Hello Hawk!

Posted: September 19, 2014 in Flying

“Hello Hawk”, I thought I heard my 11 year old Granddaughter say as we cruised along I-70. I turn to the back seat and ask “What did you say Emily ?”.

“I said, Hello Hawk!” she said with her toothy grin. “Grandma told me to say that when I see a hawk along the road. They have excellent hearing and maybe they can hear me say that. Sometimes they look at me.” I returned my toothy grin to her and was glad. It was time to tell her the hawk story.

In the State we live in, I’m fortunate to see many species of hawks. I see them throughout the year. As I go to our usual places around the county, I watch for them. They are very territorial and I can see them in usually the same places or areas along the highway each day as I pass. They are very majestic, much smaller than an eagle, but masters of the bird world here. Some are called falcons and I think all are part of the raptor family. I love these birds. My bucket list has befriending a falcon as a goal. I don’t want to own one, just befriend him. I’m not sure you could own anything as nice as a falcon. I’m afraid becoming a hawk’s friend might be very hard, too.

All of my life I have noticed them and watched their habits. When we were young, my brother and I once came across a nest of small sparrow hawks in a tree while we were squirrel hunting. It crossed our minds to capture them and train them to hunt as falconers do. But it just didn’t seem right and we didn’t know how to do it anyway. We let them be.

This is the story that I have told to at least 2 other of my grandchildren and since Emily is now talking to hawks, I will take time to tell her the hawk story the next time we are alone. It happened about 25 years ago near Dodge City, Kansas. Yes the same city as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Boot Hill and the Long Branch Saloon. Although those men and places have nothing to do with my story. We just happened to live there for a while, about 8 years of “for a while”.

I was taking my pilot biennial flight review. My check pilot was a kid named John Fleishman. He was about 15 years younger than I but had every Pilot rating available at the time except hot air balloon and I’ve got to tell you I enjoyed every hour we flew together. That was at Dodge City Regional Airport, known for the highest average winds of any airport in the U.S. A great place to fly. If you couldn’t handle high crosswinds and turbulence you didn’t fly much in Dodge City.

That afternoon John was putting me through the paces of what we call “slow flight”. It’s one of the requirements for all pilots to know and it is wise to practice it periodically to stay sharp. A lot of folks don’t understand this but the art of flying is not how fast you can fly, the real art is knowing how slow you can fly. The drill is to head the plane into the wind to keep the engine cool and slow your ground speed. You must raise the nose of the plane slowly to reduce air speed, reduce power but maintain altitude and slowly lower the flaps to reach a speed just above stall speed. Maintain that air speed within a few knots and keep altitude within 50 feet. Stall speed is where the plane will quit flying and the nose will drop straight down and you are staring directly at the ground. As you head down you give the engine full power and as your speed picks up, gently pull back the yoke, and the plane recovers from the stall and you begin to fly again back to level flight. It’s really a lot of fun but it’s pretty unnerving the first few times you learn it. While doing “slow flight” one knot above stall speed and maintaining exactly at altitude is perfect and that’s what you’re shooting for. You fail if you stall. If I remember right, stall speed was 43 knots in the 152 Cessna we were flying that day. That’s about 49 mph. At about 54 mph a stall warning buzzer goes off and remains on throughout the whole exercise. Which adds a bit of excitement also.

So John and I are at about 2000′ above ground level. I have stabilized the plane at exactly 44 knots and straight into the wind. My power is maintaining perfect altitude. At that height the headwind was about 25 knots. So we are cruising along at about 19 knots or about 22 mph ground speed. You look down to the ground and it’s like you are hovering. Not only are cars and trucks passing you but bicycles and horses are giving you a run for your money. Of course the stall warning buzzer is going off. It’s really great fun. Each time you do it you find it hard to believe you can fly that slow in reference to the ground. But in the Dodge City skies it is easy to find high headwinds and you can really travel slow in relation to the earth.

We are flying along very slowly and I take my eyes off of the gauges long enough to look ahead. A few hundred feet off of  our left-nose I see a hawk flying along the same altitude and direction that we are going. We are gaining on the hawk. He is the only thing we are outrunning. His ground speed was probably a whooping 12 mph. John and I both see the bird, look at each other but say nothing. As we approach it from the rear the hawk continues unconcerned and we pull up beside him about 75 foot off on my left-wing. When we get even with him, we both say “Hello Hawk!”. The hawk swivels his head and looks straight at us with a look that says “what in the hell are you doing up here?”. And because of his expression we begin to laugh loudly over the intercom. It was as if he had heard us. We didn’t scare him and we continued flying together until we gained on him and finally passed. It was a beautiful day to fly, we were doing an excellent exercise 2000′ in the air and we were talking to and flying with a hawk. In my flying world, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Since then, whenever I’m driving and I see a hawk flying or just perched on a fence post looking for mice, I give him a greeting out loud, ”Hello Hawk!”, because I have flown with them. And some days when the air is clear, he turns and looks at me, I think he can hear me. My granddaughter now thinks so, too.

Such is the life of John

My long time readers please excuse me. This is one of my favorite true stories and I have posted this yearly for a number of years. It is that time of year again.

  1. Now I think so, too! 🙂
    Oh, to fly with the hawk must of been so amazing and cool! They are beautiful birds! 🙂
    I love bird watching…and I’ve always talked to birds, but the only ones who talk back are the doves and the ravens. 🙂
    What a wonderful story and memory! It brought joy-tears to my eyes! 🙂
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have a pair of morning doves that hang around our place. I love listening for them very early in the mornings just before dawn when all birds wake up. The Ravens, very irritating bird with that “Never More ” reply for every thing you say to them. But I like them anyway. 😀
      Thanks for stopping by and reading, glad you liked it Sweet C ! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ~ Sadie ~ says:

    No wonder it’s a fav – what a great post!!


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