I was there

Never stop listening – why it pays to be paranoid in the cockpit

by

I rolled the airplane out onto the runway after checking that the final approach course was clear and began slowing to a stop. I was praying that the controller would catch his mistake himself and issue us a cancellation of our takeoff clearance. But he did not do so. Knowing that I would probably create some very big waves, I transmitted over the tower frequency a quite simple sentence.

Food fight in the flight levels

by

I remembered we had boarded 40 pre-adolescents in Dallas, bound for a summer camp near Denver. While several adults had seen to their boarding, and more were to meet them in Denver, there was no adult accompanying them. Apparently my company felt that four flight attendants were more than enough to handle 40 rowdy kids and the 30 or so other paying passengers on our B-727.

A frozen brake slide

by

Suddenly the King Air started to move. But it wasn’t turning left, it was slewing to the right. I mashed both brake pedals as hard as I could, but the airplane kept sliding toward the Falcon and the FBO office building. The lineman started running backward as fast as he could on the icy surface.

No way to become an ace

by

I could feel the Pawnee yaw slightly left as the glider got airborne, off to the right side as briefed. But as the Pawnee’s tail came up, suddenly, the Cessna began to climb out of the ditch and out onto the runway! I thought, “Certainly he’s going to stop!” But in fact, I saw his prop spin up faster.

Confessions of a rusty pilot

by

“What kind of a fuel system needs 13 sumps?” I asked myself. Years ago, the Cessna 172 I flew had one in each wing and a t-handle under the belly that shot a stream of fuel onto the pavement when I pulled it. It turns out that this was just the one of many changes that had slipped by me since I last preflighted an airplane.

Mornings in Mont Blanc

by

Today, in formation, we climb out of Annecy and make for the Alps through the Col des Aravis. This kind of flying is like a jam session, a music of angles and relative positions. You know your buddy knows… It’s a kind of magic made possible by experience and trust. The rocks below glide by as though in deep slow motion.

Two procrastinators in a plane – a father/son story

by

I think part of the reason we hadn’t shared a flight before is is simply a lack of communication and misunderstandings. I won’t nag him, or anyone, to come flying and he won’t pester me to take him flying. So, outwardly it looks like I’m not too keen and that he’s not too interested; neither of which are true.

Washington fly-by: just another day on the staff

by

Occasionally there are some events earning support of multiple formations for the flyover. Election years are one of those times. My own experience was in 1993 when multi-service participation was in order for the military salute to President George Herbert Walker Bush and the pre-inauguration celebration for the incoming Clinton administration.

Flying to watch SpaceX launch the Falcon Heavy

by

Falcon Heavy was advertised as the most powerful liquid fuel rocket since the Saturn V. I bought close-in viewing tickets as soon as they went on sale. Public interest was high: all 3,000 tickets sold out in 24 hours. This was going to be big.

A drone pilot becomes an airplane pilot

by

By the time I received my official Drone Ground School accreditation I was well and truly hooked on aviation again. I figured that I already had half the work done so I immediately signed up to do my full private pilot ground school and I booked my first training flights in a real airplane with an instructor. Little did I realize at that time how much more work was involved in becoming a real pilot…

Asleep at the controls

by

Who hasn’t wanted to be that “go to” person with our fellow pilots? I’ll bet more of us want to be the one helping than want to be the one asking for help. That’s normal but pilots, copilots, instructors, and yes, students too, have to know when the situation demands real honesty and humility instead of, “Sure, no problem.”

Shooting an ADF approach – with no ADF

by

After liftoff, and initial climb out, everything was still performing as expected. We entered the clouds about the time of gear retraction. As soon as the gear was up, the number one engine started surging and the number two engine started backfiring. I briefed that we would continue straight ahead to the ADF and return for landing. I looked down at the ADF indicator and it was rotating continuously.

Smoke gets in your eyes

by

A few days after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston (September 2017), I got an email from the Colorado Pilots Association looking for pilots to fly badly needed supplies (diapers, formula, toiletries and sleeping bags) to either Rockport or Houston, Texas. The request came from Operation Airdrop, working closely with The Salvation Army.

Learning the hard way (almost) at Jackson

by

In the early afternoon I noticed some clouds building and suggested that we should begin our journey to the airport and home to Salt Lake City. By the time we got to the airport, storms were coming in from the west over the Tetons. I looked at our options and it seemed we could get out to the South and cut through the canyon over to Alpine. My co-pilot agreed.

What were you doing on September 11?

by

We were met by airport security at the FBO, picked up our next passenger and called for our clearance. Clearance Delivery replied: “Buddy, you can do any altitude and any route you would like tonight.” I knew that I would probably not hear such words from ATC again for the remainder of my flying career.

And then the lights didn’t go on

by

We knew we needed to start an approach to become established and allow us to descend further, but were not authorized to conduct the approach at night. We also knew that well before reaching a final approach fix we would be in VFR conditions. Is it conducting the approach if you are VFR before establishing on any final segment of the approach?

The simple reason I ran out of gas

by

I guess it was a slow traffic day as the tower cleared me to land on that initial call. I wasn’t expecting that, but I had plenty of time and was starting my landing procedure when the engine “missed.” It was just a short blip but after so many hours in the airplane I noticed it. Then in only seconds the engine stopped completely.

How I crashed the sim from the instructor station

by

My finger had barely kissed the screen’s EXECUTE icon when the simulator gave a loud BANG followed by the most violent heaving, pitching, rolling, yawing and slewing I had ever witnessed. I could hear the motion system wheezing beneath us as the simulator cab shook and vibrated.

Who’s in command?

by

The chief pilot made a statement that he had never canceled a flight for weather and he stated that if he hired me he expected me to do the same. What I didn’t allow for was that I was used to following the rules like an airline pilot. It turned out, he was looking for a cowboy, who thought it was cool to say they never canceled for weather.

Reuniting with a special airplane, 46 years later

by

In the summer of 2008 I was looking at the pictures on an aviation site on the internet when my attention was captured by the photo of a red and white PA-20 and by the registration marks: I-CERR. I knew that back in the 1960s, Bruino airfield was owned by the Cerrina family. Was it possible that it was the plane of my first flight?