T-38 in flight

A rushed preflight leads to a terrifying discovery

I directed my student to strap in, told him that we needed to hurry, and I did a very quick walk around once we were refueled. My student taxied onto the runway, held the brakes, and ran up the engines to military power (without burner). The right engine generator failed, crossover relay failed, and the master caution light illuminated. We were whipped.

The problem with emergencies is they are difficult to schedule

Raphael and I departed Long Beach Airport (LGB) in a rented Grumman Traveler after requesting a tower in route to Catalina Airport (AVX). A quick climb to 4000 ft put us "feet wet" as we crossed over the shoreline. The crossing would keep us…

Runways anchor our life—an airline pilot reflects

If you fly long enough, you find yourself aging with runways; they become like an old, comfortable shoe, worn and a bit cracked but always just where you left them, easy to slip on and off. And they remember with you.

Smile: you’re on (aviation) candid camera

After intercepting the bomber, Charlie tucked in close to the observation bubble on the fuselage of the bomber through which the Russian crews were known to take their pictures. As the Russian cameraman readied his equipment, Charlie turned his head away momentarily to raise his helmet visor and unhook his oxygen mask. When he turned back, he could see the shutter flicking open and closed as the Russian operator took numerous pictures.
Flight bag loaded

Requiem for a flight bag

I recently moved, again, and with so many moves under our belts as a career military family, many things remain remembered but unseen in boxes for years. I imagine myself an archaeologist of a kind when I make these discoveries while digging through a dusty box, and some of those finds conjure emotions and memories that are quite powerful.
Route map

Old and bold—not

Everybody liked George. Everybody that flew with George respected his abilities and performance. He was funny, he was serious, he was an old warrior, having flown bomber missions in the Mediterranean theater during WWII. He was the “old man,” our “graybeard” pilot, even though he had no beard, his hair was gray among a crowd of dark haired youths. And here he was still flying with a bunch of 20-somethings, dropping tidbits of knowledge.
767 sim

A pilot fresh from the sim gets a real world test

Heaven knows how many passengers would run off the airplane if they knew that their pilot today had never flown the actual airplane they were on. You might be flying with a crew member who either had a thousand landings in the airplane or NONE, ZERO, ZILCH! You have no way of knowing. But fear not, the FAA and the airlines require that the new pilot be accompanied by a designated Line Check pilot, an experienced “old head,” for their early flights on the line.
Cape Breton view

How does an engine “know” when to scare a pilot?

I was doing my routine engine checks (EGT, oil pressure, oil temperature, RPM, manifold pressure), as we made that transition. I was also explaining to Linda about the weird phenomenon of "auto-rough," commenting on what a strange psychological thing it was. Sure enough, just as we crossed the shoreline at 10,000 ft., I felt 30H shudder ever so slightly. It had to be my imagination.
Pilot by airplane

My not quite rusty return to flight

I’m not a student pilot, and technically this wasn’t a lesson. However, flying as pilot in command for the first time in well over a year, it sure felt like it. It was never my intention to let that much time lapse between flights. But thanks to the Covid-19 induced quarantine, paired with the financial burden of my recent move halfway across the country, it was my reality.
Cessna 180

Test pilot: two lessons learned in Cessnas

The plane started its takeoff roll and went about 200 feet before pitching up and leaving the runway. It was about two feet above the runway when I suddenly found the seat and I were against the rear seats of the plane. The front of my seat was no longer on the seat tracks and had pitched backward as well.
Shasta off wing

Bringing the Comanche home—Apple Valley to Auburn

In late 2019 I became the caretaker/owner of a 1960 Comanche 180, but one with a slight problem: I was living in Seattle, and the airplane was in Southern California. Due to Covid complications, it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that I had a chance to get familiar with the plane and bring it home to the Pacific Northwest.
G1000 cockpit

Safety, philosophy, and the glass cockpit

Here’s the basic temptation of filing IFR with the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit: its improvement in your situational awareness is so great that it seems to allow you to lower your personal minimums and cut the FAR limitations, or commonsense ones your instructors taught you, a lot closer than you would with conventional instruments. Is this OK, or is it likely to create unsafe conditions?
G1000 display

Weight and performance—there is a tradeoff

Interestingly, upon reaching the cruising altitude of 10,000 feet, the cruise speed was 12 knots less than that calculated prior to flight. I tried various settings of manifold pressure, RPM, and fuel flow. Flying lean of peak, which the big bore Continentals are adept at, the speeds were consistently lower than advertised.
Father and son

Kids in the cockpit: be sterile and not heard?

As a talkative toddler who grew up in an aviation family, I became very familiar with the term sterile cockpit. Sterile cockpit was a kind way for my father to tell me to “shut up.” As I got older, I understood its importance because my dad was a single pilot operator and had a lot to focus on. We even started using the term outside the cockpit when somebody was busy with another important task.

How I became friends with ATC

ATC give us two turns the whole way before the arrival procedure, and cleared us up to one altitude, 8,000 feet. It was the smoothest, most peaceful ride for the baby and his mother you can imagine. They knew. They all had seen the flight plan. They all had a hand in bringing in a baby for care. The care and safety of our airplane and our baby were foremost, for us and for ATC.
flight surgeon

Tales from the doc side

Susan Northrup is an Air Force vet and now works for the FAA at the national level. In a sidebar conversation I asked what her favorite experience was. She quickly replied, "my first fighter squadron, at Moody AFB, and going with the unit to Desert Storm." For some reason that triggered my memories of flight surgeons I’d been stationed with, and the variety of personalities and circumstances.
clouds at night with moon

What are the odds? An electrical failure at night

As I depressed the microphone button, the lighted LED frequency numbers on my comm radio immediately dimmed and started to scramble to different numbers off frequency. I reset the frequency and tried again. Same result. I was unable to communicate because I did not have enough electrical power.

What STOL everybody’s attention?

If you keep tabs on current aviation news and social media, you’ve noticed this thing called “STOL” has become popular. Not a day goes by that you don’t see a reference to STOL, a reminder of an upcoming STOL event, or even an image or video of a STOL airplane approaching a gravel bar or a makeshift dirt strip. What is STOL, why is it growing like a wildfire, and how can you learn more about it?
Cedar Rapids

A minor emergency, but only in hindsight

I don’t remember if we had switched to the departure frequency, but shortly after we were in the air the windscreen started to glaze over with something and then then drops of something started running up the windscreen. The only fluid in front of us had to be OIL!

Maiden Mooney trip: lessons learned but fun too

I was a bit rusty in the air, not having flown much in the past two years because of grandchildren duty. So perhaps these near mishaps can be contributed to less-than-adequate planning. I’ll share them with you as a fellow pilot to reinforce the ever-present need to prepare and be aware. We all aim for perfect flights and when they are perfect we can be proud. When they are not perfect, we chalk them up as lessons learned.