It’s just a round number really—it has no intrinsic mechanical meaning. But it’s a milestone, nevertheless—a tribute to almost fifteen years of flying from coast to coast, and border to border, time and time again. I built the Valkyrie to be my “forever airplane”, a machine I would use as my personal steed in the air for the rest of my life. I never dreamed I would build again and again, and share my affections with these other machines to the point where sometimes, the Valkyrie must feel betrayed and neglected. But it is hard to predict the future when you’re elbow-deep in rivets.
Yes, the jet is a fascinating airplane to fly, and yes, Tsamsiyu, the RV-3 is a better aerobatic machine than the Valkyrie. But when it comes time to travel with a week’s worth of clothing, camera gear, and computers, the Valkyrie almost always gets the nod. We have bonded over mountain and prairie, oceans and lakes. We have challenged weather systems stretching for a thousand miles, and flown in glorious clear blue as well as in the gray interior of clouds. We’ve flown low level across the desert for miles – and climbed into the Flight Levels to catch a tailwind that pushed us for over a thousand miles.
The Valkyrie was the first machine I ever owned that I could take upside down whenever I wanted, and we have done a lot of that. From rolls and loops to Cubans and Cloverleafs – she’s a solid machine for the maneuvers I want to do, the maneuvers that don’t hurt my own aging airframe. Yes, the Valkyrie’s younger brother Tsamsiyu is far lighter and more nimble, and truly my choice for an aerobatic session—but the Val is still a solid performer, and rarely leaves the ground for a local flight without pointing her canopy at the ground at least once.
And so….we head off into the next thousand hours, having crossed the magic 2000 just a little north of the Mojave Air and Space Port a few days ago. Cruising along above 12,000’ it was smooth and cool, and I almost missed the event, but thought it appropriate that an Experimental airplane should pass important events in the rarified air of the High Desert.
Rest up Val… next stop – Oshkosh!