I was there

traffic_alert_screenshot

Dogfighting with ADS-B traffic over Pennsylvania

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It was an unremarkable flight so far, but suddenly the large letters “TRAFFIC” plastered across my screen with corresponding alert. Three hundred feet below and slightly behind was an airplane, approaching fast. I banked left and right in my low wing craft, looking for the guy, who must be right below me, now 200 feet. On a collision course.

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Full cockpit of aviation authors

10 pilots in a 4-seat Cessna

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I am so lucky. Every flight, I am accompanied by nine extraordinary pilots, looking over my shoulder and whispering in my ear. They have made my flying safer, more enjoyable and less expensive. They’ll go with you, too. All you have to do is ask.

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Cherokee after mid-air

Surviving a mid-air

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At approximately 200 ft. AGL there was a thud and the 140B shuddered as a glimpse of red passed by my left-side window. Then a red airplane (type still unknown at that point) passed in front of my windscreen, hit the nose of my aircraft, and disappeared under my starboard wing, all in about three seconds.

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Brenham, TX airport

Borrowing from the bag of luck

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As I finished my private pilot training in 2006, my instructor told me that we start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck. Less than three months later, the ink barely dry on my certificate, I had occasion to test that maxim.

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Lake Hood

An unusual first solo, Alaska-style

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It was on a Friday the Thirteenth, in April of 1956, that I soloed out at Lake Hood Seaplane Base in Anchorage, Alaska. I had waited for several months for this date, as I had, for some misguided reason, always thought of Friday the Thirteenth as a lucky day for me. I’d had eight and one-half hours of dual instruction up to that point, and my instructor thought that I was ready.

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Pietenpol Air Camper

How flying saved my life

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To be honest, flying didn’t really save my life. It did, however, make me a better person, dad, husband and surgeon. Unlike many who grew up dreaming to fly, I didn’t start in aviation until I was 30. I never really thought that it was a possibility for me to become a pilot. This all changed with a free hamburger at a hangar at a small airport.

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Reiner by 707 in China

Flying an old Boeing to China for Christmas

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Ask airline pilots where they want to be during the Christmas to New Year holidays and most say… home with family and friends! In December 1982, we split the difference; being with wives and kids, but on a 707 odyssey to Tianjin, China, celebrating Christmas Eve in a frigid airport dining room with the leaders of China’s airline, CAAC.

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Glasair

There I was: my near midair at Shelton, Washington

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The Glasair came from behind and below, just under the right side of my fuselage. The flash of white made me pull up and barrel roll to the left. My right wing and his left wing overlapped our respective longitudinal axes. I’m not sure how his prop missed my right main gear. My best, no BS guess is we missed each other by maybe 10 feet.

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Steam fog

Thanks, Mom! Winter flying around Chicago

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My mom had flown with me once before, and it was a very short flight, but this flight was special. It was the first flight we had flown without anyone else on board and it was my first winter flight. She was very excited and surprisingly calm. We approached Lake Michigan and turned north just underneath Chicago’s Bravo airspace.

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Airport

(Air)field of dreams

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The Oxford dictionary defines an airfield as “a place where aircraft operate.” I define an airfield as a place where people come to dream. Think about it. You’re a student pilot and you drive out to the airfield where you take lessons that will enable you to master that cantankerous old 150 and make it stay in the air just where you put it.

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Merrill Pass

Really low on fuel in a thirsty Super Cub

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The days are short, and quickly getting shorter, in Alaska’s September, and it was nearly dark as I readied my Super Cub for the return flight. I took from the guide’s avgas cache only what was necessary to make the safe flight back to Merrill Field that night. I carried no reserve fuel. I didn’t like to do that, but sometimes we found it necessary in bush operations.

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pilot passed out

An unconscious pilot – and it’s a good thing

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I was flying as well as I ever had, and even though fatigue was at work I was happy. Then the unexpected happened. After fitting into a four-plane pattern at home base, on short final I realized the pilot was unconscious! Relax. I was perfectly alert and awake. My loss of consciousness might even have been a good thing. Allow me to explain.

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Pilot in cockpit with instructor

An accident waiting to happen – when should you speak up?

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I didn’t want to speak up right away (I didn’t want to undermine the instructor, or speak up before my buddy did), but finally the worsening weather became too much of a concern to keep quiet. I told them that the weather was clearly deteriorating. The next day at work, some of the employees seemed to think that I should have just kept my mouth shut.

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Wichita airport

The vanishing airplane – in the pattern with me

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I tried looking forward on the downwind leg, high and low, right and left and back along the leg, high and low, right and left and saw no other airplane. I called and declared my intention to turn downwind, and the tower acknowledged my transmission, so I did. The other pilot called and said she was on downwind – my attitude changed to near panic.

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Sabre hard left turn

Losing a wingman: the price we pay

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Being a fighter pilot is not necessarily just a fun game; it is demanding, always serious, sometimes dangerous and particularly for when you deploy with hot guns and missiles – with no clothes in the ammo bins – just 30 mm canon ammunition as we did a very short time later… and went ready for war.

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