We watched the sun set enroute to Seattle... That was many hours and thousands of miles ago. Now, we are in the deepest, darkest part of the night; the part where circadian rhythm begins to work on the brain, telling you it is OK to fall asleep; after all, that is what night is all about, right? The moon is rising in the east; it looks like one-half of an orange. Really cool!
The co-pilot is a commuter (he lives in a city other than his assigned base and must commute to work... About 1/2 of all airline pilots practice commuting) which means he did not get good rest yesterday afternoon. Now he is paying the price as he struggles to stay awake. I am staring out my side window at the heavenly blanket of stars over the aircraft. The left navigation light looks like a red comet every time the strobe flashes. How cool would it be to ride on the back of the beast, leaning against the leading edge of the vertical tail fin? What a visual overload that would be, especially tonight. That thought leads my mind to the goblin riding the wing of the aircraft in the movie Twilight Zone. Yikes! Maybe I should turn on the wing ice light and take a look...
Obviously, I need more coffee. Behind me are 150 passengers, all trying to sleep; and three flight attendants trying not to... Philly is still 1,000 miles east. We will get to watch the sun rise before we arrive.
Position: Underneath Cygnus
Altitude: 35,000 feet
Groundspeed: 560 m.p.h.
Magnetic course: 102 degrees
What a day yesterday turned out to be! We left Atlanta on schedule with 145 passengers and one infant bound for Las Vegas. The take off time was 10:10 P.M. local and the weather was OK. We were assigned one of our older A320 models; she's a good old bird and I have flown her a lot in the past. She has the low thrust engines which came as original equipment. I gently eased back on the stick (yes, the A320 has a stick ) and she lifted into the atmosphere. I have noticed that the young co-pilots always complain about the old birds; my young German was no exception. Well, I guess they are in a hurry. Not me; these grand old ladies have hauled countless passengers through the worst weather and new co-pilot landings and never complained. I let her level off at 28,000 feet and burn off fuel weight before we climbed further. Eventually we leveled at 35,000 feet enroute to Las Vegas. The headwinds were light and the turbulence light. Passing south of Dallas-Ft.Worth we were witness to a fantastic light show generated by a level 6 thunderstorm. It was a big momma! Later, south of Lubbock, we listened to another airline crew talking to air traffic control about the huge thunderstorm over the Lubbock airport ( heavy rainfall and 60 m.p.h. winds with blowing dirt ). They were in a holding pattern south of the airport at 16,000 feet considering their options, i.e., looking at their fuel situation very carefully. It was such a relief to be flying past and only listening, instead of being in their shoes. One and a half hours later we landed at Las Vegas on time. The passengers were very happy leaving the airplane. I was giggling to myself; wait until you go home next week broke.
What! More flying? Oh yes, on to Minneapolis for we pilots. Only enough time for a quick Taco Bell stop; then, to the gate. I met my new flight attendants, all of whom I have flown with on previous occasions. Our bird was a new A319 with the new high thrust engines. Oh boy, these are great airplanes. We loaded up 124 passengers and left at 1:30 A.M. local time for Minneapolis. My German co-pilot was the flying pilot; I, the radio man and paperwork guy.
We roared into the dark night at 1:38 A.M. These new airplanes will climb like homesick angels and a few minutes later we were level at 37,000 feet. The Milky Way was directly overhead, bright and lovely. The Seven Sisters were about twenty degrees above the eastern horizon. An hour later Venus rose in the east; then Taurus; finally Orion the Hunter came into view with the first hints of twilight. We were running with the night winds.
As the sun cracked the horizon we were making a high energy descent into the twin cities area. The visibility was good as the co-pilot gently touched the main gear down at 6:12 A.M. local time. Needless to say, both of us were very tired. Continued later....
Position: 15 miles west of AGENT intersection
Altitude: 37,000 feet
The air is, literally, crackling with electricity. The co-pilot and I are amazed at the light show coming from the monstrous storms beginning forty miles north of our position. It is, after all, the first (full) day of spring.
It has been a long day, beginning this morning in the City of Angels. We have been flying hard and fast, changing flight attendants and airplanes every time we go through a hub. The co-pilot and I have been taking turns pre-flighting while the other searches for real coffee and edible food. Fifty more minutes and we will be in Chicago's airspace lining up to land in the 40 mph (34 kts) crosswinds. The co-pilot is flying this leg and has good crosswind skills, so it should be a non-event. One hundred miles ago, my dispatcher sent an email to report that the winds are blowing from the west at 80 mph (69 kts) 1,000 feet above the ground at O'hare. That is interesting...
Even though, we are 40 miles south of the storms, the lightening is illuminating the inside of the flightdeck like a strobe light. The display of energy is very impressive. I remember fighting these types of storms with no radar, no performance, and no miraculous whiz bang flight technology. Wow, how times have changed!
I talked to the three flight attendants via conference call and told them what to expect at O'hare and to prepare the cabin for a turbulent landing. I will give the passengers a little pep talk in a few minutes.
For now, though, we are watching the Dragon. The individual cells are trading punches with huge, thick, horizontal strokes of lightening emanating from the tops above 30,000 feet. I have been struck by lightening several times in an airliner with minimal damage, but not by bolts like we are watching sizzling between cells. There would be big problems after being struck by such a bolt, especially in an electric jet.
Time to stir the pot a little... I look over at the co-pilot and say, "Hey Slick, you think you can handle the wind at O'hare?"
The four operational scenarios that I worry about every flight are:
1. Catastrophic engine failure at a critical moment during take-off.
2. Excessive energy (velocity) at landing leading to an overrun.
3. Severe turbulence, either expected (storms) or unexpected (clear air turbulence).
4. Fire on the ground or in-flight.
These scenarios have to be controlled at all costs, or the consequences can be ugly. Number three is the hardest to control, since we must go on our flights, no matter the weather. Yeah, we will delay a bit here and there, cancel a flight every now and then (but the next one will go), or will be snowed under in Boston, but we are going, one way or the other. Managing number three takes experience; number one, two and four can be taught, tested, and drilled over and over until it is second nature.
The problem comes with the old saying familiarity breeds contempt. Modern airliners are reliable beasts with good safety records. This leads to thinking about that good looking flight attendant in the back rather than what will I do if number one engine turns into hot shrapnel at 160 m.p.h. or where could we land right now if the rear galley catches on fire?
Last night, we got a good look at worry item #2. My co-pilot, a young and sharp kid whom I have flown with many times, was the flying pilot enroute to Connecticut. The flight eastbound was smooth and fast. Our average tailwind was over 130 m.p.h. putting us into the Hartford area forty minutes ahead of schedule. The co-pilot was doing his usual good job and I was expecting an uneventful landing.
Even so, I am always looking for little uh-ohs that might become big Uh-Ohs. I noticed we were really moving across the landscape as he was descending to intercept the radio beam that leads to the runway. I checked the inertial navigation platform digital readout; a 40 m.p.h. tail wind at 3,000 feet. Our airspeed was 200 m.p.h. and slowing but our groundspeed (also energy state) was quite a bit higher at over 240 m.p.h. The co-pilot started calling for landing gear and flaps, which I selected and checked. We were fully configured for landing at 1,000 feet with an airspeed of 160 m.p.h., but a ground speed of 200 m.p.h. Still a 40 m.p.h. tailwind pushing us toward the airport. The descent rate was way too high, because the faster the aircraft is crossing real estate, the faster it has to lose altitude in that given distance. We had a perfect scenario for a runway overrun; too much energy to lose and not enough pavement to do so. It's an insidious problem that has caused a lot of heartache... Energy increases with the square of the speed increase.
The control tower guys were reporting a crosswind of 10 m.p.h. on the surface, quite a change in only 1,000 feet vertical distance, but in no way uncommon. At 800 feet above the ground, the co-pilot turned the whizbang stuff "off" and selected emergency flight controls (stick and rudder) to make the landing. At 500 feet, the wind still at 40 m.p.h. on the tail, began to abate and rotate off the tail. Too late, though... Our groundspeed was too high. The co-pilot was watching the situation and said' "This isn't looking good skipper."
I agreed with him and suggested a go-around for another runway with favorable winds. The co-pilot raised the nose to intiate a climb, at the same time pushing the thrust levers forward to maximum go-around power. Holy Moly! We were shoved back into our seats as the engines transitioned from idle thrust to maximum go-around thrust. The fuel flows went from 800 lbs. to north of 10,000 lbs. Might as well cut a six inch hole in the bottom of each wing tank. The co-pilot called for "landing gear up, flaps to 18 degrees."
The control tower cleared us to land on a more wind friendly runway. In my best Captain's voice, I assured the folks that everything was OK and gave them the short version of why we did not land on the first attempt. A few minutes later, the co-pilot pulled the reverse thrust levers up and over to open the cascade vanes; the aircraft's nose lowered significantly as it morphed from an agile flying machine to an ungainly ground vehicle, via reverse thrust, wing spoilers, and wheel brakes.
The go-around took 12 minutes and 2,000 lbs. of fuel... A small price for a safe landing, though.
Day number two of a four day is done. Tomorrow night; Anchorage. Life is good!
Yesterday, a day to remember, took us to Mexico City. At one time it was the largest city on the Earth, and it still may be so... 30,000,000 plus folks living in a valley between two 12,000 foot peaks. The airport elevation is 7,600 feet above sea level; only a few hundred feet beneath the maximum take-off and landing altitude for most airliners. As we descended, very carefully, into the Mexico City area, I was struck, once again, about how massive this place really is; think about it... 30,000,000 + people living here, most in poverty. The initial approach fix is crossed at 12,000 feet above sea level at a right angle to the runway! Unreal, and that's putting it mildly. The air pollution is so bad, that you can actually taste it, smell it, and feel it on your skin. The landing visibility usually hangs around four miles, on a clear day. Crossing the runway threshold at 7,800 feet yields a higher groundspeed than, say, landing at Seattle. The air is thinner here, so the aircraft has to move faster to capture the same airspeed requirements. Hence, the runway is a 12,000 foot long piece of rough concrete. The engines and brakes work harder than normal to get the weight slowed to taxi speed. Taxiing to the gate, we were watched by hundreds of people that live on the perimeter of the airport in cardboard (literally) shanty towns, complete with laundry flapping in the yellow breeze.
The employees at the Mexico City station do an outstanding job of turning our aircraft around for the northbound flight. They truly love their jobs, as they are coveted. Hating management is not an option down here. The weight and balance is done long hand with a hand calculator. The numerical entries, via pencil, are always clear, concise and correct. Quite impressive. Fifty minutes later we were punching through the pollution layer into clean sky. Before take-off, I sucked 100% oxygen to clear any potential pollution caused stupid molecules running around in my feeble brain.
A few hours later, Redondo Beach sand was between my toes as we overnighted in LAX.
That was yesterday... Today, it's 25 degrees Fahrenheit in Anchorage with sunny skies. No pollution here, that you can see or smell, anyway. Riding in the crew van enroute to the hotel, a cow moose was blocking our path, until she slowly ambled into the trees.
We crossed the jet stream in the vicinity of Sandspit (YZP) at 32,000 feet. The wind velocity peaked at 203 m.p.h., 70 degrees left of our nose. Maintaining course required upwards of 25 degrees correction into the wind. The wind tunnel was about 30 miles in diameter and no turbulence was associated with it. Truly amazing... Imagine the nights before inertial navigation or global positioning magic; then throw in an undercast. Navigators had their hands full dealing with winds like these.
Finally, after six hours, we descended into Anchorage airspace, turned final approach over Fire Island and made a passable landing, mine. I would rate it about 80% on a scale of 1-100.
Day three of a four day...The adventure continues.
Day #3 of a 4 day
Position: Eastbound over the Great Plains of the Empire
Altitude: 37,000 feet
Passenger count: 150
Hitchhikers: 3 ( 1 flight attendant and 2 pilots)
All seats, including fold down jumpseats, are full. Our A320 climbed to 33,000 feet in 20 minutes, then we burned the fuel load down until we could coax her to 37,000 feet. All is well in Captain Dave's world... Knock on wood. Boston weather is marginal, but we have alternate airport fuel and 20 minutes of uh-oh fuel. My co-pilot, a young hotshot, with cat-like reflexes and 20/15 vision, is the flying pilot. Two hitchhiking pilots are sitting behind me; one company B737 Captain (a friend of mine) and one co-pilot from another airline.
The riding co-pilot has never been inside an A320 flight deck before. She is duly impressed with all the Star Trek inspired magic. The 737 Captain, turning my crank, told her that the A320, an electric jet, is famous for inflight power failures, which would, of course, render the smoke and mirrors useless. This is total bravo sierra (BS). The Airbus Industries design is robust and reliable under the most difficult of flight conditions. Even if a Klingon warbird lasered the ten separate flight control computers, we still have the standby instruments, which have their own power source, totally independent of the whiz bang technology. That would be an airspeed indicator, altimeter, old time artificial horizon, and an electric compass with two needles that point to radio transmitters. During the Jurassic age, I flew freight through terrible weather on a daily basis with exactly those instruments and thought nothing of it.
Well, that's OK... I can talk trash as well as my Captain buddy. We still have two hours to trade aircraft related insults. Secretly, I love the B737, since I flew it for a decade. It is manufactured by the same folks that gave us the B17 and the B29. However, it is necessary to maintain the illusion of A320 superiority, if only for entertainment purposes. I remind him that we A320 pilots get hot food that is actually edible.
And on it goes as the sun sets behind us...
Day #2 of a 4 day
Position: Overnight hotel facilities, Sacramento, Ca.
Time: 3:00 A.M.
We departed the east coast of the Empire in the early hours of darkness, after a two hour weather delay caused by torrential rain. The night's route took us to Sin City for a quick stop. During the post-flight inspection, my co-pilot spotted a gash in #1 main gear tire (first tire on left side of aircraft). We must have hit something on take-off or landing. Our Sin City night crew of mechanics responded instantly with heavy hydraulic jacks and a new main gear tire. They jacked the left side of the aircraft three inches off the ground and changed the tire within 30 minutes; our second take-off was only 1 hour and 10 minutes behind schedule.
Level at 28,000 feet, we poked at our crew meals and made a routine check of the Sacramento weather while we ate our company provided cold chicken. The mini-printer spit out my weather request after only two minutes. I can eat and read in the flight deck at the same time, something the wife of my youth will not allow at home. She can't stand food stained paper at the table. So, holding a chicken wing and the weather report in my left hand, I installed the mandatory geezer glasses with my right.
Suddenly, I lost my appetite: 1/4 mile visibility, fog, and low cloud cover. My eyes went to the fuel tank quantities... 12,800 pounds. That would be enough for one approach attempt, then a bingo fuel run to a close-by alternate airport. Obviously, the good weather forecast was blown. As expected, the email alert light started flashing... A message from Mother. KSMF wx down. What is FOB? (translates: Sacramento airport weather going down. How much fuel on board?)After several more emails, we decided Reno would be a good landing alternate for our fuel situation.
At 100 miles distance, we listened to the updated weather report directly from the airport. Visibility was down to 1,000 feet (i.e., how far down the runway you could see if you were standing on the runway surface. This sounds like adequate visibility, but at 160 m.p.h., it is not a lot). Air traffic control asked us, "How many cats you got onboard?" (Cat stands for category, which describes the low visibility landing capability of a particular aircraft. Airliners, typically, are Cat 3 capable, which translates to very little or no forward visibility requirements.) I answered, "We've got three cats onboard."
Most airlines, including mine, do not trust co-pilots below 1800 feet runway visibility, so I was legally bound to take over flying pilot duties. This is a rule that puzzles me... In the right seat is a 27 year old hot shot with perfect vision, perfect hearing, quick reflexes, and an agile mind capable of multi-tasking. Instead, the old guy with geezer vision, ears ringing from 30+ years of aircraft engines, so-so reflexes, and a not as agile mind, gets to do the flying in extreme low visibility. The theory is that the Captain's experience makes up for less than perfect physiology. OK, I'll buy that, but the Captain should be the deciding authority on who flys the approach.
I reminded the co-pilot, that I would have to fly the approach. He graciously offered the controls to me 75 miles from the outer marker, but I told him to take us to the outer marker and I would take over from that point (the outer marker, a radio beacon underneath the approach path, is about where the approach procedure begins...). Entering Sacramento airspace, the approach controller told us the visibility was holding at 1,000 feet. I was feeling better about the fuel situation. At 10,000 feet, the co-pilot extended the speed brakes shedding energy into the night sky. Sacramento was a glowing blob of yellow light beneath the low clouds. Flaps were extended to 10 degrees at 240 m.p.h.; 15 degrees at 225 m.p.h.; landing gear down/flaps 20 degrees at 210 m.p.h. Approaching the outer marker, I took over the flying pilot duties. I called for flaps to 40 degrees at 190 m.p.h.; the co-pilot announced that the landing checklist was complete. We checked in with the control tower crossing the outer marker, they in turn cleared us to land. Life was good... Briefly.
In the fog, gear down, full flaps, engine power stable, all lights illuminated; at 1200 feet above the rice fields, our landing lights illuminated a V-flight of geese, flying IFR, on a compass heading of about 180 degrees. The A320, moving at 160 m.p.h., overtook them from four o'clock high. We penetrated their V formation before they, or I, could react.
WHUMPWHUMPWHUMPWHUMP!! The strikes were incredibly loud in the flight deck and we could feel each and every impact, in extremely rapid succession. The co-pilot said something like, "We hit 'em!" I looked at the engine gauges for any sign of ingestion...Nothing. No compressor stalling; I made a blanket statement of, "We're OK. Engines are fine. We did not ingest any. Thank God! We'll continue the approach."
A minute or so later, the main gear tires smoked on the touchdown zone markers. I taxied slowly in the fog until we approached the terminal building, where we could no longer see ahead of the aircraft. Our ramp personnel came out to the aircraft with their flashlights and walked us in to the gate. I moved the engine master switches to the OFF position and told the co-pilot, "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a little nap." It was 2:30 A.M. I called Mother and reported the bird strikes, then started on the paper work, an evil necessity.
A few minutes later, the co-pilot and I walked around the aircraft looking for damage. It was so foggy, that our flashlight beams looked like phasers. On the left side of the aircraft, underneath the wing and the engine pylon, were large areas of blood splatters, tiny pieces of body parts, and feathers. Embedded in the landing gear, other body parts. It was a mess... A mechanic, also piercing the fog with his flashlight, yelled, "Hey Cap, you got a goose hunting license?"
A fair question, considering...
It has been a long day, but the end is in sight. The fun began in Los Angeles with two round trips to Las Vegas; now we are enroute to Cleveland with 112 passengers. We had interesting landing conditions on the last flight to Lost Wages, in that the wind forced the tower to utilize runway 7 Right for arrivals, which is unusual. I have landed on 7 Right about a dozen times, maybe... My young co-pilot had never landed on 7 Right. Guess who was the flying pilot?
When we briefed the landing, I told him if he would fly the approach by the numbers and not let the rising terrain freak him out, he would do just fine. In other words, be configured with landing gear down, flaps extended and 1,500 feet above the airport five miles from the runway. If you have never landed on a runway before, those numbers will work everytime and everywhere. The trick is to be flexible with the lateral path leading to the runway. In other words, if the tower is using four mile final approach segments, then you have to use one mile of the base leg turn as part of your five mile configuration path. Sometimes the tower will clear you to fly direct to the runway from a point in space that will not yield a path lined up with the runway, i.e., a crooked final. We call these dog legs. No big deal if the flying pilot's brain will accept this as the path to the runway and get configured. The flying pilot can roll out on runway heading a few hundred feet above the ground. No problem for a 27 year old with cat like reflexes, that is, if his brain will quit thinking about flight attendants and concentrate on a simple geometry problem.
The tower cleared us for a visual approach to runway 7 Right ten miles from the airport and on a right base leg. I could tell by watching our movement over the ground that we had a strong tailwind... One look at the inertial navigation read out confirmed a 60 m.p.h. tailwind. The heavy 767 ahead of us blew through the final approach path and was now banking sharply right to regain the final path. Ooops! I decided to remind the co-pilot about the wind, then to quit coaching him. Being micro-managed while trying to fly a large aircraft on final approach is aggravating and counter productive. He rolled out on runway heading to the right of the actual path, then allowed the wind to blow him onto the path. Once on the final path, he banked gently right until he had a heading that would prevent the crosswind from blowing him off the final approach. In pilot land, this is known as crabbing.
The maximum recommended crosswind for an A320 is 43 mph, although in the hands of an experienced crosswind pilot, it can handle 45 mph. The tower was calling the winds 35 mph with gusts to 42 mph, and to make it interesting, a slight tailwind component. I had previously told the flight attendants and passengers that the landing would be less than smooth, so we were mentally prepared for a firm landing.
As the co-pilot flew the beast over the end of the runway, I could see fingers of sand blowing across the surface and the windsock was standing straight out, perpendicular to the runway. He began to slip, or cross control, the aircraft, trying to bring the fuselage parallel to the centerline, so as not to touchdown at an angle, which is really hard on the aircraft. As he slipped into the wind, the right main landing gear touched down first, then the aircraft bounced about a foot. At the top of the bounce, the co-pilot selected reverse thrust. Yikes! Here it comes... It was as if the aircraft asked, "You want to stop flying? OK, we can do that!" We fell back to the runway with much vigor. Behind me, I could hear stuff clanging in the forward galley. When my vision cleared, we were on the centerline and decelerating rapidly with sand, dirt, and loose paper blowing across the runway. Welcome to Sin City folks.
The co-pilot was mortified as we taxied to the gate. He kept apologizing, but I reminded him that I had warned everyone in the back to expect a rough landing. I then asked him if he would ever again select reverse thrust with the wheels off the ground. He said he would definitely not do that again. I told him not to worry about it.
When I opened the flight deck door, the flight attendants said, "Good job, Boys!" Several passengers complimented the crosswind landing.
That was a few hours ago... Cleveland is about 90 minutes away. Ten minutes ago, we circumnavigated a large storm that is casting a shadow ahead of us to the horizon. It resembles a dark blue road to the edge of the world. Actually, day's end is located there...
As soon as the main gear and nose gear retracted and latched into the wheel wells, it was as if I had never been on leave at the frontier. Time is a cruel master to those of us who live by the second hand. The ability to disassociate one's self from the clock is, unfortunately, very difficult.
So, I traded a leather (horse powered) saddle for an electric ( jet powered) saddle and am flying leg number two (Sea-Tac to Lost Wages) of a three leg day. The wife of my youth ran the pre-departure checklist before I drove to the airport:
1. Identification around neck.
2. Tie, belt, and epaulets.
3. Wallet with money, pilot license, medical certificate, radio operator certificate.
4. Hat (optional, but I am old school).
5. Flight bag, overnight bag, laptop computer.
6. Geezer glasses, sunglasses.
7. Cell phone.
Several years ago, while my wife was traveling on business, I reported to work sans Captain's epaulets. A flight attendant friend of mine asked me if my wife was out of town. I said,"As a matter of fact, she is... How did you know?" She pointed out my missing epaulets. Yikes! I ran down to the pilot's locker room and borrowed a set of co-pilot epaulets from a friend, since there were no Captains in sight. I doubted the uniform police would actually count stripes, but they would definitely notice missing epaulets. To this day, when I see that flight attendant, I always remind her of the "Day of the Missing Epaulets". Little incidents, such as this, make such sweet memories.
Yep, back in the electric saddle and climbing through 23,000 feet for 29,000 feet. Seattle Center promised higher altitude after we clear traffic ahead. The second hand is ticking...
Great Spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
_ Albert Einstein
That rushing sound, is it the hordes at Le Bourget,
Swarming past the barriers and lights
To scavenge my Spirit, and lift me up
Into the air that only heroes breathe?
Or is it the age-old sigh of stones,
Known to those who pace the shingle
And the swirled black sands that wrap
Impossible islands in a shawl of waves?
_ Gerard Van der Leun
Seventy-nine years ago, Charles Lindbergh pushed the Wright Whirlwind's throttle to the forward stop setting into motion the grossly overloaded aircraft and a future that the young airmail pilot could not imagine in his wildest fantasies. Thirty-three hours later, after a harrowing journey across the North Atlantic, he landed in Paris with fuel remaining in the Spirit's tanks.
The flight was an unbelievable feat of airmanship against impossible odds. I have read every book written about this flight, yet I am still amazed... A small fabric and metal kite against the weather and vastness of the North Atlantic, with no help from modern navigation technology.
Several years ago, my wife and I flew over the North Atlantic in an A-330 to visit Dingle Bay, Ireland... Lindbergh's first landfall. Words cannot adequately describe the feeling of standing in that place. He was only a few miles off course... How did he do that?
It pains me to no end when I read or see reports dragging the memory of this great aviator through the mire of half truths and the innuendos of history, authored by the lapdogs of the PC police. Charles Lindbergh was not perfect; actually, far from it. What he was, though, was a rugged and fearless individual of his time. Prior to his history making flight, he had survived years of flying the mail in open cockpit bi-planes through the worst weather the mid-western skies had to offer. On two occasions, he ran out of fuel in instrument flight conditions which forced him to leap into the abyss, hoping that his parachute would open.
Obviously, it did.