Winter Blues

What’s that line from the Jimmy Buffett song? “It’s time to close the shutters, it’s time to go inside . . . .” Same here in Michigan right now only where Jimmy was looking for a cold rum drink I am in search of one more layer to wear and a hot cup of coffee.

One would think that I would have come to grips with what happens here in the winters by now. Sixty plus years of life in the “Great White North” with just a few years of interruption spent in the “Palm Tree Zone” should have it burned into my brain by now. I know it’s coming but the only thing I have managed to do to get ready for the inevitable is find myself a heated hangar!

Of course the winters here now really are nothing like those of my youth. Al Gore has an answer for that. I don’t know if Al is right or not. All I know is that if we have any temperatures below about 40 degrees my bobber goes down with no trace until we get a warming trend. I think my tolerance has changed as the years have piled on. In my youth there was skating and sledding and he mountains of snow; later on came snowmobiling, ice fishing and cross country skiing. All good times spent embracing the winter season. That was then. We don’t have near the winters we used to have but still I am punished by them.

Those dark winter months are an awful drag anymore. Everything but the bills seems to slow to a crawl and there is no bright spot because we don’t get to see the sun much either. Between the dark and the cold it’s about as depressing as it can get. Still I persist. Every year vowing “never again.” It’s much like the old hangover prayer, “Lord, I will never do it again.” But the next year, winter arrives and I am still here renewing my vows while I shiver.

But hold on a minute. I am blessed this year to have a project in the hangar and since we have not had much in the way of what I would call “flying weather” lately, we have “closed the shutters and gone inside.” I always have a few things to do on the “Screamin’ Eagle” when I have the time, and March is my annual month for the old girl so that keeps the bug alive in the winter months. This year however, we have spring in the middle of the winter right there at the “Skunkworks” cooing that siren song like a small child, “C’mon, play with me.” My flying pal Brad and I have relocated his Onex project to the Skunkworks and begun the task of pulling together the various scattered bits and pieces we have into a flyable, affordable, toy . .  .er, I mean, airplane.

The past few weeks have gotten me out of the blocks and I am chugging away on airplane parts. With the weather being largely what we here call “shit,” it is a great get away without leaving town. A couple of days at the hangar pecking away on parts is the same mind dump that a few days of vacation could bring. My phone doesn’t work in the hangar (at least that’s my story) so my time there is basically uninterrupted and I lose track completely of what is going on in the world until I open the door to go home and find it has snowed another 3-4 inches and my phone has 47 messages on it.

Still, it is worth the time spent there with my buddy Pappy and flying pal Brad. Puttering along on little parts which become sub-assemblies which become aircraft structure is tedious but extremely rewarding. When I built an RV-8 a number of years ago one of my biggest worries was whether or not I would stay focused enough to finish the project. I was pleased to find that I loved building as much as I did flying. That old itch to build is still present and it was sheer luck and the brotherhood of aviation that brought the Onex to the hangar to scratch my never ending itch.

Parts are beginning to pile up now. Assembly will begin shortly. I look forward to the day that the little bird fledges just outside the Skunkworks door. For now, progress continues when time permits. Here’s a look at the recent progress as well as a look at some trials and headaches and yes; screw-ups.

Keep your nose high in the turn . . .

Capt. “T”

Tom Speerstra

Author: Tom Speerstra

Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and Pappy “the dog” Boyington.