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"Things to know about flying"

Sunday, January 13, 2002

Things to know about flying
The North County (CA) Times

Loyal reader Deke Houlgate of Carlsbad, who once toiled as a scribe for
the Los Angeles Times, tells me all of this attention on aviation these
days brings to mind a few critical truisms to remember if you're
thinking about learning to fly. 

Always remember: "A check ride ought to be like a skirt ---- short
enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover everything." And,
"Speed is life. Altitude is life insurance." 

Learning how to fly, actually, is quite easy. You just have to keep the
following basic rules for flying upper-most in your mind: 

   1. Try to stay in the middle of the air. 

   2. Do not go near the edges of it. 

   3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of
ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more
difficult to fly in the edges. 

Deke says he thinks only two things are really necessary in order to
fly: airspeed and money. 

Anyone involved in aviation, whether it be civilian or military, has
been exposed to the odd humor that goes with this delicate subject. Here
are a few humorous truisms to keep in mind when flying or learning to

The two most dangerous situations in the air are: 

   1. A doctor or dentist flying a Cessna. 

   2. Two captains trying to fly the same DC-9. 

Never forget the FAA's new motto: "We're not happy, until you're not

During World War II, American aviators learned the following truism
regarding aircraft identification while going through flight training: 

"If it's ugly, it's British. If it's weird, it's French. If it's ugly
and weird, it's Russian." 

But, the most crucial truism our fighting airmen learned was: 

"Without ammunition, the U.S. Air Force would be just another very
expensive flying club." 

Over on the U.S. Navy side, they have "aviators" instead of pilots. Why?
Because only an "aviator" can find a postage stamp in the middle of an
ocean. Now, landing on it is yet another matter. Evidence a frustrated
landing signal officer to a Navy carrier pilot after his sixth
unsuccessful landing attempt: 

"You've got to land here, son. This is where the food is." 

And, for those who must spend time riding shotgun until you've earned
your pilot's wings, remember, a co-pilot is a "knothead" until he or she
spots opposite-direction traffic heading in at 12 o'clock; after which
they are a "goof-off" for not seeing the traffic sooner. 

But, whatever else you learn about flying, never forget that it's better
to break ground and head into the wind than to break wind and head into
the ground.


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