“In Search of Lost Time,” Greg’s legacy Flying Carpet column

Where the heck is my watch? I wondered, upon checking my wrist for the time.

I was dining with renowned aviation author and humorist Rod Machado, his wife Diane, and two of their friends at an outdoor cafe in Palm Springs, California. We had joined pilots from all over the country to attend AOPA Expo, the pilot association’s annual convention.

“So Greg,” said Rod, continuing a conversation in progress, “how was your flight from Phoenix yesterday?”

“Very pleasant,” I replied, massaging my empty wrist. “I arrived early to avoid the heaviest fly-in traffic. It can be a real hornet’s nest the afternoon before the program starts.”

“I’ve often dodged those hornets myself,” said Rod. “Any delays?”

“None at all,” I replied. “I just joined the published arrival procedure and followed the freeway in—no circling was required. I suspect it was tougher late in the day.” We proceeded to swap aviator stories with Rod and
Diane’s friends. Ian, an American Airlines pilot, told of his days flying in Alaska. Jason, an author and internationally renowned professional magician, recounted adventures flying his twin-engine Piper Aerostar. Earlier, over appetizers, he’d dazzled the group with mystifying card tricks.

Even as flying yarns circled the table, my thoughts kept returning to the missing watch. It wasn’t valuable, but I liked it and the data bank held important phone numbers. Particularly disturbing was that I’d lost a set of keys earlier that morning. Ultimately I’d found them in the side pocket of my suitcase, but I had no recollection of placing them there. Now I’d lost my watch.

Hopefully I’m not developing memory problems, I found myself
worrying. I must ask my wife if she’s noticed any other symptoms. Attempting to banish such concerns from my mind, I returned to my friends’ ongoing conversation, saying nothing of my loss.

“Did I tell you about flying into Long Beach for the last West Coast Expo two years ago?” I asked.

“No,” said Rod. “Did you have some ‘close encounters’ there?”

“On the contrary,” I replied, laughing…

**Continue reading Greg’s entire column, IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME” **. Mobile-device link here.


Photo: Greg with author, speaker, and humorist Rod Machado. 


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


Enjoy this story?

Then you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and ebook.

(Autographed copies available!)


“The Day GPS Went Out,” Greg’s January/February, 2020 Flying Carpet column

“Warning! GPS Navigation Lost!” proclaimed my GPS receiver.

Jean and I were bouncing through clouds on instruments at 12,000 feet, over trackless mountains along the remote Arizona-New Mexico border.

Seconds after that initial warning, my primary flight display announced, “GPS reversion mode: for Emergency Use Only!” (but displayed no position.) My multifunction display restarted itself with a “Maintenance Required!” alert. Next came an “ADS-B (out) inoperative!” warning, meaning our transponder had stopped transmitting our GPS coordinates to air traffic control (ATC).

I was flying Jean from Flagstaff to El Paso for tennis sectionals. Normally we make the 2½-hour journey straight-line VFR. Today, however, layered clouds shrouded the mountainous central portion of the route, so I’d filed under instrument flight rules (IFR). This route spans a huge swath of military airspace that when active cannot be crossed IFR, so I’d filed a circuitous route over Socorro, New Mexico.

My first hint of trouble was when our controller asked, “Are you ADS-B equipped?”

That seemed odd, as he had long been tracking us. He then cleared me to an intersection to bypass nearby White Sands Missile Range restricted airspace, but the GPS died as I entered the fix into my navigator. After I reported the failure, the controller assigned radar vectors around the restricted areas.

Now other pilots began reporting lost GPS, and I noted that the position symbol on my tablet computer had stopped moving…

**Continue reading Greg’s entire column, THE DAY GPS WENT OUT” **. (Mobile-device link.)


Photo: Primary Flight Display in GPS-failure Emergency Reversion Mode. 


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


Enjoy this story? Read my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and your favorite ebook format.

“Mountain Airport,” Greg’s December, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Some airports set a pilot’s heart racing.

Our friends Steve and Molly recently invited us for a hiking weekend in southwest Colorado.

This would be our first summertime visit to 9,070-foot-elevation Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX). Telluride is surrounded on three sides by 12-14,000-foot mountains, but we could approach from the west at 11,000 feet.

Like most Telluride traffic I planned to land on Runway 9 and depart Runway 27 to avoid maneuvering in the dead-end canyon east of the airport. That required good visual flight conditions, and light winds to preclude downwind takeoffs or landings and dangerous downdrafts tumbling over the surrounding mountains.

Given suitable weather, my main concern flying our non-turbocharged Cessna 182 was safely departing such a high-elevation airport in summertime.

Temperatures of 48°F to 75°F sound pleasantly cool, but at 10-12,000 feet density altitude we’d be lucky to get 65% of sea-level power at full throttle, and 300 fpm climb…

**Continue reading Greg’s entire column, MOUNTAIN AIRPORT” **.


Read my detailed planning process for flying into this challenging airport.


Photo: Final approach to Runway 9, Telluride Regional Airport, Colorado. 


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


Enjoy this story? Read my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and your favorite ebook format.

“Consolation Prize,” Greg’s November, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Our weekend guests Alex and Sabina arrived to unseasonably wet and cold autumn weather.

As with previous visitors, I’d promised Alex a Grand Canyon aerial tour. I mention only Alex because while he and I had flown together before, Sabina had expressed such fear of airplanes that I’d presumptively invited another friend in her place. Saturday, rain confined us indoors. Based on forecast improvement, we designated Monday for hiking and autumn leaf-peeping. That left only Sunday, weather permitting, for flying.

Sunday morning, both Flagstaff Pulliam (KFLG) and Grand Canyon (KGCN) Airports reported scattered clouds at 1,700 feet above ground (AGL), roughly 8,700 feet above sea level (MSL). While that was adequate for the route, the Grand Canyon Special Flight Rules Area requires a 10,000-foot MSL minimum altitude to overfly the Canyon.

Lacking pilot weather reports, I explained that we could safely fly to the Grand Canyon, but depending on arrival-time conditions we might not be able to cross. Alex was predictably game to go. Sabina, however, surprised everyone by volunteering to join us—her sister and friends had told her she’d be nuts to miss the Grand Canyon from above.

Although apprehensive, Sabina took the copilot seat, usually best for nervous passengers. Noting clenched teeth and hands while taxiing out, I offered to turn around, but she insisted we continue. After takeoff, however, she began peering out the window…

**Continue reading Greg’s entire column, CONSOLATION PRIZE” **.


Photo: “Inner Basin Aspens: Sunstruck autumn aspens line Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks.  (Available as a Fine Art Metal Print, Pilot Achievement Plaque, and in Art Note Cards.)


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


Enjoy this story? Read my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and your favorite ebook format.

“Gift of Flight,” Greg’s October, 2019 Flying Carpet column

This was a summer of special visitors from faraway places. Happily, most were enthusiastic about flying, so I got to play aerial tour guide.

First up were Jean’s beloved “Swedish sister” Helena from her foreign-exchange-student days, with husband Pelle and daughters Majken and Linnéa.

Flight opportunities were limited given six people and our four-seater airplane, but assisted by our friend Richard piloting his Bonanza, we accomplished a two-airplane Grand Canyon tour, followed by Sunset and Meteor Craters. “Routine” for us, but our guests won’t forget it.

A month later dear friends arrived from Canada on their first Arizona visit in seventeen years. Marcel and Lise have flown with us in the past, and have several times welcomed the Flying Carpet to Quebec. The airline they flew from Montreal doesn’t serve Flagstaff. So in lieu of a three-hour rental car drive after umpteen hours of airline travel, Jean and I picked them up at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (KPHX) and had them relaxing at our home 90 minutes later.

Along with terrestrial adventures, we reprised our Grand Canyon air tour a few days later, which again was a hit. Then in casual discussion, our guests revealed that they’d always wanted to visit Las Vegas.

“It’ll be hot there this time of year,” said Jean, but that didn’t deter Marcel and Lise. Their short stay allowed only one night in Vegas, which an eight-hour auto round trip would have largely consumed. But at ninety minutes each way by Flying Carpet, we could enjoy virtually a whole day and night there…

**Continue reading Greg’s entire column, GIFT OF FLIGHT” **.

Top Photo: “Lise & Marcel with Greg & Jean at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (KLAS)” Lower photo: “Linnea, Helena, Pelle, & Majken celebrate their Grand Canyon flight.

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


Enjoy this story? Read my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and your favorite ebook format.

“High Country Breakfast,” Greg’s September, 2019 Flying Carpet column

“Care to meet up at Sedona, Greg, for Sunday breakfast?”

It was Mike Harrison, a recently certificated 130-hour private pilot flying out of Phoenix’s Falcon Field (KFFZ). This would be Mike’s first warm-weather flight to Arizona’s high country and his wife Tammie’s first cross-country.

Sedona’s 5000-foot elevation diminishes aircraft performance due to “high density-altitude,” meaning air thinned by the combined effects of altitude and elevated temperature.

We partially counter it by flying lightened airplanes at cool times of day. To prepare, Mike had flown there with a more experienced pilot, but on a cooler day, so we reviewed procedures. His preparation was impressive.

Tammie & Mike Harrison at Sedona Airport, Arizona (KSEZ)

Mike had planned his flight with just enough fuel for safe reserve, putting his Piper Warrior a healthy 200 pounds under gross weight departing Sedona Airport (KSEZ).

He intended to land at 7am, and depart by 9am in 70ºF temperatures. He would lean the mixture before takeoff, and accelerate in ground effect to climb speed before ascending. Landing uphill on Sedona’s sloped runway and launching downhill would shorten his landing and takeoff rolls.

Meanwhile, Jean and I debated whether to fly 20 miles from Flagstaff to Sedona. Driving there via mountain roads would take 45 minutes, so we launched grinning into crisp morning air.

“It’s time for a longer flying trip,” she said, as we plummeted moments later between crimson spires to Sedona’s traffic pattern. While 3,500 feet higher than Falcon Field, Sedona is 2,000 feet lower than Flagstaff…

**Read Greg’s entire column, HIGH COUNTRY BREAKFAST” **. (Mobile-device version here.)

Top Photo: Downwind to Runway 3, Sedona Airport, Arizona (KSEZ)

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


Enjoy this story? Read my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and your favorite ebook format.

“Oh, the Glory,” Greg’s August, 2019 Flying Carpet column

Rarely do we light airplane pilots get to outfly the airlines, but it does occasionally happen.

A dozen years ago, the Flying Carpet suffered a spate of in-flight voltage regulator failures. This device meters electricity generated by the alternator to meet the airplane’s ongoing electrical needs and keep the battery charged. It also protects the electrical system against spikes or shorts that could damage electrical components.

Every few months our latest voltage regulator would fail in flight, disabling the aircraft’s charging system and sending us scrambling for a mechanic. Sometimes it could be temporarily reset by cycling the alternator switch, but usually not. Of course these failures always occurred at inopportune times, and caused lots of “what-if” stress every time we launched on a cross-country flight. Yet the intermittency stymied our mechanics in identifying the cause.

Then one day, a savvy avionics tech at Falcon Field (KFFZ) asked if I could hear our original-equipment flashing beacon cycling on and off through my headset. When I answered yes, he asked if those beacon pulses also presented via the ammeter needle. They did. It turns out that with age, the power supply units for old flashing beacons can internally deteriorate, drawing increasing electrical current as the circuitry fails.

Testing revealed that our beacon was drawing so much current with each flash, that over time it was causing each successive voltage regulator to disconnect the charging system and fail. Installing a new low-power LED beacon finally solved the problem, though it would take months of trouble-free operation before we could fully believe it.

Jean and I launched homeward from Falcon Field that day flashing our bright-and-shiny new beacon, arriving to rare IFR weather in Flagstaff…

**Read Greg’s entire column, OH, THE GLORY” **.

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

Greg

©2019 Gregory N. Brown

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.

Enjoy this story? Read my book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, available in print and your favorite ebook format.

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