“Cap’n Alex,” Greg’s March, 2016 Flying Carpet column

Flying “turns about a patio”

Nicole-AlexChambers_CarolWyatt-Smith_FC_SEZ_2236-EditeSmw1200I questioned how much Alex Chambers would appreciate an airplane ride celebrating his 5th birthday, given little kids’ notoriously short attention spans.

But Jean’s friend and tennis coach, Nicole, had long reported her son’s obsession with airplanes, so I willingly offered a flight when Jean suggested it.

Normally I fly first-timers around the nearby San Francisco Peaks, followed by breakfast at scenic Sedona Airport. But for little Alex, I figured one or the other would be enough. I also bought a toy airplane to occupy him if necessary during our flight; finding no Flying Carpet-style Cessnas, I selected a nifty P-47 fighter.

Our opportunity arose a week after Alex’s birthday. Nicole’s visiting girlhood friend Carol Wyatt-Smith from South Africa would join us.

“Why are we going inside the gate?” Alex asked his mom when we met at the Flagstaff Airport.

“We’re going to see Greg’s airplane,” she explained. Alex squirmed shyly when invited out of the car, but eventually emerged to open his P-47 birthday present and stash it with his back-seat airplane collection.

AlexChambers_FCaloft_2218eSmw1200I assigned my young friend to push the button opening the hangar door—always popular among youthful passengers.

Then he “helped” me pull out the airplane. Surprised at Alex’s level of engagement, I demonstrated the elevators during preflight.

“These make the plane go up and down,” I said. “What do you think they’re called?”

“Are those the flaps?” he replied. This is a five-year old, mind you, so I was impressed that he could name any flight surface, even if the wrong one…


Top photo: Alex and Nicole Chambers with friend Carol Wyatt-Smith, at Sedona Airport, Arizona. (KSEZ)

Lower photo: ‘Cap’n Alex’ at the controls.

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


©2015 Gregory N.Brown

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

“Tomorrow’s Pilot,” Greg’s April, 2015 Flying Carpet column

Passing the torch

5-GregBrownFT415_3eSm1200We all meet youthful aspiring pilots. For many it’s a passing interest, but now and then we encounter young people whose aviation knowledge and enthusiasm mark them as exceptional.

Gian Jacuzzi messaged me on Facebook last year about becoming a pilot. He’d gotten the bug at an airshow, and regaled me with photos of his favorite airplanes. I helped the 13-year-old enroll in “AOPA Av8rs,” and briefed him on EAA’s Young Eagles program and Air Academy summer camps. I also introduced Civil Air Patrol, where he might affordably solo in gliders as young as 14. He in turn asked about my piloting, and the Flying Carpet. In the process, we discovered that we share the same birthday.

Shortly after Christmas, Gian messaged me asking about university aeronautical programs. After answering, I casually asked about his holiday vacation.

GregBrownFT415_5eV2Smw1200“Truthfully,” he said, “there’s been a lot of pressure here. My mom, sister Nina, and myself just moved to Florida with nothing but 3 suitcases of clothes and essentials. So we didn’t have much money or time to celebrate the holidays. We spent most of our current money on airline tickets. We lived in a hotel for two weeks but it was expensive and we were running out of money. We considered going into a shelter but met some kind people and are staying in their house while my mom finds a job.”

GianNinaRusso-C150_MaribelRussoPhoto_2eSm1200I asked how his mother was holding up. “She has lots of hope and is very motivated. Nina and I are very proud of her.” There was no hint of sadness or frustration, but clearly this family had suffered a bleak Christmas. Yet even among those trials Gian found a bright spot.

“The good thing was we flew here in a 747! I got to see the cockpit, and the pilot and first officer were both fascinated by my passion for aviation!” Spontaneously I made an offer: “Ask your mom if she’d be comfortable with Jean and me buying you a flying lesson. You deserve to do something special after all you’ve been through.” …

READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE FLYING CARPET COLUMN, TOMORROW’S PILOT.” (Allow a moment for the article to load.)

Top photo: Gian Jacuzzi takes the controls for the first time. Middle photo: Maribel Russo and Nina Jacuzzi, with CFI Yogini Modi and Gian Jacuzzi at Orient Flight School, Homestead Airport, Florida. Bottom photo: Nina Jacuzzi celebrates her brother Gian’s first lesson. SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE!

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


PS: Check out some exciting followup on this column by my friend and AOPA Flight Training magazine editor, Jill Wood Tallman.

©2015 Gregory N.Brown

“Soaring to Summer Camp,” Greg’s August column

Tyler Allen beamed as we cleared the ridge west of Window Rock Airport.

Behind us in the Flying Carpet’s baggage compartment, the high-school junior’s viola, bedding, and duffel bag promised musical adventure.

For after months of scholarship applications and paperwork, Tyler was en route to Northern Arizona University’s Curry Summer Music Camp. I transferred the controls to my young friend, who leveled us at 8,500 feet and steered over the Navajo Nation toward Flagstaff.

“Greg, do you know when to test the ELT?” Tyler asked, pointing to the emergency locator transmitter switch on the Flying Carpet’s instrument panel. Before I could answer, he cited the regulations on how often to check it, and at what time during the hour. “I’ve been studying for my pilot written test,” he boasted. We talked of the training process, and of the airplane he plans to own one day…

Read the entire story in Greg’s August Flying Carpet column, “Soaring to Summer Camp.” (First appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine, 8/12 issue.)

Top photo: Tyler Allen at Embry-Riddle Flight Exploration Camp, Prescott, Arizona. (Courtesy Embry-Riddle Flight Exploration Camp.)  At right: Tyler performs with the NAU Curry Summer Music Camp senior orchestra. See more photos here.

©2012 Gregory N.Brown

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

“Sunset Over Window Rock,” Greg’s February column & photos

“What’s it like, flying in winter?” asked my young Navajo friend, Tyler.

“It’s a blast!” I replied. “Not only does the plane perform better in cold air, but nothing beats playing tag with snowcapped mountains. You’ll love it!”

I’d long promised Tyler and another teen pilot, Zack, this trip over their holiday vacations from school. Both young men aspire to professional piloting careers: Tyler in large commercial planes, and Zack via the Air Force Academy. The two hadn’t met, so I’d suggested that Zack and I fly to Window Rock, Arizona, where Tyler would take a turn at the controls. There, I hoped the two would become friends and support each other’s efforts.

In the process, Jean and I would visit our friends Adriel and Holly Heisey, the folks who’d first introduced us to Tyler, in nearby Gallup, New Mexico. Jean and Holly planned some quality “girl time” while the boys and I flew.

Never propose piloting adventures to young people unless you plan to follow through. By Thanksgiving Zack and Tyler were phoning almost daily to ensure I didn’t forget my offer. Between everyone’s family obligations, however, Christmas approached without us leaving the ground.

“We’ll fly between Christmas and New Years,” I promised, but a blizzard stymied our plans. We then settled on December 31st, but Adriel and Holly were hosting New Year’s guests. That left only the boys’ final vacation weekend for our flying adventure.

Continue reading Greg’s February, 2011 Flying Carpet column, “Sunset Over Window Rock,” here. (Please allow a moment for the column to load.)

Photo: Sunset over Window Rock Airport, Arizona. See additional photos from this story, here.

©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!

45 minutes of joy…

Just a quick morning circuit around the San Francisco Peaks before work, a landing at Sedona Airport without even shutting down, and look what I found…

Photo: Yes, those are gigantic fields of flowers carpeting the flanks of O’Leary Peak! See more photos from this morning’s 45 minutes of joy, here.

©2010 Gregory N. Brown

Native American teen reaches for the sky

Those who read my February AOPA Flight Training column, Navajo Pilot, about young Tyler Allen of Window Rock, Arizona, will appreciate the the wonderful EAA News article that appeared online today regarding his attendance at EAA Air Academy camp. Read Ric Reynolds’s inspiring article, Native American Teen Reaches for the Sky. Good goin’ Tyler!

Photo: Tyler Allen with Adriel Heisey’s FlightDesign CT at Window Rock Airport. (Adriel Heisey photo)

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

Greg’s February column, “Navajo Pilot,” and additional photos

Click here to read Greg’s Flying Carpet column, “Navajo Pilot,” and click here to see additional photos.  

This is the story of young Navajo pilot Tyler Allen, and of our associated travels to see the terrific Diné Photographers Exhibit at the Navajo Nation Museum, in Window Rock, Arizona. The museum is only a short walk from Window Rock Airport and there’s a restaurant next door, so you Southwest-area pilots should definitely check it out.

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

  ©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!

August “First Flight” column, photos, & Jonathan’s essay

GregBrownFT809_DSCN0675eMy column this month is about a multi-talented young man named Jonathan Messiers. His flight instructor, Dorothy Schick, owner of Oregon’s Takewing Aviation, was so taken by the description Jonathan wrote of his first flying lesson that she sent it to me, inspiring this month’s column.

All of us pilots agree that flying is something special, but few can capture that magic in words the way Jonathan has. See additional photos of Jonathan’s adventure, and read his entire unedited essay.

Read my August AOPA Flight Training column about Jonathan and Dorothy 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!