Wichita airport

The vanishing airplane – in the pattern with me

I tried looking forward on the downwind leg, high and low, right and left and back along the leg, high and low, right and left and saw no other airplane. I called and declared my intention to turn downwind, and the tower acknowledged my transmission, so I did. The other pilot called and said she was on downwind – my attitude changed to near panic.
Sabre hard left turn

Losing a wingman: the price we pay

Being a fighter pilot is not necessarily just a fun game; it is demanding, always serious, sometimes dangerous and particularly for when you deploy with hot guns and missiles – with no clothes in the ammo bins – just 30 mm canon ammunition as we did a very short time later… and went ready for war.
Cavalier wing view

Continental drifter – why cross country flying is the best

Cross-country flying in the Cavalier is among the most enjoyable and satisfying time I've spent in my life. The Cav has allowed me to range farther across this continent than I could have done with any other plane I've owned. I've learned that it's somehow important to me to explore far away places in my own plane.
D-HAMR helicopter

Mistaken identity – mike romeo times two

Right after having passed the runway at merely 100 ft AGL, I heard ATC barking all over my headset: “Mike Romeo, are you crazy!! You weren’t cleared for takeoff!!” I was baffled, and my confidence was gone in one second.
Boeing 727 Pan Am

Troublesome trips over the pond – North Atlantic crossings the old fashioned way

I was headed to Pan Am’s flight dispatch center in Hangar 14, grateful for the quick ride in from Jersey because we had a long day - and night - ahead. The year was 1989, and I was picking up dispatch papers for a 4pm 727 ferry flight to Frankfurt with a fuel stop in Keflavik.

Barf: a short and sometimes personal dissertation on airsickness

Having watched many an airshow and movie about WWII and later air combat, I have often wondered how the airmen tolerated the +/- g-forces, twisting maneuvers, inverted flight, and constant head-turning required. Turns out even our aerobatic and combat heroes are not immune to motion sickness.

The people you meet in aviation – some good, some bad

There will be few pilots, professional or amateur, who will not remember the good instructors with whom they have flown. Conversely, those instructors who have denigrated your best efforts and in doing so destroyed your self confidence, are invariably remembered with a cold contempt usually reserved for one's worst enemy.

It wasn’t my fault – an unusual Alaska accident

A loud BANG, followed by a serious rocking of his rig, told the driver that something was now amiss. His truck had lurched to the right, just in time for the driver to witness the landing airplane slam into the left side of his truck. Aw, horse feathers!

The curtain call – seeing the Northern Lights from the cockpit

All was normal at the top of descent until we both spotted what looked like an undulating patch of orange mist ahead and slightly below us. There was a sort of velvety sheen appearance to it. My captain and I looked at each other with the most unflattering miens, I’m sure, and exclaimed simultaneously: “Northern lights…!!”
Santa Ana winds

The helicopter does not know the wind is blowing!

I did not like the wind, and I let the chief pilot (not my instructor) know about it. He seemed confused. “The helicopter does not know the wind is blowing,” he would say. What?!? “The next time the wind is howling, I want to take you out.” Great, I thought. Suicide by helicopter.

Into the eye of the storm

My destination that day was New Orleans, and they were expecting a tropical storm, maybe a hurricane, to make landfall somewhere around there that day. New Orleans was where, in the early to mid-1950s, Cessna delivered planes destined for overseas customers – to places like Australia, Africa, Europe, South Asia, and even South America.

“What’s this button do?” Why you need to watch your passengers

Flying with passengers is a lot of fun, but you need to be on guard whenever someone is in the right seat - even if they're a pilot. A wary eye and a good pre-flight briefing is a start. But as this story proves, sometimes it's the little things you have to watch.

The in-flight emergency nobody prepared me for

The flight in question was a routine one, with three jumpers who wanted to jump from 10,000 feet. I did the usual full-power climb to 10,000 and was right at the jump zone so was ready to reduce power and level off for the jump. Except I couldn't budge the throttle.
Joseph Kirwan watching son land

My best hour – and I wasn’t even flying!

I’ve often thought that the day of my first solo, April 6, 1996, would be the most memorable of my flying career. I had a whopping five hours of dual logged when I climbed into “Super Chicken,” Skyhawk N172SC, for my three trips around the pattern at Mount Sterling (KIOB). But, 19 years later, I learned how wrong I was.

Out of control on short final – a freight dog learns a lesson

Suddenly, I was jolted out of my delectable dreamland by a violent roll to the right. Instant paralyzing fear, equivalent to several thousand volts of crippling electrical current, seemed to anesthetize my entire body. There was no time for panic, but that’s all I could manage to do.
Cherokee 235

Flying for fun, and flying with a mission

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!
Cessna 150 N704RY

Mission accomplished – getting the job done in a Cessna 150

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.
Nauru Island runway

On your own – airline flying in the South Pacific before GPS

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?

My first (intentional) spin

“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.

Control checks – not normally an airborne requirement

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.