Abilene, TX & Random Flying Advice from Chuck Yeager

September 19th, 2011

I’ve come to really love Abilene, TX. The people we see here are very friendly and kind. It’s a Christian community. What’s unique about them? They live what it seems the basics of Christianity teach: kindness, morality, tolerance, charity, hope.

We come here every year for the Celebrity Quail Hunt. General Yeager has come to all of them – 23 years worth. Doug English is a close second – he missed half of one. We were teasing him – this year we got here on Wednesday, a day early, just to make sure we stayed ahead of Doug.

Last year, I took a photo of him. He looked at me like What are you DOing? I had raised my hands up over my head with the camera in them. I wanted a photo of Doug from a level with his face – not looking up at him as he must have always gotten. He’s a tall ex-professional football player who has stayed in great shape, a proud father and husband. And he adores Gen Yeager so he’s okay in my book. :-)

It’s interesting, after seeing many of the people here for 10 years, you start to feel rather like a kind of “family”, all supporting Disability Resources, down syndrome folks.

I was talking with Von, also a former football player, and his wife. ¬†Also an attractive couple. Von has just gotten his pilot’s license. I was imparting to him some of the bon mots or concepts I had learned from Gen Yeager.

General Yeager and I had gone flying when the “vis” – visability – was 4 miles. VFR, or visual flight rules, say you must have 3 miles visability so I was qualified for soloing that day. However, 4 miles is not much. It was due to all the smoke from the 1100 fires in California mostly from lightening strikes.

We weren’t very far out and couldn’t see the airport. Or very much. Can be rather disorienting…especially in the mountains where just snippets of pictures of the terrain don’t look familiar.

I was considering all this in the back seat, when Gen Yeager turned around and announced he was going to practice touch and go’s and I could practice approaches.

A few days later, it was 7 miles visibility. We were flying an hour west for lunch. I looked around and thought I’m comfortable with 7 ¬†miles visibility. Am I comfortable because Gen Yeager is flying or am I comfortable that I could fly in this by myself?

As I was trying to figure out why I was comfortable at 7 miles and not 4, General Yeager, as though reading my thoughts, announced: As soon as we don’t see the ground, we’re turning back.

OH! That’s why.

I realized a few things from that statement.

At all times, General Yeager knew where he would put down this plane in case of emergency.

If he couldn’t see the ground, he wouldn’t know where he could put it down in case of emergency. AND he wouldn’t know if we could land it anywhere or at our destination (no AWOS – vis reporting amongst other things at a destination). AND it would mean that the wind had changed, grown stronger, or something – which could close out all visibility due to the smoke.

I smiled. Got it.

Von very much appreciated my imparting this insight and looks forward to me remembering and sharing more. He’s eager to learn how to be safe – he is probably a good pilot. He’s starting IFR training – he said he intends to take his family, people who are very precious to him, flying – and so he wants to be as safe as possible – and so if they get into weather unintentionally, he’ll be able to handle it.

I had said I didn’t want to take the time away from Gen Yeager and that I love flying when the weather is clear – sightseeing, exploring. If it’s IFR conditions, I’ll sit in the back and read, thank you.

I agree with him re being able to handle it if you accidentally get into it – but I’m fairly certain that it’s not like squalls in the ocean that can come up suddenly. And I don’t see myself flying that far by myself – without a seasoned IFR pilot. I will take some refresher flying though – for your private license, you have to have 4 hours “under the hood” – flying IFR conditions. (Under the hood means putting on a hood to simulate IFR – not being able to see out.)

I could see why everyone I ask for advice re flying is so helpful – Von’s excitement as a new pilot is infectious.

Fly safe!

c. www.chuckyeager.com

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