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There was no checklist for this one…

I have been extremely fortunate throughout my aviation career to have had the opportunity to perform acceptance flights and deliver multiple types of aircraft. As expected, acceptance flights had the most major and minor mechanical issues. Once the airplanes were delivered, the airplanes were for the most part mechanically clean and reliable. Except for one.

DC-3 vs. blizzard—and that’s just the beginning

Early February 1981. The basketball coach had called expressing concern about our Saturday morning departure from Carbondale, Illinois, to Kirksville, Missouri, for a Saturday night men’s basketball game. He had heard that they were expecting a blizzard Saturday morning in northern Missouri. He wasn’t entirely wrong.

“We was on fire; I could see the flames!”

A DC-3 is never quiet, but for late night departures, we sometimes would reduce the power a little earlier for noise abatement. Just as I trimmed the RPMs to 2300, the right engine cut loose with a cacophony of explosions that resembled a 10-gauge shotgun being fired right next to my ear. The engine was backfiring. Badly.

If something goes wrong, undo what you last did

“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.

Always bring a flashlight

November is the time of year in the Midwest that can bring beautiful crisp late fall days, or it can bring fog, snow, ice, and a freezing rain chilling to the soul. In late November of 1981 I had a flight that encountered almost all of those that mother nature could provide.

Some passengers you never forget

We all have a passenger or two that we simply do not forget. Could be a grandchild’s first flight smile. Perhaps a movie celebrity. A rock and roll group or a comedian. Maybe even a politician. Whether you fly professionally or as a hobby, we all have that one passenger experience that gets talked about over and over for years. Here’s my story.