I was there

Fighting the war on drugs in the Air Force

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My first Counter Drug (aka CD) operation involved deploying F-15s to Howard AFB in Panama. Under the auspices of the USAF’s 12th Air Force, we took four F-15Bs down south to provide augmented air surveillance in the Caribbean as part of the grand plan to interdict drug running out of Colombia up in to Mexico and points north.

How spatial disorientation can trap pilots

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My student Max, like many before and after him, could just not bring himself to believe that he could not fly the airplane by the seat of his pants without visual references outside the cockpit in spite of instruction and all the materials he had read about spatial disorientation and vertigo.

Flying is no joke

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As he taxied to “line up and wait,” something was amiss. Yet he and I both persevered in our thoughts of better flight to come. Shattered easily by the slipping nose wheel as the throttle was advanced, I pushed the right rudder a bit and felt the resistance from his feet, locked in a state of motionless silence. He must have felt it, for he looked over at me with a quizzical look.

Lake Placid: anything but

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I ran through the before landing checks from the laminated checklist card and right about then Laura announced she had the field in sight. Then a bump. Not a vertical bump one would expect on a warm summer day, but a fairly stiff bump with a bit of roll. “No big deal,” I thought.

Why airline pilot schedules and cruises don’t mix

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There appeared to be five days on the itinerary for our four-day cruise. Counting the days… recounting them… uh oh. Too many days. We are now in the middle of the ocean, with no communication capability whatsoever, and had no way of telling our new company that we simply could not make it back for work the next week.

Changing perspectives, one flight at a time

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Before I started working at this central Texas plant as an electrician, the people I would soon be working with already knew I was a private pilot with my own airplane. I had many people approach me with questions about being a pilot and flying. The most fascinating aspect of these discussions involved my dispelling the view that becoming a pilot was just for the super-rich.

When breaking the rules is the safest thing to do

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Everything was perfectly normal as I allowed the plane to accelerate to rotation speed, and gently lifted off the runway. But as soon as I began the climb out, I began to suspect that I had made a major mistake. The little Cherokee, normally as docile as an old mare, was suddenly bucking and swaying like a wild bronco trying to throw me off!

A flight of firsts doesn’t quite go according to plan

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This flight was a primary for multiple events, including my first flight as pilot-in-command (PIC) without an instructor since I received my private pilot license, first passenger flight, and the first time I truly had to exercise my aeronautical decision making skills. Admittedly, I came out of the aircraft somewhat shaky, but safe.

Growth over comfort – true for airplanes and kids

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Growth over comfort. I’m not sure when I learned that phrase or where I heard it, but it completely sums up my experiences of becoming a pilot. I certainly was not comfortable the first time that small plane rose off the runway. I was not comfortable the first time I heard that stall horn blare, and I certainly was not comfortable the first time I turned final and my instructor said, “Your airplane.”

Compound emergency – a line boy learns a lesson

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I thought for a spell, (it’s always bad when a pilot starts thinking) and decided even though I had been taught never to leave a running airplane unmanned, it would be alright this time because, heck, I was an expert! Besides, I was in a hurry, and the parking brake would hold it.

Fear the reader – my first charter seaplane flight

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The day was June 8, 2018. After a long and laborious process to get my FAA Part 135 Air Taxi Certificate, I had finally scheduled my first revenue-generating charter flight in my 1959 de Havilland Beaver on amphibious floats. This 200-mile round trip flight was planned from Gig Harbor’s Tacoma Narrows Airport to Roche Harbor Airport in the San Juan Islands.

For want of a nail…

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I got the news the hard, modern way: skimming local news on my smartphone, I cried out to my wife, “Don and Nancy [names changed for privacy] were killed in an airplane crash!” I could think of little else for hours afterward. Why? Did they run out of fuel? Throw a prop blade? Hit geese?

The emergency that wasn’t

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The sun was low on the horizon as we got to the plane, and the idea of a takeoff over the water after sundown was low on my list of fun things to do with a tired/hungry kid in the right seat. Everything was normal until I got to the oil.

My intentional gear-up landing

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I needed to get to work soon. I glanced at my phone to check the time, just as I saw Tex put the gear handle down. I heard the familiar whir of the hydraulic gear pump, but I felt an abnormal shimmy in the airframe. I knew then that we had a problem, and I dropped my phone back into my shirt pocket.

Adventure at AirVenture – the experience of flying to Oshkosh

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For those who have never done this, the rules are really simple but prescriptive. You are to approach Ripon and find another plane to follow, 1/2 mile in trail, at 1800 feet and 90 knots. Here is what the NOTAM does not say: NOT 78 knots, NOT 2000 feet, NOT 110 knots, and NOT direct from Ripon to Fisk.

Belize to Canada in a Cessna 182

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At six AM the next morning, I was on a flight from Quebec City to Belize International Airport. The plan was to land, clear customs, and head right out to the plane on the ramp and ready for takeoff, with a 200 NM flight to Cozumel, Mexico. Seeing as how I had already done all these procedures in reverse, I was less apprehensive than I was on the initial ferry.

A multi-engine rating in a weekend

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I recently added a multi-engine rating to my commercial certificate and it was one of the most fascinating experiences of my 30+ year flying career. Obtaining the rating was a bucket list thing. In light of the time available to me for flying, I chose to do an accelerated program held over a weekend to minimize the impact on my work schedule.