Pilots are taught to use their initiative and to expect surprises. There was certainly a surprise in store for me one dark and stormy night a little over 35 years ago, but the use of initiative came in a most unorthodox way ― and not from the crew on the aircraft, but from a quick-acting van driver.
In the airline industry it is usually the cabin crew who come face to face with the loud mouths, the drunks, the ungrateful, and sometimes the dangerous. One written complaint and invariably the flight attendant will find his or her job on the line. Occasionally a nasty passenger will get just deserts.
I had previous experience in RAAF Fighter Squadrons and was familiar in the use of air-to-air missiles from tours in the Australian Sabre’s sidewinder-equipped aircraft. However, this mission was different where my aircraft was, itself, to become a “missile and see if they can shoot you down,” was the brief by the squadron Intelligence Officer.
Many of today’s pilots are usually so addicted to the automatics, that the thought of switching off the autopilot and flying manually is practically a Mayday situation. Yet, when coaxed into switching off the automatic features the almost universal reply is “Jeez – I enjoyed that.”
In the corridors of power many aviation decisions are made that do not normally affect those of us on the flight deck responsible for a successful flight. But sometimes they do. Such was the case of the Rarotongan Voters Project, where two separate governments intervened mid-flight.
It would be difficult to describe an aviation career more colorful and varied than that of Captain John Laming. In our latest interview, we ask the experienced military and airline pilot about everything from the Battle of Britain to modern simulator training.
Former RAAF pilot John Laming remembers one of his first flight instructors, a unique and thoughtful man he would encounter many times throughout his career. Reconnecting after 40 years, the two pilots made a memorable final flight that shows the special bond two pilots share.
Once again the Air Facts archives offer a mesmerizing flying story from record-setting airline captain Bob Buck. In this article, from the March 1969 edition, Buck takes us from New York to all kinds of exotic places in his Boeing 707: Frankfurt, Athens, Tel Aviv, India and finally Hong Kong.
So I taxied to the threshold following a “Follow Me” jeep as I could not see the taxiway. Meanwhile my Flight Commander went to the tower to watch. Maybe he expected a spectacle – but as it happened he gave me good advice and by all accounts he got a spectacle too!
In this current era of over-regulation, it may seem, understandably to anyone reading this story now, that we were a bunch of over-enthusiastic young men with little sense of professional responsibility. But it was another time and things were different then. For this ancient airman, they were the good old days and I mourn their passing.
Back in 1976 when I joined my first airline it was still customary for the captain to talk to the SLC (Self Loading Cargo – a somewhat snide description observed on pilot internet websites to denote passengers). Some of the people and the stories “down the back” are unforgettable, even 30 years later.
The Angel on my right shoulder whispers, “This is not the time for you to be doing this, look at those clouds!” but the Devil on my left shoulder says, “Aw c’mon! You’re only going for a short flight, you’ve got to be able to fly in this, what’s stopping you?”
“We never fly too much above 500 feet around here,” Michelle said as we began the climbout from the grass strip at the Kosrue Aero Club. “I know it seems low but remember we don’t have any mountains to worry about.”
In between sunning myself at Bondi and flying the Wirraway, I spent idle moments in the cockpit of a Mustang reading the Pilot’s Notes and savouring the heady aroma of high octane fuel, glycol coolant and hydraulic oil. It was no contest. The Mustangs won every time.
Now that I have decided to allow my license to run out of hours and not renew, old pilot’s reminiscences come to the fore in flying circles. But none of my subsequent flying has, for me, the excitement of my time over Africa.
While browsing through the records of student pilots at a local flying school, I noticed that many had not gone solo until after 15 hours of dual instruction. Some were up to 25 hours before being sent off alone. Fifty years ago, students flying Tiger Moths were solo between 6 and 10 hours.
Today we are pleased to republish “140 in Africa,” a delightful article that will take you back in time. Legendary author Wolfgang Langewiesche shares the simple pleasures of flying low and slow across a vast continent. This originally appeared in the March, 1951 edition of Air Facts magazine.
From time to time, we revisit an original Air Facts article that we think would make enjoyable and worthwhile reading today. So it is with Bob Buck’s “Flight to Cairo,” the legendary airline pilot’s story of flying a TWA Constellation from Paris to Cairo in the days before jet engines and GPS.
Last February, on a weekend, I decided to take a flight from Tehran to Shiraz, in the south of Iran. I asked my instructor pilot and friend to accompany me. We encountered a heavy headwind up to 30 knots and fuel quickly became an issue.
Forty plus years back, this pilot had the opportunity to fly as co-pilot on a ferry trip from Africa to the United States, and it was quite an interesting experience. The mission was to go and get a DC-3 that had been used on a contract for oil exploration in the Sahara Desert. Sounds simple enough but, not so fast.