The axiom in the subtitle makes most of you smile…or at least a smirk. Not only does it endorse materialism, it also suggests that the pursuit of gaming accumulation is competitive. Although we won’t admit it, most of us accept that not only is such a quest out of reach, nor should it be the centerpiece of our lives. However, it sure is fun to dream. I was lucky enough to spend a day doing this with a classic Piper Arrow stock and about 3,500 classic cars.
For a few years, I bothered my wife with the idea of buying a car to match my birth year. The idea was unrealistic. Storage and maintenance logistics are mixed with the fear of only seeing and not touching such a vehicle. After getting introduced to the world of classic cars through my JetBlue captain friend, Mike Strauss, I realized that some games can be categorized as “drivers”. Drivers still have value, but it can also be enjoyed beyond the confines of the Blue Sky Auto Show on a Sunday in June.
With plenty of oversight from Mike and another mutual friend, Kage Barton, a retired Continental/United captain, I was convinced to pull the trigger on my first classic. The purchase put a smile on my face. As expected, my wife managed a hesitant smile, gracefully acknowledging the acquisition. Interestingly, the seller was 90 years old and worked as an avionics technician in the Navy during the Korean War. He liked the pilots, though we tried to convince him that maybe he should raise his standards. Through him, I quickly assumed the honorable responsibility of becoming the next “Ranger” for the 1957 Chrysler New Yorker.
Now in the world of classic cars, she was invited to the appropriate events, one of which was the world-famous Mecum auction. There, toys are offered in the form of cars, boats, motorcycles, and engines to bid in amounts so utterly ridiculous—from paint challenge to ostentation—that they boggle the mind. For this year, auction venues were at 13 locations across the United States, including live broadcasts and regular TV shows. In January a show was held in Kissimmee, Florida, which provided the opportunity for a 35-minute flight in my 50-year-old classic.
Friendly race for Kissimmee
For those of you who have been following my story of the aircraft ownership problem, Arrow stock returned to operating mode in December after a six-month dip in the single back corner of the maintenance hangar. The AMOC (An Alternative Method of Compliance) was finally awarded after Arrow failed an eddy current check last year – as a result of minor scratches in two bolt holes of the right mast cover that were addressed by an airworthiness steering laid in place as a result of an accident in 2018. The AMOC simply allowed With screw holes not exceeding a thousandth of an inch in diameter, Piper specifications. It’s probably the safest arrow wing in the world right now.
With Mike leaving at Beechcraft Bonanza of Ormond Beach, Florida (KOMN), and I leaving Flagler Beach (KFIN) in Arrow, we coordinated simultaneous arrivals to Kissimmee (KISM). Non-flying passenger Ken Bryan is a local friend and classic car enthusiast. I showed Ken the method of flight—and apologized in advance for any glitch in my driving skills—and assigned him the task of opening the cockpit door in the event of an emergency on takeoff. Aside from the gale-force winds, it was a blue morning sky.
Noting that the Purple Line took us straight through DeLand Airport (KDED) and its associated skydiving, I changed direction to West to avoid a potential encounter with a colorful nylon parachute. My contact with the Daytona Beach Approach to follow the cruise revealed a problem with the Orlando ATC. They had few staff, and it was probably an Omicron-related issue, so there was no tracking flight through Class B airspace – a process controllers would normally accommodate.
Using my new flight deck assistant, ForeFlight, I began a finger tap dance to determine airspace altitudes and the best frequency for observing Orlando’s approach. The West Class B course seemed the best option. Unfortunately it added an extra 10 minutes to the trip, but Ken was enjoying the views anyway. Disney World, with its TFR, was the next potential violation of airspace to be avoided. I later find out that Mike had made an IFR at Bonanza – with his ATC routing advantage – so his only complicated task was to find Kissimmee.
Other than a healthy transverse wind, we have minimal issues. We arrived before him, much to Mike’s dismay. Fortunately, George Vernon, a former American Airlines colleague and retiree, was Mike’s passenger. George testified to the winner of our unannounced air race. I don’t remember working so hard on my flights from JFK to London, but then we didn’t have that kind of fun.
Although the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee used to be an auction house, you might consider it one of the world’s most popular automobile museums. The only difference was that the museum’s pieces were all for sale. In seven hours we saw only half the cars.
Encyclopedia of classic cars
Mike is an encyclopedia of human cars, help with our self-guided walking tour. He has an uncanny ability to get the most obscure details from the body style to the type of carburetor installed. I thought he was just making things up, but so far he has only been wrong twice despite my countless questions. He was properly disciplined for being at fault.
The auction itself, conducted to the melodic rhythm of professional auctioneers, was an incredibly efficient process. Most cars entered the bidding phase for an average of two minutes. A 1959 Cadillac cherry red convertible that sold for $155,000 might have taken another minute after the bidding war broke out. Even though we weren’t sitting in the bidding area, I kept my hand in my pocket.
Because we stayed until the end, it was a trip back to the night sky. Night flying in a single-engine plane is not my usual practice – I spoiled the luxury of a sophisticated jet plane and a competent co-pilot – but I found courage nonetheless. Without the help of the Signature staff, after we had paid our “facility fee” that effectively increased overnight to $50, we walked to our planes located in a dark, remote area of the ramp. We removed the orange shocks and hazard funnels on our private rides.
This time with the support of the IFR flight plan, Ken and I launched into the sky. We were dazzled by the lights below and the fireworks display from Epcot. Despite a malfunction of the rheostat that did not allow the panel lights to be dimmed, I was able to find the runway at home, albeit with a slightly stronger landing than required.
It was a great classic car and a great classic plane day. And no, there is no possibility that I will die with most games.
This article was first published in the Q2 2022 edition of flying magazine.