Left: Schleicher ASK-21 2- place Sailplane
(Click for specs)

I have commercial, multiengine and instrument ratings for airplanes as well as a commercial glider license. Although I've never owned a plane, I have been lucky enough to rent some great ones. Below is my aviation "scrap book" and links to other sites where you can learn more about flying.

Many people are attracted to flying to get away from their lives, to escape from their daily circumstances. Flying IS a great escape but if you also want to "fly" in your career and personal life without leaving the ground, I invite you to check out my life coaching services.

And if you'd like to try an inexpensive intro flying lesson, check out the "be a pilot" website


This is a 1946 Piper J3 Cub. After I got my commercial and instrument ratings, I got my taildragger endorsement in this airplane. Taildraggers have a small castering tailwheel and no nose wheel. A taildraggerís main wheels are also further forward, so that the tail of the plane drags on the ground. Most newer planes (and commercial jets) have whatís called tricycle landing gear, which means they have a nose wheel and main wheels further back so that the nose wheel stays on the ground after you land.

Taildraggers require more skill to land in cross winds but they generally land at slower speeds and can land in very short fields. They are also generally great on grass and rough terrain. I love the Piper Cub; itís a docile and forgiving plane you can land and stop in a very small area. You can fly it with the windows open as I have it configured here. In fact, this is what the pilot looks like flying solo; with one person, the cub is flown from the back seat.

It is a fabric-covered airplane with a tiny 65 horsepower engine and a top speed of about 80 knots. It has no battery and no starter motor so you have to have someone flip the prop to start it.

Piloting the BlimpThis is the slowest aircraft Iíve ever flown, an American Blimp Corporation A 60+ blimp. Top speed is about 35 MPH. Itís also the longest, 128 feet.

For my Essay about piloting a blimp, and more blimp pictures, click here:

Also, for more on blimps: http://www.lightships.com

This is not my Halloween costume! In this picture, I am flying a single seat motor-less sailplane at an altitude of 27,000 feet, to earn a Diamond altitude badge. Few pilots in the world hold this award.

Gliders have no heaters. The temperature in the cockpit pictured above was well below zero. Gliders are not pressurized either, so you have to use supplemental oxygen above 12,500 feet. Most glider flights in the Northeast happen below 8,000 feet. That's about as high as thermals (warm rising currents of air) will take you on a really good soaring day. To get higher, you need to fly in wave lift, which is readily available in Minden, Nevada, not far from Lake Tahoe. Here, wave lift can carry a glider to world record heights (currently about 50,000 feet for a glider). Winds coming across the pacific hit the mountains of California and are deflected upward in a wave-like flow. After a 10-minute tow upward behind a powered tow plane to a release altitude of about 9,000 feet (about 4000 feet above the airport), I rode this flow up to 27,000 feet. The flight was three hours long.

I got my first pilot's license in sailplanes, which are sleek, fiberglass airplanes with fantastic glide ratios. I learned in Central Pennsylvania, where we had immediate access to the Appalachian Ridge. The ridge is about 1000 feet high. Prevailing northwesterly winds blow into the ridge and are deflected upwards to create ridge lift. Ridge lift happens at much lower altitudes than wave lift. Ridge, thermal and wave lift are the three natural forces that will keep a glider aloft.

On a good day you can ride ridge lift for hours. Thus, we could fly great distances in powerless flight with only a short tow from a motorized plane. If you've seen "The Thomas Crowne Affair," the ridge gliding footage was shot in Elmira, NY and Central PA, in a glider from my home gliderport.

My longest glider flight was about 250 miles. It took all day. I always found it invigorating to be a long way from home in an airplane without an engine and to know (hopefully) that natural forces would guide me home.

The biggest ridge running challenge is jumping gaps in the ridge; you have to ride a thermal upward before you attempt to fly across the area where there is no ridge deflecting wind upward. If the thermals are weak, you do your best to milk the lift for every foot of altitude and then you make a leap of faith that you are high enough to fly across the gap. If you are wrong, you land in a farmer's field in the middle of the gap. Glider pilots call this ďlanding out.Ē Then you call your friends and ask them to drive down with a glider trailer and pick you up.

If you land out, glider wings come off for easy transport. I was fortunate to never have to ask my peers to make a long drive to retrieve me. However, I did once land out at an airport about 30 miles from home. The wind died and so did the ridge lift, so the smart thing to do was casually glide to a nearby airport rather than risk landing in a field on the way home. A tow plane flew over and aero-towed the glider and me home.

Gliding is much safer than people think. They land at very slow speeds, there is never any risk of fire, and the glide performance is exceptional. If you are at all interested in flying, I recommend you start with gliders. I think Glider pilots make the best pilots.

For more information about soaring, visit The Soaring Society of America at: http://www.ssa.org

If you would like to keep your feet on the ground and try remote control gliders, visit: http://www.nesail.com/

If you are interested in learning how to fly powered airplanes, visit http://www.beapilot.com/indexfl.html or http://www.aopa.org/

This is the exceptional website for a flying club in Bridgeport, CT full of links to weather data and all kinds of flying resources: http://www.carneyaviation.com/linktop.htm

High above Nevada This is the view from the back seat of a Grob103 fiberglass glider. The plane has two seats, fore and aft, and dual controls. This is the glider in which I learned to fly. Grob also makes a single seat version of this plane called a 102 which is the glider I flew to 27,000 feet for my diamond badge. If you ever go for a glider ride, request a fiberglass high performance two-seater. Riding in one of these is a lot like riding in a racecar or fighter jet, with a narrow reclined cockpit and center control stick.

In this picture, we were maneuvering to locate the area of strongest wave lift so that the rising air will help us climb up above the clouds, through a large blue hole in the sky.

More on the Grob G103:


And the Grob 102:


Ready for the next adventureĒ  This is the first powered plane I soloed (the blue and white one, not the brown one). I got my commercial license in gliders and later got my commercial license in powered airplanes. Many people who end up flying large jets like the UPS 727 pictured here start out in a little two-seat Cessna 152, like I did. The 152 will travel at a top speed of about 105 knots and itís a really fun little airplane to fly.

With Pepi before takeoff This is a Grumman tiger, a four seat 180 HP plane that will go about 125 knots. This is the plane in which I got my instrument rating, which is what you need if you want to fly in the clouds. Instrument flying requires a high degree of proficiency so the rating also helps make pilots safer.

One nice feature of a Tiger is the sliding canopy over the pilotís head. You can fly with it cracked open, sort of like a sliding sunroof. There are no doors so getting in and out in the rain is a bit of a problem, since the cockpit can get pretty wet.

The following photographs were taken in Central Pennsylvania on an instrument flight in a Tiger. My friend and pilot mentor, Pepi Sayre, who flies professionally, took the pictures of me taking off, bound for Connecticut; I took the remaining pictures from inside the cockpit as I disappeared into the clouds.

To read a story of my first instrument flight, click here.

Cessna Caravan The 152 is one of the smallest Cessnas and the Caravan is the biggest, at least in the single engine arena. This plane can hold up to 14 passengers and a whole lot of gear. This particular plane was configured as an air ambulance, which I flew as copilot. With my commercial, instrument and later multi-engine ratings, there are many opportunities to fly this sort of great airplane. The caravan is also the first plane I flew with a turbine engine. Most small planes use piston engines, which work like car engines. But a turbine engine is more like a jet engine with a propeller on it. It burns jet fuel, is more reliable and is extremely powerful. The engine on the Caravan puts out 675 horsepower.

For more info on this plane: http://caravan.cessna.com/

And, to see the instrument panel: http://caravan.cessna.com/avionics.chtml

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