Let's Go Fly!
More Than Thirty Years of Memorable Flying Experiences

Sections of this webpage:
    Photos from Thirty-plus Years of Flying
    Flying in South Carolina
    Places to go   -   Upcoming Events   -   Things to do
    Learning to Fly
    Buying an Airplane
    Flying Stories
    Flying Humor
    Flying put to words

For the latest weather, visit our Weather and Aviation Weather webpages.

Let's Go Fly!

2018 November 11 - SCBC breakfast at Bishopville

2018 November 4 - SCBC breakfast at Orangeburg

2018 October 21 - SCBC breakfast at Sumter

2018 September 9 - SCBC breakfast at Anderson

2018 September 07-08 - Triple Tree Aerodrome Annual Fly-In

2018 August 19 - SCBC breakfast at Moncks Corner

2018 July 22 - SCBC breakfast at Triple Tree

2018 July 08 - SCBC breakfast at Greenwood

2018 June 24 - SCBC breakfast at Pickens

2018 June 10 - SCBC breakfast at Salisbury, NC

2018 May 12 - Another United Way flight

2018 May 6 - SCBC breakfast at Rock Hill

2018 April 22 - SCBC breakfast at Broxton Bridge

2018 March 18 - SCBC breakfast at Eagle Aviation, Columbia Metro
Rhoda came the furthest, wins the hat!

2018 March 4 - SCBC breakfast at East Cooper - Mt. Pleasant Airport

2018 February 18 - SCBC breakfast at Greenville Municipal Airport

2018 January 07 - SCBC breakfast at Aiken Airport - The first Breakfast without Gerald.

2017 November 26 - SCBC breakfast at Winnsboro Airport - Gerald's last Breakfast

2017 October 21 - My First Flight in a Glider, at Triple Tree Aerodrome
                              Earlier that day:   dew tracks at Triple Tree

2017 October 14 - Enroute from South Carolina to Pennsylvania at 9,000 feet

"Look Ma, no headphones!"   Rhoda's cochlear implants connect via Bluetooth directly to the plane's intercom.

2017 September 17 - SCBC breakfast at Laurens Airport

2017 September 08-09 - Triple Tree Fly-In

2017 September 03 - SCBC breakfast at Hamilton-Owens Airport

2017 July 09 - SCBC breakfast at Triple Tree Aerodrome
    See the video of our 182 taking off from the SCBC Fly-In at Triple Tree taken by good friend and fellow pilot Joe Hinson.

2017 June 24-28 - Flying to Iowa
    2017 June 24 - flight from South Carolina to Iowa (refueled in Peoria, Illinois)
    2017 June 28 - flight from Iowa to South Carolina (refueled in Quincy, Illinois)

2017 May 27 - A cloudy, dreary day on the ground, but sunny and a bright blue sky for us

2017 May 07 - SCBC breakfast at White Plains

2017 April 16 - SCBC breakfast at Broxton Bridge - See if you can spot our plane and us, in the SCBC fly-in video

2017 March - our updated panel!
New Garmin G-5 artificial horizon, S-Tec autopilot.   The old turn coordinator and vacuum-powered artificial horizon were moved to the right side.

2016 July 10 - SCBC breakfast at Triple Tree and more here.

2016 January 30 - Flying to Rutherford for lunch with Hope and Nate

2015 August 30 - SCBC breakfast at Anderson - one of my favorite photos - the 182 makes a fair umbrella

2015 May 17 - SCBC at White Plains - See if you can spot our plane and us, in the SCBC fly-in video

2015 February 7 - Triple Tree

2014 October 26 - Enroute on an Angel Flight from Greenville to Nashville
        Flying past the southern edge of the Smokies at 6,000 feet - and seeing why they are called the "Smokies".

2014 July 7 - SCBC at Newberry

2014 June 21-29 - Flights to Washington, DC, and Portland, Maine

2013 September 23 - Evening flight past Table Rock - one of my favorite pictures

2013 May 12 - SCBC breakfast at White Plains

2012 September 07 - Triple Tree Fly-In

2011 June 26 - SCBC at Triple Tree - one of my favorite photos

2011 May 1 - SCBC at Broxton Bridge - one of my favorite photos

2006 May 28 - Freedom Weekend Aloft, Anderson, SC

        That's our chase crew, standing around the pickup truck.

2006 January 1 - One of my favorite pictures of the 182, taken before sunrise on New Year's Day, before flying to an SCBC breakfast at Twin Lakes.

2005 February 22 - Sunset over Anderson, SC, and Lake Hartwell

2003 September 28 - The 182 at an SCBC breakfast fly-in at Barnwell, with its friends

1992 May 1 - Portrait in the 172 for a company news story

1987 July - Her first flying in forty years - Click here to read the whole story, or scroll down.

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Let's Go Fly!

South Carolina offers the best flying in the world.   The cost of flying is much lower than more metropolitan areas of the U.S., which makes flying much more affordable.   With weather moderated by the impacts of the Smokies and the Gulf Stream weather currents, flying is great year-round.

The state is relatively flat, and flights to the beaches and the mountains are much faster than by car.   Similarly, flights to Atlanta for shopping are not only faster, but avoid dealng with highways full of traffic.   The theme parks in Orlando are only a few hours away.   Most of the U.S. this side of the Rockies is within less than a day's flight.

South Carolina also has something no other state can offer:   the South Carolina Breakfast Club.   Formed in 1938, the SCBC meets every other weekend, somewhere in the state, except for one breakfast in Salisbury, NC, each year.   In good weather, forty to fifty airplanes typically make a landing.   Show up once, and you are a life-time member; no dues, no by-laws.   If you make a bad landing, you might get to sign the ball - or maybe for any excuse at all.   "It's all done in fun.".   Breakfast is served about 9:00; take off by 11:00.

Be sure not to miss:
        *   the fly-in videos from each SCBC breakfast ,
        *   In Memoriam for Gerald Ballard, SCBC President from 1979 to 2017,
        *   an AOPA article on the Breakfast Club.

Between the SCBC fly-ins and the airports where you can get your "hundred-dollar hamburgers", there is always someplace to fly to, making it easy to say, "Let's go fly!", and keep your flying skills current between those more occasional flights to distant places.

Upstate South Carolina has something else that is quickly growing to be in the same league with Oshkosh and Lakeland Fun-in-Sun:
the Triple Tree Aerodrome, near Woodruff.   This 7,000 foot runway is the home of an annual fly-in, an SCBC fly-in, and much more.

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Places to go   -   Upcoming Events   -   Things to do

Social Flight

Angel Flight - Missions

Upcoming Events:      
                            The South Carolina Breakfast Club
                Check out the videos from past SCBC fly-in breakfasts.

Tracking the International Space Station and the ISS Earth cam

Visit the 57A Cafe for great Mexican food and the best hamburgers ever.
Open for lunch, 11:00 to 2;00, Tuesday through Sunday.

One great way to get people interested in flying is to auction off airplane rides for a charity.   Each year the company where I work holds a silent auction for items people contribute, with the proceeds going to United Way.   For each of the past two years, I have contributed two flights, for a co-worker and up to two family members.

The result has been a huge success, with lots of bidding.   Word spreads; the people who win the rides share their excitement with those around them, and people who never would have dared to go flying keep out-bidding each other for the opportunity.

"I just wanted to thank you again for taking so much time with us on Saturday.   That is something I will never forget. It was more amazing than I thought it would be.   I have never experienced flying like that nor have I ever flown a plane.   That was just so exciting that I can’t tell you how I felt afterwards."
This kind of response is not unusual, and you know you have changed somebody's whole perspective on flying.

If you do something like this, (1) be sure you understand all of the applicable FARs regarding charity flights, etc., and (2) contact your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), and coordinate your plans with them.   Talk with them before you offer the flights; make sure what you put up for auction is legal.   Make your flights a great experience for everyone.

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Learning to Fly

In 1986, the movie Top Gun hit the big screen.   As I came out of the movie theater after seeing it for the second time, I decided, "This is too good a thing to feel second-hand."

I had flown several times before that with a friend from work, in his Cessna 177 Cardinal.   The next day he walked up to my desk as usual, to say hello and chat.   I told him I was ready to learn how to fly.   Whatever it was going to cost, I was ready to do it.   Would he know of an instructor?

Indeed he did.   My friend was never one to be in a hurry; he kind of ambled along, getting to where he was going when he did.   His desk was in another building and on another floor.

Maybe so, but barely ten minutes after he left, I got a call from my soon-to-be first flying instructor, to set up the appointment for my first flying lesson.

So it began, on the evening of the 12th of September, 1986: I spent an hour, according to my log book, doing "Orientation, pre-flight, aircraft familiarity; climbs, descents, and turns", in N14SW.   "November-one-four-sierra-whiskey" is a Cessna 150 two-seater that was a part of the fleet at Carolyn's Flight Academy, owned by a tough instructor named Carolyn Pilaar.   She set high standards for training her students; standards which have probably saved my life – more than once.   Just the kind of instructor you want to find.

Taking about two hour-long lessons each week, I got my license on the 25th of April, 1987.   In February of 1988, I began taking lessons for my Instrument rating, and and passed the check-ride that August.   More than 30 years and 2300 hours of pilot time have been logged since those flying lessons began, in all kinds of weather.   And always remember:   when the FAA Examiner says, "This is a license to learn," he's not kidding.

1995 - With my 182 and Walt Horstman, who helped me get started, putting me in touch with an instructor and finding my first airplane.

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Buying an Airplane

When you start to fly, you only need a two-seater - the only person who can be in the air with you is your instructor.   You can buy a two-seater Cessna 150 for about $20,000.   The insurance is about the same as for a car; possibly a little cheaper.   Just like for a car, you can get a loan, so all you really need is a down-payment.   150s were sold in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so they are depreciated as far as they are going to go; the price does not change much, except as the engine wears, and when you improve the avionics.   Let pilots know you are in the market, once you are sure you want to be a pilot.   Also, begin scouting around for a well-recommended aviation mechanic you can trust.   When you find a plane you like, pay him to check it out; it will be money well spent; a good investment.

1987 July 4 - My first airplane, a 1968 Cessna 150, from December 1986 to September 1989

Note the 150's N-number painted on the tie-down spot!

Since a 150 does not depreciate, when you go to sell it, it will still be worth about what you paid for it - a little less, since the engine is a little more used, or if you have the engine overhauled, quite a bit more.   That means you have that much money - about $20,000 - to use as down-payment for a four-seater, like a Cessna 172.   Those can be found in the $45,000 range, depending on age and avionics.   That means your new loan is no more than the loan you had on your 150.

My second airplane, a 1965 Cessna 172, from February 1990 to June 1992

At some point, get your Instrument Flight Rating (IFR), so you can fly through clouds.   Until then you are limited to clear weather, which is not always present at a convenient time - like going to or from that favorite vacation spot.   Be warned:   flying in clouds without your IFR rating is fatal (which is why it is also illegal) - just ask John F. Kennedy, Jr.

When the 172 becomes too small and too slow, you sell it for roughly what you paid for it - and use that towards a down-payment on a 182.

My third airplane, a 1978 Cessna 182, since August 1992

Like most things in life, that's not all there is to it, of course.   A 150 can be flown for about as much as it costs to own a car.   A 172 costs a bit more, but it is faster and can fly further.   For a 182, plan on spending about $15-20,000 a year, on average (including avionics upgrades, and engine and prop overhauls in 1998 and replacements in 2013).   Most people fly 70 to 100 hours a year.   But that is how you work up to being able to afford the airplane you ultimately want to have.

When your family is just you and your spouse, and you cannot afford much, buy the 150.   When you start to have kids, you move up to the 172, which holds four.   When the kids begin to strain the weight limits of the 172, you buy the 182.   The cost of flying grows at about the same rate as your income.   If you have more than two kids, buy a Cessna 206 six-seater.

There are of course many other airplanes, of all sizes.   But these examples get you started.   Once you learn more, you can make further choices as you decide what you like and want in an airplane.

Why I Like a High-wing Airplane

1. High-wing:   It is easy to see the scenery, and you can open the window to take a picture.
    Low-wing:   The wings cut off most of the view.   The windows do not open; all your photos include window-hazing, dirt specks, and distortion due to the curvature of the window.

2. High-wing:   It makes a passable umbrella in the rain - or even a heavy rain - for just standing, or when loading or unloading people and baggage, or while hugging relatives.
    Low-wing:   Getting thoroughly soaked is virtually impossible to avoid - even with an umbrella (the rain running off the roof gets you anyway).

3. High-wing:   When taxiing on a hot, rainy day, you can open the windows a bit for a little air.   The propeller provides a nice breeze (the rain mostly is going by too fast to come in).
    Low-wing:   There are no windows to open.   When taxiing, crack the door(s) at all, and get drenched from the rain.   Keep the doors closed, and get drenched in perspiration, while condensation (lower air pressure inside than out) fogs up the windshield.

4. High-wing:   The high wing does not get in the way of watching the sunset.   On a sunny day it does put your side windows in shade.
    Low-wing:   On a sunny day without a cloud in the sky, being in a greenhouse with a third of the atmosphere below you can be a bit ... intense.

Nature agrees - there are no low-wing birds.   For the same reason, high-wing airplanes have little or no dihedral, which means the left wing and the right wing are both lifting in the same direction.

But if the simple truth is that you like low-wing airplanes, it will also be true you have your reasons and that I have not changed your mind one iota.   By all means that is the way it should be and that is what you should buy.

Why I Like the Cessna 182

1. A 182 is a high-wing airplane; see above for the implications.
2. You can load full fuel, four adults, and enough baggage for a week in a 182, and it doesn't care.   A 182 can carry virtually anything you can shoehorn into it.
4. A 182 carries 6.5 hours of fuel.   I will need to land before it does.
5. A 182 carries 6.5 hours of fuel.   When you subtract the FAA's fuel requirements, particularly when your destination airport is IFR and a good alternate is about an hour away from your destination (there is always a strong headwind on your way to the alternate, and don't forget that flying an IFR approach eats up 20-30 minutes all by itself), a 182 still has enough fuel that you plan your flight based on the fact that you will be the one that must land first.
6. A 182 only needs one stop to refuel.   A fuel stop takes about an hour (descent, fly the approach or pattern, taxi, refuel, file flight plan, pay the bill, taxi, climb back to altitude), which is a long time when those summertime cumulus clouds are intent on building into cumulonimbus clouds, and you have to be at work tomorrow (and spending a night in the No-Tell Motel near whatever remote airport you landed at is not on your bucket list).
7. A 182 is fast enough to get just about anywhere east of the Rockies in seven hours of flying (and one fuel stop), but cheap enough you can go up flying in the evening just to watch the sunset.   Both are roughly equal in importance.
8. A 182 is roomy enough that you are not getting intimate with the person sitting next to you on a seemingly continual basis.
9. A 182 with a Continental engine has an unbreakable fuel pump that never needs repair - gravity.
10. My flight bag, which judging by its weight must include the kitchen sink, fits between the front seats where it is always within reach.

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Flying Stories

A Little Grass Airstrip

The Triple Tree Aerodrome has a grass airstrip 7,000 feet long, and 300 feet wide.   I first saw it on January 27th, 2007, from the air, during my Biennial Flight Review (BFR).   Back then, there were no buildings.   My instructor pointed to it, and asked me to do a practice emergency landing – but I could not find the airstrip he was pointing to.   "It's Right There," he said, pointing down.   I had never seen a grass strip bigger than 2800 feet long by 75 feet wide, and there was nothing like that down there to see - just a big, long patch of what had to be a farmer's field ...

Tough Guy

Flying into the Do-Little airstrip for the Breakfast Club, a huge raccoon trundled across the runway just about where we were set to touch down.   He saw us at the last moment, ran and somersaulted off to the side and stood up, as if to say, "Come on!   Just try me!"

In the Laurens News

Below is a story from the Laurens County Advertiser newspaper on the September 18, 2011, visit to the Laurens, SC, airport by the S.C. Breakfast Club.   I gave a short ride to the editor's son and the editor.   Just a quick flight "around the pattern", but both were thrilled and excited!

Laurens News Redux

In September of 2016, I contacted Judith Brown, the editor of the Laurens County Advertiser, whom I had taken up for a short flight in 2011, during an SCBC fly-in at Laurens Airport.   Would she be interested in flying in to the annual Triple Tree Aerodrome fly-in, and covering that event?

So once again she and her son went flying, this time joined by a Spanish exchange student their family had been hosting.   Everyone had a great time, checking out all the airplanes, attending some of the talks, and watching the warbirds and other airplanes take off and land.

The Ultimate High

There comes a point in your training as a student pilot when your instructor tells you to let him out, and do three trips around the pattern.   You do your best to remember everything you need to say on the radio, and what you need to do at every step to control the airplane.   It's all the same as you have done dozens of times before - and it's suddenly all different.   You pull out onto the runway, and line up the plane; you give it full throttle, start rolling, and quickly pick up speed.

And then all of a sudden, you are in the air - no longer on the ground - and you have the realization that nobody can get you back safely on the ground but you.

Three times around - three take-offs and three landings, and then it's done; you've done it.   Three times you took off, and three times you landed safely and in control.   You have proven to yourself that it is not a lark; that you can do it any time you want to.   You have flown.

Driving home after my first solo, I just could not stop grinning - a big, face-wide grin, from ear to ear.

Other drivers, if they saw me, must have thought I was on drugs.   But I had just done something far beyond anything they knew - I had flown an airplane, and returned it safely to earth.   I was becoming a pilot.

The Backwards Check-ride

A check-ride includes recovery from "unusual attitudes".   I get motion sickness, so I asked the FAA Examiner if we could save that for last, and he agreed.   When the time came, he said, "You put the plane in unusual attitudes, and I'll recover."   So that is what we did.   I guess I did it well enough; I passed.

The IFR Check-ride Cathedral

I flew the check-ride for my IFR ("Instrument Flight Rules") rating under the hood – i.e., wearing a large visor that limits your vision to just the instruments, since the weather failed to provide enough real clouds.   At one point, however, the Examiner said it was okay to take off the hood; we were immersed in clouds.

And then we burst out of them – into the biggest cathedral ever seen by human eyes!   We had entered from the back wall; the vaulted ceiling of clouds was hundreds of feet above; the immense side walls rose to meet it from a rumpled floor of clouds that could have been pews, hundreds of feet below.   We flew above the center aisle, and in seconds we were flying through the clouds of the front wall, high above the cloud altar.   Cloud shapes are in constant flux; nobody would ever see that cathedral but us.

IFR the Next Day

I took my IFR check-ride on a Friday.   The next morning I took off in my 150, headed for an overnight stay at State College, Pennsylvania, from which I would go on to Portland, Maine, on Sunday.   It was a perfect flight for a new IFR pilot: it started clear, but as I flew north, the haze got thicker and thicker.   By the time I reached Pennsylvania, I was flying through clouds – a baptism by fire, but a gentle one.

What an IFR Pilot Does For Fun

It was a beautiful Sunday morning - if you are an IFR pilot.   The cloud bases were just above the minimums, with no wind to speak of.   It was a great day to go shoot some IFR approaches, and maintain my IFR currency.   I took off from Donaldson, and was in the clouds at 550 feet.   First on my Flight Plan was Laurens, with its GPS-8 approach, so ATC pointed us at the first waypoint on the approach.   Went through the approach on autopilot, releasing altitude-hold and using the throttle to control altitude, just like you're supposed to do.   Right at the minimums, I spotted the airport; I could have landed if I had wanted to.   Then back up into the clouds, and on to the missed approach, and the hold.

Outbound on the hold, 30 degrees left of the outbound heading to get into the loop; I turned on the autopilot.   Straight as an arrow for a minute, and then turn the heading bug 30 and then 90 degrees to the right, and then 90 degrees once more, and we were inbound on the hold, straight as an arrow; didn't even need to correct for wind.   One more time around, in another perfect oval, and then I let ATC know it was time to go on to Clemson.

ATC warned us of some weather along the way, but neither the Garmin XM nor the ADS/B was showing anything worth noting.   We got hardly a bump; the autopilot had no problem with direction nor altitude, straight to the start of the GPS-7 approach at CEU.   It's fun to watch the autopilot make perfect little turns at each point on the approach!   We broke out about a hundred feet above minimums, with the runway in sight.

Wow!   Those hills are right there!   That doesn't look like 400 feet down to me.   Not much room for error here!

Through the approach, and on missed, heading 130 degrees as instructed by Greer, on our way home.   Back in contact with ATC, and one last correction, to intercept the Localizer just outside Dyana.

Now follow the Glide Slope down to 200 feet; we broke out at about 400, but rode the Glide Slope all the way down to the ground, just for fun.   What a blast!   IFR is fun!   What a great day to go flying!


A Bump In the Sky In Florida

Flying down to Orlando in the 172, the day was late enough that Florida's daily cloud build-ups were starting to get serious.   ATC (the Air Traffic Controllers) tried to route me through the least-dangerous areas, but all of a sudden the plane was shooting up at 1,000 feet per minute, and more – something well beyond the wildest dreams of a 145hp 172.   I closed the throttle and pointed the airplane down, but the updraft carried us up.   ATC came on the radio, letting me know that I had busted my assigned altitude.   "I'm working on it," I said in reply; it is possible there might have been a slight note of tension in my voice.   Then, just like I had read about in a recent magazine article, we hit the downdraft.   We flew out of the clouds at the same altitude as we had flown in.

Summertime In the South

It was one of those Southern summers with air that is stagnant and humid, when cumulus clouds would pop up every morning across the South, from Louisiana to the Carolinas, and develop into cumulonimbus thunderstorms during the afternoons.

We were in San Antonio, and needed to get home.   Going to bed at 5:00 in the evening, we woke up at 1:00 a.m., were at the airport about 2:30, and took off in the 182 just past 3:00.   We crossed Texas and into Louisiana in the night without incident, except to watch a fascinating lightning display on top of an isolated cloud thirty miles north as we passed it at the border.

Sunrise saw us crossing the Mississippi, and we had to do an approach through a thin cloud layer into Meridian to refuel.   The clouds were thicker climbing out, and as we crossed Alabama they continued to grow higher and higher.

Crossing into Georgia, we heard a Bonanza on his way to Florida on the radio, landing in Mississipi to refuel, just as we had an hour earlier.   Flying north around Atlanta - through the busy NELLO intersection and then headed toward the Electric City VOR, the clouds were now reaching up to us, and we could see the cumulus clouds in the Smokies were already building into dark cumulonimbus storm clouds.

And then we were into South Carolina - almost home!   We began our descent through the thankfully still-cumulus layer, still relatively bump-free.   We touched down at Donaldson about 11:30 a.m., finished for the day, safely on the ground and at home.

Checking the weather an hour later, thunderstorms were now dominant everywhere.   It's a safe bet that Bonanza pilot was going to spend a night in Mississipi.

Short-Field Takeoff In the 172

It was still morning, and it was way up north in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but the day was already warm and humid.   Full fuel, lots of baggage, two adults, and two 13-year-olds who were growing like weeds would tax the old 172's abilities to the limits.   I used short-field take-off techniques – on a mile-long paved runway.   And put the 172 up for sale the next day.

A Wringing Out?

In September of 1989 I moved to Huntsville, Alabama, to work for NASA on the International Space Station.   For the four years I lived there, I had to use instructors who did not know me, for my Biennial Flight Reviews, IFR checks, check-outs in the 172 and the 182, etc.   A couple of times they would start our conversation with, "I'm going to really wring you out."   I would wait the whole flight for them to spring whatever it was they meant by that.   It apparently was not all that much, compared to the rigors of instruction at Carolyn's Flight Academy.   Eventually, they would say, "Well, I guess we can head back."   I was never sure if the tone with which that sentence was uttered was, "I give up," or "I'm running out of ideas."   Either way, I think I had had more fun than they did.

Fire-Engines Here and There

We took off from Donaldson in the 182, headed north for a Labor Day weekend visit to Pennsylvania.   We were already climbing through 7,000 feet, over Greer and totally in the clouds, when I noticed we had lost vacuum pressure.   There is no alarm; the instruments just start contradicting each other.   You have to figure out for yourself which instruments to stake your life on, and which to disregard.   We asked ATC to vector us back to Donaldson.   On final approach there, we broke out of the clouds barely 500 feet above the ground.   Rhoda spotted a firetruck near the end of the runway.

"What's that for?" she asked.   I told her I did not know.   Well, it was possible I could be wrong - but I had a pretty good guess.

Then she spotted another firetruck at the other end of the runway.   "Are they for us?!" the pitch of her voice seemed a little higher this time.

I admitted they were, and both trucks followed us as we taxied back to the ramp and verified we were okay as we shut down.

Thanks to Carolyn Pilaar and her instructors Carl Myers and Karen Winters, it was just another unremarkable flight – entered in logbooks which now tally 2,300 hours of flying.

Someone Helped Me; Now It's My Turn

In November of 2016 I had helped the Triple Tree Aerodrome take about 60 high school kids up flying (14 takeoffs in 1 day!).   One result: one family’s new desire to learn to fly.   In April 2017 I flew them and their instructor to Indianapolis to buy an airplane and fly it home!

The Best Story Of All   -   And also my first published writing in a nationally-distributed magazine.

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Flying Humor

Click here to hear the story of who is the coolest, fastest, baddest guy on the block ...

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Flying put to words

Weekend Pilot, Frank Kingston Smith, 1957
A great story of one person's discovery of flying, and his experiences in owning his own airplane.

A Sky Of Her Own, by Molly Bernheim, 1959
In the years after World War II, a woman in her 40s learns to fly

The Airman's World, by Gill Robb Wilson, 1957
This wonderful book of poetry about flying does a great job of providing a sense of the spirit of being a pilot.

First Things First
    by Gill Robb Wilson

The boundary lamps were yellow blurs
Against the winter night,
And I had checked the last ship in
And snapped the office light
And paused a while to let the ghosts
Of bygone days and men
Roam down the skies of auld lang syne
As one will now and then ...
When fancy sent me company
A red checked lad to stand
With questions gleaming in his eyes,
A model in his hand.
He may have been your boy or mine,
I could not clearly see,
But there was no mistaking how
His eyes were questioning me
For answers which all sons must have
Who build their toys in play,
But pow'r them in valiant dreams
And fly them far away;
So down I sat with him beside
There in the dim lit shed,
And with the ghost of better men
To check on me, I said:
'I cannot tell you, Sonny Boy,
The future of this art,
But one thing I can show you, lad,
An old time pilot's heart;
And you may judge what flight may give
Or hold in store for you
By knowing how true pilots feel
About the work they do;
And only he who dedicates
His life to some ideal
Becomes as one with his dreams
His future will reveal.
Not one of whose wings are dust
Would call his bargain in,
Not one of us would welsh his part
To save his bloomin' skin,
Not one would wish to walk again
Unless allowed to throw
His heart into the thing he loved
And go as he would go;
Not one would change for gold or pow'r,
Nor fun nor love nor fame,
The part he played and price he paid
In making good the game.
And of the living ... none, not one,
Regrets the scars he bears,
The sheer uncertainty of plans,
The poverty he shares,
Remitted price for one mistake
That checks a bright career,
The shattered hopes, the scant rewards,
The future never clear:
And of the living ... none, not one,
Who truly loves the sky,
Would trade a hundred earth bound hours
For one that he could fly.
If that sleek model in your hand,
Which you have brought to me,
Most represents the thing you love,
The thing you want to be,
Then, you will fill your curly head
With knowledge, fact and lore,
For there is no short cut which leads
To aviation's door;
And only those whose zeal is proved
By patient toil and will
Shall ever have a part to play
Or have a place to fill.'
And suddenly the lad was gone
On wings I could not hear,
But from afar off came his voice
In studied tones and clear,
A prophet's message simply told
For this is what he said
And why his hand will someday lead
Formations overhead:
'Who wants to fly has got to know:
Now two times two is four:
I've got to learn the first things first!'
...I closed the hanger door.

May the next generation of pilots have it this good!

The Sunkist Valley (excerpt)
    by Gill Robb Wilson
    as recorded by Martha Lunken in the November 2017 issue of Flying magazine

When you've flown
enough years to have
crossed many hills and
valleys, and known much
loneliness and endured
many uncertainties -
why, then you're a pilot.
You can never be too
much afraid of what lies

If you don't venture on
sullen skies, you never come
to sunkissed valleys.
If your palms have never
been moist, your heart has
never thrilled.
If you have never been
afraid, you have never been

So I think he learns of life,
this one with the
seven-league boots.
And if it does not mold
him in humility of mind and
in peace of heart -
then I have not read
with understanding the
long, long thoughts of my
confreres - they who have
earned a citizenship in the
airman's world.

This poem by Gill Robb Wilson is about flying home for Christmas, but the feelings it describes are there on every home-bound flight . . .
I've blessed my wings a thousand times
For where they've carried me …
But there is a nearer ecstasy!
The wings that bear one home …
The joy of letting down to the place
The heart has never left — the thrill
of returning to the one spot on earth
beloved above all others — home!
And, if it be "Home for Christmas,"
How thrice blessed are my wings.

The above lines were quoted by Martha Lunken in her column in the December 2010 issue of Flying magazine. Don't miss the story she tells.

In Memoriam - Gerald Ballard, President, South Carolina Breakfast Club, 1979-2017
Gerald Ballard was the President of the South Carolina Breakfast Club from 1979 until his final flight off into the sunset, on December 5th, 2017 - almost half of the entire time that SCBC has been in existence.   He was 78 years old.   The memorial service was held on December 11th, 2017.   A memorial fly-in is scheduled for June 23rd, 2018, at Twin Lakes Airpark, at his hangar.

Gerald dedicated a large part of his time to making sure the Breakfast Club was always a great thing to be involved with, and each fly-in a good reason to go flying.   His stories always held our interest, and they were the kind of stories that, while you hoped they were not really true, knowing Gerald, they probably were.

Don't miss the Gerald Ballard Retrospective webpage.

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
-- Rhysling
as recorded in "The Green Hills of Earth", by Robert Heinlein

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