Even when everything seems to be going fine, is it really?
Like life, flying delivers roiling mixtures of expectations vs. outcomes that drive and nurture learning, improving, failing, winning, hoping, striving, spiced all too rarely with exhilaratingly triumphant moments. And some of those triumphant moments, while unfolding, can pass through terrifying on their way to exhilarating. During my first year flying Part 135 charter in King more »
11:50 a.m. Wind nearly straight down the runway, from 150 at 25, gusting to 31. Visibility, 10 miles. Eight vehicles, a mix of sedans and pickup trucks each driven by a man alone, park scattered along the observation area at Hector International Field, the airport in Fargo, North Dakota. Most are pulled up close to more »
I remember the early days, staring at a paper Twin Cities sectional, dreaming about places I still might go. Leave Fargo, I thought. Leave the Jet Center and head vaguely southeast. I didn’t know how to cross the Canadian border to the north, and I had friends in Alexandria, Minneapolis and Chicago, so I put more »
Breakfast, it would seem, is the preferred way to celebrate the Fourth of July in these parts. The firemen put on an annual pancake feast in town, as do the folks who run the local airfield. We call them airfields because, in the beginning, that’s exactly what they were. Not runways, but weedy fields about more »
It was a desolate and alien place, looking more like a photo from Mars than any place that could be on this Earth. The vista stretched for miles in every direction, a rock-strewn blanket of baking, undulating tan, brown and bone white scree. As desolate as this vista was, so too appeared the lives of more »
Curt Brickman is 57 years old. When I meet him, he’s wearing jeans, hiking shoes and a dark blue jacket. His cap says “Cold War Veteran.” He wears an Army pin in his lapel and sunglasses over his prescription glasses. Ten years in the service, he tells me. Here, I think, is a guy who’s more »
I’ve been fascinated by the flight of birds since I was a child. I’m hardly the first young person to turn his eye to the sky and never look down again. For a thousand years, birds have inspired people to dream of human flight and, later, just over a hundred years ago, to finally build more »
The weather is not good tonight. Here at the Dakota border, the real temperature is 22 degrees below zero, wind from the west at 18 knots. Yes, the ceiling is unlimited and visibility is a lot farther than 10 miles, but it’s a hard night for flying. On television, the weatherman calls the evening brisk. more »
"A moment changes everything." Lyrics by David Gray
Life-changing moments form memories in vivid Technicolor. That’s how I remember the moment that changed my life. The moment that changed my life trajectory happened over 40 years ago at Maryland Airport (2W5) just south of Washington, D.C. I was 25 years old. It was a lazy weekend summer day. My partner and I were more »
Flying has always been about looking out the window, finding the frontier, then finding home.
Imagine a wonderful day for flying. Clear sky and just enough wind to keep things stable and fun. Harvest time on the Northern Plains. Combines collect corn. The sugar beet harvest is starting. Long plumes of dust rise from tractor-trailers on gravel roads. This is one of the best reasons to go flying, one of more »
It’s one of aviation’s key concepts, but a deeper version of “attitude” is a part of us who learned to fly.
Attitude: a key concept in aviation, which is the position of an aircraft relative to the wind, but also discussed frequently in addressing a pilot’s judgment and the resultant probable level of safety. But there’s a deeper version of “attitude” at work in those of us who yearned—and then learned—to fly. It’s an attitude born more »
You’d never see it from the ground. A small stream runs through an ignorable culvert under a county road. In a car, it’s just a bump, if even that. Perhaps a flash, a glimpse of sunlight reflecting off water. You’d never think it was important. You’d never think you’d just crossed history. This morning, however, more »
As in other parts of life, in flying we count on numbers, infinite streams of digits, or more to the point these days, ones and zeroes, describing what we do in the physical world, and in the operational one, too. With due deference to poets and screenwriters, aerodynamicists explain how we fly not in terms more »
Three thousand feet above the North Dakota prairie, on a warm, clear-sky morning, Mike Paulson gets a smile on his face. “Check this out,” he says. Mike takes his feet off the rudder pedals and puts the airplane into a bank to the left. Almost immediately, the nose squirrels hard to the right. “Adverse yaw,” more »
I was almost 16 when I started flying lessons in a J-3, thinking—but not even close to knowing—where this would lead. And so began an airborne journey, a journey with destinations at once geographical and intangible. At first, flying, to me, was so concrete, apparent, so kinetic, a skill to be learned, practiced and perfected, more »
The scene is in a thousand movies. A clear night sky and a glass-calm ocean. A million brilliant stars, every one of them reflected by water. The horizon is difficult to find. Then some ship enters the scene, slowly, and the water is swirled in its wake, troubled just enough to mark the border between more »
The early instructions are clear. Abeam the numbers, reduce power. First flaps. Pitch for speed. When the far numbers are 45 degrees behind your shoulder, turn downwind to base. Pitch for speed. Second flaps. Watch your speed. There are stories about what comes next. Base to final. This is the most beautiful turn in the more »