I was there

Pitch black landing in Vietnam

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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.

Always bring a flashlight

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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.

Flying with Malik: why the newest generation of pilots will be great

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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.

Engine failure at 150 feet, with a glider in tow

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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.

Back in the Saddle on a Very Different Horse

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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

A checkride turns smoky

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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.

From a rusty pilot: it’s not quite like riding a bicycle

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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.

Three out of four ain’t bad—unless you’re in a Lockheed Electra

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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.

Some passengers you never forget

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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.

One medevac mission turns into two

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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.

Top of the world landing

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In the winter of 1956-57, RB-47H aircraft supported by KC-97 tankers made Top Secret polar flights out of Thule AB Greenland to inspect Russian defenses. I was copilot on one of these flights. In January 1957 we took off in an RB-47H (tail #281—the same RB-47H that was later shot down by a Russian fighter on July 1, 1960). We departed Thule on an ice-covered runway that provided little, if any, nose wheel steering capability.

One last visit to a dying airport

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This airport had been my heart and soul from my late teens for more than several years. I could hear WNEW dribbling out of the crappy radio on the counter, the Coke machine whining, smell the vague noxiousness of the heat from the propane heater. I could see the men that would never be forgotten to me, the instructors that would guide me and help me to get my licenses. 

An island oasis—flying around Puget Sound

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Saturday was clear but going to be hot, with Sunday hotter. CJ needed a break from our isolation and Cousteau and Kepler were at their grandpa Rueckert’s for the weekend. Therefore, a flight to the Langley, Washington airport across some of Puget Sound was on the schedule.

Hot air ballooning—a new experience

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I was recently given the opportunity to get to go up in a hot air balloon here in Northwest Montana. Comically, the pilot that offered the ride is the only one with a lighter-than-air license within 100 miles. The first two times, the weather didn’t allow a flight. However, the third time was the charm.

Hours of boredom, followed by…

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We’ve been in the seats for 3.5 hours and feeling the effects of flying on the back side of the clock. Both of us are yawning and ready for a break. Not to worry though. The guys in the back will be getting their scheduled wakeup call from us in about 10 minutes. I’m suddenly startled by a loud voice: “TRAFFIC – TRAFFIC.” What the heck?

Racing to Columbus

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Approach handed me off to OSU tower, and the clouds over the airfield were now a roiling olive green. I was number one for the airfield and cleared to land; number two was a cabin class twin. I was committed to landing. The twin broke off the approach after the first lightning strike on the airfield, but not me.