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In yet another exercise of how to control fear and develop confidence while using outdated firefighting and rescue equipment, our instructors sent us up to the third floor of the training tower with something called a Pompier ladder.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.
Instead 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 →
The following story is from my Confessions of a Thankful Pilot series.
December 4, 1995, 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 →