How I Became A Pilot


Plus I lied. Another aquaintance was lightly injured after a crash on takeoff just a few feet in front of me. But that was in a gyroplane. And they don’t really count :slight_smile: (I’ve been an unlucky friend to fly near this year).


Yeah, but if we take you along in the cockpit then you can’t actively shoot us down! :wink: Perhaps you are a lucky charm that they failed to take into account?


To be fair though - don’t a lot of your acquaintances fly a lot of “hot” airplanes that are fairly high performance, nimble, and do require a lot of skill to fly?


Well that’s laying it on a bit thick for both me an my friends. I think it is more accurate to say that we are often way over our heads. Flying is relatively safe. And it is a heck of a lot of fun. But it can bite hard if taken for granted–no matter the plane. My closest friend the last few years is a Danish guy named Ole. He is nearly seventy. Before retiring from his corporate career (jets and helicopters) he flew F-104s, competed in Advanced with the Pitts S-2A he once owned with Budd Davisson and did some marginally legal stuff in DC-3s which he doesn’t talk too much about. When we fly his gyro, I notice a deliberateness and caution in how he moves. There is this characteristic seen in old survivors which would do us all good to mimic. When I park next to my hangar I am always a tiny bit apprehensive. Hopefully this is healthy.


You are absolutely spot on. I had a grind last night…1750 nm in a King Air, and as the sun was coming up I was sooooo tired (last leg). Legal and all, but I really had to get my head right for that last hour. A vectored on to visual approach (simultaneous parallel approaches into our home airport) that is super easy, but this morning required a lot of attention just because we were just plain worn out. I’ll bet if it had been 200 and a half we wouldn’t have been nearly as weary…

I love guys like Ole. We have had some like that come through our outfit - off the top of my head, a U-2 pilot, F-4, A-6, P-3, and a three-tour Huey gunship Vietnam pilot. Mixed into that are all the ex-regional, airline, and freight guys. Everyone has great stories and that is probably my favorite part of being a pilot…just sitting around the office telling lies and laughing at one another.

Your comment about deliberateness in action is something I’ve gotten way better about as I’ve aged. I no longer scramble around trying to go at the speed of light to only provide incrementally faster service. Every time I approach my plane, on every leg, I walk around it the long way around to the door, just looking for something amiss. Not a preflight…that’s been done already, but a slow saunter around checking for obvious problems. It has saved me some hassles in the past (loose fuel cap or cowl, worn tire, a broken cable), and is my ritual. I don’t care if it is freezing, raining, or dark…I do it all the time. I didn’t always do it, but now that I do, I feel much better each time I close the cabin door.

Like you, we probably all shudder at the things we did early in our careers. And laugh, and shake our heads, and like Ernest Gann, wonder how it is we lucked through it all. So far.

We gotta get together and have a beer sometime @smokinhole (maybe we should hit up @chipwich for a tour of the brewery…!)


We need to make that happen for sure!


And please record or document it for posterity. Mudspike Tales, or something like that.


My greatest concern when flying was fatigue, and the thing is, you don’t what you’re looking for. Remember my blood running cold after finding I’d completed a 30 min sector on one mag. No pax, that was the tiniest of consolations…


this is same everywhere in the world I guess :slight_smile:

yes, and the luck, thats necessity :innocent:

I call it respect but I guess its the same emotion :wink:


16 years ago I had to fly in a 10-seater to a small mining town to install some computer equipment. On the way back I was the only pax, so the pilot let me sit up front with him. This was the first time I had ever seen an early evening ILS approach from the cockpit, and the sight of those runway lights made me determined to add “PPL” to my bucket list. Well, after some 9 months I had my PPL and loved it. Apart from the absolute joy of flying I loved the fact that even experienced Boeing and Airbus jockeys were happy to talk aviation with me: no sense of snobbishness, just a common love of flying. I don’t fly any more (too expensive in South Africa, & I’m 70) but still have professional pilot friends, and enjoy X-Plane, and practicing instrument flying!


Best aviation stories: while a pilot I received a monthly pile of papers from our CAA: notams etc etc. But every now and then was a pink paper listing recently resolved “air incidents”. Needless to say, most of them were student pilots who did hard landings, veered off the runway etc. However (these are true btw!)

  1. A pilot landed a KingAir at a game farm (dirt strip), over-ran the taxiway and wound up in the bush. He was “unable” to stop the engines, so got out, took a hunting rifle and fired at the engines until they did stop! (±1996)
  2. A pilot was commissioned to fly a consignment of ostrich chicks at night out of South Africa and into Namibia, where live animal export restrictions were, let’s say, not so strict. Bear in mind that no flight plan was filed for this cross-border flight, and the “runway” on the Namibian side was dirt, with a burning tyre at one end, and car headlights at the other. On final approach in the Cessna, he decided to to a go-around, but then the ostrich chicks got loose in the cabin. (An adult ostrich can kick a man to death, and the chicks are not small by any means!). Result: he crashed and totalled the aircraft. He could not have been high off the ground, as no human injuries were reported. However, they decided to bury the evidence (the Cessna). But the insurance company started investigating and literally dug up the whole story. Make a fun TV short, what?! (±1996)
  3. I actually saw this happen at a fly-in at a rural airfield in the Western Cape. Two parachutists wanted a “lift”, so sat themselves on the wings of a Piper Pawnee (?) cropduster. They sat on the wings next to the fuselage and held on to the wing struts. The pilot attempted a takeoff, but guess what: no lift. We all sighed with relief. But instead of abandoning the attempt, he then tried a short field takeoff. Bumpity, bump, finally up a few feet, over telephone wires, under some electricity cables and a forced landing in the bush. No problems: they pulled down a fence, dragged the aircraft back to a road, held up the (sparse) traffic, and the pilot flew back to the airfield alone. Here’s where it gets interesting: the parachute club wished to distance themselves from the incident, so contacted our CAA and explained that they don’t condone this kind of thing. We never found out what happened to the pilot/owner of the cropduster; my guess is his licence was pulled! A good reason to re-read aviation text books, especially with regard to “lift”! Sit on the leading edge of a wing right in the prop wash and see how much lift you’ll lose! (± 1997)


Wow… to all of those stories!


Soloed today.

I know I started back in October, but with many work trips, a runway closed for maintenance and the holidays I finally got it done. And at 8.8 hours. With today’s 1.0 I’m almost double digits.


Congratulations! That is outstanding! You never forget your first solo. Mine was a quick pattern taking off and landing on Runway 10 at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus back in January 1995, flying a little C150 (5BCHJ) . :sunglasses:


Nicely done @ST0RM - congrats!


Congrats…! That is a great achievement. How cool was it to look across and not see your CFI sitting there…? I was grinning for weeks.


Thanks Paul. Wow, Akrotiri. Thats a cool memory, I’m sure.


Thanks Frog. Cant wait for my next.


Yeah, I found myself more relaxed and could focus on my procedures better without Rick there. Self critiquing myself as I went. 2 TnGos to a full stop on this one.

Cant wait for my next flight as it’ll all be me.

Thanks Chris.


You soloed in under 9 hrs? That’s not bad at all!

Congratulations! :airplane: