Posted by: blogengeezer | January 5, 2010

Why it was Great to be a Pilot

“WHY IT WAS GREAT TO BE A PILOT ” Sent by another USAF  ‘wingnut’

Somehow, all the jet-lag and other problems
had some compensating balance!__________________

Flying close finger tip formation in a flight of four.

Losing an engine in an F-84F while taxing back to
the ramp after a mission.

Terminating afterburner at 1.85 Mach in an F-101 and
experiencing deceleration so hard that I flew off of the
seat and into the harness so hard that I had strap bruises
on my body, and needed a change of underwear.

Full afterburner take off in a clean F-101 in 20 below zero
weather at night.

Doing formation join-ups in the F-4 around big beautiful
columns of Cumulus out of every fighter base.

Sunrises seen from the high flight levels that make the heart soar.

The patchwork quilt of the great plains of Kansas from
37,000′ on a day when you can see forever.

Cruising mere feet above a billiard-table-flat cloud deck
at Mach .86, with your chin on the glare shield and your
face as close as you can get to the windshield.

Knowing you got to land a fighter on a five thousand
foot runway, that is covered with hard packed snow,
…and no drag chute.

Punching out the top of a low overcast while climbing
30,000 feet per minute in Afterburner.

The majesty and grandeur of towering cumulus.

Rotating at VR and feeling 800,000 plus pounds of Airplane
come alive as she lifts off.

The delicate threads of St. Elmo’s Fire dancing on
the windshield at night.

The twinkle of lights on the Japanese fishing fleet far below,
on a night crossing of the North Pacific.

Cloud formations that are beautiful beyond description.

‘Ice fog’ in Anchorage on a cold winter morning.

Seeing the approach strobes appear through the fog on a
‘Must do’ zero, zero approach when there is no other place to go.

Seeing geologic formations that no ground-pounder will ever see.

The chaotic, non-stop babble of radio transmissions
at O’Hare during the afternoon rush.

The quietness of center frequency at night during a
“Transcontinental flight” … or over the Amazon at any time.

Watching St. Elmo’s fire all over your windscreen
in the winter night skies over Alaska.

The welcome view of approach lights appearing out
of the mist just as you reach minimums.

Finding yourself in a thunderstorm with 750# bombs
still hanging on your wings.

Lightning storms at night over the Midwest.

Picking your way through a line of huge Thunderstorms
that seemed to go all the way from Chicago to New Orleans

The soft, glow of the instrument panel in a dark cockpit.

The dancing curtains of colored light of the “Aurora Borealis”
on a winter-night “North Atlantic” crossing.

Passing 30 west . . .

The taxiway names at O Hare before they were renamed:
‘The Bridge’, ‘Lakeshore Drive’, ‘Old Scenic’, ‘New Scenic’,
‘Outer’, ‘The Bypass’, ‘Inner’, ‘Cargo’, ‘North-South’,
‘The Stub’, and  ‘Hangar Alley’ !

The majestic panorama of an entire mountain range
stretched out  beneath you from horizon to horizon.

Lenticular clouds over the Sierras.

The brief, yet tempting, glimpse of runway lights
after you’ve already  committed to the missed approach.

The Alps in winter.

Watching a fellow pilot do an engine out flameout approach
and making it in an “F-100”.

Seeing a “dumb” bomb you drop hit a target
and knowing you had all the parameters right.

The lights of London or Paris at night from FL 350.

Squall lines that run as far as you can see.

Exotic lands with exotic food.

Seeing Tokyo lights at night from thirty five thousand feet
stretching from horizon to horizon.

Maneuvering the airplane through day lit canyons
between towering Cumulus Clouds.

The deep blue-gray of the sky at FL 430.

The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Harbor.

The softness of a touchdown on a snow-covered runway.

Hearing the nose wheel spin down against the snubber
in the wheel well after takeoff. A delightful sound signaling
that you were on your  way!

Old Chinatown in Singapore before it was torn down,
modernized, and sterilized.

Watching the lightning show while crossing the ITCZ at night.

Long-tail boats speeding along the klongs in Thailand .

The quietly turning paddle fans in the lobby of the
“Raffles Hotel” in Singapore .

Dodging colored splotches of red and yellow light
on the radar screen at night.

The sound of foreign accents on the radio.

Luxury hotels.

To paraphrase the eloquent aviation writer, Ernie Gann,
“The allure of the slit in a China girl’s skirt.”

Sunsets of every color imaginable.

The tantalizing glow of the flashing strobe lights just
before you break  out of the clouds on the approach.

Yosemite Valley from above.

The almost blindingly-brilliant-white of a towering cumulus cloud.

A cold San Miguel in Angeles City after a long day’s flying.

The Diamond Horseshoe at Itazuke.

Ocean crossings and in-flight refueling.

Hearing every sound a single engine fighter makes
at night over the open ocean.

The taxiway sentry (with his flag & machine gun)
at the old Taipei (downtown) airport.

Seventy-thousand-foot-high thunderstorm clouds in the tropics.

Sipping Pina Coladas in a luxury hotel bar,
while a Typhoon rages outside.

Chinese Junks bobbing in Aberdeen harbor.

The smell of winter kimchee in Korea.

Watching the latitude count down to zero on the INS, and
seeing it switch from “N” to “S” as you cross the equator.

“Wake Island” at Sunrise.

Oslo Harbor at dusk.

Icebergs in the North Atlantic.


Pago Harbor, framed by puffy cumulus clouds in the late afternoon.

The camaraderie of a good crew.

Ferryboat races in Sydney Harbor

Experiencing all the lines from the old Jo Stafford tune:

See the pyramids along the Nile .
See the sunrise on a tropic isle.
See the market place in old Algiers
Send home photographs and souvenirs.
Fly the ocean in a silver plane.
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain.”

White picket fences in Auckland.

Trade winds.

White sandy beaches lined with swaying palms.

Double-decker buses in London

The endless expanse of white on a Polar Crossing.

The “Star Ferry” in Hong Kong,

Bangkok after a tropical rain.

Mono Lake and the steep wall of the Sierra Nevada range
when approached from the east.

The bus ride to Stanley … on the upper deck front seat
of the  double-decker bus.

The “Long Bar” at the Raffles.

Heavy takeoffs from the “Cliff” runway at Guam.

Landings in the B-767 when the only way you knew you
had touched down was the movement of the spoiler handle.

Jimmy’s Kitchen.

The deafening sound of tropical raindrops slamming angrily
against the windshield, accompanied by the hurried slap, slap,
slap of the windshield wipers while landing in a torrential
downpour in Manila .

Endless ripples of sand dunes across the trackless miles
of the Sahara desert.

Miller’s Pub in Chicago

German beer.


The white cliffs of Dover

Oom-pa-pa music at Meyer Gustels in ‘Frankfurt’!

Fjords in Norway

The aimless compass, not knowing where to point
as you near the top of the world on a polar crossing.
The whiskey compass on a steep tilt.

The old Charlie-Charlie NDB approach into Kai Tak.

Brain bags crammed with charts to exotic places.

The Peak tram in Hong Kong.

Breaking out of the clouds on the IGS approach to runway 13
at Kai Tak, and seeing a windshield full of checkerboard.

An empty weight takeoff in a B-757.

The bustle of Nathan Road on a summer day.

Sliding in over Crystal Springs reservoir for a visual approach
and landing on 1R in SFO.

The smell of tropical blooms when you step off the plane in Fiji

The quietness of a DC-10 cockpit.

The rush of a full-speed-brakes descent at barber pole in a B-727.

Deadheading in First Class.

The Canarsie approach into JFK.

The Eiffel Tower

Max Gross Weight Takeoffs.

Cross-wind landings at 29 Kts/90 degrees

Good Co-pilots.

Man-sized rudder pedals as big as pie plates.

Leak-checking your eyelids on a long night flight.

And, as one friend so perceptively pointed out, “Payday” !

Making an aural null range approach………

Then there was Venus coming up before the sun in the
Eastern sky, giving the horizon a light show like no other!

And the best .. watching countless rounds of 23/37/57 MM
being shot at you, at night, and ALL missing.



  1. Absolutely Right on — I would love to use some applicable portions in a short memoir I am writing for my kids to read in a few years and a couple friends., Former Air Force & TWA

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