We flew to the fork in the Yuba to see where our friends owned property along the ridge – just someplace to explore by plane. As we headed down Gen Yeager gave me the stick and kept reminding me to lose altitude because we were close enough to Beale AFB and we had to stay under 4100′ today within 10 nautical miles. We weren’t that close but you can easily drift in.
On the way back, Gen Yeager kept telling me I was below the airport altitude so I’d better climb a bit Oh yeah. Visuals can be deceiving.
We were in a two seater airplane – front to back. In the back seat are most of the controls – not the flaps and it’s hard to see the instruments. This makes it hard to fly straight and level because the area is canyons and ridges all uneven. I do pretty well though. So well, it surprises General Yeager.
The first time he gave me the stick 7 years ago, he said, Put us on final. I did. But he didn’t say what altitude. He did say, Where’s the airport?
We were in a canyon below the airport! I immediately said Your airplane. He took the controls and climbed over the hill and landed beautifully. Of course.
The second time, we were in Reedley, CA heading home from a visit with friends of his since 1963.
He said Put me on final at Nevada County Airport. He promptly fell asleep.
I wasn’t too worried. I knew if the plane jerked or move too much he would be awake and on the controls.
I was able to sit up and glance over his shoulder now and again and could see the compass.
About 1 hour 20 minutes later, we were near Auburn, Gen Yeager woke up, looked at the instruments and where we were and said, Wow. You hold altitude and direction better than I do. (I think he was really just thinking out loud).
His competitive nature took over and he said I’ll take it from here.
From behind him I said, “Just a minute,” as I unpeeled my very stiff, tense hand off the control stick.
I remember another time, we were going to visit another friend of Gen Yeager’s: Jerry McCafferty, Fire Chief of Sierraville.
I had the stick. We went over the 9000′ ridge and we were bumped all over the place. Normally I would say Your airplane. Maybe I was thinking it. But General Yeager didn’t grab the stick and we smoothed out eventually. And I didn’t throw up. Wow. That was okay. I did it and didn’t panic.
I set up for landing – I have a tendency at the airport especially to be high and a bit fast so Gen Yeager talked me in. He took over just before landing and it was beautiful. I think he likes keeping in practice – taking over from my challenging set-ups.
Nevada County Airport – in the little black book it says “Not recommended for student solo flight.” That means it is and it is a very hard airport to land. Often squirrelly cross winds and gusts, trees, poles in front of the trees to warn you there are trees (NO KIDDING!)….
One time, Gen Yeager took the stick and was about to land when a gust picked us up and headed us straight for the trees.
What does Gen Yeager do? He cobs it. OR for non-figher pilots: ADDS power!
I was thinking, Oh dear, now we’re headed for the trees. And when he cobbed it, NONONO. Now we’re heading faster to the trees. Put on the brakes! I, of course, kept quiet.
Cobbing the plane gave him more authority and so he was able to control the airplane, turn it back safely to the runway and do another fantastic landing.
I sure learned a lot about flying that day. Priceless. Counterintuitive to a novice. And absolutely the perfect thing to do.
c. PMN III LLC