By Fred Gibbs


We hope you all had a great holiday season and wish you all an even better year this year than the last one! Last year was NOT a good year for our safety record, with 8 fatal accidents involving Arizona based pilots and aircraft. My hope is to never have to write about any fatal accidents come 2023. We always have our share of fender-benders, but perhaps this coming year we can significantly reduce the number of fatal accidents. Risk management plays a very large part of that process, and I am sure none of us get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, “I think I will go flying today and crash!”

Once upon a time, I was young and invincible. OK, OK, HOLD THE SMART %#&#@ REMARKS HERE!!! Back in the Northeast where I learned to fly, 200 and a ½ mile minimums on the ILS were routine, a piece of cake, and often. I flew the infamous Northeast corridor in my trusty ol’ Bellanca Super Viking, the “Speed Monster.” I cut my teeth flying into and out of the big guys, like Boston, La Guardia, JFK, Newark, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington-Reagan and Dulles, and a lot of the smaller GA airports, like Poughkeepsie, West Chester, Republic-Farmingdale, Islip, and Montouk, NY, Danbury, Bridgeport and Bradley, CT and all over NJ, DE, PA, VA and WV. I hit a lot of the really small ones, too, like the infamous DC3 airports – Potomac, Hyde Field and College Park, MD, Sky Acres and Stormville, NY, Slatington, Perkasie, Pottstown, Pottsville, Reading, Selinsgrove, PA, Sky Manor, Alexandria, Ocean City and Cape May, NJ, Freeway, Annapolis, Easton and Bay Bridge, MD, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, MA, and a lot more, too numerous to mention here. Many of them presented some quite challenging scenarios in several different ways, and the number of airports I got to visit while flight instructing back there grew exponentially. I especially liked doing practice instrument approaches at Andrews Air Force Base while instructing out of Freeway, MD, all of 7 miles east of Andrews. We could never land there, but on the missed approach at 200 feet, we always waved at the maintenance crews and Air Force One as it sat out there on the ramp next to its hangar. I also intimately remember being in the conga line of 747’s awaiting departure clearance out of Kennedy, hoping the captain in the 747 behind me, 40 feet up there in his cockpit, remembered I was down there in front of him and wouldn’t run over me. PS – Kennedy tower never did that to me again. The tower manager and I were good friends, and he asked his controllers to not put us little guys in front of a 747. They kindly obliged! And someday I will tell you about the day Kennedy tower put me in “position and hold” with the Concord on final approach!

And then there was that day out over Chesapeake Bay. My student and I saw smoke from a fire over by the Washington, DC area when the radio crackled with the emergency instructions for ALL aircraft to land immediately – and we mean immediately – get to the nearest airport available to you! That was 9/11.

As you can (obviously) see, I survived all those bold experiences to become an old pilot. Those days are gone, well remembered and cherished, but gone none-the-less. Now I love beautiful clear smooth-as-glass days, great scenery, no minimums to sweat out, and no more challenges to face except for a student occasionally trying to kill me. And even that rarely happens!

I hope all my readers become old pilots, and never show up in my GAARMS articles. So please think about that when you fire up Ol’ Betsy and fly off into the wild blue yonder. Leave bold behind and become an old timid, highly experienced, super-safe pilot.


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