In 1999 I found myself finally in a position where I could fulfill my life dream. Enrolled in the aviation program of Cochise Community College, started flight training concurrently with ground school, as is customary in a part 141 school. Just days before the end of the year, I got my private pilot certificate.
A few days after, came back to the College with the intention to go fly and was told “no, you can’t fly, because you’re no longer a student here and our insurance only allows us to let our registered students use our airplanes. Since you got your pilot’s certificate, you graduated from our program and we can’t let you use our airplanes.”
Although the southeastern corner of the state of Arizona has a venerable aviation tradition (Douglas Municipal was the first international airport in the USA), and despite the fact there are several airports in the area, there were no aircraft for rent anywhere within 2 hours driving.
Drove two hours to Tucson, only to find very limited options. During my time as a Cochise College student I got spoiled. Their maintenance department was then headed by a good friend of mine and he was a stickler for maintaining those airplanes in tip-top condition. What I found out there available for rent was not up to those standards. They may have been airworthy, but I was not convinced. If I was driving two or three hours each way to go fly for an hour, I was going to be very picky.
Then, someone told me about a very nice FBO in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they had a variety of aircraft, including two brand new Diamond DA-20-C1s (Katanas). Three days after the new year 2000, I was being checked out in one of their Katanas, and I loved it.
to be continued…