World class Mountain Biker and Lightspeed loyalist, Reece Wallace recently shared his story with Lightspeed about the complete excitement (and the unlucky tribulations) of purchasing his dream plane. Reece is a Zulu 3 pilot who will take his mountain bike along for a ride, park his Cessna in the back country and ride the trails – a true adventure seeker. Here’s his story:
For years, I’ve dreamt of owning a tail dragger. The freedom to land at more off airport strips, forward visibility and prop clearance were all very appealing to me—not to mention upgrading from my little two seat 150. As my old bird neared TBO, I decided to sell it and spring for a 1956 Cessna 170b. This was a BIG upgrade for me, but it meant I’d have to travel halfway across the country and over the Rocky Mountains in the winter to pick it up. The trip obviously wouldn’t be as simple as I had planned, as I encountered a radio failure, a fuel leak, an oil leak, and then a full electrical system failure.
The plane was located in the Canadian prairies about an hour north of Regina, Saskatchewan sitting in a hangar in the middle of a farmer’s field.
As soon as I bought the airplane, I found a fuel leak. Because it was slow, we decided to take off and get it fixed en route. However, as soon as we took off, the radio died. I then had to squawk 7600 and fly no radio to the Regina international airport to find an avionics repair shop. Luckily, I had my cell phone onboard, so I called the Regina tower through the Bluetooth on my Zulu 3 and they made accommodations for me to land.
Unfortunately, the radio wasn’t repairable, but I met an avionics mechanic who installed and let me borrow a loaner radio to make it home. This radio, however, wasn’t much better either was it was intermittent at best.
At this point in the trip and even after flying for a few hours, the oil temperature would not climb into the green because it was so damn cold. We then landed on a deserted gravel road and fashioned a make-shift ‘winter kit’ by covering most of the intake of the cowling with duct tape to keep the heat inside. It worked like a charm as the temperature climbed into the green and the cabin finally warmed up past -10°C.
At the next fuel stop, I noticed there was large amounts of oil streaking down the belly of the 170. In the -20°C weather, I looked into the cowling and oil was spewing out of the left mag. Not much I could do about this without having the proper tools, so I topped up the oil and pressed on.
As we neared the Rockies, we landed the plane at a tiny strip in the middle of nowhere to find out the generator died and subsequently the battery. The plane wouldn’t turn on again. Fortunately, there was an old timer at the airport & he jump started my plane with his truck. We then flew it to Cranbrook through the snow with no radios or power with just enough battery to turn on the radio to land in Cranbrook.
After landing in Cranbrook, I tried to get the plane fixed, but the generator was fried and not fixable. Right after this, a big snow storm hit and grounded us until the weather improved.
We were snowed in with no working radio, a fuel leak, electronic failure, and oil leak. Unbelievably, the mechanic gave us the number of a local pilot who let us borrow his hand-held radio to get us home to the coast trouble free after the snow lifted.
It’s been an experience to see parts of Canada I would have never seen otherwise, but more amazing are the people in Canada’s small towns who were more than happy to extend a helping hand to get us home safely. Canada’s small-town generosity is a humbling change of pace from busy coastal British Columbia.
We finally made it home and I got the aircraft the TLC it deserves. I replaced the generator, radio, fuel selector, and magneto gasket. The plane purrs and I’m stoked for more adventures by seeing how many bikes I can cram in it!
You can watch Reece in action in this video where he flies with his Zulu 3 and mountain bike to various remote locations in Canada.
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