In my last article I told you what it took to get my wife in the air. As much as that short flight over La Jolla (San Diego) was fun, the goal was always, and forever will be, to use the airplane for family flying. So after years of airport hopping, $100 burger runs (by myself I might add), and oh so many touch and goes, it was time to take the family on a real trip.
Archive for Category: "I was there"
Since I began taking flying lessons, about 5 years ago, our dream was to fly to Fort Collins. I mean, after endlessly flying over the featureless flatlands of the Midwest, how cool to see the freakin’ Rocky Mountains filling your windshield!
Before the engine blew, it was making a repetitive cyclical type noise; it wasn’t high pitched, it was kind of like the sound of a card flapping on a set of bicycle spokes, going fairly rapidly, getting painfully louder and louder to the point it seemed like my headset was not muffling the noise at all as the big end of the number 2 rod broke and the piston was beaten against the crank case.
Our drop mission was weather-dependent. It required smooth conditions in a layer up to 1500 ft above ground, to stay below radar, with at least a minimum off-shore breeze of 10 knots. The drop had to be done half an hour before sunset in cloudless, though not necessarily clear, conditions. In fact, a little obscuring haze up-sun would help the stealth nature of the task.
Can general aviation really be used for transportation? This pilot says yes, and a recent trip from Seattle to Wisconsin proves just how effectively it can be done. It was 30% less travel time than the airlines, and a lot more fun.
As soon as I lifted off, the engine started coughing and sputtering! Something was not right… obviously. I set the ship back down (it most likely settled itself back down due to the lack of power and diminishing rotor RPM), and the engine sprang back to life. What?
The smell of fresh-cut grass on a warm spring evening. You walk around the little aeroplane, checking a bolt, kicking the tires, moving the surfaces, touching it. You climb into it, and inhale that special aeroplane smell.
The relationship with my 1946 Aeronca Chief often segues into a world of strangeness. Owning and maintaining and flying an old fabric-covered taildragger is analogous to using a 1951 MG-TD as your personal car. But one learns to take things as they come, and most of all, to keep a sense of humor.
For those of you who do not fly out of the Northeast, the NOBBI5 Standard Terminal Arrival Route leads you into Westchester County Airport. KHPN is where my 1980 Mooney 231 is based. It’s the last stretch home. When the weather cooperates, there’s plenty of opportunity to look down from 7000 feet.
Last September I broke something important to me. The cause was more an abundance of caution than of carelessness, and I took comfort in that. Still, I wished I could fix it. Sitting at the kitchen counter one morning in June I thought I saw a way to make it right.
I was not yet a pilot, but when my father lifted off in the Piper Archer with my mother and younger brother on board and quickly disappeared into the low overcast, my mind filled with dread: I knew they were going to die on this flight, and soon.
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.
The story begins about 6 am on a Monday in San Francisco in the late 1990s. This morning I saw a number of flyers posted asking for help locating a lost windsurfer. The previous weekend had been exceptionally windy and if a windsurfer was lost, his prospects weren’t good.
My pilot buddies and much of what I read tell of the virtues of the more dramatic times: thundering takeoffs, a perfectly executed crosswind landing, the intense concentration requirements of low approaches. While I admit that each of those aspects have their charms, I am smitten beyond relief to the time when the altimeter is slowing unwinding.
In 1966, two short years after the disbandment of the RCAF Golden Hawks, Canada’s premier formation aerobatic team, the powers-that-be decided that one of the military contributions to the celebration of Canada’s one hundredth birthday would be another formation aerobatic team that would travel across the country during the centennial year and give exactly 100 performances.