Posted by: paywindow7 | July 4, 2014

Flaggs Flight

Flagg sits motionless in the moonless midnight, listening. There in the  blackness he hears it again.

He has released the lock on his seat and moved it as far forward into the nose turret as the track mechanism will allow. He switches off the small red light illuminating the intercom panel to his left and is now in total darkness.

His position inside the clear canopy around and in front of him makes him feel suspended in space with the only light coming from the overreaching canopy of stars that blanket the night sky from horizon to horizon in all directions. Those points of light overhead show and sparkle in the black ocean a few feet below so that the horizon is nearly impossible to discern making his immersion in the night complete. That image of the diamond like stars against the black velvet sky surrounds him.

The vision and the feeling in those moments are surreal and he feels, again, part of a cosmic join up from his seat in the aircraft to the most distant reach of the universe.

A meteor streaks across the sky adding to the light show, one of many that are seen on every night flight. He knows that they break apart and burn to mostly ash upon entry into the atmosphere then fall to earth. He wonders how much of that debris has come to rest as dust on the surface of the ocean below then slowly settled to the bottom. What pieces of the universe have streaked across the face of other planets, moons and stars in other galaxies and now lie submerged in the water beneath him.

The sound that he feels is caused by the roar and vibration of the engine on each wing as it permeates into the atoms of each molecule of every piece and part on the aircraft creating a deep felt pulsating drone sound that always reminds him of an orchestral oboe or the native, ancient speak of the didgeridoo.  The separate pulsing drone of each engine seems to seek resonance with the other as the time between the undulations begins to narrow, becoming closer and closer together until they both merge into sync, hold together as one for a few seconds, only to separate again and the concert starts anew repeating again and again throughout this and every flight. He knows that as long as that sound is there he will stay alive.

The nearest land is 600 miles behind and to the west of him. The airflow, inches from his face, on the outside of the canopy is moving at hundreds of miles an hour. He wonders what would happen if the glass nose turret canopy were to break apart at that speed and, since he is so far forward of the rest of the airframe, if there would be anything left of him. But he feels comfortable and at ease in spite of the possibility.

His soul is at home.

Posted by: paywindow7 | June 25, 2014

Earth’s Music

As noted more than once in this collection of stuff I call a blog, I think the Laws of Physics rock. Most everything we do involves some aspect of natural law and those forces still sing in a voice that has existed before there were ears to hear it.

Even With all of the glitter and glare of the technical toys and gadgetry our culture seems addicted to, we are all still pieces of God’s star stuff connected to the universe, our home planet and each other in a common bond and chorus. We hear, we feel it in earth sounds. Wind, rain, the roar of fast flowing rivers and surging tides. The rumble of earthmoving quakes that created the mountains and pushed the peaks skyward still echo within planet Earth.

The paraphrasing above is part of a quote from “Blue Shoe” written by Anne Lamott. I found that quote on a site I recommend called “The Journey Continues” by musical artist Laura Bruno Lilly. Her post is called “The Dance of the Didgeridoo” so do yourself a favor and go check this one out. Laura has included links to didgeridoo music that captures the song of planet Earth.

The sound of the didgeridoo has always fascinated me and I never understood why until I read the words written by Anne Lamott. There is something primal in the sound of that hand made echo chamber that is the didgeridoo. That sound, that is like no other, is gut felt to me as it feels and transmits the flow of energy that is…us.

I felt a connection to the ancients during solo treks into wilderness areas many years ago and again later when flying airplanes. Why would I feel that connection when flying? Especially since I’m the one who wrote “Flying, An Unnatural Act”, because the forces keeping that chunk of iron and it’s driver airborne are physics 101. Naturally.

Posted by: paywindow7 | April 26, 2014

the Sky Shadow

Sometimes the familiar becomes the strange and what we think is going to be a simple, routine thing morphs into a lifelong memory.

I was flying with no particular destination in mind. My intention that day was to just go up, bore some holes and build time in the logbook. I’m addicted to being airborne and I enjoy the manifestation of the laws of physics that occur during flight because it is absolutely Physics 101. Flying is common nowadays and passengers inside of those airborne aluminum tubes called airliners are totally pre-occupied with all their electronic games and mindless gadgetry and are ignorant of the breathtaking phenomena that occurs right outside their windows. I’ve always enjoyed a layman’s understanding of physics and Sir Isaac’s Laws are alive and well in the airborne airframe. Also Mr. Bernoulli’s principle, that he discovered over 300 years ago, still does it’s dance along every airfoil on every aircraft on every flight. Thrust from the engines move the beast forward and at specific speeds the shape of the wings combine with that airflow to create work in the form of lift. Pressure variants caused by the flight controls on other surfaces turn and maneuver it through the air. Most people don’t care, I do.

It was early spring and the pre-flight check of the weather indicated that the days temperature and barometric pressure combination was to be as close to a “standard day” as we ever experience around here. Also included in that weather brief was the aviation acronym: “CAVU”, which means Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited so I could expect a clear mild day without a cloud in the sky.

I lifted off a little before 11:00am and as the end of the runway fell away I rolled into a climbing turn to starboard and departed the airport traffic pattern. A couple of minutes later I leveled out at 2500 feet I and was tracking west with the morning sun high and slightly behind me. After about 15 minutes I could see a small lake dead ahead in the distance. I also noticed that the horizon directly ahead looked a little different than the horizon visible to the left and right of my flight path. Continuing on it soon became apparent that the area directly ahead at a distance of about 10 miles was getting darker the closer I got to it. It was like sitting inside of a room and looking out through a screen door. The top of the shadow was a straight line at the same altitude I was flying and appeared to be about a mile wide with squared corners at the top with straight sides that reached far below.

I continued to close on the shadow and it continued to darken until I could no longer see through it. At that point it extended 20 degrees to the left and right of my heading. Since I could no longer see through it, any other air traffic that might be on the other side was as dangerous a hazard to me as I was to them. I was not going to fly through whatever it was so I stood on a wing and did my impression of a flat 180 out of there. After a few miles I turned about 45 degrees to the left and looked over my shoulder at where the shadow had been and it was gone.

When I got back to the hanger I asked some of the other pilots, that were sitting around the coffee pot, if they had ever heard of anything like that and got a lot of blank looks. I’m Still getting them.

Over the years I’ve described the event to meteorologists and many commercial pilots with thousands of hours flying international routes and none of them had ever seen or heard of what I saw that day. I’ve thought a lot about it and finally come to the conclusion that water evaporating out of the lake had somehow formed a cell of high humidity above it and with the position of the sun above and behind me, that moisture was causing a refraction of the rays of the sun in such a way to cause the shadow to appear. Perhaps the polarized windshield in the aircraft was also having some effect on the image.

If anybody knows or thinks they know what I was seeing I would appreciate your comments here or my email is


Posted by: paywindow7 | August 25, 2013

about Bigfoot

The hollywood media machine has been in a marketing frenzy for the past few years creating shows about the “do he” or “do he don’t” existence of a humanoid critter that has been assigned the title of “Bigfoot”. ‘Ol Big lives and loves in the backwoods, way past the end of the gravely roads and for all of the typical hollywood theatrics presented, these programs do have a semi-educational factor. For example I did not know before that the world of Bigfoot, like their cousins in the supernatural show department, exists in shades of “FLIR” green and that ghosts only work second shift.

Most of us have had some occurrence during our lives that left us scratching our heads and asking ourselves: “what was that”? But now we have many venues to compare our experiences with those of other head scratchers.

I’ve had my own encounters with things that go bump and I’ve reached the conclusion that the supernatural world is, in fact, just plain natural. A broad scope of phenomena that we just don’t understand yet. I think many of the experiences portrayed occur everywhere all the time even in our daily lives but they are more easily perceived in remote places because out there our senses are more expanded and receptive without the distractions of drive time traffic.

My one occurrence, that might possibly fit into the Bigfoot encounter box, is there simply because I don’t know what else to call it or where else to put it. Not a sighting, only a sound that roiled the midnight air.

A friend and I were night hunting coyotes up on the grasslands near Black Creek Lake north of Decatur when we heard it. The afternoon before had been pummeled with the comings and goings of thunder storms that had continued throughout the evening. As midnight approached lightning flickered in a strange maniacal dance within low hanging clouds as thunder muttered in the distance while the ragged, gusting wind hissed and moaned around us. We left the mud covered jeep at the cattle guard and walked quietly along the few hundred yards of dirt road that leads down to the lake. About halfway we stopped and stood in silence, immersed in the night and facing away from the rising wind and into a tree line of black on black forest and thick brush about thirty yards in front of us.

I would do the calling and my friend Betz would handle the spot light. We had stopped using a gun many years before. We had no interest in killing them, watching them watch us was much more interesting. Also I have always been interested in observing the movements and rhythms of nature and the feeling of becoming at one with natural activities especially at night.

So there we stand in this turbulent black night and I inhale deep and cut loose with the predator call. Now for those not familiar with night hunting, a predator call is a hand-held device that uses a reed to generate sounds similar to those in musical wind instruments like the clarinet, saxophone etc. The call looks like what is seen on the Duck Dynasty reality show with the main difference between duck calls and predator calls is that the reeds being made by the Robertson boys are tuned to simulate the sounds of ducks. The predator call reed is tuned to replicate the sound of a rabbit in distress so when it is blown the sound is like a dinner bell to any small game predator like a fox or coyote, bobcat, hawk or owl that happens to be in the neighborhood. It makes a horrible screeching sound that can be heard from a great distance and will attract any predator within hearing distance that is on the prowl for a midnight snack. That screech still hung in the air when a sound like I’d never heard before erupted from the shadowed tree line in front of us and filled the air. It slammed into each of us like an explosive shock wave and we were actually forced to take a step backward.

Loud and fierce with the shadows even darker between the pulses of lightning that danced above our heads like minions from hell. Whatever it was it had to be very big. Then within seconds, it roared again and still a third time. I thought at first it was a cougar, a very pissed cougar, and my next thought was that my trusty old 12 gauge double ugly was sitting safe and serene back at the jeep while I was standing in the middle of nowhere in the dark, pretending to be an item on the bottom of the primal food chain. I abandoned the cougar theory almost immediately because it didn’t really sound like any cougar I had ever heard before and if it had been a cougar that was that close and that big it would have already been on top of us.

Whatever it was, the unearthly howl made my skin crawl and seemed to become a presence that encircled all around us. As I turned towards Betz all I saw was the black on black shape of his back as he turned and started to double time back to the jeep and I was left standing by myself in the dark, for about a heartbeat.

I didn’t know ol’ Betz could run that fast and I’m not sure where we were on the road back to the jeep when I passed him but I had the engine cranked up and running before he even opened his door. I looked at him as he looked at me and as if on cue we both said at the same time “what the hell was that”?

That hunt was over. Of course we blamed it on the approaching storm. Whatever had made the sound was big, but if it wasn’t a cougar, what was it? The years passed and the incident remained in its own corner of curious memories in my head that was only discussed between Betz and me when we were by ourselves and under the chaperone of alcohol. Fast forward many, many years to present day and I’m watching some documentary about the Bigfoot phenomena that included an audio of what was supposed to be a Bigfoot vocalization and bingo there it was again. I don’t know what made the sound on the audio but it was almost exactly what we had heard that night long ago.

Do I believe in a Bigfoot creature? The quick and easy answer is no, however I’ve seen too much and heard too much in remote wilderness areas for me to completely rule out the possibility……of anything. I’m reminded of the answer the late Carl Sagan gave when asked if he believed in other beings, similar to ourselves, existing throughout the galaxies. He said (paraphrasing now) that “I have never seen physical proof that other life forms exist anywhere in the universe, but if that proof of their existence is discovered in the future, I would not be surprised”.

We hunted up there for many years after that night and never heard it again.

Posted by: paywindow7 | July 27, 2013




It’s early on a clear, crisp winter morning and as the rising sun clears the horizon, its brilliance is complete with no clouds or haze to dilute the cobalt blue sky and no wind to force the cold down coat collars. The stillness and quiet seems to hold everything in its place as in a photograph. It’s the morning of a beautiful day that comes with a vague feeling of…reverence. 


There is no one here but me. My truck sits in a parking area next to the flight line with the engine still hot from the high speed, pre-dawn run up the interstate that brought us here. It’s making those small clicking sounds common to cooling engines and although I’m a hundred feet away I can hear it. It’s that still and that quiet.                                                                                                                         

I’m standing on the flight line of a small regional airport that is a privately owned facility and an aviation landmark for over half a century. Frequently used by general aviation traffic the 3400 foot long, black, asphalt runway with its recently painted, white centerline runs north and south. A hill capped with a tangle of mesquite trees is an annoyance near the north end while tall, old growth oaks stand sentinel at the south. I’m in front of a row of airplanes of various size, shape and color. Some are sleek and sexy, some are plain, simple and basic but they all do variations of the same thing, they all go fast and high.


I have the feeling that my flight instructor wants me to solo soon even though the flight last week was mediocre at best. Hard landings accompanied by small errors and mistakes that had not been a problem before add to my frustration and generates some tension even though I’m confident that I can fly the airplane.


Cars begin arriving in quick succession now and one of them brings my flight instructor. As we begin the preflight ritual she doesn’t mention last week’s flight but as we buckle up to go she says she wants to stay in the pattern and shoot some “touch ‘n go’s” (a term that means the pilot lands the aircraft but as soon as it’s rolling and stable on the ground he quickly raises the flaps, adds full power and takes off again without coming to a complete stop). We fire it up then call for a radio check on the local air traffic communication frequency and get no response. I add some power and we ease away from the parking site tie downs and onto the taxiway heading for the run-up area pad near the departure end of the runway. The preflight run-up goes smoothly and when completed I add power to get us moving toward the runway.  I stop at the “hold short” lines that separate the taxiway from the end of the runway and help regulate and position the aircraft getting ready for takeoff. My obligatory radio call to announce our intentions to any other aircraft that may be in the area gets no response, no radio traffic at all but since this is an airport with no control tower it’s not that unusual.  We visually sweep the landing pattern around the airport for any traffic that may be there but not monitoring their radio. Nothing in sight, but I’m aware again of that small, vague feeling of unease that has been crowding me all morning.


My right hand eases the throttle forward to add some power and move us onto the runway as the left foot adds a little pressure to the left main gear brake and the nose swings to the left and brings the white centerline of the black asphalt runway into the center of the windshield. One quick glance down the entire length of it confirms it to be clear of obstructions but the trees at the far end over a half mile away always seem to loom larger when preparing for takeoff in that direction.  Full throttle now and the surge of power to the prop increases the ‘G’ load to push the driver and observer back into the seats as the aircraft accelerates. The speed builds exponentially and the sounds of the propeller combined with the engine exhaust rises to that familiar high pitched buzzing roar. After a brief glance at the engine instruments and the air speed indicator I give the “Air speed’s alive” and “Engines green” call to my instructor in the right seat.                 


At about 55 knots I can feel that slight shudder through the yoke that indicates the wind over the wings has attached and has now become a lifting force and tells me that we’re ready to fly. An increase in back pressure on the yoke raises the nose wheel off the runway and a couple of seconds later we are airborne and I suppress the now familiar exhilaration that always wants to come out as maniacal laughter.


We climb out in the still smooth morning air as the runway markings fall away beneath us, then a climbing left turn onto the crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern and we start setting up for some touch and goes. It’s still early with no other aircraft in the area and the radio remains silent as we complete the circuit of the landing pattern. The descending turn from base leg to final and we are at altitude and aligned, again, with that runway centerline. The airspeed is good and the VASI lights setting to the left of the runway indicate that we are on glide path. My eyes are on the white painted runway numbers near end of the asphalt strip with occasional side sweeps for traffic then at airspeed, altitude and the VASI as we glide in. I start to get a little fast and add a little back pressure on the yoke that raises the nose slightly to slow us down. My right hand is nailed to the throttle as my fingers slowly bleed power off to allow for descent. Somewhere outside that orb of concentration there is a feeling that “this is why we do it”. This feeling of clarity, communion and alignment with the natural laws of physics is never more apparent and profound for me as when on final approach. It’s my church pew but as that feeling tries to push to the front of my consciousness I force it away to focus on what I’m doing.         


The touchdown is a squeaker and the best in a month. We do two more circuits around the traffic pattern and each touchdown is good but as I begin to go to full power for another “go” my instructor says no and to take her back to the office and I know that today is the day.


We taxi back and when we get to the hanger she pops the right door open to the rushing sound of the engine and propeller, gives me some last minute encouragement and instructions about what she wants to happen.  Then she swats me on the shoulder, steps out and the door slams shut. When she is clear of the prop wash and walking toward the office, I add power again and head down the taxiway toward the end of the runway a half mile away. The strange thing is that I don’t feel as nervous as I thought I would. Focused, yes and alert but not particularly nervous.  


I turn the radio volume up and visually scan the downwind and base legs of the traffic pattern while rolling. Then I’m there. The taxiway turns a 90 degree left and there are the “hold short” lines and the runway threshold markings of 17. When I get stopped I look right and visually check out the final approach leg. It’s clear and with no need for run up now, I call CTAF and announce my intention to the previously vacant sky but to my surprise I get a couple of acknowledgements. I release the brakes, add some power to cross the “hold shorts” then a left turn and the engine cowling swings to the left in a curious sort of slow motion before stopping and I’m looking down the full length of the centerline again. For a flash I’m tempted to stop and think about what I’m doing but I push that thought aside. I don’t need to think about it, I know what I’m doing, and it seems that a part of my soul has spent my whole life coming to this moment.  The time for heavy thinking is past, now it’s time to do the deed.


So I quickly scan the instrument panel and mentally note indicated fuel levels, engine gauges, flaps settings, mixture and confirm full travel of rudder, aileron and elevator. The throttle starts to move and short seconds later the RPM gauge spikes up again and the speed increases rapidly and in seconds I again feel that slight flutter in the controls and I sense the airplane saying “OK sport we’re ready… do it”. Then we’re in the middle of the best take off I’ve ever made and I’m flying an airplane by myself.


As I’m turning and climbing into the crosswind leg the radio seems to come alive with the chatter of other traffic and as I look over my left shoulder down at the airport my heart sinks a little. Airplanes seem to be coming out of the ground and heading for the business end of runway 17. Oh crap, all of the old bastards that live at the airport have decided to “put ‘em in the blue” this morning right in the middle of my first solo. These guys are all old experienced pilots who fly like skateboard delinquents in an abandoned swimming pool. Nothing illegal, just fast and edgy and here I go, slow and mostly new.  I was feeling pretty good a few seconds ago when it was just me up there boring holes in the sky but with other airplanes coming up to join me the process just got a lot more complicated and right then I didn’t need more complications.  I actually thought for a minute to call everyone down there and tell them that I was on my solo flight and ask them to stay put for a few minutes. But then I thought “No, what the hell, bring ‘em up. If we die, we all die big”. By the time I turned final for my first solo touch-down I was a quarter mile from the end of the runway and I could see a guy beginning his take off role but I held my glide and keyed the mike to announce where I was and that I was on short final to keep the next guy in place behind the hold short lines. That guy held his position until I came past and as I was on my flare he called that he was pulling onto the runway. That panicked me a little but then I heard the tires squeak and saw that my alignment and attitude were good so I immediately flipped up the flap switch, went balls to the wall with the throttle, pushed the carb heat off and I was flying again. It all happened so fast that I was a little surprised to see the ground fall away.


Some guy came into the pattern behind me on my fourth circuit and radioed to say that he was having engine problems and would I extend my downwind leg so he could turn a short base and land before me. So I did and he did and when I touched down a few minutes later he was on the taxiway with his propeller stopped. The last pattern was a non event except for the fact that as I turned crosswind on the last lap my radio went dead. Yep dead silent, but by that time I was only about a minute from my last touchdown and all the other flying skateboarders had left the area so I continued on like I knew what I was doing and set it down and made a very careful taxi back to the hanger.


When I pulled up to the flight line there was Dee screaming and jumping up and down kind of weepy like and giving me a hug. I was one of her first students so I was glad that I hadn’t bent the airplane.

Like everyone tells you “you’ll never forget it” and I never will.


Later, after the dust had settled and pictures taken, I was leaving the airport and turned on the radio and heard that the space shuttle Columbia had broken up on re-entry and that, tragically, all hands had been lost. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and put together the time line of what I was doing that morning and compared that with the moment to moment of the shuttle re-entry and disaster and discovered that at the same time I was experiencing my feelings of unease and reverence was before and during the shuttle disintegration somewhere over America. Many words, phrases and conjecture lend themselves to explaining something like that but none of them work here and there’s no reason that they should. There is no explanation…at this time.     

Posted by: paywindow7 | July 26, 2013

High Flight


Oh, I’ve slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun split clouds…and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of…

Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace where never lark or even eagle flew.

And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high un-trespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God. 


By John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Posted by: paywindow7 | July 26, 2013

Do not go gentle…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
and learn, too late, they grieved it on it’s way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that dark night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

By: Dylan Thomas

Posted by: paywindow7 | December 1, 2012

Flying, an Unnatural Act

The air is an extremely dangerous, jealous and exacting mistress. Once under the spell most lovers are faithful to the end, which is not always at old age.
Sir Winston Churchill

I had a friend express an interest in flying recently. All that was mentioned was a life long curiosity about flying. That’s it, just a vague comment made in polite conversation. Of course, you know me; the mere mention of an interest in flying by someone triggers me into a full-blown “show ‘n tell” mode. However this time I tried to contain myself so I just briefly described how a person could get the feel for it on the cheap, flying that is, then bowed and stepped away.

After the familiar rush of attempting to convert another curious questioner into the “cult of ascension” I wondered to myself “why does that get me going” and “why do I fly anyway?” What is there about that activity that has always affected me so profoundly.
What is it I feel when I’m airborne and driving solo and how do I put those feelings into written text?

I wasn’t sure I even knew enough words to capture the song it sings or how to pass on those feelings and since I didn’t understand it myself how was I going to explain it to someone else.
In order to gain a better understanding of it all, I decided to go back to my first contact with aviation. To accomplish that required me to revisit some early memories, from back in the day, that still replay in my head as video loops attached to an email. So in my mind’s eye I punch the triangle in the middle of the screen and I’m back on patrol again flying for the US Navy as flight crew on a Lockheed Neptune ASW patrol bomber. Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations have been going on 24/7 for the past sixty years or more and I’m sure will be continued on, searching and patrolling the oceans and seas of the world looking for the ever elusive Soviet submarines, the phantoms that lurk in the deep. They, watching for me, as I’m hunting for them. It’s 1962 or there about, midstream in what history now calls the Cold War. When every living thing on the planet was in danger of extinction and very few even knew it.
In this particular session of dream time I’m flying eastbound out of Jacksonville Florida. It’s sundown and as I turn in my seat to look behind me I can see the last light of the setting sun
still inflaming the western horizon. I turn back to the front and look forward through the nose turret and out over the Atlantic and it’s already pitch black with stars starting to become visible as the light show begins again. It’s that same show as last night, last week and the same as observed by humans every night for tens of thousands of years. It was at these times that I understood how they must have felt when gazing at and pondering the view of sea and sky all those millenia past. The questions and mysteries that were vaporous in the mind then are still unanswered now and once again I feel attuned to it all. An energy rising up from the night black depths sparkling below to entwine with the spirits of the heavens canopied with stars like diamonds on black velvet and streaked with the frequent fires of countless meteorites and comets.

I felt at those times a confirmed member and participant of all that occurs in the universe. For some reason the action of flight aligns my senses and consciousness in a cosmic join up that connects me somehow to the gene memory that extends back to the ancients.

Those times on patrol were when I first became aware of my affinity for most things airborne and now those feelings come forward again to replay whenever I’m flying alone in the cockpit. The view of the crazy quilt pattern of streams, roads, hills and valleys thousands of feet below and the constant of the shadowed arc of the prop barely visible a few feet in front with the limitless expansion of space above becomes my portrait. The roar of the engine and the sound of the prop meld into one resonant vibration felt deep inside as every nut bolt and rivet speaks to you in a primal tongue and it’s that conversation that keeps you up and out of the water and weeds.

The “freeing experience” that is talked about by pilots to help market their trade and vocation is definitely part of it but with that freedom comes an element of caveat that is always out there on the edge, always on the periphery of the core experience, something that colors and enhances everything that happens in the air. Once early in my flight training I was up with a retired airline captain who asked me, “want to know why I’m still alive?” We were practicing landings at the time and this pilot had thousands of hours flying international routes so I was a little startled by his question. He was a very intelligent , fun character and a consummate professional but when he threw out the question he was dead serious. “Flying is an unnatural act”, he continued while gazing out the front windshield at the approaching runway “and as a pilot you must always be on the alert and stay aware that one of the purposes of the machine you’re flying is to try and kill you.” That thought must always be vibrant somewhere in your consciousness whether you are cloud dancing, fence jumping or canyon tracking. Never forget that the aircraft you’re hitching on is watching you and if you do not stay focused it might just jump up and dope slap the hell out of you.

I’ve always had a layman’s interest in physics, and aerodynamics is definitely Physics 101. Newton’s three laws are alive and well in the airborne airframe and the “Principle” discovered by Daniel Bernoulli over 300 years ago still does its dance along every airfoil on every airplane and every flight. I flew a small aircraft for a while that was very cool. Every time the cross winds were just right and the speed on the takeoff roll reached rotation I could tell the wind had attached when I felt a slight bump in the yoke. I knew at that point that the shape of the wing and the air flowing over it had combined to create work in the form of lift. It was like the machine was saying “OK sport, we’re ready to go now… do it” and I could imagine Mr. Bernoulli somewhere dancing and singing and yelling “I told you so” and I would laugh out loud as I lifted off.

Landings were much the same for me. I loved landings. When turning from the Base leg onto the Final approach of the airport traffic pattern, the vision of the runway with it’s white centerline would flash dead center in the windshield and seem to draw me forward until I was hunkered over the yoke. Heartbeat and breathing ramp up along with that familiar tingling at the back of the neck as all the sensory systems take the fast lane and every time I would think, “this is why we do it”. The eyes are constantly switching from the flight instruments back to the approaching runway threshold markings with an occasional quick scan of the area to make sure no other air traffic has strayed into the pattern.
The focus is intense, joyous and complete. Left hand on the yoke and right hand glued to the throttle slowly bleeding off power to reduce RPM and allow for a controlled descent along the angle of the glide slope, yielding altitude to that invisible hand reaching out from the center of the earth to help draw you down. The runway markings flash beneath and your right hand pulls the throttle all the way back. With no power the engine slumps to idle and you’re floating in ground effect a few feet above the runway. A “flare” of back pressure with the yoke to break the lift then it’s a satisfying “squeaker” as the main gear tires kiss the runway.

Thats all I can conjur up for now and I’m still not into ILS procedures that were developed by some mad demon but save countless lives every year. Your airliner would not leave the ground without them.

Posted by: paywindow7 | June 12, 2012

Flight History

When I was twelve my family was hit by a tragedy that left me at ground zero of an emotional nuclear blast. As I struggled to stay afloat amidst that loss and as a means to escape the turmoil, I somehow latched onto the idea that I would go to Alaska and fly airplanes. Although I knew very little at that time about Alaska, and even less about flying airplanes, the idea seemed to distract me from the reality that swirled and hammered at me and my family. I told my father what I wanted to do and he raised some major hell and the idea went down in flames so to speak.  

So I put aside the boyish dream of “Alaska with airplanes” nonsense and moved on to finish school, marry happily, raise a family and otherwise commit life. My interest in airplanes and flying, however, stayed with me. Fueled and reinforced by a span of years that I flew as an aircrewman on the Lockheed Neptune patrol bomber while serving in the US Navy.

Fast forward fifty years or so to a bright, crisp autumn morning at a small local airport where I had begun, you guessed it, taking flying lessons. I had just left the flight line after an early morning cross country solo and was on the road heading out of the airport. This ancient, narrow two laner made a turn around the end of the runway just before reaching the exit gate and civilization. It was still early with no other road traffic in sight so I stopped and looked out the drivers window straight down the white centerline of the black asphalt runway.

Northwest of Anchorage

As I sat watching, a black and white Cessna finished it’s preflight runup, pulled onto the runway, then positioned itself on the centerline facing away from me in preparation for takeoff. The back of the aircraft was only about fifty feet from where I sat watching and when the pilot suddenly increased to full power to begin his takeoff roll I could feel my truck rock and see the weeds and grasses flatten in the propblast. When the pilot relaesed the brakes the craft began to move, slowly at first, then quickly gained speed exponentially until it was blasting down the runway with the noise of the engine and propeller combining to make that charactoristically loud high pitched buzz.

A few seconds later I could see, even from my position now a few hundred feet behind, the front of the aircraft gently rise as the nose wheel left the ground and then the aircraft lifted off. When he was about ten feet off the deck a bubble of crosswind caught the left wing tip and forced it sharply up until the driver caught it and eased it back down.

For the next few seconds I watched as the aircraft fishtailed, pitched and squirreled around in the erratic wind currents and I knew exactly what was going on inside the cockpit as the pilot played the wind. And then he was up.

I watched it get smaller and smaller before disappearing in the distance and I thought to myself…I can do that. Even though a lifetime has passed since the dream was concieved, I’ve learned how to do that.


A few months later I had the opportunity to fly in Alaska. As I was taking off the first time and I eased the nose wheel off the ground then lifted off I could not stop myself from laughing out loud. My right seat passenger looked at me then smiled himself and said “yeah we get that a lot up here”.

If a moral is necessary (and vignettes such as these beg for morals I suppose) the the moral here must be that there is hope, there is always hope.

Posted by: paywindow7 | January 25, 2012

Jonah and Earl

The Hat

Earl is a cat, a feral cat. Born and living outside with no obvious home or human attachment. Average looking with tones and patterns of grey that makes you immediately think OK he’s an “alley cat”. He’s average size but filled out like the hunting has been pretty good in the neighborhood. He kind of showed up one day when he was still a kitten and there was some talk that maybe somebody should haul him off and find him a home but no one could bring themselves to be the one who would “home” him. So it was decided to leave him be and if he could survive living on his own outside then maybe he could help control the mouse and rat population around the place. So now here it is a few months later and Earl has survived and comes and goes doing cat stuff and uses the back patio of the house as his personal headquarters and spa.

Jonah is a kid of about year and a half. He’s a little bit larger and stronger than most his age and has absolutely no fear. If the NFL ever starts looking at talent at this age he would have to be listed in the linebacker column. Oh yeah, he is a bit of a showboat which might actually move him higher in the 2030 draft. Jonah is not feral, he lives as part of a family that conducts business in a purely American manner, sometimes calm but most times leaning towards the chaotic but always loving and it’s fun and beautiful to watch.

Earl and Jonah are buds. I didn’t know that they were even aware that the other existed
until last week. I was on the back patio trying to keep an eye on the kid to keep him semi-corralled while he burned off some excess energy so he might take a nap and yes, the nap part was a joke. Then here comes ‘ol Earl around the corner of the garage doing that cat swagger that says “yeah I see ya’, now step back and gimme some room”. Then Jonah sees Earl and Earl sees Jonah and the mood on the patio goes from casual to shrieks of joy with lots of rubbing and patting between the two. Earl drifts over and sets up his throne underneath a patio chair, then lies down ready to receive his worshipers. Right behind him came Jonah carrying on a conversation in little kid pre-talk babble that Earl seemed to understand.

Then Jonah got a shot of toddler curiosity and started to pat over here, grab a handful of fur there, then a pulled ear and a finger tracing an eye to a nose all the while me saying “No Jonah” while I was moving in their direction hoping that I might be able to minimize and contain the damage when Earl suddenly remembered that he was actually a cat and not a puppy. No need for me to rush, ‘ol Earl seemed to have gone down this track before and accepted the pulls and pushes with a shake of the head and playful pawing while seemingly trying to doze off. So probably they had bonded as two infants while sharing the patio before when Earl was still just a kitten and now that kitty has grown up the relationship continues.

That or there really is a conspiracy between little kids and small animals to try and terrify grandparents whenever possible.

Posted by: paywindow7 | December 25, 2011

Glider Ace

I know this aviator type who’s a glider ace. This outlaw flyer has somehow mastered the ability to catch the wind just right on blustery days and actually hover in space. The wind over his wings is just above stall and his ground speed is next to zero. When conditions are right he can hold this hover for almost minute while making slight corrections in wing and tail control surfaces and just hang in mid-air while he looks around at us poor wretches that are ground bound below.

It would be illegal as hell if I were to do it where I fly but he makes sure that when he does the trick that he’s out and away from anyone who might cause him problems and he seems to know that I enjoy watching him and don’t give a damn if he’s legal or not.

I’ve seen him on a number of occasions doing other aerobatics maneuvers and I’m more than a little in awe of what he can do in the air. Sometimes diving almost straight down then twisting left and right just before leveling out inches above the weeds to go blasting flat-out like a minion from hell on a strafing run. I can imagine the sound he gets in his ears as he rockets along with the wind over his wings making that strange fluttering high-speed roar.

I can’t prove it but when I catch him doing it I can imagine him looking at me with a silly smirk on his face as if to say “try this hoss”.

I’ll never learn to do it in this life that’s for sure. To be able to do it as well as he does and to get it just right I think you have to develop a taste for mice.

I only recently found out his name. It’s Hawk as in red-tailed ….


Posted by: paywindow7 | December 24, 2011


I loved to play football when I was in high school. Hated practice though, especially at the beginning of the season when September in Texas is still blast furnace hot. The ground is hard and dry and you can almost smell the heat. That time of year is one of anticipation around here, waiting for the seasonal tilt of the Earth to start drawing the polar fronts down from the north that signal the beginning of the fall season and relief from the heavy, humid, oven like temperatures of the preceding few months.

On those hot, dry afternoons after school during practice sessions the heat of the day was magnified by the weight of the pads, the stink of yesterdays sweat comingled with last season’s sweat and when coupled with the hot, choking dust stirred up by the activities of practice, made for a miserable three hours.

But like I said I loved to play the game. Not that I was particularly good at it, I wasn’t. As a freshman I only weighed about 115 at best while most of the other kids were starting to put on some serious maturity poundage and would generally outweigh me by forty to fifty pounds. I also did not have any unusual speed capability. My only cache’ with the team during practice was that I was quick off the ball and had good lateral moves. So the coaches often used me as cannon fodder for the starters during the endlessly long practice sessions. I was always on defense and played as a sort of linebacker. When the ball was snapped I would float left or right along the line of scrimmage behind the battling linemen in front of me until I could see where the ball carrier was heading. If I timed it just right I could hit into the line just as he was coming through and knock him on his ass before he knew I was even in his time zone. Looking back I think the coaches got a kick out of it. I ran into one of them at a bar in Ft. Worth a few years later and drank free that night.

My fifteen seconds of football fame came during a game with our cross town rivals who had a half- back with blazing speed and moves that could fake entire defensive teams out of their jocks. The kid was very good and later went on to play for TCU at a time in history when the Horned Frogs were a Southwest Conference powerhouse. Not only was this kid good but his whole team were either All City or All State caliber. My team was not and so on this particular night we were getting beat to shit.

I’m not sure why but sometime during the second half the coach, either in desperation or frustration, crooked a finger in my direction and I went in as the right defensive end, a position I had only played a couple of times before in practice so I was virtually clueless as to what I was supposed to do.

Now on this particular night my father had come to the game. He never came to games but for some reason my sister had been able to badger and cajole him into coming to this one. So he and she were there and happened to be seated directly behind our player’s bench on the sideline.

So I’m in the game, the ball is snapped and I charge, untouched, from my position on the defensive line, straight ahead about four steps into their backfield to cut off the “outsides lanes” I had heard about somewhere. When I got to that position I set and looked left toward where I thought the action would be and was greeted by the image of two of their pulling linemen each about the size of a Mac truck heading in my direction. They ran shoulder to shoulder to block for this future All American kid half back and were looking for someone to kill and eat.

Then a series of small miracles began to unfold. When I had come onto the field I had accidentally positioned myself way wide on the line of scrimmage and so now I was too far away for the two mountainous blockers to consider as meat and after a brief glance in my direction they
both simultaneously turned hard right into the line and I could hear the screams and sounds of breaking bones as they tore through my teammates towards the secondary.

All of the above had taken place in about three seconds and now there I was standing all by my lonesome in their backfield as the two trucks disguised as football players continued their quest for food. I was now looking across the field at my coach and team mates on the far bench. The coach was gesturing wildly and I thought “how nice” and started to wave back.

Then I could see why he was going ballistic and my heart stopped. Coming straight at me was the All State, All City, All God scat back with the magical moves and mach 2 speed. I had not even seen him before as he had been trotting along behind his massive swat team escort waiting for the two of them to cut right and kill all his enemies so he could score again and assure his chance of getting his hand up Mary Lou’s skirt later that night. Now I had never been one to screw up anybody’s love life, intentionally, but I had been hearing and reading about this hotshot all season and I actually remember thinking “well hello podna’ ”.

My old man said later that even with all of the crowd noise he thought he could hear me laugh as the play developed over the next few seconds. I started for Mr. All American and the kid saw me coming and almost casually reversed his field, hit passing gear and began to disappear into the distance, running back across the field towards my coach and team mates on the bench.

I charged after him knowing that I couldn’t catch him but as he neared the far sideline he looked left to find a place to make his cut downfield and greater glory but unbelievably all he saw were the surviving members of my secondary cutting him off. I saw them too and I knew I had his ass. First laugh from me that my dad thought he heard.

He tried to reverse his field again and as he came around he saw me coming about three strides away and got that “deer in the headlights look” and mouthed something obscene. He wasn’t huge as some high school runners are today and had come into his local glory using speed and finesse plus he was also at a slight disadvantage as he had almost stopped to do his second 180 before plowing back across the field and over me to score again to the delight of Mary Lou.

So he was almost flatfooted and off balance with no momentum and here I came as fast as God would allow and I hit him square on.

Laugh two that my father thought he heard.

My sister said later that when we collided my momentum caused us to both leave the ground and sail entangled through the air the last few feet before slamming into the coach knocking him backward into and over the bench that was home to our excess players. They all fell in as many directions and spilled the water barrel and caused all of the extra footballs to seem to levitate in the air. It was chaos. Flailing limbs, curses and bouncing gear. When gravity took over again and all of the gear and people had stopped bouncing the coach jumped up in a state of football ecstasy laughing, screaming and pounding me on the back and helmet. Mr. All American even swatted me on the butt in that kind of battle field camaraderie that only we seem to understand as he went back into the game to work on his resume.

They won big of course, but I was glad my old man was there.

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