I was there

Quail Commander

Dead reckon: Georgia to Ecuador in a crop duster

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When a pilot thinks about some of the flights he flew during the early years of a piloting career, one can’t help thinking, “What was I thinking back then?” The event I am referring to took place in February 1970, when I flew a new crop duster from the factory in Georgia to the buyer, a farmer in Ecuador.

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SNF prop spinner photo

First trip to SUN ‘n FUN

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It’s been just over a week since I departed KLAL (Lakeland, Florida) after enjoying four wonderful days at SUN ‘n FUN 2016. This had been the first airshow I have attended, and being what I consider to be a “new pilot” (205 hours, PPL earned just one year ago) it was an amazing experience.

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Scud running

The most inherently dangerous of all flying techniques

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It’s unwise, it’s in contravention of standing FARs, and it is – without argument – the most inherently dangerous of all flying techniques. It puts crop dusting, aerobatics, and banner towing up in the bleachers. It’s far more dangerous than flying as a salmon spotter for the Alaska fishing industry. Except for herring spotting, that is, which is in a category of its own.

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Twin throttle quadrant

Will I ever be ready for the checkride?

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As I was being vectored for an instrument approach into Thomaston, Georgia, the airplane suddenly lurched to the right. An engine had failed, as I’d suspected it might. I was rusty on my instrument flying skills, but I was flying only by reference to instruments. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

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Chicago skyline clouds

Flying to Chicago for an important mission

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Where to go when perfect early September weather presents itself on a Sunday and there are no commitments to either the weekday boss who pays the bills or the boss at home who spends the paycheck? It used to be that one could fly to the grand metropolis known as The Windy City and land at an airport conveniently located right on the downtown lakeshore, but as we all know, Meigs Field is no longer the pilot’s gateway to Chicago.

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CFI in cockpit

How to do the world’s worst intro flight

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Bellevue’s one small FBO sported a “Piper Flight Center” sign above the door, with a couple of relatively new Cherokees parked in front. I went inside and presented myself to the combination receptionist/ cashier/ scheduler/ Unicom radio operator, and told her I was interested in taking their $15 intro flight. She leaned past my shoulder to yell at someone behind me.

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Diamond DA-40

My first real emergency

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Despite all the times I’ve practised these things, both in the aircraft and the simulator, you know at the back of your mind that it’s not real, and that if things do not work out as planned, you can always open the throttle and go around. Only when it’s the real thing do you know whether you can actually handle it or not.

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Thermometer 50 below zero

An upside down landing on a remote Alaska strip

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When the Cessna went up ever so slowly, pausing when the cowling slipped into the snow cover, I still thought we’d be all right. Instead of settling back to earth, though, the tail paused for an eternity—and then went slowly over to put us upside down on this very remote bush strip. Our world was upside down and we were now really in for it…

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PSP airport with mountains

Baptism by air

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I decided to descend to 3000 feet, by cutting power and setting the nose down slightly. Suddenly all hell broke loose, and the airplane felt like it was being pushed by a force from above. My airspeed was approaching 160 kts with power pulled back.

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Checkride complete

Staying alive: the merits of multi-state training

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Weather was almost never an issue in California, but I sure learned about the effects of density altitude in ways I’d never experienced in Alaska. Off-airport landings and gravel takeoffs are common enough in Alaska, but I sure learned the value of understanding Air Traffic Control procedures and complex airspace flying through the Lower 48.

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Yellow jacket

A different kind of buzz job

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I taxied onto runway 9, gradually added full power and rotated at 65 knots. As I climbed out, I scanned the instruments and then the horizon, left to right. The engine sounded good, key gauges for a departure climb – airspeed, altimeter, turn coordinator and one of my favorites, oil pressure – all in the green. As my eyes reached the right side of the windshield, my eyes locked on, panic rising…

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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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