“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.
I moved the picnic table out of the way, got in the SUV, fired up the reluctant engine and turned on the lights to make my way the 125 feet or so from the hangar to the plane to unpack my bike and other gear. Then… “GET OUT OF THE CAR! GET THE HELL OUT OF THE CAR!”
There are rusty pilots and then there are RUSTY pilots. I was a RUSTY pilot, having not been PIC in the left seat of an airplane in 40.7 years. Half of a lifetime! As many of you, there existed a love for airplanes since childhood. Growing up, Sky King reruns started the dream and gave me an appetite to experience flight.
My wife and I have six grandkids and when we go flying, we like to take one of them with us. The kids know that they get to go for their first plane ride when they turn four years old. Well, Ava turned four in October and asked when she could go for her first airplane ride. But Grandpa has a set of rules he flies by for the first plane ride.
Straight line distance from Cairns (YBCS) to Longreach (YLRE) is around 830km (450nm or 515sm) but much further by road, so the only option for getting there and back in the one day was by air. Hew had borrowed hangar mate Michelle’s RV-6A to fly to Longreach and retrieve his aircraft. All that he needed now was another pilot to accompany him in the RV-6, then fly that aircraft back home to Cairns. Was I available? You betcha!
As I approached 9,500 feet, the climb rate hadn’t slowed, even after reducing power, so I accepted the smooth elevator ride and told Joshua I was going to 11,500. A couple of minutes later I was still going up at more than 1,000 fpm, with throttle closed, carb heat on, nose down, doing 140 kts—30 faster than cruise.
I was born in a workshop in Wichita, Kansas, in 1951 and registered with serial number 15695. Right after my test flight, my new owners, who had ordered me a few months before, took me on my first cross-country flight over the states of Oklahoma and Texas and across the Río Grande into Mexico.
In October 2005, I was giving incentive rides in my MK 4 Jet Provost from Friday through Sunday in support of the Celebrate Freedom airshow at Camden Air Field, South Carolina. I was approached by a middle aged gent asking me to give a ride to his dad. I apologized and explained that unfortunately, I had to fly 100 miles away to take the jet for its annual inspection and then drive 2+ hours back to my home.
I asked ALCC if they had any runway lighting. They stated that that field did not have any lighting. I told ALCC to stand by. I got out my list for the artillery units for that location, called the first unit and asked if they had any parachute flares. They responded that they did, and I asked them to pop one.
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.
Scottsdale operations called: “I have scheduled you on a ten-day South American tour with Elton John starting on the 17th. Find another captain to go with you. Elton’s agent wants an additional pilot besides Ernie… he wants to see two people with some white hair in the cockpit.”
Malik now has the distinction of being the youngest black person in the world to have received a B-777 type rating. That’s only fitting, because most people think I’m about 60. I now have the distinction of being the oldest person in the world to have received a B-777 type rating, at 74. But neither of us knew this until after we had completed our training.
I was towing and we were taking a passenger on a ride. As I recall the ride was a very attractive young lady so there were many volunteers among the commercial pilots, but it was Joni Whitten’s turn and she was not relinquishing that turn. The flight was normal until we were at about 150 feet over the woods at the south end of the runway, when the engine quit.
And then she said it: “why don’t you fly anymore?” My response was simple: “I don’t know.” Suddenly, I had a flying club membership application in my hand—I was going to get my ASEL (I didn’t know what that was, just that was what I was going to get). There I was, a Commercial, Instrument-rated helicopter pilot, learning to land an airplane
The examiner was competent and fair, and he really put me through my paces. The flight was going well, and I was confident. He asked me to set a course for Lost Nation Airport in order to do some pattern work. The flight suddenly become far more interesting. I thought I noticed an odd smell in the cockpit, something unfamiliar in the context of the trusty 152.
Air Facts Journal has published many stories about rusty pilots returning to the cockpit, some after years of not flying as a pilot in command. I last flew in March of this year. Like many readers, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on my flying. The economy is uncertain, there are few $100 hamburger destinations where you can eat on-site, and airplane rental FBOs have imposed previously unheard-of restrictions.
September 11, 1996, will always remain in my memory. We had recently departed Terre Haute, Indiana, and were now cruising eastbound toward the Atlantic Coast at Flight Level 210. A young captain (me, at 40 years old) was still on his proving runs with a check airman when there was a problem. We had an engine fire warning on engine number four.
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.
The medevac mission was to retrieve a wounded GI, but there was no landing zone (LZ) close by, so we would have to extract him by holding the helicopter at a stationary hover about ten feet above the trees, and use an internal rescue hoist and a “Stokes litter” wire basket. The trees were about 75 ft. tall at the scene, and the basket was quickly lowered.
Hang around aviation long enough and you will hear some strange things. Here are seven stories that show how even simple mistakes can have serious consequences, but also how a little ingenuity can solve some vexing problems.