Cessna 172M – Guest Post

1976 Cessna 172M
1976 Cessna 172M

Today’s guest post is written by James Kirk, who wrote to the show after reading about my recent Cessna 172 preflight checklist problem. I asked him to share his Cessna 172M ownership story with me, and here is what he wrote …

After my retirement from the law dept. of an aerospace company, I got a job a day later with a 35% raise suggesting the power of golden threads attached to retirement benefits. However the new job was about 68 miles from my house and the route by car took me past KLGB at 12 miles and later past LAX  on the 605 Freeway and then the Sepulveda Pass, a trip that took an hour at 5 AM but as much as 3 hours around 4:30 PM. An apartment in the Valley did not work out due to the superheat of the San Fernando Valley in the summer months,  so in 1990, I bought a 1976 Cessna 172M with about 4000 hours on it at that time. My prior time as pilot in command stopped increasing in the mid 1960s at a little over 200 hours, and that experiences was all VFR flying rag covered aircraft and Cessna 150s  back in the 1960s.

Gas in the early 1990s was about a dollar a gallon.  I had a VW so I left it in the heat at KVNY – it did not care.  It always started, even with over 200,000 miles on it. I also had a 10+ year old Toyota and I drove that from my house in Huntington Harbor to KLGB and then flew the 172M to KVNY (about 43 miles) through what is today the busiest air space in the world. On one occasion over the 8 years of commuting, there were two other aircraft reporting in the special air space over LAX but in general there was none or one.  So much for the skies being crowded! Perhaps there really is fake news.

After the first year, an instrument rating came along.  Over an 8 year period, the first round trip extended into about 1500 round trips. Trips were not made when the weather was stupid or when work required my presence at different locations. Violent winds at KVNY i.e gusting to 25 – 30 knots or above,  ceilings under 400 ft, or heavy rain were included in those days that driving to work had to be accepted. There was a photographer for the Daily News, another pilot,  that flew with me and perhaps 3 ladies over the years. We would meet at the plane in the morning and off we would go.  Wheels off the ground to on the ground was about 20 minutes but if we were IFR it took about 50 – 60 minutes.

My Cessna 172M ownership experience was an adventure every time day and night. The seasons changed and the weather rolled into and out of the valley, and when weather permitted and we were VFR we found a lot of different routes that got us from KLGB to KVNY and back.  The weather fronts rolling in off the Santa Monica Beaches and the sight of marine layers reaching the caps of the Santa Monica Mountains and rolling over them like soup into the valley were a few of the spectacular sights motorists never see.

The experience I gained demonstrated that the life of a pilot flying the same route every day can be a very boring job – almost mindless. If it was to be a form of employment, those that fly commercially for the airlines deserve what ever they are paid because they have to deal with the  same type of repetitive work that a machine operator or a commercial bus driver is faced with. Punching a clock and doing the same thing, the same way, the same time, every time … 

Now that was probably not expected – the trick in selecting a career for a living is to get a job that you would pay the employer to do, if  the employer  hired you. Actors, musicians and other performers have that kind of job and so do presidents I guess. In my case, it happened to an old solid state electronic circuit designer, i.e. an aero brasero, who though good fortune or bad received an invitation to take a pay cut and join a corporate patent department as a trainee fall into that category.

My Cessna 172M is showing its years with 5700 hours TT but it would still sell for a little more than I paid for it in 1990, so traveling to work and back for over 8 years did not cost me very much and it sure was an adventure. 

James Kirk

James Kirk

James is registered as an Electrical Engineer in CA since 1974, and has held a CA bar card since 1977. He is a registered as a Patent Attorney at the USPTO since 1979.