SeaRey cockpit

Life in an airplane, on and off the water

The SeaRey is a fun plane to fly and very well mannered on the water and in the air. You do have to be prepared for pitch changes with different power settings, with the high thrust line of the Rotax pusher engine. On terra firma, landings and takeoffs are typical tailwheel operation and it can be exciting at times.

Approach, I need the nearest airport

After passing by Fort Pierce (FPR), we experienced a large loss of power and severe vibrations from the engine. Soon after came a petroleum-based smell. Oil? I looked and saw no engine indications of excessive oil temperature, pressure, or exhaust gas. I set the mixture for full rich and took the airplane over from the student. “My controls,” I stated.
Snow on runway

A thirty year mystery solved—icy runways and crosswinds

I lined up with runway 18 as I had often done in the past, only to find that I had little to no control deflection remaining (full left aileron and full right rudder) with strong winds gusting out of 270 degrees. With a full cabin of customer-passengers in the other five seats coming for a two-day factory visit and tour, my macho, risk-tainted bravado at that time told me to press on with landing—which of course I did.

An Easter miracle in the Canadian Arctic

In 1981, I was living in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, which is north of the 60th parallel, working as a new bush pilot. I was flying south to a very small community on Trout Lake on Easter Sunday. The flight service lady informed me that they were still looking for a twin engine pilot who went missing on Good Friday. Being religious, she was convinced that he would be found today, on Easter Sunday, and that I needed to look for him.
DC-3 engine

Diagnosing an engine failure by sound

In the summer of 1987, I watched a DC-3 take off from a paved runway south of Atlanta, where I was working to add fuel and oil to airplanes. I heard an inrush of air as a “waa – waa” sound. This was recurring at a noticeable but slowing rate. I interpreted this slowing repetition as an engine inlet manifold splitting open behind a supercharger.

Hang on young man: fighting an invisible enemy in a T-33

The cabin pressure was way above where it was supposed to be and I was starting to feel a bit dizzy so I turned my oxygen regulator to 100%. As I flew on the dizziness increased, my fingers were white, and my nails starting to turn blue—signs of anoxia—so I turned the oxygen regulator to emergency in which mode it actually forced oxygen into my lungs.

The day my glider checkride almost went bad

Based on past checkrides, it had become the expectation that the rope break would occur on the second flight. But as we turned crosswind on the last flight, he still hadn’t released the rope. I started thinking he must be going easy on me and maybe I started to relax a little—when WHAM he released the tow rope!
Turbo on Cessna 206

Suddenly the engine went quiet

The new engine install resulted in no squawks and the aircraft returned to service. Shortly thereafter, I was cruising along on the second leg of a round robin flight with that new engine running smoothly when suddenly the engine went quiet. The pitch and RPM dropped as if the throttle had been pulled back completely, like a simulated engine failure.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in an aircraft

Contrary to the forecast of only scattered clouds, the visibility continued to drop to the point at which it was less than 20 ft. Now we were in very close formation, at night, in thick, lightly turbulent clouds, with light icing. I could see the wingtip light of the tanker but not the fuselage! Here is where things got dicey—not because of the weather, but because I really needed to pee!

Beyond the $100 Hamburger: how aerobatics can expand your horizon

You mastered the basics of operating the machine, navigating from A to B, understanding how weather works, and the regulations. You took your friends up. You have flown out to all of the $100 hamburgers. But the reality is setting in that most of your flying is solo. You find yourself slowly flying less and less. You used to go up once a week. Then it became once a month. Where did the excitement go?
Bald spot

Who’s landing this airplane?

Collecting my things, I heard an alarmed expletive from the front of the plane. I looked out to see a combination of fear and disgust in Roger’s eyes and my heart sank. I quickly hopped out, walked around front and immediately saw the issue. The right main had a huge bald spot, void of any rubber, that was at least two layers into the threads.
Kid in Cessna

The long way back to the cockpit

I had missed it. I missed flying deeply, badly, in my bones. Hearing the radio chatter, the way pilots talk to each other and with controllers, being immersed again in a world now decades in my past, I was suddenly and keenly aware of how I had loved flying; how it was still such a part of me; how I still loved it and how I always will.

Aerobatics in a 1946 Auster—and a lesson learned

Let me tell you what makes this plane so incredibly fun to fly: it is a 900 kg, four seater cabin with a big prop fed by a 130 hp Gipsy Major (of the sort seen on Tiger Moths), its huge flaps when lowered to 40 degrees let you bring the speed down safely to 30 mph (28mph stall) to take off or land—shortly indeed in less than 100 metres. These are numbers that a microlight would struggle to achieve, should they be able to carry four adults.

An unexpected cross country challenge

Finally clear of the Detroit area, I tried to settle into the routine of following roads and railroads back to Indiana and things were going pretty well. Then, sometime after passing Toledo, I started to feel a little queasy. It was a typical spring day with the usual level of convective bumps along the route so initially I figured I might be feeling the effect of those and gave it no serious thought—for a while. Maybe 15 minutes or so later, my stomach really started to revolt.

There was no checklist for this one…

I have been extremely fortunate throughout my aviation career to have had the opportunity to perform acceptance flights and deliver multiple types of aircraft. As expected, acceptance flights had the most major and minor mechanical issues. Once the airplanes were delivered, the airplanes were for the most part mechanically clean and reliable. Except for one.
Indo-Pakistani war

Flying helicopters in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

We had enough fuel to do three trips each, but by the time I was going for my third trip it was already dark. In addition, the Pakistani army had seen the helicopters and started surrounding the field we were landing in. They were firing at us as we came in to land. On my third flight I could see hundreds of tracer bullets coming towards us from all directions.

Coming Full Circle—Finding Your True Calling

I became obsessed with the notion of doing something useful with aviation. I got involved with Angel Flight and the Young Eagles program but something still was missing. It occurred to me that becoming a CFI might very well fit that bill. After procrastinating for several years, I finally got it done in July of 2009. By then I had nearly 1200 hours or so in my logbook and I really thought quite highly of myself.

Searching my past while flying over Moosehead Lake

The views from the plane were spectacular. This lake is forty miles long and quite wide, with many islands and mountains right down to the shore line. Moosehead’s shore is well populated with cottages and docks.  In the distance we could see several large mountains clearly including the famous Mount Katahdin, the end of the Appalachian Trail.
RV-14A on ramp

Sunrise to sunset: never stop learning

Anytime there are moments like this, I try to open up and turn on all of my senses and let it all sink in. The satisfying smell of the exhaust. The quiet hum of the propeller and engine working together. The screws you feel through the little foam pad you’re sitting on that are annoying, yet oddly comforting. All the colors of the sunset from the deepest of purples to the most majestic oranges.
C-5A Galaxy

Two churnin’ and two burnin’ – who’s the PIC?

We retracted gear and flaps and just before entering the overcast we slammed into a flight of Canada Geese, in classic “V” formation I assume—we never saw them. We sucked several of the large, 12-15 pound birds into the engines. Number one fire handle illuminated red. Numbers two and three engines began vibrating violently with rpm fluctuating 500-1000 revolutions.