The Common Question

By George Karamitis, EAA 144192

This piece originally ran in the May 2023 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

People often ask me, “George, don’t you ever get tired of flying just around the airport or the local area and not being able to go anywhere?” I simply answer, “No.” They shake their heads and give me a funny look, wondering what’s wrong with this old man. I just smile, and that makes them wonder even more. I find it is sometimes better to remain silent. That is why I have posted hundreds of pictures and videos online so I can share the simple beauty of ultralight flight.

Every time I open my hangar door, I smile. There it sits, my 1983 Quicksilver MX, a 40-year-old aircraft that was confined to boxes for some 22 years until I rescued her. She and I have been going steady now for 18 years. I have had several aircraft and different Quicksilvers, but I always return to this one.

You might ask questions about me and this airplane, but that’s okay. I am an active aviator doing what I love: flying. And I am doing the flying for cents on the dollar. No ADS-B and all that stuff. Much simpler regulations and much easier ground handling. All I want to do is go up.

Pilots like to make takeoffs and landings. I have no desire to go cross-country. My 32-year career with TWA had many cross-countries and cross-oceans. There were times that I would return from a flight of a couple of days, commute home, and that same evening I would fly my Quicksilver. She would always welcome me by giving me a fantastic flight. She would never get jealous of the big Boeings because she knew she could give me a better experience.

I am particular on which days I plan to fly and what time of the day I plan to go. So, what do we do on days that we can’t fly? We just sit in the hangar. Sometimes I sit in a chair and look at her. Sometimes I sit and just think. What do I think about?

Our relationship, of course. When we first met, she was basically a plain Jane. After flying her for 50 hours, I decided to give her a facelift. She received a completely new hardware kit with all new AN nuts and bolts, wires, and a wing cover. She looks so good that she recently was a centerfold in EAA Sport Aviation magazine. Sometimes it takes an old man to appreciate the value of another old object. As I look back, I wouldn’t trade anything for what we have shared for 18 years.

I prefer to fly in calm conditions since we both are getting up in years, and I find the morning air is so peaceful. My airport is in Class G airspace, which means that all I need for weather minimums is no clouds and 1 mile visibility. My Quick is also equipped with a strobe light so I can fly a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset.

Opening the hangar doors before sunrise and turning on the hangar lights wakes her up. She doesn’t wake up with the sound of the hangar doors opening; it’s the lights that wake her. She always looks good, just like when I tucked her in from our last flight. After a thorough preflight, I mount the cameras. Walking her out of the hangar is a simple task. She seems to perk up as the crisp morning air strikes her body. I set the dual Black Max parking brakes, give her three shots of her energy drink, set her ignition to on, and pull the recoil handle. She starts right up.

I sit, check my four-in-one instrument panel off to the side, plug my David Clark headset into my Icom radio, and fasten the seat belt. I then double-check the latest automated weather observing system report and announce my intention to taxi to the appropriate runway. She was not born with nose-wheel steering, so we use an increase in rpm that produces air loads over her rudder combined with individual braking.

Holding short of the appropriate runway is a special moment. I think all pilots would agree. No matter how big or small an aircraft, we are about to do something special. Turning my Garmin watch on, I announce our intention to taxi into position. After announcing our intention to take off, I slowly advance the throttle and our acceleration is rapid. With this fast acceleration, liftoff happens in mere feet. My senses are truly stimulated. I can feel the wing dihedral reaching for the sky. As we are climbing through the morning temperature inversion, the open air on my face goes from cool to warm. Although we have a Hall airspeed indicator, that same air on my face also tells me how fast we are going. The morning sights are special, too. As we take off and climb, the patchy ground fog with the early morning’s sun rays paint a most beautiful picture no matter where I look. After setting her energy drink for a nice flow, I put my hands in my lap and just let the Quick go. This kind of flying is special, folks. If I want to check something out, it seems all I have to do is just think where I would like to go, and somehow, we end up there. Actually, it is subconscious pressure applied to the appropriate spoiler pedal.

As the sun brings more daylight, I say, “Babe, let’s practice some air work.” She knows where our appropriate area is located. We’ve been there before. It’s a noticeable palm tree off all by itself several miles southwest of the airport.

We usually start off with a turn around a point. After several 360s, we transition to turns on a point. These are her morning calisthenics. From these maneuvers, we transition into a couple of stalls. After rolling out from our clearing turns, I give her more juice as she tries to keep climbing. Eventually she runs out of breath and begins to shudder. I then release the back-pressure, and the shuddering stops as she is able to catch her breath. I practice several of these.

Heading back to the airport I plan on doing several stop-and-go landings. She likes doing the overhead 360 the best. As I cross the approach end of Runway 23, only at 800 feet above the runway, I bring the energy juice to idle. She automatically lowers her nose, and together we begin our 360-degree turn for a landing on Runway 23. That runway has a displaced threshold, so our landing target is right after the displacement. If we are going to be a little short, I’ll add more energy juice. From doing our stalls, we know it’s not a good idea to stretch our glide. A pretty good sink rate can occur with not enough airspeed to cushion the landing. I regularly practice idle power landings, and more often than not I hit the spot.

After our final landing, I taxi back to the hangar. I shut off her spark, and we both just sit. I make sure the Icom radio is off, rise up, and step away. After I reinsert the ballistic parachute safety pin and close the energy valve to the closed position, we walk together back into the hangar.

This is where things become a little emotional. Maybe it’s my age, but whatever it is, I am not embarrassed to admit it. I sit in a chair and just look at her. Imagine, this 40-year-old ultralight I freed from confinement to begin our 18-year affair. I thank her for the many hours of pure, simple flight we have shared. I plan to continue as long as possible.

So, when folks ask, “Don’t you get tired from not being able to go cross-country?” I just keep smiling.

George Karamitis, EAA 144192, is a retired TWA captain, holds an airline transport pilot certificate with B-727 and B-747 type ratings, and has been a CFI for more than 50 years. In 2013, George received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for more than 50 years of accident-, incident-, and citation-free flight.

Post Comments