Archive for the ‘Flying’ Category

The quiet morning’s sounds of dog barks and bird songs were broken by the cranking whine, stuttered start and roar of 600 horsepower round engines. Two more spray planes take off to the south. From my window I watch the planes climb to only tree top level and disappear beyond the close horizon.
Another early beginning to take advantage of the calm winds and light turbulence that will only last a precious few hours on hot summer days like these. What will the enemy be today, green bugs, corn borers or ravenous grasshoppers? Miles away from here the planes will perform their low level ballet spreading their fog from one end of the fields to the other. At the end of each pass a short climb, a quick bank and a slow roll to an opposite turn. The chandelle complete, a dive over or under the power lines and aligned for another five foot high pass. The noise, precision and grace are spell binding and impossible to let pass without stopping to watch. Very beautiful, at least for a temporarily earth bound pilot like me. Emptied, they will soon return to port.
I will hear them first as they fly downwind directly over our home. The change of engine and prop pitch as they pass adds to the pulse of my chest. They must do this to tease me. Damn its hard work but I know they are having fun.

Such is the life of John

  • ( I’m reluctantly introducing OC, another one. When John, I’m talking about my everyday mundane life, I’m the one pulling the plow. DSS, the poet, E the politician. OC, is the adventurer, traveler, John’s co-pilot. OC is Obsessed by any aircraft, an almost childish Obsession. DSS is afraid of heights unless he is flying with John, E sees flight as just a way to get from one point to another. E is one of those guys that reads the newspaper on takeoffs. I, John, love flying, have been around it all of my life. I love the science of it but OC is Obsessed, Obsessed by it.

    This is an account of one of John’s and OC’s flying days.   OC wrote this 8 years ago, on one of his saddest. The day Steve Fosset was lost in the Sierra Nevada mountains. With OC’s permission I submit this for your consideration.)

      September 5, 2007 – Through my connections with the press, namely a little girl named Magoo. I was able to experience one of my most thrilling adventures in aviation so far. I was given an “all access” press pass to Steve Fossett’s around the world record flights from Salina, KS. back in Feb. 28, 2005. Where I was so fortunate to meet Steve Fossett and Sir Richard Branson. I was allowed full access to the GlobalFlyer and given the run of the VIP / Press area at the Salina Airport. There I actually rubbed elbows with other aviation greats such as Bob Hoover, met the Scaled Composites Engineers that eventually put the first civilian spaceship and astronaut into space. Baron Hilton was there with Hoover and drank coffee at the table next to me in the press room. I was able to go out to the end of the 12,000 foot runway where the GlobalFlyer and Fossett were waiting for the winds to calm before takeoff on it’s historic flight. All in all a very heady day in the life of OC. I realize now why these things are done. They happen to inspire, only to inspire.

    As we wait for news of Steve on his latest unplanned adventure of survival, we are sure of a good outcome and know that he has the greatest chances of getting home OK. Here’s a few pictures of Steve Fossett’s adventures from my point of view during the last couple years.

    Fosset_press_Conf

    The press conference at Mission Control the night before the first around the world flight.

    GlobalFlyer_press

    Yes, that’s me on the left in the green coat working up the nerve to ask a question. All of the major media were there. The woman reporter beside me was from “The Gaurdian” in England.

     

    Fosset&Branson

    Steve Fossett and Sir Richard Branson at a preflight “meet and greet”.

    Sir_Richard&Steve

    They were listening earnestly to the Kansas Lt. Governor.

    Global Flyer 036

    This is another angle of the picture being shown on the news today. Unfortunately I missed the landing due to a commitment in Okla. City. My friend Larry, took this picture.

    Flyer_Before_Takeoff2

    Yep, that’s me standing beside the GlobalFlyer about 30 minutes before takeoff of Steve’s first solo non-refueled flight around the world. The gentlemen that took the picture had an interesting background in large cameras, also. You can see by the long shadows that it was getting late in the evening and the sun was setting. It was very windy and Fossett was waiting for the winds to calm. Although a small headwind was helpful to his takeoff. Notice the tail number N277SF, the same number as the balloon that he flew around the world in.

    Flyer_cockpit_

    Inside the cock pit of GlobalFlyer the evening before takeoff. Not real crowded. Notice no windshield. He had a bubble in the roof to look out of during takeoff and landing. You can see the long Joystick on the far right side and just the edge of the roof bubble above.

    N377SF_Larry

    This is Steve Fossett’s Cessna Citation X. At an average speed of 726.83 mph Steve and copilot Doug Travis smashed the transcontinental record for non-supersonic jets in this aircraft flying from San Diego, California to Charleston, South Carolina in 2 hours, 56 minutes, 20 seconds. I took this picture as we drove by in the press bus. My Cessna 150 aircraft mechanic and Annual Inspector IA, Larry, works for Cessna Turbine Group and performs the inspections on Fossett’s jet in Wichita. He was invited in out of the wind. I spotted him in the cockpit as we went by and snapped this picture hoping I’d get a picture of him. He tries to inspect a few propeller aircraft each year and we have mutual friends. So he agreed to inspect my and a buddy’s aircraft each year also. Larry inspected my airplane a few days after inspecting this one, readying it for it’s chase around the world meeting up with the GlobalFlyer. My plane was always in very secure hands. He said he enjoyed working on my plane as much as he did Fossett’s. I don’t know.

    Global Flyer 052

    The Citation again, look close and you will see this plane in the background of some of the shots this week in Nevada.  Notice the tail number N377SF. The FAA inspector in our group on the bus wondered what happened to N177SF.

    Flyer_Before_Takeoff_BransonBranson waiting beside the GlobalFlyer before take off

    NASA_Astronauts_Cockrell_&_Good

    One of these guys took the picture of me beside of the GlobalFlyer. There was a lot of “I’ll take your picture if you’ll take mine” going on. The gentlemen in the NASA flight suits are  Astronauts Kenneth Cockrell and Mike Good. They flew in on a NASA T38 jet to witness Fossett’s takeoff. Cockrell has flown on a number of Space Shuttle Missions and Good is still in line for a flight. I E-mailed a few pictures to Cockrell in Houston since they were without a camera. Real nice guys. Wish I had their plane. The fellow in the yellow I believe is the Blog editor for the Cosmoshere web site. This picture really meant a lot to him too.

    Globalflyer

    This is the GlobalFlyer returning from England after Steve’s longest flight around the world and then some. He departed from the long runway at Cape Kennedy, circled the world and then flew on to England where he had an emergency landing. Jon Karkow flew her back from England to Salina. Marcia and I caught the plane’s arrival as Jon flew over the south fence and did a low pass for the few of us that were there to greet him. Jon was the Chief Engineer, builder and test pilot of the GlobalFlyer working for Burt Rutan at Scaled Composites. It was such a beautiful plane. It is sad that it hangs suspended from a ceiling in a museum now, even if it is the National Air and Space Museum.

     .Second_Flight

    This is the arrival in Salina of Steve from his third record breaking flight around the world. Cloudy old day. I got his return on tape. I’ll show some day.

    Home_3_17_07

    Steve Fossett after the closed circuit flight. He flew the plane to the Smithsonian soon after this.

    Hopefully tomorrow will bring good news of Steve’s rescue. He has had many escapes from trouble during his adventures. It seems strange for him to be lost on such a routine type of flight. If anyone can survive a bad landing Steve can. I’m sure he’s stomping thru the desert right now doing what he can to be discovered.

    OC

    ( One year later, Steve Fossett’s ID’s and a few other personal items were found, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada in California about 65 miles south of Fossett’s take-off site, near the crashed remains of the single engine propeller driven aircraft he flew.  His body was never found and is assumed ravaged by animals. A sad day for OC and all that knew and had met Steve Fossett.  John)

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.