Monday, November 23, 2009

Last Chance Saga Ends

It was a bittersweet day in October 2009, when Bill finally sold the "Last Chance" to a father and son from Marshalltown Iowa. The dad is already a pilot and the son is working on his license. Rich went with Bill for a final flight over his farm and Bill piloted the plane and made a pretty fair landing to boot. All good things eventually come to an end and there will always be those great Alaska memories to carry into the future. It's been an emotional ride in so many ways and the spiritual aspects of this whole saga have been quite remarkable. Thanks to all who followed our journey and encouraged or helped in any way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Storm, Hard Winds and a Heavy Heart

This is to update everyone on the status of Bill and the "Last Chance".

Near the end of July '08 a very bad storm rolled through Bill's farm. Leaving torrential rains and a trail of debri from heavy winds. Bill spent the day cutting up trees off his driveway. That evening his daughter called and noticed he was not talking coherently so she called a neighbor who came over quickly and found Bill in trouble. Taking him to the local hospital it was determined he was suffering a stroke. After months in the hospital and rehab and spending this past winter with his daughter in Chicago Bill is now back on the farm. Bill flew for the first time since his stroke with Rich on June 28,2009. Bill is much better and flew well considering all the health problems. It is with a heavy heart that Bill has decided to put the "Last Chance" up for sale realizing that he probably will not be able to convince the FAA that they should give him a license due to his stroke history. If you know of someone wanting a great little airplane with an illustrious past this could be the girl!!(She knows the way to Alaska Too!)
It was great to have been able to make this incredible journey and the timing was perfect. Keep Bill in your prayers and may you always have a tailwind!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Two Tired Pilots and Catch-Up (Summary)

Sorry that this summary of the trip took so long but when the guys arrived home the work waiting for them to catch-up on was staggering. Both men have farms and it was haying season so you can imagine how busy they have been. Thanks to all our fans who have waited patiently.
The "Last Chance" flew a total of 5400 hundred miles, give or take a few and exactly 70 hours. The only aircraft issue was when the oil inspection door came open on take off from Northway on the return trip. This was due to the hinge pin working it's way out. A quick landing and reinstalling the pin fixed that with no damage to the door. Not bad for a 1968 Cessna 150! The old girl burned 397 gallons of fuel and 7 quarts of oil for a 5.7 gph average. Total fuel costs were $2,540.00 and the average price of fuel was $6.40. Oil costs were $4 to $8 per qt. Total cost for the trip was $4,446.70. Motel rooms were the biggest expense after the fuel costs. The motels ranged from $40 to $100 a night. The only side excursion the fellas took was a half day guided salmon fishing trip that costs them $150 each. Cars were rented in Fairbanks and Wasilla, Alaska for $40 per day plus fuel. Laundry was dropped off twice and costs were $40 total. That leaves around $600. for food for 15 days. Rich did a oil change and 100 hour inspection on the plane when they returned to Macon and nothing unusual was found. There you have the logistical and practical breakdown of the trip. The emotional and spiritual side of this adventure may be a little harder to decipher.
After 70 hours together in the small cockpit of the "Last Chance" and 15 nights in a motel room the guys found out for sure that they are compatible companions. Military training, life experience and age all played a role in their ability to get along in such close quarters. But it was the military bond that played a significant role in this odyssey. Remember, Bill was a bomber crewman in WWII while Rich's Dad was a fighter pilot in the same war. Rich served in Vietnam in the Army. The guys met up with two new Annapolis Navy ensigns and then two Vietnam vets and they all flew into Alaska together before going their seperate ways. Then while flying through "Windy Pass" near Denali park, 10 Blackhawk helicopters deploying to Iraq flew below them as they were circling to gain altitude. When they arrived at their last stop in Canada to retrieve Bill's gun they met Glenn Heisler. Glenn had flown in Lancaster Bombers over Germany for the English. It's hard to ignore the possibility that maybe something was going on here we can't quite put our finger on.
There were so many interesting and kind people met along the way. Some extended a generosity that took both men by surprise. Thank you Steve Mahay and Gloria Peterson. Everyone was exceptional in their welcome and service. The Canadian people were outstanding and the folks in Alaska the best of America!
If you have a dream that you want to accomplish but can't seem to make it happen here's how. Make it a priority. Put it on the calendar and start planning towards that goal. Put some money aside, take on some extra work to get the funds. Get a partner who shares the dream. Pray about it. Get your family to support it. A wise man was once asked near the end of his life if he had any regrets. "Only one" he said, " I wish I had taken a few more risks in life."
Thanks to all who helped make this trip possible. Thanks to everyone we met along the way and especially to those who helped make this dream trip special. May you all be satisfied with life!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I offer my congratulations to both of the "fellas" for carrying off such an interesting expedition.  It's been great fun following the trip, and I must admit that I particularly enjoyed reading about the interactions with other Air Force fliers such as the "sleepy Ensigns" and in particular,  Glen Heisler.  It certainly brought a smile to my heart to read that one.  And yes, I hope you can get a copy of Leah Miller's newspaper article in the Lakeside Leader of Slave Lake.  That's definite scrapbook material.  What a wonderful trip!  Hat's off to you both for a very entertaining journey, very well done!

Way to go, dad!


5,600 Miles Of Memories The Oddossey Is Over

Getting a late start the guys took off from Minot North Dakota into low ceiling and the threat of rain. The wind was howling but fortunately from the west so they had a good tailwind as they began their last flight day. With a bumpy ride and dodging rain all the way to Aberdeen the fellas landed for fuel in a strong crosswind. The good folks at Quest Air again had the guys gassed up and on their way quickly. Both men were now anxious to be home. Wind and rain dogged them all the way to Storm lake where another strong crosswind awaited them on final approach. Bart from Bart's flying service was quick to get the "Last Chance" refueled and the men began the final leg into Macon. About half way there the winds began to abate some and by 6:10 pm they landed at home with very little wind. The oddossey was over! After exactly 70 hours of flight time the "Last Chance" had carried the men to Alaska and back. So many special memories along the way, many amazing sights to see as well as great people met. We are begginning to wonder if Bill and the "Last Chance" may have set some kind of record, like the oldest student pilot (87) on the longest dual cross country (apprx. 5,600 miles). After a few days of catch up at home there will be a final blog summarizing the experience. Thanks to all who followed the guys and cheered them on, it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Two Very Lovely "Vegas" Gals

Jessica (on the left) and Karrie welcomed the guys to the "Vegas Motel" where they were well-taken care of. A really great place to stay and to eat if you are in Minot North Dakota. These two will take care of everything!! Thanks girls you really are sweet!!

Another Great Canadian Lineman

Jeremy Simonson met us on the Regina ramp with the fuel truck and quickly got the "Last Chance" topped off. Jeremy is a pilot and we think he is now pondering Alaska maybe!! Hey Jeremy thanks for a great Canadian welcome to Regina! Tailwinds!

Two of The Mighty Lancasters & B-17's Best

Bill and Glen Heisler were shocked and surprised to meet on the ramp at Regina. Both men had served in Bombers during WWII and were gunners. Bill also did time as a bombadier. Glenn flew in the Lancaster which did almost exclusive night bombing and Bill in B-17's. These guys could have talked all day. Great to meet you Glenn and may God richly bless you!!

A Newspaper Interview, Weather and War Stories

The guys awoke to a beautiful day in Slave Lake Canada. Entering the motel lobby for a continental breakfast before they left for the airport, the owner of the motel
handed Rich the phone and said, "It's for you." Puzzled, Rich answered and it was a reporter from the local newspaper who had gotten wind of their arrival and wanted to interview the men and do a photo shoot. Lovely Leah Miller, reporter for The Lakeside Leader, arrived to take the men to the airport and do the interview. After saying goodbye to Sam Parks the owner of the Lakeside Motor Inn the guys put their gear in Leah's pickup and rode to the aerodome.
While Leah was interviewing Bill, Rich preflighted the Last Chance and taxied the plane up to the terminal. After more talk and pictures the fellas said good bye and lifted off for Lloydminster Canada. Two and a half hours later they were landing for fuel and a break. The next stop would be Regina where they had to leave Bill's rifle when they entered Canada on the way up. Rich filed a flight plan while Bill called customs about the Winchester. With everything set they battled strong crosswinds on take off but the Last Chance rose faithfully on her course. The Gps weather was once again working and showed lots of rain ahead. Entering the area of precip the plane fought turbulence for 100 or so miles and the guys dodged active cells all the way into Regina where it was marginal VFR.
After landing Bill went in to call customs and Rich arranged for fuel. While waiting for customs to show up with the gun, an airport security man approached Bill and Rich and they began telling him their story. He smiled real big and said, "Hey, I flew for the Canadian air force attached to the RAF in Lancaster Bombers in England during the second war." Turned out Glen Heisler was 83 and had been in the war from 1943 till the end. Bill and Glenn began swapping tales and was it ever a special moment for both men. Who could have guessed that just before they crossed the border into the U.S. the guys would meet another bomber crewman who was a mid-upper gunner and served when Bill did. What a fitting way to leave and what a special memory to have. Glen, it sure was great to meet you and we wish you the best. Thanks for helping to make the world a better place!!
Jeremy Simonson of Shell Aerocenter got the plane refueled and after filing another flight plan the guys were off to Minot North Dakota and entry back into the states. Dodging several rain cells as they climbed out it began to rain heavy at the airport as they departed southeast. Rain was intermittent for the entire flight and they landed at Minot ahead of schedule. The tailwinds had held for the entire day and put them a day ahead of schedule.
Landing at Minot two linemen were waiting to tie the plane up as they pulled into the ramp. Strong looking weather was headed for the airport and they wanted the plane safely tied down. Officer Elliot of the customs dept. showed up and began his check of the men's credentials and the contents of the plane. Helpful and efficient the officer had the men through customs quickly.
Calling the Vegas motel the men waited for a shuttle to pick them up. The van pulled up and they were greeted by Karrie who had them quickly loaded and to the motel in no time. Meeting Jessica at the desk she got the guys checked in and both girls gave Rich time to photo them.
With bags in the room the men went to supper in the motel restaurant and were served by Sharon. A real class act is this restaurant! The service and food were superb. If you are ever in Minot North Dakota be sure to stop at the Vegas motel and eat at the "Sevens Bar And Restaurant" you won't be disappointed. Ask for Sharon and she will see you get plenty to eat. Thanks Karrie and Jessica for a sweet welcome and Sharon for a banquet fit for a king!!
After a sumptuous Walleye dinner with bread pudding and cheese cake the guys have settled in for a good nights sleep.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Mike" - Another Can West Best

Mike from Can West gave the guys a ride to the motel in Slave Lake. Mike is a commercial pilot and recently moved to the area from Toronto.
Thanks Mike, for a the ride. May you always have a tailwind!