John Glenn and Kent Ewing in Baron
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John Glenn and Kent Ewing in Baron

Flying with John Glenn – just another GA pilot on this day.

When you fly with another pilot, you learn a lot about who they are and how they approach life. From preferences about cockpit technology to decision making under pressure, watching someone fly often reveals their true nature. Some writers here at Air Facts have had the privilege to share the cockpit with legendary aviators, including astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.

Those experiences inspired this month’s reader question. If you could fly with any pilot – living or dead – who would you choose? A record-setting aviator like Charles Lindbergh, Beryl Markham, or Chuck Yeager? Or someone more obscure – maybe a family member?

Add your nominee below, then tell us why.

Air Facts Staff
40 replies
    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Amazingly, I hadn’t though of this idea but I love it. One of those B-17 flights into a hurricane? Sign me up.

  1. Steve R
    Steve R says:

    I do believe having to pick just one is very difficult, because of the very different skills and knowledge that can be gained from the long list we all know.

    My number one is Richard Collins, his breadth of knowledge, ability to explain and share.

    If allowed a second, it would be Rod Machado for the the same reasons.

    And, of course there many more who would great for knowledge or just plain fun.

  2. Pat from Air Facts
    Pat from Air Facts says:

    I was lucky enough to fly with Richard Collins several times, but I was thinking I never flew with Gordon Baxter. I had long talks and long dinners with him, but was never in an airplane with him. I would have liked to have experienced flying through his eyes. I know I’d feel 100% safer with Richard, of course, but I would like to have watched Gordon fly, just to hear his words and his descriptions of what we were seeing and experiencing.

  3. Sal M
    Sal M says:

    Stephen Coonts, the Author of Flight of the Intruder. He was an inspiration for me to start writing about flying after reading FOI and Cannibal Queen.

  4. Speedy
    Speedy says:

    My step-dad. He flew B-17s in WWII and had over 1000 hours in the B-36 (6 turning and 4 burning) as an aircraft commander. He retired from the Air Force (Lt. Col.) and aviation in general (medical) before I knew him. He did not enjoy talking about the war, but did have high praise for both the B-17 and the B-36, among other aircraft he was privileged to fly. I would have loved to fly with him and deeply regret that I earned my license and CFI many years after he passed. I like to think that he rides along on my flights and I sometimes find myself talking to him when I’m flying solo (please don’t tell the FAA…)

  5. Kim Hunter
    Kim Hunter says:

    Jimmy Doolittle! A true renaissance aviator – record setting racer, MIT Doctorate, pioneer in the art and science of instrument flying, athlete, conservationist, and brilliant wartime leader.

  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    My friend Gene. An ex-coworker, he started his flying career in WWII, flying the F4U with Pappy Boyington. After the war, he hired on with Eastern Airlines flying the Martin 404 and retiring on the L1011. The man was a joy to be around and I imagine he would have been even better to fly with.

  7. J C E
    J C E says:

    Paul Poberezney. I was fortunate enough to fly right seat with him in a Beech 18 and back seat in a J3. He was a friend and I miss him.

  8. Judy F.
    Judy F. says:

    I’d like to fly with Beryl Markham. She was a bold adventurer, a woman ahead of her time. I would have liked to have known her.

  9. Jim S
    Jim S says:

    Greg Brown because he always has an interesting fun flight and beautiful scenery to fly over. Especially if we could go in his Flying Carpet.

  10. Martin Winger
    Martin Winger says:

    My choice? Easy one. That would be Bob Hoover. Not only was he the epitome of being a true gentleman, his talent in the aviation community was well respected for many years. We all saw how Bob could take a machine and trade airspeed and altitude countless times with both precision and accuracy. I for one miss him as that chivalrous, courteous, and honorable man.

  11. Norman Baron
    Norman Baron says:

    I would choose to fly with Richard Collins. I have followed and learned from his articles for untold years.

  12. Hunter Heath
    Hunter Heath says:

    Hands down: my father. He died at 61 a few years before I started flying. I will forever regret that we never flew as a pilot pair. We were close anyway, but that aviation bond would ice the cake of our history.

  13. Bob Siclari
    Bob Siclari says:

    Kermit Weeks. He has been doing so much in aviation, especially saving vintage aircraft. He is truly an inspiration to many, including myself. So much, that I have decided to continue my pursuit of getting my private pilot license that I had to put on hold almost 30 years ago. I feel the world of aviation is lucky to have someone like him!

  14. Barry Arnold
    Barry Arnold says:

    I would chose to fly with my father, 23000+ hours in war and peacetime almost 8000 in a DC 3 including 58 missions flying as sole pilot in a DC 3 over the high hump of the Himalayas in wartime and rising finally to his last flight in command of a 727 with all the water arches etc in Brisbane Australia. We only did one trip with me in command and that was in a 172 into Amberly AFB for an airshow just after he retired. It was amusing to see the face of the Air Force guy at the entry gate when we had to give our details the pilot in command PPL and the co-pilot ATP and all the ratings his eyes asked many questions.

  15. Sky Pilot
    Sky Pilot says:

    Victor Belenko. He stole his MIG and flew it to Japan and turned it over to our “techies”…… who were amazed at what ol’ Ivan had created from bear skins and antlers.

  16. Jon Leineke
    Jon Leineke says:

    J.H. Jack Leineke, my father. A private pilot. Very smooth on the controls and would have made a great instrument pilot. Brother Al Leineke, captain Delta Airlines (ret). 8 type ratings and loved tail draggers. Both have flown west. Someday, perhaps, with Al’s son Jet, an up and coming pro pilot.

  17. Ken Durkin
    Ken Durkin says:

    “Doc”Cowell. He’s started his working life as Fireman on the Ohio Railroad. WW2 intervened and he was trained as dive bomber pilot who luckily didn’t have to go to war as someone else dropped a very large bomb! He used hus GI bill to become a doctor in the Rio Grande valley where he met with some Crop Dusters who became the Confederate Airforce. Having retrained as a pilot he moved to Huntsville, TX. As a general practicioner. He then started Aviation medicals and through these eventually became the senior AME in his area as well as medical director for Continental. He obtained his ATPL in his late 60’s to prove a point! I had the pleasure of flying around Southern Texas with him in his Beech Sundowner over 20 years. A thorough gentleman and a Safe pilot who is still missed by those who knew h8m

  18. mike pierce
    mike pierce says:

    Gene Cernan- met him a few times, shared a traffic pattern with him ocassionally. Impressed me as an all around great guy. He greased those landings every time in his 421. Enjoyed his book- autographed copy. Wish he still flew in a couple times a month.

    • John Parkman
      John Parkman says:

      I would love to fly with Jack Ridley…he is an inspiration to aviation engineering. He died much too young in a C47. And I would love to take Leonardo da Vinchi flying…so he could see just how revolutionary and accurate he was for the future of aviation. And his quote, “for once you have tasted flight you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward…for there you have been…and there you will long to return” is amazing considering man first flew an airplane almost 500 years after his death.

  19. Paul
    Paul says:

    Sir P Gordon Taylor, author of “The Sky Beyond” and Edwin Musick, Pan American Chief pilot who pioneered many of Pan Americans transoceanic routes.
    A flight with either man would not be short and we’d have plenty of time for conversation.

  20. Ross Bond
    Ross Bond says:

    Bob Hoover for his extraordinary piloting skills, and Gordon Baxter for his wonderful skill of enjoying flying and being able to share it in his writing.

  21. Jeff Woodward
    Jeff Woodward says:

    I would love to fly with Martha Lunkin because of her experiences and personality. I also would enjoy flying again with Gene Miller, who owned Phillipsburg, Ohio airport because of his vast experience flying different aircraft.

  22. Susan Haass
    Susan Haass says:

    My first thought was Bob Hoover, but I immediately realized that was wrong. The pilot I’d most like to fly right seat with is my late father, Jim Teese. He was an Army aviator, trained in Pensacola, and Texas, with a Tuscaloosa airman in Alabama, flew in Korea and Vietnam, and I don’t know where else. Sadly, when he retired, to the best of my knowledge, he never flew again. He was gone 7 years when I finally was able to do a Discovery flight – on his birthday, and pass my check ride on Fathers’ Day. He flies with me regularly today…

  23. Bryan Boyle CFI-IA
    Bryan Boyle CFI-IA says:

    Actually, I’d have liked a chance to fly right seat with my dad again. He flew west 18 months ago, and while not famous, well known, or particularly rich, taught me everything I know about how to be a gentleman and courteous pilot. Because of his medical issues, he had no chance of ever getting an SI, so, I just sat in the right seat (I’m a CFI…) and worked him through all the maneuvers to the point that if he HAD been able to get the medical, I’d have signed him off in a heartbeat.

    If I had a chance to fly with someone…I’d bring dad along again. Yeah, I guess it would be a treat to share some stick time with some famous aviators like Armstrong or Hoover or Yeager…but I’d still want dad sitting there, too.

  24. Donald Rieser
    Donald Rieser says:

    Bob Hoover.

    I have listened to many great pilots speak at Oshkosh. Bob Hoover’s humility, respect for other pilots, and kind nature are compelling. But watching him do an air show many years ago at DuPage with the P-51 and Commander blew my mind. I have seen other pilots try to emulate his airshow. Not even close. So smooth, so much feel for the aircraft, and energy management that would make Sully blush. Not to mention flying newly assembled piston fighters that were almost expected to fail.

    I’m just afraid it would take the rest of my life flying with him to learn only a bit of what he knew.

  25. Gary Sackman
    Gary Sackman says:

    Richard Collins for his expertise in aviation and his ability to share that with new and experienced pilots. I’ve learned the most from him.

    Amelia Earhart for her bravery and desire to do the impossible. I wish she could have come home. Where are the adventurers that made America and aviation in America great?

    • Pat from Air Facts
      Pat from Air Facts says:

      One thing I remember about those who flew with Richard is that you weren’t allowed to touch any instruments with your finger. You had to point with the eraser side of a pencil. Everyone knew he was a stickler about your behavior in his airplane. One flight, one of his young editors, sneezed and got some “spray” on an instrument(s) and he was praying Richard hadn’t noticed and thought he could non-chalantly get it off. But, of course, Richard had noticed and muttered something like “clean it off” and he was very strict, but not a yeller and remained calm and was forgiving.

      Another rule was you better not make Richard wait for you for a flight. If he said, be there at 7 am, he didn’t mean 7:01. So the first time this same fellow had to meet Richard at the airport, he was so paranoid about oversleeping that he (I swear) had redundant alarm clocks (one by his bed, one across the room), asked a friend to call him, and then hired a commercial wake up service for that morning. He was taking no chances, and yes, he got there on time. A good life lesson.

  26. Ann-Marie C Schmid
    Ann-Marie C Schmid says:

    Harrison Ford
    I grew up on Star Wars. How cool would it be to be able to say you flew with the pilot of the Millineum Falcon?! Talk about a bucket list item!!! :-)

  27. Carl La Rue
    Carl La Rue says:

    Bob Hoover. A lot of pilots are famous for doing exceptional things, or doing something very well multiple times, and I would gladly fly with any of them, noted or not. However, Bob Hoover is the epitome of precision flying to a degree that other pilots can only envy, and I would get great pleasure out of watching that gentleman in action.

    Pouring a glass of water throughout a roll in a twin engine plane without spilling a drop? His energy management routines? One-engine acrobatics at low level? Unmatched, and probably unmatchable, yet the icing on the cake for me was when I bought a book of his at AirVenture and, when autographing it, he engaged me in conversation for five minutes.

    He didn’t have to make small talk, it certainly slowed up his book sales, but he didn’t mind because he was truly interested in another aviator and willing to share his time with me. He was a pilot that I could learn precision flying from if I had only had the chance.

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