Fifty-one weeks out of the year, Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is an unremarkable, if scenic, stretch of open fields surrounding two long runways arranged in a kind of disconnected “T” configuration. During one short week of the year, however, all of that changes.
Archive for Category: "I was there"
The year was maybe 1970. We lived in Southern California and my wife of 25 years wanted to fly to her home in Tacoma, Washington, and visit her mother for our summer vacation. So, I borrowed the company Bonanza (with permission) and we took off early one morning headed north.
That night in the spring of 1967 our mission was to transport about 15 wounded marines from the Phu Bai marine base, nine miles southeast of Hue on Vietnam’s coastal plain, to the hospital ship USS Repose about 15 miles off the coast in the South China Sea.
Now that I have decided to allow my license to run out of hours and not renew, old pilot’s reminiscences come to the fore in flying circles. But none of my subsequent flying has, for me, the excitement of my time over Africa.
There I was, tooling along in my Super Cub, minding my own business while towing a banner through the sky low over Staten Island. The date was January 15, 2010. It was the one-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson.
Well, this will likely be our last opportunity to see the some of the high points of sightseeing that are a convenient flying distance from Chicago. So, we each made our list of “must sees” and what emerged was this eclectic list.
I never knew what answer to give when someone asked how long it took me to learn to fly. My first flight was with my uncle at the age of four, and I spent a lot of time hanging around the airport with a friend in my pre-teen years. A World War II BT-13 training plane was rotting away behind one of the hangars, and we spent hours sitting in the seats.
On March 6, 1987, I was working the Inflight One radio position at the Anchorage Flight Service Station. Cessna 98 Golf had somehow made it above the Alaska Range and now at high altitude, with no clearance and with minimal navigational gear or flight instrumentation, and possibly no supplemental oxygen, found himself in the soup.
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.
Memorial Day weekend in northeast Ohio was turning out to be a needed break from a long, hard winter and a stormy spring. I did not get to do much flying since fall and the beautiful morning was not one to be passed up. I asked my wife if she wanted to fly to Salem (38D) for brunch, but she had things on her to-do list and said I should just go.
I was a solo pilot in a T-Bird (the T-33, a single jet engine-powered aircraft that was used in Korea) preparing for takeoff to fly wing with another T-Bird that had a student with an instructor. The instructor in the lead aircraft motioned to me… come on… come on let’s go.
Most stories start out leading the reader step by step to the climax or high point of the tale. Not this one. So here’s your spoiler alert. The next sentence you read takes all the mystery out of my story. I nearly had an aircraft accident.
I have been flying small airplanes on and off for several decades. I have had close calls before. They tend to happen quickly. I had never had two close calls inside of 20 minutes before that particular Sunday.
As we landed, my examiner said, “Well, you are one!” which I took to mean either you are a PILOT or you are a REAL SOB. Best not to ask, I thought. We walked back to the FBO, where my flight instructor was pacing like an expectant father.
Autorotations are maneuvers that sound and look really scary to the non-pilot. Before I started my training, I had watched many YouTube videos on the subject. I was pretty nervous about my first one. After all, this is an emergency procedure. And an emergency in an aircraft is never a good thing.