Home :
  • Print
  • Email

Pilot Stories

Enjoy pilot stories? Our Pilot Talk section is full of informative and entertaining flying tales from accomplished pilot authors.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Super Bowl Super Fly-In


It’s Oshkosh, but with Gulfstreams, caviar, limos…and lots of beer



grassrootsIt was Super Bowl morning, and the airport was as dead as a Thanksgiving turkey. Where barely 12 hours earlier, the only way I could get into the air was by sitting at an intersection, engine running and whining to the tower, this day I practically owned the airport. The pattern, anyway. The airport itself was owned by the more than 208 jets and turboprops that had come into Scottsdale, Ariz., that morning and stayed—not to mention the dozens more that came, dropped off passengers, and then split. It had to be coincidental that across town, in the gleaming dome easily visible from the pattern, even though it was more than 20 miles away, the Giants and the Patriots were about to square off.
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Touchdowns: Ever Upward


Breaking four records in one jump



touchdownsIn the late ’50s, the Air Force began researching whether a pilot could survive bailing out of a high-altitude, supersonic fighter. There was only one way to find out: find a human who was willing to conduct such an experiment.
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Contact: Functional Beauty


"Beauty was the by-product, not the target."



The other evening, I was flipping through the channels looking for something to watch on TV when I landed on a show about Concorde’s final flight, back in October 2003. Hard to believe it has been almost five years. Knowing that last flight would occur sooner rather than later, I flew Concorde New York to Paris return in the spring of 2000, just a couple months before its first and only crash, on July 25, 2000. It was something I just had to experience, and I’m glad I did, because it seems the days of supersonic airliners are behind us, at least for the foreseeable future. And because my flight was also before 9/11, I spent some time during our 11-mile high, Mach 2.02–cruise sitting in the jump seat at the pointy end, which, in Concorde, is really pointy. (Can’t imagine that happening now.)
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

From The Editor: Cars & Planes


Safety skills transcend both



About a year ago, I was driving north on the 405, a freeway in Los Angeles that’s usually a huge, 10-lane parking lot unless it’s during the wee hours or a weekend. It was nighttime and I was probably scooting along at about 80 when I saw a flash of lights in my rearview mirror. My heart skipped a beat, though traffic often moves that fast on the freeway. I reflexively let up on the gas and looked back again. This time, there wasn’t just one police car, but many, in pursuit of a single vehicle, not a police car, closing on me fast. I darted rather urgently to the innermost lane as a white Honda or Toyota, followed by about seven police cars, passed me like I was standing still—and I was only down to about 70. I thought, “Welcome to Los Angeles, land of the car chase.”
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Safety—A Tough Sell


Blame it on pilot error



piper coltWoody was one of those pilots we all thought would live forever. He was something of a legend in the ferry-flying community: an aviator who had been everywhere in pretty much everything, had never wrecked an airplane and seemed to live a charmed life. A former African missionary, he was a friend for 20 years who knew more about flying the world than anyone else I had ever met, and we all assumed he was invulnerable to the dangers of ferry flying.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

LSA Safety


Analyzing some recently investigated accident statistics



ntsb openerWe seem to be at the dawn of a new era of hope for general aviation’s future with the steadily increasing popularity of light-sport aircraft (LSA). For many, the light-sport license is a lower-cost entry into the pilot community. For others, the ability to use a driver’s license in lieu of an FAA medical certificate offers a way to continue flying as long as it’s possible to self-certify that there’s no medical condition that would stand in the way of safely performing light-sport pilot duties. For everyone, an LSA’s lower fuel consumption offers hope that the cost of the $50 fly-in hamburger may someday really drop back to $50—something we haven’t seen in years!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Four Aviation Food Groups


Man does not live by cross-country alone



grassrootsBalanced aviation nutrition is like nutrition of all types in that it has to support and nurture the body, the soul and the mind, but not necessarily in that order. Without it, the entity that is the aviator will, if not wither and die, at least not realize his full potential. The aviator’s growth, thinking and spirit will be stunted, and he or she will probably not even realize it. To maintain an aviator’s body and mind in peak condition, it’s essential that it be fed the proper balance of nutrition from each of the four basic av-food groups.
Saturday, March 1, 2008

From The Editor: Sticktuitiveness


Making the decision to learn to fly



Not long ago, I was flying commercial from LAX to Boston Logan. As I settled into my seat in the back of the bus, I was chagrined that, right behind me, sat a young boy of maybe six or seven. When he started to kick the back of my seat, I gave his father one of those looks, but the kicking never really totally stopped. That’s what I get for a $300 ticket, I thought to myself—unwashed masses in steerage. Fast-forward to our plane racing down the runway and lifting off: I’m absentmindedly looking out the window when this same kid behind me reminds me with only a few words why I learned to fly.
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why Learn To Fly?


The payback can outstrip the cost by a factor of several thousand



x-country logPete runs a dental practice and learned to fly so he could transport his family to and from their vacation retreat in Ogden, Utah, without all the hassles of airline travel. Andy is a relatively young entrepreneur who made it big in video games and learned to fly as one of his rewards. And Patty pursued an aviation career, flight instructed, flew charter and eventually climbed atop the aviation pyramid: She now flies Airbus 330s across the pond for US Airways.
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Knowing The NOTAMs


Don’t underestimate their importance



ntsbAccident investigators sometimes discover that pilots don’t have information contained in NOTAMs relevant to their flights. On rare occasions, even though a pilot asked for NOTAM information in a preflight briefing, the briefer accidentally omitted an item. More often, however, pilots don’t bother doing the research.
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Passion Breeds Success


If you love something, you can’t help but win



grassrootsYesterday, as we were taxiing back for yet another dash down the runway to defy gravity, I started laughing out loud. My student asked what I was laughing about and I said, “The thought just crossed my mind that, at this exact moment, my daughter is on set in Toronto producing her first movie, my son is negotiating with several agencies that are competing fiercely for his scripts, Marlene is making a name as a ceramicist and I’m sitting in my favorite airplane doing what I love to do. Life is good for the Davisson tribe, and I can’t keep from laughing.”
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Fathers, Sons And Flying


A CNN correspondent reflects on flying as a family affair



Fathers, Sons And FlyingFor me, it all began a few thousand feet over some Michigan farmland about 40 years ago. We were somewhere between Detroit and Alpena when my father gave me a heading, told me to keep it straight and level, and then let me grab the yoke. I’ll never forget the joy I felt when that 172 began responding to my whims. It was love at first flight.
Friday, February 1, 2008

From The Editor: Simmer Down


Or, a not so funny thing happened on the way to the Vineyard



I was looking forward to a much needed weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, away from the city and the noise and smells of summer in the Meatpacking District. And though brunch at The Black Dog and grilled lobster at the Oyster Bar and Grill beckoned, the last thing I wanted to do was spend my Friday afternoon sitting on I-95 for five hours, inching my way to the Vineyard Haven–bound ferry. At times like this, nothing could be more perfect than hopping into a small plane with my girlfriend and a couple friends, although, in this case, they were all a bit more rambunctious than I would have liked.
Friday, February 1, 2008

Breaking In A New One


New engines, like new friends, take a little while to get to know



grassrootsAs I’m writing this, a shuttle bus is taking me a hundred miles north to meet a new friend (I hope): the freshly overhauled Lyc IO-360-A1A that’s snuggled under the cowling of Eight Papa Bravo and is waiting for me to pick her up and bring her home. It has been a long time since I’ve done the new engine thing. I feel as if I’m going on a first date after just getting divorced. I’m not really cheating on the old one, am I?
Friday, February 1, 2008

What If?


Asking the eternal, unanswerable question



ntsbIn every accident, there’s a chain of events or conditions leading to the outcome. Break one of the links in the chain, and the accident can be avoided, at least in theory. The individual links leading to the crash of Comair flight 5191 at Lexington, Ky., on August 27, 2006, aren’t big ones like an engine failing or running out of fuel. The NTSB’s final report indicates plenty of opportunities to change the course of events. There’s almost a compulsion to ask over and over again, “what if?”
Friday, February 1, 2008

Memories Of Africa, Part V


Taking detours into South Africa



xcThe following is in response to dozens of e-mails requesting additional installments on flying Africa. Keep in mind, this Caravan trip occurred in 1989 when South Africa still maintained its policy of apartheid.
Friday, February 1, 2008

What Compels An Air Show Pilot?


It’s dangerous. It’s competitive. And it’s hard on the body. So why fly hardcore aerobatics?



What Compels An Air Show Pilot?Explaining why I do what I do is surprisingly easy. The quick answer is that flying air shows is what I’m passionate about. I love it. But beyond that is a story of inspiration, physical endeavor, ongoing learning and camaraderie.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

From The Editor: GA Popularity Contest


Why isn’t flying cooler?



When I was a kid in grade school, I had this friend named Jonathan Meyer. His dad was a minister and had a collection of Revolutionary War–era muskets, flintlocks and a blunderbuss. That name alone was enough to get us kids laughing. One day, the reverend came to our school and gave our class the ultimate show-and-tell: He loaded one of his muskets with black powder, aimed it high at the ceiling and pulled the trigger.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

State Of The Industry


Keep aviation vital and strong



State Of The IndustryFrom the Wright brothers to The Right Stuff, the thrill of flight has sparked the imagination and stirred the human spirit. We take to the skies to experience the freedom and exhilaration of flight. Now more than ever, people look to general aviation as a way to speed travel and increase business. Consequently, it’s important for those of us who love general aviation to step back and examine the health and strength of this great industry.
Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Odyssey Of Glacier Girl


The world's most famous warbird takes on the North Atlantic



1942: A flight of six P-38s and two B-17s departs Sondrestrom Fjord, Greenland, for Reykjavik, Iceland, on their way to the WWII European Theater of Operations as part of Operation Bolero. It’s an ambitious project, initiated by General Hap Arnold, tired of seeing his aircraft ride cargo ships to the bottom of the Atlantic, victims of Hitler’s dreaded U-boats.