Van's Homecoming 2009

Homecoming 2009

Every year, Van's Aircraft organizes an event called "Homecoming". This has been a tradition for many years. The idea behind it is that every day, airplanes leave the factory as boxes or crates full of parts. As these kits are completed and turned into flying airplanes, their owners have a chance to bring them "home" from where they originated months or years before. It's a fly-in event, complete with good food, festivities, lots of really great people, and lots of really nice airplanes to look at.

You can read more about it and plan on attending the next Homecoming by clicking here: Van's Homecoming. There will be a link to the Homecoming page as soon as the date is set and plans are being made for the next one.

I've attended several Homecomings in the past, given my proximity to the factory. I'm a "local". This one was really special, though. Earlier this year I made contact with some new friends in Colorado, Scott & Deb Mills. Scott & Deb have a flying RV-9A, and their online travel blogs are very popular, and VERY inspirational. As I read and learned more about this couple, I realized how much Jamie and I have in common with them. I figured we could be good friends. Not to mention, they are now living the lifestyle that we aspire to. You see, it's not really about the airplane. I'm not building an airplane and going to all this work and expense just to have a flying machine. What really motivates and inspires me is the lifestyle. It's the lifestyle that aircraft ownership brings to you. That's what it's all about. It's about freedom. It's about Travel. It's about America and all it stands for. It's about all these things that are near and dear to the heart. I think it's the same kind of thing that Harley Motorcycle riders feel when they hit the open road. That sense of freedom and adventure, wondering what's around the next bend. These themes blend very well with the idea of a homecoming event. So anyway, I began writing to Scott & Deb and sharing their stories with Jamie. I noticed that in all their travels, they had never been to Oregon or the Northwest. So I invited them to come. I offered them a place to stay if they ever ventured out this way. Well, they finally got around to taking me up on it. And not only that, but they brought Gary & Carolyn Zilik with them!

They came on Thursday, August 27th, flying over 1,000 miles in a leisurely day of flying and making several stops along the way. You can read Deb's excellent write-up and see pictures of their fantastic trip by clicking here.

They had previously given me the website to follow their SPOT GPS tracker device, so I could know throughout the day roughly where they were. When they arrived here in Troutdale, Scott called me and I went to the airport to pick them up. We ran a couple of errands, and then came home. We enjoyed the evening with an outdoor barbeque, visiting, and spending some quality time in the shop while Scott & Gary looked at my work. The ladies visited in the back yard with some cold beverages.

Scott & Deb are great people, just as I had figured. It was really nice having them here for a visit and an overnight stay. I really hope we can do it again sometime. Here they are, hanging out in my shop.

The same can be said about Gary & Carolyn Zilik. They were every bit as much fun, and great to have with us. My son Luke nicknamed him "Good Guy Gary".

My son Luke and his wife Andria helped make breakfast the next morning. We had a table full of people and great food, and then it was time to take them to the airport. They had plans for some sight-seeing flying, and a trip to Van's Aircraft for a factory tour before flying down to Independence for the Homecoming weekend.

We had a chance for a couple of group photos before leaving. The picture above is funny because they were leaning on my fuselage, and this was the exact moment that Gary realized that the fuselage was sliding away from them. Another foot or so and the tail end would have crashed to the floor. Yikes!!

It was a better idea to move around to the other side of the airplane. I'm really glad to have these new friends! Jamie and I are looking forward to accompanying them on some of their travels some day.

At Troutdale, I got my first good look at Gary & Carolyn's RV-6A. Very nice airplane. And below, Scott & Deb's beautiful RV-9A.

It was a beautiful morning, and I hung out while they fueled up and made all the preparations for their departure.

I was envious and a bit sad as they taxied out for takeoff, because I'm not there yet. I can't wait for my turn.

They took off as a 2-ship, and that was that. The short visit was over. I was looking forward to seeing them again that night at the Homecoming, though.

Later that afternoon, I drove down to Independence for the Friday night festivities of the Homecoming weekend. I attended the dinner, and it didn't take long to find them. It was a lot of fun visiting, making more new friends, and looking at the planes that had arrived that day. A big highlight was getting to meet a couple of guys that I have been reading about for a long time. I was lucky to have a chance to meet Doug Reeves. Doug is the guy behind Everyone in the world of RV's knows who Doug is. He won a prestigious award this summer at Oshkosh for his contributions to the advancement of aviation. Thousands of people know him. I would have been happy to meet and just shake his hand. But we all attended a hanger dance that night, and since my dance partner was at home, I got to hang out with Doug and talk about astronomy and telescopes, and airplanes, of course. He's just the greatest guy, easy to talk to, friendly, humble, and gracious. I also had the privilege of meeting another well-known guy, Paul "Rosie" Rosales. Rosie and his wife Victoria are among the most well-heeled and well-known people in the world of RV's, having just recently passed 3,000 hours in the RV-6A that they built. They've been everywhere and done it all, and their travel stories are also very popular and well-known. I found him to be just as friendly and gracious as Doug, and they were both genuinely interested in me. There are no snobs in this group. They're just the greatest bunch of people you will find anywhere.

That's Rosie on the left, and Doug Reeves on the right. Great guys! What an enjoyable and inspirational evening this was.

Well, I had to come back the next day, Saturday. I ran into my buddy Ed Lynn from Vancouver, Washington and spent the day hanging out with him. Ed is also building a 7A, and is close behind me on his fuselage. He's a good guy, and I enjoyed the afternoon with him. Those of us who don't have flying airplanes yet can be found walking the ramp, checking out the planes that have flown in. I took a lot of pictures, but I won't put them all on this page. Here's a link to my Picasa Web Album:

Click on the icon ^ above.

Hanging out with Ed Lynn in Van's company RV-7A, talking and dreaming about the day our planes will be finished. This is as close as we came to an airplane ride this weekend. I hope it's not too many more Homecomings before my plane joins the others on the ramp. I'm not sure how much more I can stand it.

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