The Race Part 2

When we left off our intrepid heros were trapped in horrible horrible Annecy, having a truly horrible time.

The audio visual guru finally arrived the next day and began doing whatever it is that those guys do to try and get the feedback out of the audio track. it was a complicated take seeing that we had 5 cameras mounted inside the Cirrus which were also hooked into our headsets and the radio. Marcio and I could only pace nervously back and forth hoping for a quick fix because we’d heard that Cory and Pete getting ready to leave Reykjavik soon and if we didn’t leave soon we’d lose the race.

But it wasn’t to be. the AV guru climbed out of the plane shook his head and said something to the effect of damned if I know. Great.

We called the boys and told them that unless had problems over their last ocean leg they would arrive in Scotland victorious, before we could even get off the ground. And not only that it looked like we’d be stuck in Annecy for at least another day and as long as they were flying this way would they care to drop on in and join us in our French hell hole? They would, they would indeed.

Now what? we’d lost the bet and were still grounded. Stuck in France on the company’s dime with nothing to do but wander back through the medieval to our 5 star hotel until it was time to sit through another meal of that terrible French cuisine. It was to weep.

But wait! Didn’t we have a bottle of Scotch in the plane? We did. And although we did owe it the boys for winning the bet we weren’t obligated to give it to them full to the top were we? We were not.

No sore losers here!

To be continued:

The Race

Team Kerrmarcio

A few years ago while filming “Dangerous Flights” my copilot Marcio (the big Brazilian) were ferrying a turbo charged SR22 Cirrus from Munich to Las Vegas. Along the way way had some minor audio problems which “forced” us to land in Annecy France. (poor us) Annecy is one of the most beautiful places if ever been to and definitely where I want to be next time I have mechanical problems with the plane.

On this particular flight we were in a race with Cory Bengtzen and Pete Zachinino to see who would get to Wick Scotland first. You see they were flying a Cessna Grand Caravan to Africa about the same time and it looked like our paths would cross somewhere over the North Atlantic so why not make it a race. And if you’re going to race, you’re going to bet. And if pilots are going to bet, they are going to bet booze. Because why not bet on something practical? That everyone could use everyday? Like socks. Or whisky.

So the race was on, our honor, (and a bottle of Glenfiddich), were on the line.

It started out poorly for team Kerry. We had no sooner left Munich when the Cameraman riding in the back (remember, we were filming a TV show) reported that he had some kind of mistry feedback in the audio and we needed to land and sort things out. Crap.

We shot a pretty low approach (which I love) into Hamberg and after some head scratching decided that the problem was too much for us. We needed the help of the guy who installed the video/audio system, and luckily he was still in Europe and could meet us in France.

So back in the plane we go. Only instead of heading north west toward Scotland and victory we headed south west toward the land of great cheese and wine. Bummer. I guess. Sort of. Not really.

Meanwhile Pete and Cory were dealing with problems of their own. It started out with a major snow storm covering the entire east coast. Followed by Major cold weather in Northern Canada and Greenland. (Cold in Canada and Greenland, in the winter? Who could have seen that coming?) Then a major drunk front rolled into Iceland and cost them more time. (I’ve had that happen to me more often than I can’t remember)

Both teams were dealing with some serious obstacles. Bragging rights and, more importantly, a bottle of fine Scotch was on the line. Who would prevail?

To be continued:

Snow Day

Last thursday I checked the flight schedule for the upcoming weekend and noticed that my trip to Chicago had been canceled due to weather. Canceled due to weather? We’re not flying Piper Cubs here, we’re flying Cessna Citation 650’s. These planes are the very definition of an all weather, mission capable aircraft. They have a max gross weight of 23,000 pounds. Can climb to 51,000 feet and the two Garrett TFE731-4R-2S engines produce 4080 pounds of static thrust that can push that baby along at up to .89 MACH. They are also fully capable of flying in even serious icing conditions with heated leading edges on the wings and tail. I mean these planes are Bad Ass!  They can handle anything!

And also, we’re from Wisconsin not florida! us northern folk just laugh at winter weather. we just grab the heavy jacket, put our boots on and go get the job done. Cancel due to weather, please.

But there it was on my phone, no flight to Chicago this weekend. Bummer. I was disappointed not because I was going to miss sitting in a hotel room drinking Scotch and watching cable TV. No, this weekend my wife was thinking about taking the train and meeting me for a quick getaway. Free hotel room, per diem money to cover dinner, and maybe catch a show. Perfect little trip.

OK, the forecast did call for snow and maybe a little wind, but come on it’s winter! That’s what happens, don’t be such a chicken.

And it turns out I was right……About Friday night and Saturday. Saturday night and Sunday were another matter altogether. The snow Saturday night dumping over 12 inches on us just as the wind picked up. We had continus gusts of over 40 mph for almost 24 hours. It’s been a while since I’ve seen drifting like this.

Ok, it might have been a bit sporty coming back from Chi town after all.

The Epic World Tour

A few years ago I was hired to help some aircraft owners fly their 6 home built Epic aircraft around the world. It was possibly the most fun and amazing trip anyone could imagine. The organizers of the trip had each stop planned out to the last detail. We were put up in the best hotels they could find. dined in the best restaurants. And at most of the stops there was some sort of special event planned. Iceberg boat tour in Greenland, 4 wheeler ride in Iceland, visit parliament in London, glider rides in the Czech Republic, full motion simulator session in Moscow, another afternoon cruise in Russia and to top it all off a formation landing and announcement of our success at the Oshkosh air show. It was amazing.

I just recently found the link to the short video they made of the trip. Enjoy!


As I might have mentioned from time to time, I’m old. You want to know how old I am? I’m so old that back in my day we didn’t wear seat belts. Not just while riding in cars mind you but also while flying in airplanes. Seatbelts? They’re for pussys! I had bright red station wagon in high school that wouldn’t start unless you had your seatbelt fastened. So of course my friends and I would lift our butts off the seat to fool the car into thinking there was nobody in the front seat instead of just putting our belts on. That was just the culture back then.

When I started skydiving in the mid 80’s it was the same thing. Nobody wore seatbelts in the plane on takeoff. In fact most of the jump planes I flew in didn’t even have seatbelts for the passengers. The pilot had one but that was it. Everyone’s theory was that if the plane had an issue they’d want to get the hell out of it. And if they were wearing seatbelts taking them off might cost them a few precious seconds that they didn’t have.

That all changed in 1992 when a Twin Otter full of skydivers crashed in Perris valley california killing 16 jumpers and seriously injuring 6 more, including a good friend of mine. Apparently the skydiving school had just cleaned out their fuel truck with some sort of cleaning fluid to take care of a fungus problem they had. They drained the tank, did a good visual inspection of the tank, filled it back up with Jet A, and put it back into service fueling their jump planes.

Unfortunately they forgot about the truck’s long fuel hose which still had 18 gallons of cleaning fluid in it. The first plane to be refueled was a Twin Otter, which only made it to 500 feet before one of the engines died when the cleaning fluid reached it. Normally even a full a Twin Otter should have no problem climbing out on one engine but instead of feathering the dead engine the pilot accidently pulled the good engine into reverse. The Otter immediately rolled inverted and crashed nose first.

The nose of the airplane was crushed killing the pilot and front seat passenger, (who was a pilot as well and some suspect was actually flying that day). But the main cabin and fuselage remained intact. Unfortunately none of the skydivers were wearing seatbelts and when the plane nosed in they were all thrown forward. The only survivors were in the rear of the plane. Investigators concluded that almost everyone would have survived if they’d been wearing seatbelts.

That accident changed the skydiving community overnight. Seatbelts magically appeared in almost every jump plane and people started using them. Then we began thinking about the other unsecured danger in the cabin. Helmets. We realized that a helmet sitting on someone’s lap not only wasn’t doing anyone any good but in the event of a crash would become a lethal object. New rule, either wear your helmet or strap it to your seatbelt.

Since this complete change in jumper’s attitudes things have gotten much safer. There have been a number of crashes involving jump planes and I know for a fact that a lot of my friends are alive solely because they were wearing their seatbelts.

Yes, it’s important for passengers to wear seatbelts in case there’s a crash. But what about the pilot? Does it really matter? I mean they’re usually the first to the scene of the crash aren’t they? Of course a pilot should wear his or her seatbelt snugly for takeoff and landing, that’s when crashes occur. But go ahead and get comfortable up at altitude. In the jet we usually take off our shoulder straps somewhere around 15,000 feet.

But I learned a long time ago to keep the lap belt snug.

That lesson was learned on a day shortly after I made my first solo flight. My flight instructor wasn’t able to make it for my lesson but he said that if I still wanted to fly I could. His only restriction was that I was supposed to remain in the landing pattern. So of course the first thing I did after takeoff was to leave the pattern and enjoy the freedom of the skies!

It was amazing! I was a pilot! I could go wherever I wanted! I could roam the skies in my metal sky beast! Fences, boundaries, and restrictions could no longer hold me back. I was free!

so of course I was bored in minutes. What to do????? “I know! Let’s try some aerobatics! I know I only have one total hour of solo time but I’m a natural! What could go wrong?”

I thought I’d start out slow, I wasn’t a complete idiot, with just some steep climbs and dives. Pushed on the yoke, nosed over and picked up some speed. “That’s cool!” pulled back and used the speed to zoom climb the little Cessna 152 to an almost vertical attitude. “Yeah baby! That’s awesome!” Push the nose back, do a little zero gee maneuver like the jump pilots I rode with do sometimes. Things in the cockpit, including me started floating up. “OH SHIT! TOO MUCH!” After a brief second or two of floating towards the ceiling everything loose in the cockpit fell forward violently. Including me.

Because, as you might have guessed by now dear reader, while I was wearing my seatbelt, it wasn’t very tight.

I fell forward onto the yoke pushing the nose of the Cessna forward even more, which in turn made things even worse. And because my chest and arms were smashed up against the yoke and instrument panel I could pull out of the dive I was in. It was a rather uncomfortable situation let me tell you. I was able to push myself back into my seat with one hand and tighten my seatbelt with the other and then pull out of the dive just as things in Minnesota countryside started getting kind of big. I didn’t wear my seat belt loose much after that.


“Airplane on ground” That’s the notation someone uses when ordering parts or maintenance services for an aircraft that’s stuck someplace it doesn’t want to be due to mechanical issues.

When airplanes break it’s due to one of many factors. Could be that the highly qualified and professional aircraft mechanics (grease monkeys) missed something on the last inspection or put something on or back together incorrectly. (Why do we have parts left over?) This is not usually the case but it happens. I know of a drop zone’s Cessna 182 that had 3! engines stop in mid flight in less than 2 years! Each time the mechanic came out and found that the fuel filter was full of some kind of rubbery orange gunk. No one could figure out what the stuff in the filter was so they would just clean the filter and go back to flying. After the third dead stick landing the pilot took the plane to another mechanic who discovered that the regular mechanic had left an orange rubber mallet inside the fuel tank and it was slowly dissolving.

And of course sometimes when the mechanics give the pilot a well maintained aircraft in perfect (sort of) condition the ham fisted throttle jockey (pilot) brings it back in less than perfect condition. “Honestly, I was just flying along straight and level when the windshield cracked! Out of the blue! I wasn’t teaching myself aerobatics and lost control going over red line and almost killing myself, I swear!” (not me but one of my jump pilots)

But most of the time it’s just that some essential part has decided that it’s had enough. Just off the top of my head my in flight breakdowns are:

2 twin engine aircraft that both lost the vacuum pumps on both engines, within minutes of each other. Losing your vacuum pump means losing most of the instruments that are necessary for flight in IFR conditions. (clouds) Of course in both cases I was in IFR conditions, so yes things got exciting.

1 piston coming apart shortly after takeoff with a full load of skydivers. Dead stick landing into a short dirt strip with the jumpers onboard because they didn’t panic fast enough. (waited to see if the really bad sound from the engine ment they weren’t getting any more altitude.) Here’s a hint from an old pilot. If the plane you’re riding in suddenly makes a big bang sound and starts shaking violently, AND YOUR WEARING A PARACHUTE. It might be time to leave and go get help.

2 cylinders with holes in them on twins. (Thank God) One started burning the cowling, shut the engine down and landed on one. The other started blowing oil all over the place. Oil pressure went down below red line, oil temperature went above red line. Shut it down, landed on one. BTW it was at night, in IFR conditions, over the desert, with both vacuum pumps out. (see above)

2 alternators that stopped alternating. First one was over Africa, at night. Had to fly for 8 hours by flashlight over the Sahara. (long story. I’ll tell it sometime.) Second one was over Minnesota. Also at night but the story isn’t quite as riveting.

1 flap malfunction on my first long cross country as a solo student. Went to put the flaps down and they just went up and down, up and down, wouldn’t stop moving. First no flap landing ever. My instructor hadn’t gotten around to teaching me that yet.

Transponder altitude encoder inop = Claim ignorance and bluff my way from Egypt to Minnesota. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds.

Big chunk of a 182 spinner flying off due to icing. Had to reduce speed due to vibration and continue across the Med to Rome.

Valve cover gasket blown. leaking a lot of oil. Happened in Greenland and a new one was going to take 8 days to ship. Made one out of gasket material I found and took off for Iceland the next day.

3 times I’ve had a landing gear light not come on confirming one of the wheels is down and locked. Scary landings but no gear collapse.

That’s all the scary things I can think of for now but it’s actually not all that bad considering I’ve been flying for 38 years. Heading to Florida in the Great White Hope today so fingers crossed!