Total recall of aviators

I’ve read with great enjoyment the several posts by pilots. They are fascinating stories to me, especially as I used to fly.

However, I am bemused by the vast amount of detail they seem to remember about every flight they ever took. Do all pilots have photographic memories, or just the ones that post here? :slight_smile:

The only people I know who have even greater total recall are golfers, who seem to remember every hole they ever played in their entire lives.

I don’t know about the others but all of my accounts are only to the best of my recollection. I think that is a tacit condition of all such things, at least for me. Hell, I don’t even remember all of my missions and there weren’t all that many of them.

Same here. One reason why we seem to remember everything may be that we are relating things that we remember clearly, and we don’t relate stories that we don’t.

I’ve long had a habit of writing down my flight experiences shortly after they happen, so that accounts not only for recollections of recent events, but also my detailed accounts of things that happened years ago.

Also, the general level of excitement - particularly when things don’t go according to plan - can also help imprint memories.

And… well, yeah, I do have a pretty good memory in general. Although my powers of recollection pale in comparison to those of the air traffic controllers I’ve known.

I can’t be the only one who read the subject line and thought, “Oh no, all of the aviators are defective and they’re being recalled!”

Can I? :wink:

Nope, I thought that, too. :slight_smile:

We’re not defective. Pilots are just plane people with a special air about them.

Okay, I stole that.

Yes, you did.

Old aviators never die - they just transition to a different plane…

Old pilots never die. They just buzz off.

When I saw the OP I thought “Why does Ahhnold need aviators on Mars?”

(Cheesy 90s movie reference).

For me, my logbook can bring back amazingly detailed memories. KADW-LERT (Divert - center windshield) is the entry (along with the times) but I could talk for 10 minutes about that flight!

The routine flights all get a little hazy over the years, though.

Since you brought it up - it’s your turn on the podium. Let’s hear it (assuming it’s worth telling)

I thought this was going to be about reading back clearances to air traffic controllers.

Some passengers I’ve taken up marvel at how I can repeat back word-for-word what they think are complicated instructions. Sometimes I perpetuate the priesthood by shrugging and saying, “Hey, I’m good.”

But in reality it’s 20% practice/paying attention, and 80% experience. I tell my students that most conversations with controllers are formulaic. By planning ahead and having good situational awareness I can usually predict what they’re going to say to me.

But back to the OP, I disagree. Pilots often exaggerate their stories just like sailors do. 10 knot crosswinds become 25 knots. This is why I also keep an accurate logbook - it keeps me honest.

Dad was a Flight Service Specialist at the FSS at the Barstow-Daggett airport. I lived with mom in San Diego. Mom was flying me up to Daggett to be with dad. She tended to fly a Beechcraft Musketeer, but when I was in jr. high I got five hours in a Grumman AA-5. I don’t remember which aircraft this happened in, but…

Barstow and Daggett are in the Mojave Desert, about half-way between L.S. and Las Vegas. Being in the desert, it’s subject to high winds. Mom let me shoot the landing. I was probably 11 or 12 years old. Well, I greased it in, high winds and all. My dad said that an instructor said, ‘Your son landed that plane better than… as well as I can!’

I don’t remember that flight at all. But I do remember dad’s relating the remark from the instructor.

One flight I do remember was in the Musketeer. Somewhere over the desert my mom discovered there was no oil pressure. But the engine was running fine. She deduced it was an electrical problem. It was getting dark, and we had no lights. My sister (who flew only a couple of times after this flight) was in the right seat. My mom said, ‘Don’t tell Johnny. I don’t want to worry him.’ My sister said, ‘Don’t worry Johnny? He’d probably enjoy it!’ We landed without incident. Turned out to be a circuit breaker (which mom should have checked – I think she might have done, but didn’t push it in hard enough). For the flight home we had a dead battery. Dad went to the front of the plane to start it by ‘propping’ – spinning the propeller by hand. Just a week or two before, I’d seen the television movie Family Flight. :eek:

Well I’ll tell it and then we’ll see if it was worth telling!

It was a trip in the C-141. We were flying a MedEvac out of Andrews AFB near Washington DC. The plane was loaded with patients who came to the US for treatment and were on their way back to Europe (most of them were family members of people stationed overseas). The flight plan had us stopping at Lajes AB, Azores to drop off about 15 people and pick up a few more. We would then continue on to Ramstein AB, Germany. So far so good, and the weather enroute was fine.

We depart Andrews late in the afternoon and head out across the Atlantic. The sun sets quickly and we are alone with the stars and the HF radio. After about 3 hours I get up out of the left to seat to visit the lav. I had unstrapped and taken a couple of steps toward the back when I hear “Holy S***!”

I turn around to see what could possibly cause my copilot to be so startled. What I see is our center windshield - on fire.

The C-141 has three forward windshields - one in front of the pilot and copilot and one in the center. On memory I’m going to say that the center windshield is about 25" tall and maybe 18" wide. All of these windshields are heated in flight. This not only keeps the glass pliable (in the case of a birdstrike) but also prevents fogging. The heating circuit for the center windshield had shorted and now there were flames (small ones) and smoke coming from the heating elements.

I yell at my copilot to turn the windshield heat off (I was off the headset since I was on my way out), and tell the flight engineer to find the circuit breaker for that windshield. As soon as we turned the heat off the smoke/flames stopped. We pulled the circuit breaker as well, and then took bets on how long it would take the windshield to shatter.

I forget what altitude we were cruisng at, but it was most likely in the mid-30s (say FL330, or 33,000 feet). The outside air temp was probably around -40 C, and this windshield had gone from being overheated to unheated and exposed to -40 temps. It took about 90 seconds before CRACK!!! and the outer pane shattered. The outer pane doesn’t bear any load from pressurization, so we were in no danger of losing that.

What we DID have now was a broken airplane, and wherever we touched down would be our home for at least a couple of days while they replaced the windshield. We were scheduled to land at Lajes, but that didn’t seem like a good idea now. We had 75 patients on board plus 6 flight nurses. I got on the radio and talked to the folks at Lajes - their hospital had 20 beds or so, and they could not handle taking care of as many people as we had on board.

Someone mentioned going on directly to Ramstein AB in Germany. We ran the numbers and came up about 45 minutes short on fuel. So then we brainstormed to come up with any military base that we had the fuel to get to and could handle 75 patients for two days. We came up with Rota AB, on the west coast of Spain. It’s a Navy-run base but we flew into there often. After some more phone-patch calls over the HF radio we let the hospital folks at Rota know what was coming their way, changed our destination with Air Traffic Control and made sure we wouldn’t run into any Diplomatic Clearance problems.

We overflew Lajes, landed in Rota and spent two days waiting for the airplane to be fixed. (This included an afternoon on the beach drinking sangria - not a bad thing at all). We got everyone to Germany a couple of days late, but intact.
So how’s that for a one-line entry in the logbook?

I have a good memory for a couple of events, but mostly I don’t. Reading the logbook helps bring back memories. It is easy to put a lot of detail in though because a lot of things that happen on a flight, happen every time you go flying.

Pretty darn good!

It seems the more intense the experience, the more vivid the recall.

I think also that some stories get told more frequently than others so the memory stays fresh, or at least it seems to.

cabdude’s “first solo” thread was the first time in over 12 years that I’ve tried to recall exactly what happened that day, whereas I have a couple of other flying stories that get told every now and then so I remember them better.

I have always gone back over the interesting stuff, the scary stuff and the strange stuff to try to find a better plan, a better way to handle the situation, asked a lot of the better pilots what they would do etc.

I have saved my ass more than once because eof what I heard in hanger flying sessions, stuff I heard and did not believe until I tried it and then 10 years later have the occasion to use that knowledge.

Can’t do that if you just fly round like a Sunday drive in the country.

Said it before, and say it again, just cause I’m thinking does not mean I’m not having any fun but if I ever quit thinking, I will for sure stop having fun…

More so than the sea, the air is never nice nor forgiving. We don’t belong up there and we must never forget that for a moment. So keep going over that stuff. It will save your ass…

Of course, sailing is like flying in that you are using a wing, you just point it in a funny direction.

I have taken a bunch of flying lessons. This one time, my instructor (Derick?) let me do almost all of the flying. We flew from Boston to somewhere up north to Maine or New Hampshire. There was some snow. On the way back, there was some turbulence during part of it. He said that I could do touch-and-go’s so I did 3 - 10 of them. There were some people talking on the radio and I found them hard to understand. If I didn’t fly as well as I did. things could have gotten dangerous. It had a bit of adventure.