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Veteran’s Story: many ways to die in WWII

A World War II Fighter Group climbs out through 20,000 feet of thick English overcast without autopilot or radar assistance–a harrowing experience at best. The odds against your missing dinner that evening went up considerably if you happened to be the wingman on a leader whose instrument skills were…questionable.

Split decision

It can be very helpful to have your copilot handle communications on a tough IFR day. And it can keep him/her in the game when you’re cruising in the sunshine at FL240. But I learned the hard way that it may not be such a hot idea in a VFR traffic pattern.


Wispy smoke begins streaming around the cowling and quickly thickens. Fire! I’m alone in our Cessna 180. My adrenaline flow redlines. After a few seconds considering my options, I turn the master off, grab a piece of equipment, push the left door open, and jump. No parachute.

Bad instructors

During my nearly six decades of flying I’ve had more good instructors than bad. But beware: there are bad ones. The worst instructor I ever had was in a Pitts S2A. I learned nothing from him except how to keep from redecorating the interior of his airplane. Share your experiences with good and bad CFIs.

My night from hell

It was a dark and stormy night. Sounds like the opening line of a bad novel, but the night of May 24, 1996, was dark and stormy as we rocked our way in a 172 from St. Louis to Cincinnati Lunken. We pushed the envelope beyond reason and might not have seen the dawn except for a piece of luck that arrived at precisely the right instant.