Monday, March 24, 2014

Five Flying Experiences

  1. Helicopter flight with a crazed pilot.  I was in Florida a few year’s ago visiting family  (I have a of stories that start that way) and in the corner of a nearby parking lot was a sign for helicopter tours.  I had never ridden in one, so I stopped and asked.  The deal was a 20 minute tour for two for like $100.  But I was alone.  The pilot / salesman suggested that I hang around for a while and see if another single showed up.  I did, none did, and after half an hour or so, I said, what the hey, it’s only $50 difference, I chartered the thing for a private tour.  Then the fun began.  The pilot was a local police officer, flying charters to pay for a helicopter of his own.  He was use to flying low and fast chasing teenagers in sports cars after drug deals gone wrong.  The flight started simply enough, with an absolutely magical assent.  The thing just sort of levitated upwards.  I have done a lot of flying in small aircraft, but this was the most amazing sensation. We turned north along the river, the pilot asked where I wanted to go, and I explained that I had spent a lot of hours in light aircraft in the area (my father was a private pilot.)  We turned and headed south, lower and faster, I was pointing out landmarks. He figured out that I was very comfortable with what Jimmy Buffet would describe as tree top flying.  Watching the tops of the trees blow under the downdraft from the rotors, we made a low and fast approach and landed, and the fastest 30 minutes of flying you will ever see came to an end.  The best $100 I had spent in a long time.
  2. Next on the list has to be a float plane ride.  I have done these a couple of times.  The first time was with Rusts Flying Service, from Anchorage, to Denali.  The plane was older than I am, with a huge radial engine.  As we were boarding the pilot asked for someone above 200 pounds who would volunteer to set up front.  One of the few times that being fat paid off.  The first thing that struck me was 100 miles or so north of Anchorage.  There are houses on the shores of lakes and banks of rivers and then you notice what is not there.  No roads, no power lines.  The air and the water are the way in and out. Amazing amount of nothing.  We flew up the canyon on the side of the mountain, with sheer stone cliffs on both sides and a glacier at the bottom, turned around and flew back out.  We then went around the side of the mountain and landed on a glacial melt lake.  The landing was so smooth, I had to look down to see that we were on the water - the pilot looked over and quipped “caught you looking!”  
  3. I think I mentioned that my father was a private pilot.  The local airport in Michigan had a new airplane in that my father wanted to fly.  It was fast, variable pitch propellor and retractable landing gear.  To satisfy the insurance companies, he had to do a “check ride” with a flight instructor to verify that he knew how everything worked.  I hopped in the back seat and off we went.  The instructor and my father put the plane and themselves through the paces.  There was one thing left on the insurance check list and that was to demonstrate how to manually put the landing gear down, if the power system failed.  The two of them bungled around for five minutes trying to figure out the procedure.  They finally found the crank, then couldn’t figure out which direction to turn it.  The flight instructor had me dig out the owners manual, so he could look up the answer. Major life lesson, sometimes you just need to look up the answer.   
  4. About the time I finished High School, Arthur Dunn the owner of one of the local airports in Florida finished restoring a Piper J-3 Cub.  The classic high wing, single engine, tandem seating plane.  The design predated WWII, and thousands of them were built.  This one was almost as old Arthur, and he might have had Wilbur Wright as a flight instructor.  My father had learned to fly in a J-3, in the 1950’s.  Arthur handed dad the keys and away we went.  The first surprise was the passenger sits in the front with the pilot behind them.  The take-off speed is about 40 miles per hour, and we started to climb and the door fell open.  The door split horizontally in the middle, half of it folded up against the wing and the other half folded down below the door opening.  The bottom half has failed to latch and fallen open. My father started laughing and I thought I might have to fly while he regained his composure. We survived.  
  5. In 1991, Bush Sr bombed Baghdad on a Wednesday night and on Friday night I flew to Amsterdam.  It was a KLM 747 from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and almost new plane with about 25 passengers.  There were more flight crew on the plane then passengers. They moved us all to business class and asked us which row we would like as our own.  We taxied out and the pilot came announced that it was rush hour in Atlanta, and it would be an hour or so before we took off  The cabin crew served dinner on the ground in Atlanta.  We took off and an hour or so later they served dinner again.  They were expecting a couple-hundred passengers and had provisions on board for all of them.  We landed in Amsterdam in such heavy fog, that the airport sent out an escort car to show is the way to the terminal.  It was an amazing flight.  


  1. Anonymous3/24/2014

    I LOVE THIS!!!!

    I've done a lot of flying, too. I can identify with a lot of the joy in your post.

    Maybe I need to do a "favorite flights" post, too! Thanks for a cool post, and a great idea!

    Peace <3

  2. flying gives me the heebie-jeebies.

  3. I second spo. the last time I flew was 1991. and I have NO INTENTION of ever flying again; too much hassle/bullshit and I am scared of heights.