Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Most people do not like lawyers...until you need one. Then there are specialities where if you need an aviation attorney you can not use your estate planning attorney and so on.

I have a good friend who started flying in his early 50's. He trained on glass Diamond DA40, and when he got his private ticket decided to buy a brand new Piper Saratoga. He has no debt or children and paid cash for his airplane. A few years later he built a large spec home which did not sell quickly and needed some cash and sold his Saratoga. About 4 months later his house sold and he bought another Piper Saratoga.

Now he is in his young 60's and decided to upgrade to a late model Piper Malibu. He worked a deal with Keystone, a Piper dealer, in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately he never obtained any advice from friends in the aviation community and made the deal. From what he told me about this 11/2 YO Malibu after the purchase it had different cylinders changed 7 times in 11/2 years. That would have led me to believe this engine had a problem that was not addressed in just changing out cylinders. It would be a plane that I would have walked away from. He did a real faux pas in letting Keystone do the pre buy on this airplane.  If there is one thing I was taught at an early age is to never use the selling party or their mechanic do the pre buy.

He flew up to Salt Lake to pick up the plane with a Malibu certified CFI and flew it back to Scottsdale. His insurance company required he take 25 hours of dual before flying solo. When he finished his 25 hours the engine had approximately 320 hours on it. His first solo the plane lost power and he was able to return to SDL. When he did a runup the plane again lost power. He took the plane to a FBO on the field that works on Malibu's and they could not replicate the problem. He then went to fly it again and lost power before lifting off.

After taking it back to the FBO they found several issues under the cowling. Cylinders did not pass the torque test and there was oil in the bottom of the cowl. The FBO called Lycoming, and Lycoming never sent anyone out to look at the engine. The second year warranty only covered cylinders. My friend made calls to Keystone and Piper as well as Lycoming. He was told by Piper we will look into it, and they were aware of this plane and the troubles it had in the past. He also found out that this plane had loss of power problems before. He relayed this to Keystone and again was politely blown off. Keystone never came to SDL to look at the plane.

So now my friend has a $1M investment that has been grounded for four weeks of phone calls and emails. I told him all along that no one would do anything until an attorney was involved. He ran it by his personal attorney, and I explained that he had to involve an aviation attorney who speaks the language.

Finally he went to see an aviation attorney here and had everything documented for the attorney. The attorney wrote a demand letter to Keystone for knowingly selling a lemon of an airplane and gave them 2 choices. One was to return the money and his Saratoga or put in a new engine firewall forward and overhaul the propeller. After several back and forth phone calls and emails Keystone agreed to do as requested verbally but never signed the agreement as was. A lawsuit was prepared for fraud and other reasons and served to Keystone. The next day they agreed to do everything as requested.

It will take about 4 weeks for a new engine to arrive and in the meantime the prop will be overhauled. My friend will be down for 16 weeks before he can be back in the air.

As I said earlier his first mistake was letting Keystone do the pre buy. The fox was in the henhouse. A reputable shop would first review the logbooks and say something is not right with this airplane. He was lucky that he had deep pockets where he could sue Keystone, and if necessary Piper and or Lycoming. We are all glad it did not come to this. If there is something that does not sit right about an airplane purchase pass and go on to the next one.

Everything I have written was told to me by my friend who purchased the plane, and I am passing on the information as given to me.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I have only done one real long cross country. My wife and I decided to fly from Scottsdale to Victoria and Vancouver in our 1954 V Tail Bonanza. This was several years ago pre IPad days. I purchased VFR Sectionals for Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. I also had a Jeppesen subscription for the Western United States. The only electronic device we had was a Garmin 396 portable GPS.

It took hours to plan our trip for fuel stops. Our trip was planned for August which gave us the best shot at good weather. We decided to go the long way to San Francisco so that I could fly my wife over the Hearst Castle and Big Sur. Unfortunately there was a cloud layer below us and no visibility. Our first stop was Oakland and we took BART into the City. Our hotel was only a 2 block walk. That night we had an early dinner with a fraternity brother and departed for Seattle the next morning. We had a planned fuel stop along the way and used VFR flight following as we did on our whole trip. 

The beauty of traveling by general aviation is if we like a place we stayed longer, and conversely if we did not we left earlier. Seattle was just fantastic with clear skies and great weather, and we added an extra day there. Next stop was Victoria, British Columbia. The ceiling was low on departure day and we waited for the weather to break. It took me a couple of hours to realize that we were at sea level with no mountains in the way and decided to fly over at 2,500 feet. Out west I am used to flying 8,000-12,000 feet. My wife said this part of the trip was the best flight she ever had. The views were fantastic. Upon reaching Victoria Class Charlie airspace ATC asked us to climb to 3,500 feet. Not having IFR charts I said unable. ATC asked if I see the Caravan in front of us which I did, and they said to follow it for landing. We pulled into the customs circle and were cleaning up the cockpit while customs was checking out a turboprop parked next to us. Customs left and walked into their office. I told Pam to go ask customs to come out and clear us. They asked if we were in the Bonanza. Pam said yes and customs gave her a number and we were cleared. We loved Vitoria some of the friendliest people we ever met and again stayed longer. Then we moved on to Vancouver which was outstanding.

Next stop was Portland. We had dinner with a cousin. I do not mean to offend anyone, but Portland was not one of our favorite places so we left early to spend more time in San Francisco. 

Our last stop was in Los Angeles to celebrate my Aunt’s 90th birthday, and then we headed home to Scottsdale.

My wife and I talked for years about doing a cross country trip to New Orleans, Auburn (my undergraduate school) and Atlanta. My Mom, Sister and daughter all live in Atlanta along with many friends and fraternity brothers. Unfortunately my wife had to have a kidney transplant 3 years ago, then the following year she went into kidney rejection so we delayed the trip for 3 years.

This was the year to go. Planning is a lot different now with APPS such as ForeFlight. I loaded the preferred IFR routing for our trip, and I removed unnecessary waypoints for VFR flying. Next was to plan fuel stops and overnights. What took many hours before with paper sectionals only took 2 hours to plan with ForeFlight. I then called the FBO’s where we planned to spend the night enroute to our destinations. Our first overnight was in Junction, Texas. When I called the FBO manager who lived on the airport and would take us to our hotel and pick us up the next morning. The other stop coming home said they would give us a car for the night. Many years ago I remember airports doing this, not so much anymore. 

Our stops were also planned with ForeFlights for fuel pricing. It made a major difference in where we decided to stop. Fuel in New Mexico and across Texas was around $3.50 a gallon. If we stopped in a major city such as Austin, Texas you could just about double the price.

I started planning this trip in December 2016, and our plan was to depart the first week of April 2017. We were in no hurry, and if the weather was bad we could just delay our departure. As it turned out the weather was horrible in Texas and Louisiana. 

Then a funny thing happened. My wife spiked a fever that she could not shake 8 weeks before our planned departure. Being a kidney transplant fevers are a bad thing, and I took her to the emergency room. She was admitted to the hospital with a bad infection. After several tests this infection spread to her heart. She had to have her Mitral valve replaced and bypass surgery two weeks after she was admitted. They had to get the kidney infection under control before heart surgery. She was recovering in the ICU and a week later moved to a room on the Telemetry floor. During heart surgery you are given a lot of fluid and my wife was having trouble removing the fluid from her heart. All the Docs felt she was okay to go home. The nurse helped Pam get dressed and Pam sat down, could not breathe and had chest pain. She coded right in front of me and the room was full of doctors. They were able to bring her back and rushed her back into the ICU. She was stable that night but coded again the next morning and was rushed into surgery where they removed the excess fluid from her heart. The heart is now working great but when you loose all blood pressure the kidney takes on a lot of damage. Pam has now been in the hospital for 7 weeks and still has a slow process of 8 more weeks to remove fluid on her body that the kidney can not by dialysis.

Bless my wife. She was more worried about cancelling our trip then her problems. She is a strong woman. I told her to worry about getting well so we can make our trip in 2018.

So that is my story of our almost cross country to the East Coast. It will happen, it will just take a little longer than expected.