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.”
Archive for Category: "I was there"
Sure enough, after a fruitful day, as I get ready to settle in for the evening, the phone rings. It’s my office marine dispatcher wanting to know if I can fly a tugboat captain home right away as he has a family emergency in progress. He is aboard a tugboat somewhere in the upper Chesapeake Bay.
Climbing back in and getting back to the meat of prepping for the flight test is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Knowing how quickly, not to mention painfully, things could go wrong didn’t help my tension. Nevertheless, we flew. I flew.
Back in the day when props were changing to jets, the Canadian Ministry of Transport contemplated creating a newly required third crew position on the huge DC-8s coming on line. The third pilot crew member would be neither a fully endorsed DC-8 pilot nor a fully endorsed DC-8 flight engineer.
There is a special place in the heart of every pilot for his or her “home patch.” It’s the airport where you know you enter the downwind leg over the lake, turn base over the church and final over the mall. It’s the airport where you know all the little secrets and “gotchas.” Over the years I’ve had a number of airports that I’ve called home and every one of them has taught me something.
I never did get to do that solo, with my Dad stepping out of the J-3 as we had planned. In fact, 40 years passed until I was able to get my pilot license. Since then I’ve built my hours and experience, added an instrument rating, reconnecting in a very deep way with my earliest memories, and to the things that my Dad taught me.
Looking to my right, there is my regular flying companion, my late father, or my sense of him. I talk to him now and then, but he seldom answers. Today, I want to ask him why aviation came to be such a central part of my thinking and my life, despite my never having made a dime with an airplane, or been an especially skilled pilot, or having grown up in a flying family.
Twenty one years ago, while on a skiing trip out west and after watching “Super Cub One and two” about 100 times, I took a side flight to Cub Crafters in Yakima, Washington. At that time, Jim Richmond, the CEO of Cub Crafters, was restoring Cubs. I purchased a 1979 Super Cub from Jim, which he flew out to Maine the following spring. That began a 21-year flying experience for me… all in the same Cub.
Owning an airplane pretty much obligates one to always be looking for the next chance to use it. The worst thing for an airplane (or a pilot) is to stay on the ground and never fly. Therefore when my son indicated an interest in seeing the launch of Exploration Flight Test 1, I seized the opportunity.
It started out as no more than a lark in 1999. Fly through the midnight of the old millennium into the new. Our family would view the public and private fireworks displays ushering in Y2K from a different perspective – through the windows of our Cessna 172.
I’m a recently-minted private pilot with about 70 hours, and a little over 3 hours into tailwheel endorsement training. Interestingly enough, the tailwheel endorsement has been my big goal, perhaps even more so than the PPL! But there is an order to things, and these days the PPL checkride is mostly tailored to the Cessna 172.
It had been one of those perfect fall days, a day when you could see forever. The light had a clarity one only sees in the fall, and then only rarely. It was the kind of light that painters dream of. The night was still, without even the whisper of a breeze.
So I taxied to the threshold following a “Follow Me” jeep as I could not see the taxiway. Meanwhile my Flight Commander went to the tower to watch. Maybe he expected a spectacle – but as it happened he gave me good advice and by all accounts he got a spectacle too!
“Lights, camera, action!” I recite to no one but me. It’s my final mantra before takeoff in my Cavalier. Nav and strobe lights on, transponder to ALT, and power up to go. Gladys, my instructor, taught me that.
I was excited at the opportunity to complete a real cross-country trip with my wife to visit family in Tennessee for the Thanksgiving holiday. For weeks prior to the trip, I passed the time planning the flight and picking out the best fuel stops. The plan was finally set. Preflight inspection now complete, we were ready to fly!