Holding and Holding

No, not in football or fútbol. A post over at OldNFO’s place reminded me of that dreaded thing in aviation, the holding pattern. The place you go to collect your thoughts, make further plans, or burn time and gas when landing and parking is not an option.


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Heading Home: A Flying Story

A rerun due to too much fiction writing in progress.

Another night, another, yawn, flight. The redhead sniffed the night air and stretched, rolling her shoulders before shaking all over like a wet dog. Just after supper a cardiac trip had paged out, bringing the King Air and its crew in to the capitol. The early autumn weather had played its usual tricks as cool Canadian air rolled over the still-warm ground. The not-too-thick clouds that resulted stayed a thousand feet or so above the fields and towns, with good visibility beneath their flat bottoms. Instrument weather, good practice, but nothing dangerous. The pilot looked at her pager and yawned again. She wasn’t really tired; it just seemed like the thing to do at midnight.

Catherine had just thanked the fuel truck driver and seen him off when her pager sounded. “Call Dispatch ASAP” flashed on her personal code. Another trip? A problem? Weather check? She trotted into the hangar and used the phone on the mechanics’ desk. “Dispatch. This is Melissa.” Continue reading

Armstrong Starters and Other Old Things

Ah, the days of old when men were bold and planes had round engines… And no electric starter. I got to fly with, and learn from, men and women of the Olde School, and they had more rituals than the Eastern Orthodox Church when it came to starting airplanes. Once I started working on vintage beasts, I learned why.

Round motors are sweet, amazing pieces of art and power when they work as desired. They are stone cold [invective of choice] when they don’t. And starting them is not as easy as the modern prime with gas, turn on magnetos, hit starter, add throttle and go. Oh no, no, one treated radial engines with the same delicate manners and techniques used for… Never mind, PG-13 blog. Anyway, crank and go is not a radial engine “thing.”

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The Oklahoma Hills: A Repeat Post

I’ve been a little tied up with Day Job, so a story from my flying days . . .

In the Oklahoma Hills

The morning started well then went splat, she thought, as the Seneca chugged along on autopilot. She woke up at four, hustled out to the airport and managed to get the plane out of its stall without dinging or breaking anything. Then she ran back to town for passenger snacks, picking up some for her people as well as for another pilot’s load. Except she hadn’t looked at the number of his passengers, and didn’t get enough. She offered him her donuts and pastries, but he said no, and told her to go back and get more for him. He’d take care of her people. As she charged out the door, headlights turned into the parking lot. Guess who? The ranking pilot sighed and said not to bother. She made a last “pit stop,” and emerged to find that he’d taken over, to the point of introducing her to “her” passengers. Which she could understand, because he knew them and went to church with two of the three. But it still stung. Continue reading

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

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