Viking School
  Viking School at Miller Flying Service  
The sign out front.


     So when I got it in my mind to buy this airplane, and successfully hypnotized my wife into thinking it was a reasonable thing to do, it logically followed that I should get some one to teach me to fly it.  My raw natural talent for flying is exceedingly modest, and despite years of experience and hundreds of hours it just seemed like a smart thing to get some instruction.  The folklore of flying is replete with stories of cocky guys who hand over the check for their new airplane, take off, and then wipe it out on their first landing.

     12Y was purchased from Miller Flying Service in Plainview, Texas.  Miller's has been selling and fixing Bellanca products since anyone can remember.  I watched their web page for 3 years waiting for the right plane.

On the ramp at Miller's, ready for my first day of instruction.


     When I decided to buy 12Y I thought it would be a good idea to go out to Plainview for a week and fly the plane around Texas for a few hours before I brought it back to Philadelphia.  Not only would it be good for me to get a thorough checkout; but because 12Y had not flown much in the prior 5 years it wouldn't be a bad idea to run it for a bit just to see what would break.  If something did go seriously wrong I would be right there at Miller's, one of the top Viking shops in the country.  This turned out to be a great idea, not because anything went wrong with the plane, but because the experience of  hanging around Miller's was extremely educational.   



                               Cody, my instructor.  What a great guy.

       My instructor at Miller's was Cody Williams.  I simply can't say enough good things about him.  This guy is a great instructor and really knows his Vikings.  He has a few simple maxims and numbers for flying the plane that make it very easy.  If you do what he says you will get the same results he does, and he gets very nice results. 
       After we flew around for a couple of days it was clear he was pretty bored.  I had largely gotten the hang of flying the plane and he was just along for the ride, making helpful suggestions.  We were at 7000 feet somewhere around Lubbock when he said,
       "You know what to do if the airplane catches on fire?"
       As I recall I suggested pooping in your hat and pulling it down over your ears.
      "Naw, " he said, "watch this."  Cody pulled the throttle to idle, simultaneously threw out the gear and all the flaps and put the plane in a ninety degree bank.  Then he pulled the yoke all the way back to his belly, and kept it there.  The plane wound up into an alarming spiral dive.  I looked out the pilot side window at the earth spinning and comming up rapidly.  The VSI went down to the peg and stayed there, the speed was about 120 mph.
     "We are descending at about 4500 feet per minute," Cody said, "when you get to 500 feet above the ground you level the wings and release the back pressure and you are all set up to land in some farmer's field.  Gear's out, flaps out, all you have to do is set it down."  

    Just when I was getting ready to meet my maker Cody leveled out, and there we were, in the landing configuration, going 90 mph, set up to land in a soybean field.  I hope my plane never catches on fire, because I don't know if I have the stuff to do that maneuver.     


         Marlin Miller and I pose for a picture after I handed over the check.

          Actually buying 12Y turned out to be sort of difficult.  The prior owner was in bankruptcy (ed. note: after two years of ownership this makes perfect sense), the plane had been reposessed by the financing bank and the State of Arkansas had a lien against it.  Marlin Miller was very patient and good natured about a difficult transaction and I am grateful to him and think it turned out great.

     The ride home to Philadelphia from Texas was more exciting than I wanted it to be. My brother Scott flew commercial out to Lubbock to help bring 12Y home.  We'd hoped to get from Texas to Baltimore, where Scott lives, and then on to Philadelphia in one day.  We were making great time, but ran into bad weather in West Virginia.  We wound up in landing in Bluefield, WV, after our destination and first alternate were closed down with thunderstorms.  The directional gyro also conveniently chose that time to die and we did the localizer approach into Bluefield partial panel.  We landed with only 9 gallons of fuel remaining.  My log book entry for that leg is uncharacteristically understated:  "Springfield, MO to Bluefield, WV with Scott Sellers-- 2nd alternate. 3.8 hours total time, 1.5 actual instrument."  The rest of the ride home was uneventful.