Bird strikes

Hearing a loud ‘BOOM!’, my IP said, “Sounds like someone had an afterburner blowout!”  We turned and watched as the two aircraft flew by and noted things were amiss.  The lead aircraft was trailing a longer than normal, bright red/yellow afterburner flame which was not the normal afterburner pattern or color.

My lake rescue in northern Ontario

Moments later we started experiencing massive vibrations throughout the aircraft and an extremely rough-running engine. It was apparent that we had a full blown emergency on our hands. Paul made the first of two mayday calls as we continued fighting with the rough engine while weighing our diminishing options. 

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

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.

A rusty pilot takes to the skies again

Fast forward 35+ years and I was once again inspired by my father to get back into aviation, this time as a result of an agonizing four hour road trip to visit my parents (now in their 80s). I wondered if it would be easier to fly instead, so I purchased my first airplane in the fall of 2017, a “new to me” 1966 Piper Cherokee 180! Always a Cessna guy, I’m not sure how I ended up with a Cherokee.

To abort the takeoff or fly

The M20 accelerated down the runway and I had been told to look for 60-70 kts. for a smooth takeoff and climb out.  The Mooney lifted off (virtually by itself) and I could feel the acceleration.  Glancing at the airspeed indicator (ASI), I was surprised to see only about 35 - 40 kts.  The M20 was good, but surely not that good.  We continued to accelerate and had become definitely airborne but the ASI still showed around 40 kts.

The Skipper, the eagle, and the really bad decision

At 65 knots I rotate the nose up and the eagle spreads his wings (at least a 7ft. wingspan) and takes off less than 100ft in front of me.  We are both airborne, centered on the runway, on a heading of 130 degrees, but I’m going about 55 knots faster than he is!  I must avoid hitting him with the propeller.

Close calls in training prepared me for Gulf War combat

One moment I was climbing at a 45-degree angle, and the second moment, I was pointed straight down (very close to 90 degrees) with a fully stalled aircraft. As I looked out the front window, I had no idea if I had enough altitude to pull out of the dive or survive ejecting from the aircraft.
Landing gear lights

Landing gear malfunction over the desert offers lesson in resource management

Suddenly the caution light got my attention indicating that the landing gear was not in a safe position. Soon thereafter, the landing gear circuit breaker popped. I looked immediately in the exterior inspection mirror located on the engine cowling and could see the landing gear dangling precariously in between an up and down position.
Cessna on final

Hard lessons learned

Suddenly, the engine started running very roughly. They always say flying is long hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I put the carb heat on and things seemed to settle down. A few minutes later, the engine roughness and coughing started again with the engine almost dying and then surging back to life in cycles.

One hour closer to your first accident

Within minutes, I'm flying 30 degrees to the left to hold the same heading in clear air while pointing this out to my copilot. Looking past the airport, there was a long string of clouds up next to the Front Range. Down from the clouds comes a long skinny “S” shaped tornado. Our friend in the back seat says, “You know we are flying towards a Tornado.”

Witnessing a horrific accident forges a pilot’s journey

First, we could see the top of the plane and the top tip of the tail through the gaps in the tops of the trees. Then the windshield, then the wings, and then over the whine of the engine there was a ‘CRACK’ and the plane shuttered. The nose rose sharply then sank. ‘CRACK’ ‘CRACK’ ‘CRACK’ it began to shear out the tops of the trees as the nose pitched further and further down.
Landing gear lights

A Precautionary Landing and The Human Body’s Reaction to Fear

I tell the Tower my gear lights don’t indicate three green down in locked. The young man's voice asked me “Would you like a flyby?”  He wanted to know if I wanted to “fly by” the tower for him to look. Then he asked me “How many souls on board?”
Airline takeoff

A runway incident that continues to haunt

After what seemed like centuries of silence, I looked to my right and noticed it was quickly getting brighter - much brighter - when all of a sudden, over the hump in the runway appeared a very large aircraft whose bright landing lights were mimicking noon. It was growing in size, accelerating by the second.
Cessna 172

Strong crosswinds offer a lesson in risk management

When I was close enough, I tuned the Crossville ASOS.  Winds were from 320 degrees at 18, gusts to 25.  Another example that the only forecast you can believe is the one you see in the windshield.

My first solo flights

I must have landed safely, because off I went, solo!  Holy moley, the airplane took off and climbed a lot quicker with only one person on board, all that weight gone.  Also, there was somewhat less yelling in the cockpit.  I went around the pattern and did touch and goes and then went out north of town to the “practice area.” 

The mishaps that never happened and valuable words of wisdom

This is where overall pilot knowledge and experience comes in and I believe that a lot of that is distilled into words of wisdom that we sometimes take for granted. Not surprisingly,  I have some personal stories that make the case that our short words of wisdom are valuable assets if we use them.
Wiegman and son in airplane

A mother overcomes her rusty pilot fears to share the joy of flying

I loved my time in the air. But after having my son, I found I feared flying. I was afraid to leave him without a mother. I would think about flying once in a while as I focused on working and raising him. I was busy, for sure, but I was also afraid. I accepted that bad things might happen when I flew before he was born. In the years after he was born, though, things changed.
Grass runway

Engine Failure Over Kentucky

As I dialed in the tower fre­quency, the cockpit fell silent. Prop-loafing, heart­ stopping engine failure. My training kicked in (thank you, Tom Davis). I added carb heat (late, I know), checked the fuel selector (should have an hour's fuel still in the tanks), flipped through the left and right mags, and pushed the mix­ ture knob into full-rich. No change.
Mooney M20E

Making a difference – speaking up when it mattered

I lost sight of them before liftoff as they passed behind the fuel island tanks. They had passed over the dam and were following the river drainage to the south. At this point, they still had not climbed above pattern altitude. After what felt like an agonizingly long time, they finally reached their cruise altitude of 9,500'.

Beginner’s Luck: Winning my first aerobatics competition

Pitching 20 degrees nose down to build the energy before the first manoeuvre I was ready for the loop. Gently twitching the stick back, 3.5g pushes me into the seat. I subtly relieve back pressure at the top of the loop to ensure a perfect “sky circle” is drawn, the nose gradually dropping back through the horizon and I re-tense my muscles for the bottom of the loop.