Life is always full of surprises. I love that, keeps me on my toes, always interested in the next hour. When I was a young boy of about 12, I was out in my front yard playing one day. I heard a noise, looked up, and there I saw three World War II era TBM Avenger torpedo bombers in formation, maybe five hundred feet in the air, roaring right over my house! I ran in to my mom, talking a mile a minute and saying how we have to go to the airport. So we did! Mom was great that way. She always supported my flying interest.
As a new private pilot and only 17 years old, I got checked out in the slightly larger Cessna 172, a four seat Cessna. Not much, but it was "big iron" to me! I was in the pattern after having been checked out, doing some touch and goes on a cloudy but quiet day. As I touched down on one landing I suddenly notice a Mooney, a fast little airplane, touching down on the same runway but coming right at me in the opposite direction! I quickly braked and veered off into the grass as he went sailing past me with his brakes locked up. Surprise!
I remember the day I picked up a new Cessna 152 from the factory in Kansas. I was headed down to Tulsa in this brand new machine at around 1500' and decided what the heck, I'll do a roll. I'd seen pilots do it all the time in the movies so I figured how hard could it be? I cranked the control wheel all the way over to the right. As we became almost inverted the thing just quit, fell out on its back and suddenly I was pointed straight down at a field full of cows. AAHHH! I quickly pulled out, missing the cows by maybe a hundred feet. I continued to Tulsa swearing I'd never do that again. Years later, I did. Same result.
Droning along one Sunday morning in winter from New Bedford to Nantucket in my PBA Cessna 402C. A few passengers onboard, nothing out of the ordinary. Suddenly these two F-111 Air Force fighter-bombers flew past me, I mean one right in front of me and one right over top of me. Freakin close! I watched them curve around, then roll hard over and dive down to the runway at Nantucket. I asked the control tower in a fairly aggravated tone what the heck was that all about. "Oh, they come down from Pease AFB sometimes and simulate bombing the airport. They had you in sight." Oh big relief. Jeesh!
One day I'm at my home in Sioux City Iowa working in the yard when I hear a jet close by. I look up and see a bright red MIG-15 fly overhead, maybe 1000' high or less. I mean, it's not every day you see a Russian fighter buzzing your neighborhood! I drove out to the airport and saw him parked on the National Guard ramp. Privately owned, bright red warbird. So cool.
Landed in Boston in my PBA Cessna 402C on 33R. We turned off at the end and held short of the longer runway, 33L, as a United DC-10 thundered down the runway. He took forever to rotate, obviously loaded for a flight to LA or SFO. As he rotated in front of us a bright flame came out of hs right engine, huge tongue of flame. The passenger in the front seat and I watched him and he turns to me and says "That isn't normal, is it?" I was impressed by the fact that with only two engines working, this heavily loaded whale of an airplane was still climbing better than my 402C ever hoped to.
Finally, I'm holding short of runway 27 in Duluth MN one afternoon. In front of us, two Canadian CF-18s takeoff down the runway, afterburners blazing. Shortly after, three Minnesota ANG F-16's line up and blast down the runway in hot pursuit. As the third one is lifting off we notice a little extra flame coming from his tailpipe. He zooms up and to the right into a downwind position, a long trail of flame engulfing the F-16's belly and stretching far behind it. Then the canopy pops off and a large cloud of brownish smoke comes out, as does the pilot in his seat, small parachute pulling big parachute out. Seat falls away as does canopy while the main chute blossoms open. The pilot floats down to the ground right in front of us on the airport service road. He said later that after he landed he looked around, saw no one, so he gathered up his chute and walked to the hangar. Came around the corner and the Sergeant said "Captain! Didn't you just leave?" and he replied "Yep. The plane's up in the woods. What should I do with this chute?"
I wonder what strange thing I'll see next...