I’ve often thought that the day of my first solo, April 6, 1996, would be the most memorable of my flying career. I had a whopping five hours of dual logged when I climbed into “Super Chicken,” Skyhawk N172SC, for my three trips around the pattern at Mount Sterling (KIOB). But, 19 years later, I learned how wrong I was.
Archive for Category: "I was there"
Suddenly, I was jolted out of my delectable dreamland by a violent roll to the right. Instant paralyzing fear, equivalent to several thousand volts of crippling electrical current, seemed to anesthetize my entire body. There was no time for panic, but that’s all I could manage to do.
All in all, I flew 6.3 hours in the air, the most I’d flown in a day. I was tired, but I sure felt good, as many of you who will read this know. There’s nothing better than flying your airplane on a pretty day unless you get to do it and help someone at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Being a VFR pilot with (currently) little interest in pursuing an instrument rating, chances to perform a mission were a little difficult to come by, as completing said mission can oftentimes be waylaid for the obvious reasons. However, this day was an exception… aircraft ready, CAVU everywhere, no TFRs, and a reasonably simple mission.
Former airline captain John Laming spent a career flying between tiny islands in the South Pacific. In this enchanting story, Laming takes us along for one of those flights, complete with the weather deviations, failing airport infrastructure and sleeping tower controllers. Were these the good old days?
“I thought today we would begin unusual attitude recoveries, and transition into spins and spin recovery.” I was torn between saying, “No thanks, I only came here for the tailwheel endorsement,” and saying, “That’s exactly what I need to work on!” So I said nothing, climbed in, and fastened my seatbelt, perhaps just a little tighter than usual.
Sometimes the most thorough of checks and vital actions done before takeoff don’t always prevent an unwanted surprise later when the checks themselves are not developed to the full extent needed. Such was the case when shortly after takeoff in an RAAF Australian Sabre I encountered a significant control problem.
They say that in every life a little sunshine will beam on occasion. Freight dogs learn quickly to take advantage of every streak of light they can find and they usually don’t tell anyone about it until well after the fact, because they’re never quite sure if what they’ve just done is legal or not.
Seeing the aircraft, my heart sank. The forlorn scene looked hopeless. Sundry bits of airplane scattered over the hangar floor, two of the four engines missing and the silly looking Viscount with half its tail feathers missing. I had second thoughts.
“Wow,” I said. “A Stearman,” said Jerry. “You can’t see much, but it’s pretty easy as long as you stay on the grass.” I could not imagine what he was talking about – I had 78 hours in a Cessna 172.
A call goes out to ask if there are any pilots on board, and a guy in the back responds “I’m a pilot… well, single engine!” Admit it….how many of you thought, if only for a moment, “I bet I could have landed it!”
I had all four seats filled as we were winging our way westward to Santa Fe, New Mexico, at 8000 feet on top of a cloud deck. It was then that I noticed the ammeter needle flicking back and forth between “discharge” and neutral in a steady rhythm. This did not look right. We needed to get on the ground fast.
Pilots are taught to use their initiative and to expect surprises. There was certainly a surprise in store for me one dark and stormy night a little over 35 years ago, but the use of initiative came in a most unorthodox way ― and not from the crew on the aircraft, but from a quick-acting van driver.
I was flying the daily mail run in a saddle-worn Cessna 402 out of Abingdon, Virginia, on a very cloudy, turbulent, rainy, miserable night in mid-March. We had just leveled out at 5000 feet when the radar approach controller in Roanoke called to inform me that I appeared to be turning toward the north.
We decided to explore, so Christian aimed the bird north, easing in the power to climb above the wave’s rotor. And then the world came unglued! The engine burst into roaring chaos, with hideous vibration, which had the shock mounted instrument panel in a blur.