April 1, 2020. The fog rolls in off Lake Michigan… Normally a bustling metropolis, this evening finds Chicago’s streets deserted as the reality of COVID-19, like the fog itself, begins to shroud the city.
A DC-3 is never quiet, but for late night departures, we sometimes would reduce the power a little earlier for noise abatement. Just as I trimmed the RPMs to 2300, the right engine cut loose with a cacophony of explosions that resembled a 10-gauge shotgun being fired right next to my ear. The engine was backfiring. Badly.
We have a lot of memorabilia from both of our fathers, however, one unique item really grabbed our attention. It is a small patch featuring an embroidered boot with a single wing on it. Susan and I wondered what the significance of a winged boot was and why it was part of her father’s memorabilia. I searched the Internet and was stunned by what I learned.
It was an anxious moment. With palms sweating and sweat rings around my armpits I was hoping that my first student was truly ready to slip the surly bonds of earth. Hopefully I didn’t forget to instill any critical kernels of knowledge. Mark was probably thinking along the same lines and was sweating every bit as badly as I was.
I started with the stick well back. The engine was producing full power. I pushed the stick forward. Right at the point of lift off there was an abrupt swerve to the right. I closed the throttle and held the stick firmly back, planted in my ribs.
Flying in actual IMC is an invaluable experience for any pilot and even more so for one training for the next level certification. We knew there would be good IMC opportunity (without icing or convection) on this day for some valuable flying time. We took off early morning, climbed above the first layer and found a nice area for this picture.
The more I fly, the less space for ego I see in flying. Yet, if there is one killer in this business, it is precisely that. We see it in the statistics, we see it on some colleagues, and we see it within ourselves.
After flying for a major airline more than 28 years, I reached the mandatory retirement age. I loved every minute of it, and I had no desire to retire. So, I began to research options so that I could continue commercial flying. As I scanned the internet, I came across a flying opportunity in New Zealand. A small airline was looking for a chief pilot.
Many senior pilots at Eastern regarded new hires as a “kid who didn’t have enough common sense to come in out of the rain.” This condescending attitude was particularly true of some of the older WWII captains flying the DC-8 at the time. Their view of your engineer status and job was simply, “get the fuel on board, sit down, shut up, and keep your feet off the seat.”
I am surprised at how reluctant some pilots are to declare an emergency with ATC, as if some stigma is attached to saying the “E” word, that follows you around for the rest of your flying life. What I find more intriguing is some folks who are the most hesitant to declare one have never had an actual “real world” emergency. Yet.
Airports around sunset are beautiful places to just sit and watch the world go by. Alan Connor snapped this photo of just that moment, as a tailwheel airplane lifts off, rising above a setting sun. It almost looks as if the airplane has a spotlight on it.
In the spring of 1970 my friend Bob purchased a 1953 Cessna 180 on floats. It also had skis for winter. He and his friend had been moose hunting in Canada by living out of a lean-to basic tent. They wanted to build a moose hunting and fishing shack on a remote lake up there. I knew how to build so he included me in the adventure. I jumped at the chance.
On the evening of November 8, 1968, a Pilgrim Airlines twin-engine Beechcraft took off from Bradley International Airport with only a pilot and co-pilot aboard. Shortly after take off, when the flight was about five miles southeast of the airport, the aircraft suddenly lost a three-blade propeller from one of the engines and was forced to return to the airport and make an emergency landing.
About midway through the clouds, my JPI engine monitor began alerting us to a rapidly dropping bus voltage. Shortly after, we watched our GTN 650 GPS turn into a screen of flashes and hieroglyphics. I immediately leveled the wings, stopped my climb and leveled off (Rule 1 – Fly the plane!).
You’re pointed away from the destination airport on some controller’s vector and you are sweating the near-empty fuel gauges. As a last resort you tell the controller you are minimum fuel and need priority to the runway. Did you violate FAR 91.167, the rule that sets the requirements for minimum fuel when flying under IFR?
A sunset between layers, flying southwest between two of the most well known tourist destinations in Brazil: Rio de Janeiro and Foz do Iguaçú, home of our share of the amazing Iguazu Falls, on the triple border with Argentina and Paraguay.
Bleak. Barren. Forbidding. Lonesome. Awesome. Beautiful. Cosmopolitan. No, this isn’t one of those “pick the word that doesn’t fit” quizzes. These words all describe a three-day flight across Alaska, from Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow) to Anchorage.
Everything was going perfectly until I turned base leg and heard my very first mayday call. It was a pilot of a Cessna 172, who had just taken off on runway 33. He was experiencing power loss, and called out that he didn’t think he could fly the circuit because he had three passengers on board, so he was attempting to make a turn around and land on runway 15.
I tied down the plane and went up to the office to pay the fee. On departure (remember, the beer!), the friendly gentleman mentioned—just by the way—that the airspace over Warsaw was about to be closed from 10pm that day (Friday) until 10pm the following Monday. The reason? The US President was about to fly in to commemorate the outbreak of WWII.
Zach put his iPhone flashlight to use in the only shadow to be found in the brilliant blue aloft. “Dad! Oil is pooling at my feet.” Instinctively I began a 180-degree turn to the last airport we flew over—a life boat in the distance known as Silver Wings Airpark (TS36). I traded airspeed for altitude and resisted the urge to command more from my faithful Continental by pushing up the power, knowing now the race against time had begun.