Letting Go

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by Stu Simpson

This guy is not your typical ultralight shopper, I thought to myself. He’s too young. Not one of the older, soon-to-be-middle-aged types that seem to dominate the masses of ultralight flying.

He pulled his car beside mine and stopped. A handsome kid in his early twenties stepped out and introduced himself as Dave. With him was a pretty brunette who seemed almost as interested as he was.

Ninety minutes later, for all intents and purposes, he owned the Beeve. All that remained was the paper work.

We finalized a few details and arranged to meet later in the week to close the deal. He drove away happy to own the Beeve. And I drove away remembering it.

The next few days were filled with mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I was losing what had been a major piece of my life for the past 3 years. On the other hand, with the money from selling the Beeve, I’d be able to build my next airplane. In truth it’s an enviable spot to be in. But I couldn’t help feeling like I’d lost a part of myself.

Your first airplane is like your first love. I know it’s an old analogy, but it’s true. Your first plane shapes your soul and opens your heart in ways you’d never seen before. You become a part of that airplane, and it becomes a part of you.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently remembering the Beeve, remembering the flights I’ll never forget. Like the trip to Radium, B.C. with Todd McArthur and Bob Kirkby. Many people thought we were nuts to fly ultralights in the mountains. But we and our airplanes proved them wrong.

And who could forget the flight home from the ’92 Red Deer Airshow? McArthur and Larry Motyer and I stumbled into, among other things, a thunderstorm. When things like that happen, and you come up smiling on the other end, you gain a tremendous amount of confidence in your airplane.

When you own an airplane, you’re suddenly released from the bondage of renting. You have the freedom to fly whenever you want (actually, its more like whenever your wife says you can). So if one of your buddies phones up and asks if you want to go flying, you simply arrange what time to meet and head for the airfield (if your wife says you can, that is).

Some of my best flying memories center around the flights me & the Beeve made with other UL jocks. Guys like Don Rogers, Fred Wright, Bob Kirkby, and other guys from the flying club. There were times we’d chase each other around the sky, and moments of simple elegance in perfect formation. There were morning and evening flights whose beauty left me breathless. And there were flights that were just so much pure fun and adventure, I sometimes wondered if it was real.

The thing I’ll remember most about the Beeve is the way it felt in my hands. The light controls, the instant response. It’d go right where I asked it to. Always. With 40 horsepower, it climbed like a bat. And it never had trouble with crosswinds. It was incredibly easy to land (Rogers still thinks it was my superior skill). In short, the Beeve was just so easy to become a part of.

Despite all the Beeve’s virtues, it was time to let it go. It came down to a choice between making extensive modifications, like adding a more powerful engine and an enclosed cockpit, or buying another airplane entirely. When I crunched out the numbers I realized that selling the Beeve and building new would amount to the same overall expenditure as modifying it. But building new would give me more in the long run, like re-sale value and growth potential.

I decided there were certain things I wanted in my next airplane. An enclosed cockpit was paramount. I got really tired of that 65 mile per hour winter wind chill in the Beeve’s open air office. My new plane had to be a tail dragger and it had to be able to accept a Rotax 503 (cuz that’s what I had to put in it). I wanted something a bit faster than the Beeve because other guys in the club are speeding up as well. And finally, it had to be inexpensive to build.

I settled on the T.E.A.M. HiMAX after extensive consultation with Chris Kirkman and Knute Rasmussen. Kirkman built a miniMAX a few years ago and was very pleased with the results. Knute eventually bought the MAX from Chris and showed it to me a few months ago. I made up my mind right then I would build one as well, though I opted for the high-wing version because of the larger cockpit arrangment.

Construction of the HiMAX is underway now and that’s helping to put the Beeve behind me. I was lucky to have owned it and I hope the new owner is as appreciative of it as I was.

It’s time for me to move on to another plane, but I’ve still got lots of photos and logbook entries to peruse whenever I miss the Beeve. And I’ve got the memories. That’ll make it a little easier to let go.

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