Grand Canyon

The first time I ever saw the Grand Canyon

Our four fighters, in arrowhead formation, skimmed the desert floor for another hundred miles or so until the sandy brown horizon turned to a brilliant blue in the waters behind Glen Canyon Dam. We were going to fly the Grand Canyon from Lake Powell to Boulder Dam. We would not fly over the Canyon; we would fly in it.

The logbook: a generational connection

I opened up a Christmas present from my parents. It was a flat white box, approximately the dimensions of a regular sheet of paper and about an inch tall. Then I removed another layer of the paper and noticed that there were two logbooks in there, one of which had a pretty banged up spine. A possibility suddenly came to mind—could it be?

An intro flight and shattered dreams

We started the engine, talked on the radio, and a few minutes later we taxied and sped up along the runway. Just then, the kid who wouldn’t stop asking technical questions went silent; the only noise out of him was his breathing over the headset. He turned pale and wiped his permanent smile off of his face. He leaned his head back and after a while could just mumble.


I performed a pre-flight on our Cessna 182 and all was well. Linda arrived, we loaded the groceries into the back seat and launched on an IFR plan to Page. We left Chino, California, at about 2 pm. Just as we pulled out of the LA Basin and leveled off at 10,000 feet, configured the mixture and prop and set the autopilot, BAM! I lost a cylinder.
Aeronca finished

Civilian Pilot Training in a pre-war Aeronca Chief

Initially, I was uncertain about acquiring another airplane. I had owned a Cessna 172 until financial circumstances forced me to give it up. But my spouse stated that I “needed a project” to get my mind off the challenges at work. So, in fall 2009, I committed without realizing how much time and effort would be required to restore an old Aeronca.
Muncho Lake

An Alaska Highway flight gone wrong

George was one of my most ardent fans. A pilot, we’d often rent planes and fly formation around Southern Alaska. We would take friends along and have some glorious times together. Over the months we dreamed of one day being able to fly the Alaska Highway. What an adventure that would be.
Beech 23

Engine hiccups: third time is the charm?

After eating and preflighting, we departed runway 34. At about 500 feet the engine did a quick hiccup. We both looked at each other and I said, "let's stay in the pattern for a few minutes and see if the incident happens again."
Pratt engine

“We was on fire; I could see the flames!”

A DC-3 is never quiet, but for late night departures, we sometimes would reduce the power a little earlier for noise abatement. Just as I trimmed the RPMs to 2300, the right engine cut loose with a cacophony of explosions that resembled a 10-gauge shotgun being fired right next to my ear. The engine was backfiring. Badly.

A day in the life of a fledgling instructor

It was an anxious moment. With palms sweating and sweat rings around my armpits I was hoping that my first student was truly ready to slip the surly bonds of earth. Hopefully I didn’t forget to instill any critical kernels of knowledge. Mark was probably thinking along the same lines and was sweating every bit as badly as I was.
Cub on grass runway

Almost a ground loop

I started with the stick well back. The engine was producing full power. I pushed the stick forward. Right at the point of lift off there was an abrupt swerve to the right. I closed the throttle and held the stick firmly back, planted in my ribs.
ZUG on ramp

A flying gig in New Zealand

After flying for a major airline more than 28 years, I reached the mandatory retirement age. I loved every minute of it, and I had no desire to retire. So, I began to research options so that I could continue commercial flying. As I scanned the internet, I came across a flying opportunity in New Zealand. A small airline was looking for a chief pilot.
DC-3 Spooky

The day I really graduated to airline pilot

Many senior pilots at Eastern regarded new hires as a "kid who didn't have enough common sense to come in out of the rain." This condescending attitude was particularly true of some of the older WWII captains flying the DC-8 at the time. Their view of your engineer status and job was simply, "get the fuel on board, sit down, shut up, and keep your feet off the seat."
180 on floats

Thirty years of floatplane flying in Canada

In the spring of 1970 my friend Bob purchased a 1953 Cessna 180 on floats. It also had skis for winter. He and his friend had been moose hunting in Canada by living out of a lean-to basic tent. They wanted to build a moose hunting and fishing shack on a remote lake up there. I knew how to build so he included me in the adventure. I jumped at the chance.
Queen Air

A Queen Air sheds a propeller

On the evening of November 8, 1968, a Pilgrim Airlines twin-engine Beechcraft took off from Bradley International Airport with only a pilot and co-pilot aboard. Shortly after take off, when the flight was about five miles southeast of the airport, the aircraft suddenly lost a three-blade propeller from one of the engines and was forced to return to the airport and make an emergency landing.
Cessna with trucks

If it can fail, it will (and anything can fail)

About midway through the clouds, my JPI engine monitor began alerting us to a rapidly dropping bus voltage. Shortly after, we watched our GTN 650 GPS turn into a screen of flashes and hieroglyphics. I immediately leveled the wings, stopped my climb and leveled off (Rule 1 – Fly the plane!).

Two exciting landings in 21 years of flying

Everything was going perfectly until I turned base leg and heard my very first mayday call. It was a pilot of a Cessna 172, who had just taken off on runway 33. He was experiencing power loss, and called out that he didn't think he could fly the circuit because he had three passengers on board, so he was attempting to make a turn around and land on runway 15.
Air Force One

Read the NOTAM—my conflict with Air Force One

I tied down the plane and went up to the office to pay the fee. On departure (remember, the beer!), the friendly gentleman mentioned—just by the way—that the airspace over Warsaw was about to be closed from 10pm that day (Friday) until 10pm the following Monday. The reason? The US President was about to fly in to commemorate the outbreak of WWII.

I could never be so lucky again

Zach put his iPhone flashlight to use in the only shadow to be found in the brilliant blue aloft. “Dad! Oil is pooling at my feet.” Instinctively I began a 180-degree turn to the last airport we flew over—a life boat in the distance known as Silver Wings Airpark (TS36). I traded airspeed for altitude and resisted the urge to command more from my faithful Continental by pushing up the power, knowing now the race against time had begun.
Landing on ice

Runways optional: Twin Otter tales from the Arctic

In the 1970s and early 90s, I was fortunate to fly with many different Twin Otters and operators on combinations of straight skis, wheel skis, mixed nose ski and wheels, high flotation tires, and floats. Using these aircraft to support our research took me all over the vast landscape of the Canadian Arctic, ranging from Tuktoyaktuk in the Beaufort Sea to the High Arctic Islands and east to the Canada/Greenland border in Baffin Bay.

One in a million solo

It all began at the Hawaii Country of the Air, based at Honolulu International Airport. I was scraping oxidation off airplane wings to help pay for lessons. One fine weather day, having acquired 10 hours of dual instruction, my instructor decided I would fly to Ford Island in Pearl Harbor for touch and gos.