Tuesday, February 28, 2017

One Pilot's Path

I'm smiling as I look back at my first log book.  The first entry is on November 4, 1961.  Yes, I know that's going back some 56 years, that puts me at 21 year old.  I was taking my first flight lesson in a military Pa-18 at Felker Army Air Base located at Fort Eustis,Va. just west of Newport News. Back then I did a total of only 15 hours of flight time.  I just didn't feel comfortable flying then.  Mostly because I felt the instructor, a military pilot, was over bearing.  That pause lasted until May 9, 1965 some 4 1/2 years until I started again at Tew Mac a small airport in Massachusetts some 17 miles north of Boston.  The Piper J-3 I flew was owned by the flying club I joined while with the Avco Corp in Wilmington, Ma.

The point of all this, I guess, is to reflect on and pass on to prospective pilots how one can get started in aviation.  It seems important to me as now one hears so much of flying schools and various other programs.  I am glad I did it as an individual rather than as a member of some flight class at a flight school.  Somehow I developed a sense of independence and a progressive self reliance, rather than being led by the nose in a more structured program.

I persisted along this path for some 40+ years.  After getting my first license as a private pilot, which allowed me to take passengers, I kept on going.  Next, I obtained my instrument rating which allowed me to fly in bad weather.  I went soon after for my commercial rating which meant I could fly for hire. Finally, I went for a multi engine rating.  Mainly I did this so I could fly a company twin engine plane as a radiologist in upstate New York.

I would like to mention a couple of memorable flights that still stand out. The first, flying a J-3 Cub out of Tewksbury, Mass. north along a small river at about 500 ft. It was warm and I could leave the fold out windows open, really enhancing the feeling of being alone in the air. It felt so special to me, on one of my first solo flights. The other was years later out of Burlington Vermont. I was on call for emergency flights and I got a call at about 2330 hours. A skier at Lake Placid had taken a bad fall and needed high level medical help only available in the Burlington Vt, area at that time. So off I went in a Piper Navajo, a moderate sized 9 seater equipped with deicing etc., and made an instrument landing at Adirondack Regional airport. The weather was moderate IFR allowing for a safe approach and landing. The ambulance was waiting. We loaded the patient and his nurse aboard, took off IFR and were back in Burlington in 25 minutes. It was one of my most satisfying flights.  

Every pilot's flight path is different.  I thought I would share some of my experiences with you.