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Calmar, Alberta

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The Gull sees farthest,
who flies highest

 

The higher we fly, the closer we feel

 

Mom and Dad at their 50th Wedding Anniversary gathering in 2004.

Lloyd Hughes


January 8, 1929 - September 14, 2005

This site and ChallengerWest are dedicated to the memory of my parents, Lloyd & Louise

Dad loved to fly, and he shared that love with me. 

Mom put up with our mutual addiction to flight!

I have come to know and appreciate that whenever you are flying, it truly is a wonderful world.

It was my Dad who encouraged us to just go for it and build this dealership when we discovered the Challenger in a flying magazine.  For both of us, the Challenger was the answer to a dream long held - to own and fly an affordable airplane.

Dad had the benefit of flying several different "company" planes over his years as a pilot, including  a Cessna 152, a Mooney Mark 21, and a Turbocharged Cessna 337 Skymaster (C-FLHC shown below with Dad in the late 1960's).  Dad started flying when he was able to take a Cessna 152 in on trade on a mobile home from a newlywed couple who both owned airplanes, but no house!  The 152 was used for his ab-initio training, but quickly traded off on a Mooney.  Dad soloed in that Mooney with 8 hours and completed his license in it.  Imagine doing that today in a high performance retractable!

His company was OK with him using the Mooney for business on the prairies, but were not high on him flying in the mountains with it.  Shortly after a business trip to Cranbrook, he was "summoned" to the presence of the company owner, Ted.  The the story as it was told over the years was that Dad was told to get rid of the Mooney.  He said if the plane went, so did he.  Ted told him he meant for him to get rid of the single, and get a twin if he was insistent on flying himself around the mountains!  This lead to the acquisition of the Cessna 337 Skymaster that I more or less grew up in - then a couple of years old for the princely sum of about $38,000!

I remember fondly the many Saturday mornings when he would roust me from sleep to join him on a trip to visit one of his many remote dealers for the day.  Some days we went on big jets (when you're 5, a DC-9 is a big jet) especially when your Dad makes sure you get to visit the pilots in the cockpit.  The best days though were when we went in Dad's plane - the Mooney, or the Skymaster.  That Skymaster was also the enabler for family holidays (Disneyland) and weekend outings we enjoyed.  But, at one point in the early 1970s, the company was sold and Dad decided to change jobs.  Unfortunately, this meant that he no longer had access to an airplane.  Even in the 1970's, costs of general aviation aircraft were prohibitive for all but the wealthy, and Dad was forced to give up flying due to the costs.  He always longed to get back in the air though.

It must have been way back then that my love of flying was first kindled.  On those days he would let me hold the controls, and think that I was flying the plane.  I guess that desire never left me, as I get that same magical feeling now at liftoff when I really am at the controls.

I have flown thousands (seriously, thousands) of legs as a commercial airline passenger, but never really had the intent/will/whatever to be much more than an armchair pilot with MS Flight Simulator until we discovered the Challenger.  I think I must have 500 hours in that simulator, and while it is fun, it is not real, and it never will be.  A few years ago Dad discovered the Challenger, and it was his answer to affordable flying, and the impetus to me to finally put my passion for flight back into action.  

ChallengerWest is our vehicle to share that love of flying with others, and is dedicated to my Dad's ideals - to always do what is fair and what is right. 

It is as much his dream as it is ours - he felt that the Challenger was the perfect answer to low cost recreational flying.  Without his encouragement, Tracy and I probably never would have pursued our pilot's licenses, or built this dealership.  We did it so we'd have something fun to do together, besides just work all the time.  I just wish we had done it many years sooner. 

Some kids camp and hunt and fish with their Dads.  I got to fly with mine, and we talked a lot, all the time, about everything.  Perhaps that is what I miss the most - not being able to call him up and just talk.  After you lose your best friend, who is also your Dad, you have a lot of time to think about things, re-live memories, and wonder.  

It was the fall of 2004 when I first contacted Bryan (National Ultralight) and shared our ideas for what was to become ChallengerWest.  C-ILHC arrived a few months later.  At the time, Dad was pushing me to "get on with it".  I didn't realize it at the time, but I think he must have known he was slowing down and wanted to see things progress so he'd be sure I had something to do that made me happy. 

My Dad was the greatest, and I miss him dearly, but I take some inspiration that I might fly with him again some day from some words that have been my favourites since I first heard them narrated by Sir Richard Harris with my Mom and Dad over the radio one Sunday morning almost 40 years ago.

The Good Lord granted Dad this glorious sunrise on his last morning on this world. 
Maybe he thought it was a good day to fly up higher and home.  

My Daughter took this photo that morning, many hours before Dad's passing. 

Who knows why

From Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach:

Hours later that day, and a couple after Dad had left us, we were on our way east from Mom's.  We saw a prism hanging beneath a cloud.  We all saw it.    I thought it was some Virga, reflecting the Sun.


Tracy said that no, it was Dad, letting us know he was OK.

I took note of the position of the prism, from ours.  It wasn't hard since we were a mile west of town.

Later, thinking about the relative positions, I hauled out three adjoining VNCs.
Plotting the prism and our location at the time yielded a straight line between those two points, CEX3, and my Dad's home town.

Tracy was right.

The mysteries go on ... Tracy is right ...

The Challenger has rekindled my love of aviation, and it is my "Big Grin" airplane.  But, I am now a certified nut about aviation, and the bug has bit me pretty hard.  I have always had a dream to have an airplane-enabled consulting practice (I am an IT Strategist).  So I took the plunge and bought an older IFR 182 to go places fast and in the dark and the clouds, and quickly got my Night and VFR Over the Top Ratings.  I continue to plug away at my IFR rating when time permits.  

Some time ago, I flew our 182 to Swift Current have coffee with my Dad's family and get some cross country hours in for my IFR rating.  I flew over Dad's home town on the way down.  Flight time - just over 2 hours - should be lots of battery in the GPS for the flight home I thought, so no need to plug it in.

Departing for the return after dark, I had gotten the airplane trimmed out at 6,500' and was settling in for a nice cruise home.  I was tracking a VOR outbound and lined up with the reciprocal course in the GPS.  The GPS battery warning popped up, and then the screen dropped.  I was focused on keeping her straight and level and on the VOR outbound as I fished for the 12 volt cable for the Garmin in the glove box (I like having the GPS when I'm on cross countries).  I eventually got it plugged into the GPS and 12v port (those of you who have a Garmin will understand that this is no mean feat in the dark!).

When the GPS powered up, I was right on track - guess the VOR does work!  I finished flying home, and landed in some ground fog.  All in all, a very pretty night flight, and a good test of distractions in the cockpit for a budding IFR flyer.

Later, I powered up the GPS to show Tracy my routing and my actual track down and back.  There was a gap in the track where the GPS had lost power.  That gap gave me a shiver.  You can see it here if you look close.

Years ago, when my Grandma passed away, Dad had driven me out to Pennant to show me where he grew up.  Heading back to Swift Current, I saw the telltale elevators of the next town and asked him what it was called.  He said "Success".  Getting closer, and seeing the scarcity of the place, I asked him why they didn't call it "Failure".  I remember him chuckling a bit, as Dad's do when their kids say stuff like that.  

Turns out the GPS shut down right about "Failure", and I got it powered up right about Dad's home town of Pennant.  I don't think I looked out the window once while flying the attitude indicator, altimeter, VOR and fishing for that plug in, so I probably missed the lights of Pennant that night.  My Dad had a great sense of humour, and I'm pretty sure he was just letting me know that he hadn't forgotten about that night we were together so many years ago, and maybe just letting me know he was still looking out for me.

You can form your own conclusions.  I like to think that my Dad flies with me all the time.  Perhaps that place between here and now isn't so far away after all.  I feel closest to it every time I go flying.

Louise Hughes
January 12, 1926 - December 22, 200
7

We lost my Mom just before Christmas, 2007 on December 22nd.  She left us pretty suddenly, and I'm sad I hadn't gotten C-ILHC done yet so she could see it finished and come flying with me again.

She always checked in on my progress on C-ILHC whenever she was over for a visit, and certainly encouraged me to get it finished.  Mom wasn't a big flyer (she actually hated it), but she knew how much Dad and I loved airplanes, so I did manage to get her up in both Jelly Bean and our 182 - only once in each though, and I am sure that was more than she wanted!  I hope she tells Dad how much fun the Challenger is.

Here, Tracy is giving her a pep talk before the big departure in C-IJBN ...

And no doubt here, she is saying a prayer as I get ready to depart.  I had great plans of taking Mom for one of those Oh-so-Awesome water landings, but the only thing she hated more than flying was swimming, and she knew if she didn't let me put a life vest on her, I wouldn't fly over water!  Mom was pretty amazed at just how much payload a Challenger could carry: an  oversize pilot, full fuel, Amphibs, and Grandma!

Mom and Dad, Clear Skies, and Happy Landings
I'm sure we'll meet again.

Above: Mom and Dad about 1994

My Dad's Sister sent me this. 
She called it "God's way of saying Have a Nice day".

 

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