Category Archives: Are we having fun yet?

…you can’t just do that…

Been there, done that. A classic mishmash at JFK.

The airport diagram taxiways are labeled with letters, A for Alpha, you know the drill. Sometimes airplanes and controllers get out of phase.

The A340-600 in the conversation has a long body and wide wingspan, sometimes it can’t make turns and sometimes the taxiway is just too narrow to make 90 degree turns.

I can see the controller and his bottle of heartburn pills in the tower.

Evidently Jesus is the Captain in a JetBlue aircraft…



Filed under Are we having fun yet?, Funny Stuff, Humor, Idiots Among Us, Uncategorized

USS Ranger Flight Ops Off Vietnam 1972

From the good old days. The heart aches for the variety of aircraft on the flight deck in those days (ok I wasn’t born in ’72 but still).





SPOILER ALERT: Yeah, you can have that Viggie trap at the end. That quite frankly scared me a little and gave me a few gray hairs.

h/t to Comm Jam for the Facebook post.


Filed under Airplanes, Are we having fun yet?, Carriers, Flying, Good Ships, Good Stuff, Naval Aviation, Navy, Vietnam

Angel Thunder 2014

(Cross posted at Air Pogue)

What is now the USAF Para Rescue concept was born in the Army Air Force during WWII out of the need to drop rescue personnel in remote locations to assist downed air crews.  Their mission has evolved over the years.  In the late 1940’s and 1950’s the cold war mission of the Air Force placed aircraft over areas where the only practical extraction was via ground, and the PJ’s (para jumpers) we survival experts who dropped to downed crews with the skills to keep them alive till help arrived.  During the Viet Nam conflict the mission evolved into combat search and rescue, with the HH-3 and HH-53 helicopters becoming famous as “Jolly Green Giants.”  With the Iraq and Afghanistan wars the mission was again modified to support special operations.


Yours truly providing a familiarization briefing to US and Columbian Special Forces troops.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Massey/Released)


Angel Thunder is an annual Personnel Recovery exercise where US and foreign forces can practice their combat search and rescue skills.  This year our unit was involved in several supporting missions.  In the video above, the Blackhawks without the refueling probes were ours.  The grey ones with the probes are the Air Force Pavehawks.  Those special forces troops and the Columbian special forces guys shown were some of our customers.  We did several air assaults with them, and I was lucky enough to crew on three of them.


As part of this years exercise, we started by transporting the “White Cell” staff around for their various planning and coordination sessions.  The White Cell are kind of like the umpires of the exercise.  Other activities we were involved in were unconventional recoveries  and a downed aircrew exercise.  For the downed aircrew exercise we flew a mission that was supposed to put a Navy/Marine remote air control tower at a local airport.  The scenario had two ships shot down and a third damaged, with hostile ground activity requiring the downed crews and passengers to navigate cross country to the pick up point.  While we knew there would be a downed crew scenario, none of us knew when or how it was to come down.  The remote tower people were completely taken by surprise, and were not happy campers having to hike through mountainous desert with all their gear.  With them were a couple SERE (survival school) instructors evaluating the exercise.  After a strenuous 4 hour hike they made the PZ (pickup zone) in time for our Apache gunship escort to clear the area for us while we went in for a night recovery using night vision goggles.  This is pretty much how we make our money in Army aviation.  Fortunately for those on the ground one of the crew chiefs who was shot down with them gave them a brief on what to expect when we showed up.  A night helicopter pickup is not like you see in the movies – it’s loud, blinding and painful, particularly in the desert where the debris kicked up by the rotor wash all seems to head for your face.  It’s also disorienting being dark and dusty.  Being an exercise, we took our time picking them up to make sure we had everyone strapped in safely before picking up.  In a hostile area we would make sure we had the right number of people, close the doors and go.


For our air assault missions we would fly to Tuscon, pick up our troops and fly to the exercise area in Florence for the insertion.  The scenario was four friendlies had been captured and were being held by the bad guys.  Our ODA (Operational Detachment A) Team and the Columbian Special Forces soldiers would assault the target buildings and either gather intelligence, capture a high value target, rescue the hostages, or all of the above.  Being an exercise, of course the first couple of raids came up empty.  The first two raids were night operations, so there isn’t much video of them.  The final raid was done during the day, with the troops rescuing the hostages, and capturing the “high value target,” who regrettably succumbed to his injuries (simulated!).


This was an excellent two weeks of training – we flew 180 hours plus another 130 hours of simulator training for some of our new crew members.  We got to work with other services, federal and local agencies, foreign military and the special operations community, which is always a good time.  We also made some connections with people we can hopefully train with in the future.


Filed under Air Force, Are we having fun yet?, Army Aviation

we just ran out…

We’d been up all night, a common event in the lives of freight pilots, the nomads of the dark. The trek started the evening before, launching from some city in the midwest, making a stop here or there to pick up more of the precious overnight cargo before making the longer stop in the hub city, Memphis, Tennessee, to disgorge the huge cans of packages and letters carried in the hollow fuselage of our DC-10. While we were on the ground in Memphis the hundreds of thousands of pounds of freight from hundreds of airplanes went through the famous FedEx package sort system and was reloaded into freight cans and placed back on the aircraft headed to the same part of the world as the addressees on the packages. Most of the United States was slumbering away while all this took place, but the activity around the “Hub” was such that Memphis International Airport was one of the busiest airports in the world at night, all due to the single resident cargo carrier we worked for. We even had a fond nickname for the place: Planet Memphis. The place is in its own little orbit at night. Continue reading


Filed under Airplanes, Are we having fun yet?, Flying

Off to Mystic, Connecticut this weekend.

I’ll be winging my way to the great New England area and Mystic, Connecticut.

I’ll be leaving the Chi tomorrow morning and arriving in the early afternoon.

I may be going to the New England Air Museum and later to the Quonset Air Museum with pictures to follow in a future post.

Sunday at noon will be the Lexican meetup at the Harp and Hound located at 4 Pearl Street in Mystic CT 06355.

If you’re going to be in the area I look forward to seeing you.

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Filed under Are we having fun yet?, Beer Blogging, Buffoonery, Family, Funny Stuff, Good Stuff, Guinness - For Strength!, Humor, Other Stuff, Perspective, Really Good Stuff

Beer Blogging-This Evening’s First


Harry Truman called it this. “Striking a Blow for Liberty”

Pretty good stuff IMHO. Just me folks, always exploring new flavours. Picked this up at Cost Plus World Market in Visalia yesterday on our way home from Lemoore. Yes, we go to Lemoore on a semi regular basis. It was home to us from May of 1985 to March of 1989.


by | July 12, 2013 · 7:38 pm

I have the airplane!

Since we have been talking about the 727, thought I’d share a tale.

Can’t remember the date, maybe in the late 80’s, but I do remember both the crew with me and that it was dark (a lot of early life at FedEx was in the dark, daytime ops didn’t kick in for a looong time) and we were flying a 727, going to Milwaukee. Odd that I can remember the faces of both people with me and the airport, but names no longer quickly come to mind.

Anyway, MKE was the enroute stop on the way to Planet Memphis, as we called the center of all FedEx ops at the time. Today the center of FedEx ops is Memphis, Oakland, Anchorage, somewhere in Europe, Sewark (OK, Newark), and somewhere in China, but on this night we were on the way from Chicago to MKE for more cargo, and then on to MEM.

The First Officer was flying the leg into MKE and I was the Captain. I was an instructor in the airplane, did lots of simulator training and flew the line every other month or so to keep current in line ops. You know, I was a schoolhouse weenie. Was supposed to be on top of everything all the time. Uh huh.

The approach was no big deal, a clear and beautiful night with lots of stars. We asked for and got a visual approach, we could see the runway from about 10 miles out. Piece of cake.

The F/O did a nice job setting up for the visual, saving fuel as we descended and holding off on flaps and gear until just the right moment. With the checklists completed we arrived at 500′ with the jet stabilized, the power set, and on speed. Piece of cake. I said that already…

Passed over the numbers exactly where we should be, by the book, with maybe a bit extra airspeed. Then the F/O started the flare, a wee bit early for my taste.

Combine that with a bit of extra airspeed and the 727 would “float.” Go on and on down the runway without touching down, eating up concrete that you really would like to use for stopping.

It didn’t help that the F/O was holding the nose up, holding the nose up, waiting for a soft landing.

From my perspective the remaining runway was diminishing, it didn’t take long for me to say, “Put it down.”

Now, in my mind, “Put it down” means let’s forget about the soft landing thing and get the gear on the pavement. An easy way to do that in the ’27 was to simply roll to the left or right and put a wheel on the deck, which activates the weight on wheels switch, which deploys the spoilers on the wing (big panels that pop up and kill all the lift on the wing) and voila! you are on the ground to stay.

Only this message didn’t register with the F/O, who continued to gently coax the yoke back and await the soft touchdown.

Which wasn’t happening. I became a little bit antsy, about two thirds of the runway remained, but it was only going to be half the runway in a few seconds.

Again I said it, more forcefully this time: “PUT IT DOWN.”

Same results, no discernible change in what the yoke and the F/O were doing other than holding the airplane off the runway for what seemed forever.

I couldn’t wait any longer, I announced loudly, “I have the airplane!” and grabbed the yoke, fully intending to put one set of wheels down and bring the jet to a halt. The F/O quickly acknowledged with “Your airplane” and let go of the yoke.

Dear reader, what happened in the next second after I put my hands on the yoke and owned the landing was not a pretty thing. I put my hands on the yoke at the exact same moment the airspeed and the lift available and the number of Bernoulli’s holding the wings up became less than the pull of gravity on the machine.

We landed. We hit the deck. We whacked the pavement.  The airplane made all the noises of a full garbage truck dropped from 20 feet or so. The impact traveled up the fuselage to the cockpit and it was an occasion for the involuntary “Ooof!” to come out, which it did. From me. If we’d had passengers instead of freight cans they would have been pummeled with baggage from overhead bins popping open. The impact wasn’t enough to call it a hard landing but had all the earmarks of a lousy landing. A really lousy landing. And it was all mine.

I could not believe my timing was so good and my judgement was so bad. Rats.

We came to a halt before the runway ended, thank goodness, and did the after landing checklist. We taxied to the ramp in silence. I know what I was thinking, no telling what the F/O and the Flight Engineer were thinking. We pulled into parking and shut down the engines, it was dead quiet except for the clicking of various switches as we turned off what needed to be off while the airplane was reloaded.

The Flight Engineer completed his tasks at his position, announced that the shut down checklist was complete, then took out his flashlight from his nav bag and stood up to leave and do his normal walk around inspection before we blocked out again.

Before he walked out the cockpit door he turned and looked at me and the First Officer, and without a smile he said:

“I’m going to go look for survivors.”


Filed under Airplanes, Are we having fun yet?, Flying, Funny Stuff