding and buying a sailplane. We’ve owned an HP-11 and a Standard Libelle. One member has been bought out by the other two, and now we have a PIK-20. In each case we sold for or our original cost without financial loss. Our rules work equally well for three and two and we believe they would work for any reasonable number. They should work beautifully for five or six pilots and two sailplanes.
We have the joy of ownership at one-third to one-half the const of individual ownership. At times I have flown One Fox during Ray’s given month and he during mine. With our rules, a partner has the sailplane delivered to him on the first day of the month he is to have control. It must be returned to him if it is borrowed during this period. We enjoy the companionship and acting as tow pilot and crew and we get a vicarious pleasure from each other’s successes. Ray has trained and qualified tow pilots in the area. Since we have towhooks, ropes, and release cords, and since the local FBOs have approved their attachment to Cessna 172s and 182s, it is now possible for either partner to get a tow even if the other is away. In summary, we have all of the joys and have yet to encounter ills.