Christmas as a forward air controller over Laos

My most memorable missions occurred around Christmas of 1972, when I was a 23-year-old Forward Air Controller flying the OV-10 Broncos. Two days before Christmas, we received word that three of our former comrades had been shot down near Saravane in southern Laos. They were Raven FACs serving as part of covert CIA operations in Laos flying Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs and North American T-28 Trojans.
Florida beaches

Flying over water, from Nebraska to the Florida Keys

My copilot and I learned to fly in 1980, and we try to take a long, fun flight every few years. This was our best and longest flight, by 300 miles. It may be his last, as he has 11 years on me. Flying out over the ocean to a point you can’t see land gives you insight to how pilots both famous and not could get messed up seeing so many shades of blue.
Two kids by Champ

Two teenagers, a 60-hp Champ, and a 2100-mile journey

“Two teenagers flying all the way across the country in a tiny airplane. What could possibly go wrong?” During the week before we left, I studied up on our noble mount. Not exactly breathtaking performance-wise, and no electrical system meant that every other leg I would get to hand-prop it to get her going. We were very weight-limited, so we only packed the barest necessities, which all had to fit in a backpack.
Boeing 747 takeoff

Memories of flying the whale—Boeing 747

The more senior types had told me over the years that flying the seven four was just like flying a great big 707 and it was true. So, what's it like to fly a great big 707? There are some interesting differences and they mostly had to do with the geometry of the airplane and its relation to Mother Earth.
Thunderstorm at night

Flying in night skies

We knew much of the world by its night skies flying 707s and 727s in the 60s through 90s. South America’s towering CBs and Saint Elmo’s fire, North Atlantic auroras, North America’s continent-spanning squall lines, and Europe’s icy winters were as familiar to us as the roads and towns commuting to work. This is about those nights and the crews of that time.

Nose art, among other things

I imagine every aviator has a special place in their heart for their favorite airplane and may even have a name for it. In many cases, that name is prominently displayed somewhere on the beloved airplane. I have always been fascinated by WWII aircraft decorated with what is commonly called "nose art." Among my favorites is Bud Anderson’s P-51 named Old Crow, perhaps because it reminds me of myself. However, in my case The Ancient Aviator would be more fitting.
Texas Raiders

Wings Over Dallas airshow tragedy: an eyewitness account from a pilot

What I first noticed, which foreshadowed the fateful event, was the graceful, arcing line and extreme closure rate of the P-63 moments before impact. The thought became, Wow. I wonder what his rejoin will look like, in an attempt by my pilot eye to reconcile how he was going to rejoin on the B-17, something I was clearly not expecting and knew was impossible considering the speed and geometry.
Eastern 727

Memories of flying the Boeing 727 “three holer”

There was no doubt you were flying a Boeing. It had that same "Mack truck feel" about it as the 707, but also like the 707 it was as sound and reliable as a US Dollar (in 1964). The cockpit and fuselage cross sections were the same as the 707 but that is where the similarity ended. Our first 727s, the dash 100s, grossed out at about a third of the 707-100’s weight but had two thirds of its thrust. Therefore, it was a little rocket by comparison.

Another tale from the doc side

Steve Mosier told us "Tales from the Doc Side" earlier this year. This is about my favorite flight surgeon. Her name was Karen and she graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1980, the first class to include women. She was an outstanding student and All-American swimmer for the Falcons; after graduating from the Academy and then Baylor College of Medicine, Karen became a flight surgeon.

When means, motive, and opportunity come together

Some time ago I was overseeing a project to buy high performance computers for the Department of Defense. I had to do site visits where the new computers were to go. This was mainly to make sure that the infrastructure would be in place in time. This is where the flying opportunity came in.

Flying my Canadian airplane in Trinidad

I flew from Trinidad and Tobago to Calgary and went directly to see the aircraft I was purchasing. My friend was a very particular individual who looked after his aircraft very well. Knowing him the way I did, I put my full trust in him to find me an aircraft. The day I took delivery was October 10, 2009, and the first time I actually sat in the aircraft was when I began my flight to Trinidad. 
BAC 1-11 on ramp

A different kind of concrete jungle

Sometime in the late 80s, somewhere in the Midwest (I think it was Grand Rapids), I taxied a USAir BAC 1-11 toward the terminal after landing on a flight from Pittsburgh. I remember the airport had a small, older terminal and there were no jetways, those loading bridges that almost all airline airports have now, so passengers walked on the ramp. As we came on the ramp, I saw there were blocked sections near the terminal where workmen were replacing concrete.
Diamond DA-42

“Geneva Tower, I have to go back”

Everything looked good: positive rate of climb, gear up, and I pulled back power to 92% as I have done many times before, getting ready to relax and prepare for the Alpine crossing. And then something seemed weird. It took me a second to see it: one engine would not go down in RPM, still well in the "yellow," although the throttle was now well below the usual power setting.
An-2 airplane

Flying a Russian biplane through Alaska

"I'm sorry, but your permission to fly to Russia has not yet been granted." The words echoed and a wave of disappointment resonated before our eyes. We had filled out 80 pages of paperwork, gotten our visas from the Russian embassy, faxed in our passenger manifest, and traveled... all the way to Nome.
Preflight Bonanza

Engine trouble over Lake Michigan

Climbing through 8,500 feet over Lake Michigan, the vibration coming from the engine cowling erupted into a full-on ruckus. The cowling was gyrating as if a wild animal was trying to get out. There was water in every direction and the Chicago skyline in the distance off the right wing.

A surprise sunrise in an F-4 Phantom

I decided to use up the fuel in afterburner instead of doing more instrument approaches. Was it fatigue that made me do it? Was it the thrill of doing something different and special with my Phantom? My plan was hatched from nowhere, a simulated double engine flame out from above 40,000 feet, directly above the approach end of the runway at George.
Skydivers in air

Never a dull moment as a skydive pilot

We lined up, got clearance to go and I opened the tap on the 182. She accelerated a bit slower than normal but we managed to get off the deck OK, when suddenly at approximately 200 ft. the jump master lurched towards the back of the aircraft. Unfortunately for me, his parachute had somehow snared my propeller control and put the 182 into full coarse pitch.
Flight engineer

The not-so-glamourous life of a flight engineer

Not too long after she left the cockpit, there was a ding on the interphone. It was the A-stew and she had a request. Usually the request was to turn up or turn down the cabin temperature, but in this case she was asking me to come to the cabin and bring one of “my” coat hangers.
Bell 206

Good old boys and helicopters

Northeast Georgia is beautiful country, a vast forest dotted with small farms and country roads. Truly this was God’s country, and several of John Denver songs came to mind, but trying to locate the landing zone was proving difficult. Our LZ was a motel, with a pool, on a county road on a crossroad with a vacant lot on the east side of it. Go stick that in your GPS.
Casey with father

Passing the torch from father to son

Leaving Naples behind us, we flew over the dark expanse of the Everglades, with just a thin sliver of light, I-75, below us. As we reached the halfway point, right before switching over from Fort Myers to Miami Approach, the radio chatter had slowed down and for a moment, time just seemed to stand still. It was like it was just the two of us, the airplane, and nothing else. I had flashbacks to all those flights we had made when I was younger.