Bald spot

Who’s landing this airplane?

Collecting my things, I heard an alarmed expletive from the front of the plane. I looked out to see a combination of fear and disgust in Roger’s eyes and my heart sank. I quickly hopped out, walked around front and immediately saw the issue. The right main had a huge bald spot, void of any rubber, that was at least two layers into the threads.
Kid in Cessna

The long way back to the cockpit

I had missed it. I missed flying deeply, badly, in my bones. Hearing the radio chatter, the way pilots talk to each other and with controllers, being immersed again in a world now decades in my past, I was suddenly and keenly aware of how I had loved flying; how it was still such a part of me; how I still loved it and how I always will.

Aerobatics in a 1946 Auster—and a lesson learned

Let me tell you what makes this plane so incredibly fun to fly: it is a 900 kg, four seater cabin with a big prop fed by a 130 hp Gipsy Major (of the sort seen on Tiger Moths), its huge flaps when lowered to 40 degrees let you bring the speed down safely to 30 mph (28mph stall) to take off or land—shortly indeed in less than 100 metres. These are numbers that a microlight would struggle to achieve, should they be able to carry four adults.

An unexpected cross country challenge

Finally clear of the Detroit area, I tried to settle into the routine of following roads and railroads back to Indiana and things were going pretty well. Then, sometime after passing Toledo, I started to feel a little queasy. It was a typical spring day with the usual level of convective bumps along the route so initially I figured I might be feeling the effect of those and gave it no serious thought—for a while. Maybe 15 minutes or so later, my stomach really started to revolt.

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.
Indo-Pakistani war

Flying helicopters in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

We had enough fuel to do three trips each, but by the time I was going for my third trip it was already dark. In addition, the Pakistani army had seen the helicopters and started surrounding the field we were landing in. They were firing at us as we came in to land. On my third flight I could see hundreds of tracer bullets coming towards us from all directions.

Coming Full Circle—Finding Your True Calling

I became obsessed with the notion of doing something useful with aviation. I got involved with Angel Flight and the Young Eagles program but something still was missing. It occurred to me that becoming a CFI might very well fit that bill. After procrastinating for several years, I finally got it done in July of 2009. By then I had nearly 1200 hours or so in my logbook and I really thought quite highly of myself.

Searching my past while flying over Moosehead Lake

The views from the plane were spectacular. This lake is forty miles long and quite wide, with many islands and mountains right down to the shore line. Moosehead’s shore is well populated with cottages and docks.  In the distance we could see several large mountains clearly including the famous Mount Katahdin, the end of the Appalachian Trail.
RV-14A on ramp

Sunrise to sunset: never stop learning

Anytime there are moments like this, I try to open up and turn on all of my senses and let it all sink in. The satisfying smell of the exhaust. The quiet hum of the propeller and engine working together. The screws you feel through the little foam pad you’re sitting on that are annoying, yet oddly comforting. All the colors of the sunset from the deepest of purples to the most majestic oranges.
C-5A Galaxy

Two churnin’ and two burnin’ – who’s the PIC?

We retracted gear and flaps and just before entering the overcast we slammed into a flight of Canada Geese, in classic “V” formation I assume—we never saw them. We sucked several of the large, 12-15 pound birds into the engines. Number one fire handle illuminated red. Numbers two and three engines began vibrating violently with rpm fluctuating 500-1000 revolutions.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a VariEze!

We married when I was in my 40s and he was in his 50s. From our home in Berkeley, he loved to go to air shows in San Jose and Watsonville. He then renewed his pilot’s license, rented Piper Cubs and we flew around California. His day job was teaching machine shop at the East Bay Skills Center in Oakland. One day he said, “I think I would like to build an airplane.” My clueless response was, “That’s nice.”
C-123 landing

Really short and really soft fields—flying C-123s in Vietnam

I was stationed in Saigon, Vietnam, with the 19th Air Commando Squadron flying C-123 aircraft. We achieved an extremely proficient operational ability in all aspects of flying the aircraft. We did this by operating the aircraft into and out of some of the most demanding landing sites imaginable. We landed on roads, fields, sidewalks (Song Be City), and runways made of grass, laterite, sod, clay, asphalt, and PSP steel planking.

Helicopter escapades in the Arctic

Feeling comfortable in helicopters requires an unswervable belief that various key parts such as rotors, gearbox, shafting, and blades will stay connected and keep rotating long enough to make it back to earth in one piece. I was fortunate enough to have this belief and to enjoy spending hundreds of amazing hours in many different helicopters. To top it off, I actually got paid for most of these experiences, using helicopters to support our Arctic sea ice research projects.
Oshkosh overhead

NotKosh—a year without AirVenture

Because Wittman Field stood empty and silent, the summer of 2020 deserves a name as well. I believe it is entirely appropriate to tag this particular part of the last week of July and first week of August 2020 as “NotKosh.” In 2020, possibly more than ever before, we needed Oshkosh.

My pal Joe, ornery to the very end

Joe was an ornery sort, in life and in death too, as you will find out. I met Joe when I was just a little kid. He reminded me of a tough character from one of those men’s true adventure magazines so popular in the 1950s. You know, the type with cover art depicting a guy in ripped khakis fighting a lion with bare hands, while a blonde cowers behind a bush.

My personal Guinness Book of Records

That book’s list of the longest of this or whatever of that prompted me to scroll through an ancient logbook, remembering our three-day adventure to fly a distance of 95 miles… I know, weird, huh? Well, that little hop from Sterling, Massachusetts, to Martha’s Vineyard gave me and my wife quite a different flight experience.

A beautiful early May Day might have become a mayday

The Stinson 108 has two piano hinges on the top cowling for easy access to the engine. Departing the grass strip, reaching about 2500 feet, I noticed one of the hinge pins had migrated out about three inches. It was bothering me, and I was considering making an unplanned stop to fix it. That’s when I happened to look down and saw a bit more pressing issue. My oil pressure was dropping fast!

When a simulated emergency becomes all too real

The student occupied the left seat and the owner of the flight school occupied the right seat. Everything was going normal until we got to the ride segment, where we would do single engine work. Our flight school had a procedure to simulate an engine loss by pulling back the throttle to a predetermined manifold pressure. For some reason, the chief pilot pulled back the prop control and not the throttle. The engine failed, and the propeller feathered.
FACs piston

Come fly with me: life as a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam

I served as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Southeast Asia, flying the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco from Thailand as well as from bases in South Vietnam. I flew 165 missions over North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Join me now on one of those missions.

Full of life

The day included close observation of three different types of fighters: P-40s,  P-51s, and P-47s. The pilots gathered to watch their first Thunderbolt land and taxi to the area where all squadron aircraft were parked. The canopy was already open for landing safety, then the pilot shut off the engine, unstrapped the seat belts and parachute harness, then stood up in the cockpit to exit. The pilot’s helmet was removed and long, blonde hair fell to her shoulders.