Of the 10 years I have been doing GAARMS, this is no doubt the safest year to date so far. There have been NO general aviation (GA) pilot fatalities to date! That is absolutely outstanding. We have 3 months left in this year – is it possible to go an entire year without a GA pilot fatality??
I have been flying with Lightspeed Aviation headsets for over 20 years and really like them. In the old days, I was even a dealer for them. I have had several of them sent in for refurbishment with great and friendly support service from Lightspeed, and I would recommend them to any and everyone. But, the other day, I noticed that my every-day flight instructing Lightspeed Zulu3 has started to show its age. Well, with over a 1000-hours instruction time over the past 2 years, I reckon it was entitled to show some wear! I have replaced the ear pieces twice over the past 2 years, but the boom mike had come loose and refused to stay in place. OK, the time had come to send it back, so a call to Lightspeed product support resulted in finding out my headset is still under warranty and will be repaired for no charge. Wow, lucky me…
But now I was facing not having my instructor headset and having to pull my other Zulu 3 out of my personal airplane, my trusty Super Viking. And then, by fate or just plain ol’ luck, I got an email from one of my old students who is no longer flying, offering to sell me their Bose A20 headset for a real deal. GEEZ, how could I turn that down? I could replace my Zulu3 in my airplane with a Bose A20, move my refurbished Zulu 3 to the co-pilot side, actually the wife’s side, and be very happy. That was the plan, so off to Lightspeed went my instructor headset, off to my friend went the check for the Bose A20, and there is lots of joy in Mudville tonight.
Then, just to check it out, I put on the Bose and went flight instructing. “Bazinga”, it was soooo quiet in the ol’ C172 I had to look at the tachometer to make sure the engine was actually running. Then I really had to try it out in the Super Viking, because “The Monster” is a very loud airplane – 300 horsepower thru minimal mufflers does that. And WOW again, it has quieted down my Super Viking unbelievably! I hate to say it, but better than my, what I thought was already quiet, Zulu 3. I should have sprung for the big bucks headset years ago…
True confessions :
It was a dark and stormy night… No, seriously, it really was a dark and stormy night. There we were, 4 of us winging our way from Poughkeepsie , NY to Oshkosh, July of 1977, in a C210 Centurion. We were pretty much on a straight line direct course, courtesy of New York Center, across New York, across Lakes Erie and Huron into Michigan for our planned fuel stop. It was very late at night, very dark, rainy and thunderstormy. (That is not necessarily a correct weather description!) Anyway, I was in my usual right seat as captain of the flight with one of my now instrument rated students in the left seat, and two friends in the back, both fellow pilots. They were not instrument rated, so this was a treat – so I said – for them to see actual IMC for real. Oh, I guess I should mention they were NOT thrilled about the thunderstorms – or the lightning!
Our planned fuel stop was Lansing, Michigan, and the flight was actually very uneventful, no real threatening weather conditions and no thunderstorms between us and Lansing. However, Lansing itself was forecasting low ceilings and visibilities necessitating an instrument approach. My student (let’s call him Bob), thought this was great: a chance to really fly actual IMC down to minimums, and I was fine with that. He was a very good pilot and I had great confidence in him to fly it very accurately. Bob whipped out the Jeppesen approach plate, stuck it on the yoke clip, read off the initial approach fix altitude, followed the controllers approach clearance instructions and off we went. We were cleared for the localizer approach to (if I remember right) runway 27, practically a straight-in. Bob was rock steady, needles centered, smooth as glass stabilized approach. I sat there in the right seat just watching Bob perform effortlessly.
Then I saw some red lights go past us off the right wing, a couple hundred feet below us. That caught my attention – really caught my attention! I leaned over and looked at the approach plate, leaned into Bob a little and said, “Bob, climb up to such and such an altitude,” which Bob did without question. About 2 minutes later, I said, “OK, go on down to such and such altitude and continue the approach,” which he did without question. We broke out easily above minimums, made a very nice landing, taxied in, shut down and had the airplane topped off with fuel.
While the aircraft was being refueled, Bob asked what the altitude thing was all about. I pulled out the plate and asked him about the descent on the approach. He stated he followed the glide slope altitudes. I then pointed out that there was NO glide slope and the approach was a Localizer only with step down altitudes. Bob was aghast that he had missed that and asked me how I noticed that from the right seat. That’s when I told him I saw the red lights on the tall towers flash through the breaks in the clouds below us as we went past them. We were well clear of them, but Bob was really shook. He was mad at himself for not seeing that on the approach plate. He was not happy with his performance, but like all lessons in life, we learn from them. He never made that mistake again.
But the climax to the story was still to come. We departed Lansing westbound in low ceilings and rain. Oshkosh here we come. Well, between Lansing and Lake Michigan was a strong cold front with a line of thunderstorms right across our path. Bob was flying, and I was busy negotiating with Chicago Center for a good routing through said front. My buddy Nick, in the back, leaned forward, looking very worried, and hesitantly said “We are not gonna fly through any thunderstorms, are we?” As we approached the line, I turned and said, “Nah, I’m working with Center to find us a hole through the front.”
“OK,” said Nick. And just as he sat back into his seat, there was this huge bolt of lightning that flashed straight down right in front of us and lit up the sky like you would not believe, followed by this huge thunderclap. Then it went all dark again, we bounced a little bit, and “POOF,” we were through the front into clear skies, with a night sky full of beautiful, brilliant stars! I turned to tell Nick that we were in the clear, and the look on his face is forever etched in my mind. Eyes as big as saucers, mouth wide-open and speechless, (and Nick is never speechless!) To this day he tells that story over and over, and we laugh endlessly!
PS – the weather for the flight home was severe clear and totally uneventful!!