Monday, December 18, 2017

Eight Romeo Mike Has A New Tuxedo!

Jellystone Air Park neighbor, Rick Maury, dropped his RV-7 off at the paint shop on October 2nd; he picked it up December 11th.  Now it looks as good as it flies!  Here are a few pictures from my first viewing.

Rick said the original plan was to have a checkerboard rudder---but at the Triple Tree Fly-In last summer twenty-nine out of thirty RVs had checkerboard somethings. . .

Top left corner:  Reflections on a Grand Accomplishment. . .

Monday, November 13, 2017

Where Can You Get A Bite To Eat Around Here?

How many times have you heard that question?  Probably more than you care to remember.  Especially if you've served penance in a FBO pilot lounge just about anywhere.  Finding something to eat at a big city airport is usually not a problem.  In fact, the old Butler Aviation operation at Washington National Airport had a cafeteria right inside the lobby.  And most FBOs have a courtesy car available---which is great, as long as there's a restaurant close by (that's open.)  Out in boondocks it's an entirely different ballgame, even if they do have a full service FBO.  After regular business hours, anywhere---forget it.

I remember sitting on the ramp in Elizabeth City, North Carolina one hot summer evening early in my career.  The FBO was closed.  Our passengers were out raising funds for a now defunct religious organization that was headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The only food anywhere close to the airport was the catering tray on our airplane - fruit, cheese, and apple danish squares that our customers ignored on the flight over.  Five hours in to our three hour layover, my boss said:  "Robert, I'm hungry.  Open the tray!"  Who was I to disagree with the Director of Flight Operations?  Later, when the head fundraiser asked about the catering tray, I said:  "That stuff turns to mush when it sits out in the heat.  We had to toss it"  But I did not say where.    

The Baker family gets plenty of coverage here at Jellystone Air Park.  Friends may remember a post from September 2012 titled, Life Comes Full Circle For Brother Baker.  It was a brief photo essay centered around Brother Baker's grandfather, Ray Baker, and the FBO/Aeronca dealership he operated at Detroit City Airport in the 1930s and 1940s.  It was a follow-up to Brother Baker's Ferry Service, a post about helping Joe deliver an Aeronca L-16 from Alexander City, Alabama to Durham, North Carolina that same month.  This is a follow-up to both of those stories, and once again, about Ray.

Grandpa Ray was a jack-of-all-trades during aviation's golden age.  Owner, manager, pilot, mechanic, flight instructor, and aircraft salesman were just a few of the hats he had to wear while operating the Aeronca dealership at Detroit City Airport.  I suspect he pumped gas too.  That was before World War II.  During the conflict he was Wing Commander of the Michigan Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.  After the war he put the hats back on and peddled Cessnas and Stinsons to the good people of Detroit.  Yes, Ray Baker was a busy guy.  But wait, there's more!  He was also a restaurateur---across the street the from the FBO, at Baker's City Airport Restaurant, where patrons were asked: 

Please sign the register!

Official Logbook - Baker's City Airport Restaurant

The inscription on the inside cover reads:

Official Log Book:

Baker's City Airport Restaurant

Ray Baker, Pilot & Chef 

Lucille Baker, Co-Pilot & Waitress

What follows is a who's who in aviation (and entertainment) during the 30s and 40s. . . 
James H. Doolittle

Renowned B-25 pilot, Medal of Honor recipient, and oh so much more. . .  Interesting side note:  Eighteen years ago, while commuting to work, I had the pleasure to sit beside a retired Air Force Colonel who was on the board of directors of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia.  The gentleman appeared to be in his mid to late eighties.  We chatted about pilot stuff for most of the flight.  Knowing that Doolittle was in charge of the Eighth Air Force at the time of the Normandy Landings, I asked if he had known the man.  He said:  "I guess after Lindbergh, General Doolittle was the most gifted pilot I have ever known."  I was flabbergasted!  "You knew them both?"  He reflected for a moment (I imagine thinking back many years) and said:  "I knew them both."

Eddie Rickenbacker

World War I flying ace, Medal of Honor recipient, racing car driver, and longtime leader of Eastern Airlines.

Roscoe Turner

Air Racing Legend and the only pilot to win the Thompson Trophy three times.  "Mr. Turner . . . How would your lion like his steak cooked?"  The Alabama Flash was Birmingham, Alabama native, Ben Chapman, who batted .302 over 15 years in the Big Leagues.  Chapman played for the New York Yankees from 1930 to 1936.  He managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1945 to 1948.

Wiley Post

First pilot to fly solo around the world.  Also discovered the jet stream.  His Lockheed Vega "Winnie Mae" is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Post, along with American humorist Will Rogers, died in a crash near Point Barrow, Alaska on August 15, 1935.

Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan

In 1938 Douglas Corrigan departed Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York for Long Beach, California, but due to a "navigational error," landed in Ireland.  Below Corrigan's signature is boxer, James "Cinderella Man" Braddock.

Allan H. Lockheed

Allan and Malcolm Lockheed (Loughead) founded the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company in 1913.  Today it is known as Lockheed Martin.

Helen Richey

First female airline pilot in the United States.  Hired by Greensburg, Pennsylvania based Central Airlines in 1934.  She was forced to resign by the all-male pilots union.  That had to suck!

Arthur Goebel

Hollywood stunt pilot.  Winner of the 1927 Oakland-Honolulu Dole Air Race (shared with his navigator USN Lt. William V. Davis, Jr.) in the Travel Air Woolaroc.

John T. Daniels & Adam D. Etheridge

Members of the Kill Devil Hills (North Carolina) Lifesaving Station.  Daniels was responsible for capturing one of the most reproduced images of the twentieth century.  William Tate was the postmaster at Kitty Hawk.  It was his reply, along with weather station chief, John Dosher, to Wilbur Wright's inquiry about wind conditions on the Outer Banks in 1900, that sealed the deal for the Wright Brothers.

December 17, 1903.  Photo by John T. Daniels

William B. Stout

Aircraft designer and founder of the Stout Metal Airplane Company.  (Sold to the Ford Motor Company in 1924.)  His redesigned Stout 3-AT was the forerunner of the Ford Tri-Motor.

Howard Hughes, Jack Benny, & Mary Livingstone

Hughes was a huge (yuc yuc) success in the aviation and entertainment industries.  Livingstone was Jack Benny's wife.

The Andrews Sisters

LaVerne, Maxene, & Patty.  Their hit, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, is ranked Number Six on the Recording Industry Association of America list of Songs of the Century.

 Andy Devine

Character actor best known for his work with Roy Rogers.

Johnny Weissmuller & Lupe Velez

Weissmuller won five Olympic gold medals (swimming) during the 1920s.  You may remember him as the original Tarzan.  Mexican actress, Lupe Velez, was Weissmuller's second wife.

Will Rogers

American Humorist and Radio Personality.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Keeping Track Of Time

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.


Total:  20,023.1

Single Engine:  768.3

Multi-engine:  19,254.8

PIC:  8,450.8

SIC:  7,885.4

FE:  3,686.9

Instrument:  Actual:  755.5
                    Simulated (Hood):  55.2
                    Simulator:  608.2

Instructor/Line Check Airman:  1,135.0

Tailwheel:  243.1

"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.

The Bush-N-Vine.

My Twenty Thousand Hours Award!

20K Time Machine. . .

20K Selfie.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

So Long Old Friend

Dear MD-88 Simulator,

Our eleven year love-hate relationship has finally come to an end.  Our July meeting will probably be our last.  Network Planning has decided the MD-88s and MD-90s are no longer welcome in the Big Apple after the first of the year.  Yes, I could follow the jets to Atlanta; but I'm really just a city-boy at heart---and we both know our relationship was only temporary.  But eleven years is a long time!  Six thousand one hundred and seventeen hours of scheduled service works out (as best as I can recollect) to fourteen recurrent training cycles---one hundred and twelve hours, give or take.  How many V-One Cuts, I wonder; how many single engine go-arounds?  Before I join the Foreign Legion I want to say thank you for helping me perfect my craft---and I forgive you for that time two years ago when your oxygen mask microphone switch malfunctioned during the smoke and fire drill.

Tellement Vieux Ami

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Oshkosh 2017: Seaplanes & More

I started making plans to attend AirVenture 2017 shortly after my July work schedule was posted on June 15th.  I know what you're thinking.  Good luck finding a place to stay on short notice.  Normally I would agree; but I had an ace in the hole!  My good friend, Bob Blythe---high school football teammate, college roommate, and fellow Piper Tomahawk pilot (we both passed our private pilot check rides in Tomahawks)---lives in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, only one hour and twenty minutes (via land yacht) southeast of Oshkosh.  The first thing I did was check to see if Bob was going to be in town.  He said:  "I'm in town all week, bring your friends and stay with me."  The next thing I did was ask Brother Barbeau if he would like to tag along---we would non-rev on the airline to Milwaukee on Monday, the first day of the fly-in, the loads looked good.  He said:  "Absolutely!"  Quick and simple plans are the best.  Of course they never really are that simple.

They fell apart Sunday evening; well, earlier in the weekend, actually.  Brother Barbeau's regular NASCAR King Air trip out of Charlotte, North Carolina morphed into a NASCAR Citation trip out of Greensboro, North Carolina.  The race was in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scheduled arrival time back in Greensboro was 2300.  That was if his guy didn't win.  Winners tend to hang around the track longer because of interviews---and all the other stuff that goes along with having a good day at the races.  The two hour drive back to Charlotte would have Brother Barbeau home at 0100 Monday morning.  Our flight to Milwaukee, by way of Detroit, Michigan was scheduled to depart at 0600.  Brother Barbeau was going to need a nap somewhere along the way. 

Something happened Sunday evening---a weather event, possibly a broken airplane.  All of a sudden flights that had been holding steady, with ten open seats, were now overbooked. Detroit to Milwaukee looked particularly troubling.  Normally, getting stuck somewhere is not a big deal.  You just wait for the next flight and hope there's an open seat.  Getting stuck somewhere when you are sleep deprived---for example, after a red-eye; or flying your race car driver home from Indianapolis---can be a miserable experience.  A quick check for an alternate route revealed what I already knew; Detroit was our best option, and that had gone south.  I sent a message to Brother Barbeau:  Our flights are now full.  Sleep in.  Call me when you get up.

We met for breakfast.  After studying our non-rev options---Tuesday morning didn't look too bad---Brother Barbeau decided he would skip the fly-in.  Another NASCAR trip was scheduled for the following weekend.  There was a distinct possibility we might not make it home on Thursday.  (That turned out to be a good call on Gary's part.  His trip moved up a day and departed on Thursday.)  

After breakfast I continued to study my options.  I discovered there were a couple of (unreserved) cockpit jump seats that would still get me up to Milwaukee, but I had to move fast.  I called Wauwatosa and then set out for the airport.  Bob "Tomahawk" Blythe would be my copilot for Oshkosh---or I would be his, since he would be driving!

AirVenture 2017:

Seaplane Base, Lake Winnebago   

This was my seventh trip to Oshkosh.  My number one goal this year was to visit the seaplane base at Lake Winnebago.  

AirVenture Seaplane Base Operations Office.

Algae anyone?

It's not a seaplane base unless it has a DeHavilland Beaver on floats; or a Bat Boat for that matter!

A relaxing ride around the mooring lagoon in an eleven passenger pontoon boat. . .   So relaxing I forgot to grab my bag of swag when I disembarked.  My T-shirts got another ride around the lagoon---it only stands to reason, a seaplane rating is in my future.

Republic SeaBee.


Fellow Piper Tomahawk pilot, Bob Blythe, in front of Doc, one of only two flying B-29s in the whole wide world!  

B-17G Flying Fortress.  I took this picture to honor EAA Chapter 961's resident B-17 pilot, Tom "Pinky" Funderburk.  I've written about Pinky before.  Read all about it in "Keep the ADF warm and take your sextant."


My new favorite airplane!  Some guys dream about Brigitte Bardot in a bathing suit.  I dream about Brigitte Bardot in a Fairchild 71.  I don't care what you fly, this is cool!

Other Stuff

The start of the airshow Wednesday afternoon.  I'm not a giant airshow fan---please, no hate mail!  I don't dislike them per se; I just feel like if you've seen one, you've seen them all---but (there's always a but) with that being said, the airshows at AirVenture are really top notch!