More flying stuff
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17-09-2016, 04:37 AM
More flying stuff
I had moved to Alaska to follow one of my dreams of being a bush pilot there. I spent 2 years in the deep bush, flying quite a few DeHaviland aircraft, and super cubs, and C207’s and C208’s , and C406’s, and Maule’s and just all sorts of fun bush airplanes.

I was a single father at the time, and my young daughter started missing at least some of the cool things that civilization allowed, like regular bathing and heat. So I opted to move us into Fairbanks and took a job with a larger, although still small, bush carrier. I was hired to fly Beech 1900s, which I had flown pretty extensively several years before in Australia.

The company I flew for tended to hire EXTREMELY new FO’s. Basically, a commercial/instrument multiengine, a quick ground school, 3 takeoffs and landings, and they were off. So as Captain you got very little rest on “nautical” days, as most days in Alaska were.

One day in January (“Day” is relative- we never saw the sun that time of year at those latitudes) I had been assigned a surprisingly capable young fellow named Josh. He was low time just like the rest, but was what I will hesitantly call a “natural”. Pilots balk at this, but we’ve all had students who just seemed to “get it”. Josh was one of those.

Our routes that day kept us well North- Barrow, Kotz, Prudhoe, Barter, etc. The weather was crap. Really crap- more crap than normal, which is saying something.

Josh was proving his worth to me, he never balked at an approach, nor did he pale at a scud run. Good man, good hands, good brain.

We battled the elements for far too many hours, Alaska has waivers for planes to operate overweight and for crews to operate for longer hours than in the lower 48- something which has always baffled me, given the poor conditions up there, but we as pilots soldiered on with nary a complaint. Ok, we complained our asses off, but all pilots do…we still soldiered on.

Our final flight of the day was Barrow to Fairbanks. We were pretty light coming out of Barrow, and this marked the end of our day, period- our duty day was just about used up, so no last minute additions for us.

I let Josh have the takeoff, being the kind and benevolent Captain that I am. He launched into a low, thick, very dark layer that swallowed us up almost immediately.

We trundled up through the thick layer of goo, somewhat bumpy but otherwise just black and uneventful. I don’t remember where we broke out, but it was high-I’m going to guess tops must have been somewhere around 17K ft.

As soon as we broke out of the goop, it was so breathtaking we both sort of forgot to fly for a moment…I had to nudge Josh as he began to blow through our assigned altitude.

The cloud tops, below us, were flat and light grey. The sky above was clear. But we could barely tell- the Aurora Borealis was RAGING- I had lived in the arctic for 3 years at this point and had never seen anything even CLOSE to what we were seeing. The entire sky danced with colors, and occasionally, from horizon to horizon, the background would flash another color, from orange to red to green, like a flashbulb going off, highlighting the long streamers of colors stretched across the sky.

But what was even more amazing- the entire lightshow was being reflected up from below, by the cloud tops. The same colors and streamers and flashes were displayed on the clouds below us, making it feel as if we were INSIDE the aurora, somehow, surrounded by it. It was mind blowing.

We cruised inside this phenomenon all the way back to Fairbanks. When Josh started down, it took an act of will not to yank the yoke back as we began to penetrate the clouds below us- we had begun to think of them as solid, as mountains of color.

After we landed, offloaded our passengers at the gate and taxied to the maintenance hangar, we sat quietly for quite a while. I don’t know what Josh was thinking, but all he said was “Thanks.”
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17-09-2016, 04:50 AM
RE: More flying stuff
Many years ago, too many actually, I was learning to skydive and paying for it by flying the plane for a small skydiving school in west Texas, where I lived. The school was run by an old Army jump instructor who was crazy as a loon- we all loved him to death. He had survived a streamer from 10,000 feet, broken almost every bone he had, and then seemed to heal completely and carry on- he was a sort of local hero.

His name was Scott.

When I first approached Scott, I was looking for a flying job. I was teaching at an airport just 15 miles away, and really wanted to do something else to break the monotony. I didn’t have enough hours yet for a 135 charter job, nor did I have enough to fly for the local crop-dusting service- I needed about 200 more to meet his insurance requirements. Eventually I would fly for both of these outfits, flying cancelled checks at night and dusting fields in an ag cat.

But for now I was stuck teaching private pilot applicants. I had my CFII and MEI but we almost never got instrument students, and the multi students came and went very quickly- usually under ten hours. The FAA hadn’t decided a tail dragger needed an endorsement yet. So my days almost always started with. “Hello. This is an airplane. “ *sigh*

One Saturday I took the Champ up for a spin, since it was windy enough that my student had cancelled, against my advice- it was a dual flight.

I flew over to the jump school’s grass field and landed, I tied down and walked into the funky round building…it looked like the top of an airport control tower without the tall part. Lots of glass, 360 degree view. Pretty neat.

The place was deserted, I figured because of the wind, It was blowing pretty good, maybe 35 gusting to 45. I had grown up flying in that sort of wind, I didn’t give it much thought, even in the Champ.

I finally found Scott- who I didn’t know yet- in a long room, on the floor with a bunch of carpets or something. (I eventually learned this was the parachute packing room)

He seemed surprised, and jumped up quickly. We shook hands and introduced ourselves. When he heard I had flown over, he was impressed. “Most guys won’t land on this little narrow runway with a 45 degree crosswind like this!” He said. Then he saw that I had flown in a Champ, which is similar to a Piper Cub, very small, tandem 2 seater, fabric covered.

He immediately started asking me questions about my background and what type of flying I’d done. He wanted to know if I had ever made a jump, which I had not. I did tell him I wanted to give it a try.

I saw the gears in his head turning…NOW I know that the owners of jump schools are among the world’s most accomplished horse traders- they can barter for anything, and have to, because cash is almost always in short supply. He began telling me how amazing I was and how I was obviously a natural and gifted pilot, deserving of the highest accolades.

I didn’t know those things about jump school owners then, however, and took it all as a high compliment, due to my flying skill and prowess as a pilot, I was a king among men, a God even, able to slip the surly bonds of earth, and dance the skies on….but I digress.

Before I knew it, I had agreed to come back the next morning- the school closed on Sunday- and have a sort of job interview, which- he assured me- was simply a formality.

I arrived the next day, to a busy little school. Closed? I landed and tied down the Champ, somewhat confused by the amount of activity on the field.

Scott came up and shook my hand again, thanking me for coming. He said I would be flying several loads of skydivers to 7500 ft, in his old 182. I agreed, a bit taken aback by the whirlwind nature of all of this.

Scott gave me a brief about how to fly skydivers, which was pretty simple. He was all suited up, and he and 4 others loaded into the stripped out 182, and we launched.

It was a fairly miserable climb, as heavy as we were, but eventually we arrived at 7500 feet and I set the plane up as I had been instructed. Before very long at all I was alone in the airplane. It was kind of surreal.

I had picked up the “cowboy” vibe from everyone, so I felt confident in rolling the 182 over on it’s back and diving for the deck pretty aggressively. I kept them all in sight and landed shortly after the last guy was down safely.

Everyone cheered as I shut down, apparently dive bombing was not only allowed but encouraged, so I felt at home almost from the start.

As the guys got ready for the second load, I kept hearing something about ‘Pop”ing this load. It was time for a “pop”, “Pop” time, let’s see if we can “pop”, etc. Lots of grins and funny looks…I had no idea what was going on at all.

Everyone loaded up, and we launched for our next jump. I reached 7500ft and set up as instructed. Everyone left but one guy, who leaned towards me, kissed me on the cheek, and shouted- “It’s only because we love ya!” He then shut off the key and took it with him out the door.

I was in a very inefficient glider. Sonofabitch.

I wasn’t really concerned, my instructor had required me to make actual emergency landings every time I turned around during training. It was desolate west Texas…I landed in fields, on roads, in parking lots. No sweat.

So I circled down, and did a barrel roll just to flip them the bird. They later claimed they didn’t see it.

I landed uneventfully to even more cheers. Apparently I was now accepted.

POP stood for “Piss Off the Pilot”. Crazy bastards. I loved ‘em.

Scott then convinced me to fly for skydiving lessons. I flew there for many years, and ended up with a D license and am both an AFF and Tandem instructor. Scott never paid me one single dime- and I never paid him one single dime. Pure Barter. Eventually he bought a C208 and half of a sky van, so I got to fly some neat airplanes, too. I never forgot the POP though, and always carried a spare key from then on…it just seemed prudent. Smile

Many years later, I would have to eject out of a burning military jet. I think all of this time with these crazy bastards is the main reason I stayed calm. Being on fire hardly compared to an average Saturday out at the jump school...Cool
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17-09-2016, 04:53 AM
RE: More flying stuff
I was flying a light plane back to the San Antonio area for a friend, back in the mid 80’s. I had picked it up for him in Iowa, at a repair facility and paint shop.

The aircraft was a fast, high performance single, and I had probably 100 hours or so in make and model. It had just been overhauled, tail to nose, and painted. Brand new engine, brand new everything- they said.

The plane had a very basic VFR/night avionics package, and I was bringing it home for my buddy and delivering it to an avionics shop for a panel upgrade.

About 25 miles out, at about 5500 feet, at night, I reduced power and lowered the nose a bit to begin a descent. Apparently the change in the center of pressure on the windscreen was enough to break it. It fractured into many sharp, very thick pieces of plexi, which hit me in the head, lacerating my face and scalp severely. We later discovered that the facility had lied about replacing the windscreen, and it was severely cracked under the aluminum skin that surrounds it. Two IA mechanics later testified that the facility had attempted to bribe them to sign the bird off. They both refused. A gypsy IA they couldn’t locate apparently signed the annual, and all of the various return-to-service forms.

The ram air into the fuselage blew the side door off, which took a large piece of the horizontal stabilizer with it.

The aircraft pitched up sharply and began an oscillation I had a very hard time countering. I couldn’t see well from blood in my face, the lights had gone out so it was dark in the cockpit, and part of the panel was being torn from it’s mounting by the airflow, which was attempting to push the control yoke back- raising the nose. I was using everything I had to keep the nose level.

I grabbed the throttle and reduced power, trying to ease the force of the incoming air. I couldn’t see any instrumentation so I was flying by feel, hoping I didn’t allow the aircraft to slow too much.

I finally got the aircraft more or less stabilized, and figured out where I was. I aimed for a non-tower airport that was close, and had long runways with good lighting.

I lined up on final with the aircraft really oscillating. I was afraid to lower the gear yet because I had no idea what impact that would have on my ability to remain airborne

Finally, with the runway made, I lowered the gear. Nothing. Shit. The gear was electro-hydraulic and I had no electro.

Now, in retrospect, I should have bellied it in then. I instead…for some reason…decided to go around.

It was a VERY shaky and uncomfortable go-around, full power really enhanced everything bad that was happening. Stupid.

I made about 800 ft agl and leveled, reducing power. I got things stabilized again.

I then went through the manual extension protocol for the gear. It would not come down. (Later a gear door was found to be bound up) I wrestled with the manual extension for far too long, ultimately coming very close to allowing the aircraft to depart. Scared me. Gear was gonna stay UP.

I got lined up again and started a descent. I had 6000 feet of runway in front of me and normally needed less than a third of that, but the aircraft was oscillating severely- up and down, very violently. I figured a survivable landing was going to be about 50% luck.

I had no idea what my speed was, but it felt right…I was afraid the volume of air and the noise coming in was making me assume the airspeed was higher than it was, but it felt ok, all things considered, so I just held what I had.

The oscillations grew worse, I think because at the lower airspeeds the airflow over the elevator- what was left of it- was so minimal that I couldn’t adequately correct for them. I really felt like I was rolling the dice.

Right at the last, as I entered ground effect, the oscillations stopped completely. I was able to land that puppy so softly I barely scratched the paint. Quite literally.

That was a ride.

But the funny thing was that the owner had only had them install one piece of equipment in Iowa- a really fancy intercom with a digital voice recorder, something you very rarely see in light aircraft- they are not required.

The time from windshield breaking to landing was 27 minutes. I would have called it 5.

During the entire event, I never said a single word. Not a grunt, not a sigh, nothing. The squelch remained broken the entire time due to the loud air, and I never made a peep. Weird.

Once the aircraft slid to a stop, there is about 40 seconds of dead silence. Then I say the only word recorded, in a normal tone of voice that makes it eerie..

“Fuck.”
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17-09-2016, 09:13 AM
RE: More flying stuff
my dad would say "fuck O rover" and other choice expletives! Damn, that was a scary story right there. I had an opportunity to fly gliders but not skydivers.
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17-09-2016, 09:51 AM
RE: More flying stuff
(17-09-2016 09:13 AM)skyking Wrote:  my dad would say "fuck O rover" and other choice expletives! Damn, that was a scary story right there. I had an opportunity to fly gliders but not skydivers.

LOL yeah, it caught my attention. Good prep for a little later in my life. Smile

I flew glider tows out at Boerne Stage airport, west of San antonio, for a summer, in college. Loved it, until this guy tried to kill me. I was flying the tow plane, a Pawnee, and he was in the school's most high end glider, crazy thing with an insane glide ratio. He was an experienced guy, too.

After we both got airborne, he pulled up hard- which yanked my tail up and my nose down. We were only at about 500 feet when he did this. I tried to pull the release but he had so much pressure on it I couldn't break free. Finally I shoved the nose over for a second- which my body did NOT want to do at this point- and it released. I landed shaking...he landed laughing, he did it on purpose, thought it was hilarious.
Got him back though- I was often the only tow pilot around, and I never again launched his ass, lol.
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