I dug out my old pilot log today, in the process of cleaning out my office to be able to write in here rather than sit at the dining room table, or on the couch. Neither one was a particularly good work environment, so after 8 months of stalling, I finally got my office desk cleared off and brought the laptop in here where the massive desktops used to be king.
I like this better.
But looking forward to going to Oshkosh next week as part of the Aero New Network team, decided to drag out the only “little black book” I’ve ever kept. The dive log is blue. About the size of a 3X6 card, it says simply on the cover “Pilot Log”, and the address of Madison National Airways in Madison, Indiana. Yeah, that’s just a bit pretentious.
It’s amazing to me how the things that are really important you manage to hold on to. I knew right where it was, tucked away in my schoolmaster desk that used to belong to my grandmother. The first page shows I had my first flying lesson on July 9th, 1976. Ralph O. Rogers was my instructor. He’d flown OV-10A Bronco’s in Vietnam before somehow landing as the airport manager in Bedford, Indiana. I was just out of high school. I graduated in May of that year. I’ve told in the blog before how I came to be able to even learn to fly … trading my flying lessons for being the ramp rat at the local airport. My primary trainer was AA-1B 1442R, a Grumman-American TR-2 Trainer. It was a sweet little airplane with a fairly short wingspan, sliding Plexiglas canopy like a fighter, and a 108 horsepower Lycoming up front. I bit over powered, it would flat get up and go.
I soloed the day before my 19th birthday, and yes, I went flying again the day after. Happy birthday to me. I still recall that first solo. Ralph had me taxi the airplane back to the airport office, slid back the canopy, and said “why don’t you take her around the patch a couple of times.” I logged 8 landings that day.I remember two of them being particularly bad.
I checked out in my first 4 place airplane on April 9th the following year. An AA-5 Grumman Traveler, which was the entry-level 4 place in that AA series. 150 horsepower, same as the Cheetah, which was a higher trim level.
I flew my first solo cross-country to Nashville, Tennessee in May of 1977 … to visit the girl I was seeing at the time. Her dad was the person whom I helped re-furbish a Mooney Mite in the basement of their house. I was flying a different TR-2, 9496L, non-transponder equipped. I still remember the controller telling me to turn right to (some heading) for positive radar identification, and me promptly banking left. I’d told him I was a student pilot on first contact, and he patiently said “96 Lima, no, you’re other right.” Once we had that established, it was “follow the DC-9 on final.” In my windscreen was a jumbo jet on final to BNA moving from left to right across my field of view. I dutifully rolled in behind him and landed.
I flew with Ralph down to Cape Girardeau, Missouri to an airplane auction, and when he bought something, I flew home solo.
I took my written in May of 1977, and got my pilots license on July 1st in 9591U, a Grumman Cheetah.
Some of the flights were memorable. Some others, not so much. I see a flight logged to Tiffin, Ohio, and I can’t for the life of me remember why I went there. When my friend Doug was in med school in Terre Haute and trying to keep his instrument license current, I logged a bunch of flights to Terre Haute in one of his dad’s airplanes, and would then ride safety pilot as he practiced under the hood. A lot of those were in AA-5B 81227, a Grumman Tiger. The same airframe as the Cheetah, but with a 180 HP Lycoming. That was a fun, fast airplane, but it did command your attention. Amazingly, in about 2 seconds on Google I was able to find out the name of the person to whom it’s registered now. I hope they’re having as much fun with her as we did.
At the other end of the spectrum was the 7AC Champ I flew with Ralph a couple of afternoons. My only stick and taildragger entries in the book. I logged an hour in a Piper PA 20,
And then there’s a gap. 4 years between my last flight in a Piper PA-28 Cherokee and my next one in a Cessna 172 in Chillicothe, Ohio. We’d lived in California in the interim. I tried to get back to flying. Flew the 172 a few times, then we moved again to Maryland, where I logged a couple of hours in a Cessna 152, which I honestly don’t remember.
And then it’s done. 130.6 hours logged flying. I didn’t even make that 150 hour threshold where they say you get dangerous. It was September 12, 1988. I don’t think I’ve been in the front seat of an airplane since.
I’ve done some cool things while I’ve not been flying. I’ve learned to sail, and love it. I’ve been diving on some beautiful reefs, over 100 feet down in a couple of instances. But I’ve never forgotten how much I loved to fly.
So why all this nostalgia? Well, if all goes well, I’ll get to start again. Maybe in Oshkosh. The thought of flying again has been a dream for a long, long time. In fact, nearly every time since that last flight in 1988 that I’ve looked up and seen a little airplane overhead, I’ve thought “I used to be able to be that guy, and I loved it.”
Maybe sometime soon, I’ll get to know it again.