EAA Chapter 108

RICK BERNARDI  (Sep 2018)

My interest in aviation began at about age 4 or 5 when my father built a piper cub model with a OK-60 engine that was very loud. (I still have the engine!) This was in the early 40’s during WWII.  We lived in Middletown Ct and I remember seeing many warbirds overhead. I didn’t’ know it at the time, but with Pratt & Whitney nearby, many flights were from Rentschler Field. I remember covering my school books with paper bags and decorating them with drawings of P-40, P-47 and P-51s. I was always looking up when I heard an airplane, wishing I was flying. (As I still do today)

Then life gets in the way, fast forward to year 2000. It was time to retire after a career in telecommunications and the wireless industry. Retirement got a little boring sooner than I expected, so I took out my bucket list and turned it upside down and lo and behold there was “learn to fly”. I secretly took flying lessons until I soloed.  One day (after I told my family what I was up to) I invited my son AJ to watch me fly solo. He said “you look like a rock skipping across the pond when you were landing”. After getting my private license I bought a 1959 172 and flew over 100hrs/yr for next 10 years or so. Loved flying to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island for lunch. I’ve also flown over 125 Young Eagles.

 

In the fall of 2012, my son (now a captain in the USAF) offered me the opportunity to live with him and his wife in Vail, AZ. It was there at Lightning Aircraft West, I met Greg Hobbs and the Lightning. I had sold my 172 before I left CT and looking in the mirror convinced me it was time to get into Light Sport. The Lightning fit the bill for me as a nice x country LSA. I took a demo ride and immediately signed up for the dealer assist program. (Perfect for a 74 yr old!)   I started the 5th of May 2013 and taxied the end of July. During this time my son was assigned to Nebraska and we moved the first of August.  I returned to Greg’s a few more times to finish installing the AP and got the air worthiness certificate on 10/27/2013, which happened to be my Dad’s birthday.  I made arrangements with Greg and HL Cooper, a Light Sport CFI, to fly off some hours and provide me with transition training. The following May, a year after I started building, HL and I flew the “Stars and Stripes” to its new home at KMLE. During the trip we spent some time at 13000’, I still had about 6 months left on my medical. N120EB was built as an E-AB now flying as Light Sport.  The Dealer Assist program at Greg’s was an excellent experience. Being able to live just feet away from the build area was unbelievable.

 

 This past June 2015, I flew to Connecticut, and Virginia to visit my daughters and family. I had some 30 plus hours flying time and another great adventure. It took 5 days to get to Connecticut and 4 days to return from Virginia because of weather. Where ever I stopped the “Stars & Stripes” got a lot of attention. Needless to say the Lightning was perfect and efficient, averaging 4.8 gph. In October 2016, my son PCS’d to Eglin and the “Stars n Stripes“ moved to 54J. Looking forward to becoming a “United Flying Octogenarian” this December.

 

 

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