People often recount stories of a particularly inspiring pilot, or instructor, who they flew with, perhaps many years previously.
Who is yours, and what did he/she do?
Funnily enough, the guy I consider the best pilot I’ve ever flown with has his birthday today! He’s a Spanish friend of mine who simply is amazing. He doesn’t ‘fly’ the airplane, he ‘becomes’ the airplane. I’ve never seen anyone else essentially become one with the machine he or she flies. I’m sure the guy was a bird in a former life…
PS: he is a professional pilot, currently captain for a well-know big business-jet operation
4 years ago I was working on my tailwheel endorsement. I was struggling in the front seat, rehearsing my “captain kangaroo” figures. After a few bounces I heard a voice coming from behind saying “we blew a tire, let me handle it”. And here am I, watching my CFI land and taxi all the way to parking on the mains without ever letting the tail go down. I was in awe. My instructor told me, “well, why don’t you try”? My attempt was a failure, but what a great memory! (and no prop strike, we kept falling on the tail).
2 years ago I “rescued” a twin engine aircraft from the boneyard. After ferrying the thing to California with the MEI broker, I started scouting for a CFI to get my multi engine rating. It didn’t take long until she told me that, I, a private pilot with maybe 200 hours of 172 under my belt, would need 50 hours before being able to fly my family around. Her suggestion was that I go for a commercial rating – I’d need the extra time anyways, and the goal would be worth it. The Aztec taught me patience (let’s not talk about the project it became), she told me humility!
When I was a F/O on HS125, I had a two captains, both of whom were very special.
One had been a Hurricane pilot, then DC3, DC4, Tristar, 747 and now, in the early 90s, eking out his last years of pro flying. He was completely unflappable. The main incident I remember is that I was PF flying a Heathrow SID when we had a cockpit fire (turned out to be the lighting on the ADF.) He dealt with it while I hand flew (no electrics = no A/P) and arranged all the switching on and off of electrics to ensure that we were able to make every radio call and get every (pre-RNAV) radio beacon just when we needed it. He was like a juggler with complete command of what he was doing, when and how.
The other one was a Spitfire pilot and had spent his working life in BA. On one occasion he was making a PA when the autopilot went mad and, before I could disengage it we were at a 45° bank angle and maybe 20° nose up (no joke at FL410 in coffin corner in a T tail). I was on it fairly quickly and got it back to stable flight, but the impressive thing was that if you had played back that PA, you would have had no inkling whatsoever that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
My IR instructor. I think I have been really lucky to have one with proper single engine and multi engine experience in real IFR. Apart from being an instructor he had flown thousands of hours flying freight at night in single and multi engine piston. He has become a very good friend and has thought me so much more about the possibles and the not possibles of real world IFR. Without him I am not sure I would have the same confidence to use my plane for travel like I do now. All my experience prior to starting my IR had been in the club environment…
The instructor doing my PPL conversion (I started out as a glider pilot) and later IR. Now retired training captain of a major airline. He was super professional when he had a student or pax in the aircraft but totally crazy when he was alone. I recall that when the first UL aircraft appeared — trikes with weight shift control — he tried to do loopings with them. Of course the power was too low and the drag too high so he always stalled out on the way up.
All the best handling pilots I know are all dead. Low level aerobatics
The best pilot I ever flew with ?
Myself of course !
I have a small list of pilots whom I know to be extremely good and hope to fly with in the future. Of those I have already flown with, I won’t hesitate to name Genghis the Engineer as the best. He is extremely sharp and thorough both on the ground and in the air. I’d say the decision tree he keeps in his mind while in the cockpit has 3 times as many branches as mine.
There have been lots of very good pilots I’ve flown with. One such was Ladislav Bezák, the first World Aerobatic Champion – I was only fourteen when I flew as a passenger in his Zlin from Rochester to Germany to stay with his family for a week or so. A few days earlier I’d watched as he flew at 30’ inverted down the display line waving to the crowd – and it was easy to see him wave and his big grin.