Ximango pick-up

Ximango Pick-Up

Brian Hart in Hood River

Jonathan and I both find more satisfaction in sharing our soaring rides with others than in flying solo, and not having a two-place glider we can take to places like Ephrata for cross-country excursions, we began six weeks ago to consider looking for a two-place glider that we can use for cross-country mentorship at Hood River and elsewhere. At just about that time the same time, Evergreen Soaring’s Grob 103 Twin Astir was about to come onto the market because they were upgrading. They offered us first choice. While that sounded like a good option, we did hear it can take up to five people to assemble/disassemble, and that seemed a bit daunting in the event of a landout at Beezley Hills or in a field. So I figured the obvious path was for us to first have Jonathan get checked out in Willamette Valley’s 103.

Choosing the Plane

We did that on June 3rd, when we renewed Jonathan’s WVSC dues, and Mike Bamberg did Jonathan’s checkout. While they were flying, I got talking to Bill & Marge Brickey about it, and they suggested a Lambada (light sport) motor glider they had sold some time ago and also that we talk to Steve Rander about his Ximango. When Jonathan was done with his checkout, he took me for a ride. It was a great ride, although we found that the position of the pilot in the rear seat seems almost fully reclined, and just looking at it reminded us of the warnings that it can be quite a beast to disassemble and move in the event of a landout.

So after the flight together, we headed over to Steve Rander’s place to look at his immaculate Ximango. I have to admit that as soon as I saw it, it took me back to three years ago when I was just about to get Jonathan into gliders for the first time and was dreaming of what I considered the ideal aircraft for us—building a motor glider from a kit. The Ximango’s 17-meter wingspan and side-by-side seating, along with folding wings that can fit it into a regular hangar made it something that I fell in love with immediately. Still, the price was out of our range, so Jonathan went later that week to look at the Lambada. Now, the Lambada has a lot going for it, not the least of which is a 1400-feet-per-minut climb rate. But that Lambada was down for an overdue annual, and the price, once more, was a little out of our range.

But this all did cement the idea of a motor glider in my head, and we let Evergreen know that we would pass on the Twin Astir. At the same time, I went online (Barnstormer’s, I think) and found a Ximango that had been posted for sale that day in Livermore California. Long story short, after a number of discussions with the owner and others, I decided to have Jonathan head down there to take a look and possibly purchase it.

On to Livermore, CA

Now, the full scope of an opportunity tends to creep upon my consciousness by degrees. It occurred to us to ask Jonathan’s Cub instructor at Grove Field, Neil Cahoon, if we could hire him to fly Jonathan down there in his 180. That was agreed upon, at which time it dawned on us that I should be able to go as well. On top of this, Neil could act as safety pilot while Jonathan built additional Foggle (view limiting device) time toward his instrument checkride (coming up in a couple of weeks now).

And then we realized that still left an empty seat and asked fellow Hood River Soaring youth member Kylan Mullis if he would care to join us for the trip. And on top of this, the 180 is 300 HP and would qualify as a path to a high-power endorsement for Jonathan. And if Jonathan wore his Foggles, he could continue building time toward his instrument rating.

After being up with Jim for about 90 minutes—power on & off landings, airborne shutdowns & restarts and soaring, Jonathan returned, and we decided to go ahead with the purchase. So we sent Kylan and Neil off in the 180—where Kylan then got 4 hours’ instruction time and his first power logbook entry back at Grove Field.

But that meant that Jonathan and I did not get out of Livermore until 16:00. We stopped at Red Bluff to top off fuel, then took off again, intending to cut across the pass near Montague and follow the east side of the Cascades back to Hood River. But there we were, still with the Hoffman in Climb pitch, stuck at 5500 feet and watching smoke to the east and mountains to the north that seemed to just keep growing taller. This is when we learned an important lesson: Climb pitch is required for climb-out and landings to ensure sufficient quick power in the event of a go-around,  it is not ideal for reaching altitude. After switching to Cruise mode, we motored our way on up over the smoke to 9,000+ feet by the time Shasta came clearly into view.

…and then crossed Upper Klamath Lake. By this time, we realized Hood River was out of range for the daylight hours remaining. We must have changed our alternates six or seven times as the day had progressed, but eventually it came down to the fact that we were heading to Bend, with Sun River as an alternate if it got dark. We made it into Bend after all and began poking around for a place to tie down. We were able to fold up the Ximango wings and put to good use the one set of unused tie-down chains we found at the airport—which by this time was dark and otherwise abandoned for the night.

Stranded...

So there we were, sitting at the Bend airport at 22:30, six miles from Bend, with nobody else there and no idea where to stay. I called Motel 6 in Bend, and they told me everything was full because there were multiple conventions and concerts in town. So we wandered about the airport a little more in the hopes of some new revelation, which arrived in the form of Larry and Joyce. Just as we were about to try to head out to hitchhike to town to buy a tent at Walmart, a pickup was leaving the airport. I flagged down the driver and asked if he was a local. “Kind of”, was his cautious reply. When I asked if he knew the local accommodation scene, he said he could give us a ride to Redmond, where it was likely that there could be more availability than Bend. And Larry was not a pilot; he had providentially just stopped at the airport for a minute so Joyce could take a drink of water.

But on the way to Redmond, we all got talking, and Larry and Joyce invited us to stay overnight in their home! So instead of sleeping in the Ximango or under the stars, we got a sandwich, a good night’s sleep, and breakfast the next morning in their beautiful home in a gated rural community (maybe Powell Butte?).  And to top it off, Joyce (Jue) is a well-known cookbook author, and we hit it off very well when we got talking about coriander, tamarind, garam masala, dal, and chicken korma—something neither of us expected to be talking about over breakfast in their home at Bend.

Grob 103 Twin Astir Glider
Grob 103 Twin Astir
Lambada Motorglider
Lambada Motorglider
Cessna 180
Cessna 180 used to ferry crew to Livermore, CA
Refueling Cessna 180
Kylan & Jonathan during refueling
Test flight on Ximango
Climbing above smoke with Mt Shasta ahead
Climbing above smoke with Mt Shasta ahead
Mt Shasta from aircraft at 10,000'
Mt Shasta at 10,000'
Altimeter showing 10,000'
Altimeter showing 10,000 feet
Redmond host & hostess to the Harts
Larry & Joyce kindly taking in Brian & Jonathan overnight
Jonathan & Ximango owner
Jonathan and Lary by Ximango in Bend, OR
Ximango landing
Ximango landing in Hood River, OR
Ximango motorglider
Ximango at her new home in Hood River

Larry took us to the airport early the next morning……and we arrived in Hood River from Bend about two minutes before I was due to jump into the ASK-21 with Mark for my final pre-checkride prep flights.

Arrival Home

So there she was, the Ximango in her new home at Hood River:

…to say nothing of Jonathan’s four hours’ simulated IFR time on the Foggles and high-power endorsement earned on the way down and four hours’ power instruction for Kylan on the way back.

It all paid off when Jonathan passed his private pilot checkride a month later on his 17th birthday and his instrument checkride 12 days later.

See what a little creativity with opportunities can do for you and those around you?