“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

“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

“Silence ‘in the soup,'” Greg’s April, 2019 Flying Carpet column

SnowShroudedSecretMtn-RedRockWilderness_GPS3approachFLG_1802-PanoeSmw

A day-long snowstorm had just passed when I flew Jean to Phoenix to see her mom. Lingering flurries receded to the east, while from the west approached the intense cobalt skies seen only after snow.

By the time I dropped Jean and steered for my next appointment at Prescott, a few new snow showers sprinkled northern Arizona’s mountains. No worry–Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks beckoned clearly from between them for my subsequent flight home.

Ninety minutes later, I preflighted for my final fifty-mile hop. Prescott’s Love Field Airport lies in an open valley, with Flagstaff 2,000 feet higher at the base of Arizona’s tallest mountains. Therefore you can usually see Flagstaff’s “Peaks” directly from Prescott’s airport tiedowns.

Now, however, the snow showers between here and home were denser than before…

**Read Greg’s entire column, SILENCE ‘IN THE SOUP’” **

Photo: “Seven Veils” (available as a Fine Art Metal Print): Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness from the GPS Runway 3 Instrument Approach into Flagstaff, Arizona. 

SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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

Greg

©2019 Gregory N. Brown