Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
RSS Feed
Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career











All Episodes
Now displaying: 2021
Dec 28, 2021

1 December 1993; Northwest Airlink (Express Airlines) BAe Jetstream 31; Hibbing, MN: The aircraft had a controlled flight into terrain about three miles (five km) from the runway threshold during an an excessively steep approach in conditions of snow and freezing fog. Both crew members and all 16 passengers were killed.

3 December 1990; Northwest DC9-14; Detroit, MI: The DC9 was taxiing in fog and strayed onto an active runway where it was hit by a departing Northwest 727. One of the four crew members and seven of the 40 passengers were killed. There were no fatalities on the second aircraft.

13 December 1994; American Eagle (Flagship Airlines) BAe Jetstream Super 31; Morrisville, NC: The aircraft crashed about four miles (seven km) from the runway threshold during an approach at night and in icing conditions. The flight crew incorrectly thought that an engine had failed and subsequently followed improper procedures for single engine approach and landing. Both crew members and 13 of the 18 passengers were killed.

20 December 1995; American Airlines 757-200; near Buga, Colombia: The aircraft crashed into Mt. San Jose at night at about the 9,000 foot level while descending into Cali, Colombia after its flight from Miami. All eight crew and 155 of the 159 passengers were killed in the crash. Colombian civil aviation authorities report that at the time of the accident, all navigational beacons were fully serviceable and that the aircraft voice and data recorders did not indicate any aircraft problems.

20 December 2008; Continental Airlines 737-500; Denver, CO: The aircraft, which was on a scheduled flight to Houston's Intercontinental Airport, departed the runway during takeoff and skidded across a taxiway and a service road before coming to rest in a ravine several hundred yards from the runway. The aircraft sustained significant damage, including a post crash fire, separation of one engine and separated and collapsed landing gear. There were about 38 injuries among the 110 passengers and five crew members, including two passengers who were seriously injured.

26 December 1989; United Express (NPA) BAe Jetstream 31; Pasco, WA: A combination of an excessively steep and unstabilzied ILS approach, improper air traffic control commands, and aircraft icing caused the aircraft to stall and crash short of the runway during a night approach. Both crew members and all four passengers were killed.

28 December 1978; United Airlines DC8; Portland, OR: The aircraft ran out of fuel while holding for landing and crashed landed. Of the 184 occupants, two crew members and eight passengers were killed.

Dec 21, 2021

All December proceeds from the sale of Hamfist novels and the proceeds from the audiobook Hamfist Over The Trail will be donated to charity to help the victims of the tragic midwest tornadoes.

December has a bad reputation for airline landing gear accidents. As an airline Captain, during every December flight I would brief my crew that, in the event of a landing gear indication problem, we would not delay the landing to trouble-shoot our issue. There is no record of airline fatalities due to LANDING the airplane with a gear problem, but 114 passengers and crew lost their lives from accidents in which airline crews attempted to deal with unsafe landing gear indications. All three of these accidents occurred in the month of December.

The first was Eastern Airlines Flight 401, which occurred on December 29, 1972.

The next accident was United Airlines Flight 2860, on December 28, 1977.

The most recent was United Airlines flight 173, on December 28, 1978.


Dec 11, 2021

Frozen Chosen: With the path to Hungnam blocked at Funchilin Pass due to the blown bridge, the US Air Force stood tall to deliver the means for the Marines to continue their fighting withdrawal.

At 9 am on 7 December, eight C-119 Flying Boxcars flown by the US 314th Troop Carrier Wing appeared over Koto-Rl and were used to drop portable bridge sections by parachute. The bridge, consisting of eight separate 18 ft long sections, were dropped one section at a time, using two 48 ft parachutes on each section. Each plane carried one bridge section, weighing close to 2,500 pounds. The Marines needed only four sections, but had requested eight in case several did not survive the drop.

The planes lowered to eight hundred feet, drawing fire from the Chinese on the surrounding hills, and the cargo masters began dumping their precious cargo. Each bridge section had giant G-5 parachutes attached to both ends for security if a single chute failed. A practice drop with smaller chutes at Yonpo airfield near Hungnam had failed, but there was no time for more experimentation. It was now or never for the 1st Marine Division.

By 1530 on 9 December, four of these sections, together with additional wooden extensions, were successfully reassembled into a replacement bridge by Marine Corps combat engineers, led by First Lieutenant David Peppin of Company D, 1st Engineer Battalion, and the US Army 58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company enabling UN forces to proceed. 

Outmaneuvered, the PVA 58th and 60th Divisions still tried to slow the UN advance with ambushes and raids, but after weeks of non-stop fighting, the two Chinese divisions combined had only 200 soldiers left. The last UN forces left Funchilin Pass by 11 December.

Dec 6, 2021

My team and I are passionate about connecting people to their passion, for a purpose and creating fulfillment in their lives. I, personally am so passionate about this because I walked through a stage in my life where I stopped dreaming. Though that season was scary and unknown, it was the start of The Winning Network. Check out the story below!
I remember the moment very clearly. I was 1.5 years away from being done with my 12 year Pilot commitment with the United States Air Force. It was at this point in my career that my peers, Commanders, and friends began to ask you the same question: are you staying in for 20, or are you getting out? I remember it so vividly because the question hit me like a brick to the chest. If it is possible for 1000 epiphanies to hit you in a single millisecond, that would have been my moment. 
 I realized in that instant, I didn’t know what was next in my life. I was a man with no plan, no goal, no aspiration, no dream. I remember standing there dumbfounded with these life-altering thoughts storming my mind. Somewhere along the way, I had become so focused on accomplishing the “here and now” and the Air Forces approved “next steps to success” that I had stopped listening to the dreams that dwelt in my own heart. I had allowed those visions for the future to be silenced by the well-intended advice of what I “should be doing” to “stay the course for Command.” It was at this moment I realized, I had stopped dreaming years ago. I was a man who had accomplished all I had set out to do and had nowhere else to go. I lacked vision, expectation, and even a single goal. In my own rush to accomplish the day-to-day, I forgot where I was going in my life. 
 As terrifying as this moment was for me, I have grown to realize, I am not the only one to have experienced such a life-changing moment. As I have shared my experience with friends, family members, and co-workers, I have grown to see that this significant emotional event or one like it has impacted almost everyone I have come across.  All of us who have been speechless in its wake have unfortunately suffered these mind-melting realizations seemingly alone with few places to turn for help, but not anymore!
That is where The Winning Network was created. What started as a need I longed for in a season that I was so lost, turned into a business to help others facing similar struggles plus so much more. At The Winning Network, our focus is not to help our family reach a peak of accomplishment, raise a victory flag and walk off the field of life, but instead to redefine what it means to “Win” altogether. At The Winning Network, “Winning” is not about reaching a desired state of being or result, but instead establishing a continued process of personal improvement and growth in which there is never an end state of success, however a continued state of fulfillment throughout the iterative process of constant growth. Those who merely desire to wage the war of goal setting, defeat the objective and raise their personal banner of “Mission Accomplished” will find no satisfaction, nor fulfillment in the grassroots of The Winning Network. Victory is not found in a result, but instead, in the process. 

Nov 29, 2021

Just then, the apartment door opened.

I heard a soft-spoken female voice, “Tadaima!”

“Miyako is here, and she brought our lawyer from the airport,” Tom remarked.

A very attractive Japanese lady entered the room, walked right up to me, held out her hand, and bowed slightly. I had expected her to be wearing a kimono, but she was wearing a conservative, grey dress.

She had a slight accent, “I'm Miyako. Thank you for saving my husband's life!” She gripped my hand with both of hers.

“It's a real pleasure to meet you, Miyako. I'm not so sure I saved his life, but I'm glad I was there to help.”

Tom interjected, “Here comes my lawyer.”

A gorgeous Eurasian woman, about my age, entered the room, rushed over to Tom, and hugged him. “Daddy!”

Tom hugged her back, then introduced me, “Samantha, this is the Hamilton I've been telling you about.”

She held out her hand. “Call me Sam.”

I shook her hand, and said, “Sam, it's a real pleasure to meet you. I'm Ham.”

“Sam I'm Ham,” she responded, “sounds like we're reading a Doctor Seuss book.”

Tom beamed. “That's my girl. Sharp as a whip. She finished at the top of her class at Harvard Law School last month. We're so proud of her.”

Sam appeared to blush.

“Now,” Tom said, “let's go have a great dinner. Do you like steak?”

He didn't have to ask me a second time.

While I put on my suit and tied my tie, Tom changed to an equally outstanding outfit. We all got into the car, and Tom said something in Japanese to the driver.

“The absolute best steak in Tokyo is at the Misono Steak House, in Akasaka,” Tom announced.

We drove through narrow streets for about a half hour, and pulled up outside a small restaurant front.

We went into a dimly-lit, elegant restaurant, and sat at a table with a large skillet built into the surface. Tom and Miyako sat on one side of the table, and Sam sat next to me, on my right. I think she purposely positioned herself there to help me with my chopsticks if I had trouble. A chef appeared with four thick steaks, some shrimp, and an assortment of vegetables, and he proceeded to cook them in front of us. He put on an incredible performance, slicing and dicing the steaks and then tossing the pieces of meat over his head and catching them in the rice bowls in front of each of us.

“This is Kobe beef,” Tom explained. “Every minute of their lives these animals are massaged, and they're fed beer all day long. The meat is tender enough to cut between your chopsticks. You'll see.”

“And, by the way,” he continued, “from now on, we're not calling them chopsticks. They're hashi.

“Got it. Hashi,” I answered.

“Ham went to the Air Force Academy,” Tom explained, looking at Sam.

“Where’d you go for undergraduate?” I asked Sam.

“I graduated from Northwestern in 1966.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes, with me trying my best to impress my hosts, and especially Sam, my facility withhashi. I was getting pretty good, getting almost every bite to my mouth without dropping anything.

Then Sam ventured, “You know, I almost dated a cadet once.”

“Sounds like you dodged a bullet,” I replied.

“No, I was actually really looking forward to it. In the fall of 1963, when I was a sophomore, the Army and Air Force were playing their first-ever football game, at Soldier Field in Chicago.”

I remembered it well. I was a doolie at the time, and the entire cadet wing was going to travel to Chicago by train to watch the game and then have a post-game formal ball. We were going to have a joint ball with the “Woops” – the West Pointers – who had also come to Chicago en masse. As a doolie, I had never gotten the opportunity to leave the base since entering the Academy in the summer, and this was going to be a real treat. After the game, we would have about four hours to be out on our own to explore Chicago before the ball. I was really looking forward to it.

Then, the day before our departure, my appendix burst and I had peritonitis. I had emergency surgery, and couldn’t go on the trip. I was stuck in the Academy hospital, to watch the game – Air Force beat Army – on television. The only cadet in the hospital. In fact, I was the only patient in the entire hospital, other than a Math instructor’s wife, who was only there for about three days to deliver her baby.

“There was a formal ball after the game,” Sam continued, “and they wanted local college girls to be blind dates for the cadets. It sounded like it would be fun, and I volunteered. I bought a beautiful gown and gorgeous long, white leather formal gloves. And shoes. Remember?” She looked over at Tom and Miyako. They nodded.

“I showed up at the ball, and I was as dolled-up as I could be. I’d gone to the hairdresser and had my hair done in the morning, and had my nails done also. And the cadets were so handsome in their mess uniforms. Is that what it’s called?”

“Mess dress,” I answered.

“That’s right, mess dress. And I’m not just saying this, Ham, I thought the Air Force cadets looked a lot sharper than the West Pointers.”

“It goes without saying,” I answered.

“So, I went to the reception hall where all the girls were assembling, and one by one the social director called out the names of the girls and they would go through the door to the ballroom and meet their blind dates.” She paused, took a deep breath, and swallowed hard. “And then I was left all alone. I didn’t have a date.”

“What!” I exclaimed. “Were they crazy?”

“No, it was just, the blind dates had already been pre-arranged, and the cadet I was supposed to be paired up with was in the hospital. I went back to my dorm room and cried myself to sleep.”

Tom and Miyako were staring at me.

“Ham! Are you all right? You’re white as a sheet.”

I found myself frozen, with my chopsticks, okay, myhashi, half-way to my mouth, and I couldn’t move. Finally, I regained my composure.

“That was me! I was the cadet in the hospital!”

Now it was Sam’s turn to be speechless.

Tom looked at Miyako and said, “Sore wa narimasu”. She nodded. Then he looked at me.

“I’m sorry for speaking Japanese, Ham. What I said to Miyako was that when something is meant to be, it will be.”

My eyes locked onto Sam’s and I remembered: that was exactly what Colonel Ryan had said.

Nov 18, 2021

The aircraft involved in the accident was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, registered N68045, which had made its first flight in 1972.

The captain was 59-year-old Charles E. Hersche, who was operating his last flight before retirement. He had been with Continental Airlines since 1946 and had logged 29,000 flight hours, including 2,911 hours on the DC-10. Hersche served with the U.S. Air Force from 1942 through 1953 during World War II and Korean War.

The first officer was 40-year-old Michael J. Provan, who had been with Continental Airlines since 1966 and had 10,000 flight hours, with 1,149 of them on the DC-10.

The flight engineer was 39-year-old John K. Olsen, who had been with the airline since 1968. He was the least experienced member of the crew with 8,000 flight hours, 1,520 of them on the DC-10.

The aircraft began its take-off from Los Angeles International Airport at around 9:25 am. During the takeoff roll, the recapping tread of the number-two tire on the left main landing gear separated from the tire and the resulting overload caused that tire to blow out. That, in turn, imposed an overload on the number-one tire on the same axle, resulting in a second blowout almost immediately after the first blowout. Pieces of metal from the rims of the failed tires then damaged the number-five tire on the left main gear, causing it to also blow out.

Although Captain Hershe initiated the abort procedure at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) below V1 speed, it became apparent the aircraft could not stop within the confines of the runway. This was the direct result of the partial loss of braking power following the failure of the three tires on the left main gear, and also because the runway was wet. The captain steered the aircraft to go off the end of the right half of the runway in an effort "to go beside the stanchions holding the runway lights", thus avoiding a collision with the approach light stanchions, which were positioned immediately beyond the end of the runway. About 100 feet (30 m) beyond the end of the runway, the left main gear broke through the nonload-bearing pavement, which caused it to collapse rearward. Portions of the failed gear punctured fuel tanks in the left wing, immediately starting a fuel fire on the left side.

The aircraft slid to a stop about 664 feet (202 m) beyond the departure end of the runway. Because of the fire on the left side of the aircraft, all passengers evacuated on the right side. All four emergency evacuation slides on the right side of the aircraft were affected by the heat and failed at some point during the evacuation. Flight 603's flight crew and an off-duty pilot worked quickly to guide passengers to alternate exits as the slides failed, actions later commended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for saving lives and reducing the number of injuries.[1]:38 Passengers who were still on board after the last slide failed were forced to either jump to the ground, or use a slide rope deployed from the first officer's cockpit window.

Of the 186 passengers and 14 crew on board, two passengers died due to burning and smoke inhalation. Moreover, 28 passengers and three crew members were seriously injured during the evacuation. Two of the seriously injured passengers died as a result of their injuries about three months later.

A large portion of the aircraft's left section was destroyed. The aircraft subsequently was written off as a hull loss. The accident represents the second fatal accident and fifth hull loss of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10.

During its investigation, the NTSB found the number-two tire failed because it threw off its (recapped) tread. The number-one tire then failed because it was overloaded and had fatigue in its ply structure. The number-five tire then failed, because it was hit with a piece or pieces of metal from either the number-two or -one wheel. The failure of that third tire on the left main gear probably contributed to the gear breaking through the nonload-bearing pavement beyond the end of the runway, which in turn caused the gear to collapse and puncture the fuel tanks. Additionally, the NTSB stated: "The tires on the aircraft may have been operated in the overdeflected condition, since the average inflation pressure was less than the optimum pressure for maximum gross weight."

The NTSB made recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including that the FAA prohibit mounting on the same axle different models of tires, which had different load-bearing characteristics and also that greater load-bearing characteristics be required in tires manufactured in the future. The NTSB also issued a series of recommendations regarding improvements to aircraft evacuation safety, including development of more durable and fire-resistant slides, and the placement of evacuation ropes at emergency exits for use in the event of slide failure.

After the investigation of this accident was completed, the FAA made a number of rule changes improving runway performance, including updated tire rating criteria, performance standards, and testing requirements. In addition, the FAA mandated changes to the design of evacuation slides to increase their capacity, improve fire resistance, and inflate at a quicker speed.

Nov 15, 2021

A number of accidents, some of them fatal, and incidents have been attributed at least in part to communication issues related to the language proficiency of air traffic controllers and pilots.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandated that pilots and air traffic controllers demonstrate language proficiency sufficient to deal with the linguistic challenges presented by quickly changing and dynamic abnormal situations and emergencies that require extended use of language outside that of standard radiotelephony (RT).

The language proficiency requirements are applicable to non-native English speakers but, according to a statement in ICAO Doc 9835, “Native speakers of English, too, have a fundamentally important role to play in the international efforts to increase communication safety.”

Still, it seems that the onus for safeguarding successful communication is on the non‑native English speaker. In many cases, non-native speakers are tested and taught how to approximate to native speaker norms when, in reality, many of them will have less opportunity to interact with native speakers.

English, the language of aviation, is a first language or widely used national language in approximately 60 ICAO member states, ICAO said several years ago in Doc 9835. But the document also says that “there are more speakers worldwide of English as a second or foreign language than as a first language, and most of the contexts in which English is used occur among speakers of English as a second or foreign language. Non-native users of English outnumbered native users at the start of the 21st century by approximately 3 to 1.”

So, it stands to reason that the majority of aeronautical radiotelephonic interactions are between speakers for whom English is not the first language; in other words, it is a lingua franca — a language used for communication among groups of people who speak different languages. I won’t go into too much, but these interactions are qualitatively different from the interactions that take place between native speakers.

When non-native speakers engage with other non-native speakers in English, either in an aeronautical or a non-aeronautical context, they come to the speech event with their own language ability, their own cultural expectations, their own first language interference and a host of other unique dimensions. These interactions are “de-territorialized speech events”1 not tied to any one specific culture and so are very “hybrid in nature.”2

Native speakers tend to take so much for granted: connected speech, complex localized language structures, lexis (vocabulary) and much more. This puts the native speaker at a disadvantage as these features of native English speech are particularly problematic to non-native speakers at lower levels of proficiency.

Native speakers are in the minority3 and so, it has been argued, it is as incumbent on the native speaker as on the non-native speaker to meet part way by bridging the gap in safeguarding successful communication.4 It would appear, from the evidence and the literature, that there is a need for native-speaking pilots and air traffic controllers to undergo training to learn how to accommodate their non-native English-speaking interlocutors in order to safeguard communication and mitigate against possible incidents.

From ICAO:

Montréal – 4 July 2013 – The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has announced the launch of a new and improved Aviation English Language Test Service (AELTS) website (

First launched in 2011, the website for this voluntary service has been made significantly more intuitive and user-friendly, responding to ongoing feedback from the aviation English language testing community.

“Aviation English language tests are designed to measure the speaking and listening ability of pilots and controllers, a key factor in the day-to-day safety of air transport operations,” noted the UN body’s Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin.

“As aviation continues to grow, with almost 100,000 flights a day today and 200,000 daily expected by 2030, it’s imperative that ICAO continues to evolve and refine its safety support tools,” continued Benjamin. “This helps to ensure that passengers around the world can continue to look to air travel as their safest means of rapid global connectivity.”

ICAO’s AELTS directly supports the UN standard-setting body’s Doc 9835, the Manual on the Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements. By measuring test performance against its Language Proficiency Requirements (LPR) criteria, ICAO is able to provide important information on test quality so that States, pilots and controllers can make the most informed selection possible when choosing a test provider. 

An international AELTS Steering Committee, comprised of highly qualified experts from States, associations and non-profit organizations, advises ICAO on best practices and provides guidance on how to develop, implement, manage and improve the test assessment service.


English has long been the common language of aviation.  Pilots and air traffic controllers of varying nationalities have been required to communicate using english.  Previously it was up to each country to create their own standard of aviation english.  However, these standards often vary and as a result miscommunication in the english language has contributed to many aviation accidents.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) created an international standard for language proficiency requirements including a rating scale to measure the level of english proficiency.  Of this scale, ICAO level of 4 or higher was officially recognized as being english proficient in aviation.

ICAO set an initial deadline for 2008 for pilots and air traffic controllers to achieve the minimum english proficiency of ICAO level 4.  Many countries were not able to meet the deadline so an extension was given until 2011.

The purpose of an international standard of english is to enhance global aviation safety

These english standards are generally accepted by ICAO member countries around the world.  However, each country may set their own english standards beyond what was set by ICAO.

Anyone can take the ICAO english test but pilots and air traffic controllers involved in international flight operations must achieve at east level 4 of english proficiency.  Even pilots who fly between two non english speaking countries must first pass the ICAO english test.

The ICAO english test measures the ability to speak and understand english in an aviation environment (reading english is not required).  This includes how well one can efficiently communicate routine and non routine situations both face to face and over the radio.  In particular the test measures the following:

  • Comprehension – to be able to understand english through various accents and dialects.
  • Communication – to communicate information clearly and effectively particularly during emergency situations.
  • Radio communications – communication over the radio can be very different than speaking in person.  Proper radio communication skills require the use of standard phraseology.  It also requires the ability to understand distorted english created by radio interference.

During the test the examiner evaluates the applicant based on the following areas:

  • Pronunciation – to speak english with a dialect or accent that is easy for the listener to understand.
  • Structure – grammatical structures and sentence patterns.
  • Vocabulary – the speak accurately and efficiently using the correct words.
  • Fluency – the continuous flow and rhythm of speech.
  • Comprehension – to understand and make sense of what is heard.
  • Interactions – how well one responds in a conversation.  This may include checking, clarifying or confirming information if necessary.

Each category is graded on a scale between 1-6 (1 is the lowest, high is the proficient).  The lowest score determines the final ICAO english rating.  For example, an applicant may be scored 4 for every category except comprehension where the score was 3.  As a result, the applicant will receive a final rating of 3.The international standard to be english proficient is level 4 or higher.

Those who have ICAO english level 4 must retake the exam every three years while those with ICAO english level have up to 5 years to be reassessed.  Achieving ICAO english level 6 is considered an expert level and therefore does not require a reassessment.

From AOPA Pilot:

We have received many questions about the English-proficient endorsement for pilot certificates. Pilots want us to clarify who’s affected, how to get the certificate, and clear up the confusion about the compliance date. The initial deadline was March 5, 2008, but the FAA was flooded with applications and has extended the compliance date a year—until March 5, 2009.

Pilots who fly from the United States to any destination outside of the United States, will be required to have a new certificate with “English Proficient” on it when acting as a required crewmember after March 5, 2009. This is a result of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) language proficiency standards for operating internationally.

The requirement applies to all holders of private, commercial, and airline transport pilot certificates with powered ratings, as well as flight engineers and flight navigators. If you hold an instructor certificate, it will not have an English-proficient endorsement and you do not need to order a replacement for it.

Pilots with a U.S.-issued certificate will not need to pass a language test, just obtain a replacement certificate by requesting one from the FAA. The plastic replacement certificate costs $2 and takes about two weeks for online processing, and four to six weeks for paper processing through the mail.

Here’s something to consider if you’ve been meaning to order a new certificate with a number different from your Social Security number, but haven’t gotten around to doing it. Since all new pilot certificates will automatically be issued with the endorsement, you could accomplish both things with one request—and you aren’t charged the $2 fee for a new certificate, only for a replacement.

Pilots can download the paper application for SSN removal from the FAA’s Web site for a replacement certificate ($2).

If you already have an account, just log in. If you are not yet registered, you’ll have to create an account and enter your personal information.

Place a checkmark in front of the $2 box and select “English Proficiency” as the reason. Follow the steps to receive your new certificate in about two weeks.

Nov 11, 2021

In the battle for Iwo Jima, 7000 marines were killed and 20,000 wounded.

From az central:

It's an image seared into the American consciousness.

After four days of fierce fighting on the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II, part of the United States' “island hopping” strategy to defeat the Japanese after retaking the Philippines, six U.S. Marines climb the highest peak of the 8-square-mile outpost and plant an American flag.

One helmet-clad Marine holds the post in place amid the rubble, while the others thrust the stars and stripes toward the smoke- and cloud-pocked sky; a triumphant moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

The photo would publish nationwide to great fanfare two days later on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1945, and prove that, yes, we can win the war.

Rosenthal would later win a Pulitzer Prize for Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and the U.S. Postal Service would affix the image on a 3-cent stamp.

From my author website:

November 10, 1969

I was sitting in the Doom Club with a couple of the other Covey FACs. The weather had been especially lousy, with squall line thunderstorms over the mountains between DaNang and Laos. Because of the weather either over the target area or over our route to the AO, we hadn’t flown any missions in several days. We were getting antsy, and spent most of our time bitching. And drinking.

We were about to order another round of drinks, when in walked a Marine Lieutenant. It was Lieutenant Royce!

“Who wants to help celebrate the Marine Corps birthday?” he bellowed. I got the impression he’d already started celebrating a bit earlier.

When he saw me, his eyes lit up.

“Lieutenant! Great to see you. I have a jeep outside, and I can take five of you.”

“I’m ready!” I answered, “Let’s go.”

Three other guys joined me in piling into the jeep for a quick, albeit dangerous, drive to Camp DaNang, the Marine outpost. When we arrived we spilled out and went into the Marine Officer’s Club.

The Marines didn’t know how to live in luxury, but they sure knew how to throw a party. All the booze we could drink. All the food, great food, we could eat. Steak, lobster, shrimp. We had a ball.

Like every other time I got shit-faced drunk, I blacked out. I think I had a good time. Next thing I knew, someone was shaking me.

“Lieutenant. Wake up.” It was Royce.

I felt like crap. I lifted my head and looked around. I was on a canvas cot.

“It’s 0500 hours,” Royce proclaimed, “Let’s go for a run.”

“I, I think I’ll pass,” I responded.

“Okay. If you want to wash up, here’s a basin.” He handed me an empty helmet.

All I could think was, “You gotta be shitting me.”

I thanked Royce and hitched a ride back to DaNang. Damn, those Marines knew how to throw a party!

From Today:

A sacred part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier usually only visited by presidents and foreign dignitaries is open to the public this week in honor of the 100th anniversary of the memorial dedicated to America's unidentified war casualties.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza on the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is usually reserved for the sentinels who stand guard and presidents and other dignitaries presenting a wreath or flowers.

Ahead of Veterans Day on Thursday, the American public is being given the chance to step forward on the plaza and pay their respects by placing flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The special opportunity is available on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST by registering online in advance.

TODAY's Craig Melvin traveled to the site of the sacred white marble sarcophagus to speak with a gold star mother who regularly visits Arlington as well as a senior member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” who keep watch day and night at the tomb.

The memorial was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1921, after the remains of an unidentified soldier from World War I were exhumed from a military cemetery in France, flown to the United States, and buried in a ceremony officiated by President Warren G. Harding.

Remains of unidentified soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were later interred at the tomb in the 1950s. The remains of a Vietnam War veteran were buried there in 1984, but they were exhumed in 1998 and buried at a Missouri military cemetery at the request of the soldier's family after he was positively identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, according to the Arlington National Cemetery website.

Cindy Chip, whose son Sgt. Michael Hardegree died while serving in Iraq in 2007, is among the more than 12,000 people who have signed up so far to lay flowers at the tomb on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We don’t know that soldier’s name," she told Craig on TODAY Tuesday. "We don’t know anything about him except that he was an American soldier and he gave his life for his country. And we will never forget him.

"And every mother in her heart, that is what we want to say. Just don’t forget them. Just don’t forget that he lived. And that’s what that tomb says to me. This country will never forget it."

From my author website:

Saying Goodbye To A Friend

Posted on April 15, 2015

I buried a friend yesterday. At this age, that’s not terribly unusual. What made this different is that Rick Chorlins was killed 45 years ago, and his remains have finally been brought home.

Rick and I were close when we were cadets at the Air  Force Academy. Then, in 1967, graduation sent us in different directions, and we didn’t meet up again until late 1969. I was stationed at DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, and had wangled a good-deal trip to Thailand for a few days. I was going to go for an orientation ride on a C-130 Airborne Command and Control Center (ABCCC), call-sign Moonbeam. It was a chance to get away from the unrelenting nightly rocket attacks, and see locals who were not burdened by war and who knew how to smile.

I arrived at Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, called NKP, and headed to the Officers Club. And there, standing at the bar, was Rick, along with another classmate I hadn’t seen in over two years, Bob Moore. Meeting up with old friends after a long time is always fun. Running into them unexpectedly on the other side of the world is really special. We hung around together the entire night. After a few drinks, we had dinner, then went back to their hootch and caught up with what had been happening in our lives. We had all gotten married since we last saw each other. Rick had gotten a Master’s Degree. Bob had become a father. We swapped war stories. I told them what it was like to be a Forward Air Controller, and they told me what it was like to fly the A-1 in combat.

Truth be told, I felt like I was the kid and they were the grown-ups. I was flying a dinky little O-2A Skymaster, while they were flying the Skyraider, a gigantic, fire-breathing tail-dragger with a round engine that carried thousands of pounds of bombs under its wings and dueled with enemy gunners for a living. They were real fighter pilots. After hours of shooting down our watches with our hands, we said our good-byes and vowed to get together again, at some unknown time in the future. Great guys.

If you’ve read Hamfist Over The Trail, this story might sound familiar. Chapter 28 is the fictionalized account of my meeting up with Bob and Rick. Dave and Dick in the book are the fictional characters representing the real-life Rick and Bob.

Bob was killed the next week . A few months later, Rick was shot down and he was listed as KIA, but his remains were not recovered.

Until now. After 45 years, Rick came home. His remains had been discovered in Laos in 2003 and sent to Hawaii, where DNA testing finally confirmed it was Rick.

Rick was buried at the Air Force Academy cemetery with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, a missing-man fly-by, and the solemn playing of Taps. Generals presented flags to his two surviving relatives, his sisters, Cheryl and Toby.

Then we all gathered together at a restaurant to tell Rick stories. And we all had a really great time, reminiscing about Rick’s great sense of humor, his intelligence, and his dedication to duty. It was a great Celebration of Life.

And it was also a solemn reminder of the sacrifices the families of servicemen faced, and continue to face, when they send their loved ones off to war. They wait at home, never knowing if the sound of the closing car door in the street is a neighbor coming home or a military staff car with a Colonel and a Chaplain coming to bring news that will change their lives forever. That happened 58,286 times during the Vietnam War.

Eighteen on my classmates were lost in Southeast Asia. Five have still not been found.

Nov 8, 2021

J.A. Moad II is a writer,  performer,  speaker, veteran and  pilot.  Advocate for the stories that cut deep—writing that makes us bleed. Crafting words to remind us that we are all human, struggling to find meaning and acceptance, strength and resilience as we break ourselves against the world, each of us with a hungered yearning for expression and a shared desire for those elusive, indefinable truths conveyed through the art of story. A former Air Force C-130 pilot with over a hundred combat sorties. He wrote and performed his award-winning play, Outside Paducah - the Wars at Home in which he was nominated for Outstanding Solo Performance by the New York Innovative Theater Awards (NYIT).  He was a finalist for the McKnight Fellowship in playwriting and is the recipient of the Consequence Magazine Fiction Award. He has performed at The Library of Congress and The Guthrie Theater in The Telling Project - Giving Voice to the Veteran Experience. He served as an English Professor at the United States Air Force Academy and continues to serve as an editor for their international journal, War, Literature & the Arts (WLA). His short stories, poetry and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. He currently resides in Northfield, MN where he writes, lectures, and performs throughout the country while continuing to fly for a major airline.



Oct 28, 2021

Colgan Air Flight 3407 (9L/CJC 3407) was marketed as Continental Connection Flight 3407. It was delayed two hours, departing at 9:18 pm Eastern Standard Time (02:18 UTC), en route from Newark Liberty International Airport to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The twin-engine turboprop Bombardier Q400, FAA registry N200WQ, was manufactured in 2008 for delivery to Colgan. It was delivered to Colgan on April 16, 2008.

This was the first fatal accident for a Colgan Air passenger flight since the company was founded in 1991. One previous repositioning flight, with no passengers, crashed offshore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in August 2003, killing both of the crew on board. The only prior accident involving a Colgan Air passenger flight occurred at LaGuardia Airport, when another plane collided with the Colgan aircraft while taxiing, resulting in minor injuries to a flight attendant.

Captain Marvin Renslow, 47, of Lutz, Florida, was the pilot in command, and Rebecca Lynne Shaw, 24, of Maple Valley, Washington, served as the first officer. The cabin crew consisted of two flight attendants. Captain Renslow was hired in September 2005 and had accumulated 3,379 total flight hours, with 111 hours as captain on the Q400. First Officer Shaw was hired in January 2008, and had 2,244 hours, 774 of them in turbine aircraft, including the Q400.

Two Canadian passengers, one Chinese passenger, and one Israeli passenger were on board. The remaining 41 passengers, as well as the crew members, were American.

Shortly after the flight was cleared for an instrument landing system approach to runway 23 at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, it disappeared from radar. The weather consisted of light snow and fog with wind of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). The deicing system had been turned on 11 minutes after takeoff. Shortly before the crash, the pilots discussed significant ice buildup on the aircraft's wings and windshield. Two other aircraft reported icing conditions around the time of the crash.

The last radio transmission from the flight occurred when the first officer acknowledged a routine instruction to change to tower radio frequency. The plane was 3.0 mi (4.8 km) northeast of the radio beacon KLUMP (see diagram) at that time. The crash occurred 41 seconds after that last transmission. Since ATC approach control was unable to get any further response from the flight, the assistance of Delta Air Lines Flight 1998 and US Airways Flight 1452 was requested. Neither was able to spot the missing plane.

Following the clearance for final approach, landing gear and flaps (5°) were extended. The flight data recorder (FDR) indicated the airspeed had slowed to 145 knots (269 km/h; 167 mph). The captain then called for the flaps to be increased to 15°. The airspeed continued to slow to 135 knots (250 km/h; 155 mph). Six seconds later, the aircraft's stick shaker activated, warning of an impending stall, as the speed continued to slow to 131 knots (243 km/h; 151 mph). The captain responded by abruptly pulling back on the control column, followed by increasing thrust to 75% power, instead of lowering the nose and applying full power, which was the proper stall-recovery technique. That improper action pitched the nose up even further, increasing both the g-load and the stall speed. The stick pusher activated (The Q400 stick pusher applies an airplane-nose-down control column input to decrease the wing's angle of attack (AOA) after an aerodynamic stall), but the captain overrode the stick pusher and continued pulling back on the control column. The first officer retracted the flaps without consulting the captain, making recovery even more difficult.

In its final moments, the aircraft pitched up 31°, then pitched down 25°, then rolled left 46° and snapped back to the right at 105°. Occupants aboard experienced g-forces estimated at nearly 2 G. The crew made no emergency declaration, as they rapidly lost altitude and crashed into a private home at 6038 Long Street, about 5 mi (8.0 km) from the end of the runway, with the nose pointed away from the airport. The aircraft burst into flames, as the fuel tanks ruptured on impact, destroying the house of Douglas and Karen Wielinski, and most of the plane. Douglas was killed; his wife Karen and their daughter Jill managed to escape with minor injuries. Very little damage occurred to surrounding homes, though the lots in that area are only 60 ft (18.3 m) wide. The home was close to the Clarence Center Fire Company, so emergency personnel were able to respond quickly. Two firefighters were injured; 12 nearby houses were evacuated.

The autopilot was in control until it automatically disconnected when the stall-warning stick shaker activated. The NTSB found no evidence of severe icing conditions, which would have required the pilots to fly manually. Colgan recommended its pilots to fly manually in icing conditions, and required them to do so in severe icing conditions. In December 2008, the NTSB issued a safety bulletin about the danger of keeping the autopilot engaged during icing conditions. Flying the plane manually was essential to ensure pilots would be able to detect changes in the handling characteristics of the airplane, which are warning signs of ice accumulation.

After the captain reacted inappropriately to the stick shaker, the stick pusher activated. As designed, it pushed the nose down when it sensed a stall was imminent, but the captain again reacted improperly and overrode that additional safety device by pulling back again on the control column, causing the plane to stall and crash. Bill Voss, president of Flight Safety Foundation, told USA Today that it sounded like the plane was in "a deep stall situation".

On May 11, 2009, information was released about Captain Renslow's training record. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, before joining Colgan, he had failed three "check rides", including some at Gulfstream International's training program, and "people close to the investigation" suggested that he might not have been adequately trained to respond to the emergency that led to the airplane's fatal descent. Investigators examined possible crew fatigue. The captain appeared to have been at Newark airport overnight, prior to the day of the 9:18 pm departure of the accident flight. The first officer commuted from Seattle to Newark on an overnight flight. These findings during the investigation led the FAA to issue a "Call to Action" for improvements in the practices of regional carriers.

Another press report said that the pilot had failed five prior tests, and also alleged "flirtatious" conversation in the cockpit between the pilot and the much younger first officer.

On February 2, 2010, the NTSB issued its final report, describing the details of its investigation that led to 46 specific conclusions.

One conclusion determined that both the captain and the first officer were fatigued at the time of the accident, but the NTSB could not determine how much it degraded their performance.

The pilots' performance was likely impaired because of fatigue, but the extent of their impairment and the degree to which it contributed to the performance deficiencies that occurred during the flight cannot be conclusively determined.

Among those conclusions were the fact that both the captain and the first officer responded to the stall warning in a manner contrary to their training. The NTSB could not explain why the first officer retracted the flaps and suggested that the landing gear should also be retracted, though it did find that the current approach-stall training was not adequate:

The current air carrier approach-to-stall training did not fully prepare the flight crew for an unexpected stall in the Q400 and did not address the actions that are needed to recover from a fully developed stall.

Those findings were immediately followed by the board's "Probable Cause" statement:

The captain's inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. Contributing to the accident were (1) the flight crew's failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the low-speed cue, (2) the flight crew's failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, (3) the captain's failure to effectively manage the flight, and (4) Colgan Air's inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, while concurring, made it clear that she considered fatigue to be a contributing factor. She compared the 20 years that fatigue had remained on the NTSB's Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements, during which no meaningful action was taken by regulators in response, to the changes in tolerance for alcohol over the same period, noting that the impact on performance from fatigue and alcohol were similar.

However, Vice Chairman Christopher A. Hart and Board Member Robert L. Sumwalt III dissented on the inclusion of fatigue as a contributing factor, on the grounds that evidence was insufficient to support such a conclusion. Notably, the same kind of pilot errors and standard operating procedure violations had been found in other accidents where fatigue was not a factor.

The FAA has proposed or implemented several rule changes as a result of the Flight 3407 accident, in areas ranging from pilot fatigue to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate qualifications of up to 1,500 hours of flight experience for both pilot and copilot. One of the most significant changes has already taken effect, changing the way examiners grade checkrides in flight simulators during stalls.

From WGRZ:

A new rule from the Federal Aviation Administration will make it easy for airlines to share information regarding their pilots with each other.

It's the latest step to improve air safety as a result of the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Clarence Center 12 years ago.

The Pilot Records Database will be maintained by the F.A.A., and will require the airlines to report their pilots' employment history, training and qualifications.

The information can now be shared between air carriers, which will also be required to review records in the database before hiring pilots.

The database will include the following information:

  • FAA pilot certificate information, such as certificates and ratings
  • FAA summaries of unsatisfactory pilot applications for new certificates or ratings
  • FAA records of accidents, incidents, and enforcement actions
  • Records from employers on pilot training, qualification, and proficiency
  • Pilot drug and alcohol records
  • Employers’ final disciplinary action records
  • Pilot records concerning separation of employment
  • Verification of pilot motor vehicle driving record.

This measure was part of the push made by the families of the 49 passengers and crew who died, along with another person on the ground, when the crash occurred in February of 2009.

"I've said this before that in New York State, if you want to drive a school bus, they check their records all the way to when you got your driver's license," said John Kausner, who along with his wife Marilyn, lost their 24 year old daughter in the crash later blamed on pilot error.

"He was not qualified to fly that plane... he had failed five check rides prior to that and the airline didn't know it," John Kausner said. "And they testified at the NTSB hearing that had they known it, they wouldn't have hired him."

But while it's taken 12 years to get to this point airlines will have more than three years more to fully comply with the new rules.

"Welcome to the federal government," John Kausner said. "Yes, they have to come into compliance in 36 months. I think they have all the data collected, so why it can't be next month is beyond me but that's where we're at."

Flight 3407 families are heralding the news, however, as an important and final piece of a puzzle toward safer skies, which follows their previously successful efforts to lobby for increased and more rigorous pilot training and for mandatory rest periods between flights for air crews.

"It's a proud moment for us and we believe that the greatest legacy to our loved ones are all the lives that have been saved because they inspired us and we feel like we finished the race," Marilyn Kausner said.

Added her husband, "A lot of people don't realize that we haven't had an airline crash in the United States in 12 years. In the 20 years preceding that there was more than one crash per year on average in the United States. That was the record before the 3407 crash, and in the 12 years since there have been zero. And that's not just due to our efforts, but also due to the efforts of our congressional delegation and media which has kept these issues in the public eye."

Oct 26, 2021

The accident airplane, registration N93119 (a Boeing 747-131), was manufactured by Boeing in July 1971; it had been ordered by Eastern Air Lines, but after Eastern cancelled its 747 orders, the plane was purchased new by Trans World Airlines. The aircraft had completed 16,869 flights with 93,303 hours of operation and was powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7AH turbofan engines. On the day of the accident, the airplane departed from Ellinikon International Airport in Athens, Greece, as TWA Flight 881 and arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) about 4:38 pm. The aircraft was refueled, and a crew change was made; the new flight crew consisted of 58-year-old Captain Ralph G. Kevorkian (who had flown for TWA for 31 years and the U.S. Air Force for 9 years), 57-year-old Captain/Check Airman Steven E. Snyder (who had flown for TWA for 32 years), and 63-year-old Flight Engineer/Check Airman Richard G. Campbell Jr. (who had flown for TWA for 30 years and the U.S. Air Force for 12 years), as well as 25-year-old flight engineer trainee Oliver Krick, who had flown for TWA for 26 days and was starting the sixth leg of his initial operating experience training.

The ground-maintenance crew locked out the thrust reverser for engine #3 (treated as a minimum equipment list item) because of technical problems with the thrust reverser sensors during the landing of TWA 881 at JFK, prior to Flight 800's departure. Additionally, severed cables for the engine #3 thrust reverser were replaced. During refueling of the aircraft, the volumetric shutoff (VSO) control was believed to have been triggered before the tanks were full. To continue the pressure fueling, a TWA mechanic overrode the automatic VSO by pulling the volumetric fuse and an overflow circuit breaker. Maintenance records indicate that the aircraft had numerous VSO-related maintenance writeups in the weeks before the accident.

TWA 800 was scheduled to depart JFK for Charles de Gaulle Airport around 7:00 pm, but the flight was delayed until 8:02 pm by a disabled piece of ground equipment and a passenger/baggage mismatch. After the owner of the baggage in question was confirmed to be on board, the flight crew prepared for departure, and the aircraft pushed back from Gate 27 at the TWA Flight Center. The flight crew started the engines at 8:04 pm. However, because of the previous maintenance undertaken on engine #3, the flight crew only started engines #1, #2, and #4. Engine #3 was started 10 minutes later at 8:14 pm. Taxi and takeoff proceeded uneventfully.Flight path of TWA 800: The colored rectangles are areas from which wreckage was recovered.

TWA 800 then received a series of heading changes and generally increasing altitude assignments as it climbed to its intended cruising altitude. Weather in the area was light winds with scattered clouds, with dusk lighting conditions. The last radio transmission from the airplane occurred at 8:30 pm, when the flight crew received and then acknowledged instructions from Boston Center to climb to 15,000 feet (4,600 m). The last recorded radar transponder return from the airplane was recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar site at Trevose, Pennsylvania, at 8:31:12 pm.

Thirty-eight seconds later, the captain of an Eastwind Airlines Boeing 737 reported to Boston ARTCC that he "just saw an explosion out here", adding, "we just saw an explosion up ahead of us here ... about 16,000 feet [4,900 m] or something like that, it just went down into the water." Subsequently, many air traffic control facilities in the New York/Long Island area received reports of an explosion from other pilots operating in the area. Many witnesses in the vicinity of the crash stated that they saw or heard explosions, accompanied by a large fireball or fireballs over the ocean, and observed debris, some of which was burning while falling into the water.

Various civilian, military, and police vessels reached the crash site and searched for survivors within minutes of the initial water impact, but found none, making TWA 800 the second-deadliest aircraft accident in United States history at that time.

Oct 22, 2021

The aircraft, a DC-9-32, registered N904VJ, was the 496th DC-9 assembled at the Long Beach plant, was 27 years old at the time and had been previously flown by Delta Air Lines. Its first flight was April 18, 1969. Delivered to Delta on May 27, 1969, as N1281L, the airframe flew for Delta until the end of 1992, when it was retired and sold back to McDonnell Douglas. McDonnell Douglas then sold the plane to ValuJet in 1993. The aircraft was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-9A turbofan engines.

The aircraft had suffered a series of incidents in the two years before the crash, including two aborted takeoffs and eight emergency landings. Engine and pressurization errors were the primary issues in several of the incidents. In May 1995, the FAA issued a re-wiring directive for all DC-9 cockpits because the wire bundles in the switch panel could cause "fire and uncontrolled smoke throughout the cockpit as a result of chafing and shorting."

In the flight deck were two experienced pilots: Captain Candi Kubeck (35) and First Officer Richard Hazen (52). Captain Kubeck had accumulated 8,928 total flight hours throughout her career (including 2,116 hours on the DC-9) and First Officer Hazen had more than 11,800 total flight hours throughout his career, with 2,148 of them on the DC-9.

On the afternoon of May 11, 1996, Flight 592 pushed back from gate G2 in Miami after a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes due to mechanical problems. There were 105 passengers, mainly from Florida and Georgia, as well as a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants, bringing the total number of people on board to 110. At 2:04 PM EDT, 10 minutes before the disaster, the DC-9 took off from runway 9L (now runway 8R) and began a normal climb.

The NTSB quickly determined that just before takeoff, 144 expired chemical oxygen generators, each slightly larger than the size of a tennis ball can, had been placed in the cargo compartment in five boxes marked COMAT (company material) by ValuJet's maintenance contractor, SabreTech, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations forbidding the transport of hazardous materials in passenger aircraft cargo holds. Failure to cover the generators' firing pins with the prescribed plastic caps made an accidental activation much more likely. The investigation revealed that rather than covering them, the cords attached to the firing pins were simply cut or duct-taped around the cans, and Scotch tape was also used to stick the ends down. SabreTech employees indicated on the cargo manifest that the "oxy canisters", which were loosely packed in the boxes that were each sealed with tape and bubble wrap, were "empty". ValuJet workers then loaded the boxes in the cargo hold in the mistaken belief that the devices that they contained were just empty canisters, thus being certified as supposedly "safe" to transport on a passenger aircraft, when in fact they were neither simple oxygen canisters, nor empty.

Chemical oxygen generators, when activated, produce oxygen for passengers if the plane suffers a decompression. However, they also produce a great quantity of heat due to the exothermic nature of the chemical reaction involved. Therefore, not only could the heat and generated oxygen start a fire, but the oxygen could also keep the fire burning. The fire was worsened by the presence of two main aircraft tires (one of them mounted on a main wheel) and a nose tire and wheel that were also included in the list of materials shipped as COMAT. Investigators determined that one of the oxygen generators was likely triggered when the plane experienced a slight jolt while taxiing. As the aircraft taxied and took off, the activated generator got hotter and hotter. Soon, the boxes and surrounding packaging ignited, starting a fire.

At 2:10 PM, the passengers started to smell smoke. At the same time, the pilots heard a loud bang in their headphones and noticed the plane was losing electrical power. The sag in electrical power and the bang were eventually determined to be the result of a tire in the cargo hold exploding. Seconds later, a flight attendant entered the cockpit and informed the flight crew of a fire in the passenger cabin. Passengers' shouts of "fire, fire, fire" were recorded on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) when the cockpit door was opened. Though ValuJet's flight attendant training manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases might be present in the cabin, the intercom was not functional and informing the pilots of what was happening was difficult. The flight data recorder (FDR) indicated a progressive failure of the DC-9's electrical and flight control systems due to the spreading fire.

Kubeck and Hazen immediately asked air traffic control for a return to Miami due to the increasing smoke in the cockpit and cabin, and were given instructions for a return to the airport. One minute later, Hazen requested the nearest available airport. Kubeck began to turn the plane left in preparation for the return to Miami.

Flight 592 disappeared from radar at 2:13:42 PM, the exact time that it crashed. Eyewitnesses nearby watched as the plane banked sharply, rolled onto its side and nosedived into the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in the Everglades, a few miles west of Miami, at a speed in excess of 507 miles per hour (816 km/h). Kubeck lost control of the plane less than 10 seconds before impact. Examination of debris suggested that the fire had burned through the floorboards in the cabin, resulting in structural failure and damage to cables underneath the instrument panels. The NTSB report on the accident stated, "the Safety Board cannot rule out the possibility that the flightcrew was incapacitated by smoke or heat in the cockpit during the last 7 seconds of the flight." Interruptions in the cockpit voice recorder occurred on two occasions, one as long as 1 minute 12 seconds. The aircraft hit the water at 2:13:42 PM EDT, about 10 minutes after takeoff. The impact site was on the western edge of Florida Water Conservation Area 3B, between two levees, in an area known as the L-67 Pocket.

None of the 110 passengers or crew on board survived the accident. Additionally, recovery of the aircraft and victims was made extremely difficult by the location of the crash. The nearest road of any kind was more than a quarter mile (400 m) away from the crash scene, and the location of the crash itself was a deep-water swamp with a floor of solid limestone. The aircraft was destroyed on impact, with no large pieces of the fuselage remaining. Sawgrass, alligators, and risk of bacterial infection from cuts plagued searchers involved in the recovery effort.

According to the NTSB's report, two witnesses fishing nearby testified that "they saw a low-flying airplane in a steep right bank. According to these witnesses, as the right bank angle increased, the nose of the airplane dropped and continued downward. The airplane struck the ground in a nearly vertical attitude."

They reported seeing no external damage or any sign of fire or smoke other than the engine exhaust. A group of sightseers in a small private plane also witnessed the crash and provided a nearly identical account, stating that Flight 592 seemed to "disappear" after hitting the swamp and they could see nothing but scattered small debris, part of an engine, and a large pool of jet fuel near the crash site.

Oct 19, 2021

At some point in your flying career, either in an FAA Practical Test or in real life, you will be required to perform a visual approach to a landing. In a simulator checkride, typically the electronic glideslope and VASI (visual approach slope indicator) will be rendered inoperative.

For planning purposes, we will use 3 degrees as the desired approach path. That is a typical ILS glideslope and typical VASI glideslope. For a 3-degree descent, your descent rate (vertical speed) will need to be 1/2 your groundspeed times 10. For example, if your groundspeed is 100 knots, you will need to descend at 500 feet per minute to remain on a 3-degree glideslope.

You can read your groundspeed directly from your glass-cockpit instruments. What if you're flying an aircraft with antique gauges? That's where some mental math comes in. Your groundspeed is your true airspeed minus the headwind. You can estimate the headwind by using ATIS winds and adding a few knots for the increased winds (assumed) at approach altitude. How about your true airspeed? Calculate your true airspeed by increasing your indicated airspeed by 2 percent for every 1000 feet above sea level. For example, if you are flying the approach at 90 knots at an average altitude of 5000 feet in Colorado, your true airspeed will be 10 percent higher than your indicated airspeed. So your true airspeed will be 100 knots (actually, 99 knots, but we're doing PILOT math!). If your headwind is 10 knots, your groundspeed is 90 knots, so you will descend at 450 feet per minute.

Here's an even easier way to maintain a 3-degree glideslope: simply fly towards the runway at the glideslope intercept altitude, maintaining final approach airspeed. When you fly over the outer marker (the blue marker beacon light, or the DME for the final approach fix), simply lower the nose 3 degrees and hold that pitch. Wherever the touchdown zone appears in your windscreen, hold that sight picture all the way down. Piece of cake!

Oct 15, 2021

I was hired by United Airlines as a Flight Officer on October 16, 1978. In those days they used the term "Flight Officer" instead of "Pilot" because most new-hires were assigned as Flight Engineers. Now, of course, new-hires are all hired as pilots.

My road to the airlines:

1977: Flight Engineer written exam

1977: Airline Transport Pilot written exam - FAILED on the first attempt!

1977: Self-study for ATP written exam - PASSED with 99%

1977: Airline Transport Pilot practical test - Beech 18

1978 (March): Flight Engineer training at Arnautical, Inc.

1978 (April): Instructed Flight Engineer trainees at Arnautical

1978 (May): Updated United application

1978 (July): Interviewed with United Airlines

1978 (October): New-hire at United

1981 (June): Furloughed!

Oct 11, 2021

Brett had an early love for aviation, inspired by his uncle, a United Airlines B-747 Captain. He started flying at age 16 and attained all of his certificates while in college. He was anxious to get into professional aviation, and graduated a year early so he could get his start.

His first flying job after graduation was in the cold northeast, where the airplane engine had to be artificially warmed for two hours before flight, but the cockpit stayed frigid! He was then hired by Mesa Airlines, based in Orlando, to fly his first jet. He upgraded to Captain at JFK Airport, where he sometimes had to taxi for two hours fo a 30-minute flight. 

After about five years and being downgraded, Brett was starting to feel burned out with regional flying. He heard about a corporate flying job and went to a bar to learn more. He wanted to separate himself from the pool of pilot applicants, he had his resume produced on a cake! He didn't get the job, but got on the company's radar, and was ultimately hired.

Brett eventually worked his way up to Chief Pilot at Kroger, and is now firmly committed to the company.

From NBAA:

Since Minturn transitioned from the airlines to business aviation, the NBAA Safety Committee member and chair of the Midwest Safety Roundtable has pursued his passion – aviation safety. He is a staunch advocate for adoption of the Aviation Safety Action Program in Part 91 operations, and last year he worked with the University of Amsterdam to develop aviation safety metrics. Minturn also has helped develop in-house technology solutions for data collection. “What I love about business aviation is I really feel like I’m making the company and the industry better.”

Oct 7, 2021

The Runway Awareness and Advisory System (RAAS) is one of a number of related software enhancements available on later-model Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning Systems. RAAS is designed to improve flight crew situational awareness, thereby reducing the risks of runway incursion, runway confusion and runway excursions.

Runway Awareness and Advisory System uses airport data stored in the EGPWS database, coupled with GPS and other onboard sensors, to monitor the movement of an aircraft around the airport. It provides visual/aural annunciations at critical points, such as "Approaching Runway 09 Left and confirmation when an aircraft is lined up on the runway prior to takeoff: for example, "On Runway 09 Right, 2,450 metres remaining." In a scenario where a crew inadvertently lines up on a parallel taxiway and commences a take off, an aural alert “On Taxiway, On Taxiway” is provided if the aircraft speed exceeds 40 kts. On approach and after touchdown, the system continues to announce the distance to go until the end of the runway is reached.

System Description

Advisories/cautions are generated based upon the current aircraft position as compared to the location of the airport runways, which are stored within the EGPWS Runway Database.

The aurals can be grouped into two categories:

  • Routine Advisories (annunciations the flight crew will hear during routine operations) and
  • Non-Routine Advisories/Cautions (annunciations the flight crew will seldom or perhaps never hear).

RAAS provides the flight crew with five ‘routine advisories'. Three of these annunciations will be heard by the crew in normal operations, providing increased position awareness relative to the runway during taxi and flight operations. They are intended to reduce the risk of a runway incursion. The two remaining ‘routine’ advisories provide information about the aircraft location along the runway, and are intended to reduce the risk of overruns. The five advisories are:

  • Approaching Runway - Airborne advisory provides the crew with awareness of which runway the aircraft is lined up with on approach.
  • Approaching Runway - On-Ground advisory provides the flight crew with awareness of approximate runway edge being approached by the aircraft during taxi operations.
  • On Runway - Advisory provides the crew with awareness of which runway the aircraft is lined-up with.
  • Distance Remaining - Advisories enhance crew awareness of aircraft along-track position relative to the runway end.
  • Runway End - Advisory is intended to improve flight crew awareness of the position of the aircraft relative to the runway end during low visibility conditions.

In addition, RAAS provides the flight crew with several ‘non-routine’ advisories/cautions. These annunciations are designed to enhance safety and situational awareness in specific situations not routinely encountered during normal aircraft operations. Some of the RAAS advisories include distance information. The unit of measure used for distance can be configured to be either metres or feet.

  • Approaching Short Runway - Airborne advisory provides the crew with awareness of which runway the aircraft is lined-up with, and that the runway length available may be marginal for normal landing operations. If desired, an additional caution annunciation can be enabled which provides the crew with awareness that the issue has not been resolved when the aircraft is on final approach.
  • Insufficient Runway Length - On-Ground advisory provides the crew with awareness of which runway the aircraft is lined-up with, and that the runway length available for takeoff is less than the defined minimum takeoff runway length. If desired, an additional caution annunciation can be enabled which provides the crew with awareness that the issue has not been resolved when the aircraft is on the final stage of takeoff.
  • Extended Holding on Runway - Advisory provides crew awareness of an extended holding period on the runway.
  • Taxiway Take-Off - Advisory enhances crew awareness of excessive taxi speeds or an inadvertent take-off on a taxiway. If desired, this function can provide a caution annunciation in lieu of an advisory annunciation.
  • Distance Remaining - Advisories provide the flight crew with position awareness during a Rejected Take Off (RTO).
  • Taxiway Landing - Alert provides the crew with awareness that the aircraft is not lined up with a runway at low altitudes.

Each RAAS function is independently enabled based on a customer specification and, when enabled, the RAAS functions operate automatically without any action required from the flight crew.

In addition to the aural annunciations provided, visual caution indications may be activated if the appropriate criteria are met. Visual text annunciations can also be configured so they are overlaid on the terrain display for a period of time after the warning is generated. 

Oct 4, 2021

With over 20 years of experience in the aviation industry as an educator, researcher, FAA Part 141 chief instructor, airline pilot, corporate pilot, and flight instructor, Chad is versed in the kinetic and dynamic challenges and changes in the aviation industry. His passion for aviation, education, background, research, and experiences are beneficial to industry start-ups, consulting firms, and aviation companies.

Chad was instrumental in obtaining the Part 141 certificate for Metropolitan State University of Denver's Aviation Department. As a result, Program graduates are eligible to obtain their Airline Transport Pilot certificate with 1,000 flight hours, compared to the 1,500 hours normally required.

Sep 30, 2021

Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day falls on September 26 this year and is traditionally observed on the last Sunday in September. The day is for honoring families of those who have received The Gold Star – the military award no one wants. The award commemorates the tragic death of a military member who has perished while in the line of duty and hopes to provide a level of comfort to the parents and families that are left behind. Since World War 1, a “Gold Star Family” has signified a family that has lost one of its members in combat. The family can display a Gold Star Service Flag for any military family members who have died from any honorable cause – each gold star on the flag signifies a death. Though today only around 1% of the country is involved in military service, as compared to the 12% during other times of war, like World War 2, there are still a significant number of surviving Gold Star families – not to mention, a Gold Star lives on in a family’s legacy.


Though the exact roots of the tradition aren’t totally known, it was during World War 1 that the gold star came to symbolize that a family member had fallen in battle. Around that time, the term “Gold Star Family” came to mean that you were a surviving family of a person who died in service and families hung banners with a gold star outside their homes. The tradition has since been authorized and seeks to ease the grief of mothers and families while reminding that no one truly serves alone.

Gradually, there came to be many ways for grieving family members to honor their loved ones with symbols worn or places outside the home. In 1918, President Wilson allowed grieving military mothers to wear a traditional black armband featuring a gold star. Soon after, it was approved for families to cover the blue star on the service flag outside of their home with a gold one. As of 1947, Gold Star family members can also display the Gold Star Lapel.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. first got its start in 1917, when Grace Siebold’s son was killed during World War 1. Wanting to create a support system for grieving mothers in similar circumstances, Grace gathered what would become the American Gold Star Mothers to grieve together and tend to hospitalized veterans in local hospitals. The organization was formalized as a non-profit in 1928, with a mission of remembrance, education, and patriotism. Still today, they support Gold Star mothers in their grief, hold an annual conference, and organize events with supporting groups.

Though Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day isn’t observed as a National, federal holiday like Memorial Day, it was declared by Congress in 1936 to be the last Sunday in September – though, at the time, it was only known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.” It was in 2011 that President Obama amended the declaration, declaring the day to include families as well as mothers. Today, the holiday includes any immediate family member and authorizes that person to display the Gold Star Service Flag.

Today, America is not embroiled in any kind of conflict like World War 1 or 2, and far fewer individuals consider Gold Star heroes and their families – oftentimes, people may think that they don’t know anyone in a Gold Star Family. However, there are many more Gold Star families from previous wars than you may think, and since over 1.3 million people are involved in the military today, it’s possible you know a family that still grieves a recent fallen soldier. Understanding the sacrifice and acknowledging the holiday are the best ways to support the families and honor the soldiers.


1918 Armbands Authorized

President Wilson authorized mothers who had lost a child in the war to wear a traditional black mourning armband featuring a gold star.

1929 American Gold Star Mothers

Started in Washington, DC, The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. quickly spread across the country. In 1929, the organization obtained a federal charter to support mothers who were often separated from their ailing or dead children.

June 23, 1936 Gold Star Mother’s Day Recognized

Since this date, Gold Star Mother’s Day has always fallen on the last Sunday of September.

1947 Gold Star Lapel

The Gold Star Service Lapel, in addition to the Gold Star Service Flag, is authorized to be displayed by surviving family members.September 23, 2011.

Obama Proclamation

President Obama amended “Gold Star Mother’s Day” to include families as “Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day” on September 23, 2011.

Sep 28, 2021

Pondering this past year and our new normal, I realized lessons learned from ancient and modern battlefields can be used in so many areas of our lives. Sitting down one night, hundreds of stories and lessons learned flowed onto the notebook pages. Three close friends told me “Share these with the rest of us!” The Lessons from the Cockpit podcast was born.

Flying is described as long periods of boredom interrupted by short intermittent periods of extreme terror.

On the Lessons from the Cockpit show, we debrief the most intriguing pilots, aircrew members, maintainers, and aviation enthusiasts, investigating their tactics, techniques, and procedures cultivated during extraordinary military, commercial, and private flight operations.

Our exploration gives practical advice on how the aviation world works and expands critical thinking skills in the air and on the ground.

Many of our guests were involved in front-page headline news, others in events taking great pains to ensure they didn’t end up in the news.  

Sep 24, 2021

From Code 7700:

  • Fatigue. Fatigue refers to a physiological state in which there is a decreased capacity to perform cognitive tasks and an increased variability in performance as a function of time on task. Fatigue is also associated with tiredness, weakness, lack of energy, lethargy, depression, lack of motivation, and sleepiness.
  • Sleep Inertia. Sleep inertia (also termed sleep drunkenness) refers to a period of impaired performance and reduced vigilance following awakening from the regular sleep episode or nap. This impairment may be severe, last from minutes to hours, and be accompanied by micro-sleep episodes.
  • Window of Circadian Low (WOCL). Individuals living on a regular 24-hour routine with sleep at night have two periods of maximum sleepiness, also known as “WOCLs.” One occurs at night, roughly from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., a time when physiological sleepiness is greatest and performance capabilities are lowest. The other is in the afternoon, roughly from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Sleep-Related Processes

[AC 120-100, ¶7.]

  1. Sleep Regulation. The drive for sleep increases over time since the last sleep period and with any cumulative deficit in sleep relative to the average 8-hour day requirement. As a consequence, the sleep drive is at its lowest point in the morning, upon awakening, and as the day progresses, the drive to sleep increases and the ability to sustain attention and engage in cognitive activities decreases. Once sleep begins, this drive gradually decreases until awakening.
  2. Elevated Sleep Drive. For the average person, the daily upswing in alertness produced by the circadian system tends to offset the decrease in alertness produced by depletion of the sleep regulatory process. The result is roughly constant reaction time and lapses during the first 16 hours of the day 85. After about 16 hours of continuous wakefulness, most adults begin to notice reductions in the speed of performance and in alertness levels 87. However, a prior history of insufficient sleep quantity and quality can magnify the changes in behavior and alertness.
  3. Desynchronization. The timing of sleep and wakefulness of most humans, under natural conditions, is consistent with the circadian control of the sleep cycle and all other circadian-controlled rhythms. However, people working in a developed society override their internal biological clock and attempt to sleep at times that are not always consistent with the biological drive to sleep. For example, when individuals travel rapidly across time zones or work the night shift, the sleep/wake cycle is out of phase with the biological rhythms controlled by the circadian clock. This can adversely affect both alertness while awake and at work, and the ability to achieve restorative sleep.
  4. Sleep Inertia. This sleep-related process causes a temporary degradation in performance immediately after awakening. The degradation or loss of alertness is dependent on depth of sleep at the time of awakening. The degradation dissipates, after awakening, on a time scale ranging from minutes to a few hours. Sleep inertia causes a feeling of drowsiness or lethargy and can be measured as a noticeable change in reaction time and potential for lapses in attention. The duration and severity of sleep inertia is related to the depth of sleep at the time of awakening. It tends to be greater after short sleep periods of an hour or two, when the need for sleep is not fully satisfied, or after sleep when the person is carrying a large sleep debt from prior sleep restrictions 10.

Fatigue Factors


Figure: Window of circadian low, from Duty/Rest Guidelines for Business Aviation, §1.0.

[Duty/Rest Guidelines for Business Aviation, §1.0]

1.1 Sleep

  • Sleep is a vital physiological need. Sleep is necessary to maintain alertness and performance, positive mood, and overall health and well-being. Each individual has a basic sleep requirement that sustains optimal levels of performance and physiological alertness during wakefulness. On average, an adult requires eight hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
  • It has been shown in laboratory studies that loss of as little as two hours of sleep will induce fatigue and degrade subsequent waking performance and alertness. Over successive days, sleep loss — any amount less than is required — will accrue into a cumulative sleep deficit commonly referred to as a "sleep debt." The physiological need for sleep created by sleep loss can be reversed only by sleep. Recovery from acute sleep loss takes one or two consecutive extended sleep periods. These extended sleep periods will be even longer if a person is suffering from a cumulative sleep debt. An individual who has obtained ample recovery sleep will be better prepared to perform after long hours awake or while working nonstandard schedules than a person who is operating with a sleep debt.

1.2 Recovery Periods

  • Recovery from acute or cumulative sleep loss is critical when a person is challenged with non-standard schedules that include extended periods of wakefulness (e.g., extended duty periods) or circadian disruption (scheduled sleep/wake periods that are misaligned with the body's circadian rhythm, described in Section 1.3). Recovery is necessary to reduce the accumulated effects of fatigue and enable an individual to perform assigned duties fully rested. Further, recovery periods should allow for recuperative sleep opportunities of an appropriate number of hours and, in some cases, an appropriate number of successive days (as noted in Section 1.1).
  • Placement of recovery sleep periods is crucial and can be especially challenging when schedules include changing time zones because individuals may experience circadian misalignment. Westward travel is often associated with waking up too early in relation to the local time zone, and eastward travel is associated with delay in falling asleep in relation to the local time zone. (See Section 1.3 for further discussion.)
  • Another challenge an individual may experience when planning recovery rest is adaptation to time zone shifts (jet lag), as discussed in Section 1.3. Many operational factors impact the scheduling of recovery periods, and a simple rule may not fully account for the role that individual differences play in recovery. It is known that meeting daily sleep requirements and using restorative breaks promote optimal performance and alertness.
  • Frequent recovery periods reduce cumulative fatigue more effectively than less frequent ones. For example, weekly recovery periods are more likely to relieve acute fatigue than monthly recovery periods. Consequently, guidelines that ensure a minimum number of days off per week are necessary for minimizing cumulative fatigue effects over longer periods of time (e.g., month, year).

Time-of-Day and Circadian Physiology

  • Time-of-day or circadian effects are important considerations in determining 24-hour operational requirements because circadian rhythms do not adjust rapidly to change. In fact, the rhythms of many physiological functions adjust at different rates.
  • There is a 24-hour biological "clock" in the human brain, as in other organisms, that regulates 24-hour patterns of body functions. This clock controls not only sleep and wakefulness alternating in parallel with the environmental light/dark cycle, but also the oscillatory nature of most physiological, psychological and behavioral functions. The wide range of body functions controlled by the clock includes body temperature, hormone secretion, digestion, physical and mental performance, mood and many others. On a 24-hour basis, these functions fluctuate in a regular pattern with a high level at one time of day and a low level at another time.
  • The clock's circadian (circa meaning "around," dies meaning "day") pattern of wakefulness and sleep programs the human body for wakefulness during the day and sleep at night. This circadian system repeats this pattern on a daily basis. Certain hours of the 24-hour cycle — that is, roughly 0200 to 0600 (for individuals adapted to a usual day-wake/night-sleep schedule), called the window of circadian low (WOCL) — are identified as a time when the body is programmed to sleep, and during which alertness and performance are degraded. There is a second, less pronounced, period of reduced alertness between 1500 and 1700. The body is also programmed for two periods of enhanced alertness and performance, and these periods are estimated to occur roughly between 0900 and 1100 and again between 2100 and 2300.
  • Non-standard schedules interrupt daily wake and sleep patterns, resulting in internal circadian disruption. For example, an individual working during the night is maintaining wakefulness in direct opposition to physiological programming to be asleep. Physiological, psychological and behavior al functions are set by the circadian system to a low status during the WOCL and a person cannot compensate by being awake and active. Conversely, the same individual sleeping during the day is in direct opposition to physiological programming to be awake. The circadian system provides a high level of functioning during the day that counteracts the drive to sleep.
  • Circadian disruption also occurs with jet lag. When the biological clock is not aligned with the external environment's time cues, desynchronization occurs both in relation to the external environment and among the various internal physiological functions. Such circadian disruptions can lead to acute sleep loss, sleep debt, decrements in performance and alertness, and various health problems (e.g., gastrointestinal).
  • Scientists agree there is no simple equation to determine the rate of circadian adjustment in any one individual. Numerous factors play a role, such as number of time zones crossed, direction of travel, amount and timing of light exposure, morning/evening types, and long sleepers vs. short sleepers. While one study in the 1970s on non-pilot volunteers suggests that when adjusting to eastbound travel, circadian rhythms adjust at a rate of 1.0 hour per day and when traveling westbound, the adjustment rate is 1.5 hours per day, this has not been confirmed with additional scientific study.

1.4 Continuous Waking Hours

  • Extended wakefulness and prolonged periods of continuous performance or vigilance on a task will result in sleepiness and fatigue. Across duty periods, these effects can accumulate further. One way to minimize the accumulation of these effects is to limit the length of a duty period (i.e., the continuous hours of wakefulness during operations). Acute effects can be addressed through daily duty limits, and cumulative effects can be minimized by weekly limits.
  • More scientific evidence is available to support guidelines for acute limits than for determining specific cumulative limits. Nevertheless, cumulative limits (weekly and beyond) remain an accepted operational approach for minimizing accumulation of fatigue effects.

1.5 Individual Differences

  • There are considerable individual differences in the magnitude of fatigue effects on performance, physiological alertness and subjective reports of fatigue. These differences extend to the effects of sleep loss, night work, required sleep and recovery time for an individual.
  • Individuals vary from one another in sleep requirement, overall health, age and other factors. Individuals' fatigue level can also vary from day to day based on their participation in activities that contribute to fatigue while on duty and prior to a duty period. In this regard, long-duration commutes immediately before a duty period are of concern.
  • Scientists agree that increased workload amplifies the performance degradation produced by extended hours of wakefulness and adverse circadian phase (that is, being awake during the WOCL). And individuals respond differently to the effects of workload. In aviation, workload factors can include the number of flight segments, time on task, airport characteristics, weather conditions, aircraft capabilities and other environmental conditions.

Sources of Pilot Fatigue

[Caldwell, pg. 6] Both long-haul and short-haul pilots commonly associate fatigue with scheduling issues

  • Night flights (operating at circadian low point)
  • Multiple time-zone crossings (jet lag)
  • Early wake ups (truncated sleep)
  • Time pressure (increased workload)
  • Multiple flight legs (extended work periods)
  • Consecutive duty periods without sufficient recovery time (chronic sleep loss)

Symptoms of Pilot Fatigue

[Caldwell, pg. 9]

  • Accuracy and timing degrade
  • Lower standards of performance become acceptable
  • Attentional resources are difficult to divide
  • A tendency toward preservation develops
  • The ability to integrate information is lost
  • Everything becomes more difficult to perform
  • Social interactions decline
  • The ability to logically reason is impaired
  • Attention wanes
  • Attitude and mood deteriorates
  • Involuntary lapses into sleep begin to occur

Effects of Pilot Fatigue


Figure: In-cockpit nodding off episodes, from Caldwell, pg. 16.

[Caldwell, pg. 16.]

  • A study of night flights undertaken in the 1980’s revealed numerous instances of nodding off in the cockpit
  • In the early morning hours, the frequency of such lapses increased tenfold
  • Note than many of these occur well after sunrise!

[Caldwell, pg. 18.]

  • Standardized laboratory tests show decrements in pilots’ attention, reaction time, and accuracy
  • Fatigue-induced mood changes compromise crew resource management
  • Flight simulation and in-flight studies show deteriorations in fundamental flight skills
  • And the group effects fail to highlight the full extent of impairments experienced by some pilots
Sep 20, 2021

Robert DeLaurentis, “Zen Pilot,” is a successful author, speaker, pilot, real estate entrepreneur, philanthropist and Navy Gulf War Veteran. His books include the best-selling Zen Pilot: Flight of the Passion and the Journey Within; Flying Thru Life: How to Grow Your Business and Relationships Through Applied Spirituality; and the forthcoming, Citizen of the World: To the Ends of the Earth and Beyond.

In 2019, Robert will undertake his second circumnavigation, this time from the North Pole to the South Pole in the “Citizen of the World,” a 1983 Turbine Commander 900 aircraft with the powerful global mission of “One Planet, One People, One Plane: Oneness for Humanity.” This trip is a real-time example of going after the seemingly impossible, not giving up while “Flying Thru Life” and making the dream of connecting our humanity through flight a reality.

Founder and president of the inspirational publishing company Flying Thru Life and the charitable organization, DeLaurentis Foundation, Robert’s mission is to inspire people and organizations to live their impossibly big dreams through the wonder of aviation and the power of courageous action.

A notable pilot listed in Wikipedia, Robert has flown his single engine Piper Malibu Mirage to 53 countries and territories in three years, including Europe, Central America, Southern Africa, Asia, Siberia, Mexico and the Caribbean. Flying solo, Robert has crossed the Polar Ice Cap, the North Atlantic Ocean, Bering Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
In 2015, Robert successfully completed an equatorial circumnavigation, single plane, single engine, single pilot, across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans to 23 countries in his Piper Malibu Mirage named “Spirit of San Diego.” He survived an engine-out at 14,000 feet over the Strait of Malacca and dead sticked 19.6 nautical miles into Kuala Lumpur International with 600 pounds of fuel in the cabin and oil spraying on the 1500 degree exhaust. He lived to tell the story in his best-selling book, Zen Pilot.

In recognition of his courage, resourcefulness and contribution to the San Diego community, the San Diego Mayor’s Office and City Council awarded Robert the “Spirit of San Diego Day” Proclamation.

An AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association) Opinion Leader Blogger with 400,000 followers and more than 100 media interviews, Robert is a recognized social media influencer. In addition to his media and speaking appearances and books, he has recorded the video, Overcoming the Fear of Flying, Unleashing Potential, to be released to 26,000 high schools across the US and created the Citizen of the World Pole to Pole Flight Coloring and Activity Book for children of all ages.

Robert’s real estate business, Innorev Enterprises, Inc., includes over 300 real estate units, acquired over twenty-eight years. Starting with one condo in 1990, his road to success, much like flying, was not a straight path. The lessons he learned and the success he experienced along the way funded his dream of becoming a pilot and owning a plane, and is the basis of his book, Flying Thru Life.

Robert has an undergraduate degree in Accounting from USC, and an advanced degree in graduate studies in Spiritual Psychology, a three year program with an emphasis in Consciousness, Health, and Healing from the University of Santa Monica.
Robert was in the Navy for 14 years – four years active duty and 10 years reserves, leaving in 2003 as a Lieutenant Commander.
Born in Salamanca, New York, Robert grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area until he was 10 years old, followed by three years in Indonesia. His family returned back to the Bay Area, where Robert lived until attending college at USC. After his initial tour with the Navy, he settled in San Diego where he currently resides. However, watch his Google Map to find out where he is flying to today!

Sep 17, 2021

POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday of September, on September 17 this year, to recommit to full accountability to the families of the more than 80,000 veterans captured or still missing from wars that the United States has participated in. According to accounts, during the first ceremony of POW/MIA Day at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., fighter airplanes from the military base in Virginia flew in the ‘missing man formation’ in their honor.


National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually in September around a central theme to show commitment to full accountability to the families of captured service members and missing war heroes.

The term POW and MIA mean prisoner of war and military personnel who went missing in action.

Many service members suffered as prisoners during the several wars that have happened throughout the history of the U.S. National POW/MIA Recognition Day was initiated as the day to commemorate with the family of many of the tens of thousands of service members who never made it home.

The day was first observed in 1979 after Congress and the president passed a resolution to make it official following the demands of the families of 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs who asked for accountability in finding their loved is also mostly associated with service members who were prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.

Regardless of where they are held in the country, National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies share the common purpose of honoring those who were held captive and returned, as well as the memory of those who remain missing in service to the United States.

Until 1979, there was no formal day set aside for these important men and women and the first observance of POW/MIA day included a remembrance ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Since then, the Pentagon is where the official observance happens, with other celebrations happening at military bases around the country and elsewhere.

On the Ready For Takeoff Podcast, we've had the honor of speaking to the following POWs:

Lee Ellis

Smitty and Louise Harris 

John Borling

Charlie Plumb

Robert Shumaker

Sep 13, 2021

The term The Greatest Generation was popularized by the title of a 1998 book by American journalist Tom Brokaw. In the book, Brokaw profiled American members of this generation who came of age during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II, as well as those who contributed to the war effort on the home front. Brokaw wrote that these men and women fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the "right thing to do."

I have had the honor of interviewing numerous members of this generation, pilots who bravely served in World War Two. Many people are not aware that casualties in the war were higher among aircrews than among Marines.

The people who served during World War II were from a different generation, at a time when patriotism was the order of the day and national service was expected and respected. Major movie stars put their careers on hold to serve their country. Athletes like Ted Williams continued to serve in Korea.

Today, the environment is different. There is no longer a draft. Military service is totally voluntary. As a result, only 1 percent of Americans new serve in the military.

I believe that the military members of today are truly the greatest generation. A perfect example of this is Pat Tilman, who gave up his four million dollar salary to serve his country.

I recently worked with a retired Marine pilot who had served two years in Iraq and five years in Afghanistan.

Sep 9, 2021

Attempting to crash an aircraft into a building was not an entirely new

paradigm. Despite Secretary Rice stating, “I don't think anybody could have

predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile” (Brush, 2002, para.

24), there had been numerous prior attempts to utilize aircraft in this manner

(CNN, 2001). In addition, there had been a significant number of warnings

suicide hijackings posed a serious threat.

In 1972, hijackers of Southern Airways Flight 49 threatened to crash the

airliner into Oak Ridge National Laboratory if a $10 million ransom was not paid

(CNN, 2001). Copilot Johnson reported, “The demands at Knoxville were that if

we didn't have the money by 1:00 that we'd crash into the nuclear reactor there”

(CNN Transcripts, 2001, para. 151). The hijacked airliner was placed in a dive

toward Oak Ridge, and was only pulled out of the dive at the last minute when

Southern Airways agreed to pay $2 million to the hijackers (Allison, 2004).

In 1974, S. Byck attempted to hijack a Delta Airlines DC-9 aircraft to

crash it into the White House (Cohen, 2009). During the hijacking, Byck killed a

security guard and the copilot before committing suicide after being wounded by

police. Also in 1974, Private R. Preston stole an Army helicopter and flew over

the White House and hovered for six minutes over the lawn outside the West

Wing, raising concerns about a suicide attack (White House Security Review,


Following the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Jenkins and

Edwards-Winslow (2003) conducted an exhaustive threat analysis for the World

Trade Center. They concluded that an aerial attack by crashing an aircraft into the

Center was a remote possibility which must be considered. Reports indicated Iran

was training pilots to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings: “Trained

aircrews from among the terrorists would crash the airliner into a selected

objective” (Bodansky, 1993, p. 15). Senator S. Nunn was concerned terrorists

would attempt to crash a radio-controlled airplane into the Capitol during a State

of the Union address, possibly killing the President, Vice President, and all of

Congress (Nelan, 1995).

In 1994, four Algerian terrorists attempted to hijack Air France Flight

8969 (Air Safety Week, 1995). The group, identified as Phalange of the Signers

in Blood, killed one of the passengers, planted explosives on the plane, and

planned to crash the aircraft into the Eiffel Tower (Bazerman & Watkins, 2005).

French police stormed the aircraft and stopped the hijacking. R. Yousef, the

architect of the first World Trade Center attack, was associated with these

Algerian terrorists (Lance, 2003).

Another attempted airliner suicide hijacking occurred in 1994. Flight

Engineer A. Calloway boarded Federal Express Flight 705 as an additional jump

seat crewmember, intending to overpower the crew and crash the DC-10 aircraft

into the Federal Express corporate headquarters in Memphis (CVR Database,

1994). Calloway attacked the flight deck crew with a hammer, inflicting serious,

permanent disabling injuries to all three pilots (Wald, 2001).

On September 11, 1994, F. Corder attempted to crash an aircraft into the

White House (Wald, 2001). Experts had been concerned the White House was

highly vulnerable to an attack from the air (Duffy, 1994). Former CIA director R.

Helms expressed concern a suicidal pilot could easily divert from an approach to

Washington to crash into the White House (Duffy, 1994).

In 1995, FBI informant E. Salem revealed a Sudanese Air Force pilot’s

plot to bomb the Egyptian President’s home and then crash an aircraft into the

U.S. Embassy (Berger, 2004). Salem also testified about Project Bojinka, which,

in addition to the aforementioned bombing of 11 American aircraft, included

crashing an airplane into CIA headquarters. In addition to CIA headquarters, this

second Bojinka wave was planned to target the Pentagon, an unidentified nuclear

power plant, the Transamerica Building in San Francisco, the Sears Tower in

Chicago, the World Trade Center, John Hancock Tower in Boston, U.S. Congress,

and the White House (Brzenzinski, 2001).

McNeil (1996) noted in 1996, Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 was hijacked

and an attempt was made to crash into a resort in the Comoros Islands. At the last

moment, the pilot overpowered the hijacker and ditched the fuel-starved airplane

into the Indian Ocean near the coast. Of the 175 passengers, 123 died (AirSafe

Journal, 2001). Also in 1996, M. Udugov, a Chechen leader, threatened to hijack

a Russian airliner and crash it into the Kremlin (Cohen, 2002).

In 1998, White House Terrorism Chief R. Clarke conducted a training

exercise to simulate a Learjet intentionally crashing into a government building

(Kaplan, 2004). Clarke considered the exercise unsatisfactory (Kaplan, 2002). In

a 1998 briefing to the FAA, three terrorism experts were concerned terrorists

would hijack airliners and crash into buildings in the United States (Fainaru,


In 1998 the Kaplancilar terrorist organization had planned to crash an

explosives-laden plane into the tomb of M. Ataturk, Turkey’s founder (Anadolu

Agency, 2006). The entire Turkish government was gathered at the mausoleum

for a ceremony on the day scheduled for the attack. The plot was foiled and the

conspirators were arrested shortly before execution of the plan (Anadolu Agency,


In addition to actual aircraft suicide attacks, there were numerous

predictions of these types of attacks. One such prediction was the script which

showed an airliner crashing into New York in the 1980s movie Escape from New

York (“Kamikaze Jet Hijacking,” n.d.). Another prediction was in the March 2001

pilot episode of the Fox series The Lone Gunmen, featuring a hijacked Boeing 727

used as a missile to crash into the World Trade Center (Killtown, 2009).

In 1999, the British Secret Service MI6 provided the U.S. Embassy in

London with a secret report on al Qaeda activities (Rufford, 2002). The report

indicated al Qaeda was planning to use commercial aircraft to attack the United

States. The report stated the aircraft would be used in “unconventional ways”

(Rufford, 2006, para. 1).

In a report prepared for the Federal Research Division of the Library of

Congress, Hudson (1999) noted numerous terrorist threats, and specifically named

bin Laden and al Qaeda: “Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida’s Martyrdom

Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and

semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency

(CIA), or the White House” (p. 7). A 1999 keynote address at the National

Defense University warned terrorists might attempt to use unmanned aerial

vehicles (UAVs) to attack buildings (Hoffman, 2001). Security consultant C.

Schnabolk had remarked, in 2000, the most serious threat to the World Trade

Center was someone flying a plane into it (Reeves, 2001).

Sep 6, 2021

This is a special Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah gift for our listeners.

This is a fictional account, taken from Hamfist Down!, the sequel to Hamfist Over the Trail. Available soon as an audiobook.

Strong language!

December 21, 1969

I was scheduled for my Champagne Flight – my final mission – in the morning. Things had been uncharacteristically quiet on the trail for several days, and I wanted to get some target photos for Intel to find out what was going on. Also, I wanted some photos of the AO as a memento of my Vietnam tour.

The O-2 actually had the provision for a belly-mounted KB-18 aerial camera, but we didn't have any KB-18s at DaNang. So, if we wanted to take photos, we relied on hand-held cameras. There were a bunch of beat up old Nikon Fs at the squadron, but they were really heavy and difficult to use with one hand. It was really tough to fly and take pictures at the same time.

Then, about two weeks earlier, we got new cameras, Pentax Spotmatics with motor drives. Each camera had a pistol-grip mount with a trigger to activate the shutter, and the focus was set at “infinity”, so there would be no problem with single-hand operation. I was really looking forward to giving them a try. I signed one out on a hand receipt and carried it to the plane.

Task Force Alpha had provided Igloo White information from the seismic sensors that indicated a lot of truck activity along highway 165, near Chavane. I headed directly to the Chavane area to see if I could find anything.

Chavane was an old abandoned grass airfield. Reflectors still lined the edges of the runway, and it almost looked like it could support aircraft operations at any moment. I'd heard that it was an old Japanese airfield from World War II.

There was a dead truck parked out in the open, off to the south side of the east end of the runway. About a year ago, it had been used as a flak trap for unsuspecting FACs, but the word had been out for a long time and nobody paid any attention to it any more. There were no longer active guns, that we knew of, in the area.

I followed highway 165 away from the airfield, and kept my camera on the seat next to me, ready to use if I found anything of interest. I put the highway on the left side of the airplane, and made gentle turns right and left. It was during the left turns that I would be able to see gomer activity, if there was any. The gomers thought we always looked ahead of the airplane, and they would frequently conduct their movements after we passed, thinking we couldn't see them once they were behind the wing. 

Sure enough, back at my seven o'clock, I saw a truck cross the road, from the cover of the jungle on one side of the road to the cover of the jungle on the other side. I kept my eyes on the exact location and began a steeper turn back toward that area. 

I picked out a distinctive landmark, a small bend in the road, and then looked further away to see if there were any other landmarks that could point my eyes back to the target. I used the runway at Chavane for a yardstick. The target was exactly one runway length north of the east end of the runway. The bend in the road sort of pointed to the target. Okay, now I could leave the immediate target area and find my way back.

I flew off to the east and set up an orbit over an area a few klicks away, to make the gomers think I was interested in something else. I turned on the gyro-stabilized binoculars, locked onto the target area, and zoomed in to the highest setting.

Sure enough, I saw some vehicle tracks in the dirt alongside the road that indicated truck activity. I was pretty sure there was a truck park there, I just couldn't determine which side of the road it was on. I flew back to the target area and made a wide sweeping circle, taking pictures from every angle. If I couldn't get any air assets, I would at least have photos to give to Intel.

I switched my transmitter over to VHF and called Hillsboro.

“Hillsboro, Covey 218, vicinity Delta 33. I have a truck park and need air.”

“Roger, Covey 218, we're sending Sharkbait 41 to you, flight of two fox fours, CBU-24s and mark-82s. ETA 10 minutes. Strike frequency Echo.”

“Roger, thank you.”

I looked forward to working with Sharkbait Flight. Sharkbait was the callsign of the F-4s from Cam Ranh Air Base. When I was at the Cam Ranh hospital, I went by the F-4 squadron a few times, just to visit with the jocks. I got to know a few of them, and they showed me around one of the airplanes in the maintenance hangar. Sitting in the cockpit convinced me that I really ought to request an F-4 for my follow-on assignment. That really worked out well!

I switched my UHF to strike frequency Echo and waited. After a few minutes, the F-4s arrived at the rendezvous.

“Sharkbait, check.”


“Hello, Covey 218, Sharkbait 41, flight of two fox fours at the rendezvous point. Mark-82s and CBU-24s. Angels twenty-two. Twenty minutes playtime.”

“Roger Sharkbait. Look due south, at angels seven. I'm giving you a wing flash now.”

I rocked my wings several times and performed a quick aileron roll. The O-2 wasn't really an acrobatic aircraft, but an aileron roll wasn't all that much different than the maneuver we needed to perform a rocket pass. And I wanted to get my rocks off one last time.

“We have you in sight, Covey.”

“Roger, the target area is off my left wing. Truck park. Negative reaction so far. I'm in for the mark.”

I rolled into a 120-degree bank to the left and pulled the nose of my aircraft through into a 30-degree dive. When the pipper in my gun sight tracked up to the target, I fired off a willie pete. I pulled off hard to the right, then banked left to see where my mark hit. It was a perfect mark, right on the road adjacent to my target.

“Sharkbait has your mark in sight.”

“Okay, Sharkbait, the target is a truck park on both sides of the road, alongside my mark. I want you to run in with mark-82s from north to south, with a break to the west. Lead, put your bombs in the trees next to my mark. Either side of the road. Two, I want you to take the other side of the road. I'll be holding off to the east.”

“Sharkbait lead is in.”

Sharkbait lead put his bombs exactly where I wanted, and we immediately got huge secondary explosions. As lead pulled off target, there was heavy fire at his aircraft from a ZSU 23-4, located about a klick to the west of the target.

I transmitted, “Number two, hold high and dry. I want to put you in on that gun. Do you have the location, or do you want me to mark?”

Before number two could answer, lead came back on the radio.

“Sharkbait lead's been hit.”

I immediately got on the radio again, “Lead, head south, I repeat, head south. Number two, hold high and dry.”

Sharkbait two acknowledged.


Sharkbait lead had apparently heard me, he was heading south. I could see flames trailing from lead's aircraft, and they were moving forward, gradually engulfing the entire aircraft.

I was fairly sure lead knew he was on fire, but I didn't want to take any chances. “Sharkbait lead, you're on fire!”

Now burning pieces were separating from lead's aircraft.

Lead came on the radio one last time.

“Sharkbait lead bailing out.”

Sharkbait lead's aircraft was in a slight bank to the right, at about 5000 feet. The rear canopy separated, followed immediately by the ejection of the rear seat pilot. About a half-second later, the front canopy separated and the front seat pilot ejected. 

I was able to keep both ejection seats in sight, and watched in horror as the back seat pilot separated from his seat, his parachute automatically deployed, and the parachute didn't open – it was a streamer. He plummeted down into the jungle. There was no beeper.

I looked at the front pilot's seat and watched him separate. As his chute opened, I heard his high-to-low-sweep beeper on Guard. The front-seater had a good chute. I set up an orbit to the east and watched him descend, as I selected VHF and called Hillsboro.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday. Hillsboro, this is Covey 218, we have Sharkbait lead down in the area of Delta 33. Need immediate SAR.”

“Roger, Covey 218, we are notifying King.”

I switched back to UHF.

“Sharkbait two, say playtime remaining.”

“I can give you 30 minutes, then I need to RTB. Listen, Covey, we need to get a SAR for lead.”

“I'm working on it.”

“I mean,” he responded, “we really need to get lead picked up.”

“Roger, hold high and dry off to the east, over me. Climb to your best endurance altitude and let me know your angels when you get there. Left hand orbit. We're going to need to use you to go after that gun when SAR gets here.”


I watched the front-seat pilot descend to the ground. He landed in an open meadow. At least he wasn't hung up in the trees. I saw him release from his parachute harness and head south to find cover. Right after he disappeared into the tree line, the beeper went silent and he came up on Guard, using his survival radio.

“This is Sharkbait 41 Alpha. I'm on the move heading south. Unhurt.”

I saw about twenty gomers entering the meadow from the north. I went to Guard frequency.

“Sharkbait 41 Alpha, Covey 218, you need to keep moving. There are gomers north of you heading to where you came down.”


Back to strike frequency Echo.

“Sharkbait 42, Covey 218. I need to put you in with your CBU on the meadow. I'm in for the mark.”


I rolled in and put a willie pete dead center in the meadow. The gomers had flooded in and were now everywhere.

“Hit my mark. Cleared in hot with one CBU from any direction. I'll be off to the east.”

“Two's in.”

I watched Sharkbait 42 release his CBU, saw the spark that indicated the canister opened, then saw the donut-shaped sparkling pattern, right on target. I put the gyro-stabilized binoculars on the target area and saw a bunch of dead bodies. But I saw some gomers still moving through the meadow, headed south. And more were entering the meadow.

“Okay two, I need you to keep making passes on that target until you're winchester CBU.”

“Two's in.”

Sharkbait 42 made three more passes on the meadow, all right on target. There were a bunch of dead gomers. But there were still more coming in from the north.

Just then the ZSU 23-4 opened up again, this time targeting me. I jinked out of the way without too much trouble. I was getting good at dodge ball.

If I had to, I'd put Sharkbait 42 in on the gun now, but I wanted to reserve his mark-82s for the SAR. I went over to VHF.

“Hillsboro, Covey 218, what's the status of the SAR?”

“Covey 218, Jolly 22 is departing NKP now with Spad 11 Flight. ETA 30 minutes.”

“Roger, I need more air for the cap right now. I don't care what ordnance. I want them ASAP.”

“We're scrambling Dingus Flight from Ubon. They should be there in fifteen to twenty minutes.”

Shit. It looked like the gomers would be on top of Alpha before my air arrived.

Over to Guard.

“Four-one Alpha, say your position.”

“I'm still moving south. I hear automatic weapons fire coming from where I landed. I'm at the edge of a tree line now, alongside what looks like an old grass strip.”

“Okay Alpha, Covey 218. Cross the strip and hide in the tree line on the other side, the south side.”


Strike Frequency Echo.

“Sharkbait 42, I need to put your mark-82s on the tree line, north side of the midfield of that grass strip. Do you have the strip in sight?”


“Okay, hold high and dry until I call you in. Be ready to roll in on short notice.”


I checked out the tree line on the north side of the runway. No gomers yet. I kept checking, and after a few minutes the gomers appeared. I could see flashes. They were firing at Alpha.

“Sharkbait 42 roll in now, parallel to the runway, in the tree line, midfield, north side. North side only.”

“Two's in.”

His bombs were right on target. He held for a few more minutes, then made another run. And another.

“Sharkbait two is winchester.”

“Any chance you have twenty mike-mike?” I was hoping he had a cannon, but I already knew what the answer would be.

“Negative. Sharkbait 42 is bingo.”

“Roger, Sharkbait, cleared RTB. I'll pass BDA over the landline.”

Back to VHF.

“Hillsboro, I need those fighters and SAR, NOW”

There was a short pause. My guess was that Hillsboro was contacting Jolly and Dingus.

“Ten more minutes.”

Fuck! We didn't have ten minutes. The gomers were everywhere in the north tree line, muzzle flashes everywhere. I still had 12 willie petes left. Time to become an attack aircraft.

I rolled in on a rocket pass down the runway, angling in slightly toward the north. I fired off one willie pete at a time, and made 12 passes. 

I was now a war criminal.

The Geneva Convention prohibited the use of white phosphorous weapons. The willie pete rocket explodes with the lethal radius of a hand grenade, and the phosphorous sticks to the skin and burns at a temperature of five thousand degrees. It's terrible. It's illegal.

So is skinning a helpless captive. Or shooting at someone descending in a parachute. Or setting up a flak trap. Or shooting rockets at helpless South Vietnamese civilians. 

And besides, we were fighting a fucking war in Laos, where our government didn't even acknowledge our presence. Every fucking mission got logged as “South Vietnam”. We weren't even there, so the Geneva Convention wouldn't apply. And if it did, I didn't give a fuck. I wasn't going to let those bastards get Alpha.

I was out of willie petes, and SAR was still eight or nine minutes away.

Over to Guard.

“How are you doing, Alpha?”

“The gomers have me pinned down on the south side of the runway. They're shooting at me from across the runway and also from somewhere south of me.”

I had to do something. I climbed to 5000 feet and feathered my rear prop. Then I released my lap belt and moved to the passenger seat, opened the passenger door, and pulled the red door release handle. With the rear prop feathered, I didn't need to worry about the door hitting the rear prop as I jettisoned it. As soon as the door was gone, I unfeathered the rear prop, and the engine started right up.

I opened the karabiner that attached my AR-15 to my survival vest, put the rifle in full auto, and pushed the throttles to the firewall to fly down the runway at max airspeed. I went down to about five feet, screaming down the runway, firing my AR-15 out the open door at the north tree line. I emptied the 20-round clip in about a second. Shit! I should have used short bursts.

I pulled up into a chandelle, put another magazine in the AR-15, and made another run,. This time I was shooting out the left window. It was a smaller opening to shoot through, but it would have to do. Ejected shell casings hammered against the instrument panel. The glass on the Vertical Speed Indicator cracked. I didn't care.

Over to VHF. 

“Status on the SAR.”

“Five more minutes.”

“We don't have five fucking minutes!”

If I didn't get Alpha out of there right now, there would be no use having a SAR.

Over to Guard.

“Alpha, how high is the grass on the runway?”

“Not very high. Maybe eight, ten inches.”

“Okay, get ready to go for an airplane ride.”

I jettisoned my rocket pods and dove for the ground. I needed to get as low as I could as I approached the runway, so they wouldn't see me coming. I unsynchronized my propellers, so that the engines would make a beat frequency sound, making it more difficult to determine my location by ear.

I came in from the west. As I crossed over the end of the strip, I put down the landing gear and pulled the throttles to idle. I touched down a third of the way down the runway, and rapidly slowed to a crawl right at midfield. I suppose the gomers were totally surprised, because there was no ground fire. None. Alpha came running from the tree line and leaped through the open door into the passenger seat while the plane was still moving. 

I firewalled the throttles and hoped I still knew how to perform a soft-field takeoff. I got airborne and stayed in ground effect, trying to accelerate.

The gomers quickly caught on to what I was doing, and opened up from the tree lines, both left and right, with massive automatic weapons fire. I could hear our aircraft taking a few hits, but it was still flying. I think the gomers hadn't gotten the hang of leading a moving target. They'd probably never gone quail hunting.

I handed the AR-15 to Alpha and tried to tell him to kill those bastards. The sound of the engines, the open door, and the ground fire drowned out what I was saying, but he caught on and started shooting out the door. I could see gomers firing back, and some were falling down as he fired.

I climbed up to 5000 feet and tried to figure out which way to head. The front engine was starting to run rough, and my fuel gauges showed a huge discrepancy between the left and right tanks. I must have taken a hit in the right wing. I headed toward Lima 44, about 50 miles due west.

I still had work to do. I didn't want the SAR forces coming anywhere near that ZSU 23-4. I got on VHF.

“Hillsboro, cancel the SAR. Keep the SAR airplanes away from Delta 33. There's an active 23 mike-mike in the area. I have Sharkbait 41 Alpha in my aircraft. We've taken numerous hits, and we're recovering at Lima 44. Send Jolly 22 to Lima 44 for our pickup.”

“Roger. We'll pass the info.”

The front engine quit about two miles on final approach to Lima 44. Now I would need to pump the gear down, since the hydraulic pump was on the front engine. I feathered the front prop, put down the gear handle, reached down, extended the manual hydraulic pump handle, and started pumping. Then it occurred to me: I had a helper. I made a pumping motion with my right hand.

“Here. Pump this,” I said. He probably didn't hear me, but he figured out what to do.

The gear came down about a half-mile on final, and we had an uneventful landing. I followed a beat-up follow-me truck, probably the same one as last time, and shut down the airplane. When we got out, Alpha gave me a big hug. He didn't want to release me, and he was shaking.

I knew how he felt. I hugged him back, and then we both started crying.

“I, I don't know how to thank you. I'm Herb McCall.”

“I'm Hamfist Hancock. No problem, Herb. I've been in your situation, and I understand completely.”

Just like last time, Jolly 22 landed in the parking spot next to our airplane. I reached into my plane and grabbed the AR-15 and the Pentax, and then we climbed aboard the chopper. I went up to the cockpit and saw Vince.

“Hey, Vince, we've got to stop meeting this way! I'm on my Champagne Flight”

“You got that right, Hamfist. So am I.”

Alpha took off his survival vest and guzzled down the water the PJ handed to him.

When his vest was off, I saw the rank insignia on his shoulders. Alpha was a Brigadier General!

1 2 3 4 Next »