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Wednesday, October 24, 2012


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Ladies and Gentlemen, from the Flight Blog...

This year's costume:  a blind pilot!

And now may I present... 


Following is a few aviation-related "Darwin Awards"*, most of which can be found at

Forgive the gallows humor, folks, but I for one am happy to see these would-be, wannabe and inadvertent aviators excluded from the aeronautical gene pool . . . and from our world's cockpits.  Direct links to the full reports can be found in the titles below. 
Happy Halloween!
Cap'n Aux


1.)  Mile High Club Epic Failure...
23 December 1991, Florida
National Transportation Safety Board report
Aircraft: PIPER PA-34-200T, 
Registration: N47506

Injuries: 2 Fatal.
Witnesses observed the airplane's right wing fail in a dive and crash. Examination of the wreckage and bodies revealed that both occupants were partially clothed and the front right seat was in the full aft reclining position.  Neither body showed evidence of seatbelts or shoulder harnesses being worn.
The NTSB determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot in command's improper in-flight decision to divert her attention to other activities not related to the conduct of the flight.


2.)  JATO (Jet-Assisted Takeoff)...’67 Chevy-Style
Now debunked as urban legend, this story is nevertheless the most popular Darwin Award of all time.  Presumably, a moron strapped a military JATO rocket to his '67 Chevy Impala, lit it off, and vaporized on the side of a mountain at 300 mph.  The only piece of the machine not atomized was the rear bumper with a sticker that read, “Hows my driving?  Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT.”


 2.5)  "Serious Darwin Aviation Award Attempt EPIC FAIL!"
This dude shoulda won one, but FAILED!  (i.e., survived!)


darwin awards designated drunk driver

 3.)  "Flying while Intoxicated" . . . 
Or, "Hold my beer . . . watch THIS!"
After throwing down a few at a local pub, a Private Pilot hopped in his new Piper PA-32.  Without a proper preflight, he attempted to takeoff...with the gust lock still installed.  An anti-theft device, the Gust Lock freezes the control yoke full aft, mimicking a steep climb.  Climb steeply our hero did, according to witnesses going "straight up in the air like an acrobat," followed by, "a nose dive."


4.) DB Cooper and his fans...
While infamous hijacker DB Cooper probably perished during his night jump out of a Boeing 727 into a -60° ice storm over Oregon, he has had his share of imitators.
Not to be outdone, in May, 2000, skyjacker Reginald Chua jumped out of Philippine Air Flight 812 A330...with a homemade parachute.  When our skyjacking ace chickened out at the last minute, a flight attendant helpfully pushed him out!  His body was found buried in the mud 4 days later.
When asked at a press conference why he was allowed to board the flight with a parachute, the Philippine Air spokesman replied nonchalantly, "Many passengers board our planes with parachutes."
—More info on this at Wikipedia


4.5) D.B. Cooper Wannabe Redux...sorta...
(Darwin Award Epic Failure!, Success! er...?!)
 His world crashing around him, financial consultant Marcus Schrenker opted for a bailout. A bail out of his plane, that is.
 Attempting to fake his own death, Schrenker made an emergency distress call from his Piper Meridian, then parachuted out, leaving it to crash.  Scrambled to assist, Jet fighters reported the door open and no evidence of a pilot aboard.  Authorities quickly caught on, and nabbed the wannabe Darwinian within 3 days.
Charged with willful destruction of an aircraft and knowingly and willfully communicating a false distress message, he was sentenced to 51 months in prison and fined nearly 1 million dollars.


 5.) Sling Blade's a genius compared to these two...
 Casualties: 2 fatal.  A "crack" father and son lawn mowing team (or maybe they were high on crack) at Tucumcari, NM airport decided they were good enough to fly a plane on their own—without a lick of training.  After successfully refueling a plane and taking off, they quickly found that even the simplest Cessna has a few more controls than the most sophisticated Toro.  (Flight path strikingly similar to #3, above.)


6.) Let there be Lighter...
In 1981 A security guard at a California airport moonlighted as a gas thief by siphoning fuel from planes all night.  When one tank proved troublesome, said guard  peered into the gas tank to diagnose the problem, then lit a match...


7.) What time is it, Captain?  It's Kaboom time! (Hamas terrorist style)...Or, Divine Retribution, Darwinian Style!
While not really aviation-related, I want to end with a bang—involving terrorist Darwin recipients!
Excerpt from article, too well-written to be monkeyed with:
A member of the military wing of Gaza’s ruling terrorist movement Hamas, who went by the name of Khalout Majid (until he went kaboom), died when a bomb he was guarding went off ...

Would you like a ticket in Evolving...

Back in 1999, in Jerusalem, the switch away from Daylight Saving Time raised havoc with Palestinian terrorists. The Palestinians refused to live on “Zionist Time,” with dire consequences:
At precisely 5:30 PM on Sunday, September 5, 1999, two coordinated car bombs exploded in different cities, killing three terrorists who were transporting the bombs. . . 

...or De-volving?

. . . the bombs had been prepared in a Palestine-controlled area, and set to detonate on Daylight Saving Time. But the confused drivers had already switched to Standard Time... As a result, the cars were still en-route when the explosives detonated, removing the terrorists from humanity’s genetic considerations.

In fairness to our poor Dead Terrorists, I'll allow one of them to speak out here, on behalf of himself and his fellow deceased Jihadians...


Here's a fun li'l video of some quite telling aviation "oopsie!" pics.  It's entitled, "Bad Day at the Airport"—the title sez it all!


*"The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it..."

Further Reading...
Gremline, an online aviation safety digest, examining lessons from dumb pilots...
—Sadly, even professional pilots need to be culled from the herd from time to time... 
      —Additional Wikipedia link...
Urban Legends--multiple Darwin Award links, and debunks 
—Get the book, "Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action," at (and don't forget to order Code Name: Dodger with it as well, LOL!)


 Posting 11/14 at 11:00Phx (18:00z):


(*Note:  I wrote and scheduled this post prior to Hurricane Sandy.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims.  In no way  do I want to detract from the many hardships and sufferings still being experienced by survivors and victims!)


"We circled Christiansted Harbor and gingerly set down in the water, careful not to hit any flotsam from the newly-sunk ships. We taxied up the ramp and out of water.  Our fellow Seaplane Shuttle employees ran up and cheered—we were the first sign of civilization they’d seen in three days."


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Future Pilot Interviews Cap'n Aux

Recently, Cameron, a 14-year old future airline pilot, interviewed me for a school report about the "ups 'n downs' of an airline career.   Coincidentally, I had been mulling a similar post on this very subject, to help those of you interested in an airline career.  The interview went well, Cameron asked some stellar questions, and I think I came up with some semi-coherent and (dare I say) somewhat intelligent answers!*

CAMERON:  What are some downsides to this career?
CAP’N AUX:  Interesting you should start with this question, as there are many important caveats that come with this career.
I’ve always said I love my job but hate my career.  The job itself is awesome, but If you want a STEADY, SECURE career, trying acting in Hollywood, LOL!  In the 30+ years I’ve been in the business, I’ve worked for 12 aviation companies and airlines, moved and lived all over the U.S., been furloughed once, divorced twice, flown for 3 different bankrupt airlines, had my pay slashed in half overnight, etc. etc.  This biz ain’t for the fainthearted!

The road to the “top” is rocky and full of deviations and pitfalls.  First, you have to find a huge pile of money to burn away while getting all your flight ratings, through the ATP (Airline Transport Pilot.)

Got ‘em all?  Good!  Next, you'll have build flight time by working some tough, low-paying jobs for years, flying long hours, often on the back side of the clock, for food stamp wages, crammed into “crash pads” with other pilots, sleeping on sofas and eating Top Ramen dinners.  All for the OFF-chance that you MAY get lucky enough to land a flying job with a major airline and eventually upgrade to the Left (Captain's) Seat—what most pilots consider the pinnacle of success in this career.

Unfortunately, the future ain’t what it used to be.  In this Post-9/11, post-Great Recession economy, airlines have cut way back on pilot wages and bennies.  I’d estimate the average pilot makes 1/2 of what one did 25 years ago—in actual dollars!

That being said, airline pilots on average are still in the Top 10% of wage earners across the U.S.  (Don’t ever tell Management that the reality is, we’d do this job for free. . . we are doing what we love!)

"Will fly for Food." Cap'n Aux and Co. staring down the barrel of a furlough,circa early 90's...

Finally, unlike most professions, if you lose your job for whatever reason, you start at the BOTTOM at the next airline.  You may have been a SENIOR Check Airman Captain at Airline X, but at Airline Y you now become a lowly First Officer again—with the corresponding massive cut in pay!**

CAMERON:  How often are you away from home?

CAP’N AUX:  While your mileage may vary from job to job and airline to airline, on average I’m on the road 4 out of 7 days per week.  Usually, though, from month to month I have a stretch of a week off here and there.  So, I sleep in my own bed at home approximately 2/3 of the time.  My average trip is a 4-day.  Leave, for example, on a Friday morning, and return on a Monday afternoon.  In between, I’m playing what I call “Airline ping pong”—bounce between the East and West Coasts and staying in hotels overnight!  That’s if I’m lucky (and senior enough); many trips are Redeyes, and you’re actualy sleeping in the hotels “overday!”

Oh, did I mention I’ve been divorced twice?  Living with a pilot is tough.  For the loved ones in your life, an excellent blog to check out is , written very candidly about the realities of home life by a pilot’s wife.

And Hollidays?  What’s that?!  I estimate that, at this rate, I’ll may be senior enough to have Christmas off the last couple of years before I retire at age 65!

CAMERON:  What airline do you work for? For how long? 
CAP’N AUX:  While I choose to avoid mentioning my employer here by name, it wouldn't take too much brain power to figure that part out.***

I have flown for the same major U.S. airline since 1990, although it has since merged and may merge again.  Despite the early years here having been a yo-yo (hired, upgraded, downgraded, furloughed, rehired, re-upgraded) I have been extremely lucky.

I upgraded to Airbus A320 Captain in early 2000, and have been in the Left Seat since.  Again, I thank my lucky stars that my airline has survived this cutthroat industry, and am crossing my fingers that I will be able to cross the finish line—at the mandatory retirement age of 65—relatively unscathed.

CAMERON:  About how many hours per week do you work? How many of those are spent flying?
CAP’N AUX:  Federal law requires a maximum of 12 hours duty and 8 hours flying time per day—NOT including delays dute to maintenance, weather, etc.  Other restrictions are: 30 flight hours maximum per week, 100 per month, 1,000 per year.  While this may sound a bit "cushy," believe me, if I am close to these limits, I will be "dragging"!  On average, I’d say I work an average of 10 hours duty time per day, and around 5 hours flight time.

When you look at pilot salaries, often expressed as an hourly wage, they can seem exorbatantly high.  But these rates can be misleading; we only get paid during the time the plane moves, NOT during the downtime in between flights, preparing, inspecting, waiting, etc.  Cut the hourly rate in half and you’ll have a better idea of a “true” hourly wage.

CAMERON:  What is your favorite part of the job?

CAP’N AUX:  Good question to end on!  Just as there are many pitfalls to this business, there are many perks as well.

First and foremost, I have the best office view in the world!  I can’t begin to tell you how many fantastic scenes I’ve witnessed over the years!  The following is an exerpt from a post on my blog (A Pilot Looks at 50):
  • “I’ve seen the full moon rise over the Juneau Icefield glaciers, and witnessed a 360-degree rainbow in an Alaskan rain shower.  I’ve seen a comet blazing across a moonless night amidst the ethereal shimmers of the Aurora Borealis.  The Andromeda galaxy, the farthest object visible to the naked eye, is doubly so from the clear, thin air at 39,000 feet.  I’ve seen countless meteor showers, gorgeous sunsets and amazing sunrises.  Lightning storms are incredibly awe-inspiring when viewed from above.  I’ve piloted over 250 “flightseeing” trips over the Grand Canyon, each one different and equally spectacular.  In the Virgin Islands I’ve spied eery, slate grey waterspouts—tornadoes on the sea—snaking across the water.  On countless Alaskan flights from treetop level, I’ve seen moose, bear, eagles, and endless pods of whales, from humpback to orca to beluga.  I once spotted a giant brown bear a hundred feet below as he took an angry swat at me.  Unfortunately I have scant photographic evidence of these spectacular sights, other than that which is indelibly etched in my mind’s eye.”

Cap'n Aux and his favorite toy!—JNU

Secondly, the travel benefits.  I have an upcoming blog post entitled, “Around the World in 80 Jumpseats,” which chronicals some of the crazy times I’ve had traveling the world virtually for free!  While I mostly relish my days off by staying AT HOME with my kids, I do enjoy the ability to travel cheaply and at will.

I also like the freedom to NOT be tied to a desk, 9-5, Monday-Friday.  While I do try to keep some semblance of a regular schedule—working Sunday-Wednesdays all month, for example, I am always swapping trips with other pilots, dropping or picking up time.  A pilot can often trade trips around to where he generates several weeks off in a row!

Related to that is the freedom to live one place and commute to work in an entirely different part of the world.  I'd estimate 40% of U.S. pilots are based in one state, and live in another.  I know one pilot who is based in PHX (Phoenix, AZ), who lives in . . . BKK (Bangkok, Thailand)!

Cap'n Aux (Center) and Marksan (L) travel to Egypt with some other airline buddies.

While all this probably sounds glamorous, the vast majority of the time I am stuck in some random hotel in some random city, with lots of free time and no transportation but my feet.  This can get tedious, but if you motivate yourself to get out and explore, you can really take advantage of the situation.

For example, just last month I visited the Philadelphia Art Museum and viewed a special impressionist art exhibit, as well as their well-preserved Japanese tea houses—two of my favorite art and cultural subjects!  A few months ago, during an overnight in FLL (Fort Lauderdale) I met up with two old pilot buddies for sunset cocktails on the beach!

And Finally:  two engines with 25,000 lbs of thrust each strapped to my butt.  NEED I SAY MORE?!

CAP’N AUX:  I will add one more question to your list.  Any last thoughts or advice for someone embarking on this career?

CAP’N AUX:  Why, Yes, glad you asked!!
Pilots are always joking about the “Looming Pilot Shortage.”***  This supposed shortage has been “looming” ever since I’ve been in the business—over 30 years! 

But this time around, the "pilot shortage" may indeed be "looming."  While this recession still has 1,000’s of pilots still on furlough, there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.

China and much of the 3rd world is EXPLODING with demand for pilots.  This is siphoning off the top qualified pilots, leaving room for more newcomers.  Add to that a pretty decent alternative career as a RJ (Regional Jet) pilot, and more doors are opening up.  Barring economic disaster, most industry experts are prediciting a severe shortage in the coming years and decades.

But in the end, really, what does it matter?  You are already hooked on this business and will become a pilot because IT'S IN YOUR BLOOD!

Cap'n Aux may be a tad too old to fly this future hypersonic, suborbital plane...but perhaps you can!!!

AND FINALLY, as I try to impart in my blog, this career is an ADVENTURE.  Pilots tend to be GOAL oriented—get to the end of the flight safely, or get to the Left Seat at a Major airline asap—and forget to enjoy the journey.  MOST pilots will NEVER reach this goal!  Does this mean they “failed?”  HECK NO!  

SAVOR each and every moment of your journey.  From the time you take that VERY FIRST FLIGHT as a student pilot, you have done something the vast majority of humans will never do:  YOU HAVE FLOWN AN AIRPLANE!!!  As comedian Louis C.K. aptly put it:  “You’re sitting in a chair . . . IN THE SKY!”

. . . and you’ve experienced the DRIVER’S chair!!

You're sitting in a chair...IN THE SKY!!!

In my climb up the aviation ladder, I deliberately took several wild detours: I’ve flown Grand Canyon tours, the Alaskan bush, and the Virgin Islands, to name a few.  You can't possibly put a price tag on the wonderful experiences I've had!

Finally, I’ll impart to you my favorite inspirational quote of all:

"Life’s a Disneyland, made just for YOU!"
—Me ;)


Link: Future Pilot Shortage--WSJ article

*DISCLAIMER:  Cap'n Aux is just a guy who gets to fly cool airplanes, and is by no means the "final authority" as to speculations on How to pursue a career in aviation!!  There are plenty of websites out there dedicated to just this subject (See ****, below) that are VASTLY better informed than he!

**The reason a pilot cannot make a “lateral” move is because Seniority—i.e., how long you've worked somewhere—is everything.  It affects your pay, your lifestyle, the type of schedule you fly, and your seat, equipment and base.  Pilot performance is NOT subjective—you can’t say, “This pilot is better than that pilot, therefore he should be more senior.”  All pilots either meet minimum qualifications and performance standards, or they don’t.  Therefore, again, seniority based on length of service is the rule of the land.

***DISCLAIMER REDUX: DO NOT represent any airline in this blog, in any way!  I say again, I'm just a guy who flies cool airplanes and likes to write about it!

****BEWARE:  there are many outfits out there who exploit your desire to fly airplanes, in order to separate you from your money.  I couldn't tell you the good guys from the bad guys, just be aware as you search these sites—there ARE some legit sites with good advice!


 Posting 10/24 at 11:00Phx (18:00z):



"After throwing down a few at a local pub, the Private Pilot

hopped in his new Piper PA-3..."


 Posting 11/14 at 11:00Phx (18:00z):


“We buzzed the island in our seaplanes. Debris strewn everywhere. Nary a rooftop intact. The entire island, once a lush, verdant jungle, lay brown and defoliated, as if an enemy army had dropped napalm.”


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Last Bush Pilots


For starters, here's the 30-second trailer:

Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight blog, this is Cap'n Aux speaking.  I invite you to climb aboard the website for my new novel,  "The Last Bush Pilots," scheduled for publication in January 2013, but striving for an early release as a  stuffer for your Christmas stockings!  As with Code Name: Dodger, this novel will be available in print or eBook!

As always, please feel free to share this site, as well as the Book Trailer:
Also check out my new "CAP'NAUX" Vimeo video site at:

Feel free to explore this short n simple site, and don't miss the Dedication and Prologue to the novel, "A Crash in the Wilderness."  Future posts will include excerpts from the novel.

Working Cover for the eBook!

The Last Bush Pilots follows two young pilots, Daniel "DC" Alva and Allen David Foley.  To jumpstart their fledgeling airline careers, they take on the world's most dangerous flying: the Alaska bush.  But if Mother Nature doesn't beat them, their friendship may.

Several subplots weave through the story, such as DC and Allen's forced competition for their flying job. . . and for the heart of sexy, mischievous Native Alaskan Tonya Hunter.

Several other quirky and colorful characters also grace the pages:  Dusty Tucker, the laid-back Texan that traded a lucrative, cushy airline career for a life of freedom in the Alaska skies; Jake "Crash" Whitakker, the dashing, quintessential bush pilot and ladies' man; and Jake's anti-hero comrade, ex-hippie Ralph Olafsen, the bespectacled practical jokester.

Other characters include Holly Shannon Innes, the straight-laced, no-nonsense aviatrix trying to cut out a respectable corner in the notoriously macho world of bush pilots . . . while escaping a dangerous past.  Equally rigid Frederic Bruner, the draconian FAA Inspector that threatens to shut down flight operations at the drop of a cargo netting pin, serve as one of the antagonists of the novel.

But Top Billing for arch villain goes to Mother Nature Herself.  Alaska's notoriously fickle weather threatens to swat the pilots—"greenhorns" and "sourdoughs" alike—from the sky at any moment.

Can the two rookies survive Her long enough to launch their fledgeling airline careers?
While the book, characters and situations are all fictional, they are inspired by my very real experiences flying for a wonderful seaplane operation out of JNU.  Many of the colorful characters, hair-raising flights and zany "Tall Tales" in The Last Bush Pilots were inspired by true events.

For example, toward the end of the novel, Crash and Ralph hijack and save a planeload of bear cubs destined for euthanization, and exact Divine revenge on the poacher that killed the cubs' mother.  This fictional event comes from a true experience I had flying three black bear cubs from Haines to Juneau after - you guessed it - a poacher killed their mother for a trophy:  her claws!**

For those of you that enjoyed one of my most popular-ever Cap'n Aux posts, "The Sky Fell,"*** imagine an entire novel filled with such harrowing tales!
So now, I invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the LAST BUSH PILOTS website . . .
Or should I say...
Sit down, strap in, and HANG ON!!!
*Ok, did promise my kids that I would take them out to dinner once a month on the royalties, LOL!

**Unlike in the novel, the "real" cubs did indeed find homes in zoos on the “Outside”—that is, in the Lower 48 states!  Oh, and, just so you know, bears stink like the dickens!!

***Just as in "The Sky Fell," THE LAST BUSH PILOT is dedicated to the memory of my wonderful friend and fellow bush pilot Steve Wilson.

Bush pilot Steve Wilson gassing up his trusty Luscomb for a little play time!


 Posting 10/17 at 11:00Phx (18:00z):


"...unlike most professions, if you lose your job for whatever reason, you start at the BOTTOM at the next airline.  This biz ain’t for the fainthearted!"


 Posting 10/24 at 11:00Phx (18:00z):


". . . a father and son lawn mowing team at Tucumcari Airport took a plane up for a "spin" without a lick of training..."