Flying bananas with an unexpected passenger

Settling in cruise, taking a deep breath for a job well done and thankful for the chance to experience all of this, I glanced some movement off of one box strapped on the copilot’s seat. As I would have not wanted to believe it since I was alone in the plane and bananas are not known to have any means of mobility, I was hesitantly beginning to admit that it was some live creature that had somehow hitched a ride!
Airplane in sun

Preventable rendezvous: avoiding a mid-air collision

As we breathe a sigh of relief after the amazing outcome of the serious midair in Denver this month, with a parachuting Cirrus and a cool Metro pilot unaware of the chunk taken away from his plane, I am driven to think of my own near misses, the learnings from it, and how to avoid them altogether.

Forced to land in Waco

We were all enjoying the smooth flight and the wonderful views of the ground and clear skies along the way. A few minutes later, exactly 10 DME north of Waco Regional according to my new DME, my propeller speed instantly shot up from 2450 RPMs to the dial’s peg. The sound of the prop increased with it and immediately got my attention.
Cessna 310

Do you hear that?

Las Vegas International Airport can be one busy place for a general aviation pilot. As I latched the door, tower issued a "cleared for immediate takeoff" as there were several airliners lining up on the approach. Not wanting to sit on the hot tarmac waiting for several airliners to land, I took my hand off the latch and pushed the throttles forward. We were on our way!
Jump plane

Fun and games at 14,000 feet: reflections of a jump pilot

During my working career I can say with the utmost of sincerity that I’ve most certainly seen the “dark side." I’m a survivor, and after just about 40 years in the trenches, I bailed out (no pun intended) and made it to a better place. Now you might find it odd that a 62-year-old guy would seek out and subsequently find employment as a jump pilot, but believe it or not, I did.
Engine failure

Familiarity breeds? Engine failures, real and imagined

He turned to me, almost sweetly, and said, “I’m real sorry to have t’ tell you, but you just lost your engine.” The engine noise dropped, along with the nose of the plane. What?? No! I’m not ready for this! I’d only just done one tentative turn, poorly, lost altitude, and had to climb back up. I wondered if that had set him off, and this was revenge.
Chile coast from air

Witnessing an earthquake from the air

As the return trip now headed east, about 20 nm from the metropolitan airspace and flying at 4500 ft AMSL, I noted something odd in the landscape. Some clear amount of dust was being elevated from the soil. In 10 minutes, the visibility went to almost nil. What happened?

DC-3 vs. blizzard—and that’s just the beginning

Early February 1981. The basketball coach had called expressing concern about our Saturday morning departure from Carbondale, Illinois, to Kirksville, Missouri, for a Saturday night men’s basketball game. He had heard that they were expecting a blizzard Saturday morning in northern Missouri. He wasn’t entirely wrong.
DC-6 Pan Am

Into the muck

Flying in Berlin in the early days was an exercise in weather management that never seemed to come out exactly right, particularly when the summer days flowed into the crispness of autumn and then the dank grey of early winter. Fog, low ceilings, and ticklish approaches became the norm during the winter months.

Negative transfer: a military pilot learns a hard lesson

The lieutenant that would almost kill us both walked into my office on the second deck of Hangar 23 at Naval Air Station Alameda early on a sunny afternoon, wanting to get checked out in one of the aero club’s Cessnas. “I want to take my family flying,” he said. I looked him over—his gold flight wings, pressed khakis, brown shoes—and thought, “Here is a skilled Naval Aviator.”
Twin Otter

Overweight in a Twin Otter—but how?

I pivoted the airplane at the end of the airstrip and lined up for takeoff. We completed the takeoff checklist, and one last thought went through my mind: hot day, very humid, full load, and a short field! I was going to need a good takeoff run and slow climb-out to clear the seawall. I decided to use 20 degrees of flap to improve the short-field capabilities and shorten the takeoff roll.

My first combat mission in an F-4 Phantom

We both listened carefully to the excited and concerned voices of the Marines and their forward air controllers pinned down on the ground in the city as they tried to talk me to the right building. The target was a small building in the middle of a city of small buildings. We both knew that the target was impossible to identify from the air.

A gear problem?

And now, I had them both—a plane and all the ratings that go with it. And, of course 400 hours or so, which made me that "great" pilot. And so it was time to take it all to the test. I took two friends and off we flew to Geneva, Switzerland, a breeze of 1.5 hrs with the DA42. The mission: to attend the yearly car show, of course!

Peer pressure among pilots

I watched a crew wrestle their jet down the runway and taxi into the FBO where I was parked. After the passengers disappeared I asked the captain about the approach. He laughed and said he probably should have diverted. As he walked away I decided I would delay our departure.
Medical X

An FAA medical story with a happy ending

One sunny afternoon in mid-June I grabbed a letter out of my mailbox. The return address sent a shiver down my spine: FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine in Oklahoma City, OK. I had no particular reason for concern, as I had a valid 3rd class medical which had just been renewed the previous September. Also, I have a practical joker friend who might pull off this exact stunt…

The mystery of a very heavy 747

Normally, the nose strut should extend, followed by the nose gear breaking ground. The nose should rise, as checked on the attitude indicator. So what was going on here? The line was tight but it felt like a snag. The nose wasn’t coming up. Of course, this was happening very fast. Too fast to say more than, “Nose is heavy.” Way past the point of stopping.

Orders from heaven

Once upon a very, very long time ago, the Salt Lake City Police Department decided to experiment with using an ultralight aircraft for patrol work. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect some police officer who was also an ultralight pilot found a creative way to have some fun and get paid for it.
Chinook landing

Helicopter rescue on Mount Rainier

It all started with a pounding on the front door at 5:00 AM. We were living in a house inside Mount Rainier National Park. I was directing youth programs in the park and at the time coordinating helicopter support from the US Army Reserve 92nd “Hooker” squadron out of the Seattle area in Washington State. For the better part of the summer, we had access to 10 or more of the very big, twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopters to fly materials and supplies into the back country for our youth projects.

Grayout at 17,000 feet

On Monday, August 13, 2012, I came as close to dying in an airplane as I ever want to. Accidents typically don’t stem from one cause or event. There is usually a series or chain of events that occur where if even one of the links were broken, disaster might have been averted. My case was no different. Looking back on it, I was lucky in spite of a series of events and decisions that contributed to my situation and could have ended very badly.

An American pilot flies a Chinese-owned Citation through Russia

It was January in Siberia and the sun was in the process of dropping below the horizon while I was about to intercept the localizer to a localizer only approach. The Chinese-registered CJ1 technically had three crew, me in the left seat, a Chinese pilot from the company that owned the plane in the right seat, and a Russian translator who was kneeling between the pilot seats.