When Your Inner Ears and Eyes Lie

I just caught a bit of an ad on TV for a special about John F. Kennedy Junior. DadRed made some comments about people who fly when they shouldn’t and are overconfident to boot. I held my peace because it’s an argument not worth wading into again. I’ve flown in conditions similar to those on that evening, and with the same instrument arrangement and autopilot. And almost got my empenage bitten, even though it was severe clear and above the clouds. Continue reading


Fuelish Funnies

The three most useless things in aviation are the runway behind you, the altitude above you, and the gas in the fuel truck.* The only time you have too much fuel is if you are on fire.

Welllllll, not always. You see, there I was… Continue reading

Duluth, MN: Some Flying

I had not quite reached the insurance minimums for the plane, so I was flying copilot.

We lift off five minutes before late summer sunrise. As our light twin climbs up to six thousand feet, a molten gold ball spreads over the eastern horizon, turning the few morning clouds purple and gold. Another beautiful, sky-borne sunrise with promises of a sunny warm day in the Plains. But we aim more north and east, heading for (to me) the unexplored territory of Duluth, Minnesota, on the western point of Lake Superior. Threads of fog trace their way south, gray against the green-shaded fields on the river banks. At altitude, a bend in the jet stream adds a welcomed forty knots to our ground speed. Tom points to the mileage ticking down on the GPS read out and smiles. The earlier we arrived, the better our odds of getting home before the morning’s 0300 wake up call starts to show. Our passenger snores quietly, making up for his own early start. Continue reading

Aviation and Oral Traditions

Most people don’t associate aviation and oral traditions. After all, aviation is very much about technology and machinery, especially once you start flying airliners and other jets or “just” multi-engine aircraft. And since powered, controlled flight began in 1903, that’s well after oral-traditions and oral history were important.

Most people would be in for a bit of a surprise. Continue reading

Six yards of Flightline and a Bucket of Propwash

And don’t forget the left-handed monkey wrench.

Ah, the wild goose chases people get sent on in order to get them out from under foot, or as part of being initiated into the ranks of mechanic and line-guy.

Having grown up reading military history and “No [kidding], there I was” stories, I was familiar with the hazards of being sent to the parts department for flight line, or to the hangar at the far end of the row in order to borrow a bucket of prop wash. And of course a can of elbow grease, can’t forget that. Continue reading

Test Pilot: Don’t Try This at Home

“The autopilot won’t hold altitude.” The other captain had written the light-twin plane up five weeks before, but the chief-of-maintenance had (as usual) blown off the report. And it was crunch season for the mechanics, because in addition to the charter planes, and teaching plane, they had to keep two spray planes going and going and going. We had a procedure for working around a cranky autopilot, but it’s not fun, and there are times when having one that will do all that it is supposed to is very, very good. Continue reading