Aztec Sacrifice, from American Sky

I flew a twin-engine Piper Aztec that demanded sacrifice. From the cockpit of my dimly-lit cave, I cruised in the larger cave of snow squalls, turbulence, and thunderstorms. I got thrown in with poor radios, no autopilot, no radar, and a gas heater that failed on the coldest of nights. Flying the shoreline of Lake Erie in early February, I watched the engine and navigation instruments for possible failure. And when the heater died, I drummed the floor of the plane with my feet, struck my shoulders with my hands until I needed to make a correction in altitude or heading. (more…)


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Boyle’s Law: from American Sky

A few blocks from the hotel, waiting for the light to turn green, I spotted an enormous man clutching a dark plastic garbage bag close to his body. (more…)


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Flying Wing: from American Sky

 

Looking over Frank’s shoulder I watched the images of Alan and General Cardenas on the camcorder’s small viewing screen. Frank took aim with a close-up as the general described his flights in the XB-49, the Flying Wing. Alan listened intently, slowly rubbing his chin. The general, short and robust, seemed to have the same energy now as he did over fifty years before when he flew down Pennsylvania Avenue at the behest of President Truman. The President—who was fascinated with the plane and wanted to buy some—cautioned the young test pilot not to run into anything. (more…)


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DC-3: from American Sky

On the ramp sat a DC-3 in fair condition, marked with blemishes, smudges of oil and dents. A large plastic bucket caught an oil leak from the left engine. An FAA examiner I knew had flown the ‘Hump’in the DC-3’s military equivalent, the C-47, during World War Two. That treacherous route spanned the Himalayas from the Assam Valley in northeastern India to the Yunnan province in southwestern China. It was flown by crews carrying supplies to the Flying Tigers and the forces of Chiang Kai-shek. The examiner had told stories of a slow, warm-blooded plane constantly dogged by violent storms over the mountains and Japanese fighters. Today, C-47s that dropped paratroopers on D-Day are still flying.

From a pilot’s perspective the DC-3 generated romance and adventure with its strong wing, big radial engines and its dolphin nose pointed at the sky. Even though the C-47( DC-3) flew in both the Second World War and Vietnam, it didn’t look like a war bird, but like many of our citizen soldiers in the European and Pacific theatres: strong, humble, and ready to serve.


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Native Genius: from American Sky

I felt compelled over the years to write about Tom Cole in a fictional piece. Although some of the stories went well, the real Tom kicked over many of the props and reduced the other characters to ashes. Also, having to avoid his actual name was problematic. This was a great American name: masculine, a pioneer-sounding name of the Old West. (more…)


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