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Friday photo: a freight pilot’s view

You sit in one position in one chair for over three hours. You stare at electro-mechanical needles and dials for those same three+ hours, eyes darting from one to another quickly because you have no autopilot. Occasionally, you turn your head away from your only links to survival, your instruments, and consider with much respect your wings and engines.

Night, mist, haze, and all that jazz

Sometimes when we look back to our earliest periods in aviation, we are rightly hounded by some of the infamously stupid things we did—or tried to do. But if you’re like me, you can honestly say you just didn’t know any better at the time, and that there was no one around to warn you of the dangers. We all have to learn. And every once in a while, the learning unveils itself ex post facto.

Never stop listening – why it pays to be paranoid in the cockpit

I rolled the airplane out onto the runway after checking that the final approach course was clear and began slowing to a stop. I was praying that the controller would catch his mistake himself and issue us a cancellation of our takeoff clearance. But he did not do so. Knowing that I would probably create some very big waves, I transmitted over the tower frequency a quite simple sentence.

Basic math for pilots: does it still matter?

Most of the new-hires came completely unglued when forced to execute visual approaches – especially when cleared for such approaches while still quite high and many miles from the field. He said his flights were often forced to miss the first attempts at visual approaches and go around because of the airplanes being much too high on their profiles; I wondered to myself how such a systemic problem could exist in this computerized age.

From high to low, look out below

They elected to make the first pass quite dramatic by keeping their speed high as they approached from the north. Ray leveled out at exactly 8,200 feet and aimed straight at the peak; Chug’s camera was rolling. In what they both said was a very sudden, terrifying moment, the airplane kicked to the left in a yaw condition then hit some moderate turbulence, and then they were looking only yards ahead at the radio tower on the peak of Highwood Baldy, well above their altitude.

The best Christmas lights I’ve ever seen

I hadn’t wanted to work on Christmas Eve; my family had its own plans, and I had wanted to be a part of those plans. Nonetheless, I was fortunate that the three-day trip I had been assigned was scheduled to end at nine o’clock p.m. on the eve of Christmas that year instead of late on Christmas Day. I had to steel my resolve and think stoically. After all, it was my job; it was my responsibility.

How safe are you?

Before I obtained an instrument rating and began using IFR charts, I, too, relied primarily on visual cues; I never paid a lot of attention to actual geodetic elevations of obstacles and terrain. This type of “feel-as-you-go” operation is fine in good, daytime visibility. But in darkness or reduced visibilities, it can quickly lead to disaster. Simply said, when the visibility goes down, you need a better plan.

The weather is what it is – all alone in a Cherokee Six

I descended until I was, in fact, right on top of the waves. The visibility was better there, but, of course, at that altitude, I could no longer receive any VOR signals, and the airplane had no GPS equipment – no airplane did back then. All I had was a coffee-stained sectional chart, and it looked coldly aloof and insultingly bare of any useful information at the time.

Is that legal? Clearing a path through the fog

They say that in every life a little sunshine will beam on occasion. Freight dogs learn quickly to take advantage of every streak of light they can find and they usually don’t tell anyone about it until well after the fact, because they’re never quite sure if what they’ve just done is legal or not.

Debate: when are you “established” in the hold?

Upon passing the VOR I called the Center controller to inform him that we were entering the hold at Sea Isle and was immediately called on the carpet by my pilot friend with me. He informed me that the controller told us to call him when we were “established” in the hold – not when we were passing the VOR.

What you can’t see can’t touch you

I was flying the daily mail run in a saddle-worn Cessna 402 out of Abingdon, Virginia, on a very cloudy, turbulent, rainy, miserable night in mid-March. We had just leveled out at 5000 feet when the radar approach controller in Roanoke called to inform me that I appeared to be turning toward the north.

How I came to be an ag pilot

Reader Dave Sandidge’s uncle, Bernard Threet, was an ag pilot in the Mississippi Delta region for many years. After his uncle’s recent death, Sandidge wanted to honor him by sharing the story of his memorable cross-country in a Piper Cub crop duster. And what a story it is.