Barnstormers Logo ISSUE 595 - August 2019
Over 9,000 Total Ads Listed
1,000+ NEW Ads Per Week
  Home     Browse All Classifieds     eFLYERs     Events     Testimonials     Post Ad     Search Ads  
BARNSTORMERS eFLYER… a collective effort of the aviation community.
YOUR photos, videos, comments, reports, stories, and more…
Click to Subscribe

*If images aren't loading, please try refreshing your browser.
San Diego's Mia Noi
By Daron Cristy

We all have hangar stories. As a green pilot, most of mine are still waiting for the ink to dry on the pages. This is my Mia Noi story.

On April 24, 2017, I received my student pilot license. Determined and excited to get my private pilot license, I started looking at what types of planes I could buy. I wanted a plane that was FUN. As a member of a local flying club, I had access to all of the Cessnas and Pipers that I could ever want; practical, yes, but fun... um, not quite!

Have you ever seen the movie Secondhand Lions? Who could not admire two crazy old guys flying (unlicensed) a classic biplane with reckless abandon? If you have not seen that movie, well, it is a must watch.

My search began. I researched every biplane I could find, from the mild to the wild. The Stearman is classic but needs a big hangar, plus that huge radial engine sucks down the avgas. The Meyers is very similar. Then there is the Pitts, so much fun but a little unstable for a rookie pilot. Even came across the 1929 Mutual Blackbird (factory production of just one unit) that had even at some point been restored by the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

After all this, there was just one that fit all of my criteria: not too big, not too small, stable, relatively good on the avgas, and yet fully aerobatic. That was the Great Lakes Sport Trainer-certified, not experimental-based on the 1930 design, now powered by a Lycoming AEIO-360.

After looking around for nearly a year (even internationally) and flying all over the country to see various Great Lakes, I had yet to find the one. There had to be the right plane for me somewhere.

I figured out that plane ownership comes in three main stages...

Stage One. Purchased an airplane, flies regularly and life is good.

Stage Two. Own an airplane, but it does not get flown regularly. Should sell it but just cannot bring oneself around to advertise it, not quite yet. Perhaps in the near future one may get more opportunity to fly it. This stage can run anywhere from a few weeks to twenty or more years. The true procrastination stage.

Stage Three. This is the final stage of plane ownership, where one knows that it should be sold and is actively advertising it for sale.

I reached out online this time; perhaps there was someone in Stage Two. I had a few replies but nothing that grabbed my attention. Then after a few days, the email arrived... Someone was thinking about selling their Great Lakes, but it almost sounded too good to be true: very low hours, always hangared, in great condition, and it was also in the process of having a Dawley heater installed (total decadence for a Great Lakes). In fact, this plane was one of the last ones factory built in the 1980s.

But the crucial part, could I even afford it? More to the point, could I afford the insurance (student pilot, tail-wheel plane, certified acrobatic)? Well, by some miracle it turned out that, yes, I could.

That was it... I flew up to see her. Spent the day looking over the plane and talking hangar stories. The owner had been unable to enjoy the biplane but was stuck in Stage Two. The plane's name was Mia Noi. So why Mia Noi? Well, the owner was married to a Thai lady, and the Great Lakes was his Mia Noi (Thai for mistress or second wife). To top it off, the red, white, and blue paint colors are also the national flag colors for Thailand. What a perfect combination.

We agreed on the terms, shook hands, and this fantastic Great Lakes was mine. I just had to figure out how to get her safely to San Diego.

Returning to San Diego, I contacted Pawel Miko, a local instructor (also a Great Lakes owner), who agreed to ferry the biplane back. (I had yet to get my pilot license, let alone a tail-dragger endorsement).

On April 23, 2018, I was granted my private pilot license. One day short of a year—not too shabby.

A mere five days later, Miko and I stood in the airport ready to go get a biplane. Miko then asked how the engine sounded. Moment of truth - I had never heard the engine run! Yes, we were going to pick up a plane that I had never seen fly or even heard run. I reassured Miko that if there were any reason that he felt uncomfortable about flying the plane, then we would just hop back on the commercial airlines and come back to San Diego. I swore I would not whine or complain about his decision. "But Miko, wait until you see this one; you are going to like it a lot."

After a good drive from the airport, we pulled up to the hangar. Miko at last was able to lay his eyes on his transport home.

Upon a thorough inspection, Miko was more than happy with the condition of the plane; however, one of his concerns was that the plane had not been flown inverted for a long time. Not much hope for a system that had not been used in nearly twenty years, but he needed to do a comprehensive test flight. Up he went. Returning forty-five minutes later, Miko had one of those childish grins from ear to ear. How did it go? Awesome, she flew great, handled amazingly, and even made better oil pressure inverted! As close as one could get to owning a new Great Lakes without actually buying one.

That evening we went over to the owner's house, where his wife had prepared some authentic Thai cuisine. We enjoyed some wine from his vineyard. As we were leaving, we were given the keys to the hangar; he said that we were leaving "too early" in the morning. However, I suspect that the real reason was that he did not want to see Mia Noi fly away the following day.

Sunday morning Miko flew the biplane back, taking a small diversion to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge and making a stop to say a quick hi to Howard Kirker, who flies a Great Lakes in intermediate aerobatic competition.

The evening of the twenty-ninth, Mia Noi landed at Montgomery Field, becoming a resident of San Diego.

Mia Noi takes to the skies frequently (Stage One of the ownership cycle). Over 130 hours in type and counting, the story continues on a daily basis... Just living the dream. If you are in San Diego, look up and you might see her flying by or even doing acrobatics over El Capitan Reservoir.

By Daron Cristy -
Return to eFLYER
Visit - post an ad to be viewed by more than 1,000,000 visitors per month.
Over 20 years bringing more online buyers and sellers together than any other aviation marketplace.
Don't just advertise. Get RESULTS with Check out the Testimonials
Registered Copyright © 1995-2019 All Rights Reserved.