The End of an Era - Shutting Down Cloud Nine

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Ted, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    I have made the decision to shut down Cloud Nine Rescue Flights after over 11 years (roughly 12 years since my first dog flight back in the Mooney), over 3,000 homeless pets saved, and 4 different aircraft.

    This is not a decision made lightly and one that I have been considering for some time. However the more I say it the more confident I am it is the correct decision.

    I started Cloud Nine back in 2009 with the clapped out old Aztec I bought as my first airplane. In those early years (back when I was single and pre-kids) I flew a tremendous amount. 2010 had 35 transports total, mostly in the Aztec although some in the 310 that was donated in August of that year. I put 900 hours on the Aztec in 3 years, almost entirely flying homeless pets and spanning coast to coast, doing as far as LA to NYC in one day in that plane, and flying 30 hours in a 48 hour period (not single pilot - Danos was along for that one) going to Cozumel and back to PA. 50 hours in one week going from PA, Florida, Cozumel, Colorado, back to Cozumel, and then back home via Florida and New York. I flew that plane to remote gravel strips in northern Quebec flying veterinarians and vet techs and had a goose poo on the windshield at 6,000 ft in IMC, which wasn't comforting in the least.

    In 2010 I was approached by a man I'd met at the airport about donating his 310 he'd owned for 25 years but was having a hard time selling with timed out engines. He had upgraded to a T310R that he upgraded to a Ram IV. This was the first big change for Cloud Nine, and with the Aztec aging (pushing 10k hours TTAF, and it showed) the 310 is what allowed us to keep going. The extra speed made longer trips more doable, and we fell into a routine of doing trips from Houston to the northeast as a milk run (standard milk runs in the Aztec were the Carolinas to the northeast). The 310 continued the adventures, going as far south as Belize, going to Seattle, all over.

    Upon moving to Kansas we'd gotten the 310 to a point of essentially being in top condition with new engines, a nice panel, but it had never really fit the mission well due to the smaller cabin. With increasing trip requests to the west coast and other destinations in the Rockies, a naturally aspirated piston twin wasn't fitting the bill for capability to provide reliable transports over that area. This prompted a decision to move towards a cabin class piston twin, and with the help of a local friend I found a 414 that was a good candidate. The 310 never made it to the market publicly before selling and we closed the deal on the 414.

    The 414, while a necessary step, was a mechanical nightmare and the only plane to ever try to eat me out of house and home. It spent more time broken than functioning and while it was a milestone to fly a cabin class pressurized piston twin, owning it was extremely stressful. We only owned that two years and 250 hours, and it spent more time in the shop than flying. However I got to hit another milestone with that plane, of upgrading to 4-bladed MT props. Those were fantastic. That plane responded to Hurricane Maria down in St. Croix... and dodging night thunderstorms around the Bermuda triangle with no on-board radar or weather download (or stormscope) was... not fun.

    Just when I wasn't sure if we'd be able to keep on with the 414 due to it needing a top overhaul (and we were given a great opportunity by RAM on overhauled engines), the conditions were right and we were able to acquire the MU-2. Talk about another milestone and item off the bucket list, I had always wanted to fly the MU-2 and it's proven the best, fastest, and most reliable aircraft we've ever owned and operated.

    And for that reason, the decision to shut down and sell has been one I've spent a long time thinking about and had much uncertainty over. This is a one-way ticket and it's unlikely I'll ever be able to be in a position to fly an MU-2 again, certainly not in the capacity of having complete operational control. Even jumping back into the piston twin world, while probably doable, is not something I see happening in the future. However, Cloud Nine has also taken its toll on me. The stress of being financially responsible for an aircraft that I absolutely cannot afford (and without the donations sufficient to support it) has been a constant struggle for a decade. I hate asking for money, and always have. We've had several times when finances were such that I didn't know if we'd be able to continue and we'd be forced to shutdown. And then with the MU-2, there's the constant looming threat of a $50k+ failure that would scrap the airplane anyway.

    But on top of that the kids aren't getting any littler, my wife and I aren't getting any younger. For years, Cloud Nine was an adventure. Now it's turned into something that prevents new adventures. I've been doing the same thing for 11 years, climbed the mountain, met the goals. But I've never had the time or bandwidth to fly taildraggers, fly gliders, get my seaplane rating. I want to share aviation with the kids and an MU-2 is precisely the wrong plane for that. The trips I do are too long, and while they've enjoyed them, the balance has meant far more time of me doing the trips solo or away from the family. I want to take my wife places with the motorcycles and we can go do some fun rides on the twisties like we used to, we want to do downwind dashes (inspired by @tonycondon ) and chase with the RV. The kids have been exposed to animal rescue and someday in the future maybe it will be right to get them involved again. But for now, the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

    I will post a for sale ad for the MU-2 in The Classifieds. We will need to sell it and hopefully I can get Cloud Nine closed out by the end of the year.
     
  2. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Don't blame you a bit Ted. Congrats on a good run and here's to the next chapter in your life.
     
  3. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    100% behind your decision! Enjoy a less stressful life and much more time with the little ones!
     
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  4. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Best wishes, and many thanks from all the furries you saved. Much has been added to your karma bank.
     
  5. TCABM

    TCABM Pattern Altitude

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    It was a good run and something to be proud of, Ted. I’m sure it’s bittersweet, but business decisions are just that...business.
     
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  6. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I’m sad to see operations cease, but you’ve certainly had a very successful run and I know a lot of people are thankful for providing the service you did. Way to go!
     
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  7. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I have walked away from things I loved, racing, flying for a living.. I walked away from each one with tears in my eyes, but with new sunrises in the future.

    I have had a little regret but also I knew that new adventures is what I do.

    Be proud of what you have done in the past, job well done. But understand it is time to move on to new adventure, and do so with anticipation.
     
  8. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Sorry to see it close down, Ted, but there are other life considerations. You did a good service, but you are making the right decision.
     
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  9. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Administrator Management Council Member

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    It's the end of an era for all of us as we've watched along and rooted for Cloud Nine, pretty much my entire time flying has been spent looking up to C9. Even if it doesn't feel like it now I'm sure you'll look back fondly on this part of your life and what you were able to accomplish. In the end you've got so much else to do, and at this point it is holding you back from being able to accomplish more, like you said, the adventure is done.
     
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  10. Witmo

    Witmo Pattern Altitude

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    Best wishes for this next chapter in a life well lived. You're an inspiration to many.
     
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  11. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    Good show man.

    You will not regret the time and brain energy refocused on family. Kids come and go in a flash.

    Enjoy, and congrats.
     
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  12. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    I've always admired what you've been able to accomplish, but always wondered how much effort it took to keep something like that moving. Good luck on your future endeavors.

    Too bad I'm not in the market for MU-2 though...
     
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  13. GMascelli

    GMascelli En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Congrats on a great run saving so many pets. You and Laurie along with the pilots who have logged time, the behind the scenes helpers, and those who contributed made a lasting impression.

    It's time for a new adventure, with family. Time keeps moving forward and as you pencil in new goals you can fondly look back at the hard work you dedicated your time to, and the fur kids you saved.

    Bravo Zulu!
     
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  14. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Ted, I know how you feel about unplugging from something you feel passionate about. I'm struggling with the same issues as you with some volunteer efforts I'm involved with as well.

    On a related note, have you seen a significant downturn in demand for animal transports? I'm noticing the groups I fly dogs with very rarely have transport requests, and when they do, it's only a single dog. A few years ago I was pushing at least a 1/2 dozen each flight. We've been passively looking to backfill a place in our heart and home for our beloved Baxter, whom we lost two years ago. It seems the pandemic has created a shortage of adoptable rescue dogs. I guess that's a good thing.

    Good luck with the organizational wind down and aircraft sale.
     
  15. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    When it's time, it's time.
     
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  16. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    Wow.

    That said, congrats on a great run! Good luck on the sale.
     
  17. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    Over the years I've had a lot of people approach me, looking for me to tell them how to start a non-profit and do like I did. I've told them two things: 1) it's a full time job (and then some) that you'll never get paid for 2) if I have to tell you how to do it, you're probably not going to be successful

    Tough love, but both are true. Over the years I've seen a few people who I've talked to start their own non-profits, and I would say that none of them have been successful.

    I can say I've seen a lot change over the years. For one, I've seen a lot of areas that were very high kill areas transition into no-kill status, or get very close to that. Transport hasn't been the only part of it, but it's been a significant part.

    Over the past few months specifically, COVID has changed things like it has for everything else. I had about a 3 month period when didn't fly for Cloud Nine at all, zero transports and zero transport requests. During that time our partners weren't sending or receiving. Since then my groups have returned to normal, however they've all implemented protocols for masks. Some are determined by the organizations themselves, and some are determined by state veterinary authorities, some have been determined by other partners involved. Regardless of how you look at it, it's different.

    That said, there's also always been a cyclical aspect to transports. I've found summers are usually slower because a lot of the volunteers have families and are doing family things during the summer. The school year has tended to have more transports.
     
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  18. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    I do appreciate everyone's support on this - both of Cloud Nine as an organization but also of my decision to hang up my leash. It does mean a lot to me.
     
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  19. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    :(

    That's all I've got.
     
  20. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    Bonanza.
     
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  21. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    [​IMG]
     
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  22. Bill

    Bill Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    OTOH, I can see a Cub or Champ or Citabria or ... <insert favorite tail dragger here>
     
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  23. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 En-Route

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    You can walk away tall from this one Ted. Well played.

    Also, how about an L-19 Bird dog.

    Let the dog transport Ted for a change ;)
     
  24. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Turning a page like you just did always reminds me of this:



    DSefSJBX4AA_qIP.jpg
     
  25. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Administrator Management Council Member

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    Not sure if its in Ted's budget, but I think that's a great idea if it is!
     
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  26. CharlieD3

    CharlieD3 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Ted.
    Don't know you... But, reading that gave me a sense of what type of guy you are.

    You should be proud of your accomplishments, and maybe a bit reluctant to hang it up.

    Good for you... Enjoy what's out there.

    Best wishes!
     
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  27. charheep

    charheep Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds like you thought on this and didnt do it lightly. You are making the right choice based on what you wrote. Its not easy to close a chapter but if your heart isnt in it anymore and the love is gone, you are doing the exact right thing to stop. Worse thing people could do is to try to hang on and just make things worse.

    Its almost nothing I understand, but I agree with your choice.
     
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  28. charheep

    charheep Line Up and Wait

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    But what about the monkey? Who is going to transport that...
     
  29. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    I haven't priced the L-19. But something maybe.
     
  30. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    Sounds like the right choice, thanks for saving all those dogs.. best wishes to you!
     
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  31. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking

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    Best wishes for what ever you do.
     
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  32. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Saving that for my retirement announcement later this year.
     
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  33. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Well done, Ted. Time for new adventures. Go to it, sir.
     
  34. Dave Theisen

    Dave Theisen En-Route

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    Well done, Ted. You served those animals well.
     
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  35. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Some of us prefer our animals served medium rare.

    Just sayin'......
     
  36. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    For every door that closes one opens. Good luck.
     
  37. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Sorry to hear this Ted, but it's been a pretty incredible run and you'll have a lifetime of memories from it. I admire what you've been able to accomplish with Cloud Nine, but I also admire the courage to start a new chapter.

    Cheers bro!
     
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  38. MIFlyer

    MIFlyer Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Ted, I have a ton of respect for what you've done, but just as much for you making a hard decision based on your all up life. With a job, a family and lot of active hobbies, running a financially draining, very time consuming mission is a lot to ask. You did it for 11 years and had a ton of positive impact. Now go do the next 10 things in your life :)

    I do hope you'll keep a plane, and it's hard to picture you without a twin of some kind.
     
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  39. GaryM

    GaryM Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You've done a lot of good work. Tails are wagging across North America, in appreciation.
     
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  40. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    No idea how you managed it in the first place!
     
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