In between sunning myself at Bondi and flying the Wirraway, I spent idle moments in the cockpit of a Mustang reading the Pilot’s Notes and savouring the heady aroma of high octane fuel, glycol coolant and hydraulic oil. It was no contest. The Mustangs won every time.
Sometimes only an airplane of your own can make a trip possible. My wife Christine and I proved this a few summers ago when we took our Cardinal on a whirlwind tour of half the country.
Fifty-one weeks out of the year, Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is an unremarkable, if scenic, stretch of open fields surrounding two long runways arranged in a kind of disconnected “T” configuration. During one short week of the year, however, all of that changes.
Shortly after earning my license, a pilot friend of the family heard I was a new pilot and invited me along to Oshkosh. His plan was to fly there and back in the same day. I had a whole 11 hours PIC and not much cross country experience. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
You’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, as you and some buddies are headed to beautiful Bandon, Oregon for a long weekend of golf. But coastal Oregon is famous for two things when it comes to weather: overcast skies and gusty winds. Can you make the flight legally? How about safely?
The year was maybe 1970. We lived in Southern California and my wife of 25 years wanted to fly to her home in Tacoma, Washington, and visit her mother for our summer vacation. So, I borrowed the company Bonanza (with permission) and we took off early one morning headed north.
That night in the spring of 1967 our mission was to transport about 15 wounded marines from the Phu Bai marine base, nine miles southeast of Hue on Vietnam’s coastal plain, to the hospital ship USS Repose about 15 miles off the coast in the South China Sea.
Upon reviewing accidents from the past few years, it’s clear there is a disturbing trend in modern cockpits: pilots struggle to control the airplane after the autopilot quits flying. Now before you start bemoaning the state of stick and rudder skills and urging all pilots to start flight training in a Cub, let’s consider another (more nuanced) option.
Now that I have decided to allow my license to run out of hours and not renew, old pilot’s reminiscences come to the fore in flying circles. But none of my subsequent flying has, for me, the excitement of my time over Africa.
There I was, tooling along in my Super Cub, minding my own business while towing a banner through the sky low over Staten Island. The date was January 15, 2010. It was the one-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson.
Well, this will likely be our last opportunity to see the some of the high points of sightseeing that are a convenient flying distance from Chicago. So, we each made our list of “must sees” and what emerged was this eclectic list.
Since the 1950s, most airplanes have been designed with wing flaps, allowing for steeper approaches, better sight pictures and lower airspeeds at touch down. But how to use those flaps has been an endless source of debate. Should you land with full flaps every time, or are partial flap landings easier and safer in windy conditions?
I never knew what answer to give when someone asked how long it took me to learn to fly. My first flight was with my uncle at the age of four, and I spent a lot of time hanging around the airport with a friend in my pre-teen years. A World War II BT-13 training plane was rotting away behind one of the hangars, and we spent hours sitting in the seats.
On March 6, 1987, I was working the Inflight One radio position at the Anchorage Flight Service Station. Cessna 98 Golf had somehow made it above the Alaska Range and now at high altitude, with no clearance and with minimal navigational gear or flight instrumentation, and possibly no supplemental oxygen, found himself in the soup.
Wind can and does affect the airspeed of an airplane in flight, drastically in some situations. Many pilots didn’t, and some still don’t, think that wind can be a big factor in this regard. A steady wind can’t, but wind that changes in direction or velocity over altitude or distance can have a profound effect on airspeed.