It is Sunday afternoon, I have the two kids strapped into the Mooney and I am about to push the throttle forward… but WAIT, before we go there, we need to take a quick jump back in time, to 2001.
I knew Paul Poberezny well from the early 1980s, having been introduced to him by a non-pilot colleague at Mayo Clinic, where I was on the medical staff. Paul became a friend whom I could call at any time, including nights and weekends, and expect a warm response. I think he had similar relationships with countless others.
As we passed over the end of the runway at about two hundred feet above ground level, a massive explosion (accompanied by a transitory smell of smoke) was heard and felt aft of the cockpit coupled with a complete loss of acceleration. The sudden cessation of over seven thousand pounds of thrust was noticeable.
By now we had lost several thousands of feet as expected, after starting off at 8000 feet. There was no answer from the front seat so I attempted to take control, only to find the controls jammed in the pro-spin positions.
Flying in a light aircraft has its risks and rewards just like any other endeavor. We all know that the risks can be considerable, but what about the rewards? Are they worth the risks? This flight, complete with pictures and video suggests they are.
My first trip in the air force trainer of the period, the Chipmunk, was a revelation. As I subsequently wrote home to my mother that evening, “I had my first trip today. It was easy. I think I am a natural pilot.” It wasn’t until later that I found out that following through on the controls whilst listening to an explanation of their effects can’t really be called flying.
Flying has become much more than just operating an airplane; it is something that my son and I share together. It is our uninterrupted time together and well worth the expense.
It was July 2, 1974, and my wife Mary Ann and I were flying home from Salilsaw, Oklahoma where we had dropped off an employee’s children. I was just north of Guthrie, Oklahoma; it was early evening and near sundown. We had our Beech Debonair cruising in smooth air at 7500 feet when a call came over 122.8. “This is Cessna NN; can anybody hear me?”
“So how hard is it to fly an airplane?” my good friend Mike asked as he settled into the right seat. It was the first time he had been in a plane smaller than a regional jet and I sensed he was apprehensive. “It’s simple, like riding a bike.”
We often think of airplanes as a way to make long trips shorter, or make them possible at all, but sometimes we forget that the trip doesn’t have to be very far at all to make it worthwhile to fly, or that it can conquer more than one kind of distance. Here’s the story of one case in point.
Several years ago I started volunteering for the Angel Flight organization, which transports low income patients for distant specialized medical treatments. Such flights are a fine opportunity to share my good fortune in owning a relatively fast and comfortable cross-country airplane.
After parking at the FBO and shutting the engine down, we looked at each other and laughed like a couple of kids that just got off their first roller coaster ride. Scary, exciting and fun all at the same time.
After landing at Anchorage, I tied my faithful little ship down and silently thanked the guys at the Cessna plant for their stable and dependable Stationair. And, yes—it had been a lousy way to spend Christmas Eve…
My initial interest in the “crash” was professional. Did I perform professionally? Could I have done anything to prevent it? What was I responsible for? I was one of the last people who did not die with him to speak to the pilot.
So the question is, “Is GA dead or dying?” I don’t think so. For someone from the outside looking in, GA is changing and evolving. There is demand out there; the question is how to meet that demand and get the word out.
I tried to take in as much as I could about every detail until at about 20 feet above the runway. I watched him reach back and forth between the throttle and the microphone hanging below it without actually touching either. Then he looked at me and I heard him say, “Hold on boys.”
Helicopter pilots aren’t born with paranoid tendencies; it can take upwards of two thousand hours of flying to realize that you’re smack dab in the center of a million parts rotating rapidly around an oil leak waiting for metal fatigue to set in.
Sometimes you learn things that you didn’t expect while looking through airplane windows. I noticed this when I first started to fly and it has become the most beneficial part of the experience. It doesn’t happen on every flight. But it happened again recently.
In his last Air Facts article, veteran freight pilot Jeff Tait shared his experience flying eggs to Venezuela. In this story, it’s cucumbers from the Bahamas to Florida. Ever think about how those cucumbers end up in your grocery store? Jeff has.
I punched the identifier for Tuli Block into my GPS and it came up, instructing me to fly a heading of 273 degrees for 300 miles, which would put us well into the Kalahari Desert searching for a non-existent dirt strip in the bush. Not a good outcome. How could that happen?