Posts Tagged ‘flying’

Andrew, Me, and a Waco Biplane

May 8, 2012

That’s my step-grandson Andrew Champion standing with me in front of a classic Waco biplane right before we took off. The ride was a Christmas present for me and a 20th birthday present for  Andrew.  It was another example  of creative gifts provided by Ken and Katrina Champion, and my three other stepsons, Richard, Doug, and Mick.

Following pilot Bruce Dance’s instructions, I backed into the cockpit. After I finally got my long legs in, Andrew did the same thing to get his even longer legs in.

The big challenge of  the ride was Andrew and me shoehorning into the front cockpit which was quite roomy for one person, but a little  snug for two  adults. The pilot, Bruce Dance of Biplane Rides over Atlanta, who is also a flight instructor and crop duster, gave us specific instructions on how to back into the cockpit.  It wasn’t easy for an old arthritic guy like me and a young 6’4″ man like Andrew.  It was worth it, though. 

When one flies in an open cockpit biplane one really knows he is flying.  My stepson Richard, who is also a pilot, said that airline pilots fly biplanes when they want to fly for the  fun of it. 

The ride was a hoot.  We flew from Peachtree-Dekalb Airport, a general aviation facility that houses a lot of really expensive corporate jets, to  downtown Atlanta and back.  With the radial engine roaring right in front of us, and the wind blasting around us, we got super views of the downtown Atlanta area.  Bruce warned us to make sure we tightly held on to our camera straps.  “That wind will rip a camera right out of your hands,” he told us.  

Adding to the special experience was the 57th Fighter Group restaurant from where the biplanes operate.  It’s a World War II aviation themed eatery that’s a show in itself. Air Force memorabilia including pictures of WW II fighter pilots decorate it.  Even a trip to the “latrine” is entertaining.  There are sandbags along the walls of the hall leading to the restrooms.  Instead of background music being piped in, recorded speeches of Churchill and FDR were playing.  The background music in the rest of the restaurant was WW II era popular music.   There is a great view of the airport runways and the two biplanes stationed beside the restaurant, and the food is quite good.   

It was a fine family outing and I certainly recommend it for anyone  who loves  airplanes old and new. 

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A Unique 80th Birthday Gift

November 28, 2010

Andrew Cashen, of Prestige Helicopters, Inc. at McCollum Field, Kennesaw, Georgia, asked me “Have you ever flown in a helicopter before?” 

Me and my helicopter lesson instructor Andrew Cashen, McCollum Field, Kennesaw, GA

“Yes. I flew in Hueys, Bells, and a Georgia Power helicopter that flew me from Columbus to Plant Vogtle.”

“But, never at the controls.”

“No, never at the controls.”

He also asked me if I had ever flown a fixed-wing aircraft, and I told him I had, that I was not a licensed pilot, but I knew how to fly. As a teenager, the first time I ever went up in an airplane I flew it.  On learning that I had never flown before, a friend of my accompanying older brother, Elbert, told me if I paid half the price of the gas in a rental plane, he would take me up.  When we got into the small two-place tail-dragger, he informed me that I was going to fly it. Following his instructions, I taxied it to the runway, took it off, and  flew it around for a little while, and, lined it  up with the runway for a landing. He insisted on landing it, which I agreed was an excellent idea. 

 Over the years other pilots, including the late legendary Tuskegee Airman instructor Chief Anderson, had let me take the controls some.  Anderson, who was 80 at the time, even let me, with a little assist,  land his Cessna, apply the brakes and taxi it to the hangar. What a great guy he was.

Andrew explained to me that, while there were some similar characteristics in flying a fixed-wing plane and a helicopter, there were some distinct differences.  And he pointed that understanding those differences was important in preventing a crash. He definitely got my attention with that remark.

Me on the left, Andrew on the right.

  He told me about the three main controls, which you have to coordinate for successful flight.  He said that he would let me handle each one separately while he controlled the other two, and if I did that all right, he would let me control all three and actually fly the chopper. I did end up controlling all three, and after we landed, I said, “I actually flew it!”

He replied, “You actually did better when you controlled all three.”

That keeper memory was made possible by stepson Ken Champion and his wife Katrina, who bought me the helicopter lesson for my 80th birthday.  It was a unique and very enjoyable experience.  One of the main reasons it was so enjoyable was because of the sunny personality of the instructor. He had a great knack for giving orders without sounding like he was giving orders.  As we were walking back to his office building after the flight, I asked him if he flew other helicopters. He replied that he did, including a Black Hawk.  Turns out that he is also a National Guard helicopter pilot. 

If you’re interested in a lesson you can contact him  at 770-655-3976.  Tell him Dick sent you. I liked him. In fact, I don’t think I ever met a pilot I didn’t like, including the one who gave me my first fixed-wing lesson. I guess there is something about wanting to fly that makes for happier people. On the back of Andrew’s business card is the Gover C. Norwood quote, “Because I Fly, I envy no man on earth.” 

Ken and Katrina, along with my granddaughter Shannon, witnessed the flight and took some video of the takeoff and landing.  You can actually see me inside the R-22. I’m the one in the khaki pants.  The R-22 is, as you can see,  small and light. You really know you are flying when you are in a small one like the R-22.  It is quite popular as a trainer, and can perform incredible areobatics. 

A Better Way to Control Pressure when Landing

April 13, 2010

When you get an email forward, especially an anonymous one, you just never know how true it is.  Sometimes you can find out by seeing what Snopes has to say  about it. However, whether the one that a friend sent is true or not, it certainly could be and made both of us think of a flight we took to New York not long ago.  I was sitting in a window seat. Next to me was a five-year-old boy who behaved well, spending most of his time coloring. Next to him was his mother holding his baby brother in her arms. He was no trouble either since she was either hugging or breast-feeding him all the way.  This brings me to the email:

 During a commercial airline flight an Air Force Pilot was seated
 next to a young mother with a babe in arms. When the baby began   crying during the descent for landing, the mother began nursing the  infant as discreetly as possible.

The pilot pretended not to notice and, upon disembarking,  he  gallantly offered his assistance to help with the various  baby-related items.

When the young mother expressed her gratitude, the pilot responded,    “Gosh, that’s a good-looking baby..and he sure was hungry!”

Somewhat embarrassed, the mother explained that her pediatrician  said that the time spent on the breast would help alleviate the pressure in the baby’s ears.

The Air Force Pilot sadly shook his head, and in true pilot fashion  exclaimed, “And all these years, I’ve been chewing gum.”

Approaching New York City on Delta flight from Atlanta

Flying Out of Columbus is Affordable Again

June 14, 2009

I’ve started flying out of the Columbus again.  Like just about everyone else, I stopped doing it because the cost was just too prohibitive.  It was a lot cheaper to take the Groome shuttle.  That has changed, according to Carolyn Marlow, who handles communications for  Columbus Metropolitan Airport.  The airport commission has negotiated a benchmarking deal with Delta  that means you can’t be charged  more than $100 – Delta likes to keep it at about $79 – to Atlanta to connect with a Delta flight.  It can cost less, but not more.

Atlantic Southeast - Delta Connection jet at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Atlantic Southeast - Delta Connection jet at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

“Flying out of Columbus now is a no-brainer,” she says.

My experience a few weeks ago validates what she said, at least to me.

 I prefer 20 minutes in the air to an hour-and-a- half in a van or a car,   and I don’t like going through the time consuming security hoops at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.   That’s why I went on line and was happy to learn I could fly from Columbus to Fort Lauderdale for just a little more than if I used Groome.  Nothing wrong with Groome, by the way. They do a good job for a reasonable price. A Groome roundtrip from Columbus to Atlanta is less  than Delta;  how much less depends on the rate for an individual flight .  I figured my roundtrip flight from Columbus to Ft. Lauderdale cost me about $60 more than if I had used Groome. 

Passengers waiting to board a Atlantic Southeast jet to Atlanta, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

Passengers waiting to board a Atlantic Southeast jet to Atlanta, Columbus Metropolitan Airport, Columbus, GA

And I found that a lot of people were doing it, mostly Fort Benning soldiers and their relatives.  The Atlantic Southeast Airlines jet was almost full on my flight out on a Saturday and my return flight on Thursday.  Boarding in Columbus was a snap.  It took about five minutes to go through the security check, even with everyone taking off their shoes.  The security guards were vigilant, but polite and efficient. You can wait in line in Atlanta for up to  45 minutes sometimes. 

When we got to Atlanta to change planes, it was just a matter of getting off one plane and getting on another one – o.k. my Delta flight to Fort Lauderdale  was at the other end of the sprawling Atlanta airport.  But, I needed the exercise.  I usually walk two miles a day anyway.

Business is picking up at Columbus Metropolitan.  45,000 travelers flew out of Columbus in 2007, and 48,057 in 2008.  Still, it needs to pick up a lot more for the Columbus airport to attract more airlines and add more destinations.  Studies show that 90 percent of folks in our area ,who are flying out of Atlanta, take a ground shuttle or go by car.