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!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Will Fly For Food

In the mid 90s I worked with a guy that had a T-shirt with the slogan WILL FLY FOR FOOD printed on the front of the shirt.  It was a humorous reference to the aviation enthusiast penchant for spending $90 in avgas searching for a $10 hamburger.  The outfit we were flying for was a little charter airline headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia called Private Jet Expeditions. "Pee Jay" (our ATC call sign) operated 727s and MD-83s to vacation destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.  It was my third airline, after Eastern and Pan Am.  Jim, the guy with the T-shirt, was a former Continental Airlines pilot. We were all ex someplace; slowly working our way down the airline food chain.  The irony of Jim's T-shirt did not go unnoticed.  Flying for food was pretty much what we were doing.

Twenty-four years (and four uniforms) later the airlines are making money, and I'm back at the top of the food chain.  The future looks bright, and for that I am thankful.  As for Jim's shirt; it's still out there.  I see WILL FLY FOR FOOD T-shirts for sale at every fly-in and airshow I attend.  I'm reluctant to buy one.  The reality of the slogan hits too close to home.  I am, however, more than willing to fork out $90 in avgas searching for a $10 hamburger, or a $20 pork plate. 

Lunch At Triple Tree Aerodrome

Triple Tree Aerodrome held their annual Fabric and Tailwheel Luncheon on Saturday, June 10th.  A $20 pre purchased ticket opened the hangar door to a slice of pork loin that was easily the best I have ever tasted.  What else can I say?  The weather was perfect! EAA Chapter 961 was well represented with seven airplanes in attendance.  Behold, the pictures!

Photo by Dick Kruse

N558, Jellystone Air Park's very own Pontiac Red and Sun Valley Ivory Hatz CB-1 Biplane. The second airplane to depart the Rock Hill-York County Airport, the third (of our gaggle) to arrive at Triple Tree Aerodrome.  I was solo for this outing, Brother Barbeau was in Pocono, Pennsylvania, working his weekend NASCAR King Air trip.

Colin & Joe Baker

After sister Emma, and "Father Joe," Colin is the third member of the "Baker Flying Circus" to learn how to fly in the family's 1947 Luscombe 8A, NC1143B.

John Roberts' Skyote, last to depart Rock Hill (KUZA), first to arrive at Triple Tree (SC00.)

The only entry slower than the Hatz, Dick Kruse's 1946 Champ.

If you have to park somewhere, it might as well be next to a Cabin Waco!  

The view to the southwest. . .

. . . and back to the northeast. . .

. . . and from the top of the hill next to the tower.  In the background you can see 1/3 of Triple Tree Aerodrome's 400' X 7000' putting green runway.

All of the usual suspects were on hand.  

Brian Rosenstein's Stearman.  Brother Baker has been in this one too!  Folks are starting to get jealous.

Speaking of being jealous. . . Yes, it sounds as good as it looks!

The sole Call Air Cadet resides in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Read all about it at LETS GO FLYING!

On the bus to the chow hall with Brother Baker.

The view from the chow line. . .

. . . and of the hangar/chow hall---and the point in time when I stowed my camera and commenced chowing down.

When Pigs Fly!

Since Brother Barbeau missed out on Triple Tree we decided to forage for food in Shelby, North Carolina a few days later.

Brother Barbeau in the Hatz.

A short walk (or ride if it's hot outside) from the FBO terminal.

NC1143B on the ramp at Shelby, NC (KEHO.)

As I said at the start of the post, I'm more than willing to fork out $90 in avgas searching for a $10 or $20 lunch.  I'm just not going to buy the T-shirt!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hot Fun In The Summertime!

York, South Carolina, May 31, 2017.

"End of the spring and here she comes back, Fly Fly Fly Fly there. . ."

My apologies to Sly & The Family Stone.

Springtime in the Carolinas is usually pretty nice.  Not this year.  Regular ground bound folks in the area may disagree---but they weren't trying to fly light weight airplanes in the windy (and bumpy) conditions that prevailed for most of April and May.  Sure, a couple of days were nice, but I was out of town.  The old adage, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, was delayed a couple of months.  When the winds died down at the end of May the Jellystoners hit the trail. . .

Who wants ice cream?

Who doesn't?  The really good stuff is yours for the asking at the Bush-N-Vine Produce Stand in York, South Carolina, just ten nautical miles northwest of Jellystone Air Park.  The Jellystoners are regulars throughout the summer.  Our first visit of the season was on May 31, 2017.

Strawberry-vanilla swirl made with fresh Bush-N-Vine strawberries.  Brother Barbeau and I got there first, we couldn't wait.  Thirty seconds before this picture was taken Brother Baker called and said he was ten minutes out.

We sat on the front porch until we heard the roar of Four Three Bravo's mighty Continental 85. . .

 There he is!

Doesn't that look nice!

Transit Aircraft Parking at the Bush-N-Vine Produce Stand.

The Great Barbeau!

While Brother Barbeau was "Commanding the Sky" I was able to enjoy the scenery and take a few pictures.

Reunion at Unity Airfield.

The next adventure began the following morning with a trip to see our good friend, Les Kanna, at Unity Airfield, twenty-one miles southeast of Jellystone Air Park.

Unity Airfield, Unity, South Carolina, June 1, 2017.

Brother Barbeau was out of town so I bummed a ride with Brother Baker in Four Three Bravo.

Joe got a ride in Les' Grumman.

While Les and Joe were out and about Unity resident Ed Lee stopped by in his Corvair powered Sonex.

Great logo!

A short while later John Roberts was overhead in his award winning Skyote Biplane.

This airplane is stunning!  You may have heard about it. . .

EAA Sport Aviation, March 2017.

It's been in all the magazines.

Photo by Jay Selman

Brother Baker got to fly it back in the fall.  You can just see the top of his head in this picture by aviation photographer, Jay Selman.

Here's John with his masterpiece (and the well deserved Bronze Lindy from AirVenture 2016) back in April at the South Carolina Breakfast Club meeting that was hosted by EAA Chapter 961 at the Rock Hill-York County Airport.

Photo by Joe Baker

There I was . . . in the company of greatness . . . and I forgot to suck in my belly! 

"Them summer days . . . Those summer days. . ."

Unity Airfield, June 9, 2017

In my opinion this is the perfect summertime picture.  A biplane next to a grass runway on a warm summer day.  It doesn't get any better than this!  The picture was taken at Les' place last Friday.  It was a text message to my wife---so she would know I might me late for dinner.