My flight to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2016 was special in several ways. The Experimental Aircraft Association was honoring the 75th anniversary of my make of airplane, the Interstate Cadet, a tandem trainer manufactured in 1941-42 in Los Angeles. We were a flight of 15 Cadets by the time we made it to Oshkosh. The trip would also be an ambitious one – over 5,000 miles at 100 miles per hour.
If you check the FAA’s Temporary Flight Restriction website, are you covered? Maybe not, as this Florida pilot found out. His story clearly demonstrates that checking assumed “authoritative” sites, like NOTAMs and the FAA TFR pages, is not enough to guarantee pilots have current, comprehensive, accurate information regarding Temporary Flight Restrictions.
Soon I found myself on the ramp with Ron, walking around the DC-3. Having never before flown anything larger than an Aztec, I was overwhelmed with the airplane. It was daunting, yet familiar, like one’s first approach to an ancient Roman edifice theretofore known only from picture books. Even the fabric-covered control surfaces were massive and substantial. The DC-3 was regal in form and formidable in character, and I approached it with awe bordering on reverence.
My routine flight only became noteworthy as I approached the field for a landing. The club strip is grass, oriented roughly north/south and about 2500 ft. in length. As I entered the pattern at 1,000 ft. and began a downwind leg for a left hand pattern to the south, I began to note the windsocks sticking straight out to the East and realized the landing was going to be fun with the crosswind at or above the club’s operation limits.
Just after Hollister had passed under the left wing, the transponder flashed an error message, and went from their assigned squawk code to 1200. “Huh?” says the instructor, “What’s up with that?” The instructor tried to enter the assigned squawk code a couple more times, with the same result. That was exactly when the wheels fell off the cart, electrically speaking.
The flight was supposed to be pretty much a routine trip, though not really a happy one. I was relocating my turbocharged 1984 Cessna TU206G amphibian from West Palm Beach, Florida, to St. Cloud, Minnesota. Economics had demanded that I sell the marvelous ship, and I was delivering it to the buyer.
Night. Rain. Extremely high surface winds. Low visibility. Mountains. Less gas then I would have liked. Now I couldn’t get the lights to the runway at Martin Campbell Field (1A3) to come on. “This is how people kill themselves in small planes,” I thought to myself as I passed the final approach fix and decided to go missed. I thought back to the start of the trip, The Hunter and The Door.
Flying out of El Paso earlier this week I picked up a little airframe ice. It would have been a non-event for a more capable airplane, but the anti-ice equipment on 32A (pitot heat and windscreen defrost) just wasn’t up to the task.
One of my favorite flying memories happened while I was a part-time single-engine Part 135 charter pilot for the FBO at Laramie, Wyoming. My occasional charter flights were a welcome respite from my law office, allowing me to meet people who weren’t in legal trouble and to take them places I might not have gone otherwise.
The wind was getting stronger, the ceiling was dropping, I still had a long way to go and I didn’t see anywhere below me that looked like a great place to spend the night. The thought of being stuck in rush hour traffic somewhere didn’t sound too bad right now.
I made a perfect wheel landing and rolled to the crossing runway 24, where I was told to take a left turn on the crossing runway to taxi to parking. The winds were now 70 degrees off my nose, and I was moving at a slow walking pace. The crosswind was causing the tail wheel to skid, but I was nearly to the parking area. Suddenly I heard a wind gust and the tail lifted into the air until “WHAP!” the prop struck the ground.
Seconds after the smoke started, I was looking out the windshield and could see smoke coming from around the propeller and all of a sudden: Whoosh! The windshield was completely covered with brown oil, and I could see nothing out of it. I shut off the engine with the mag switch and pointed the nose down steeply. I wanted to get the airplane on the ground now!
Learning from others’ mistakes is more conducive to successful flying than creating your own. Here are three lessons I learned on three different flights, but only because I made some mistakes. Hopefully you can learn from them and avoid making them yourself!
It was getting late in the day and the tropical weather was closing in behind me. I felt trapped. Weather was all around and nothing but dense jungle below. I started to get frustrated and really worried. An hour and a half had passed and I was no closer to Panama City. My only alternate airfield was back across the mountains. The last thing I wanted to do was climb back up to 15,000 feet, but I had no choice.
With only a few instructional hours logged, I had virtually no flying instincts. Mac, my instructor, called “power” and simultaneously shoved the throttle forward. It was all that kept us from cutting a swath through a cornfield bordering the runway’s approach end. The Cub wallowed ahead, barely above a stall, bouncing down on the grass just yards beyond the stalks.
I’m going to fly along with you as you take your Cessna 206 Stationair II for a flight to pick up a client out in the flat country beyond the Alaska Range. Your client lives in a log cabin along the Kuskokwim River, downstream from the village of Aniak. You’ve made sure to have the necessary flight charts with you.
Like many pilots, flying my plane to Oshkosh was on my bucket list, but work, cost, and time always seemed to say “not this year.” So, in 2012 when the Cub Club announced the “Cubs To Oshkosh” in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Cub, that was it. I had to be part of that history. This is my story of that trip.
Saturday October 16, 2010. Mom and I were at a craft show when Grandpa called to see if I could go fly with him today. He tried to take me before but something always came up, like I hadn’t had my nap. When you’re four years old everybody knows no nap and flying aren’t a good mix. Today was my lucky day.
The place as it stands today bears no resemblance to the airport tucked away in my thoughts. Every pilot has melancholy memories of favourite places because flying sears powerful images and feelings they long for. The airfield that comes to mind is where I learned to fly. Introductory flights were $10 back then.
In the remarks section of my logbook entry for January 3, 1999, it simply says, “Ride for Barb – Clear and cold.” We flew for 1.9 hours, but I honestly can’t remember the flight. For Barb, this was her first flight in a plane other than a commercial airliner. For me it was part of my vetting process for potential dating partners. If they didn’t like flying in small airplanes, there wouldn’t be much of a future in the relationship.