Flying Lessons

Flying Lessons

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

June 6, 2000. That was the date of my first flying lesson. Learning to fly is about ten times harder than learning to drive a car. As children growing up, we watch our parents driving. So by the time it is our turn to learn, we already know what the brake and accelerator pedals are for. We already know how steering works and what the gauges represent. But flying is a whole new animal. So it becomes a lot harder to learn. I received my student pilot certificate on June 19th. It took me until December 17, 2001 to get my private pilot license.

Why did it take so long? I wanted to learn to fly since I was a child. I was always reading books about flying. I subscribed to Flying Magazine for years. When I was 42, my wife Anke said that I had better start taking flying lessons while I was still young enough. That gave me the last shove I needed. I finally had the money, and I was ready to learn.

My first instructor was Rich Baker. He was a Navy pilot. I really liked his style of teaching. He signed me off for my First Solo on July 31, 2000.

From that point on, I spent about half my flying hours in the air by myself practicing. I couldn’t carry passengers until I had my private license. I really looked forward to that day. I flew all summer and into the fall. I was getting close to being ready to take my practical exam when I ran out of money.

If I had it to do over again, I would have just charged the lessons on a credit card and kept on flying. I started taking lessons again the end of April 2001. The break set me back a bit and I had to re-learn a few things. Then, the end of June my instructor got another job. I had trouble finding another instructor. I finally got linked up with Joe Fishbum and the flying club. I was back flying again the beginning of July.

I was ready for my practical exam the beginning of September. I scheduled the exam date and then the worst happened on September 11th. All aircraft in the United States were grounded. I had to wait till September 24th to get back in the air. Then I had to reschedule my practical exam for October 31st. The day came and I flew to La Crosse for my test. After I left the house the examiner called to tell me not to come. He canceled the test due to high winds. So, when I got there I had to fly back home again. We rescheduled for December 17th. When that day came, the weather was perfect. No wind. stable and haze. I aced the exam. I was very pleased. I just crossed off a big accomplishment for my bucket list.

The fun begins.

— Eric H

Complete Inspection Services

Complete Inspection Services

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

I started Complete Inspection Services in the fall of 1999. I turned in my two weeks notice at Best Buy so my last day would be the day before Thanksgiving. I did NOT want to do another day after Thanksgiving there. The year before was absolute chaos. The manager offered me a three-dollar per hour raise to stay. But I told him. “It’s not about the money”, and quit.

David had gone to work for the Many Rivers Adolescent Treatment Center and told me I might enjoy working there as an on-call staff.

That fall and for the next two years I worked an average of 30 hours per week while I built up my business. Many Rivers was a fun place to work for me. There were three units for kids. The Start Unit for kids that were there for the first time had a short-term program from 30 to 90 days. Kids that returned or had behavioral problems that needed to be dealt with were moved into the Restore Unit. That program held kids for up to a year and a half.

The third unit was originally called the Eagles Unit and was later named the Stop Unit. Stop was for the kids that were there for the sex offender program. I enjoyed working with the Stop Unit the most, because the kids were better behaved and seemed to genuinely appreciate the help we were giving them. There was also some staff there that I liked better than the others.

I would help kids with their schoolwork, take them to appointments, play basketball and games with them and generally treat them as I would my child. I enjoyed being a positive role model for them. Eventually, my business picked up to the point where it was a full-time job.

Complete Inspection Services, Inc. was any home inspection company. Mostly, I worked with people in the process of purchasing a home or getting ready to sell. I would go in and spend about 2-1/2 hours inspecting a property. Then I’d create a thirty page written report on the current conditions of the home.

Most people really appreciated the work I did. But the litigious society we live in would cause some people to come back and try to sue me later if I missed something that was not visible or when I was not able to tell them something they felt I should have found.

— Eric H

Moving to Rochester

Moving to Rochester

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

I was living on the money I collected from my 401K accounts when I left RMCI and some small unemployment checks. Things were getting more desperate by the day. We had worn out our welcome at Anke’s friends house and moved into an old metal trailer home in a poor neighborhood south of Dallas. The trailer was in such sad shape that when it rained, we had to set pans around in different rooms and in the hallway to collect rainwater, the ceiling leaked terribly.

One day while working out in the yard, I accidentally put my hand into a fire ant mound. Painful experience. My unemployment checks and savings were rapidly disappearing, and I was becoming more and more depressed. If I didn’t find work soon, we would lose the trailer and what little we had left. In effect, if things didn’t change soon, we would join the ranks of the homeless. It is hard for me to say, but I was at the end of my rope and very depressed.

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Meeting Anke

Meeting Anke

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

It was while working in Dallas, Texas at the Redbird Airport project that I met Anke. She was working in the airport restaurant when I came in for coffee. I would sit there reading my book and drinking coffee. I guess she got curious about me and asked me out. Since I was getting a divorce, I saw no harm in it.

We were together for about ten years. More about our time together later.

— Eric H

Inspecting FAA facilities

Inspecting FAA facilities

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

I went to work for ATC Environmental the day after I finished working with Linn. When I walked in the door, Dan Beneke hired me on the spot, because he was familiar with Linn and I, knew the quality work we had done in the past. I worked as a field project manager for a couple of years and then they sent me to Chicago to train for Polarized Light Microscopy. I went to work in the asbestos laboratory as an analyst. I was later chosen to train for the new Transmission Electron Microscopy laboratory that ATC was opening. At about this time, Jenny Meyer over at Research Management Consultants, Inc. offered me a job. I had just started in the TEM lab and wanted to give the company at least a year considering the investment they had just made to train me. I worked in the TEM lab for a little over a year, when I finally moved on to RMCI.

Working at RMCI was the most fun I think I ever had working for somebody else. Remember, I was and still am in love with anything that has to do with flying. They hired me to inspect buildings and do building materials surveys at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilities all across the country. I started out working on the Air Traffic Control tower inspection program. I would go out with a partner for five days to a different facility every day. For example, one week started at the Minot, North Dakota tower, the second day at Grand Forks, on to a radar facility north of Fargo, then to the Fargo tower on Thursday; and finishing up with the Bismarck ATCT on Friday.

We would spend a full day surveying a facility. A small tower might take only four hours to inspect. A large facility might take longer than the eight hours allotted. I remember one trip to Oklahoma City, where any partner and I spent ten hours per day at a facility and almost missed our Friday evening flight because we were working so long. I spent the next three or more weeks producing the inspection reports.

The smallest building I ever looked at was a radio building at the end of the runway at Valdez, Alaska. The largest building was Hangar#8 at the Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. One was a twenty-minute inspection; the other took almost 60 hours to complete the physical inspection.

One of my friends at RMCI was Chuck Mumey. He was a fellow inspector and a pilot. He owned his own airplane and had about every rating there was except ATP. At lunch time we would go for walks and talk about all kinds of stuff, but would always wind up talking about flying. Chuck wanted to teach me to fly, but my wife, JoAnn, was afraid that I would get killed. So I didn’t get to learn to fly from Chuck.

One Saturday morning Chuck called me to see if I would be interested in going for a flight. Chuck also asked Rhonda Bliss, a mutual friend, to come along. I was also able to take my son Joel along for the ride. We flew from Denver to Pueblo and had a pizza lunch. Then we flew back. Once again a beautiful flying experience. The whole time, my wife JoAnn was sitting at home afraid that we were going to crash and die.

We didn’t.

When we completed the tower inspection program, we started working with the Raytheon Company to produce specifications from our inspection reports for the Fire and Life Safety Program. This started another round of inspections.

This time I was in Washington DC for an extended period and then out in the field at towers again collecting lead paint samples. Once these inspections and specifications were completed, they assigned us Environmental Oversight Supervisors to the individual construction projects. These projects could take months to complete.  They expected us to be on the job site the entire time. I would be gone for ten days straight, come home for a weekend and then back to work on Monday.

I remember being in Nantucket, Massachusetts for several weeks in the fall of one year. I would leave work to catch a flight home at 3:30 PM and not get home until after midnight. I would be so exhausted that I would sleep until noon Saturday and then have to be back at the airport by noon Sunday to fly back to work. I was gone so much that I wound up getting divorced, as did one or two others I worked with.

— Eric H

Spelunking with Joel

Spelunking with Joel

Eric writes:

I was interested in caving for many years of my life. My favorite cave in Colorado was Fulford Cave near Eagle, Colorado. One of the best visits was when Joel was about eight years old. He was in Cub Scouts and was going to go caving with me for the first time. This was a public access cave that a person/group could spend from four to eight hours to see. We drove up to Fulford campground the day before and camped with friends that were going caving with us the following day.

Joel - Then and now

Joel – 1995 and 2007

The hike up to the cave entrance was about a mile up the mountain. Joel and I were getting more excited with each step. When we got to the entrance we all sat for a pre-caving photo. It was a busy cave that day. Some other group was climbing up the ladder, as we were ready to climb down. The entrance consists of a metal culvert dug into the ground at about a 50-degree angle with a metal ladder welded to the inside for climbing down into the cave. When it was our turn, Joel started down in front of me. As we went down the ladder, Joel started to have second thoughts and a little claustrophobia.

He said he wanted to go back up and not do the cave. I kept encouraging him to go on down to the bottom of the ladder because there were people above me on the way down. We had to go to the bottom before he could go back up. When we got to the bottom, I told Joel that he should let me show him around a little before he went back to the surface. We walked around in a couple large chambers for a few minutes as I explained about the rock formations. When I asked Joel if he still wanted to go back without doing the cave, he said he would like to continue for a while. The farther we went into the cave, the more fun we had. We spent the day in the cave. This was a wonderful bonding experience for Joel and me.

I will never forget sharing this wonderful time with him.

— Eric H