Pan Am 707

The big surprise: an unexpected fly-by

A good friend of mine and fellow Zipper jock, Bill, had come down with a very serious health problem and subsequently passed away after a short illness. We were all shocked at his passing and wanted to have a proper send-off for he and his family. We asked the squadron in San Juan if they could send a flight of Starfighters, but they reluctantly declined.

SportStar-ing it around Australia

Before I had finished my licence, I was a proud owner of an Evektor Sportstar. This has opened up a new world for my wife and me. While I would never plan to fly if it was an essential birthday party of one of our 13 grandchildren, out of fear of getting a dose of get-there-itis, what a great blessing to wake up, look out the window and say, “let's bomb in on some of the grandies.”

Little details are important

BasicMed was not available when I took my first flight physical, so I paid the money and passed the FAA Medical. However, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to one small admonition from the doctor. He told me I didn’t need to wear my reading glasses in the plane, but I needed to carry them with me. I use glasses to read, but my eyes are good enough that I can get by without them. That little detail almost led to a fatal accident.
SR-71 cockpit

How I got to fly the SR-71 simulator for NASA

“Look,” he said, "we need someone to pilot the 71 simulator while the engineers and sim operator conduct some conditions on stability for the 33 programs. Any interest?” "Sure," I said, "happy to help out." (I refrained from screaming "hell yes!" while turning a few handsprings.)

A close call on the water in the Bahamas

Rotating ten feet off the water, there was an ominous and very audible bang from the rear of the aircraft. Immediately the seaplane skewed 45 degrees into the east wind, heading us at 80mph toward a frightening scene. One can scoff at that expression of "doing things by the book" but in near every case of incident, almost all were resolved safely by resorting to this method—except this was not in the book.
Cessna 152

Base turn over the trees

I turned right on base and pulled gently on the throttle to reduce the airspeed and put down the next notch of flaps to slow down further. The aircraft was over the trees and descending and I noticed that the aircraft was buffeting slightly. I had noted a similar feel while practicing stalls with the instructor. But this was not a practice stall.
Cherokee 180

A rusty pilot returns

Why had I quit flying? I don’t think I ever meant to. It’s not that I lost interest. I’d kept my AOPA membership current ever since I first joined as a student pilot in 1986. There’s an AOPA sticker in the back window of my car. I was proud to be a pilot, but as the years went by, I talked about it less and less.

When aviation comes to your front yard

Over the course of my career, I’ve had countless people in aviation help me. I have a lot of built up karma that I needed to pay forward. So imagine when I received a call from my neighbor saying, “Hey, did you know there is a helicopter in your front yard?” Wait, what?
Pilot's view

Things that go bump in the dark

I’ve never been an aficionado of night flying. You can stumble into weather you would normally avoid in the daytime and it’s often more difficult to do things that are routine during the day. Additionally, you always hear noises that never seem to occur during daylight. For instance, air-to-air refueling (AAR), which is challenging in the daytime, requires flying at 300 knots while close to another aircraft filled with fuel, and they intend to "pass some gas" to you—in the dark!
Air traffic

9/11/01 — One pilot’s experience

It is now 5:25 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a day that will live—as certain as does Pearl Harbor Day—in infamy. I am sitting in room 212 at the Baymont Inn near the Indianapolis, Indiana, Airport. I will be staying here for at least tonight and probably even longer. According to local reports, I am very fortunate to even have a room because of the five to six thousand passengers stranded, like fellow pilot John Baker and myself, in this city that we had never intended to visit.
Duckbutt C-130

Flying a Duckbutt for POTUS

Precautionary Orbit Escort missions (Duckbutts) involved positioning rescue aircraft at strategic airborne orbit points along a preplanned oceanic route of flight.  These Duckbutts primarily supported jet fighters or other single engine aircraft which cross these routes with minimum navigation and communications equipment.  The rescue aircraft would be in a position to give immediate assistance at all times.
Grumman parts

For sale: Grumman Traveler (some assembly required)

This adventure began one boring sunny Sunday on the fourth of July, with Rafael reading the latest Barnstormers email. The ad simply read, For Sale Grumman Traveler: $1,000. The address came with a local address... and phone number. A phone call and an arranged meeting was made in less time it takes to write about it. I did say he really liked that airplane.

Things that go bump

A few of years back we upgraded our transponder to an FIS/ADS-B capable unit in anticipation of the FAA mandate. Like many, I think, the ADS-B traffic picture was a revelation to me. "Empty" airspace I’d bored through for decades was filled with targets—quite a few of them pointing at me! Paranoia aside, it should not have been a surprise. I’d had my share of warnings, subtle and direct, over the years.
Priest pilots

Three brothers, all priests and pilots

Astronaut Mike Collins ended up heading the new Air and Space Museum when he left the astronaut corps. One thing important to him was a section devoted to general aviation, and notifications went out for suggestions. Fr. Dick Skriba of Chicago recommended my brothers and me. No one doubted we were weird in many ways, but Dick felt we did offer something unique to the flying world: three brothers, Roman Catholic priests, and all priest pilots

It wasn’t a fly-by

The day came for the Change of Command. The reviewing stands were close to the flight line, distinguished guests were greeted and escorted to their reserved positions at the review area. Suddenly there was noise in the flight line area. Quiet hours were in force for 30 minutes before the ceremony until 30 minutes past. What the heck?
Buyer in airplane

Selling my airplane after 40 years

It was time to sell my plane. My 90th birthday was approaching and I was having mobility problems due to spinal stenosis that were only partially corrected by surgery. I had bought my Mooney 231 in 1981. My wife and I had traded in my Arrow and her Cherokee to move up a level. We added more avionics and an engine along the way during the 39 years we owned the bird.
Crash scene

Witness to an airplane crash

The BT squatted in a three-point landing about 500 ft. from the end of the runway. As it rolled it seemed to be doing that walk to the left that every taildragger pilot has experienced in a crosswind. At about the 1000-foot marker the left wheel eased off the side of the runway. My mind perked up. “This is going to be interesting,” I said to myself.

An overconfident ferry pilot flies a Stearman to Oshkosh

I was building flying time by ferrying airplanes on weekends but this was one sorry looking airplane. Originally a proud training plane for the military prior to World War II, it had become a crop duster. The fabric was ripped in numerous places and the interior was sparse. To make sure I could make it to Oshkosh, and a possible new owner I applied duct tape to each rip I found in the fabric. It probably took 20 ft. of duct tape.
SeaRey cockpit

Life in an airplane, on and off the water

The SeaRey is a fun plane to fly and very well mannered on the water and in the air. You do have to be prepared for pitch changes with different power settings, with the high thrust line of the Rotax pusher engine. On terra firma, landings and takeoffs are typical tailwheel operation and it can be exciting at times.

Approach, I need the nearest airport

After passing by Fort Pierce (FPR), we experienced a large loss of power and severe vibrations from the engine. Soon after came a petroleum-based smell. Oil? I looked and saw no engine indications of excessive oil temperature, pressure, or exhaust gas. I set the mixture for full rich and took the airplane over from the student. “My controls,” I stated.