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Pilot Stories

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

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.
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Catastrophic Structural Failure


Focusing on maintenance programs



The overwhelming majority of airplanes have the potential to keep flying until it’s no longer economically viable to keep them in the air, provided that they’re operated within established parameters, receive regular inspections to detect problems and undergo proper preventive maintenance. When there’s a catastrophic structural failure, such as a wing falling off, it understandably attracts attention from the industry, investigators and regulators.
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Obituary For My Friend


You don’t know true sorrow until you lose a dog



It was early on the first day of the EAA Northwest Regional Fly-In at Arlington, Wash., and Marlene called me at the exhibit. She sounded strange, so I walked away from the booth for some privacy and stood in the middle of a wide and grassy fire lane with lines of exhibit booths on both sides. Then a voice I knew said words that I understood, but that my brain refused to comprehend: “Budd, Nizhoni died about an hour ago.”
Saturday, December 1, 2007

From The Editor: ­Where Have All The Heroes Gone?


How times have changed



For the past couple of weeks, In the Shadow of the Moon, a documentary film about the Apollo program, has been playing nearby in Hollywood. Knowing the longevity of aviation-themed movies in theaters, I figured I’d better go sooner rather than later, so a few nights ago, I sat in the dark, in awe of what we (mankind) accomplished in the late ’60s and early to mid-’70s. While nibbling popcorn (no butter, thank you) from a bucket bigger than my head, the words of Michael Collins, the command module pilot of Apollo 11, hit me like a sledgehammer.
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Endangered Species?


Aviation is facing increasing pressure—is it time for an altitude change?



Endangered Species?The end is near! For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, humans have been making predictions about the end. The end of the earth, the end of cheap oil, the end of life as we know it, the end of free WiFi—I hate this kind of gloom and doom stuff.
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Speed Is Life


The Mooney Acclaim asserts a new record!



Flying is a compromise. You can have cheap, and you can have fun, but you won’t necessarily travel fast. You can have fast, for sure, but it will not be cheap, and fun depends on your definition of the word. Several new single-engine airplanes are as fast as turboprops, but the question remains: Can an everyday Joe use that speed, say, on a typical business trip, and have fun in the process.
Thursday, November 1, 2007

From The Editor: Watch This!


And other famous last words



A few weeks ago, I was flying from L.A. to the Bay Area for an afternoon with some friends in town from New York and Toronto. As we were cruising up the Salinas Valley on autopilot (the airplane, not me), listening to some tunes pumping from my iPod, my friend Hillary piped up from the backseat. “Hey, can we do a stunt?” she asked with a big smile. “A stunt?” I replied, amused, as visions of the late Bobby Younkin gracefully rolling his red-and-black Beech 18 flashed through my mind.
Monday, October 1, 2007

From The Editor: Red-Tailed Angels


I can’t understand can’t



In what has turned into an unintentional theme this issue, I seem to have focused on, twice, people or groups that broke new ground in aviation. They were, in some way, told that they couldn’t or shouldn’t, or that it was unusual or possibly inappropriate, to fly. Not only did these people and groups fly, and prove wrong the legions of naysayers, defeatists and perpetuators of negative stereotypes, but they each rose to legendary status in aviation lore.
Saturday, September 1, 2007

Bitten By The Viper


This One Goes To 11



viperThis is my “Maverick” moment, so I better not make good on that call sign I was given a few years ago. I’m cinched tightly into the rear seat of an F-16 behind Major Stephen “Chak” Pinchak of the 421st Fighter Squadron, and my heart is racing. I’ve just armed my ejection seat, so I’m sitting on a live rocket, in a jet plane, and we’re about to blast off—literally.
Sunday, July 1, 2007

Refueling The Tacos


The Stratotanker Visits Davis-Monthan



refueling the tacosFrom the cockpit jump seat of a 1954 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, our clunky, creaky roll on takeoff seems a stark contrast to the day’s activities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Ariz. After what feels like an eternity on an endless runway, we slowly lift off, leaving behind an incredible assortment of U.S. Air Force fighter jets, including F-15 Eagles, F-16 Falcons, F-4 Phantoms, A-10 Warthogs and two F-22 Raptors, on the ramp below.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Cowboy Christmas


Rodeo in the American West



Champion calf roper K.C. Jones is backing his horse, a brown-and-white paint named Mornin’ Spot, into the right rear corner of what they call the box, next to the chute. He’s focused like a red-tailed hawk dive-bombing a field mouse.