It happened - I now have an airplane

I finally purchased an aircraft - a 1979 Bellanca Citabria.  One trusted agent looked at it, one trusted agent flew it back, and I finally flew it on 31 January 20.  She flew exactly like I thought she would.  The mission of this airplane is to get people upset training, spin training, and tailwheel training.  I call her Belle (she was from Memphis).  Here she is:

We landed at my friend's place (he has his own field).  Beautiful.

My Citabria on the left, Ryan's Super D on the right.

Me stepping on my mains with Ryan..  I could have asked for no one else as my wingman.  He even had a suggestion for my first flight which worked out perfectly.  Ryan is an incredible aviator!

- MM -


CC2020 | Navigation | 2020-12

Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24 inches (51 x 61 cm)

The card reads...

"This year, I was blessed to fly the line with United for three months.  It was short, but full of awesome people and great experiences.  The rest of the year saw a lot of general aviation.

It reminded me that people enter your life at just the right time - which continues to amaze me.  They can nudge you, inspire you, and help you move along your journey.

As this open-air flying machine approaches the foothills on a beautiful winter day, the sight of his hangar assures him he's on the right path.  God helps me do this each and every day."


After the sky, clouds and hills were painted, I had the big unanswered question of what to add.  Originally, I thought a close-up of a crow flying towards the hangar but also wanted to add an airplane. This is the view of the crow I was going to add...

It was going to be solid black (minus some highlights).

As for the airplane, I had an idea that the original painting was also going to be a present for a retirement. The recipient, however, has flown dozens of airplanes. I knew he'd flown a Fairchild PT-19 and he had a painting of one in his hangar - it was actually a movie poster. He currently has a Super Decathlon, but I couldn't get the look I wanted and was happy with the PT-19.  The photo above was used for reference.

This was the only paint sketch I made.  You can see I sketched the crow and the airplane. The airplane was the focus as I had abandoned the idea of the crow.  I was happy enough with the airplane to proceed. One thing I don't like about myself is the liberty and freedom I take with sketches only to be overly conservative with the final. I shouldn't like the sketches more than the final piece - which happens too often.

Update 202101:  One of the best comments I get is that the card exceeds other cards.  This was written on the back of a note from a card recipient...

Of note, that's from someone who's received almost every card.

- MM -


Why I Love Aviation 5 : 2020-12

One thing about aviation that always holds a surprise is what you'll fly next. And the cool thing is, the more you fly, the more you get to fly. Sometimes by chance, sometimes by the people God puts in your path.

I was able to fly this beautiful (and immaculate) Citabria Adventure. The Adventure model threw a 160 HP in the nose. The owner has done incredible work on the dash. When we say 'dash' we mean all the instrumentation and/or accoutrements one can add. If you want to get a new one, they're $195K. This owner got his for $70!

I was also lucky enough to give transition training to a first-time buyer of a Mooney. This is a M20E and it's a great machine. There are two M20Es, the Chaparral and the Super 21.  I think this one is a Super 21. It has a Johnson bar (means of physically raising/lowering landing gear) and manual flaps which you create hydraulic power by hand.  Pretty cool. And the best part is meeting the other owners / pilots. It is an amazing community.

- mm -


Ferry Flight: 1G1 to 1H8 to KSGF

Ferried the same Commander 112 that I ferried less than a week earlier - apparently a hot market for selling airplanes.  The flight was from near Cleveland to Springfield, MO (one of the possible choices for the Simpsons' town).  When I arrived via Uber, I really thought it might be a no-go, but in the end it worked out very swimmingly.

I totally missed an epic photo op when this mission started.  It was snowing like crazy with huge snow flakes...and I didn't take a picture.  The aircraft above is not the aircraft flown, but the snow was pretty close so I use it as a reference.  Sometimes I'm amazed at the pictures I DON'T take when it could be so easy (and is).  Amazingly, the skies broke and I had a window of opportunity.  After sweeping all the snow off the wings, I pressed.  I knew the weather to the west (direction of destination) was better so I launched.

Here's the Commander 112 at Casey Municipal (1H8).  This is why FBO's are cool...you never know what to expect.  There was a gas pump but clearly no ability to use a credit card.  As I was wondering how this would work, a woman walked up to the plane and asked "top it off?".  Essentially, it was like a gas station from the Sixties - full service with a smile!  Awesome.  The pic above shows the Commander with an Air Tractor in the background.  And Air Tractor that is worse for wear.

Another shot of Casey Municipal.

The final destination was KSGF (significant girl friend) or Springfield-Branson National Airport (I use all the memory aids I can).  I didn't take any pictures because the new buyer wants to me you and talk about the airplane and photos can get in the way.  Here are some stock photos...

The airfield from the air.

The General Aviation Complex

Very nice FBO - actually labeled "General Aviation Complex" which is one of the cooler things I've seen.   GA brings lots of business if you're ready for it and KSGF was clearly ready for it.  A super nice thing about this ferry flight was I could connect back to Denver from the destination. We took a seven minute ride around the airport and I was in-place.  Super stress-reliever.  Overall, it was a great ferry operation.  Well-compensated and easy connections.

- mm -


Why I Love Airfields 19 : 2020-11

Why do I love airfields?  Actually countless reasons, but I have a few reasons for not loving them.  Leadville (or Lake County Airport) is a classic example.  Love it and don't.  First, what's up with "Lake County"?  Everyone knows it as Leadville.  Second, super nice people, highest North American airport, gives you a free certificate, but NOT on the weekends (not loving them).

Here's an unrelated picture (aside from the day) of a beautiful sky and the tail of Queen Vic.

This is the certificate Leadville will give you just for showing up - awesome!
But not on the weekends...not awesome. 

And the most epic pic ever.  Two birds from Springs Aviation which will likely never been seen again at Leadville.  Orange Blaze and Queen Vic.  It was a totally random rendezvous and lent itself to a fantastic pic.  It's a photo op that will likely never happen again.

- mm -


Ferry Flight: KTVK to KRZL to 1G1

Blessed again to conduct a ferry flight.  This time it was a Rockwell Commander 112.  It was a good plane and the landing gear is super forgiving.  It's basically and Arrow but with much more room/comfort in the cabin.  The aircraft started like a dream and flew like a dream (minus one).  It's very stable but the autopilot didn't work so hand flying from state to state is a bit of a deterrent.

The folks at KTVK (Centerville) were incredibly accommodating.  They drove several hours just so I could depart earlier in the morning.  Very nice of them!  An amazing thing about general aviation (GA) is the level of trust you can develop with someone in just a few minutes.  It rivals anything you've every seen or experienced.

Point of departure - Centerville Municipal Airport (Iowa).
Not the best weather but beautiful in its own way.

The bird...735M, a Rockwell Commander 112.  Very nice.

Just to show the tail number.

I failed to take a pic at Jasper County airport but the above pic conveys its sense of space and calm.  Great FBO but the only thing that is free is water.  And in reality, it was far from calm. The winds were about 20 kts.  I don't mind because you stop in about 20 feet.  And fuel was cheap - also to their benefit.

- Flying IS Great. Improve every flight -


Patch : USAFA Tow Pilots : 2020-10

A friend of mine suggested I enter a contest (of sorts) for a new patch for the tow pilots at the US Air Force Academy.  It was more of a submission to be voted on than a contest.  Regardless, I am always up for competing against other artists and I like to think I know what makes a better patch.  It's simplicity.  People tend to want to add a lot of stuff to patches, but in the end they look cluttered and 'impact' is lost.

This was the final submission (which was picked).  The Cub drags a
Schempp-Hirth TG near the mountains marked by the Academy Chapel.

Earlier versions.  The green mountain was to reflect the company's colors.
Then I removed the color.  The original Cub didn't have the lighting bolt.

Transition to rigid mountains, then adding the chapel.

Simply moving the chapel around.

This was the very first submission.  I prefer a dark blue sky.  There was no lighting bolt and the green was still there for the company's sake.  Also, the cockpit and engine area were much simpler. You might notice the final version had the tailwheel.  The multiple versions show how picky people become when it gets down to making a decision. 

Spoiler alert...none of these versions showed the struts.  I was waiting for people to call that out, but they never did.  However, I had the versions ready.  Both a single and dual strut...

Don't tell anyone.

Update 20210217:  here is the actual patch...

- mm -


Why I Love Aviation 4 : 2020-10

Flying is great, but the people really make the difference.  Just look how happy these pilots are!  Every time you leave the earth, you can't help but smile.

Clockwise from top left, student pilot in the nursing world, pilot who just loves to fly, student pilot from the world-famous Southwest Airlines (attendant wanting to fly instead) and a formation flight picking up an aircraft from another airfield.  I'm the wingman and suggested the formation (because I didn't want to talk on the radio).

Flying is great!

- mm -


Why I Love Airfields 18 : 2020-09

I love airfields for many reasons, but one really big reason is they have prepared surfaces.  Here's a shot of an airplane after its engine quite.  I have to say, one great thing of this event is it got the 'monkey' off my back.  Which monkey?  The engine quitting of a single-engine airplane.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be.  In fact, gravel is a pretty good landing surface.  Very forgiving and helps you slow down.  You can't see it here, but there was a sign for a 90 degree turn after the hill.  I was thinking, "how close is this turn?" but it was no factor.  There was plenty of room to stop.   I'm not suggesting an off-field landing, but I kind of am.  It's a great experience.  What you can't control is people calling 911 (because they care) and that might make your experiment more involved than you intended.

The airplane after I pulled it off the road.

The aerial view of a landing strip vs an airfield.

A great reminder that aviation and it's media are simply incredible.

- mm -