The following story is from my Confessions of a Thankful Pilot series.

My first attempt taking the IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight test was on June 14, 1994. But with only about 15 minutes of flying left, the flight examiner discontinued the test because of bad weather conditions. My second attempt on August 23rd succeeded and I became an FAA certified instrument rated pilot, approved to fly through clouds.

Fourteen days later, on Tuesday September 6, I filed my first IFR flight plan as an instrument rated pilot.

Byron (Fuji) Hasegawa, a fellow Willoughby firefighter, wanted to go to Kalamazoo, Michigan to spend a few days with his wife Faith who was on a work assignment there. Instead of a 4 1/2 hour drive, he opted for a 1hour and 45 minute flight with me.

The plan was to fly him from Cuyahoga County Airport (CGF). to Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) on the 6th, then come back on Saturday, September 10th to pick him up and fly him home. Continue reading


While at home during some passing storms, I checked some of the weather features of my GDL 39 3D.

Weather Products


Here is the Weather Products page. I decided to check for pilot reports.


On the map page used when navigating, I found a couple of pilot reports which are depicted by a small square. A small green square, I found out, indicates a general pilot report. A yellow square indicates significant information. And although I didn’t find a red square today, it would be reasonable to think it would hold extreme importance. 





Pilot Reports


This screen shows one of the pilot reports I found. A yellow square near Mansfield, Ohio indicated a pilot report of interest so I clicked on it and got the on screen report as you see. Although I don’t fly at the airline altitude, the report is still significant because with 89 degree temps on the ground, it indicates the extent of the precipitation/atmosphere instability.







Other items I that popped up on the navigation map screen were Airmets and Sigmets. You can toggle these on or off.


Initially, you will see a yellow dotted triangle or other defining figure. Click on the dotted line to get the Sigmet information.


Sigmet 2

That’s all for now. I’ll report more as I gain more experience.


Ohio to Florida in a 172

WRT after FLAFrom Confessions of a Thankful Pilot

The first light of dawn was filling the eastern sky when the Skyhawk’s engine came to life. It was 7:10 on October 9, 2013 and I was about to begin a journey that would be as epic for me as the flight across the Atlantic had been for Lindbergh.

Who could have known that wanting to tear down years of animosity that my dad and I had for each other 25 years ago, would lead to the two of us taking flying lessons together, attaining our pilot license, and eventually to this moment. Cancer had taken my dad in 2001, so today I’d be wearing his David Clark headset on the trip as a way of bringing him along with me.

After years of planning and dreaming, I was finally doing it. I was flying from Galion, Ohio (GQQ) to Winter Haven, Florida (GIF) to visit my son, Jason. Continue reading

The Chagrin River Incident

The following is from my memoir Someone’s Hero.

The first time I remember someone saving my life was Monday, September 1, 1975, one month after starting as a career firefighter.

Ohio had been getting more than its fair share of rain for days and the swollen rivers and streams had lured people to “ride the rapids”. The result was plenty of newspaper pictures and TV news video footage showing overturned kayaks, canoes, and rafts in raging waters where people had lost their lives.

I remember seeing a video where firefighters in a rowboat, attempted to recover dead bodies in a river while the water was still high and flowing. While standing in the boat and trying to hook a body with a pike pole, the firefighter lost his balance, fell overboard and drowned. The lesson was immediate. Never risk your life to recover a body. Continue reading

Meet Jim Trewhitt

The following is from my memoir Someone’s Hero.

In yet another exercise of how to control fear and develop confidence while using outdated firefighting and rescue equipment, our instructors sent us up to the third floor of the training tower with something called a Pompier ladder. Firefighters are trained to stick a Pompier ladder out of a window, hook it onto the window sill on the floor above, then climb up on the outside of the building or to put it on the window sill on the floor you’re on and climb down to the floors below. 

PompierInstead of having sturdy rungs between sturdy beams like a normal ladder, a Pompier ladder is nothing more than a single hollow square beam of metal about ten to twelve feet long with round tubes sticking out of each side for foot and hand holds. At the top of the main beam, is a thin vertical blade of metal with little saw-like teeth cut into it. These teeth are designed to bite into the windowsill it’s placed on. If, God forbid, the teeth lose their bite while you’re on the ladder, there’s a big hook at the end of the vertical blade that’s supposed to stop you and the ladder from plummeting to the ground. Continue reading

Two Souls Above Jamestown

The following story is from my Confessions of a Thankful Pilot series.

December 4, 199Me and Dad in Tiger5, a little over a year since earning our instrument rating, my dad and I found ourselves flying in dark clouds in our club’s Grumman Tiger. We had departed Cleveland Cuyahoga County airport in Ohio and were now en route to Dunkirk in upstate New York where we would make a brief stop then fly on to Jamestown, New York for lunch. I was the pilot-in-command for the flight but with only 11 hours of actual instrument time, it was comforting to have another instrument rated pilot with me, even if he was also low-time.

The forecast was for widespread cloud layers and predominately IFR conditions along our route. Icing hadn’t been mentioned in the preflight briefing I received within 20 minutes of our departure but for some reason, my dad commented that he’d like to experience aircraft icing sometime. Well, okay, I thought, as long as it’s not this time on this flight.

We were cleared for 7,000 and climbing in the clouds when suddenly something started banging on the airplane from outside and aft of where we were sitting. About the same time, I noticed that the needle on the number two VOR display wasn’t even close to being centered like the needle was on the number one display, even though both were set to the same radio frequency and on the same inbound radial. Continue reading

April 29, 1974

Before getting out of his cruiser, the officer thumbed the red button on the microphone.

“Tell the fire department to step it up, Willoughby.”

He had made his way north on Erie Street, through a canyon of century-old brick commercial buildings and stopped just short of Route 20, confident his cruiser was far enough away from Regina’s Restaurant and Lounge, that its green paint wouldn’t blister from the heat. It was just after midnight on Monday, April 29, 1974. Continue reading

Flying Stories

The following story is from my Confessions of a Thankful Pilot series.

April 15, 1989

The air is clear and a huge orange moon sits on the eastern horizon as I take off from Cuyahoga County airport. Aside from the ethereal voices on the comm radio, my only companion tonight is my flying partner, a two seat, single engine Piper Tomahawk with the call sign N2314K (pronounced November-Two-Three-One-Four-Kilo). Continue reading