Handshake

Finding our fathers

Knowing ourselves is a task for a lifetime. Knowing our forebears is a great help. I am under no illusion that “the old is good, the oldest is best.” That conceit seems unavoidable, revealed in the stories of Noah and his ancestors. We hear it in the sobriquet given to our parents, “the Greatest Generation.” Our wiser self knows it’s not always the case. We still need to know where we came from.
HUD labels

When the magic dies: flying with and without HUDs

Sometimes the FM dies. The GPS goes on vacation, the HUD goes to sleep, the INS wanders off to a continent other than the one on which you are currently operating, or your radar takes a smoke-break. In those instances, we Viper drivers were left with what we called an iron sight, which is akin to the fixed, lighted reticle WWII pilots used to aim their weapons.
F-105 Thud

Dumb games with very fast airplanes

In February of 1966, I was lucky enough to be selected to fly the Republic F-105 Thunderchief after graduating from USAF pilot training at Williams AFB, Phoenix, Arizona. I had hoped to get selected for a fighter assignment and this was on…
Seadog

Seaplane hijinks on the Connecticut River

Always keeping an eye out for opportunities to enhance my aeronautical flight experience, on June 26, 1966, I wandered into Walt O’Connor’s Agawam-Springfield seaplane base. Talk about opening up new horizons! This river rat bush pilot got to enjoy his two favorite things: from "docks out" in the fall to "back in" springtime, his 65 and 85hp BC12D Taylorcrafts and his coveted Warner Radial-powered Fairchild 24, lay idle.
Boeing 787

The Boeing 787’s ten years of service—a pilot perspective

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a marvel that serves as a reference for anything that came after: quieter, smoother, more fuel efficient than any other jetliner designed before or after. From my perspective, having spent almost four years flying it (nearly half of its service time) and logging over 2300 flight hours in one of the pilot seats, I really feel proud of the level the 787 has brought me as a professional.
Towbar

There’s a reason we use checklists

I had pulled my airplane from the hangar as Bill advanced the throttle and began moving from the hangar area to the taxiway. I glanced over and I had this impression that something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t see or hear anything to reinforce that impression and I turned back to my own task at hand to continue the preflight of my plane.
Stretch the glide

Don’t stretch the glide—easier said than done

The wind had seriously increased while we were aloft and on downwind I realized we were too far out when I turned base. I was getting a close-up view of the trees at the end of runway 11. I did two things, one of which was apparently necessary. One was fighting the urge to raise the nose. The other was to continue a conversation with the passenger so our landing would appear normal, not frightening. 
Jumping from 123

Paratroopers of the 1950s: in the trees, at night

After my chute stabilized, I reached up and grabbed my main canopy risers, tilted my head back and checked my canopy. In the pale moonlight I could see the drop zone (DZ) to my right. I immediately realized that the wind was moving me away from the DZ, and slipping was not going to get me there. The US Air Force had missed the drop zone completely and had dropped three plane loads of 82nd Airborne paratroopers, including me, in the trees—at night!
C-123 in flight

Flying (improvised) IFR in Vietnam

Flying IFR, we had few instrument procedures, so we had to improvise most of the approaches. This led to some quite interesting approaches as you can imagine. For instance, going into Saigon when the weather was bad, if you called Approach for an instrument approach, you would be given probably 45 minutes to an hour and a half for an approach time. If that happened, we would set the radar altimeter to 200 or 100 feet.
On ground

When hypoxia becomes real

As a late blooming, somewhat studious private pilot who earned his certificate at age 75, I certainly learned, knew, and could recite the Federal Aviation Regulations that relate to the use of oxygen while flying at altitude in an unpressurized aircraft—no doubt. I did not really understand, much less comprehend, however, just how dangerous a situation a pilot can find himself in when actually experiencing real hypoxia until a recent cross-country flight.
P-51D in flight

Mustang musings: what it’s like to fly the legendary P-51

Several years ago my close friend Lewis Shaw and I took a trip south from Dallas to Encinal, TX, in his North American P-51D Mustang. We were flying to the remote and little known town to visit with an associate who was a serious collector of warbirds. He was looking to buy a second Mustang to add to his collection and Lewis was looking to sell his—a polished aluminum beauty that was an exquisite example of the legendary WWII fighter in every way.
Gear up

Harmony and distractions

I was planning the 45-degree entry for a downwind pattern to runway 24, when I heard the call that a Cherokee was on a practice ILS approach to runway 06. I looked for the aircraft below and to my left and could not see the aircraft. Nope, nothing there! And lo and behold, his localizer must have been pegged to the right because he blew right past me.
97Q

Confessions of a seaplane charter pilot

I took off, climbed out to 2,000 ft., leveled off for cruise and noticed that it was cruising 10 mph slow. I checked the power settings, flaps, and water rudders but suddenly remembered... the paddle! Looking out the window I could see that it was firmly plastered vertically to the leading edge of the float struts by the airflow.
Callsign

What’s in a (fighter pilot’s) name?

Fighter aircraft have names such as Mustang, Lightning, Thunderbolt, Spitfire. Fighter pilots have names, or "callsigns," as well. You are probably familiar with some of the callsigns of characters in Top Gun. You may wonder where a callsign comes from, or what one does to earn a callsign that sticks forever.
Takeoff

A landing and a one-wheel takeoff on Interstate 25

On a hot August morning in 1976, at 7:20 (rush hour), I landed a Cessna 172 on Interstate 25 south of Denver, Colorado, near mile marker 172. Within a few minutes of my touching down, a TV reporter and cameraman showed up. Five minutes later—and quite predictably—the Colorado Highway Patrol arrived.
Pan Am 707

The big surprise: an unexpected fly-by

A good friend of mine and fellow Zipper jock, Bill, had come down with a very serious health problem and subsequently passed away after a short illness. We were all shocked at his passing and wanted to have a proper send-off for he and his family. We asked the squadron in San Juan if they could send a flight of Starfighters, but they reluctantly declined.

SportStar-ing it around Australia

Before I had finished my licence, I was a proud owner of an Evektor Sportstar. This has opened up a new world for my wife and me. While I would never plan to fly if it was an essential birthday party of one of our 13 grandchildren, out of fear of getting a dose of get-there-itis, what a great blessing to wake up, look out the window and say, “let's bomb in on some of the grandies.”
Readers

Little details are important

BasicMed was not available when I took my first flight physical, so I paid the money and passed the FAA Medical. However, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to one small admonition from the doctor. He told me I didn’t need to wear my reading glasses in the plane, but I needed to carry them with me. I use glasses to read, but my eyes are good enough that I can get by without them. That little detail almost led to a fatal accident.
SR-71 cockpit

How I got to fly the SR-71 simulator for NASA

“Look,” he said, "we need someone to pilot the 71 simulator while the engineers and sim operator conduct some conditions on stability for the 33 programs. Any interest?” "Sure," I said, "happy to help out." (I refrained from screaming "hell yes!" while turning a few handsprings.)
Maule

A close call on the water in the Bahamas

Rotating ten feet off the water, there was an ominous and very audible bang from the rear of the aircraft. Immediately the seaplane skewed 45 degrees into the east wind, heading us at 80mph toward a frightening scene. One can scoff at that expression of "doing things by the book" but in near every case of incident, almost all were resolved safely by resorting to this method—except this was not in the book.