“Girls’ Morning Out,” Greg’s March column & photos

“Four-whiskey-alpha – is that you?”

“Hey Greg, are you free tomorrow for ‘guys’ morning out?’”

It was my former neighbor, Gary Wyant, from when Jean and I lived near Phoenix.

Once or twice a year, Gary cruises his motorcycle an hour northeast through the Mazatzal Mountains from Fountain Hills, and I soar 35 minutes southeast over the Mogollon Plateau from Flagstaff to rendezvous at Payson Airport’s Crosswinds Restaurant.

Often I invite friends along; this time it was my retired Flagstaff neighbors, Suzanne Golub and Sue Weber. Suzanne is a student pilot, and Sue has long requested a ride. So early the next morning, we three winged our way toward Payson.

“Is there anything you’d like to practice on this trip?” I asked Suzanne after takeoff.

“Frankly, the radio is my nemesis. Every time I push the mic button I get stage fright. In fact one day I was suffering and suffering on the radio while circling the traffic pattern. I babbled something on the radio, and the tower came back and said, ‘Four-whiskey-alpha – is that you?’” We laughed at her rendition of the controller’s quizzical inflection, and agreed that she’d handle communications this trip.

“What got you interested in piloting, Suzanne?” asked Sue.

“Actually Sue, I’ve had a great desire to fly for as long as I can remember. There’s not an airplane or helicopter that flies overhead that I don’t stop to watch, and wish I was going along, wherever they are going.

Continue reading Greg’s March column, “Girls’ Morning Out,” here. (Please allow a moment for the column to load.)

Photo: Suzanne’s first solo, Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Arizona. See additional photos, here.

©2011 Gregory N. Brown

“Captain Midnight,” Greg’s August Flying Carpet column & photos

“Hi, Men!” Most of us remember someone we idolized as a kid, someone we aspired to be when we grew up. For my brother Alan and me, it was Frank Rosenstein, corporate pilot.

Back then, we joined my dad every Saturday at Chicago’s DuPage County Airport to fly, polish his airplane, and jaw with his pilot buddies over lunch. Prominent among them was Frank Rosenstein. As a pro pilot among pleasure flyers, when he talked flying everyone else listened. Although not a big man, Frank projected quiet power with his large presence and mischievous grin. Gentlemanly and reserved, he personified “speak softly and carry a big stick.” But what captivated Alan and me was how he treated two impressionable young kids.

Read my August column, “Captain Midnight,” here. (Please allow a moment after clicking for the story to load.)

Above: Frank Rosenstein in his favorite Learjet, “Sugar-Whiskey,” in 1970. See more Captain Midnight photos here.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

Greg’s March column, “Airplane for sale,” and additional photos

How many people put off their dreams of a lifetime as they get older, and as a result, never attain them? And how many others get discouraged during the process of pursuing those dreams, and quit?

Idaho pilot Phil Role waited later in life than many to become a pilot, and overcame challenges to achieve that goal. A dozen years later, after encountering serious bumps in the road of life, he looks back to assess whether it was worth it.

For answers and inspiration, CLICK HERE TO READ MY MARCH COLUMN, “AIRPLANE FOR SALE: IN PRAISE OF OLDER PILOTS.”

Above: Phil Role flies his beloved Piper Comanche over southern Idaho. Click here to see additional photos. ©2010 Gregory N. Brown

Postscript, June 11, 2010: Sadly, Phil Role passed away this morning of complications of his condition described in the column. We had hoped to fly to Sandpoint next month to meet him and Mary Catherine in person. Goodbye ol’ buddy. Hopefully there’s a cream-puff Piper Comanche for you to fly up there…

Where’s Sky King when we need him?

songbirdfromdiFor those too young to remember, “Sky King” was a popular 1950s television series. In it, rancher/pilot Skyler King, played by actor Kirby Grant, flew exciting missions from his ranch airstrip — nabbing bad guys, rescuing innocent victims, and performing good deeds all around.

Particularly cool was that Sky’s exploits took place in general aviation aircraft. His first “Songbird” was a Cessna T-50 Bobcat “bamboo bomber,” later followed by the hottest personal airplane of its day, a Cessna 310. Artistic merit and technical accuracy aside, Sky King’s huge prime-time popularity ultimately motivated many young people to learn to fly, including myself. (My Dad owned a 310 at the time, and my brother Alan and I could easily imagine flying such adventures in our own family airplane. Both of us went on to become pilots.)

So effective was Sky King in popularizing general aviation, that ultimately Cessna provided a new 310 for filming and for Grant’s use in making personal appearances around the country. Compare the general aviation awareness resulting from that series, versus that of today. Not only is personal aviation invisible in today’s popular media, but few people even know a GA pilot anymore. My question is, does today’s public know enough about flying to even consider it as an option? Our marketing challenge may not be so much people deciding, “I don’t want to become a pilot,” but rather that they don’t even think of it in the first place.

Where’s Sky King when we need him? Every pilot knows that once people try the controls, they’re hooked. After all, the adventure, excitement, and personal fulfillment of personal flying are as strong today as ever. We as individual pilots must make sure that people are exposed to the idea in the first place. “Sky King calling Flying Crown Ranch… Come in, Penny!”

For my own minor tie-in to Sky King, read my August, 2003 column, Sky King and the Old Apache. ©2009 Gregory N. Brown

2/28/12 Read about the flying constable who inspired Sky King…