Hear Greg’s talk, about piloting the Flying Carpet on an unforgettable “Long Journey North”

If you ask my wife and me to name our most memorable journey in our decades of flying, we’ll both respond with our “long journey north” from Phoenix to the Canadian border for a relative’s funeral.

I wrote a column about this trip years ago, recently revisited as I work on an upcoming book project. But the bigger rediscovery was a recorded talk I gave at the 2004 AOPA Expo detailing the memorable journey when it was still fresh.

The trip was spontaneous, hardly planned, and involved crossing much of the country in a Cessna 182 through difficult weather. But we all know how it is with family events, right? There was no choice but to go.

Along the way we experienced numerous aviation adventures, our wackiest “airport car” ever, and some of the craziness found in every family.

Pilot listeners will also appreciate the details I reveal along the way, about how we make piloting decisions to get us to faraway destinations by light airplane, safely.

The talk is 50 minutes long, and I believe you’ll be compelled to sit through and enjoy it. So grab a seat, a cold drink, and have a listen!

Greg Brown, “Long Journey North”
(Please excuse the occasional brief mic interruptions.)

See more Long Journey North photos HERE.

If you enjoy this story, consider investing in my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and ebook.

Greg

©2004, 2019 Gregory N. Brown

“Best Landing Anyone Ever Made,” Greg’s Father’s Day legacy Flying Carpet column

We’re out of control!” yelled my father, grabbing the wheel.

“No we’re not.” I replied, grabbing it back.

Ignoring my father wasn’t easy, as he’d been a pilot since before I was born.

He bought his first airplane in 1949, a tiny Aeronca Chief. Soon afterward he traded for an Ercoupe, which he landed in a Missouri farm field to wait out thunderstorms. Pilots don’t do that sort of thing anymore.

“We’re in trouble! I’m taking over!”

“Dad! Please believe me. We’ll be okay…”

Next came a triple-tailed Bellanca Cruisair. “Most efficient airplane I ever owned,” he claimed, “150 mph on 150 hp.”

He earned his instrument rating in that Bellanca, using just a headset, compass, and turn-and-bank indicator. In those days pilots flew airways defined by Morse code — “a” indicated one side of course, and “n,” the other. On course aviators were treated to a steady tone. No frilly moving maps, back then.

My dad’s one metal bender occurred in that Bellanca, which had retractable landing gear manually extended by many turns of a crank…

**Read Greg’s complete legacy Father’s Day column, Best Landing Anyone Ever Made** (Mobile-friendly version here.)

Photo 1: “Harold Brown kisses his Cessna 310’s good engine in the Azores Islands, after losing the other engine 250 miles from land.” 

Photo 2: “Cessna 310C similar to the one flown by Harold Brown and Eddie Hayes ‘the long way’ across the Atlantic, in 1962.”

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine. **Read an expanded version of this story in my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane.)

Greg

©2019 Gregory N. Brown

“Flying Carpet Ride,” Greg’s July, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Nothing’s more rewarding for pilots than a mission.

“Shay needs a ride home for Easter weekend—do you know anyone driving to Flagstaff from Phoenix?” texted our friend Terri from Window Rock, in far northeast Arizona.

Terri’s niece Shay is a university student in suburban Phoenix. Along with joining family for the holiday, she wanted to visit an ailing relative and her cousin’s young baby. But Shay has no car, nor is there efficient public transportation for the 300-mile drive from Phoenix to Window Rock. She sometimes rides five hours home with a classmate, but this time he could offer only the return trip.

Flagstaff is only halfway to Window Rock, but from there Terri could retrieve Shay in an afternoon’s drive. None of my neighbors, however, expected holiday visitors from Phoenix. So I offered my young friend a Flying Carpet ride.

Delivering Shay from Glendale Municipal Airport (KGEU) directly to Window Rock would have saved Terri hours of driving, but for me it meant flying four hours in afternoon turbulence, half with an inexperienced passenger. So instead I proposed rendezvousing Shay with Terri at Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport (KINW), just an hour flight from Glendale and two hours’ drive from Window Rock.

Shortly after I landed at Glendale on the appointed day, Shay texted that she’d arrived–but was nowhere in sight…

**Read Greg’s entire column, FLYING CARPET RIDE” ** Mobile friendly version here.

Photo: Shay (r) greets her grandmother and Aunt Terri (l) at Arizona’s Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2019 Gregory N. Brown

“Runaway Autopilot,” Greg’s June, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Years ago when I instructed part-time in Indiana, my instrument student Pete presented a surprise opportunity to fly for his company.

“We’ll start with rental airplanes while you help pick out a suitable twin,” he offered during a lesson. Having only 140 hours of multiengine experience at the time, I questioned why he chose me.

“As an instructor you are thorough, cautious, and safe,” said Pete. “You’ll need a type-specific checkout and we’ll initially pay a higher insurance premium, but those are good investments in my opinion.” I took the job, and ultimately we purchased a cabin-class Piper Navajo.

My first lesson was how much work it takes running even a single-airplane corporate flight department. I spent more time managing maintenance and logistics than piloting.

For one thing, radios were less reliable back then, meaning frequent visits to the avionics shop.

Then one day the landing gear wouldn’t retract after takeoff. Better that than not extending for landing, but flying the normally speedy twin home from the East Coast at 130 knots maximum-gear-extended speed was memorable for the wrong reasons…

**Read Greg’s entire column, RUNAWAY AUTOPILOT” **

Photos: Piper Navajo “cabin-class” twin.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2019 Gregory N. Brown

“Across the World for Lunch,” Greg’s May, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Thursday, I flew to meet a pilot friend for lunch. Sounds routine, doesn’t it? But Uwe Goehl, Canadian Airbus captain who flies the world for a Middle-Eastern airline, lives in faraway Abu Dhabi. We last met six years ago, so when Uwe enrolled in hot-air balloon training just across the state line at Hurricane, Utah, I jumped at the chance to reconnect. As always when bound for unfamiliar airports, I phoned ahead.

“As long as you’re not staying over the weekend,” said Art Granger, manager of Hurricane’s General Dick Stout Field Airport (1L8). “We’re closing the runway for reconstruction Monday morning—you wouldn’t want to get stuck here for three months.

That got my attention. Sure, I planned only a day trip, but what if delayed by weather or an unexpected mechanical problem? I remembered my friend Julie, whose airplane was stranded at another airport when runway reconstruction started two days early and she couldn’t leave. So I arranged to meet Uwe at nearby St. George Regional Airport (KSGU), instead.

St. George is only 150 miles from Flagstaff, but over a stunningly remote route. Halfway lies none other than the Grand Canyon, followed by the uninhabited “Arizona Strip.” En route, only Grand Canyon National Park Airport reports weather, beyond which there are no airstrips, towns, nor even ranches for 100 miles. So while excited, I obsessively double-checked my survival kit, outerwear, water, and energy bars…

**Read Greg’s entire column, ACROSS THE WORLD” **

Photo: “Hurricane Cliffs and the Pine Valley Mountains, Utah” (available as a Fine Art Metal Print). 

SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2019 Gregory N. Brown

“Off Limits?” Greg’s April, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Adventures in restricted airspace

Restricted airspace is something we pilots study and then studiously avoid.

Fortunately, it’s limited enough in most places to easily bypass. But here in the Intermountain West, huge swaths of the stuff can dictate 100-mile detours.

Jean and I regularly experience this flying from Flagstaff to Alamogordo, New Mexico to visit family. To bypass 135 miles of restricted airspace encompassing White Sands Missile Range, we must steer east past Socorro and then 90 miles south, or southeast to El Paso and turn north.

Normally we take the shorter northern route. But when weather recently shrouded northern New Mexico, we launched via El Paso.

En route, we reflected on restricted-airspace lessons we’ve learned

**Read Greg’s entire column, OFF LIMITS?“**

Photo: Arizona Highway 85, viewed from 100 feet.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Cloud Wings,” Greg’s March, 2018 Flying Carpet column

Earning your wings requires hand-eye coordination, but instrument flying (IFR) is a brain game.

Yes, mastering flight by tiny needles is tough, but navigation, holds, and approaches are exciting and fun. And while IFR may be the hardest rating, it’s also the most safety-enhancing, rewarding, and practical. When I earned my cloud wings forty years ago this month, my flight-completion rate doubled overnight to over 90%.

Instrument flying, of course, gets you where you’re going without sight of the ground, and “instrument approaches” deliver you safely to landing.

As with VFR cross-countries, instrument flight plans are crafted around checkpoints, but using predefined fixes from an IFR chart. These days, thanks to GPS and moving maps, we can fly great distances and shoot programmed instrument approaches almost as readily as by looking out the window.

But it wasn’t always that easy…

**Read Greg’s entire column, CLOUD WINGS“**

Photo: GPS Runway 3 LPV instrument approach to Flagstaff, Arizona.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Special Girl,” Greg’s February, 2018 Flying Carpet column

The romance of flight comes in many flavors, so when my friend Andrew requested a “huge favor,” I didn’t know what to expect.

Andrew formerly edited our local entertainment weekly, for which I’d provided aerial photos. An avid outdoorsman, he was eager to explore Arizona from above, so I’d invited him on flights to Tucson and Lake Havasu City. Instantly he was hooked on both the views and the controls. But that was months ago.

“What’s this ‘huge favor?’” I asked, surprised.

“I’ve met this special girl, Rachel,” he replied, “and I’m planning fun things to do together. So suddenly I got this idea… Would you consider taking us flying? It would be a total surprise for her.” Coincidentally, I already had a fitting mission planned: my semiannual rendezvous with buddy and former neighbor Gary at Payson Airport—Gary motorcycles from Phoenix, while I travel by Flying Carpet.

“Would you and Rachel care to join us for breakfast?” I offered, “Grab a separate table if you like. We’ll sightsee Sedona on the way back!”

“That sounds awesome!” said Andrew. “And we’ll definitely join your table because Rachel is a very social person.” Later, Andrew texted downloaded photos of Payson Airport’s Crosswinds Restaurant. “Is this where we’re eating?” he asked. I replied affirmatively with restaurant views of the scenic Mogollon Rim. My friend’s enthusiasm made me feel increasingly honored that he’d involve me in such a personal mission.

When Andrew introduced me to Rachel at Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, I immediately saw the magic that attracted him to her. A dynamic, outgoing professional woman, Rachel sparkles with humor. When I cranked up the Flying Carpet’s radios she asked, “Greg, are you gonna say that ‘copy, roger, affirmative, and negative’ stuff?”…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SPECIAL GIRL“**

Photo: Andrew and Rachel ‘play airplane’ at Payson Airport, Arizona.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2018 Gregory N. Brown

“Dark, Scary Night,” Greg’s January, 2018 Flying Carpet column

 

FinalRwy27-OaklandTroyAirport-KVLL_5404eSmw1200

“Beware—the airport you fly into every day is not the same airport at night,” my friend Donna Wood observed last year.

As a new private pilot, Wood had invested in a Cessna 182 and launched on ambitious regular flights between her Detroit home and Charleston, South Carolina, where she has family and business.

Wood is exceptionally careful and diligent, but 18 months after earning her wings, she’d experienced a scare. Battling u
nforecast headwinds from South Carolina with her nonpilot husband, Roger, the couple had arrived home after dark.

“I was legally night current,” Wood said the next morning, “but wasn’t planning on night flight.” Her first challenge was finding urban Oakland/Troy Airport (VLL) under Detroit Class Bravo airspace, landlocked by obstacles and buildings. “All I saw were lights, everywhere.” Then, on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, the runway lights—activated by a previous aircraft—went out.

Rattled, she keyed the mic too quickly to reactivate them. Fortunately, her former CFI Wayne Hendrickson was waiting to help hangar the airplane, and triggered the lights with his handheld radio.

Now flustered, Wood turned final for Troy’s obstructed 3,549-foot runway, high and too fast. So, she went around. But this time she flew downwind too near the runway and overshot final, destabilizing her approach. This began a dangerous chain of events…

**Read Greg’s entire column, DARK, SCARY NIGHT“**

Photo: “Detroit’s Oakland Troy Airport is surrounded by obstructions, thought-provoking even in daytime.”

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

Greg

©2017 Gregory N. Brown

My 45th year as a Pilot!

Today I celebrate 45 years as a licensed pilot. (My checkride was also the day before Thanksgiving that year.)

Rather than reminisce anew, here’s my column from five years ago, “Forty years aloft,” about how different and yet similar piloting was back then. (Be sure to click “read entire column” near bottom of post.)

What an adventure this has been! Here’s wishing another 40 years of fun for all of us aviators!

Greg

PS: If anyone’s interested in some stories over all those years, check out my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and ebook.

Photo: Greg & Jean at Lebanon-Warren County Airport, Ohio, on a 1977 day trip to Kings Island Amusement Park. See more photos here.

©2012, 2017 Gregory N.Brown

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)