Posts Tagged ‘charts’

Dumb things pilots have done, Part II

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

In Part I of this blog, Chip Wright shared some  of his favorite random, dumb, and often funny things that pilots have done. Here’s the second installment from Chip, gleaned over more than 20 years of flying.–Ed.

The FAA has eyes everywhere. There isn’t a pilot in the Chesapeake Bay region who has not dreamed of flying under the Bay Bridge. I know of two instances when it happened. The first one was a very elaborately planned event on a calm Sunday morning. It was, even in the pilot’s words, “really, really dumb.” But he pulled it off and lived to tell about it.

The second one was beyond really dumb. He did it during the normal course of a weekday, and as he did so a local FAA employee was—you guessed it—driving across the bridge. The airplane was distinctively colored and had 12-inch N-numbers.

I would have paid to see the ramp check after the landing.

The FAA has eyes everywhere, Part II: Here’s a hint: If you fly to an airport that has been clamoring for an instrument approach for years, don’t go blowing minimums when you first get to do it. The pilot in this case was known for being a hot dog. Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville, Maryland, had just gotten a VOR approach to Runway 29, and it was at a fairly stiff angle to make the turn from the radial to the runway. On the day in question, an FAA inspector was at the airport, waiting to see if anyone would fly the approach. A pilot in a twin Cessna announced his arrival and proceeded to fly the approach and land, even though the ceiling and the visibility were both below minimums. The pilot’s enthusiasm had overcome his common sense, in part because he knew the terrain so well that he knew if he established ground contact he’d be OK.

The inspector was not amused.

Cleared to land…but didn’t. The controller in Cincinnati who told me this story swears it’s true. A Boeing 767 was arriving during a major non-push, and was at 3,000 feet on the final, obviously locked on to the localizer, and cleared to land…but he didn’t descend. The controllers tried to call the crew, but got no answer. As the airplane began to fly over the runway, the controller hit his mic and said, “So…you guys want a left or a right downwind? And this time, for our planning, are you actually going to land?”

The captain was very terse on the radio for the rest of flight.

Oops. I read this in a publication somewhere. A pilot in a Bonanza (I believe) flew into Smallville, USA, for business, and left the airport for a while. When he came back, his airplane was gone…as in, up-in-smoke gone. It had caught fire. The investigation finally revealed that he used a magnifying glass to read the charts in the cockpit, and he had left the magnifying glass on top of the charts. As the sun came overhead and began shining through the window, the magnifying glass heated the paper, and the rest is history. So is the airplane.

Who’da thunk? A friend had just bought a Piper Warrior, a real pretty blue one. After one of his first flights, he was taxiing to his tiedown and decided to come in from the tail end, as the spots on either side were empty. He had the nosewheel lined up perfectly with the bottom of the ‘T’ where the tail tie is. And that, my friends, is as far as he got. The prop sucked the rope up and wrapped it around the shaft. The nose was pulled down, and the prop hit the ground and stopped.

The insurance adjuster had never seen that one before.

None of these take into account pilots who have landed at the wrong airport—even ones with a tower—or pilots who have taxied into a ditch or a building (I have one of those stories), or flipped up the gear lever too early on a touch and go, only to settle onto the runway (I have one of those stories too), or have done myriad other dumb things. If you have a story to match or beat these, I’d love to hear it.—Chip Wright

Pilot dad memories

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Such wonderful stories about pilot dads came to me last week! From an airline pilot dad who taught his daughter to fly to a helicopter pilot dad who took his young son flight-seeing, these flying fathers–and some dads who didn’t fly themselves but nonetheless nurtured the flying passion within their sons and daughters–get our spotlight this week.

  • Molly Flanagan Littlefield learned to fly as a teenager, and her father, Tom Flanagan of Merced, Calif., was her flight instructor. “I remember watching his face in the mirror and seeing the peace he felt while airborne. He would say that flying assured them there was a God,” she writes. In 1979, when she was hired as a pilot for United Airlines, she was certain she wouldn’t make the cut and wanted to quit before she was asked to leave. She called home and talked to her parents. “There was a very long silence on the other end of the phone. Finally Daddy said words that carry me still…’I wouldn’t have let you go if I didn’t think you could do it.’”
  • Meredith Randazzo

    Meredith Randazzo’s father, Ernest R. Dixon, has had a lifelong love of flying, she says. (That’s Meredith at age 5 strapped in a safety seat, getting ready to participate in a flour bombing competition.) Meredith’s dad no longer flies, but she caught the bug and became a naval aviator and served more than eight years with the U.S. Marines as a CH-46E helicopter pilot. “Today my dad’s interest in aviation is as strong as ever and he regularly takes my niece to watch the airplanes take off and land, as he did with me decades ago!”

  • Jay Fleming remembers flying in a helicopter with his father, Jack, as a youngster. “One day, when I was about 5 years old, my dad flew a Robinson R22 from Wiley Post Airport to my grandparents’ property and picked me up to fly back to PWA, where he worked. Many of the neighbors thought my grandpa was being medi-flighted since he had had some health trouble recently.” On another flight when Jay was 14, his dad flew him from Torrance to Malibu and back, pointing out celebrity homes en route. “Thanks to him, I have the desire–not necessarily time or money though–to get a helicopter private pilot certificate.
  • Dr. Harold Brown

    That’s Flight Training Contributor Greg Brown’s father, Dr. Harold Brown, in the photo. He’s kissing the good engine of his Cessna 310 at Santa Maria, Azores Islands, after losing the other one over the Atlantic Ocean in 1962. Greg wrote about the experience in his November 2001 Flying Carpet, “Made My Dad Proud.” If you read the column you’ll find out about the last memorable flight Greg flew with his dad. His upcoming September column will be devoted to a memory of annual family trips in his father’s airplane to visit an uncle who lived on an island in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

  • Jim Mauro flew with his dad, Ben, from age 8 until his college years. “I had the great experiences of flying in Taylorcrafts, Bellancas, Sea-Bee, Grumman Widgeon, and Bonanza. I even flew in an airplane that I think was branded Amphicar, but I’m not sure.”[Editor's note: Paging Al Marsh! He's the in-house expert on car-airplane hybrids.] Jim’s dad had a grass strip in Conway, Penn., and was president of the Taylorcraft Corporation during the 1950s and early 1960s, so the aviation force is strong there, as you can see.
  • And finally, Andy Matthews, the co-founder of iFlightPlanner, wrote to pay tribute to his nonpilot dad, Jerry. Andy grew up in a golf-playing family. “A weekend pastime with my parents turned into summer golf camps, junior tournaments, a college golf scholarship, and now I’m humbled to be in my ninth season as a professional golfer who has competed with the best players in the game, all over the world.” So where does flying figure into all this? Well, Andy injured his back a few years ago, and golfing had to be put on the back burner while he recovered. In the meantime, his father suggested that this might be the time to start taking flight lessons. “He was there for my first solo, and he was also in the right seat as my first passenger soon after I got my license,” Andy says. Jerry also noticed all the work that went into planning a cross-country flight–the charts spread out on tables, manuals, notes, and a laptop computer–and “hinted that I needed a more efficient way to plan my flights. That spurred an idea, and with the help of my college roommate from the University of Michigan, we began to lay the foundation for what is now iFlightPlanner.”

Thanks to all who submitted these great stories. If you’d like to salute your dad in the Comments section, please do. I hope everyone had a happy Father’s Day!–Jill W. Tallman