Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ok, I Have To Admit...

My very first commercial "job" was flying a Stearman.
I love antique aircraft.  By now, everybody knows that.  If it was built before 1956 I like it.  And, if it was built before 1945 I love it.  It’s that simple.
In fact, among the greatest loves of my life are a specific few airplanes.  Old Bess was my Stearman.  She was my safe place; the place everything was right.  N2665E was the family Champ.  She brought me into this world (of aviation).  There’s also a special SNJ, DC-3, and two square tail Stearman in my diary.  All of them will be in my thoughts to the end.  But, discrimination has no place in my life.
Never does a day go by that I don’t think of vintage aircraft, dream of vintage aircraft, and plot ways to fly as many of them as I can before I die.  I may have loved a few but I intend to test drive them all.  I just can’t get enough.  Therefore, knowing what you now know, what I’m about to say may shock you.  I love the 747.

Anchorage 747-8
During my many years flying the EMB-145 for a regional airline, there was one thing I heard more passengers say than anything, “This plane sure is small”.  Yeah, even the person who hitchhiked to the airport because their Camaro was on blocks was positive they got shafted.  To me, it was hilarious.
If the news told of some executive flying this plane to a meeting they’d be pissed as hell that “the man” had it so good.  But, as soon as their pajama wearing butts placed their open toed shoes in the door, it was a small piece of junk that was below them.  Again, I thought it was funny.  Others did not.
How race cars make it to other countries.
Many pilots took it personal.  Hearing those words was an insult.  Of course, to many pilots the job and the plane made them who they were.  This meant little plane, little man.  Therefore, the only thing they wanted was to fly a bigger plane.  It still makes me laugh.
The “145” was a great little plane and I enjoyed flying it.  Being the smallest jet on the ramp didn’t matter.  Why complain?  It flew well.  Yet I was never in love with it.  We were more like partners of circumstance who never let each other down.
Only four of these were ever built and I get to fly them.
Today though, I fly the 747.  And, I have to confess, I love this plane.  If I could spend the rest of my career flying it I would.  She’s perfect.  I didn’t always know that.
Recently I came to a crossroad.  It was one of those potentially life changing moments when you take stock of the important things.  That day, the thought of life without her passed through my mind.  It was not good.  That’s when I realized how much I enjoy flying Boeing's flagship.  I haven’t been the same sense.
It’s like I am a Montague and she, a Capulet; forbidden love.  How could this stick and rudder kid from a clan of antiquers dare even say such a thing - commit to such a relationship?  It’s heresy I tell ya.  But, it’s true.  Unfortunately, just like the play, some tragedies cannot be avoided.
How the Red Bull Racers get from one race to the next.
If I ever have to fly another plane for work, I’ll do it.  But it won’t be a “seven four”.  There I’ll sit enjoying the ride, doing my job, thinking of that girl I used to know.  And if it crosses my mind, I may even switch my facebook aviation relationship status to “it’s complicated”.
Dear Diary, 7-DC, PT-17, SNJ, DC-3, PT-9, C3R, and 747.  That last one may seem out of place but, she did that thing and, well, she earned the spot.

PeeEss:  I decided to sit down and admit to my high-bypass turbofan powered aluminum indiscretion after reading the story of the Quantas 747-400 making her last landing in Australia.  It’s cool to see so many people take an interest in such a thing.  Therefore, I decided to also to share with you a few things I’ve learned about the plane which you may or may not find interesting.

If you're ever lucky enough to ride in an empty 747 during a max thrust takeoff, you'll never forget it.  It's even hard to explain.   Holy wow!
The 747 can be slipped.  It’s true.  It doesn’t explode, flip upside down, or cartwheel.  But, it’s not something you want to push.  She does after all have the highest sweep of any commercial airplane(and she's the fastest).
Yep, she goes like crazy.  Max cruise is .92 mach and I've read that in
flight testing the 747-400 they took her to .98 with no flutter.
The plane is also quite difficult when it comes to judging how high you are off the ground.  Without the radar altimeter it’s challenging at best.  This relates to the video included above as the guy did a great job putting it on the end of the runway.  That is not easy.
Ummm, yeah, there's that.
On the other hand, I am quite sure a lightly loaded 747 with no restrictions on braking and reverser usage, and no concerns about hot brakes and turn-around times, could land and come to rest in under 2000 from the point its tires touched ground.   She has amazing stopping power.  And so, I guess this takes away some of the thrill of seeing one land at a small airport.  But, it shouldn’t.  I’ve been to some not-so-large out of the way places in the “seven four”, and people from each culture always stop to watch.  A cruise ship in a creek translates to every language.

Finally, because of how well the plane flies, and the way your mind adjusts to whatever you’re flying, from the cockpit it does not feel like you are operating one of the largest planes ever to grace the skies.  But, every time you fly the old girl, either when you walk up to her to begin a flight or afterwards during the post-flight inspection, every true pilot stops, looks around, marvels at her immensity, and says to himself, “I can’t believe I fly this”.

I will never forget the Orlando ground controller who was always
encouraging us to "snuggle up to that heavy virgin".

No comments: