I started flying in 1989 just out of high school. I was finishing up my A&P certificate and I wanted to fly for pleasure. I was working part time, flying part time and going to school full time. It was a tough grind and money was tight. I managed to solo and flew 37 hours total when I came to the end of my wallet. I had to make a decision, and I chose aircraft maintenance to finish up and sadly dropped flying.
My passion for small aircraft never waned. I would buy the Aerotrader and scour the pages for a deal. I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but it sure was fun to dream.
Fast forward a few years to 2014. A coworker of mine asked if I want to go in partners on a plane as I was always talking about getting back to flying. In my mind though, I was sure it was a done deal and I would never fly again. Life happens with a wife, two kids, a mortgage and other commitments. I just didn’t see a way to get back into the flying. So I turned my friend down and he bought a project to build at home.
As time goes by, life circumstance change. Early in 2016, after losing two dear family members, our family financial situation was changed unexpectedly. My wife and I were sitting around the dinner table one night just enjoying each other’s company when out of the blue Monika says, “I know how much you love aviation and how you have always wanted to
have an airplane, why don’t you pursue that dream?” I was speechless at first and then elated to try and get back in the cockpit after so many years gone by. I was also unsure I would even enjoy flying as I had relegated in my mind that it would never happen. So off I went for my second intro flight, and of course I loved it!
After talking with my friend Rob who wanted to partner a few years before, I decided to self-study for the written exam before I took any more flight lessons. In the meantime I was looking and brand C as the airplane of choice to buy. While talking with Rob, he asks me if I have considered the Mooney as a choice. As crazy as it sounds to me today, at the time I had never even heard of a Mooney and definitely was not considering a complex aircraft for my first purchase.
So, I pass the written in May 2016 and start flight training again. The good news, my second “first solo” happens after only 2 more hours of instruction! It was great to know I had the “hands on” part still in my head. The entire time I am flight training, I am talking with my instructor about purchasing a Mooney and working towards complex as soon after my check ride as possible. All the while I am looking for the right aircraft for me.
Finally, after searching from early 2016 to mid-August 2016, I find Stella based in Abilene, TX. She has a great exterior, is IFR certified, and has a high time engine with OK compression. Here is where it gets real interesting. I have to take you back to the early 1990s.
In my early years as an aircraft mechanic, I worked for an airline that sent mechanics along on the trips. I flew in the cockpit as a part of the crew, and worked on the aircraft at whatever destination we landed. One of the Flight Engineers was Jim Carroll. We became good friends during our six years flying together. Fast forward to 2016 and me finding Stella in Abilene. As luck would have it, my friend Jim retired from flying and opened an FBO in Abilene. Since he was there, I called him to see if he knew anything about Stella. It turns out he had done the last four or five annuals on her! What a small world aviation is. So I asked about Stella and her history, and the big question, if he was in the market for a Mooney, would he buy this one. Without hesitation he said it was a good aircraft. With that in mind, I called the owner and made him an offer and we agreed. A month later, I was a Mooney owner and student pilot.
The previous owner of Stella was also a CFII and gave me flight lessons enroute to Stella’s new home near Memphis TN. I finished up and did my check ride in a 172. Transition training was done two weeks later in early November 2016. From then until November 2017, I have put 120 hours on her and rescued 20 dogs for Pilots n Paws. I have also added ADS-B out and a new audio panel. I have nearly finished the annual on her and can’t wait to get back in the air.
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