I challenge you—

I have a challenge to propose. In my book, “Flying Alone,” and in my blog, I tell you about my most memorable flying experiences. Well, I’d like to hear about YOUR most memorable flying experience. It doesn’t matter if you were a pilot or a passenger!

Please share your story as a comment. The writers of the 3 best stories will receive a signed hard copy of “Flying Alone.”

If you like what you’ve been reading, please like and follow my blog. Thank you!

23 thoughts on “I challenge you—”

  1. Beth,

    Dad was Army and was stationed in Germany 1952-1954, we were fortunate enough to accompany him, and as we were coming home is my story.

    Boarded the plane in Frankfort, Germany in February/March of 54, being a 5 year old I was excited to the max. Remember it was a commercial flight on a 4 prop plane, I talked Dad into letting me have the window seat and was loving it. I assume it was over the English Channel that I noticed the inboard prop was throwing oil like crazy, told Dad and he called the stewardess and told her. She seemed to be upset that I would bring that to anyone’s attention, but she goes to the cockpit and speaks to the pilot and a few minutes later tells everyone we were going to stop in Ireland for minor repairs.

    After 5-6 hours we boarded our repaired plane heading for New York, By now it’s late afternoon, again I’m sitting there watching that engine as it has “ALL” my attention, I’m 5 so take that into consideration. We’re served dinner and lights are being turned off so everyone can sleep, of course I’m not. Not sure of the time, but it’s late and I’m still watching that engine-it’s starting to throw oil again. Everyone’s asleep and there’s nobody to tell, so I keep watching. I start seeing sparks and freaking out, wake Dad and tell him, he starts freaking out as by now the oil has caught fire and the engine is a blaze. He gets the stewardess’s attention and she’s like, “It’s going to be alright, the pilot knows and is shutting down the engine.” They did get the engine shut down and the fire put out, But, Try telling that to a five year old on his first flight over the Atlantic, hours from New York, that it’s nothing.

    All the lights came on and the pilot comes on the speaker saying do-to engine problems we were heading for New Newfoundland for minor repairs. After landing, they bus us to an old army barracks with a large pot bellied stove for heat with buckets of coal and a bunch of bunk beds that hadn’t seen a body in years. The Mom’s weren’t happy about the conditions and let those in charge know, as kids we were having an adventure, now that we had dirt on our feet. Eight hours later we are again on the plane heading to New York, landed to cheers and a happy five year old.

  2. I don’t have a pilot story, but I do have a memorable passenger story. It was December 2005 and we were traveling from Tucson to London. I remember it was 2005 because that was the year that the Harry Potter Film Goblet of Fire was released. We had won a trip to England to go to the set of the Harry Potter film, and have a feast in the “Great Hall.” We were traveling from Tucson International to Chicago O’Hare International, and then on to London from Chicago. Well it was December after all, and there was a snow storm in Chicago of course. We boarded our plane in Tucson, and we taxied out to prepare for take off. Then the pilot came on and said that our flight was being delayed due to the storm in Chicago. So we ended up sitting in the plane for a very long time. Even though it was December, we were after all in a metal plane sitting in the Arizona sun, it soon became very hot in the cabin. The flight crew was not allowed to bring us drinks, and the ac was not turned on either, because they didn’t know how long were were going to be sitting there. After about 45 min of this, they at least turned on the AC. We were told that everyone with connecting flights would still be able to make their flights, and the connecting flights were being advised. This made us feel a little better, but we were still nervous. After an hour we were finally permitted to take off and head to Chicago. After our 3+ hour flight, we finally landed in Chicago, after we had to stay in a holding pattern over the city for awhile. When we were exiting the plane the flight crew told us that our connecting flight was waiting for us, but we better hurry. We started off at a very fast pace, because we had to get from one terminal to another one. We actually had to start running to get there. We made it to the gate as they were closing the doors. Out of breath, we were telling them we were here to board the plane. They told us they were very sorry but we could not board the plane after the doors have been closed, even though the Jetway was still in place. We were told we would have to get the next flight to London. Then we found out that the next flight to London wouldn’t be until the morning. We watched in frustration for 45 minutes while the plane we were supposed to be on was being de-iced. The airline told us we could go to a hotel, but we had to be back early to get the flight, and with the weather we didn’t want to chance it, so we spent the night at the gate, sleeping on the floor. We finally did get our flight in the morning, we didn’t know if our luggage was on the plane before us or not, it turned out that our luggage did make the first flight, so when we arrived in London, we had to hunt down our luggage, and the people that were supposed to meet us at the airport, were long gone, so we had to figure out how to get to the hotel by ourselves. We ended up having a good trip after that, however my husband ended up getting sick during our trip, we figured it was from sleeping on the cold floor in the airport. We did find out later, after our trip, that the same night that we got stuck at Chicago O’Hare, an airplane ran off the runway at Midway Airport because of the snow and ice.

  3. I took off at 5:30 AM on a dark December day in my Piper Arrow for my weekly 200 mile commute from my home in Glens Falls, NY (KGFL) to Westchester County (KHPN). The ubiquitous icing Airmet in clouds and precipitation was up, and my usual strategy was to climb quickly to get on top. There were no reports of icing. I took off in +2C VFR, turned South, and picked up my IFR clearance from Albany. The bases were about 4000 feet and I climbed in IMC. The outside temperature was at -3C as I picked up a little frost on the leading edge.

    The icing was very light, but suddenly the engine started vibrating horribly. The whole plane was shaking so much that I couldn’t see the instruments. Fearing that the engine would rip through the mounts, I pulled back to idle. Flying in the Northeast in December meant I would frequently encounter a mist of ice, but I knew better than to fly into known icing or anywhere near the forecast super-cooled liquid droplets depicted by red hashing on the icing forecast maps.

    I was ten miles from Albany at 6000 feet and able to hold a little power. The Controller cleared me to land straight in Runway 19. I executed a no-flaps landing at higher than normal speed. After shutting down I watched the ice melt from just one prop blade.

    In over 3000 hours in that Arrow since then I’ve never had asymmetric loading of ice since that time. Normally the dirty wing of my Arrow shrugs off a little mist of frost like I encountered that dark morning.

      1. Had Ice thrown off from a prop on approach to Flagstaff right here in Arizona punch a big gaping hole into the side of the fiberglass nose cargo compartment on my Seneca 3.

      2. Flying a single-engine plane in the Northeast on a schedule 12 months a year for 20 years makes it hard to pick one story. Some are funny, a few were scary, and most were relaxing. This thread will tend toward the dramatic (scary), but maybe next you could ask for the funny stories? My main take-away lesson is that I always have to have the discipline to delay, cancel, or divert to break an accident chain.

    1. Hi Bob,
      Thank you for sharing your flying story! There were a total of 11 submissions, and they all were so interesting, exciting or even funny, so I’ve decided to send each person a signed copy of my book instead of just choosing three. It’s my way of thanking you for interacting with my page and for following me.

      Please message your mailing address to me so I can send the book to you next month.

      All my best,

      Beth Ruggiero York
      “Flying Alone: A Memoir”

  4. It was a hot August night in 1991 and I was on my first solo night flight, just a few days after receiving my Private pilot license. I had rented a Cessna 172 to fly from the Albuquerque Double Eagle II Airport (KAEG) to Santa Fe (KSAF) to meet a friend for dinner. I was very familiar with both airports and the aircraft since about half of my pilot private training was in this exact aircraft, and my training was based at KAEG with numerous landings, both night and day at KSAF. The outbound trip was uneventful and smooth as the usual summer desert thermals had subsided after the sunset. On the return flight, after a normal departure from the 7000 foot elevation Santa Fe Runway 2 and climb to 10,500 feet, everything was smooth and uneventful as I began my descent from10,500 feet for the 5300 foot elevation Double Eagle II Airport. Passing through 8,500 feet and about 6 miles north of the field I enriched the fuel mixture slightly (one does not go full rich at high elevation airports) and as soon as I touched the mixture control the engine sputtered and shut down. I had not deployed any flaps yet so the airplane was configured for best glide and I slowed to best guide speed. I keyed the runway lights to maximum and the field was in sight on a clear desert night. As normal, when something goes wrong, you undo the last thing you did prior to the emergency so I leaned the mixture control and immediately realized that the mixture control was malfunctioning as it offered no resistance and just moved forward and backward with no effort whatsoever. Despite this I still attempted a restart a couple of times to no avail. The question was whether or not I would make the field and I could tell it was going to be close. At 1:30AM I squawked 7700, called Albuquerque Approach and declared an emergency. There wasn’t much they could do except tell me how far I was from the airport every half minute or so. One fortunate thing is that when flying from KSAF to KAEG you are essentially lived up with runway 22 for the entire 50 mile flight so no altitude would need to be scrubbed with turns. After what seemed like an eternity and concentrating very hard to maintain an exact glide speed of 68 knots indicated airspeed, something that had been drilled into my brain during my training, I was tracking the ILS approach course lighting centerline, and it looked like I would make it with maybe a 1000 feet of runway to spare. On very short final I lowered the flaps one notch and dropped the airspeed to 65 knots for a normal landing and rolled the airplane to a stop on a turn-off about halfway down the 7400 foot runway. I cancelled the mayday with approach, started breathing normally again and called up the night Unicom operator for a tow. A single engine aircraft engine failure over high altitude terrain in the desert had a successful outcome and the airplane could even be used again.

    The next morning, after a sleepless night, I went back out to the airport to talk with the FBO that I rented the plane from and also the A&P at the airport’s sole aircraft service provider. Unbenounced to me, I was the first person to rent this airplane after an annual inspection and service and a safety wire that prevents the mixture control from disengaging from the rod that actually moves the mixture in the engine compartment had been left off and the mixture control became disconnected and took the mixture to full lean. My lesson from this was to always inspect the aircraft maintenance logs when renting an airplane. Even if I had done that, I would not have discovered this problem especially since the aircraft operated normally for 95% of the two flights but at least it raises the awareness that something might not have been put back together correctly. I would have at least been aware that the airplane had extensive service. In the years after that, I have always done thorough test flights after any significant service before flying an aircraft any significant distance from an airport.

    A few months later I passed my Instrument Pilot check-ride in the same aircraft!

  5. I had just bought my second airplane, a Piper Turbo Seneca. We packed it with 5 other people and just made the weight and balance guidelines. Yes, I did make everyone stand on a scale. We were heading to Lake Powell from Long Beach California. The party started in the back seats and everyone, but me was drinking. They were getting louder and louder. I thought for a moment about going up to 15,000 feet and letting them pass out since I could put myself on oxygen. Then someone said, hey Mason, didn’t you just get you aerobatics license. I should have said NO, but of course I didn’t. They kept telling me to roll the airplane. I told them this airplane was not rated for that. I knew I could do it and they kept it up. I told everyone to tighten their seat belts and then I rolled it. Yes, it did roll with no problems but there was something wet going everywhere. What they did not tell me is they were peeing in the igloo the whole time we were flying. Yep, it went all over the plane including on me. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily we just had 20 minutes to go before landing at Page, AZ airport. I landed the plane, taxied to transient parking and ran to the bathroom. I locked the door on everyone, cleaned up the best I could and took my sweet time doing it while everyone else waited.

  6. I first must set the stage a bit since the context of this story is important. When I was 22, fresh out of college as a software engineer an opportunity to do some freelance work come across my desk. With nothing exciting happening at my day job I eagerly hopped on the opportunity but was quickly in over my head. The client that had hired me needed a large scale system built for his company, something I did not have the knowledge or experience to handle and was not very well articulated in the initial conversations. On any note the project got off to a bit of a rocky start but eventually we got the hang of things and progress was being made.

    I found out about 6 months into the project that the client was also a pilot, it was the first time in my life that I had met anyone that flew planes for fun. That simply was not a hobby that any one had where I grew up. From that moment on I was intrigued by the entire notion of “flying for fun”. Another few months go by, and every so often meetings would digress to airplane chats or story time. After some convincing the client encouraged me to go and take just one flight lesson, professing that I would be instantly hooked he smirked a bit. I didn’t even know where to start, do you just drive to the airport? how does this work? surely there is a lot involved before I ever get into a plane.

    Fast forward a few weeks and some diligent hunting for a local flight school, has me sitting in a room watching an old VHS tape going over what the various things in a cockpit do. Not more than twenty minutes later I was sitting left seat in a 172 with a burly instructor telling me to “gun it, when the airspeed indicator says 65 ease back and we’ll be flying”. Surprised that he expected me to take off on my own I hesitated at first and he said “don’t worry ill handle the rudder and radios”. As soon as the wheels lifted off I was hooked, I had my license 13 months later.

    During my training my client had promised to take me up in his Saratoga after I completed my license. As any young pilot knows the promise of a shiny high performance airplane ride to get you out of tattered, beat up trainers is something to be coveted and I was sure to not let him forget it.

    We had released the first major version of our software internally, not to long after my check ride when the client called me up to hold true to his promise on the Saratoga ride. He also told me in a somewhat serious tone that there were some things he wanted to discuss in regards to the project. Worried I was about to lose my first consulting client and source of spare cash I had to fly on the weekends or make a fool of myself somehow, or both, I headed up to his airfield to meet him for a day of flying and business discussions.

    The weather on that day can only be described as interesting. The winds were blowing at least 25 gusting 30, and by no means down the runway, the clouds were perfect for thermal activity, no the light stuff, the kind of stuff that smacks your head right into the roof of the plane. I had always figured that a big stable plane like a Saratoga would be far more planed than the lowly Cherokee 160 I trained in but boy was I wrong. After an hour of shooting approaches and flying around we decided to head back to the field, I had been feeling queazy all the while but nothing I had not felt before, I was after all a pilot now. It happened on short final, my breakfast decided it no longer wanted to remain with me, and without warning, came right up.

    Embarrassed is a word that does not come close to fully summing up how I felt in that moment. Making a mess of a clients shiny airplane, all the while assuming he was mad at me, it was clearly not my day. We cleaned everything up and, ironically, went to lunch. Over lunch he proceeded to tell me that I was the first person to vomit in his plane in the 26 years he had owned it, at this point making me even more mortified but having already resined to the fact that I was about to be fired I simply sat there quietly.

    The client proceeded to tell me how well things were going and how he wanted to take our software product to market but couldn’t do it without my help and offered me a job to run the show with him. So there in that diner, still somewhat covered in my own vomit I was offered a job that would change the rest of my life.

    We now fly that same Saratoga to business meetings when we need to, we always chat about airplanes and the client has become one of my closest friends all because of our mutual love of airplanes. While I don’t necessarily advocate for vomiting mid job interview, its worked out alright for me so far.

    1. Hi D,
      Thank you for sharing your flying story. There were a total of 11 submissions, and they all were so interesting, exciting or even funny, so I’ve decided to send each person a signed copy of my book instead of just choosing three. It’s my way of thanking you for interacting with my page and for following me.

      Please message your mailing address to me so I can send the book to you next month.

      All my best,

      Beth Ruggiero York
      “Flying Alone: A Memoir”

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