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My first thought was to check the tire on my left main strut. It looked okay. Maybe the wheel came off the right side, or off the nosewheel. My heart rate rocketed through the roof.
I pulled the throttle back and began a descent towards base leg. When I turned base, I called “Cessna 5 Kilo Bravo, left base, Runway 7, um, touch-and-go?”
“Cessna 5 Kilo Bravo, cleared touch-and-go, Runway 7,” was all I heard. No “Holy cow, you’re on fire! Make it a full stop.”
I made my touch-and-go, turned left crosswind, and finished my 3-landing day with a full stop. Handshakes all around. T-shirt ripped off the back, and the rest is history. Turns out, this was a Saturday, and the Gainesville Airport Fire Department always ran an emergency drill on Saturday afternoons. I wish someone had told me that before I launched on my initial solo.
Thirty-two Years Later . . .
I’m still flying. You can take a look at what and where I’ve flown in the summary below. I’ve got a wide variety of experience thanks to some luck, both good and bad. With all my experience, you would think the memories that stand out most would come from combat flying time, and you would be partially correct.
Not only do I remember hairy nights flying combat over Kuwait and Iraq, but strangely, I remember what most would think rather obscure experiences from my student pilot days. In particular, I remember the high anxiety I felt the first several times I flew into what I then believed to be big-time busy airports: Jacksonville and Daytona Beach! I remember the flop sweat produced by having to fly and talk to ATC at the same time. It seems minor now, but it was a big deal to me at the time.
If you are just starting out, or you are a low-time pilot, with some confusion or anxiety about talking on the radio, I can relate. The good news is, practice does make perfect; and there is no substitute for hands-on practice with the radios. It’s my pleasure to offer you that opportunity with this website.
P.S. And for goodness sake, stay in touch! Write to me. Ask questions. Tell a good story, or a bad one. I’d love to talk about flying with you. Don’t be shy. I don’t care if your English isn’t good, or you are not a good writer. Let’s talk!
My Flying Experience in chronological order:
Civilian Single-Engine Aircraft: C-152; C-172; PA-28; M-20P.
Military Aircraft: T-37 (student and IP, Reese AFB, Lubbock, TX); T-38; A-10A (4-ship flight leader, Suwon AB, Rep. of S. Korea; Myrtle Beach AFB, SC; Desert Shield, Desert Storm, a.k.a. the Persian Gulf War: 33 night combat missions.)
Warbirds: T-34B (8 years teaching combat maneuvers, aerobatic flight, and formation flight to civilians and factory test pilots. Not CFI time; Atlanta, GA) Z-37A-2 (Zlin.)
Civilian Multi-Engine Aircraft: CE-500*; MU-300; DC-9 and MD-88**; B-757-200/300 and B-767-200/300/ER/400**.
This experience represents 14,500+ hours of flying time.
*Type rated. **One type rating for both aircraft and all variants.