Fun & Dumb Things in Flying Machines

As I look back on my flying career, there were many situations that should be called “memorable.”  Some started out as what I thought was a good idea and wasn’t.  Others were just plain dumb and turned out to be really dangerous.  And then there are others that may make you smile. All of which took place during my flying career in which I flew helicopters and fixed wing airplanes. My log books show I’ve got close to 5,000 hours in 28 different airplanes and helicopters.

The same is true with my father, who was a career Air Force pilot who accumulated over 4,300 hours in 26 different types – not models – of airplanes.

And, this section will have pieces from my son’s career as a Naval Aviator. He’s the only one of the three of us who managed to fly fighters. His 1,400 hours are in  T-34Cs, T-45s and the F/A-18C/D.

Many of these stories will appear in a book called Gold and Silver Wings – Tales From Three Generations of Military Aviators – which will be published sometime in the future, after my son retires from the Navy.  The book is an anecdotal history of our collective flying careers and focuses, with two exceptions for my father, non-combat flying.

Flying, whether you are in the military or as a civilian has an element of danger.  Risk and the ability to control a machine in a three-dimensional environment draw people to become pilots.  The view from the cockpt, any time of day or night is spectacular.  One wag defined flying as “hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark raving terror” is not far from the truth.  Emergencies in airplanes are serious events because you can’t stop by the side of the road to fix them.

Flying, either as a pilot or a passenger is not for everyone.  I wanted to be a pilot since I was a little boy and the Navy was willing – assuming that I could pass the physical and mental tests – guarantee me flight training.  The Air Force back in 1963 would not.

You find some of the stories in links to the Association of Naval Aviation’s (ANA) Grandpaw Pettibone’s chapter which published them. The chapter’s web site has a site full of interesting tales from military aviation. Grandpaw Pettibone, for those who don’t know, used to write blurbs about airplane accidents in two publications – Approach and Naval Aviation News. His comments usually started with “Jumping Jeehosafats, weren’t their eyeballs connected to their brains…..” Unfortunately, the man who used to draw the illustrations passed away, but the memory of Grandpaw Pettibone’s pointed pieces, usually 100 or so words long, is embedded in all of those who read his wisdom!!!

To put each the stories in context, there is a short intro. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed putting pen to paper or in this day and age, creating ones and zeros on a laptop.

There’s Ice and Then There’s ICE!

By Marc Liebman | April 1, 2024 |

As I write this story, it is early March 2024 when I often think about a flight in a Piper Turbo Aztec that involved icing way back in March 1978.…

The Dumbest Flight I Ever Made

By Marc Liebman | January 3, 2022 |

Taking off on a flight right after you learn your mother only has months to live is, well dumb. Then, to fly into IFR conditions, well that’s dumber. And then, to scud run down a mountain valley is even dumber. But I survived to tell the tale. Now you can learn and read from it!!!

Under the Verrazano Bridge

By Marc Liebman | November 30, 2020 |

One sunny summer afternoon, I was the aircraft commander and had a helicopter and four and a half hours of fuel to burn. We, i.e. the crew, needed to log…

Whaddaya Mean No F%&g Ice!!!

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

If you flown much, then you’ve encountered airframe ice. Everyone does at some time in their flying careers. Some of us more than once. While those who fly jets, either…

Flying One’s First Love

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

My father started in the U.S. Army Air Corps flight training program in 1940. Before that, he went through a CPT course to see if he was qualified. Throughout the…

We’re Going Where?

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

This story is from World War II. Early in the war to support the invasion of North Africa, the U.S. Army Air Corps had to fly planes to Africa. The…

Pigeons to Rota

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

Pigeons in Naval Aviation parlance is bearing and distance to a place on this planet given by a radar controller either on a ship or airplane to another aircraft. So,…

Lobster Run

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

Every once in awhile, one tries something in a helicopter that looks, at first blush, simple and easy to do. But, when you actually try, you find out it is…

Designating the Next Generation of Naval Aviators

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

At the age of 10, my son announced he wanted to be a Naval Aviator. With singular purpose, he did what he had to do earn an NROTC scholarship, qualify…

Winging Wetting Down

By Marc Liebman | September 21, 2020 |

One of the hallowed traditions in Naval Aviation is celebrating the official designation of a Naval Aviator at the completion of the Naval Air Training command syllabus. In the ceremony,…