Monday, December 29, 2008

My Bensen Gyrocopter, Born Free

There is a caste system in aviation that says , bigger and more expensive aircraft are better and more deserving . I have to admit to belonging to that system way back in the early 60's when my husband Docko, saw an ad in Popular Mechanics or Popular Science, or some such magazine, about something called a " Bensen Gyrocopter".
The picture was of a small machine that looked like a tiny helicopter where the pilot sat out in the open , very exposed to everything and was held onto the fragile looking machine by a simple seat belt ! My guy was in love with that machine ! It was all he talked about . I tried to tune him out for I was a real pilot ! I flew AIRPLANES...real aircraft, in other words. And that pile of square aluminum tubing didn't fit my picture of a real flying machine. The old caste system was alive and well !
He tried various methods to get me to warm up to the gyro. He touted the fact that it came in kit form and he would build it himself, therefore it would not cost a fortune to build.
Further, he could teach himself to fly it and fly it out of our back yard...that was what the advertisement said anyway. He persevered and finally started buying gyrocopter kits and building his dream machine.
Skip ahead to where it was finally finished and we flew it. My first lift-off in his gyro and I lost my heart forever to that funny looking machine.
All that was way back when my children were very young ( the oldest one is 58 now ) and I have flown gyros all down through those years and loved every minute of it. Ok, I gave my hearing to the loud unmuffled McCulloch engine, but who can say that I wouldn't have lost my hearing if I never saw a gyro ? The gyro gave me more than it ever took from me. The gyro and I are getting along in years but we're still flying and enjoying it.
The photo at the left is of me flying my Bensen Gyrocopter at the Ken Brock Freedom Fly-in a couple of months ago in September.
I still see the old aviation caste system at times , usually by high time corporate pilots , you know , the guys who fly the boss to some airport and stand around and wait all day for him to be driven back to the airport so the corporate pilot can fly him back home . The biz jets they fly can't possibly give one the pleasure that my simple little Bensen gyro does and has for so many many years . The small Bensen is living proof that less is more !
Till next time
Marion Springer , CFI - Gyro-ret.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Today I lost a Friend

His name was Bobby Bettis. He was a gyro pilot and belonged to the group of gyro pilots that I hang out with. He always had a smile on his face and a willing hand to help whoever needed his assistance.
I had been retired from gyro flying for several years after the passing of my husband but still I needed to be around gyros and gyro pilots. Bobby always met me with a hug and then he would hold his flight helmet out to me and tell me to go fly his gyro. I never did fly his gyro but his generousity in offering it to me spoke volumes about him.
When I decided to fly again, Bobby generously gave his time and expertise to work on my engine and bring it up to flying condition. In earlier days he had flown with the same make of engine so he had the necessary knowledge to make my engine airworthy. The engine runs just fine.
Bobby was a member of Chapter 1 and was a safety officer in that group. His pilot briefings at each fly-in were very professionally done. He also wrote a piece on safety for Chapter 1's monthly newsletter.
It was always pleasant to just sit and talk with Bobby. His was always a voice of reason and insight. He died today . I will miss him.
Till next time.
Marion Springer

The Snow of Winter of OH-8!

The photo to the left is of my daughter Linda's bead shop which is still under construction and in the picture the bead shop is also under a lot of snow!

That's the snow I was complaining about in the last post...the snow that doesn't seem to belong in sunny Southern California.

As you can see in the picture , it's all desert where we live...miles and miles of desert.

When the snow covered the area it was a very beautiful picture but now the snow is gone and we're back to just beautiful desert. The way I like it best.
Till next time.
Marion Springer

The Winter of OH-8 !

Snow, beautiful soft white snow. It's georgous as is drifts down and settles on everything below. When the sun shines on it , it sparkles like diamonds .

I love snow...I love it on the distant mountains, on Christmas cards, in Currier and Ives prints, I love it anywhere as long as it is not close to me.

Last week the snow was close to me. Nearly a foot deep close to me. For 7 days close to me. And I live in Sunny southern California where it is almost against the law for it to snow.

A winter storm came roaring down from somewhere and dumped the snow on us and for the first time in the nearly 20 years that I've been living in the high desert of Ca. we were snowed in, roads impassable, water pipes bursting, the whole nine yards of winter weather.

Usually each winter we will get one storm that drops a dusting of snow that is gone in a few hours, but not this time. I know , I know, I'm whining. My children say about me , " mom thinks a cold day is anytime the temperature is less than 80 degrees ".

We have it easy compared to those who live in areas where the winter snows bring many hardships but living down here in the beautiful desert of sunny California it is easy to get spoiled regarding the weather.

But now the snow is mostly gone from my place and the weather is sunny, ( cool 50 degrees sunny ) and lookin' good again.

As for me, I'm looking forward to those good old hot days of summer!
Till next time
Marion Springer

Monday, November 24, 2008

Born Free's new home

Born Free is the name of my Bensen gyrocopter. Today it has a new's still my gyro, I didn't sell it and I never will, but yesterday my good friend and fellow gyro pilot Teddy helped me move my beloved gyro from his hangar across the runway to a hangar of it's own .

For the last year Teddy has generously shared his hangar space with my gyro , from the time it was taken to his hangar to be gone through and brought up to flying condition , then started flying again and until yesterday it has been in his place. Teddy and other gyro friends did the overhaul of my machine and got me flying again and they did it all for only a ' thank you ' , for their services . Good friends like that are a treasure.

The new hangar, new to my gyro anyway, is a leaky old place that at the moment is full of items and junk left behind by the former tennant . It needs to be cleaned out, cleaned up and made worthy of my gyro. I'm looking forward to doing the hangar clean up and making the place my own where I can go and tinker and clean and polish my machine .

I might even put an easy chair in the hangar where I can sit and in my mind, fly again some of those wonderful flights that made my life so perfect and to plan future flights as well.

Thank you Teddy for all you have done for me and my gyro. You are a true frind.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Find Your own ladybug

One day my five year old granddaughter decided that she wanted a lady bug so she went went looking for one . After hours of searching she finally found one. She proudly brought her trophy in to show me . She put it in a coffee can and I punched holes in the lid so the bug could have air and that happy little girl carried the lady buy in the can around all the rest of the day.

Toward evening I began to tell her that she should set the lady bug free . My pleas fell on deaf ears. Finally I sat granddaughter down and listed every reason I could think of why she should let the bug go.

She listened without interrupting until I had finished speaking. Then she looked me in the eye and very seriously, said,
"Grandma, I looked all morning for that lady bug. Now if you want to turn a lady bug loose, why don't you go find your own lady bug?".

What could I say?

Eventually she did free the lady bug.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Friday, November 7, 2008

Packrats...I'm one !

I have a friend who says that both she and her husband are packrats and she firmly believes that two packrats should never be allowed to marry. She is probably right. One packrat at a time is more than enough! I should know because I am one.

I never throw anything away that I might need in the future and then I can't find it when I do need it for it's lost in everything else I have saved!

You would think that it would be simple to write an address or important piece of information on a piece of paper and put it in a safe place where you can lay your hands on it when it's needed, but somehow I've never mastered the trick of finding it again because by the time I need it , it's somewhere deep under under a mountain of other pieces of 'saved' paper.

Do you remember Lucile Ball in the old , " I love Lucy ", T V shows ? Remember what a disaster her record keeping was ? Well, her record keeping disasters look good compared to mine.

When my children were young they had a pretty ring that they all fought over. All claimed onership and it was a constant bone of contention between them . During one time of noisy sibbling squabbling over the ring I took it away from them and put it in a safe place where they wouldn't be able to find it to fight over worked, for I forgot where I hid it and it never turned up to cause a ruckus between the children again. And so, all these years later I'm still putting things away never to be seen again.

I knew a man who had a unique method of keeping track of the morning chores he had to do before he left for work. Not trusting his memory , and not wanting to leave out anything, he stuck small post-it-notes , each one listing a chore to be done, on the front of his shirt. I was amused when I first saw it but now I'm having second thoughts about it. He was pretty darn smart !

I'm now thinking that everytime I put something away that I will write it's location on a post-it-note and stick it on the living room wall. I'll make columns of colorful little notes . Then when I need something I've put away , I should be able to find it easily . Nah......that's just wishful thinking because the little columns of notes would be three or four deep by the time I needed to find something and I'd still be a darn packrat and whatever I'd put away would still be lost in a good safe place.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Monday, October 27, 2008

Baby Birds and Mama Springer

I like birds. I'm not a bird watcher who joins bird watching clubs and goes looking for birds...I just enjoy watching them in my yard. And I like helping the ones who need help. Right now I have one inside who has a thorn in his leg and he will see the doctor tomorrow. Another one is in a cage recovering from injuries sustained from a hawk attack. He is healing nicely and will be released soon.

When I moved to my home on it's 10 acres of sage brush with no neighbors for a mile in either direction, I was all alone with only my two dogs . No birds around at all, then one day a lone pigeon showed up and I put some food out for him.

The next day he was back and he had brought some pigeon friends with him. Then more and more came and they stayed . I had a couple of large cages built and eventually the pigeons were roosting at night in the wasn't long before the cages were too small to hold the growing pigeon flock. They began nesting in the cages and producing baby pigeons at an alarming rate. They are prolific producers ! Next , I built a pigeon house for the now large flock.

I have to admit that pigeon parents are smarter than I am for you see, when they determine that a baby pigeon is defective they put it out of the nest and let it die. It breaks my heart to see a tiny baby bird out of it's nest and freezing to death while the parents continue to ignore it. So I bring the little baby inside the house and warm it up and feed it and try to keep it alive. If the parents have abandoned it then it's guaranteed the baby won't make it...somehow the parent birds knew it wouldn't but I had to learn it the hard way. Even if I do know an abandoned or badly injured bird won't survive I take it inside and at least provide a place where it can pass on in peace and dignity. I guess you could say that as well as an amature bird hospital I provide a bird hospice.

Often times babies will get picked on by other birds and will be injured. It seems the parents don't spend much time caring for the young ones so when I find an injured baby, I bring it inside and take care of it. When I take a baby bird away from it's parents my children say, " mom did a hostile take-over today". In the last couple of years I probably have hand fed and raised well over a hundred little pigeons. When they learn to feed themselves and are old enough to make it on their own, I set them free.

I love to watch the pigeons fly. Being a flyer myself, I find it interesting how they lose altitude when they want to come down and land . Some of them will kind of stair step down, losing a few feet at a time then kind of leveling off and then dropping down a few more feet until they are low enough to land. Some of them will simply bring their wings up together and loose altitude quickly then recover to level flight and then land.

And the landings ! They land just like I do in my gyro...I descend to about 2 to 3 feet above the ground and then I flare the rotor blades . Flaring the blades slows the forward speed and allows the gyro to touch down gently and the birds do the same thing to land . They flare their wings ( always landing into the wind as I do ) and then they touch down gently. Well, the older birds land gently. Sometimes the younger ones will drop in a little hard or bounce on landing. New pilots, you know. But not to worry , they get the hang of it quickly.

It is so neat to see them coming in to land when the wind is blowing because they sometimes hover in the air before landing. Sometimes a couple of birds will fly to me and land on my head or shoulders. The do that especially around feeding time!

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Isn't That The Way It Goes ?

I've heard it said that the best laid plans often go astray, and so my daughter Linda's plans did
just that...they went astray.

The annual gyro fly-in was over, her daughter and son in law had returned home and life had settled down . The weather was good. The time was right she thought ,to get back to work on her bead shop.

Linda makes beads by what is called the , Lampwork , method. She uses a torch fueled by propane and oxygen and heats glass rods over a mandrel . When the glass is in a molten state it melts onto the mandrel which is being rolled by Linda's fingers . The glass builds up into whatever kind or shape of bead she has in mind. She can put flowers , leaves, swirls, and any kind of image or color of glass she chooses into the hot bead. Her beads are beautiful !
This is the barest thumbnail description of her craft as I am only an observer of her work, not a bead artist as she is . I don't mess with propane torches and the like. My passion is flying gyrocopters.

All that is by way of telling you about Linda's broken ankle ...broken in two places, no less.

She and her brother Dave, are building her a bead shop on her property where she will be able to do her bead work. She planned, saved money for the shop , agonized over the size of shop, bought doors and windows and building material for the shop and then thought some more about how she wanted everything built.

Finally, her plans were finalized and the building process began. Dave is an electrical contractor so he is quite busy with his own work but whenever he had free time he helped Linda with her bead shop project.

The foundation was made, the floor and framing done, the roof was almost finished.

Then on a glorious day, weatherwise , Linda was going to do some work on the roof of her shop, just a little finishing up before the final metal roofing was put on. She, with my help, I must admit , put up the very tall ladder, she planned to use .

I was planning to go work on my gyro, and so she would be alone should she fall.... A mother is a mother for life , I'm finding out, so I protested to her , " No, Linda, please don't go up on top of the roof". You could fall and you will be here alone with no one to help you". She said that she wouldn't go on top but would just go up to the edge of the roof.

I left after telling her , "at least put your cell phone in your pocket so you can call if you need help".

Twenty minutes later I received a call that she had fallen and needed help...I rushed over, breaking a speed record for an old mama running and found her lying on her kitchen floor. She had managed to crawl on her hands and knees , a distance of about 60 feet or so and make it up four steps and into her home, no mean feat with a broken ankle !

She said that she had decided not to use the tall ladder after all and had left it standing while she used a shorter, 6 foot ladder close to it. There had been no wind at all that day until she got up on the 6 foot ladder and then, wouldn't you know, a gust of wind came out of nowhere and toppled the tall ladder over onto Linda and the shorter ladder. In the fall , her foot got tangled in a rung of the ladder and sure, enough, the ankle was broken.

We went the ER route and after waiting half a day and not getting seen by a doctor, we went to a doctor in private practice and he put a cast on her leg after X-Rays showed that it was indeed, broken in two places , just above the ankle.

She is proving to be a good patient, and is getting a little cabin fever at this point but still taking it easy and following doctor's orders.

As for me, I'm glad she lives so close so that I can look in on her and help her in any way needed.

Meanwhile, the glorious weather is fast going away and soon it will be winter-just about the time the cast comes off the leg- and probably the finishing of the bead shop will be done in the new year. But for now, Linda sits in a chair by the door , with her leg in a cast and watches her brother as he finds time , doing the wiring for her bead shop.

Yes, her best laid plans did absolutely go astray.
Marion Springer , Linda's mom

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm flying again !

After my husband passed away my world was simply torn asunder. I retired from gyrocopter flying and gyro flight instructing and tried to put my life back together again.
I needed to make a home for myself and learn to live alone after 48 1/2 years of marriage.
It took time but it was done and finally I was ready to fly again.
A group of gyro friends that I hang out with were kind enough to go through my gyro and make it airworthy after it's long time of sitting in a hangar.
Finally the big day came on June 14, 2008. My gyro engine doesn't have a starter so one of my flying buddies, Peter Prentice, hand propped my engine to get it started and I taxiied out onto the El Mirage dry lake bed and took off for the first time in 12 1/2 years.
Teddy Udala, another gyro flying buddy followed me out to the lake in his van . As he drove he had one eye on the camera filming what he called , " A historical Moment", of my return to the air.
It had been nearly 13 years since I had last flown and the flat surface of the lake bed is all one color which sometimes makes it difficult to judge height above the ground. My eyes were nearly 13 years older than they were on my last flight so I knew I would need some time for the old eyes to adjust to the lake bed. I had recently had a vision check and bought new glasses. I had asked the doctor to check my depth perception carefully. She did and pronounced it to be ' perfect'. But depth perception on a machine in the doctor's office and the real thing on the lake bed are two different things !
I took off , then leveled off at what I figured to be about 15 to 20 feet above the surface.
My gyro doesn't have an alitmeter but that will be remedied soon ! Looking down, I wasn't really sure whether I was 15 or 20 or even 50 feet AGL ( above ground level ). " Well, old gal" , I said to myself, " maybe you should climb a bit lest you stick the nose of your pretty gyro into the ground!". So, I climbed and flew around for nearly an hour. It was simply wonderful to be back in the air in my Bensen gyro.
My gyro friends, Teddy, Peter and Bobby were out on the lake bed taking pictures of my fly-bys. I knew that they wanted me to land near-by for the camera...they didn't know that my eyes were taking their own sweet time getting adjusted to the sameness of the lake bed. In other words, my landing probably wasn't going to be 'camera ready' and not want wanting to embarass myself by a bad lading or worse, bend something, I decided to land down the lake aways from them.
A standard landing is done by descending to about 3 to 4 feet above the surface, reducing power and when the gyro settles then gently bringing the control stick back to flare the blades . That slows the gyro and allows a very gentle tail wheel first , touchdown with no roll out .
Still not 100 percent sure of my altitude , I descended to what I thought ( hoped ) to be about 5 to 6 feet above the surface of the lake bed. I had decided to make a no flare landing with main wheels touching first . I leveled the gyro, reduced the power slightly and let the gyro settle down toward the ground in a level, no flare attitude. I figured that when the wheels touched the ground, I would know I had arrived. It worked very well and I touched down gently. The camera caught the landing after all and you can see the flat descent to touch down.
I figured with a good one under my belt that I should do some landing practice and I did just that. I'm happy to say that the old eyes have adjusted and I'm not having any problems with depth perception , Oh happy day !
To be 79 1/2 years of age and to be flying my gyro again is wonderful. I am blessed.
Marion Springer