I attempted a turn away from the ridge, probably induced an accelerated stall at some point, and we hit the trees. We spent about 43 hours in the woods on the side of Johnson Mountain. My friend passed away sometime during that period. I had no survival gear whatsoever. I had no flight plan. No one knew where I was. I did have an ELT, and it saved my life.
Even though it was only three o’clock in the late autumn afternoon, the last gray light of day would fade fast before too long, as the sun was blocked by multiple cloud layers. I heard Martin Olson’s voice coming through my headphones calling Nome Radio on 122.2. However, there was something… I don’t know. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something didn’t sound quite right.
New pilots: do you want to know how to learn a lot about flying in a short period of time? Plan a long cross country flight… I mean, a really long one. When I decided to fly my “new” ‘63 Cherokee 180 most of the way across the U.S. to my summer vacation destination, at first I didn’t realize how valuable the lessons learned along the way would be.
Piloting an aircraft requires certain skills. It also requires certain amounts of discipline, situational and self-awareness. Piloting a helicopter requires even more of each of them, mostly because a rotary wing aircraft is flying in an unstable manner, as opposed to the stable flight characteristics of most civil airplanes.
The 10-day weather forecast looked amazingly good for January, so rather than go home on the weekend between two events, I concocted a scheme to do some sailplane flying at Estrella on the weekend, including the use of Estrella’s lodging facility – fabulously cheap bunk beds only soaring aficionados could love. I was saving the company money!
The sky was clear and conditions appeared very good. We got into the Warrior and I had him strap in. After the runup, I tuned in to the latest ATIS, then contacted Ground, and started to the active. As we moved along the taxiway, Paul remarked to me, “This the first time in my life I’ve ever been in an airplane.”
All went well until about 100 feet above the runway on takeoff when I wanted to drop the nose a little. The airplane wanted to continue to climb as if it were approaching a power-on stall and I could not get the nose down. Terrible things could have easily happened if I would not have kept my wits about me.
As usual, I’d been running 30 minutes out of each tank when, about an hour and a half into the flight—you guessed it—the engine quit. Same drill with fuel selector, carb heat and mixture and, again, it started right up. What in the hell was going on this time? Both wing root fuel gauges were pegged at more than three quarters full… but they were even and they weren’t bouncing and I’d learned that was ominous.
I kept the flashlight dancing around the panel… attitude, direction, attitude, altimeter, attitude, airspeed and repeat… with an occasional sweep of the left wing leading edge checking for ice. It was dark and the air was rough inside the cloud. I was in a tough spot this time for sure.
I pulled up one of the chairs, recalling the uneventful mission, filling out the paperwork after taking three quick chugs of beer. Soon, I would be over at the O Club, catching up on all the news from my fellow pilots there, whether they be F-4 drivers or Electric Goon (EC-47) ones. Then… CRACKLE – CRACKLE. The little speakers at the radio rack announced an incoming call.
The day inevitably arrives. The weather is nice, there are cumulus clouds, soaring birds, other sailplanes are climbing, and I am beyond a final glide to the airfield. Suddenly, I’m not finding lift anymore, the trusty 1-26 is sinking as my heart rate is climbing. I’ve been taught off field landings, I have helped bring gliders back from off landings, and I’m about to have an off field landing.
We called ATC and advised that we were not sure of our altitude or speed and declared PAN PAN. We then read up the drills in the QRH and the DC-9 manual but they had no effect on the instruments so we realized we had a serious problem. How to get safely down when the weather was poor and even our alternate in North Dakota had solid overcast?
I arrived at the seaplane base bright and early to find that I was to be the only student. You wouldn’t guess it from the Orlando traffic, but it was something of an off-season, at least with regard to people looking for floatplane ratings.
I was trying to find ways to get involved at the local airport – but found it much more challenging than I had hoped. I was willing to wash planes, clean hangars, or just about anything else if it meant I got to hang around the airport and meet some people, but even finding pilots to do so with was difficult. I couldn’t find any form of connection or community between the pilots at this airport.
A home at Highcrest airport provides abundant opportunities to pilot a wide variety of flying machines, and my first flight in a Breezy was here… it is also one I am not likely to forget!
I was sitting in my 1946 Aeronca Champ at the edge of the runway at Chambers County-Winnie Stowell Airport, just outside the town of Winnie, Texas. I was only about 40 miles from my home airport at La Porte, Texas, on the final leg of a nearly 1800-mile round trip from Texas to Kentucky.
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.
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.
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.
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.