Helping Out

Aviation is about friendship and continued education.



It just so happened that my good friend Roger Tonry had both his BFR and annual inspection for his Grumman Tiger due at the end of July. Since I’m a flight instructor and have done some owner assisted annual inspections before myself, I decided I would help him out with both. Roger has owned his Tiger for well over a decade, so I knew this would be fun, easy and educational for both of us.

Roger’s Tiger is parked in a hangar at Whiteman Airport (WHP), which is about 25 miles from Santa Monica Airport (SMO). Since the freeways are often not moving, Roger flew over to meet me at the Typhoon restaurant at Santa Monica Airport one afternoon where we did the required hour of ground over lunch. For the most part, Roger knew his stuff. But there were some things that I managed to add to his mental aviation library. After some Goi Cuon (rice paper wrapped shrimp and vegetables) and Thai Iced Tea, we took off from Santa Monica and did some maneuvers over the Malibu shoreline while admiring a beautiful wooden tall ship that was anchored off shore. We then did a few precision, no power landings to finish off what was, as expected, an easy BFR.

A few days later, the Tiger had already been taken apart and looked at by the mechanic. So I went to help Roger put the pieces back together. Even though it was a Sunday and traffic would likely be light, I didn’t want to drive from the West side of Los Angeles, through the valley, all the way to Whiteman. Like the day of Roger’s BFR, it was perfect SoCal weather, with severe clear conditions, light winds and not too much heat at either Santa Monica or Whiteman. Why drive when I could fly?

Having access to a Cessna 170, it was my first choice. With the great fuel efficiency of the Continental C-145 engine and the fun qualities of a taildragger, the 170 is a perfect LA commuter airplane, in my opinion. The stellar weather conditions made the flight fun and easy, and I made a nice landing on the slightly challenging runway in Whiteman, which presents power lines, trees and buildings on final and a runway half the width of Santa Monica’s.

Roger and I spent the afternoon reinstalling inspection plates, wingtips, wheel pants, fairings and the tail cone. My previous owner assisted annuals have been with airplanes where I didn’t have to remove any light fixtures. It’s funny how exciting it is to see the lights come on after they’ve been reattached. I felt like a kid building a model airplane. It’s also interesting figuring out how to the pieces fit together and how best to get fasteners and screws to meld.

At the end of the day, the experience was probably more fun than learning, but we both enjoyed our aerial visits to each others’ airports and we got some work accomplished as well. Friends, fun, flying and learning. That’s what aviation is all about.