Robins: 1 Mockingbird: 1

Ah, spring, when an evening stroller’s thoughts turn to duck!

Ahem, to avoiding the local wildlife, especially when that wildlife is re-enacting dog-fights straight out of Battle of Britain and Top Gun. 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

Three-D Thinking

Way back when, my highschool still offered shop classes. I took drafting and metal working. Of the two drafting did me more long-term good, but wreaked havoc on my grades. It is said that women have more difficulty visualizing things in three dimensions – spatial imaging. This sample of one certainly fits the pattern. I can draw things from life, measure carefully, get the scale correct, and so on. But present me with two views and have me draw the third? I was very proud of that C+.

And then came instrument flying… Continue reading

Time’s Turning: A Flying Story


I’m so glad summer’s over Catherine thought as she rolled her shoulders and shivered a bit, looking up at Orion. The strong Arctic cold front that blasted through the plains earlier that day had washed the dry-season dust out of the night sky, leaving hard, brilliant stars behind. Of course, being in the unpopulated part of the state helped. Even the airport and town lights couldn’t wash out the Milky Way and winter constellations hanging high above the pilot and her King Air. Catherine stifled a yawn and set about exploring the “new” airport, mindful that snakes might be basking on the still-warmish pavement. Continue reading

“…For the Glory of the Skies…”

Note: I wrote this while I was still flying EMS, thus the odd tense changes and rough prose.

I haven’t flown with Steve on the med crew since I’d made captain. Like many of our nurses and EMTs, he works at a couple of other hospitals when he isn’t be-bopping about in our King Air, and our schedules missed each other. So when he flops into the right seat that early morning out of Denver, I don’t know what to expect. (Steve will say he didn’t “flop.” After being on the run since one in the morning, everyone flops, author included.)

Anyway, we depart Denver at five something, heading eastbound. The sturdy turboprop slides into the clouds at twelve thousand feet, and stays in them. And stays. Puzzled, I look for stars and try to figure out how the layer has gotten so thick in the ninety minutes since we’ve landed. Then I see the morning star and catch myself. The paling sky blends into the clouds so well that it masks the horizon we’d crossed fifteen hundred feet after entering the deck. As the plane chugs up to nineteen thousand feet, we can see dying thunderheads silhouetted purple against the northern skyline. “How high are they?” Steve asks. Continue reading

Panhandle Weather – No In-betweens

When I started learning how to fly, I did so in the southeastern US. Then I returned to Texas for holidays and summers, and got to re-learn. One of the differences was weather, but not in the sense most people think. Weather in the Southeast varies from good to pretty good to “eh, not great but workable” to “grungy but not dangerous” to poor.  Weather in the Texas Panhandle ranges from fantastic to good to “oh look, the birds have their hitch-hiking signs out as they walk towards the interstate.” There’s no moderation in the meteorology. Continue reading

The Shotgun Panel: A Pilot Gripes

In the beginning airplanes had no instruments beyond a sort of fuel gauge and the pilot’s eyes, ears, and rump. That didn’t last long, and so airspeed indicators, altimeters, oil pressure and temperature gauges, and other useful things appeared. Rate-of-climb indicators, compasses and then heading indicators (which didn’t wag as much as a whisky compass and are usually easier to read in turbulence. Usually), attitude indicators to help the pilot determine if he was still level or if his inner-ear had gotten out of kilter with the airplane, radios, landing-gear position indicators, and other gauges, lights, and read-outs soon filled the instrument panel to the brim. And it was good, but . . . non-standard.

What is now standard: the Sacred Six.

What is now standard: the Sacred Six.

Continue reading