Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just the Way He Dreamed It

Here's another of my favorite articles. I got thinking about it after re-reading the Star Wars article earlier, and spent forty minutes looking for it. I'm posting it here so I don't have to go looking for it again....

* * * * *

AOPA Pilot
June 2005 Volume 48 / Number 6

Just the Way He Dreamed It
Offering the flight of a lifetime

I'm not too thrilled about taking strangers up for joy rides. The liability thing worries me. Sure, I've got insurance but a million dollars isn't enough these days, and that's all I could get. I'm an airplane owner so I'm supposed to be rich, right? They'd sue me into the Stone Age. So why did I take him up?

In the first place, he looked a little seedy, and I didn't know quite what to think about that. He was wearing construction boots, heavily weathered jeans, and a blue work shirt that apparently had seen some pretty laborious duty. His shirt was partially unbuttoned, revealing a T-shirt with a pair of crossed red bars with white stars in them. His fingernails were caked with black grease, or whatever, all around the edges. A ball cap topped a thick crop of shaggy jet-black hair. His neck was as red as the clay in the cotton fields here in Alabama, and the lower part of his face was covered with week-old stubble. Not to say that the pilots on this private airfield deck out in Armani and Gucci, but it was clear that this lad was a fish out of water here (see "Welcome to Moontown," May Pilot). Anyway, as far as I was concerned, he was just another passer-by who stopped to watch the airplanes.

I was fueling my Yakovlev Yak-52, Stack Doll, when he parked his truck and got out. I noticed him over there, hands in pockets, eyes riveted on the Yak, but I didn't give him much thought. Local people came here all the time to watch the airplanes but few ventured beyond the parking lot — not that anyone would have objected. I guess it's the feeling of not belonging that made them keep their distance. But then the guy approached.

"Y'all mind if I look at it?" he asked delicately, almost reverently. His voice was deep, slow, and very backwoodsy. He looked to be 25 to 30 years old.

"No," I said. "Go ahead."

He walked slowly around the Yak while I went into the office and settled up the gas bill. When I came out he asked, "What kind of airplane is it?"

I explained that it was from Russia, although it was actually built during the Soviet era and was used to train military pilots. He looked at me with a blank expression that made me wonder if he knew the terms ascribed to our former Cold War adversaries. He asked if it was mine. "Half of it," I cracked, loudly enough for the pilots sitting on the FBO benches to hear. "I own the back half. George, over there, owns the front half — that's the half that has all the moving parts." A round of chuckles and counter wisecracks issued from the bench, but the young countryman didn't smile. I wondered if he had gotten the joke.

"You mind if my wife and kids look at it?" he asked.

I looked in the direction he pointed and saw a young woman and two small kids standing in front of the stilted pickup with fat mud tires and — sure enough — a gun rack. "Sure," I said. He beckoned them over. The woman's face broke into a toothy grin and she ushered the children onto the ramp. The guy picked up his son and drew close to the Yak, telling him, "There it is, Connor. Look. There it is!" The mother took the daughter by the hand, bent over, and whispered something similar to the gawking girl.

The man then moved back in my direction. He said, "We live over yonder." He pointed to a distant mountain, visible from the field. "We been watching y'all." I nodded, wondering if I was about to be lambasted about airplane noise. That area was a favorite site for our aerobatics. He put the boy down and looked squarely at me. "I sit on my front steps every Sar'd'y mornin'. I watch y'all up there doin' flips and tips and loop-ti-loops and chasin' each other around, and all."

"I hope we don't disturb you," I said.

"Naw!" he drawled. "No way! I love to watch you. I look fow'rd to it. I hope for clear sky every Sar'd'y, 'cause I know y'all gonna be up there." That made me feel pretty good, but after answering a few more questions I got uneasy with him. I was afraid he would ask for a ride. I strolled over toward the bench where my flying buddies were hanging out. I wasn't comfortable with it — the lawsuit thing, you know. What if something happened?

But I was by no means through flying for the day. That oh-so-perfect Saturday was yet young and I was waiting for my old ex-fighter pilot buddy, Gordy, to get his Yak out so we could fly some formation. I'm always irked over Gordy's propensity to sit around drinking coffee and telling flying stories too long before he gets up, goes to his hangar, and drags his Yak out. And it takes him forever to preflight it. It's like he enjoys preflighting it, or something; I don't know. He's one of those guys who just savors airport time, as though standing around talking or working on the airplanes was as good as flying them.

While listening to Gordy argue with George over some tidbit of aviation wisdom, I kept looking back over my shoulder at the family, who was still eyeing Stack Doll. The guy looked my way and stepped over.

"What, uh...." His voice trailed off. He scratched his head and looked away. I knew it was coming. "What would it take to...maybe...I know, can I ride it?" The conversation on the benches died out and heads swiveled toward me. They were all grinning. They wanted to see him take the ride. I knew I was trapped. I had to do it. There was no way I could turn this humble country boy down.

"Let's go," I said. His eyes widened into dinner plates. He looked at his wife and his lips moved but no sound came out. He must have been afraid I would rescind my offer if he was too loud about it. His finger pointed up. She cringed and covered her mouth with her hands. She pulled the kids away.

I climbed up and pulled a parachute out of the rear cockpit and handed it down to him, saying, "Try this on for size." He grabbed it and wanted to know what it was.

When I told him what it was he yelled out to the woman and then the son. "It's a parachute! I gotta wear a parachute! Hear that, Connor? I'm wearin' a parachute!" I helped him into the rig and up onto the wing and into the rear pit. I strapped him in and briefed him on the harness quick release, the chute, the intercom system, the canopy operation, and the sick sack. Then I got in the front pit, strapped in, and started the engine. Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn't even know the guy's name. I asked him over the intercom.

That made me think again about how foolish this was. The liability thing is enormously important. I don't mean to say that I never carry passengers, just that I don't like carrying strangers. Sure, a close friend could sue you just as easily as any stranger — and that close friend's family probably would, if you caused his incapacitation or death. But it's an issue of degree, as I had always explained to my flying buddies. Reducing your exposure — that was the name of the game. Yeah, taking this strange dude aloft was absurd, but I couldn't turn him down. He just had a hungry look — hungry for something. I didn't know what.

We took off. I gave him a max-performance climb — the Yak goes up like a rocket, although I don't like to do that every time. A loss of power while you're hanging on the prop could be too interesting. I leveled off and headed straight for the mountain and found his trailer in short order. I climbed over it to a safe altitude and did a nice 1-G roll. He didn't even depress the intercom button, but I could hear him yell above the rumble of the engine as the green Earth lazily rotated over the top of the canopy and slid back underneath us again. I turned back over the trailer, and did a slow roll, making him go light in the harness. Then I did a snap roll. After that I got a little more altitude, carefully keeping the trailer underneath us, and picked up some speed.

I pulled up and climbed straight into the sun and arched over into the inverted position. I released back-pressure at the top of the loop to get that exalted floating feeling, when you feel you're just suspended inverted at the top of the world. Then I let the nose fall through and eased into a 4-G pull. As we pulled through the bottom of the loop I let the nose come up and did a quick double aileron roll. After the Earth and the sun concluded a wild tail chase with each other around the airplane, I heard him press the intercom button and yell, "This is just the way I dreamed it would be! Just the way! Just the way!"

I must admit, I choked up. Right there in the front pit of the Yak my eyes started watering. I knew this flight was something special.

We did a few more maneuvers and then I took him down the runway for a flyby. I saw his wife and kids standing beside the grass strip. Some of the local pilots had escorted them out there. I pulled up into a soaring pop-up climb to the downwind and brought Stack Doll around for grassy plop-down. I taxied up and shut down the big radial and helped him down and out of the parachute.

He was at a loss for words. He looked at me but simply couldn't speak. His bottom lip was kind of wrinkled. Finally with some difficulty he spoke softly, repeating what he had said when we completed the loop and double roll. "It was everything I dreamed it would be."

He reached for his wallet and wanted to know how much he owed me. I would hear nothing of it. I would just as soon die a slow torturous death listening to Gordy's stories than take that lad's money. He thanked me generously and headed for his truck.

I watched them drive away. I would never see them again. I thought about all the flying I had done over the years. I had flown fighters and transports. I had been a forestry pilot and an airline captain. I had carried at least a million passengers and thousands of tons of cargo. But this had to have been one of the most gratifying flights I had ever made. To give a man his dream must be the next best thing to giving him his soul.

But I definitely didn't have enough liability coverage for the soul thing.


Alan Cockrell of Owens Cross Roads, Alabama, owns and flies a Yak-52.

Star Wars

I did not write this, but I love it and I don't want to lose it, so I'm posting it here for safe keeping....

* * * * *

Why Buy An Airplane?
...fwd'd to me by Paul 'Rosie' Rosales

For those needing a reason of some kind for buying an Aircraft

I have read many posts on the web site from members and on MMAIL who are thinking about owning their own aircraft and looking for ways to offset the cost of ownership. I have heard many reasons for and against ownership. Why buy an aircraft? It's cheaper to rent and you do not have all the hassle with maintenance, fuel and insurance. Well, here is a little story that I think explains it all as to why I own my own airplane.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. No winds and the temperature was just right. So instead of mowing the lawn like my wife had planned for me, I decided to go to the airport and take the Sport out for a run. She yells back at me, "WELL IF YOU GO, TAKE YOUR SON WITH YOU." So I ask my son. Want to go flying with dad? In which he says Yea, Can I take my light saber?

You see, my 9 year son thinks he is a Jedi Knight and that our Sport is his personal X-Wing fighter. He is only 4'5 and has to sit on a pillow in order to see over the glare shield and he always carries his light saber just in case we land on a strange planet in which there might be trouble or civil un-rest. Always prepared this one is. So away we go.


We were straight and level at around 6,000ft and I let him take the controls of the X-Wing to do some turns to the left and right. Joshua Approach called and said there was traffic at our 2 o'clock 2 miles opposite direction and my son said to me "Look over there dad, Tie fighter coming right at us." I told him to steer clear of the Tie Fighter because our lasers were out for repair and we were un-armed. No reason to provoke a fight.

So even though he is having a blast, I am starting to get a little bored and thought, "Let's go do a practice approach on the ILS." So I called Joshua Approach, requested the ILS 25 Approach to Palmdale Full Approach and off we went. I maneuvered the X-Wing to the VOR and started the turn outbound to the outer marker. Now my son is just really enjoying this. At the outer marker, the blue light started to flash and you could hear the BEEP in the headset. My Son jumps in and said "That Tie Fighter has locked on to us." I said "That's Right" and I started my evasive maneuver on the procedure turn.

My Son is listening to the exchange between me and the controller and wants to chime in on the conversion. I said to my son, "Just hang on; I will give you a chance." I never should have said that because now he is all excited to talk on the radio. As I start to turn inbound on the turn, the Approach control said "Contact tower when established on the localizer." So I told my young Padawan Learner "OK, when this needle gets here on the dial, push the radio button and tell the tower that 93 Romeo is inbound on the localizer."

Now imagine this, I am giving basic instrument instruction to a 9 year old, I cannot get adults to say this during training. So before I can give him something simpler to say he keys the mike and says "REBEL BASE, THIS IS RED 5. WE ARE STARTING OUR ATTACK RUN ON THE DEATH STAR."

Good God.

Now this is post-9/11 and before I can key my mike and say anything, the tower jumps on and says "RED 5, YOUR CLEARED FOR THE APPROACH TO THE DEATH STAR. REPORT HITS AWAY."

Now I am waiting for the tower to add "And tell your dad to call this number" But I hear nothing else. So we continue the approach. Now my son is in heaven. This is real life stuff to him and he is doing everything I tell him to do as far as tracking the needle. As we approach the outer marker inbound, the light starts to flash and there is that tone again. "Dad, the Death Star has a lock on us." Yes Son, you keep on the approach, I will worry about the guns.

Everything is going great and now we are approaching the middle marker. My son has noticed the GPS has a red line with an airplane on it and it ends at the Death Star. So he asks me "IS THAT A TARGETING COMPUTER DAD?" Well of course it is, and it shows us where we are to the target. So now he hears Obewan tell him to USE THE FORCE SCOTT and he turns the GPS OFF. Tells me he is OK and does not need the targeting computer because he is using the FORCE.

Now the middle marker light flashes and the tone comes on. I apply full power and the airplane,,,X-Wing,,, Starts a climb. I start the turn to the missed approach path when my son keys the mike and says "HITS AWAY." The tower answers back with "GOOD JOB RED 5, CONTACT REBEL APPROACH ON 126.1."

We go back to Mojave SPACEPORT, and I decide that the X-Wing needs a bath. So out comes all the cleaning stuff and we spend the rest of the day washing and waxing the turbo jets and laser pods.

So you see. This is why I own my own aircraft. You cannot beat this kind of quality time with your kids. And there is no way you can put a price on that.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New England Wedding

My buddy Eric, an old friend of about 18 years, married the love of his life this last weekend in Matunuck, Rhode Island. Jodie and I booked a room at a Bed & Breakfast and made plans to fly the Tiger up to Quonset State Airport (KOQU).

The Tiger has been at the avionics shop in Hagerstown, Maryland, having its autopilot worked on. The autopilot has been removed from the airplane and shipped to Oklahoma for overhaul. Not having an autopilot is not a big deal -- to the contrary, I've only ever flown one airplane that had a working autopilot, and the autopilot in the Tiger hasn't worked since I bought the plane, so.... no big deal. Jodie and I just drove up to Hagerstown and took the airplane from there on Saturday morning.

It was the type of day that pilots refer to as "CAVU." That stands for "ceiling and visibility unrestricted." In the photos below, you might think it looks a bit hazy. In all of these photos that look toward a horizon, we could see more than sixty miles. It may not be "Rocky Mountain Clear," but for the mid-Atlantic, this was "visibility unrestricted." As we approached New York, I saw Sandy Hook off our right wing. The last time I saw Sandy Hook was when I went to Farmingdale.

There were a LOT of airplanes in the air, and the air traffic controllers were so busy there wasn't a break to get a word in edgewise. It was our intent to fly right over Manhattan, so I kept working the radios and flipping frequencies until I could get a controller to talk to me.

* * * * *

I've had several people remark that they are surprised we could fly over New York City, so here's a quick primer on airspace. (If you want to skip it, just scroll down to the next break.) The atmosphere over the earth is divided into 3-dimensional sections of "airspace." The boundaries of different types of airspace are invisible, but they are very real to pilots and air traffic controllers. Those divisions help keep everyone safe.

"Class B" airspace, or "Bravo" in pilot lingo, is airspace around the busiest airports, such as Newark, La Guardia, and JFK. It is generally shaped like an upside-down wedding cake. There are rules for flying through Class B airspace -- the most important rule being that you must have permission (a "clearance") from Air Traffic Control. Without a clearance to fly into it, you can still fly around it, under it, or over it.

The Class B airspace around New York is clearly marked on the maps that pilots use to navigate. Here's a piece of the New York "sectional" chart that shows the Class B airspace....

I added the red squares around what look like fractions. Those fractions tell pilots what the dimensions -- the top and bottom -- of the Class B airspace are at various places. In this case, the top of the Class B airspace is 7,000 feet above sea level. Thus, to fly across New York without going into the Class B airspace, we had to stay above 7,000 feet. Following other FAA regulations, that meant that we would fly at 7,500 feet when flying to Rhode Island, and at 8,500 feet when flying back home. At those altitudes, we did not need permission from ATC and, in fact, did not even need to talk to them on the radio.

But there is following rules, and there is being smart. I couldn't even guess how many airplanes are in the skies over NYC at any given moment on a Saturday morning. Suffice it to say that the air traffic controllers sounded like auctioneers on every frequency I listened to -- and there are a LOT of frequencies.

* * * * *

So as we were approaching New York on this Saturday, I was busy flipping radio frequencies and talking to ATC to make sure they knew we were coming across. Meanwhile, Jodie took photos of our vistas of New York geography, like this one of Long Beach and Brooklyn in the distance, with Staten Island in the foreground.

The New York air traffic controllers are notoriously short on patience for students or other pilots who do not know - or who do not sound like they know - what they are doing. I was doing my best to be short, convey all the information, and sound like I was on top of my game. It worked, and we got radar services as we crossed Newark International Airport. I grabbed the camera for a quick shot.

We could see exactly how New York was laid out. We could see dozens of miles up the Hudson River, past the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges. We could see beyond Manhattan, and the way that Long Island paralleled the Connecticut coast line into the distance.

As we approached the city itself, individual buildings and streets stood out in sharp relief.

Ground Zero was a very obvious hole in the cityscape.

Looking at the East River, I tried to understand what Cory Lidle had been thinking.... It still escapes me.

The last time I was at Liberty Island was probably 1994 or so.... And 1982 before that. Time to go back?

Central Park....
It was a treat to see New York like this. We flew the same route on the way back, too, though our camera battery was dead so we didn't get any pictures. In the image below, the green line is our course on the way east; the red line is our course on the way home the next day.

After crossing the city, we flew the length of Long Island Sound. Because our course took us across the sound at a very slight angle, it was more than 100 miles that we were over water, although we were never more than 10 miles from a shoreline. We descended to 500 feet over the ocean as we flew past the beach house where our friends were preparing for the wedding, then skimmed the water to a landing at Quonset State Airport. A lineman motioned us to a parking spot while another lineman pulled our rental car up to the plane. Minutes later we drove off the airport toward the bed & breakfast.

The wedding was beautiful. It was a touching and very happy time, seeing a beloved friend marry someone he obviously loves dearly. And although I don't yet know her well, it was very satisfying to see such similar sentiments from his bride.

The wedding went late into the evening, but we woke in time for breakfast and a walk through the small town of Narragansett. I found a used bookstore where I picked up some old books on aviation and was tempted to purchase an autograph by Charles Lindbergh. Then we said goodbye to our friends and headed to the airport.

Quonset State Airport is an Air and Army National Guard base in addition to a general aviation airport. Shortly after we had arrived, a C-130 had taken off (after what looked like a 600-foot takeoff roll!). There was a whole line of Army Hueys behind our plane, and they were arriving and departing as we loaded the plane.

I also caught sight of this plane, which I can't identify....

We loaded up and took off over the water at 2:03 p.m., staying low for a few miles as we headed south and then southwest.

We passed the island where we would like to live in our next life....

Beyond Jamestown, Newport was visible off our left wing, with a cruise ship visible in the harbor.

Our camera battery went dead as we turned toward home over Long Island Sound. Jodie fell asleep as we climbed to 8,500 feet and I enjoyed the spectacular views alone. Alone, that is, except for the constant chatter of ATC and a thousand jets that were taking off from the New York airports. ATC called every few minutes, "Grumman 28244, traffic is at your 10 o'clock and 2 miles, an Airbus 319 climbing to 8,000 feet only." I watched many large jets passing by, perhaps a mile or two away. One in particular passed across our path ahead, 500 feet below our altitude. I listened as ATC called to the plane -- "Northwest 469, you are clear of the Grumman traffic, left turn to three four zero, climb to one zero thousand." I watched as the nose came up on the airplane and it banked away. I looked down to confirm we were still holding course and altitude. When I looked back up, Northwest 469 had disappeared into the vast, blue sky on its way to Minneapolis. (Out of curiosity, I looked up the flight later.)

Jodie woke as we flew over the Pennsylvania countryside. It was approaching four o'clock. There's a decent Italian restaurant at the airport in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, just a half hour short of our destination. We landed and had good pasta on the outside deck, then took off again for the short flight to Hagerstown and our car.

It was a beautiful trip. With the exception of the last ten minutes of our flight east, the air was smooth and free of clouds the whole trip. What would have been a 7- or 8-hour drive was two and a half hours of the most beautiful scenery. Good travels.

Monday, September 07, 2009


My instrument rating is dragging on and on and on. There has been a lot going on, though, and I just haven't had time to log the hours I need. Last week my instrument instructor gave me a prod by email and voicemail, so we scheduled to do some flying Saturday. Since I hadn't been under a hood in two months, I called around and got my friend Gashaw to act as safety pilot for a quick practice jaunt on Friday evening.

It was a gorgeous evening. I skipped the first part of the beauty by putting on my hood right after takeoff. I flew us up to the Westminster VOR and then flew the VOR 34 instrument approach to the Carroll County Airport.

Flipping up my hood, I brought the Tiger in for a short-field landing, then raised the flaps, enrichened the fuel mixture, and shoved the throttle to the wall. After a short run down the runway, it felt like we were sitting on our backs in our Vx climb, and I circled around for another touch and go. The second landing was even better -- the wheels just lightly kissed the runway, and we heard the wheels rolling on the tarmac before we felt a touchdown. Flaps up, mixture in, full throttle, and we lifted off. I was grinning all over myself from the last landing, so Gashaw flew us home.

On Saturday morning, John and I took off. I put on the hood moments after liftoff, and we headed for Westminster. I flew a good hold entry for the VOR 34 into Carroll County, followed by a missed approach and hold, then the GPS 35 into York, Pennsylvania. We did the missed approach out of York, and then John gave me vectors and instructions back home. It was a good flight, and John said I did well.

It was Labor Day weekend, and I didn't need to work Monday morning. On Sunday afternoon, the forecast was for overcast weather with cloud ceilings at around 600-1,000 feet above the ground. Importantly, there were no thunderstorms in the forecast. I called John, who agreed to meet me Monday morning at 9 a.m., rain or shine.

The flight was a typical instrument training flight out of Gaithersburg: the VOR 34 approach into Carroll County, the ILS 23 into Frederick, then the GPS 14 back into Gaithersburg. What was new for me is that I never put on the hood.

A lot happened in the hour and a quarter that we were flying. Vectors for traffic, re-routes, altitude increases and decreases.... Even John wasn't sure why ATC was doing what they were doing at times. For me, I had four moments where.... Well, I never panic in an airplane. But if I was going to panic, there were four times when I would have done so.

First, when we ascended into the clouds. Imagine you're just a thousand feet above the ground, flying at 120 miles per hour. Then all of a sudden you can't see anything. And it's different than being under the hood, simply because of the knowledge that you can't just flip up the hood and see again. You are COMMITTED to flying the airplane just by looking at the little round gauges. You either do it or (forgetting the instructor in the right seat), you are likely to crash. That realization flashed through my head, I got the "when the going gets tough" mentality, and on we flew.

Shortly thereafter, ATC had us climb to an altitude where we were just dragging our landing gear in the tops of the clouds. Overwhelming sensation: BRIGHT. To go from dark and dreary overcast to bright sun was hard on the eyes. I need better sunglasses. My second "moment-when-I-felt-like-panicking," however, came when we were instructed to descend back into the clouds. It felt like rising water, and I caught myself straining my head up as the clouds enveloped the cockpit from the bottom up. I might even have held my breath as we went under....

I had my third "moment-when-I-would-have-panicked" as we neared Carroll County on the VOR 34 approach. We descended to the MDA -- minimum descent altitude -- and we were still in the clouds. No airport, just cloud. This should be no big deal, as we train for this all the time and practice "missed approaches" on every flight. Still, we're usually looking at the airport that is plainly visible and just pretending -- "Oh, well, no airport, guess we better do the missed approach!" In practice, it's an almost cheerful, make-believe event. In real life, it's different -- you can't land if you want to. You want to get on the ground? Well, that door is closed. Now what are you going to do?

My last moment-of-unsettlement came when we had been flying almost an hour. I had successfully flown the ILS approach to Frederick, had pretended we couldn't see the runway, and had ascended back into the clouds. Just as we were levelling off at our altitude, and turning to intercept a VOR radial, we got a clearance from air traffic control that required me to jot notes on the clearance, turn the plane, reduce power, reprogram the GPS, change altitude, and talk back on the radio. At the same time, John was talking to me about something. I was juggling it all when I cross-checked my instruments and saw we were in a steep bank and descending at 1,000 feet per minute. Right then is when I could have panicked if I were so inclined.

Keep in mind -- we're in the clouds. No autopilot. There are no visual or "seat of the pants" cues that we were not flying straight and level. A passenger would never have known anything. It was all happening very fast and we had lost less than 100 feet of altitude. I don't even know how it happened that the airplane got into that attitude so quickly.

But okay, no big deal. Rule Number One: FLY THE AIRPLANE. I stopped everything else to right the airplane. John hadn't noticed the unusual attitude -- or if he had, he wasn't letting on. He kept talking, telling me to do something -- change radio frequencies, finish programming the GPS, something. "John, let me fly the airplane, and I'll get to that in a second," I said. He fell silent. Five seconds later, everything was back to normal, I finished what needed to be done, and we successfully flew the approach to Gaithersburg.

We broke out of the clouds about 200 feet above the MDA and landed straight in. I was sweating, but I was absolutely exhilarated. I had flown an airplane. In the clouds. From one airport to another. Safely.

I spent the rest of the day pointing at the sky and saying to Jodie, "See those clouds? I flew IN them."