all cardinals are red.
yellow cardinal (Gubernatrix cristata) is a tropical American relative
of the Cardoma Grossbeak, songbird of North America east of the Rockies
(Richmondena, cardinalis), in which only the male is red, the female
The Pyrrhuloxia sinuata is a grayish-red relative
found in Mexico and southern Texas, and the red-crested cardinal (Paroaaria
coronata), a popular cage bird, has become established in Hawaii.
Cardinals are 20 centimeters (8 inches) long, with pointed
crest. Pairs utter loud clear whistling notes year round, in gardens
and open woodlands.
there is the Cardinal 177RG (for retractable gear) made by Cessna. November
Three Four Niner One Four is shown here parked at the Big Bear Airport
in California in 1987.
With raked windscreen and streamlined fuselage, with strutless
laminar-flow wings and full-authority stabilator, this plane is slippery
as hell and is decidedly my favorite flying machine.
by Paul Niquette
Scan the sky above you. What wonders do you see?
A flock of birds a-winging, a cloud beyond that tree,
A contrail in the distance from the jet that once was there.
Closer up, a light plane's sound dares yet to part the air.
Humming with combustion, enroute to B from A,
The small craft sings volition's song, along a swift air
That such is aviation's best can hardly be in doubt,
Compared to airline journeys -- Hah! one trip will bear that
For, herding hapless passengers aboard a metal room,
Then plying them with movies, mints, and cocktails to consume
Is how the airline people try to take away your thought
Of flying altogether -- and the tickets that you bought.
The view you get through windows like a sideways oven door
Makes flight by jet so dreadful dull, no wonder most deplore
Airline trips to anywhere -- and getting there as well:
Extruded to a noisy place with turning carousel...
To stand and stare at stainless steel and floors of asphalt
No surprise to me, you seldom see passengers who smile.
Slogging down the corridor, who once were straight and proud,
Their pilots, too, are counted now amongst the sullen crowd.
Constrained by rigid schedules and instruments galore,
The driver of a wing-ed bus finds time aloft a bore.
For they're not free to take a plane and point it at the
To fly to where they want to go, then land there by and by.
And military pilots think that flying's what they know,
Except they dare not wander far from where they're told to
Astronauts aren't flying -- no! -- they float around for
Inside a metal cylinder to measure solar rays.
They squeeze their food from bottles and talk in TLD's
(Triple Letter Designators), 'space speak,' if you please.
The truth concerning space craft, from all that we can learn:
Computers do the steering from blast-off to return.
Real flying, then, is what is done by light plane; that's
Controlled by private pilot bold, who finds that in the act,
He or she admires the scene above the nearby earth,
Free to steer a course at will, fulfilling dreams from birth.
One zooms above all worldly cares -- yes, Freedom is the
Command a hundred horses, outperforming any bird.
To distant destination fly, in just a little while.
Then throttle back, descend, and land, arriving there in
Scan the sky above you. Oh, what wonders you will see!
A flock of birds a-winging, a cloud beyond that tree,
Yourself, perhaps, a-winging toward a chosen place up there.
Closer up, your light plane's song dares yet to part the
There are two schools of thought about the effects of
Whether there will ever be a critical experiment that settles
the matter I do not know. However, when it comes to aviation safety, the
debate may have more than academic significance.
One asserts that the liquid imposes its own 'personality'
upon the drinker -- that a person should not be held accountable for his
or her behavior 'under the influence' ("It was the booze talking. If I
were sober, I would say no such thing").
The other view of alcohol holds that it dissolves inhibitions,
revealing the true, otherwise hidden personality.
Federal regulations forbid flying less than eight hours
after drinking ("Eight hours from bottle to throttle," the saying goes)
or when 'hung-over' (whatever that means). There is ample reason
for you to hope, however, that the stranger piloting your airliner is a
tee-totaller -- or at least has abstained for more than the minimum eight
Objective experiments over the years have shown that,
depending upon all the familiar variables, alcohol can adversely affect
the pilot's capacity to perform functions essential to flight safety up
to -- now get this -- more than two days following its consumption.
So much for assuring the capacity to perform. But what
about the pilot's personality?
If the second theory is found to prevail, then air carriers
should consider adopting the practice of the craftiest corporate headhunters
and surrepticiously administer alcohol as a clinical device for pilot screening.
If alcohol is -- in and of itself -- responsible for unseemly
behavior, then purging the system of the stuff should restore the pilot
to safe conduct.
On the other hand, the pilot may have a perilous ego-state
lurking beneath the surface, kept in check by sobriety. The 'whoopee factor,'
in the Sky
Airliner flies into a swamp at night, while all three members
of the flight crew are preoccupied changing a lightbulb on the control
Airliner plunges thousands of feet before a fuselage-bending
recovery, because pilots disabled warning devices in order to goad the
plane into a treacherous 'corner' of its flight envelope.
Airliner descends out of a storm and proceeds to land at
the wrong airport, the pilots complaining later that both aerodromes have
the same runway layout.
Airliner cruises twenty minutes beyond a shoreline destination
over open water, despite radio calls from radar controllers, because the
flight crew was fast asleep.
Airliner wanders off course into hostile airspace -- or the
airspace assigned to another airliner -- because the crew did not key in
the correct navigational coordinates.
Airliner runs out of fuel despite instrument warnings and
protests by the flight engineer, which are overruled as a matter of prerogative
of the captain.
Airliner loses power from both engines after take-off and
nearly glides into the ocean when pilots, responding to a warning, inadvertently
operate the wrong engine controls.
Airliner at 37,000 feet, with its captain in the restroom
and thus locked out of the flight deck, suddenly drops 5,000 feet as the
copilot, in adjusting his seat, inadvertently pushes the control column.
For reasons that should be apparent to readers of these chapters,
am hardly reassured by the realization that airline pilots are made out
of the same protoplasm as I am.
Airliner crashes on take-off as flight crew misinterpret
readings from engine instruments or skip an entry on the checklist calling
for take-off flap setting or...
Airline travel is unavoidable. As a passenger, one feels
utterly powerless, dependent. I wonder what the statistics are for the
number of passengers who, as their plane pulls up into the sky, plunge
into a pool of frantic awareness that their destiny has been wrested from
Ominous thoughts torture the mind. If those guys and gals
enclosed in their locked compartment up front should suffer a lapse in
competence, become distracted, get their priorities wrong, make a crucial
mistake aloft -- cripes! -- I can't do anything about it.
Sure, you ask yourself, what are the chances of that?
Professional training and practiced skills, checklists and check-rides,
discipline and dedication -- all act in superposition to make making mistakes
Gulp, but not impossible.
This issue like so many others in our complex, interdependent
world has become all statistical. Whenever I am at the controls,
however, statistics lose their hold on me. Probabilities become mere abstractions.
I am the one tilting the yoke and pushing the pedals. Averages have nothing
to do with the enterprise. Whatever adverse conditions arise, I know that
I have the power in my own hands to deal with them, to influence the outcome.
Numbers apply only to others, not to me.
Plant on Wheels
"Where you headed?" asked the FBO
in Needles, while pouring lemonade for the children. He was the archetypical
jolly big-man in middle years. His office in the tiny building beside the
ramp was a clutter of airplane parts and papers. Faded photos lined the
"Torrance Airport," I answered.
"Hell, you ought to take a swim and relax right here,"
he said, mopping his brow with a rag.
"My family and I have just flown in from Carlsbad Caverns,
"Good motel in town. Five minutes away."
I shook my head. "It's been a long trip, and -- "
"I'll even let you drive my 'egg plant.'" The fellow pointed
with his thumb over his shoulder and watched my reaction.
Parked outside the window was a 1948 Cadillac limousine.
"Got a chauffeur's cap?" I asked.
During Pope John Paul's U.S. tour in 1987 (September 10-19),
a number of commemorative products sprung up. Coffee mugs, ceramic
tiles, and barbeque aprons were everywhere featuring images of the Pontiff.
Sears had a sale an animated lawn sprinkler inscribed with "Let us spray."
There were molded cleansing agents made from the salts of vegetable fats
favorite included a loop of nylon cord to be conveniently suspended on
a shower head -- yeah, "Pope Soap on a Rope."
Now a flying story...
A late-night fuel-stop in Cardinal Three Four Niner One
Four at a remote field in Nevada found the flight line closed and the FBO
unavailable until morning, which necessitated an unplanned RON.
At the closest motel, a toothless codger with a scruffy beard handed me
the room-key and a fresh towel.
"Do you have any Pope Soap on a Rope?" asked I with a
The old fellow shrugged as if he had been responding to
the question all week. "Nope."
All right, so you had to be there.
Editor of the Editorial Page
Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Square Los Angles,
Dear Mr. Day:
One aspect of Professor Richard
J. Vogl's recommendation that "non-essential aircraft" over urban areas
be banned (in today's edition of the Times) warrants careful thought:
how to decide which aircraft are non-essential.
Or conversely, which flights should
be permitted? Some choices are easy: One flight last month, for example.
A woman I know flew an Archer to Calexico to bring back a disabled child
for treatment at Shriner Hospital. Though the flight "benefits only a few,"
Professor Vogl would surely permit it and hundreds of other flights being
made by volunteers on the American Medical Support Flight Team.
Business trips would be all right,
too, presumably. My most recent flight was a quick hop in a Cutlass from
Orange County to Santa Monica. One of our best customers, an aerospace
company, was having a technical problem, so I brought in some special gear
and one of our best engineers. Problem solved.
But what if it were a candy factory
instead? A business flight to fix a problem there would be "non-essential,"
I expect. Last thing we Americans need is more cavities. Same for a sales
trip to, say, a cosmetics firm or a movie studio or a maker of vaginal
sprays. Professor Vogl would doubtless ban private flights for non-essential
|No reason to limit the ban to private
flights, though. For, as Professor Vogl emphasizes: "Limitation is the
mother of good management!" That most airline seats are occupied by persons
taking non-essential trips is a reality of aviation.
Check the couple sitting next to
you: why, they're going skiing. The people up front with the crying child
are on their way back from visiting Grandma. Hah! And that thumper behind
you? He is bound for a convention in Chicago -- for confectioners. Sometimes
the skies above Los Angeles are full of airliners each filled to capacity
with non-essential travelers to and from places like Reno and Las Vegas.
Let's ban those, too.
Having cleared the skies of all
non-essential airplanes, we can apply Professor Vogl's ban in other realms.
Think of all the non-essential vehicles on our neighborhood streets and
freeways. Trips to the beach would be first to go. And why should beer
trucks take up space on our highways? "Individual freedom," asserts Professor
(of Biology) Vogl, "must often be forfeited for the common good." His noble
words taken seriously could get him grounded, though. Aviation regulators
may someday decide that biology is non-essential.
Penny taught me a
whole lot about instrument flying. There was this time when we flew
to El Toro Marine Base to practice a procedure called GCA,
Ground Controlled Approach.
Penny scheduled me for six approaches one beautiful Saturday
morning. As usual, I put on the hood
take-off from Orange County Airport (now John Wayne). I contacted the El
Toro Marine Base by radio after we were aloft.
"We will be using student controllers for your practice
approaches today," said a deep voice on the radio. I changed frequencies
as instructed and lowered my seat in preparation for the effort that lay
My first approach was routine. The young marine on the
microphone performed flawlessly.
"Do not acknowledge my transmissions unless advised to
do so," he told me at one point. "Please acknowledge," he advised.
"Will not acknowledge," I acknowledged.
"You are right of the approach course. Turn left, heading
340. You are below the glide-slope. Stop your descent. You are on the approach
course. Turn right, heading 350. Above the glide-slope, descend at 500
The instructions continued in a steady stream. Then, the
controller made an abundantly sensible statement.
"Your landing gear should be down and locked; please acknowledge."
"Gear down and welded," I chuckled into the microphone.
At the last moment, about a hundred feet above the runway,
I was instructed to power up and execute a 'missed approach' procedure.
Unless it were a real emergency, civilians cannot land at El Toro.
For the second approach, Penny concealed my direction
by covering its face with a jar-lid. I told the student controller about
my predicament. After a delay, during which I assume there was a scramble
to look up the appropriate procedure, the controller came back on and began
a more detailed set of instructions. They included commands of the form,
"Turn right -- stop turn."
So it went. Penny would cover up various instruments,
and I would obey the commands issued from the ground. She brought plenty
of jar-lids. The fifth time around, Penny set up a 'no gyro approach.'
About all I had to look at on the control panel was the oil pressure gauge.
This really put the onus on the GCA controller.
How neat to pop up the hood after such a hairy simulation
and see the runway directly under my nose wheel! I had an idea.
"Care to try one, Penny?"
Penny laughed. "The fantasy life of every instrument student
includes getting his instructor under the hood." I determined not to touch
that line with a barge pole. "Gimme that thing," said she.
Penny adjusted the headband and pulled the hood down to
obscure the window. I sat back and folded my arms. For the first time that
morning, I would be permitted to experience the visual reality of flight.
A new controller took his turn at the GCA scopes. He was
less sure of himself than his predecessor. I left all the jar-lids in place
Things went fine in the beginning. Penny reduced and increased
power on command. She turned and stopped turn, first this way then that.
I was astonished at the magnitude of the corrections being made. We were
flying all over the sky. What a lark. Then something went wrong. We were
no more than 300 feet above the runway and slightly to the right.
"Increase power. Turn left. Reduce power..."
The student controller forgot to say, "Stop turn."
We continued to turn left. Penny knew something was wrong.
The runway drifted off at a crazy angle to our flight path. There were
buildings, including the control tower, dead ahead. I didn't say a word.
The radio went quiet.
Penny stopped the turn on her own. But, without gyro instruments,
she could not tell which way we were flying. She gripped the throttle,
knuckles white. By then, Two-Four Fox had to be off the GCA radar screens.
Two hundred feet, descending. Tower less than a quarter mile away.
Parenthesis. The hood is a simple plastic contraption.
If you want to see out the window, simply take it off with the flick of
your wrist. Mine, in fact, was the deluxe model, with hinges at the temples,
which enable the pilot to tilt the hood up at the last moment for the landing
Penny made no move to lift the hood. This tells you a
lot about Penny -- and a lot about instrument piloting. It is an awesome
responsibility, outranking open-heart surgery. In a practice exercise,
you don't cheat.
The tension mounted. Penny cried out, "My God! Don't let
I was on the verge of taking the controls when Captain
Deep-Voice called on the radio with instructions to execute a missed approach,
starting with a climbing turn to the right.
Even then, Penny did not lift the hood.
A wedding in a hangar, with airplanes and aviation enthusiasts
all around. Got it? It was in 1990. Now, try to imagine
that I might have been invited to give a talk. Oh sure. Are
we on the same page here? Now this: A short talk.
Yeah, right. Here's the text...
Standing here in this
environment puts me in mind of -- well flying, and I am reminded of the
three most useless things for a pilot: the runway behind you, the altitude
above you, and the fuel not put in your tank.
As for the inevitable question about the couple, far as I
know, they are still married to each other. In my case, though,...
A little like marriage, don't
you think? The three most useless things in a marriage: the grievances
behind you, the expectations above you, and the affection not expressed
to your mate.
"Read-back correct. Call again when ready to taxi."
Ground Control cleared us to Runway Two-Niner Right. I
released the brakes and started an exceptionally slow taxi.
"Reminds my of that morning at Orange County, Harv," I
said, peering intently through the damp plexiglass. "Did I ever tell you?"
"The time with the PSA jet," he answered. My son, alas,
has heard all my stories.
"What happened with the jet?" asked Murray from the back
"Nothing much," I answered. "It was my regular morning
commute out of Orange County. We had this patchy advection fog that morning,
and -- "
"Fog blown in from the ocean. It is thin and streaky.
Never very high, though. You're in the blue just a few seconds after lift-off.
Anyway, I was creeping along the taxiway about like this. I turned the
plane into what I thought was the run-up area when all at once out of the
soup appears this big silvery, sphere-like thing with a light on it and
a black patch in the middle -- "
"Radar dome," explained Harv.
"I had missed my turn and come face-to-face with this
PSA jet. He was sitting there on the ramp. Waiting for the fog to clear
before loading passengers, I guess. By the time I stopped, I was too close
to turn around."
"Can't back this thing up, I guess," Murray commented.
"I reported to Ground Control that I had traffic, twelve
o'clock, at my altitude."
Harv chuckled. "My dad had to shut off the engine and
push the plane back by hand."
"Not before doing my Buster Keaton routine for the benefit
of the PSA flight crew. Made'em laugh so hard, even in the fog, I could
see the fillings in their damn molars."
you don't just climb in and take off. The preliminaries are more than obligations.
For one who would be joyfully conscientious, all those preludes add satisfaction
to the quest.
Take inspection, for example. Who can deny the gratification
experienced by alert fingers diligently stroked along the smooth surfaces,
assuring unblemished form! Indeed, you eagerly probe each fillet
and recess. Who can resist the fascination with features seemingly
shaped as pleasure for the eye more than purpose and function!
Ah, but now you are assured a state of readiness.
With a deep and audible sigh, you liberate the vital elements of motion.
Only then do you deign to enter that most privileged realm. You set
loose the noisome thrust with alacrity and escape the hold of earth, rising
up to meet the sky.
Still, you must take care to guide the enterprise along
the intended course. Precision and purpose characterize every movement,
whether gentle or firm. Wonder attends your progress. Perfection means
that upon arrival at a distant place, you descend reluctantly from the
pleasured heights to find renewed contentment below.
Thus does flying spoil you for any other activity.
Well, almost any other.
What sets perfect flight apart from perfect something else
is that afterwards you go out and tell your friends about it.
than thirty event-filled years went by after the adventures described in
in One Day, and I always assumed Mike Busch had long since given up
flying. On the contrary, in 1999, I was astonished to discover his
name prominently featured at AVweb.com
"The Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service" as Editor-in-Chief.
In a congratulatory e-mail, I suggested that he might
get a kick out of reading about himself in the Internet Version of Chapters
in the Sky and invited AVweb to do a review. Mike sent me
a warm greeting in return ("been a long time..."). He seemed mellowed
by three decades, but no review ever appeared in AVweb.
Two years later, I mentioned this oversight to a few aviation
enthusiasts and sent Mike Busch a copy of my message. Here are excerpts
of his e-mail to a friend of mine.
> Michael D. Busch wrote...
Puzzled by Mike's forcible denials of events that he could
not remember at all, I sent him a message of gratitude for his taking time
to provide information from his detailed log books along with a few reminders,
> I never read this rather mean-spirited writeup until
five minutes ago. I don't remember anyone named Paul Niquette, but
if he says I did some consulting for his computer company 30+ years ago,
I have no reason to doubt him. I'll be the first to admit that I
have a terrible memory for names and faces.
> Fortunately, I kept detailed logbooks of my flying.
I did own a Skylane (white with yellow and brown trim) based at Orange
County (now John Wayne) between 1968 and 1972 registered as N42648.
I sold it in 1972, and as of 6 months ago it was still on the registry
as belonging to an owner in Clovis, Calif. I did fly gliders
at Crystalaire between 1972 and 1975, but by that time I'd sold my Skylane
and owned a Bellanca Super Viking, N93592. So if indeed I did give
Paul and his son a ride up to Crystalair and back (and that's certainly
conceivable), it would have had to be in the Viking. Conversely,
if I did give Paul and his son a ride in my Skylane, it would have had
to be somewhere other than Crystalaire.
> In any event, I certainly never landed any aircraft
(skylane, Viking, or whatever) short of the runway at Torrance. The
"baptism in beans and mud" certainly adds to the entertainment value of
Paul's piece, but it never happened. I suppose one could verify this
by contacting the owner of N42648 in Clovis and researching the maintenance
Paul Niquette wrote...
Later I sent Mike a follow-up message that said, "As expected,
my son called and corroborated the salients of the beanfield incident,
although he did not remember your last name. Accordingly, I have
decided to draft an epilogue for Two
in One Day."
Although you "don't remember anyone named Paul Niquette"
(ouch), perhaps you will at least recognize the name Laszlo in Pattern
Altitude for he was the person for whom you actually did the consulting
(I was V.P. of Engineering). Does that refresh your memory?
[Y]our postulation of the interval 1972 through 1975 is
out of the question, along with the Bellanca Super Viking (which has its
wings on the bottom, am I right?) since the Niquette family moved to Connecticut
Please note in passing that the story took pains to point
out that I was not "pilot in command," so it would not have been appropriate
to record the beanfield incident in my logbook.
You are surely correct in noting that your maintenance
logs for N42648 would contain no entry for the simple corrective actions
you took at Torrance Airort, which I described in the story as follows:
"He borrowed our hose to clean the mud out of the wheel fairings."
[M]y son's recollections of the beanfield incident ought
to be quite reliable, don't you think? By copy of this message, I
invite him to speak for himself on the matters you have raised (in his
mid-forties now, he goes by the name "Paul," but my son gave me permission
to use his childhood name "Harv" when he edited the Internet Version of
in the Sky for me some time ago).
As for your opinion ("mean-spirited writeup"), I think
most readers will see the twinkle in my eye, especially considering the
bemused treatment the author of Chapters in the Sky has given himself
throughout the book.
Six weeks later, I sent my last follow-up message to Mike
Busch. It is set forth in its entirety below.
To which I received the following terse reply:
Your angry commentary, which characterized "Two in One
Day" as a "rather mean-spirited writeup," invoked lapses in your own memory
and missing logbook entries as instruments of denial.
Instead of admitting that you might have learned from
your behavior aloft, you have tried to dismiss the account as fiction,
even though my son was present and now serves as a credible witness to
a life-threatening incident in which you participated as pilot in command.
My good-natured queries for the epilogue have so far been
unavailing. Not one word. Shall I assume that you have no intention
> Michael D. Busch wrote...
> Excellent assumption, Paul
the 1980's, this was a familiar sight...
It always reminds me of my experiences as the Commuter
in the Sky and makes me wonder about all the changes in the Greater
Los Angeles Area that must be evident from the sky. Perhaps someone
will accept this challenge: Go aloft and shoot pictures for comparison.
The collection would make a wonderful calendar, don't you think?
If you want to accept the challenge, please let
me know, and I'll publish your photographs here.
all phobias are irrational.
As observed in Sky Below,
"a healthy fear of snakes or heights might well be favored in the genes.
Indeed, our ancestors in jungles and mountains who lacked those fears must
have produced few competent offspring." Nevertheless, flying has
a curious power to cancel out -- to nullify! -- my personal fear
of heights. Let this anecdote, exemplify what may be a common anomaly...
in the sixties, I flew some guests aboard Two-Four
Fox to an event at the Holiday Inn in Long Beach, California.
Approaching the airport, I obtained permission from the control tower to
circle above the hotel, while descending to 2,000 feet. Thatís higher
than any skyscraper on the planet but tame stuff, it would seem, for one
The psychology may be elementary: The inside of an aircraft
fuselage hardly conforms to primitive paradigms.
At whatever altitude in flight, we are merely spectators gaping at abstract
images beyond the Plexiglas.
Thatís my hypothesis, anyway.
After landing, we drove a rental car to the hotel for
a wine-tasting on the top floor. Of course, it was not permissible
for the pilot-in-command to participate in the sampling of grape juices
that day, so to pass the time, I wandered outside onto the balcony and
casually glanced down at the driveway below.
Holy shit! I spun away from the railing and stumbled
through a doorway. Still gasping, I plopped onto a couch surrounded
by astonished guests. What the hell is wrong with me? I asked myself.
Holding onto a bannister and peering down from a dozen
floors up is a different matter. It is utterly real, according
to the medulla
oblongata or whatever ancient subsystem is most influential inside
our respective craniums. If you know a better explanation, please
me know, and I'll publish it here.