Cutting corners as a freight pilot – and regretting it

Forcing myself to stay calm, I faced the embarrassing possibility that a wheels-up landing might be the only way out. I was angry with myself for being such an idiot because failure to secure the freight was not only a clear breach of the regulations, but worse still, an example of poor airmanship. I vowed that never again would I be pressured into potentially dangerous situations by fears of job security.

The people you meet in aviation – some good, some bad

There will be few pilots, professional or amateur, who will not remember the good instructors with whom they have flown. Conversely, those instructors who have denigrated your best efforts and in doing so destroyed your self confidence, are invariably remembered with a cold contempt usually reserved for one’s worst enemy.

On your own – airline flying in the South Pacific before GPS

Former airline captain John Laming spent a career flying between tiny islands in the South Pacific. In this enchanting story, Laming takes us along for one of those flights, complete with the weather deviations, failing airport infrastructure and sleeping tower controllers. Were these the good old days?

Now that was real flying – stick and rudder in a 737

Many of today’s pilots are usually so addicted to the automatics, that the thought of switching off the autopilot and flying manually is practically a Mayday situation. Yet, when coaxed into switching off the automatic features the almost universal reply is “Jeez – I enjoyed that.”

11 questions for John Laming

It would be difficult to describe an aviation career more colorful and varied than that of Captain John Laming. In our latest interview, we ask the experienced military and airline pilot about everything from the Battle of Britain to modern simulator training.

Thanks for the landing

Former RAAF pilot John Laming remembers one of his first flight instructors, a unique and thoughtful man he would encounter many times throughout his career. Reconnecting after 40 years, the two pilots made a memorable final flight that shows the special bond two pilots share.

Four Merlins to Momote

In this current era of over-regulation, it may seem, understandably to anyone reading this story now, that we were a bunch of over-enthusiastic young men with little sense of professional responsibility. But it was another time and things were different then. For this ancient airman, they were the good old days and I mourn their passing.

The folks down the back

Back in 1976 when I joined my first airline it was still customary for the captain to talk to the SLC (Self Loading Cargo – a somewhat snide description observed on pilot internet websites to denote passengers). Some of the people and the stories “down the back” are unforgettable, even 30 years later.

A Mustang memory

In between sunning myself at Bondi and flying the Wirraway, I spent idle moments in the cockpit of a Mustang reading the Pilot’s Notes and savouring the heady aroma of high octane fuel, glycol coolant and hydraulic oil. It was no contest. The Mustangs won every time.

The ace of Anabare Bay

While browsing through the records of student pilots at a local flying school, I noticed that many had not gone solo until after 15 hours of dual instruction. Some were up to 25 hours before being sent off alone. Fifty years ago, students flying Tiger Moths were solo between 6 and 10 hours.

Thrills awaiting a flight instructor

By now we had lost several thousands of feet as expected, after starting off at 8000 feet. There was no answer from the front seat so I attempted to take control, only to find the controls jammed in the pro-spin positions.

Is your checklist really necessary?

Do you really need a massive checklist to fly a single pilot Seminole or Duchess? From the time a student first steps into an aircraft, he should not have to rely on a checklist as a crutch. Checklists are indeed a Good Thing in the big jets, but I sometimes wonder are they really necessary in light aircraft?

Boeing 737 vs. Honda Goldwing: who wins?

While flying 737s in and around the South Pacific, Captain John Laming often witnessed the local youth racing a 737 down the runway on their Honda Goldwing motorcycles. Read about this incredible tradition.

Hindsight is wonderful

A self-described “comedy of errors” causes a captain to misdiagnose an in-flight problem and put his 737 into a steep dive at night over the South Pacific. In hindsight, this rapid descent turned out to be unnecessary. See why.

My friend George, the Stuka pilot

In late 1952, the sole Royal Australian Air Force contribution to the defence of Darwin was two Wirraways, a Lincoln bomber and a Dakota. A few weeks before my first arrival at Darwin, one of the Lincoln pilots, Warrant Officer Jack Turnbull, a former Spitfire pilot, wrote off a Wirraway in a crosswind landing. The Wirraway was tricky to land in crosswinds and Jack had lost control and ground-looped seconds after touch down. He exited stage left quickly as it caught on fire.

A date with Juliet

Flight 420, a Boeing 737 to Hong Kong, departed from a small island on the Equator at about the same time as an unnamed typhoon was born 2,000 miles further west. The depression that spawned the typhoon had been tracked by U.S. Navy weather satellites for several days. As it slowly spun in a westerly direction from 500 miles north of Ponape in the Carolines, the weather forecasters decided it met all the attributes of a maturing typhoon and from a list of names, selected Juliet.