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.
Snow on runway

A thirty year mystery solved—icy runways and crosswinds

I lined up with runway 18 as I had often done in the past, only to find that I had little to no control deflection remaining (full left aileron and full right rudder) with strong winds gusting out of 270 degrees. With a full cabin of customer-passengers in the other five seats coming for a two-day factory visit and tour, my macho, risk-tainted bravado at that time told me to press on with landing—which of course I did.

An Easter miracle in the Canadian Arctic

In 1981, I was living in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, which is north of the 60th parallel, working as a new bush pilot. I was flying south to a very small community on Trout Lake on Easter Sunday. The flight service lady informed me that they were still looking for a twin engine pilot who went missing on Good Friday. Being religious, she was convinced that he would be found today, on Easter Sunday, and that I needed to look for him.
DC-3 engine

Diagnosing an engine failure by sound

In the summer of 1987, I watched a DC-3 take off from a paved runway south of Atlanta, where I was working to add fuel and oil to airplanes. I heard an inrush of air as a “waa – waa” sound. This was recurring at a noticeable but slowing rate. I interpreted this slowing repetition as an engine inlet manifold splitting open behind a supercharger.

Hang on young man: fighting an invisible enemy in a T-33

The cabin pressure was way above where it was supposed to be and I was starting to feel a bit dizzy so I turned my oxygen regulator to 100%. As I flew on the dizziness increased, my fingers were white, and my nails starting to turn blue—signs of anoxia—so I turned the oxygen regulator to emergency in which mode it actually forced oxygen into my lungs.

The day my glider checkride almost went bad

Based on past checkrides, it had become the expectation that the rope break would occur on the second flight. But as we turned crosswind on the last flight, he still hadn’t released the rope. I started thinking he must be going easy on me and maybe I started to relax a little—when WHAM he released the tow rope!
Turbo on Cessna 206

Suddenly the engine went quiet

The new engine install resulted in no squawks and the aircraft returned to service. Shortly thereafter, I was cruising along on the second leg of a round robin flight with that new engine running smoothly when suddenly the engine went quiet. The pitch and RPM dropped as if the throttle had been pulled back completely, like a simulated engine failure.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in an aircraft

Contrary to the forecast of only scattered clouds, the visibility continued to drop to the point at which it was less than 20 ft. Now we were in very close formation, at night, in thick, lightly turbulent clouds, with light icing. I could see the wingtip light of the tanker but not the fuselage! Here is where things got dicey—not because of the weather, but because I really needed to pee!