Tag Archives: flying

On Civil Disobedience

N90172a

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

In 1983, after I’d been parking my old Cessna 140 at the Georgetown, Texas airport for several years I was suddenly the focus of a lot of questions from other pilots.

Gene [the fixed base operator] says you don’t have a pilots license.”  Boiled down, that was the question.  “He says he’s going to turn you in to the FAA.” 

I could see this might cause a problem.  I’d logged 500 hours pilot-in-command in my old 1947 Cessna, but I’d never been signed off for solo flight by a flight instructor.  I’d flown from Texas to Savanna, Georgia and back sleeping under the wing, carried passengers, chased cows, but I had never jumped through the hoops required by the FAA to become a licensed pilot.

Now someone had ratted me out.  No  way Gene could have found out about this unless someone dropped the dime on me, and anyone who told him did it knowing he was a sniveling rat who’d turn in his mother for a burned out license tag light just for the feel good.

Whew.  Going legal was never part of my program.  It was a complication and it would lead to other complications of legalities I’d been ignoring.  Getting annual inspections on my plane every year, for instance.

A guy named Tom Dixon, whom I’d done some scary flying things with had recently gotten his instructor ticket, so I got him to sign me off for solo flight, went through the various navigation requirements, hood time, studied the FAA manuals, took the written test.

I’ve told on another blog entry here somewhere about the FAA Flight Examiner in Austin who gave me my check ride.  About what he said when he examined my logbook.

But in the end I was a legal private pilot. 

As nearly as I could tell it didn’t make an iota of difference.

If I had to live my life over I suppose one of the few things I’d change would be learning to fly at an earlier age and never going legal.

Old Jules

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Taking Off Downwind

If it hadn’t been for an old friend who was a pilot telling me I could fly an airplane as cheaply as I could spend an hour on the range practicing with a large-bore pistol every week, I’d probably never have thought of doing it.  But something about the idea grabbed me.

I went out to the Killeen, Texas airport and took a few lessons to find out whether flying was one of the adventures I wanted to give myself this lifetime.  Turned out there was no question in the question.

But being a man of ideas, not much time passed before I decided I could buy an old aircraft and save a lot of the cost of renting one while I learned.  A 1947 Cessna was sitting on the strip with a for sale sign on it, that one at the top of the post, so I bought it.

But finding an instructor to teach me to fly a taildragger cut down a lot of my options.  I ended up with a guy named John Rynertson, who introduced himself by saying he was one of the best pilots around.  He owned a Cessna 120, and John taught me enough to get me started.

But we had a falling out, him not soloing me in a timely manner, me thinking he wasn’t doing so because he wanted to maximize the trainer fees.  One day we landed, me thinking this was the day of the solo, and he sneered I wasn’t ready yet.  We were standing by the airplane, so I climbed inside, started the engine and taxied down to the end of the runway, gave myself my first solo flight, illegal.

John and I didn’t have much truck with one another after that.  I flew that old Cessna without having a ticket allowing me to do it, while he flew his C120 up one day and pulled the wings off it in a snap-roll, killing himself exactly the way a man ought to do if he’s going to pull the wings off a Cessna.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d taken off downwind for the first time.  I couldn’t find another instructor, and I was relocating to another town at the time, where nobody knew me.  So for several years I flew that Cessna, 500+ hours flying time, as though I was entirely legal.  Flew out to New Mexico, over to Savanna, Georgia, sleeping under the wing along the way, with no license to pilot an aircraft.

But eventually word got around the Georgetown Municipal Airport and someone cautioned me the FBO was going to rat me out to the FAA.  I decided it was time to complete my training.  Found an old outlaw pilot to sign me off and made an appointment with the FAA examiner in Austin.

When he looked at my log and saw I had 500 hours he shook his head a longish time.  “I’ve been checking out pilots for thirty years.  Before you the one with the most flying hours I’d ever seen was a guy with 100 hours, and he almost killed me during the check ride.  Couldn’t fly an airplane.”

I grinned at him.  “You care to watch me take it around the patch a few times before we do the check ride?  I’ll get the numbers every time around and turn off by the first taxi way.”

We did the check ride and I flew back to Georgetown legal, for the first time.

Almost felt as though I’d lost something.

Old Jules

Today on Ask Old JulesMistakes and Regret? 

Old Jules, what mistakes have you made and regretted?

Previous post about the flying phase: Misplaced Worries