All in all, I flew 6.3 hours in the air, the most I’d flown in a day. I was tired, but I sure felt good, as many of you who will read this know. There’s nothing better than flying your airplane on a pretty day unless you get to do it and help someone at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Being a VFR pilot with (currently) little interest in pursuing an instrument rating, chances to perform a mission were a little difficult to come by, as completing said mission can oftentimes be waylaid for the obvious reasons. However, this day was an exception… aircraft ready, CAVU everywhere, no TFRs, and a reasonably simple mission.
Former airline captain John Laming spent a career flying between tiny islands in the South Pacific. In this enchanting story, Laming takes us along for one of those flights, complete with the weather deviations, failing airport infrastructure and sleeping tower controllers. Were these the good old days?
“I thought today we would begin unusual attitude recoveries, and transition into spins and spin recovery.” I was torn between saying, “No thanks, I only came here for the tailwheel endorsement,” and saying, “That’s exactly what I need to work on!” So I said nothing, climbed in, and fastened my seatbelt, perhaps just a little tighter than usual.
Sometimes the most thorough of checks and vital actions done before takeoff don’t always prevent an unwanted surprise later when the checks themselves are not developed to the full extent needed. Such was the case when shortly after takeoff in an RAAF Australian Sabre I encountered a significant control problem.
They say that in every life a little sunshine will beam on occasion. Freight dogs learn quickly to take advantage of every streak of light they can find and they usually don’t tell anyone about it until well after the fact, because they’re never quite sure if what they’ve just done is legal or not.
Seeing the aircraft, my heart sank. The forlorn scene looked hopeless. Sundry bits of airplane scattered over the hangar floor, two of the four engines missing and the silly looking Viscount with half its tail feathers missing. I had second thoughts.
“Wow,” I said. “A Stearman,” said Jerry. “You can’t see much, but it’s pretty easy as long as you stay on the grass.” I could not imagine what he was talking about – I had 78 hours in a Cessna 172.
A call goes out to ask if there are any pilots on board, and a guy in the back responds “I’m a pilot… well, single engine!” Admit it….how many of you thought, if only for a moment, “I bet I could have landed it!”
I had all four seats filled as we were winging our way westward to Santa Fe, New Mexico, at 8000 feet on top of a cloud deck. It was then that I noticed the ammeter needle flicking back and forth between “discharge” and neutral in a steady rhythm. This did not look right. We needed to get on the ground fast.
Pilots are taught to use their initiative and to expect surprises. There was certainly a surprise in store for me one dark and stormy night a little over 35 years ago, but the use of initiative came in a most unorthodox way ― and not from the crew on the aircraft, but from a quick-acting van driver.
I was flying the daily mail run in a saddle-worn Cessna 402 out of Abingdon, Virginia, on a very cloudy, turbulent, rainy, miserable night in mid-March. We had just leveled out at 5000 feet when the radar approach controller in Roanoke called to inform me that I appeared to be turning toward the north.
We decided to explore, so Christian aimed the bird north, easing in the power to climb above the wave’s rotor. And then the world came unglued! The engine burst into roaring chaos, with hideous vibration, which had the shock mounted instrument panel in a blur.
On a rainy August morning, the people who bought my airplane came to Washington to fly it home to Northern California. I was numb during the exchange of money and completion of documents because it marked the end of 38 years of flying/caring for that airplane.
In the airline industry it is usually the cabin crew who come face to face with the loud mouths, the drunks, the ungrateful, and sometimes the dangerous. One written complaint and invariably the flight attendant will find his or her job on the line. Occasionally a nasty passenger will get just deserts.
I had previous experience in RAAF Fighter Squadrons and was familiar in the use of air-to-air missiles from tours in the Australian Sabre’s sidewinder-equipped aircraft. However, this mission was different where my aircraft was, itself, to become a “missile and see if they can shoot you down,” was the brief by the squadron Intelligence Officer.
Step back in time; think back to when you were the one looking over the airport fence. What did you ask? How did you ask? Who did you ask? Luckily, I always stumbled into someone who was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of their time and answer my questions.
On this day, just before my first solo flight, my flight instructor wanted to demonstrate high speed taxiing and have me do some. After his demonstration, I began the high speed taxi exercise. However, I got on the brakes instead of only the rudder…
The Outer Banks have a prominent place in aviation history, but they’re also a beautiful place to visit by airplane. Local Ryan Thibodeau offers some airport tips and suggested stops in this pilot’s guide to OBX.
Many of today’s pilots are usually so addicted to the automatics, that the thought of switching off the autopilot and flying manually is practically a Mayday situation. Yet, when coaxed into switching off the automatic features the almost universal reply is “Jeez – I enjoyed that.”