“Nature’s art gallery.” That’s what Elliott Meisel calls the view most pilots enjoy. In this example, the view isn’t necessarily beautiful or calming, but it is awe-inspiring. Meisel captured this photo as he deviated around some storms in his 2006 Cessna 172. A close encounter, but not too close.
I will admit up front, this is the most scared I’ve ever been in an airplane! We were flying a B-1B, non-stop from Andersen AFB, Guam, to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. We were heading home after a lengthy deployment; we were all looking forward to family reunions and that Big Hug! Just past the halfway point, we suddenly got hammered by an extremely pungent odor in the cockpit!
There have been various books written about bush pilots. We are great storytellers about our many escapades, but a lot of what has been published does not get to the crux of what makes a bush pilot. So here is my take.
My wife, April, and I flew over 11,000 miles in our Cessna 206 last summer. We pretty much circumnavigated the lower 48, with a couple of “great loops” to boot. Our mission: to take our daughter’s used Ikea furniture and household items from her Houston apartment to Bangor, Maine, where she was working on assignment.
Flying internationally has its challenges. In the West, there exist synergies between weather services and Air Traffic Control. This is something we take for granted. In other parts of the world, not so much. Below is a story of one such time where a latent threat could have caused an undesirable state.
The Erie-Ottawa International Airport in Port Clinton, Ohio, is a great stop for general aviation pilots. The views of nearby Lake Erie make for a great low-level flight, the Liberty Aviation Museum brings World War II history to life, and the Tin Goose Diner is an authentic 1950s restaurant. Tim Hornyak captures the view from the ramp, with his beautiful AA-1 Yankee in front of it.
Under certain circumstances, a 180-degree turn is the greatest life-saving maneuver that can be performed in an aircraft. I can personally attest to this fact, as it is highly likely that I’m here writing this thanks to a certain 180-degree turn that I made many years ago. That also applies to my three passengers at the time, hopefully still happy and healthy, wherever they may be.
Just then the controller came up: “Descend to 4,500, call the airport in sight, cleared visual approach Odessa-Schlemeyer. The airport is five miles at one o’clock. Cancel IFR this frequency or on the ground. Cleared local frequency.” OK, so where is that airport? Black. That was all I saw. Just black.
I’ve waited almost a lifetime to fess up to behaving badly. The statute of limitations has hopefully expired in sixty-six years. Specifically, in 1954 at age twenty, 165 hours total time, no IFR training and growing up on a rural Pennsylvania farm, I was living a teenage fantasy for adventure in a far-off land.
As we started down, day became night in thick clouds. My wingman, Mark, tucked in tight, fixed on my flashing wingtip strobe. Just then, inexplicably, the loud static began. Still in the clouds and unable to receive or transmit to ATC or my wingman, I got that I see bad trouble ahead feeling.
I was on a return flight, mid morning, deadheading back after an early Angel Flight. Downtown Chicago was basking in the morning sun and it was an excellent photo op. Soldier Field, the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Grant Park in the foreground and Willis (Sears) Tower to the John Hancock in the background.
It was either the third or fourth day and night of almost continuous flying. Ray and I had taken turns flying while the other slept. This had been working until I recall waking up and realizing Ray was asleep in the left seat. We were flying straight and level and on course—the Beech 18 had no autopilot but was extremely stable in the air. On the ground it wanted to taxi all over the airport.
When talk around the dinner table turns to Covid-19 these days, I find myself increasingly using the language of risk management, as if I were evaluating a tricky go/no-go decision in an airplane. I’m certainly not suggesting pilots are experts on infectious diseases, but I do believe the lessons learned by the aviation industry over the last 50 years have something to offer as we all think about life in a world of risk.
After nine weeks in quarantine, your family is ready for a visit to the beach. It might involve more quiet walks and fewer packed restaurants this time around, but in your Piper Saratoga, the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, are only two and a half hours away. Will the weather cooperate?
Flying Boeings and Bells was how I crossed paths with Charles Lindbergh, Mustapha Chafik, the Shah of Iran’s nephew, Mohamed Ali, Leonard Bernstein and Richard Nixon. Geopolitics and the ups and downs of the airline business played a hand as well.
This Lockheed P-38L Lightning now is part of the “Flying Bulls” collection under the very wide Salzburg, Austria-based Red Bull corporate umbrella. It has had a long and highly public career that spans some three-quarters of a century. Built in 1944 and given serial number 44-53254, it was purchased surplus for $1,250 from the War Department.
Upon hearing of the recent passing of Galen Hanselman, my thoughts immediately turned to the awe-inspiring flying trip I took in the Utah backcountry exactly one year ago. The current prohibitive travel restrictions make it an even more valuable experience today. The memories stirred by looking at the video and the pictures puts a smile on my face every time.
About an hour into that leg, I noticed something disconcerting. It was getting dark, and it was only 7:30. All my questions about why this was happening didn’t stop it from happening, and by 8:00 PM, it was totally dark. It had never dawned on me that I lived on the western side of the central time zone, and that on the eastern side of that time zone, things were quite a bit different.
All went well, I reported final on 07, and was getting ready to perform a smooth touch down right past the threshold. Then, about one minute before touch down, I heard somebody saying something like, “LZPT taking off runway 25.” I was not sure I heard right. I mean, I just reported my final about a minute ago. Surely anybody on the frequency, let alone a pilot sitting in his aircraft about to take off, must have heard me?
Richard Collins often told me that the Mooney was a cult airplane. And he was right. While all pilots would brag about how fast their airplane was, and how much it could carry, and how fast it climbed, and how far it went on full tanks, Mooney owners focused on one thing. How fast they flew on so little fuel.