Sixty Years Ago Today

The (clickable) image above is the beginning page of my first Pilot Log Book. The page entries include my first flight lesson on December 16, 1961 and my first SOLO flight on January 9, 1962. I was just 18 years old then and managed to get my Private Pilot Certificate the following April, well before my 19th birthday in July.

When I first started flying lessons back then at the Santa Monica (CA) Municipal Airport (SMO), the cost of renting a Cessna 150 (high-wing, two-seat, tricycle gear, 100 HP) was $12/hour (including AvGas!). The Instructors fee was $5/hour for a total of $17/hour. In contrast, today the average cost per hour seems to be about ten times that, with Instructors fees upwards of $50 and airplane rental nearly $120 per hour, depending on local rates and circumstances.

In my early flying days, I checked out in a Cessna 172 (high wing, four-seat, tricycle gear, 150 HP) and puttered around locally with friends and family until it was time for me to go on active duty in the US Navy (I joined the Naval Reserve when still in high school). While at Avionics school in Millington, TN, I checked out in a Piper Tri-Pacer (high-wing) and a Piper Cherokee (low-wing) and did some local puttering around the Memphis area along the Mississippi River. After School, I reported to the US Naval Air Station, Point Mugu, CA, which was only 45 miles from the airport where I learned to fly, so I resumed flying out of SMO for the rest of the time I was on active duty.

After I mustered out of the Navy, I continued flying now and then for leisure and travel. Shortly after I began working at my aerospace job, I found out that I was eligible for advanced flight training through the Veterans Affairs G.I. Bill. Their program financed most of my advanced training for Commercial Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating, Multi-Engine Rating, Instructor Pilot Certificate and Instrument Instructor Pilot Certificate. Yet, there was More! Rotorcraft Helicopter Rating and Rotorcraft Instructor Pilot Certificate. I was busy with these upgrades for a few years afterwards and finally was able to earn my Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, hence the Cap’n designation at the top of the page.

I stayed in Aerospace as my primary occupation, but flew quite a bit as an instructor and charter pilot as a sideline. I have over five thousand hours of instruction given in all types of aircraft and ratings for which I am certified.

Ultimately, in the year 2000 or so, I became ineligible for an Airman Medical Certificate because of a prescription medication I take, which supposedly causes dizziness, a symptom which I have never experienced. Rather than fighting through the bureaucracy of the FAA’s AirMed Branch in Oklahoma City to get a waiver, I decided to hang up the flying for good because my life priorities had changed now that Damsel and I were married.

A few of my more memorable experiences:

  • I ferried a brand-new Cherokee Arrow from the Piper Factory in Vero Beach, FL to Santa Monica, CA.
  • I ferried two brand-new Beechcraft Sierras from Liberal, KS to SMO
  • I earned a “Gold Seal” Instructors Certificate while instructing at SMO, based on the number of recommendations and passing ratio of my student pilots.
  • I taught a famous movie star’s son to fly at SMO. (You know who – he played the penultimate movie “Moses.”)
  • I ferried a Piper Super Cub from SMO to Opryland in Nashville, TN to a crew member working there. I met up with a lot of Country Stars plus got to watch the show live before catching an airliner back home.
  • I ferried that same Super Cub to Crescent City where my friend was filming the Star Wars “Forest Moon of Endor” sequences. I met a lot of Storm Troopers and Ewoks, but not Luke, Leah or Han.
  • I co-piloted a Cessna 410 twin engine from SMO to Jacksonville, FL and drove a rented car from there to Charleston, SC to visit with my Naval Officer Brother who was stationed there at the time. I flew back home on Delta.
  • I ferried a Hughes 300C helicopter from Long Beach, CA to New Orleans, LA. It took me three days to get across Texas from EL Paso to Beaumont-Port Arthur.
  • I qualified for Class A, B and C Helicopter External Load Certification while instructing in Sacramento, CA
  • Et Cetera – there are just too many wonderful experiences to list them all here.

I am proud of my aviation career but I am at a point in my lifetime that I don’t miss the flying. Besides, I have a lot of “Hangar Flying” memories and experiences that I can pass along to anyone who wants to listen.

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