My near fuel emergency

The extra RPMs to compensate for the half-opened carb heat, a probably too conservative mixture, and of course stronger than forecasted winds aloft resulted in a much higher fuel burn than expected. Surprisingly, the FBO pumped 34.5 gallons into our Skyhawk! That calculates to only 3.5 gallons remaining.
Super Cub

A simple oversight almost ruins a bucket list trip

From Andover I flew the first leg to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, the Cub’s birthplace. We topped off and I climbed up to check the tanks, which was probably my first mistake. Lyle took the front seat and I squeezed all 6‘ 1” of me into the back. Lyle cranked the starter and we heard a bang like something hitting the plane. We ignored it. Second mistake.
Closed runway

The hex of the X

I was soon downwind with a Cheshire cat grin on my face my only thought being what a great pilot I was to become. After a greased landing “Mr. Pro Pilot” taxied up to the FBO. Strangely, no one was there to greet me? It was mid-morning but all the doors were locked. Now what do I do?
Cessna 182

Weight and balance “get-there-itis” traps

It was a beautiful spring day for an airplane ride, which I was asked to give to a very important and even famous client (and his two friends). As an instrument pilot having flown for years, I knew the importance of getting the exact weight of my client and his two adult friends, so I got the numbers over the phone. I never realized that a hidden trap was awaiting me until I first saw all three of them at the airport.
Thermometer at 100 degrees

Low, hot, and humid

The subsequent takeoff began normally enough—I didn’t necessarily notice if we became airborne a little farther down the runway than normal or not. But once airborne, I slowly became aware that things weren’t going as expected. After liftoff, the climb rate of the 172 was downright anemic to say the least. It was clawing the air trying to climb, but without much success.

Who’s pilot in command? A faulty assumption leads to an accident

There was much joking and laughing about operating the Savannah, a small aircraft, from an 8,000-ft runway that had been built for nuclear bombers. The weather was perfect, we were in high spirits, but there was no discussion about our respective licences and experience or check procedures. We were just a couple of pilot mates going for a fly—what could go wrong?
Scud from Cessna

A severe, multi-day case of “get-there-itis”

I took off before noon, as planned, and headed south. Soon the sky grew dimmer, and clouds started turning from cumulus to a thick carpet around 3000 ft AGL. Rain patches started to appear and two hours into my 3.5 hour planned trip I had to dodge them. Then about one hour from my destination a solid wall of rain appeared in front of me.
Stewart Mountain Dam, AZ

Breaking news—and breaking the rules

The visibility forward decreased gradually, but you could still see the ground. We were able to see Granite Reef, a small diversion dam and the point where the Verde and Salt rivers merge, but continuing further east was becoming a problem. Yet my urge to get the on-air reporter to the news site was strong. After all, that’s what I was getting paid to do.
Runway 29 approach

A spur of the moment decision, and a missed NOTAM

We entered the traffic pattern, and on left downwind to runway 29 we saw an area in the grass at the edge of the woods surrounded by yellow caution tape. Huh... wonder what that’s about. We landed and back-taxied, and could now see it was a wrecked plane that was cordoned off. No one around, just the plane. Curious.
W&B form

Flying loaded: what could possibly go wrong?

I knew we were very heavy and would need much more runway than usual to take off, but was really surprised when the nose lifted off before we were even at 40 knots. We were gaining speed slowly, but it needed a lot more nose down trim, and finally at around 110 knots airspeed we lifted off the runway, at the exact moment I ran out of forward trim.

Close call with a blimp

Like all pilots, I don't like to talk about the stupid things I did in the early days of my flying career. I have filed this one (along with a few others) in the file that says "never again." A big lesson was learned that night, and I made myself a promise to never again make low passes in an aircraft.
Cockpit view

Get-home-itis: be on the lookout

During a recent long day of flying I had a chance to experience aviation’s version of completion bias—the drive to complete a flight—also known as get-home-itis. I learned a great deal from it and want to share the experience. First the set up and then we’ll unpack what I did right and wrong.
MSN airport

Making a big mistake on my solo cross-country

I forged ahead, making good time. It was 5:00. Did I mention the sun was due to set at 5:30 and there was already a thick overcast? I needed to go to plan B. Crap. I had no plan B. But I did have this VOR that would tell me how to get back to Madison. I tuned in to the Madison VOR and turned the OBS knob to center the needle. Then what? I had no idea.

Breaking my own “rules to fly by”

My passenger-side wing was pointed straight down at the mountainous terrain below us and, seated behind me, my good friend and her six-month pregnant daughter gasped in sheer terror. Just a moment before, we had been cruising in CAVU conditions while meandering along the windward ridgeline of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. How did I find myself in this predicament?
Indian Harvard

Fire, fire, fire

I had qualified as a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force in 1966, completed the flight instructor’s course a few months earlier, and just upgraded to QFI Cat B a few days ago. In other words, I could do no wrong. I was indestructible! I was carrying out an A&E check on a Harvard IV-D which had undergone a routine servicing. I was flying solo and the plan was to do the engine and trim checks followed by a stall and spin.

Lost in the Canadian Arctic

I was a fairly new, 22-year-old bush pilot based in Cambridge Bay, in Canada’s Arctic (now Nunavut) in 1982. I had the only aircraft based this far north at the time and was the first call for medevacs, with our twin engine type E Aztec with long range tanks. It was usually single pilot night IFR, but on this flight, one of my two bosses had recently arrived.
152 in a spin

Overconfident and under-coordinated

After practicing slow flight for a few minutes, I tried a few power-off stalls. Completing those successfully and returning to 1500 feet AGL, I felt that I could handle a departure stall with no problem. Despite the warning from my instructor and still being uncomfortable with the maneuver, I decided to proceed.

Three minutes before the fan turns off

This is a story on how, at 10 minutes after midnight and after 5 hours of flight time, in an unfamiliar airplane, over a highway, I gambled my life and an airplane against a very tempted fate and scythe-wielding death and won the whole pot.
Tow bar

Flirting with real (and financial) disaster

Departure was without problem, and soon we were ascending at 1000 FPM over the frozen landscape. It was then than I happened to notice that the amber gear-up light had not illuminated. I cycled the gear down and back up to see if it was a temporary glitch. No change. I then assumed that the light was simply burned out, and not being the green light I needed before landing, made a note to change it at the first opportunity.
Owens Valley

VFR to IFR in a flash on a solo cross-country

I can no longer recall if I was aware of an incoming system and thought I could beat it, or it developed quicker than forecast and “caught me” or what. But in a flash, I went from VFR to IFR as if someone had flicked a switch. My first reaction was to see if I would “pop-out” the back, like all of us did/would/still do. But after about 15-20 seconds, my thoughts turned to bugging out.