An altimeter tried to kill me

The only unusual aspect of the departure was that when the Dulles controller gave me the altimeter setting it was way off what I had dialed in before takeoff. I blamed the big change in altimeter setting I received from Dulles on myself for mistakenly setting the wrong field elevation before takeoff. It was my last and only chance to have prevented the near disaster that was ahead.
A-6 Intruder

One in a million: a chance aerial encounter in Laos

In the heart of the Vietnam War, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base was the home of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, “the Wolfpack.” The Wolfpack had around a hundred F-4D aircraft in four fighter squadrons; it was a 24-hour-a-day sorties machine,…
AirCam with kids

An astronaut, an AirCam, and some kids

It was a Saturday morning and former NASA astronaut Story Musgrave was leaning over drilling holes in his AirCam kit being built with my high school aviation class students. We connected with Story when was a speaker at one of our EAA Chapter 1240 fundraising dinners supporting our youth aviation efforts.
Scott and Dave

Full circle: two brothers and the joy of flying

We are all aviation people, but have arrived at that designation by varying paths. I’m sure that many of us can point to the influence of one particular person in that regard. In my case, it would certainly be my brother Scott. In 1973, Scott was 18 and I was an 11-year-old, totally smitten with anything related to airplanes. We had that in common.

Open ocean, no instruments

Somewhere near the Rubicon, cabin lights flickered, then were gone. I looked at the instrument panel: a few needles held steady, the rest at nadir. The pilot turned to the navigator, “I guess it’s old school.” The navigator nodded, opened a compartment, took out a wooden box and lifted its lid.

Flying a DC-6 to the edge of Alaska

Alaskan pilots know continually changing weather in the state is a challenge. Phil gave me the report of low clouds in Wales and I was already planning my strategy. There are lots of things to consider when operating a large, complex aircraft like the DC-6. Over 90,000 pounds on landing, the airplane's sheer weight made flying it an exercise in mass management, navigation, and crew coordination.

First flights, for young and old

The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association offers a fun opportunity for young children who may never get the chance to participate in general aviation, to “pilot” an aircraft. It is called COPA for Kids. I have participated in two events so far in my flying hobby and will continue to in the future; but sometimes the joy of flight is not just for kids, it is for anyone.

Why did I do that? Fate follows a C-130 pilot in Vietnam

Dusk was falling as we unloaded the last of our troops. Finally we were ready to go. Checklist complete, loadmaster on the intercom, fire extinguisher near by, clear two (number two engine), starter button pushed in. I relaxed as I saw RPM and oil pressure, but then the starter button popped out. That was not right or good.

Learning to fly after 55

The COVID pandemic at least had one positive outcome for me: achieving my Private Pilot license. I have always wanted to share my journey and offer some lessons learned and tips for those that are either learning how to fly or are considering it—especially if you are 55 years of age or older.
Carb heat

My first cross country—uneventful until…

So, there I was, a young 21-year-old man with little flying experience, now concerned that one could not simply pull over, get out, raise the hood, and try to figure out what was wrong. The good news was that the problem did not appear to be getting worse, therefore it seemed like I had time. I did not have an autopilot and letting go of the controls in an old Cessna 150 is like letting go of a kite string, but I had to try to do something.

An F-105 pilot creates his own fireworks show

The high G roll was performed if you were above 400 knots airspeed or higher. You basically pulled full aft stick and full rudder deflection. The airplane did a rapid roll and dissipated about 200 knots almost instantly. If you had an enemy on your tail you hoped it would surprise him and force him past you so you might get a shot at him.
Bob Barth

Words to live by, learned from a master

Although Bob was not a CFI, he spent many hours of his own time sitting in the right seat giving me the best instruction I ever received. He never charged me a dime. Well, that is not completely accurate. When I was preparing for my Instrument Rating, Bob told me to bring a roll of dimes. “Why do I need a roll of dimes?” I asked. “Because every time you deviate more than ten degrees from your assigned heading, you have to give me a dime."
172 panel

An IFR currency adventure

I relocated from San Francisco to Seattle and have not yet found a flight school or club to use in the Seattle area, so my logbook has been quite neglected this summer. When I came back to the Bay Area for my college reunion, I found I had an afternoon to kill on the day I arrived, and decided to take advantage of it with my CFI and old club.

Close encounters of the worst kind

I watched as he released his first two bombs and began his pullout. However, I noticed he was coming uphill directly at me and was closing fast (probably 450+ knots). I also quickly figured out he was going to run into me! I loudly asked, “Lead, you got the FAC in sight?”
Gray clouds

Rollicking in the clouds

We were barely in the clouds for a minute and the aircraft was in a 20-degree bank. I pointed it out and he corrected it, only to lose the altitude and then moments later executed the opposite. That “heavy left hand” was going to exact its commission. The aircraft was back in a left 30-degree bank before you could say, “Hey, watch it!” and the tortured climb rate became a free-wheeling descent rate. The altimeter was having quite the day.

Go with the flow—a day trip to Mackinac Island with a minor hiccup

In August of 2015, I had the opportunity to purchase a beautiful 1965 Cessna 182H Skylane and fulfill my dream of ownership, which I'd had since I earned my PPL in 1972. I informed my wife that our Skylane might not be as reliable as the airlines, and she should be prepared for the unexpected and just go with the flow.
Turn from cockpit

Dad, can I fly the plane?

The day was clear and the winds were calm—a perfect day for Mike and me to go flying in my Cessna 152. There was one problem: I forgot the booster seat for then 8-year-old Mike. So there he was in the right seat, not able to see over the control panel and barely able to see out his window. It didn’t seem to matter much to him; he was just enjoying a Saturday morning with his dad at 2,500 feet.

The real value of an instrument rating

The instrument rating is the most valuable training a pilot can have. I flew 30 years without it, but I strongly encourage everybody that intends to fly anyplace to get the rating. It is amazing how this training gives you the skills to fly in weather and marginal conditions and even avoid thunderstorms. Without it you risk your life when encountering weather.

Owning and flying Bellanca Vikings over the years

My logbook is probably somewhat unique among private pilots in that 90% of my time is in an airplane that isn’t seen at many airports: the Bellanca Viking. I had no real intention of that happening, but it did. Yes, we were naïve. The guy was a good salesman, and we didn’t fully know all the things that should be done before buying an airplane, but it did turn out to be a reasonably good buy in the long run.
Map of route

Airplane vs. automobile: commuting to work by air

Commuting to work by automobile is a time-honored ritual for many Americans. Most airplane owners dream of commuting by air if the opportunity would only present itself. A decade ago, that possibility became a reality for me.