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.
John Bone with medic packs

Flying for Ukraine Air Rescue—small planes, big mission

Ukraine Air Rescue came to life in just a few days. Within six months, UAR had grown to 313 volunteer pilots worldwide. The pilots range from retired or current airline and military pilots, flight instructors, professional pilots, an EASA safety inspector, and many VFR private pilots. The mix of participating airplanes ranges from the French-built Robin to Pilatus PC-12s and just about everything in between.
TWA 707

Around the world in the “seven oh seven”

One of the first large, long range, intercontinental jet airliners to come on the scene in the late 1950s and early 60s was the Boeing 707. For TWA’s most senior pilots, moving from pistons to jets was the biggest transition since the change from visual to instrument flying in the 1930s. Several of our older captains opted to bypass the jets and finish their careers flying the Connie. The younger fellows, on the other hand, could hardly wait to jump into a jet!

Herding cattle with a century-series fighter

Yanking the plane around for alignment, I dropped down to 200 feet (or somewhere in that vicinity) and pushed up the power for a passage over the field at 400+ knots while engaging the afterburner for added effect. As the ground streaked by in a blur, I abruptly pulled up into the vertical at the far end of the fence line and initiated a barrel roll. Tilting my head back over my left shoulder, I glanced back to where I had just been.
Smoke from OV-10

Every pilot a tiger

I quickly surmised that, as Shakespeare put it, "the game was afoot!" This fellow FAC was going to try and get on my tail and I had to do whatever was necessary to keep that from happening. I shoved my control levers into takeoff and land, putting my twin turboprop engines at max RPM while my throttles would control the pitch of the blades. I turned into him and we were quickly in what is called a "furball."
Hole in 150

A 12-minute flight and a serious in-flight fire

At approximately 1000 feet AGL, I entered a left crosswind to begin the pattern for an uphill landing on runway 36. During the crosswind leg, I noticed an odor in the aircraft cockpit that smelled like hot plastic. During entry into the left downwind leg for runway 36, the plastic odor became much stronger. I turned off all aircraft-powered electrical equipment, including the radio and transponder. I abbreviated my pattern slightly and turned left base early.
Super Cub

Special VFR—sometimes it’s the best option

When I went to Alaska, I had 500 hours in my logbook and a list in my head of things that I’d never do in an airplane, all things that the wise old owls had warned me about. By the time I left four years later, I’d made the transition from inexperienced greenhorn to cocky amateur and finally to competent operator. And I’d checked several of those “I’ll never” items off my list.

When things went wrong in a good way

Leesburg Airport was still under instrument conditions, so the final landing was also going to be a real VOR approach and a fine ending to the day. Everything went fine until about halfway through the approach when the VOR receiver lost track and the little red flag appeared. Carl had nothing to do with it. I called our approach controller with a missed approach and started the missed procedure.

You’ll get in trouble sonny

There were two older ladies eating at a nearby table. As Hugh walked down the stairs and through the gate to the airplane, one of the ladies stood up and called out to Hugh, “Don’t go out there, sonny. You’ll get in trouble.” She had mistaken him for a teenager without authority to be in that area, so was totally startled when he swung up into the belly hatch of the B-17 and briefly appeared in the cockpit.
XB-70 takeoff

A close call for the XB-70 at Edwards AFB

The North American Aviation XB-70 Valkyrie was a Mach 3, high-altitude strategic bomber designed in the late 1950s, with the maiden flight on September 21, 1964. Meanwhile, the Russians had developed their high-altitude surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), which made the XB-70 vulnerable. NASA and the Air Force used the two prototype XB-70s for high-speed flight tests and research into sonic booms.