“Lessons and Landmarks,” Greg’s August column & photos

Cross-country odyssey during the Air Traffic Controllers strike

“Four-four-Mike, I’ve been calling you for two minutes!” I was climbing with Jean and two buddies out of Salt Lake City International Airport, in a Cessna 210. Frantically, I apologized for missing the controller’s calls.

“There are mountains out there!” he chided, “What if you missed a vector?”

There was little danger, as we were in good visual conditions. But missing radio calls on an instrument flight plan is inexcusable. Why such a blunder? While another pilot flew, I was attempting to monitor two frequencies while filing a flight plan four hours in advance of our final leg home to Lafayette, Indiana.

The reason? Three months earlier, in August, 1981, President Reagan had fired 12,000 air traffic controllers in the ugly wake of a strike…

CONTINUE READING Greg’s August Flying Carpet column, “LESSONS AND LANDMARKS,” here. (Please allow time for the article to load.)

Photo: Santa Catalina Island’s “Airport in the Sky,” California (Chris Dejongh photo). See more photos here. Thanks to all the pilots who provided “Airport in the Sky” photos this month, including Chris Dejongh, Barry Knutilla, and Bill Rote −and extra kudos to Diane Myers, Gabe Wisdom, and Jeff White, who flew dedicated photo missions to help me out!

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

Featured past column: “Pilgrimage to Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome”


Since my current July, 2009 AOPA Flight Training column is about WWI aircraft, I thought it might be fun to simultaneously feature a past column on the topic.

Read this month’s featured column, “Pilgrimage to Old Rhinebeck,” here.

It’s the story of a very special place, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in upstate New York, where authentic World War airplanes still fly today. Don’t miss seeing it, if you ever find yourself in the area!

Photo: Germany’s “Red Baron,” Manfred von Richthofen, actually scored more victories in the Albatros D.Va than in his famous red Fokker Triplanes. See additional photos here.

“Pilgrimage to Old Rhinebeck” originally appeared in AOPA Flight Training in January, 2001. An expanded version appears in my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. 

Read my current July, 2009 column, “Dawn of Flight,” here. 

 ©2009 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

July “Dawn of Flight” WWI aircraft column & photos

GregBrownFT709_865e-enSmWI have just posted additional World War I aircraft photos from my Flying Carpet column, “Dawn of Flight,” which appears in the July, 2009 issue of AOPA Flight Training magazine. Check out the additional column photos here. (Read “Dawn of Flight” online.)

For more on WWI aircraft, read my past column on the topic, “Pilgrimage to Old Rhinebeck.”

©2009 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

Aviation history buffs, rejoice!

1917albatrosdva_868ecrsmw1“The engine is the heart of an aeroplane, but the pilot is its soul.”

My favorite aviation quotation comes from The War in the Air, the six-volume official history of Britain’s Royal Air Force and its predecessors, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service in World War I, by Sir Walter Raleigh and H. A. Jones.

Well, aviation and military history buffs, rejoice! The first and best-known volume of that hard-to-find set can now be read free of charge at books.google.com.

See The War in the Air, Volume I, written by Sir Walter Raleigh and published in 1922. If you get hooked and want to read the rest of the set, by H.A. Jones (Raleigh died about the time the first book was published), you’ll need to hunt down the remaining volumes via library or rare-book store. But it’s worth it! (Also available as a free ebook download.)

These fascinating volumes cover the 11-year history of powered flight up to World War I, and then address every aspect of aerial logistics, strategy, and technology through the “Great War,” on a mission-by-mission basis.

From the first tentative attempts at aerial combat using hand-dropped bombs, pistols (and grappling hooks!), to the German Zeppelin raids and formation of the world’s first independent air force, this series covers all stages and theaters of the first-ever war in the air based on official records and eye-witness narratives. Even if you read only the online-accessible first volume you are in for quite a treat!

©2009 Gregory N. Brown

favorite aviation books

Here are a few of my favorite aviation books. Let me know when you are ready for more!

Fate is the Hunter, by Ernest Gann. Perhaps the greatest-ever pilot adventure book — as relevant to today’s piloting joys and challenges as when it was written, decades ago.

Wind, Sand and Stars, and anything else by Antoine de Ste. Exupéry (except maybe Flight to Arras). No one beats Saint-Ex for capturing the magic of flight.

West with the Night, by Beryl Markham, first person to fly solo westbound across the Atlantic. Suspenseful, inspiring, and wonderfully written. (Note her tie-ins to the movie, Out of Africa.)

Listen! the Wind, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Any pilot who has ever waited out weather will appreciate this eloquent book.

North Star over My Shoulder, by Bob Buck. Bob set the junior transcontinental speed record in a Pitcairn Mailwing in 1930, taught himself to fly instruments from a 25¢ booklet, and crowned his career as a jet captain. Experience the entire history of modern aviation through the eyes of this exceptional pilot and writer. (I had the privilege of meeting Bob several years ago. He died just last year at age 90.)

I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, by Jimmy Doolittle. What Doolittle accomplished in one lifetime is astonishing – the first outside loop, the first person to make an instrument landing, leader of the first WWII Tokyo bombing raid (flying B-25 land bombers off an aircraft carrier)… the list goes on and on.

The 91 Before Lindbergh, by Peter Allen. That’s right. Some 91 people flew the Atlantic before Lindbergh did. That should get your attention!

Antoine De Saint-Exupery: His Life and Times, by Curtis Cate. If you want to know more about Saint-Ex and the pioneering days of aviation, read this terrific book. Did you know that in the earliest days of European airmail, the planes were so unreliable that routes were flown by two airplanes, one full and one empty, so if one went down the other could complete the mission? And that over Saharan Africa airmen who survived crashes were often captured, tortured, and if they were lucky enough to live, ransomed back to their company by hostile Arab tribes? Although heavy on philosophy in sections, much of this book will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Hindenburg: an Illustrated History, by Rich Archbold. Don’t let the coffee-table-book format fool you, nor the title limit your expectations. This profusely illustrated work introduces the entire history of rigid airships, including fascinating coverage of the WWI Zeppelin bombing raids over England, the breathtaking Shenandoah break-up and crash over Ohio in 1925, the epic round-the-world flight of the Graff Zeppelin and of course, the Hindenburg. Did you know that Zeppelins made dozens of accident-free scheduled “airline” crossings of the Atlantic in the 1930s?

Some of these titles may be out of print, but you should be able to find them through the provided links. ©2012 Gregory N. Brown

boy scouts with bugles

When German Zeppelins began bombing England during World War I in history’s first mass aerial assaults, the British were faced with the new problem of how to warn the civilian populace of impending air raids.

They experimented with various alternatives including bobbies carrying warning signs through the streets, but such measures were not prominent enough to get everyone’s attention over the din of daily life and hurry them to shelter. After much experimentation someone came up with the idea of using mortars firing blanks to alert the populace. Nothing beats the sound of gunfire for urging people to shelter, so the mortars proved very effective and were quickly implemented.

That left the problem of sounding “all clear” after each attack, however. Obviously no one is likely to leave shelter at the sound of mortar fire, so another approach was needed. Bobbies on bicycles were tried, yelling “all clear” while riding through the streets, but too few of the citizenry could hear them from places of shelter. Ultimately British authorities found a workable solution — to sound the all-clear following WWI air raids, police drove open cars through the streets, carrying boy scouts blowing bugles.

©2009 Gregory N. Brown

Ardians and Bannerets

“Ardian Smith? Banneret Wycliff reporting, sir.”

“At ease, Banneret… I’ve read the reports regarding Flight Leader Jones and her superior, Reeve Patterson, and am most impressed with their performance in the recent air battle. In fact, the Reeve’s exemplary performance inspired a letter from Second-Ardian Thompson of your regional HQ, recommending Patterson’s promotion to Banneret. You have much to be proud of.”

“Thank you, Ardian, sir. No one deserves promotion more than Reeve Patterson.”

Conference between alien officers in next year’s Star Wars sequel? No, this is how discussion might go in Britain’s Royal Air Force, had the list of ranks proposed at its inception been adopted.

Until late in World War I, British air operations were conducted by the Royal Flying Corps, a branch of the Royal Army, and the Royal Naval Air Service, affiliated with the Royal Navy. But the growing strategic importance of air power during WWI, along with inter-service rivalries and questions about effective chain-of-command, led in 1918 to organization of the Royal Air Force as an independent military service, equal in stature to the Royal Army and Royal Navy.

With creation of the world’s first independent air force, and no tradition of ancient air armadas to draw upon, there was interest in creating a distinct set of new titles unique to the Royal Air Force, and the ranks above — Ardian, Reeve, Banneret, Second-Ardian, and Flight Leader — were among those advanced for consideration.

Not that things would have turned out any differently, militarily, but it is certainly fun to ponder how different the hierarchy of the world’s air forces might sound today, had those early proposed titles been accepted.

“Mr. Prime Minister? Ardian Smith has arrived, bringing with him Banneret Wycliff, Reeve Patterson, and Flight Leader Jones to receive their decorations.”

“Show them in.”  ©2009 Gregory N. Brown

January “Lazy Day” Winslow Lindbergh Airport Flying Carpet column & photos

I’ve just posted additional photos from my January, 2009 Flying Carpet column, “Lazy Day,” of the historic hangar and terminal building at Lindbergh Airport, Winslow, Arizona.

The airport was originally sited and laid out by Charles Lindbergh himself following his transAtlantic flight. He later piloted the first eastbound leg of the first transcontinental plane/train route to Winslow from Los Angeles in 1929.

SEE THE PHOTOS. ©2009, 2022 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!