A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

September 2010            

Logbook Recollections

     After writing monthly aviation articles for over five years, I sometimes find myself searching for the next idea.   Several times in the past six to twelve months I figured I’d written everything I could.  But each time I consider ‘retiring’ from this, an encouraging e-mail arrives from someone who read one of these columns, and has to comment.   They’re almost all positive letters, many good stories and ideas which are interesting and encouraging to read.    

      Without going back and actually counting these e-mails, I would say most are generated from articles which discuss medical and psychological issues.  The reason for that could be the general pilot population is growing older, and a large percentage of us are more concerned with the medical status we need to maintain in order to keep flying.  Also, responses from doctors, those who work in advisory capacities for airlines and from C.A.M.E.’s around the country, indicate their desire to raise awareness among pilots of their physical and mental well-being.  These docs express their gratitude that someone is discussing these issues.    

       A recent article about how flying careers evolve, prompted several e-mails with stories remarkably similar to what I wrote about.  Flying lessons started for these people in their early twenties.  Some obtained a private license, but then stopped flying when mortgages and marriages ate up all the income.   Many however, found their way back to aviation in later years after the family obligations were done.  I was especially interested when some fellows referred to details in their logbooks about particular flights.  I wish I had thought to use the ‘remarks’ section of my book for more than just a simple word or two over the years.  What stories they could tell.   

      My logbook is pretty boring.  But there are many names and notations that, although very brief, bring back some memories, both good and bad.  My first flight was in the fall of 1971.  Two pages and seven months later, there’s a stamp that certifies I had undergone the Department of Transport Approved Course of Private Pilot Flying Training, and an entry showing 39 hours and 5 minutes, my total time.  I was a private pilot. 

      Following many “local flights” and some short cross country trips over the next few years, the long gap occurred.  That’s when the major issues of life took over.  But in 1997, there’s a sudden resurgence of entries, including training on instruments and for a commercial license.  Apart from those notations and some mountain flying, I kept all entries strictly business.  No mention of bad weather or engine and mechanical problems …. although in fact, there were incidents involving of all those.  There were rough running engines, electrical failures, radio and transponder trouble, issues with controllers, disappearing gas caps, a couple of forced landings, and so on.  One specific occasion I have no trouble remembering involved a sick passenger.  I was doing my best to impress a certain young lady and things went quite well until the first time she rode in the right seat with me on a rather turbulent Sunday flight.  Never before, or since, have I witnessed anyone turn green. It’s something talked about a lot, but I can tell you the truth, this lady was really and truly green.  Even after vomiting her lunch into a couple of air-sick bags, the color of her cheeks reminded me of the walls in one of the first apartments I ever rented.    

        Toward the middle of my logbook, there begins a run of rather interesting notations.  I must have seen the importance of stating more than just the basics of a flight by then.  There was quite a bit of mountain flying which came naturally from the glider towing for a couple of years.  It was interesting and quite challenging work.   Most pilots tend to avoid close encounters with granite, while the soaring fraternity seeks out the giant thermals that can be generated in the mountains.   The tow pilots’ job is to get them into where they need to be.   

         I actually flew in the Victoria Airshow in the summer of 1998.  Sounds impressive, but it wasn’t much.  My job was to tow a glider and drop him above the airport for his aerobatic routine.  Then, I simply flew around just outside the zone and waited for my turn to land following the glider in.  You can bet I was careful with that landing in front of thousands of people!   

          I was kicking tires at the Delta, B.C. airport with a pilot friend recently, and as we poked in on some of the hangars, I came across the airplane I flew in 1998 to get a float rating.  It’s a Piper Cub, the J-3.  Still in pristine condition, probably restored once or twice, it was sitting there beside it’s floats.  Not exactly certain it was the same airplane, I needed to go to my logbook and look it up.  It was.  What fond memories it brought back, not just of the training in it, but of every time I ever flew or watched another plane touch down on the water.   

         Going through the entries in this historical logbook, turned into a long trip down memory lane after all.  I’m only less than a quarter of the way through, which may mean you’ll read more next month on the subject.  It appears I can’t retire from writing articles just yet.  There’s always more to say.  And it’s never too late to start using that “remarks” column in your book.  It’s a great way to document the memories you’ll be happy to have.

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