First the bad news: Time flies. Now the good news: I'm the pilot!
On October 9th I celebrated my twenty year anniversary as a pilot with Delta Air Lines. Four days earlier, on October 5th, I surpassed 20,000 flight hours! So what does twenty thousand hours look like? In my case it looks like forty-one small crew logs of various colors, shapes, and sizes, compiled into six master logbooks. A complete record of my life's work since the mid 1970s---all of which (except for the five in the picture above) are stored in a safe deposit box in a bank vault close to our home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Many airline pilots stop keeping a logbook the day they get hired. That could have been me; but a plethora of rapid-fire job losses early in my career forced me to keep my logbook up to date. The late 1980s/early 1990s were challenging times in the flying business. The airlines were just learning how to cope with deregulation when the first gulf war came along. I was an Airbus A-300 flight engineer at Pan American World Airways when Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Republican Guard overran Kuwait in August 1990. When the US-led coalition forces retaliated in January 1991 international airline passenger traffic died. Pan Am, already weakened, would not survive the year. I was furloughed on October 28, 1991. Operations at the World's Most Experienced Airline ceased on December 4, 1991. Interestingly enough, I heard about the shutdown while interviewing for a corporate pilot position with a banking firm in Atlanta, Georgia. The chief pilot conducting the interview remarked: "I'm reluctant to hire furloughed airline pilots because they usually get recalled. But I heard on the radio this morning that Pan Am just shut down, so I guess that won't apply to you." I still didn't get the job.
In 1993 FLYING Magazine published an article chronicling the life aviator-author Ernest K. Gann. Among the illustrations that accompanied the story was a photograph of a logbook entry made when Gann was an American Airlines pilot serving with the Air Transport Command during World War II. The photograph was captivating---an elegant description of a simple flight segment that only Ernest K. Gann could pen. I remember thinking, Now that's a logbook entry! Since then I have tried my best to record my entries with similar grace and style---or at least the same spirit, I'm no Ernie Gann.
Having a camera handy helps too! I've carried one since day one. In the early days it was an Agfa Instamatic. When I was a senior in college I bought a 35mm NIKON FE2. It was a fantastic piece of equipment, and an essential part of my flight kit throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It was replaced by a small digital point and shoot---and has since been replaced by an iPhone. All six master logbooks are stuffed to the gills with photographs, and other "stuff" collected during the adventure.
First Solo: June 13, 1975.
Private: August 6, 1980.
Instrument & Commercial: August 18, 1982.
Multi-engine: January 23, 1983.
CE-500 Type Rating (Cessna Citation): July 26, 1984.
ATP: August 16, 1985.
Flight Engineer, Turbojet: January 7, 1986. (Eastern Airlines)
DC-9 Type Rating: May 10, 1993. (Private Jet Expeditions)
Boeing 737 Type Rating: December 15, 1997. (Delta Air Lines)
Boeing 757/767 Type Rating: November 10, 2004. (Delta Air Lines)
Tailwheel Endorsement: October 23, 2009.
Single Engine: 768.3
Instrument: Actual: 755.5
Simulated (Hood): 55.2
Instructor/Line Check Airman: 1,135.0
"Stuff" Between The Pages:
At NCNB Corporation (now Bank of America) it was standard operating procedure for the co-pilot to go back and check on the passengers after we were level at cruising altitude. The King Air 200 had a fully stocked bar, and occasionally someone would ask for a drink. On one occasion when I was the co-pilot, we had renowned musician, and big band leader, Benny Goodman, on a flight from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. When I asked Mr. Goodman if he needed anything, he glanced at his watch, smiled, and said: "I believe it is after noon. May I have a Bloody Mary?" I smiled too, and replied: "Absolutely! And if it's up to snuff, may I have your autograph?"
Proof that no eardrums were damaged. . . Barograph from Eastern Airlines Flight 571, Atlanta to Orlando, April 16, 1986. (A gift from the jump seat rider who just happened to be a competition sailplane pilot.) Pilots are judged by one thing: Landings. Flight engineers are judged by three things: Keeping the fuel balanced; keeping the landing gear warning horn silent; and how well they manage the pressurization system. The Boeing 727-100 had a manually controlled pneumatic pressurization system that required a certain degree of finesse to operate. This was a good day.
Rainbow walk around in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. March 16, 2012.
Chasing the sunset near Jackson, Mississippi. Flight 1911, ATL-DFW, March 23, 2012.
Pond Branch Airfield Flour Bomb Contest, April 21, 2012.
With The Great Barbeau . . . Rutherford County, North Carolina to Rock Hill, South Carolina, August 24, 2013.
Boatload of ice! Flight 2413, ORD-MSP, November 10, 2014.
Numbers Five and Six.
20K! October 5, 2017
20,000.2 hours! With my friend, and flying buddy of 34 years, Gary "The Great Barbeau." On the grass at York, South Carolina. The Bush-N-Vine Produce Stand is in the background.
My Twenty Thousand Hours Award!
20K Time Machine. . .