I flew my Zodiac XL from Potomac Airfield across the Chesapeake Bay to Cambridge Maryland. It was my first long flight in the airplane since purchasing it and the first flight since learning that the plane was recommended for grounding. It seemed I was carrying a lot of extra weight on the flight. The weight of some buyer's remorse, the weight of anxiety of learning and flying my very own airplane (my first) and the weight of dread over whether or not the wings were going to fall off or that this would be the last flight for a while. Lastly the weight of flying in the DC flight restricted zone. It is amazing I got off the ground but off into a clear blue sky I went.

The first thing I learned about flying this airplane from the instructor that gave me my insurance orientation is you can fly it with two fingers. I was reminded of that as I was ham fistedly fighting the turbulence over the Chesapeake. It took me a while to find balance with the right power and the right trim and gentleness on the stick, the plane was flying nicely. Right then, I offloaded some of that extra weight. I remembered a favorite saying, " nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength." The Zen flies much better with gentleness.

Potomac Airfield is in the inner ring of the DC airspace so special procedures and communications are required to base your plane there and to fly it in and out of the most guarded airspace in the world. When you lift off on runway six at Potomac, you are provided a splendid view north up the Potomac River to the National Mall with all of the monuments and halls of government. It is awe inspiring and I am sorry that more pilots and passengers can't enjoy this view.

Leaving the airspace I called Potomac Approach to let them know I was switching to VFR squawk. The controller replied, " One Delta Delta, I see you have about four miles until you are clear." I badly wanted to be clear and soon the controller was informing me to squawk VFR. Another weight lifted, the plane is flying much better.

I wanted so much to be able to breathe and sink into the reclining seat and take in all the sights and sounds. I learned that I would need to slow down both the airplane and my thoughts. It seems that one of the bad habits that came from my student pilot and airplane rental experiences was the sense that the meter was always running (and it was). I felt I had to be fast and efficient because I was pursuing an activity with a high cost every minute and ,at the time of my initial training ,it was a financial burden. Now, I have to tell myself to slow down, "this is your airplane," there is no limit. With this thought, the buyer's remorse disappears, "this is why I bought an airplane!" Flying with all the time in the world - more weight gone.

There is a great line in the movie Tender Mercies. Robert Duvall, playing a recovering alcoholic drifter tells his landlady that he "just can't trust happiness." And so it was with my flight, because there was still the matter of the NTSB and whether or not my Zenith was safe. I knew about the accidents in the airplane and followed the news on the various internet discussions before I bought the plane. I spoke with a 72 year old A&P who had built two Zodiacs after he sold the second one and asked him about the accidents. He said what I continued to hear over and over again, " check the cable tension and fly it within the envelope." These are things I can do to manage my risk but I can't help thinking that the folks who crashed probably had similar ideas. Still, on this great day of flight, I must trust my eyes and ears and seat; the plane feels good in the air. By staying in the now of the flight, all was well.

Walking into the terminal at Cambridge, I felt a little taller and a lot lighter. I soon discovered a wonderful little cafe called Katie's at the airport. I enjoyed a delicious crab cake (the real deal - no filler) and a fresh cup of coffee. I could look out on the ramp and see passersby stopping to look at the Zenith. The waitress called me honey - weight lifted.

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Comment by JG Ginther on April 22, 2009 at 6:56pm
John, I am sure your wife must be mistaken!
Comment by John Cange on April 22, 2009 at 3:56pm
JG, Very well said. Now.. that's what it's all about!! Oh, when a waitress calls you honey.. it just means your getting old. At least, that's what my wife tells me.

John
Comment by JG Ginther on April 21, 2009 at 9:33pm
Thanks for all of your comments - it was a great flight!
Comment by Phill Barnes on April 20, 2009 at 6:28pm
Thank you Mr Ginther.
A breath of fresh air. As I read your story, I feel like I'm in the R/H seat.
Very inspiring.

Regards

Phill Barnes
Comment by Tim Garrett on April 20, 2009 at 4:39pm
Very nicely written. You've captured a lot of my feelings as well. I haven't flown MY plane in a couple of months and I go through withdrawl. I'm in the middle of my annual and waiting on a tension gage before I fly. I will fly. That cafe is now on my "to fly to" list.
Comment by Dr. Edward M. Moody II on April 20, 2009 at 12:58pm
Very well written story, however the part about, "...a splendid view north up the Potomac River to the National Mall with all of the monuments and halls of government. It is awe inspiring and I am sorry that more pilots and passengers can't enjoy this view." sort of hit a raw nerve with me. Friday I was scheduled for FAA inspection of the 601XL I built (3 years; 1,000+ hours) and had that pulled out from under me by the hysteria that drew the NTSB into the fray. The inspection was cancelled and no date certain yet exists for rescheduling it. Honestly JG... right now I'd like to stay about as far from those hallowed halls as possible. For you, the system worked reasonably but I find myself with way too much government in my face for now. I'm glad that you are not yet affected and your Zen remains intact. I just find it hard to sore with the eagles when I'm forced to flock around with turkeys.

Stay safe and enjoy your plane,

Ed
Comment by Mike van Rensburg on April 20, 2009 at 11:49am
Excellent post. I'm in the beginning stages of a scratchbuild 650 and reading reports like this totally inspires me all over again.

May you have many hours of flying with as little "weight" as possible.

Mike
Port Elizabeth
South Africa
Comment by Bennett Scheuer on April 20, 2009 at 11:43am
JG - You can write !! Well done and much enjoyed.
Comment by Brad DeMeo on April 20, 2009 at 11:18am
Great post.
Comment by Peter Shean on April 20, 2009 at 11:10am
I very much enjoyed your story. I am early in the building process, but look forward to the time in the future when I can experience something similar

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