Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering Don Huseth, Intrepid Flight Instructor, and the day of my first solo . . .

I learned to fly in a Cessna 150
My intrepid flight instructor, Don Huseth, passed away September 25, 2009. He was 87. I'm sure I singlehandedly aged him by at least 20 years during the time he taught me how to fly.
It was during the 1970's. I was a single mother, working full time, on a limited budget. Somehow I managed to scrape together the $30 per lesson I needed. But I couldn't afford more than one lesson a week. So each week, I would have to spend half of my hour relearning what I had already forgotten from the week before. This made for slow progress, to say the least.
I remember my first solo in vivid detail. Don worked with my brother John at Thunderbird Aviation at Flying Cloud Airport. For a couple of weeks he had alerted my brother that I would be ready to solo "next time."
When Don finally determined I was ready, there was nobody to cheer me on. Except Don, of course.
I remember the giddy feeling right after takeoff, looking down to see smiling Don standing there by the runway. Then came a sobering thought, "Don't forget, you've got to get this baby down again."
I was on my downwind leg, getting ready to turn on base, when another pilot called the tower to say he was approaching on a long final. The tower responded that she had a student pilot on a first solo on downwind leg so she would appreciate it if he would enter the pattern. The other pilot refused. He was given permission to land and asked to report to the tower immediately afterwards. Yikes!
Believe me, I didn't need airport drama at this point. Especially when I was feeling that I was the cause of it!
I was told to extend my downwind. This, in turn, gave me a long final.
When I successfully touched down and was taxiing to pick up Don, who was still standing by the runway with a "thumbs up," the tower made my day with a "Nice first solo!"
I went home, bursting with my news. Nobody was there. I was deflated. So I went to Target, clutching my first solo certificate, signed by Don Huseth. I bought a frame for it. I was hoping the cashier would ask me why I was buying the frame. She didn't. I told her anyway!
When I got back home both my son and a friend of mine were at my house. We went to Taco Bell to celebrate. We were excitedly talking about the events of the day when a man at a nearby booth came over. He said, "I couldn't help but overhear that you did your first solo today. I just had to come over to tell you I still remember every detail of my first solo. I am a captain for Northwest Airlines, but I have to say my first solo was the biggest thrill I ever had to this day."
I wish I remembered your name, NWA Captain! You added a very special postscript to that memorable day, so long ago.
And none of this would ever have happened if it weren't for the skill, patience and kindness of one Don Huseth.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

MN Aviation Hall of Fame Writer's Award - 2009

I received pretty exciting news last week. The Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame has selected Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels, Recalling a time when passenger flight was an adventure and the Boeing Stratocruiser ruled the skies, for their 2009 aviation writers award.

The awards ceremony will take place in April, 2010. (When you click on this link, you will find me in the paragraph just below the names of the illustrious 2009 Hall of Fame inductees.) While you are there, peruse their website. You will find it fascinating.
I know.
I could have waited awhile to broadcast the news.
I could have.
I should have.
But gosh. I didn't.

By the way - you may now purchase Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels on Amazon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

TSA, Airline Crew Members & Undies - A Tale Shared by a Lady Skywriter reader

"My Own Personal Undies (capital letters furnished by the writer) were scrutinized, CSI-style, by gloved hands. They were held high for all to see by a 7-foot-tall TSA person, over the heads of every single passenger I would later see on my flight. Apparently I was overheard saying to my husband, very quietly I thought, I'm never wearing those again!!! (Yes, you can speak quietly and still use exclamation marks and italics.)
"Well, that's when the real trouble started. My husband is an airline captain and was traveling with me . . . up until the very moment attention was drawn to us. From that moment on, for our own protection, he acted like he had never seen me before and began to back slowly away from the embarrassing scene.
"I did not know then, but was patiently, (really, very patiently) told later, ' TSA pwople are the Most Powerful People in the Airport.'
"Apparently, I'm lucky not to have been strip-searched (yes, they can) and taken to jail (yes, they can.)
"My husband separated himself from me so that he would still have a means of making a living and therefore be able to bail me out, in the event I was strip-searched or taken to jail."
"What I had not known at the time is that a TSA person can request that any pilot hand over his/her employment verification and pilots license anytime they want. You just have to get them mad enough. If they ask for your documents you have to hand them over. It can take weeks or months to get them back, during which time you are unable to fly airplanes for your company, which means 'grounded without pay.'
"So now I travel with my delicates or unmentionables in individual zip-lock bags. I make a special effort not to look at what the TSA people are doing with them.
"And I make SURE I keep my mouth shut.
"Just so you know."

Contributor Anonymous, for obvious reasons . . . Lady Skywriter.

Monday, September 7, 2009

From the Sublime . . .(Concorde) . . . to the ridiculous . . . (Seat Back Pockets!)

Oh yes. Just when you thought your comfort and convenience had been compromised to the max . . . .
Now, passengers are being admonished "not to put any personal belongings in the seat back pockets."
Your bottle of water? No!
Your book or newspaper while you (such as it is) eat? No!
Your cough drops? No!'
Your eyeglasses? No!
Your airline ticket? No!
Your iPod? No!
Admittedly, not all airlines are following this newest mantra. It seems to have come from the FAA itself, according to those airlines enforcing it. The FAA admits that the agency had been issuing "guidance" to carriers to that effect, according to Joe Sharkey at the New York Times. Regional agents who work directly with airlines were told that "nothing should be in the seat-back pockets except in-flight magazines and the safety information card put there by the carriers themselves."
Pardon my indelicacy here, but what about airsickness bags???
Some of the big guys, the "legacy carriers" like United and Delta, the biggest airline in the world, are stating publicly that passengers have a right to put personal items in the seat back pockets.
Some have speculated that the airlines following the "seat back pocket guidelines" may see a benefit to quicker aircraft turnarounds. Empty seat back pockets means less work for cleaning crews.
Just a thought - I imagine that, on occasion, the cleaning crews found a "bonus" of sorts in items left behind by passengers in seat back pockets. Sorry folks. It would appear that that treasure hunt is over.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 7: Return to Earth

From my Concorde journal June 26, 1988 approaching New York City:
"Dropping fast . . . now at 52,000 ft. at Mach 1:38. Outside temperature -67 degrees celsius.
"At 10:07 New York time we have 90 miles to go. Now at 14,000 ft., Mach 0.67. Made a visit to the lavatory to freshen up before landing. Discovered everything I needed and then some! Not only linen towels and hand-milled soap, but also hand lotion, body lotion, cologne.
"10:12 a.m. and 9,500 ft. Outside temp is +10 degrees celsius, Mach 0.63. Chances are we will be 2-3 minutes ahead of schedule. The captain announces that 'he would be grateful if we would fasten our seat belts now and stay in our seats.'
"10:17 a.m. and 7,500 ft. at Mach 0.61. Outside temp +16 degrees celsius. We're doing "S" turns and a couple of 360 degree turns out over the water to slow us down. The captain says we're 10 minutes to touchdown and it could be quite choppy until we land. He announced he would be grateful if the cabin attendants would strap themselves in.'
"Low, scuddy clouds and some thunder-boomers building up overhead. Now at 7,000 ft. and we can feel drag. If I knew where in heck the flaps were, or if I could see them on this delta-wing baby, I could confirm that.
"10:22 a.m. at 5,000 ft. Actually, pretty smooth. Can't see anything, though. Now the digital display on the bulkhead says simply, 'Thank you for flying Concorde.'
"Coming through 4,000 ft. I can see the ground through the soup.
"10:26 a.m. Now full power. Gear coming down, flaps extended. Noisy! Turning on final over rows and rows of houses. More power. Light rain. More power. Perfect Landing! On time at 10:30 a.m. Engine reverse was so loud and powerful Diane says she has wet her pants."
The last word in my journal was "Incredible."

And so ends the story of "the trip of a lifetime" with my dear friend, Diane Goulett. I have enjoyed reliving our Concorde adventure in vivid detail. . . . just one small chapter of our 43-year-old friendship. Farewell, dear friend, Diane Mayhew Goulett: June 18, 1929 - August 3, 2009.