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.
Our local EAA chapter had a late afternoon picnic right at sunset at Ovid, NY (D82) – also known as “Ovid International.” Waldo was kind enough to take a number of members up in his beautiful Cub on an absolutely perfect autumn evening.
Backyard gardens enjoyed a good growing season hear in the Midwest, leaving us with an abundance of produce. What hasn’t been used already is being saved by drying, freezing or canning. There’s even a shortage of canning supplies at the local hardware store. That got me thinking about glass jars and outer space. Stay with me and I’ll explain.
The Wright Flyer was my favorite topic for such study. How could two bicycle mechanics succeed in engineering an airplane, and so far away from what they called home? A plan emerged in my mind… why not fly my Cessna 172 to Kitty Hawk and land at the place where the aviation began? Seemed far-fetched initially, but when you put your mind to something, it will eventually manifest.
In the 1970s and early 90s, I was fortunate to fly with many different Twin Otters and operators on combinations of straight skis, wheel skis, mixed nose ski and wheels, high flotation tires, and floats. Using these aircraft to support our research took me all over the vast landscape of the Canadian Arctic, ranging from Tuktoyaktuk in the Beaufort Sea to the High Arctic Islands and east to the Canada/Greenland border in Baffin Bay.
Earning a pilot certificate is one of the most difficult things you can do as a hobby. While technology has made many activities easier these days, pilots still have to learn about magnetos and Morse code, bank angle and Bernoulli. For some aviation boosters, that’s a problem; for others, it’s an opportunity.
After four days of touring the canyons of the West, I was looking at nearly 10 hours of flying time to get home. I checked out of the hotel early and walked across the street to the airstrip, watching the horizon slowly brighten. At exactly sunrise, I took off and grabbed a couple of “secondary sunrises” of the big, red fireball cresting the mesa. Made it home just before sunset!
It all began at the Hawaii Country of the Air, based at Honolulu International Airport. I was scraping oxidation off airplane wings to help pay for lessons. One fine weather day, having acquired 10 hours of dual instruction, my instructor decided I would fly to Ford Island in Pearl Harbor for touch and gos.
If you are into the sort of thing that warrants full tanks of fuel for every flight, then you are already in the realm of those who live to read these tales. Otherwise, this one is for you. You see, flying with a half tank of gas when the trip requires more is asking for a prayer at some time before you reach your destination.
Today’s mission is to fly from Duluth, Minnesota (DLH), to your home in Columbus, Ohio (OSU). It’s nearly 5pm in Duluth, so this flight will be completely in the dark. Your airplane is a Cirrus SR22T, with a full Garmin G1000 glass cockpit, autopilot, and datalink weather. Read the weather briefing below and tell us if you would take off or cancel.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to acknowledge our limitations. We all have them, and most of the time they are benign, but not always. A doctor with less than stellar skills can kill someone. A sub-par lawyer can cause someone to spend years in jail. There are people in every walk of life who make mistakes, some more than others. Pilots are no exception.
A look at the smoky skies over northwestern Colorado, before dusk. In Steamboat Springs, we have been surrounded by TFRs on all sides due to wild fires. While much of the time our aerial views are obscured to just a gray haze, there are magic moments when nature plays with light and color, due to the smoke.
Departure was without problem, and soon we were ascending at 1000 FPM over the frozen landscape. It was then than I happened to notice that the amber gear-up light had not illuminated. I cycled the gear down and back up to see if it was a temporary glitch. No change. I then assumed that the light was simply burned out, and not being the green light I needed before landing, made a note to change it at the first opportunity.
“We probably ought to get some fuel out of the back, don’t you think?” I asked. A man of very few words, Doug said, “yep.” Doug reached up, and I watched him rotate the fuel selector to the right rear position. I reached up about two seconds later and switched my fuel selector to the left rear tank position. After another two seconds, it got quiet. Real quiet. As in no engine noise at all.
I am an Old School pilot. I don’t have a sophisticated, built-in navigational system, nor even an autopilot in our plane. That does not mean I do not know how to fly a 530, but I learned to fly on a float plane on Lake Union in Seattle when I was 19 and the experience formed much of my view of flying.
The Collins autopilot in the King Air 350i did its usual perfect job of flying the ILS. When the radio altimeter system called “100 feet” I bumped the trim switch under my thumb to disengage the autopilot. It handed me the airplane in perfect trim and exactly on centerline over the lights. An easy landing. So was that all legal? Do you know the operating altitude limitations for the autopilot in your airplane?