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Flying in night skies

We knew much of the world by its night skies flying 707s and 727s in the 60s through 90s. South America’s towering CBs and Saint Elmo’s fire, North Atlantic auroras, North America’s continent-spanning squall lines, and Europe’s icy winters were as familiar to us as the roads and towns commuting to work. This is about those nights and the crews of that time.

From Vietnam to Kobe Bryant—the long history of flying helicopters in fog

Preliminary findings in Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash tell me things haven’t changed much in over a half century. Today, as back then, instrument rated pilots flying IFR capable helicopters continue to tempt fate by pressing ahead at low altitude in low visibility. And mostly they make it to their destination! But it’s an insidious gamble, particularly in hilly areas.

A city boy learns to fly in the country

With only a few instructional hours logged, I had virtually no flying instincts. Mac, my instructor, called “power” and simultaneously shoved the throttle forward. It was all that kept us from cutting a swath through a cornfield bordering the runway’s approach end. The Cub wallowed ahead, barely above a stall, bouncing down on the grass just yards beyond the stalks.

Flying an old Boeing to China for Christmas

Ask airline pilots where they want to be during the Christmas to New Year holidays and most say… home with family and friends! In December 1982, we split the difference; being with wives and kids, but on a 707 odyssey to Tianjin, China, celebrating Christmas Eve in a frigid airport dining room with the leaders of China’s airline, CAAC.

The trip to Dong Den Mountain

Luxury hotels line the idyllic beach today. Forty-eight years ago, it was a bare sugar white expanse of sand and surf and the site of our crude Marine Corps helicopter base known as Marble Mountain Air Facility just east of Da Nang by the South China Sea. Our Marine CH-46 helicopter squadron had flown ashore ten days earlier.

Flight to the Repose

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.

When to ditch training

Years of crew coordination training went out the window on an unremarkable New York-Washington shuttle flight. Just as our 727 lifted off La Guardia’s runway 04 and the number three engine silently died, it was obvious that a deviation from the integrated crew response to the emergency was the best course of action.

The day Lindbergh got lost

Back in 1968 I was the relief copilot on Pan Am’s Boeing 707 Rome to New York morning flight. I was doing pre-departure checks when the purser entered the cockpit with news that Charles Lindbergh would be traveling with us in first class.