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
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
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
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
The other view of alcohol
holds that it dissolves inhibitions,
revealing the true, otherwise hidden
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
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,
I 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
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
"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
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
Parked outside the window was
a 1948 Cadillac limousine.
"Got a chauffeur's cap?" I
of the Editorial Page
Mirror Square Los Angles,
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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
Even then, Penny did not lift
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
As for the inevitable question
about the couple, far as I
know, they are still married to each
other. In my case, though,...
little like marriage, don't
you think? The three most
useless things in a marriage: the
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
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.
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
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.
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
than thirty event-filled years went by after
the adventures described 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
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.
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
> 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
> 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
by contacting the owner of N42648 in
Clovis and researching the maintenance
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
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
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
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
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.
the 1980's, this was a familiar sight...
It always reminds me of my experiences
as the Commuter
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
If you want to accept the challenge, please let
me know, and I'll publish your photographs
all phobias are
As observed in Sky
"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
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
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.
whatever altitude in flight, we are merely spectators
gaping at abstract
images beyond the Plexiglas.
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,
to the medulla
oblongata or whatever ancient subsystem is most
our respective craniums. If you know a better
me know, and I'll publish it here.