SW Aviator Magazine - April/May 1999 issue
Hangar Flying
by J.D. Huss
by J.D. Huss, Safety Program Manager

A hangar is a building where aircraft are maintained or stored, and pilots “hang around." Maybe the hangar is where that phrase came from. It is obviously where “hangar flying” originated. In the early days of airplane flying, when the weather was bad, the gang sat around the coffee pot and talked about flying. The topics of these informal gatherings ranged from regulations, techniques, instruction, and new ideas to Attaboys and Awshits. That is what we want this column to be: an informal opportunity for us to exchange information. There may be times when we mention names—for praise and criticism. We don’t really want this all to be our work alone, so if you have something you think needs to be discussed, call us at (505) 764-1200.

First of all, I want to thank SW Aviator's associate publisher Kevin McKown for introducing me to publisher and editor Don Mickey. These gentlemen were generous enough to donate a page of their magazine to the FAA’s Safety Program, and we appreciate that.

As you may know—Berl Blair retired from his position as Safety Program Manager (SPM) for the Albuquerque district on December 31, 1998. He has built a new house on some acreage in Ohio and will be calling that home. I’m sure you will join with the members of the District Office (FSDO) and myself in wishing Berl all the best. With his retirement, I have taken over his duties. Although I assisted Berl at several meetings, most of my exposure as SPM has been with the Balloon Crowd.

I would like to introduce our other member of the safety program, Karry Ray. Karry had the good fortune to grow up around airplanes. Both of his parents are pilots; his mother holds an ATP with about 5000 hours in her logbook, and his father has around 9000 hours in various makes and models. Karry took his first official lesson just prior to his 16th birthday and soloed shortly thereafter in a Cessna 150 (N1970M—funny how some things are remembered). At 17 and still in high school, he was a licensed private pilot, authorized to scare the devil out of himself and a few brave friends.

Following high school, the Air Force seemed like the ticket out of a small town in North Texas. It was, and Karry soon found his name on the side of an F-4 Phantom. After a few years as crew chief, he discovered he really enjoyed working on aircraft and obtained his A & P. The end of a four year hitch left him in Las Vegas, where he went to work for Hughes Aviation as a mechanic. Thanks to the VA, the commercial, instrument and multiengine ratings were largely paid for and now Karry’s interest again turned to flying.

In the early eighties, you could earn a living as a pilot do long as you didn’t need to eat or pay bills. Since Karry did, he began flying part time and continued wrenching full time for a small Grand Canyon tour company. When he saw they were making money and figured he could do the same, Karry bought an airplane and started his own charter company. To keep bill collectors off his back, he did aircraft maintenance—on everything from Cessna 152s to Lear Jets—for five other charter companies and a few flight schools. He also towed banners, dropped people out of perfectly good aircraft, and did whatever else it took to make a buck.

After 10 years (about 4000 trips) of flying in and out of the Grand Canyon and 7 years as a business owner, Karry figured he’d pushed his luck as far as it could go. Karry applied for an Airworthiness Inspector’s position and was hired by the FAA in short order. In a 25-year aviation career, Karry has found working for the FAA to be nine of the most challenging and diverse.

I have been an Aviation Safety Inspector for over 9 years—all of which have been in Albuquerque. Although I do not come from an aviation family, I began flying Aeronca 7ACs from a grass airstrip in north-central Illinois at the age of 15. I soloed at 16, and went on to get my private and commercial certificates.

When the Vietnam buildup began, I spent eight years flying helicopters (two tours in Southeast Asia) and became what FAA really stands for: Former Army Aviator. After leaving the Army, several of us pilots started an aerial application business. Our health survived, but the airplane and the finances didn’t!

I went on to become an assistant chief flight instructor and chief ground school instructor for a FAA Part 141 school. A vacation in San Antonio, TX lead to a job as a charter and bank paper pilot. From there, I became a “Street Captain,” flying metro liners for a commuter airline. After that, a stint at running an aviation management company (two airplanes, which required that I finally get my A & P certificate).

Mercifully, this last venture folded, which led me into the best job anyone could ever hope for in aviation: a position as sales/demonstration pilot for Beechcraft. For almost 12 years, I was fortunate enough to fly the entire Beech product line (except the Starship) on demonstrations and for corporations—from coast to coast, up to Alaska, and down to Guatemala. Unfortunately, when the South Tejas “Awl-Biddness” dried up, so did aircraft sales.

The inspectors in the San Antonio FSDO convinced me that—since they were unable to make any of their enforcement actions against me stick—this job in New Mexico would be the place where I could do the most for aviation safety. So, here I am. Since my arrival, I have managed to add a commercial level “Lighter-Than-Air: Free Balloon” rating to my certificate, and I am currently taking instruction with Al Santilli and the Glider Gang at Moriarty.

Okay, so you’re not dazzled by our life stories. What were saying is this: between the two of us, Karry and I have done just about everything that you can do in general aviation except make a lot of money! We both think that flying—no matter what kind of aircraft you are in—is a lot of fun, and we have known for years that the most interesting people you can meet are in aviation. We want to get to know you, your interests, your concerns, and your goals in aviation. We may not always have an immediate answer to your question—or the ability to change an existing regulation—but we will get you an answer or show you how you can start the regulation changing process.

In our office, everyone has a job title; there are Aviation Safety Inspectors, Aviation Safety Assistants, and Safety Program Managers. Note the key word is safety. Together, we hope to form a partnership for safety with the general aviation public in the Albuquerque district.

Click Here To Return To The Beginning Of This Article.

The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.