Flying Into Writing: First Photo Flight of the Year

By Eric McCarthy

Very MVFR. (Roy Knight)The day began, as many do here in southern California, with a coastal marine layer extending inland a mile or so. I know from experience that conditions just a couple of miles further inland can be dramatically different–often sunny and clear, and 5-10 degrees warmer. The marine layer usually burns off by late morning and often returns late afternoon, so I wasn’t really concerned about my mid-day photo mission up in the Corona area. It’s only about a half hour flight from Palomar (KCRQ), we’d be over the site for 20 minutes or so, then off for lunch; we should be back to Palomar by 2:30 or 3, no problem.

As I was driving south along the 5 freeway in Camp Pendleton, that little voice in my head began to express concern. I was beginning to wonder if the marine layer was going to burn off this day–it was about 10:30 a.m., and I didn’t see any signs of it burning off. In fact, I was in and out of dense fog, and where it wasn’t foggy, there was a very low cloud cover, well below VFR minimums. Yet, looking east up the canyons and between the mountains of Pendleton, I could see clear blue skies beckoning. Palomar is about two miles from the beach, and I figured it stood a good chance of being in the clear. I wasn’t too worried about getting out of Palomar, flying east and into the Temecula Valley, which is often clear. But getting back into Palomar–that began to gnaw at my noggin. I’ve seen the marine layer fill in pretty quickly in the past; then again, I’ve snuck in under the advancing cloud layer. Hmmm…what to do…

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Former Slave, Two-Time Olympian Becomes An Airman

By Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker, 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Gour Maker, a trainee at basic military training, receives an Airman’s Coin at the coin ceremony Feb. 1, 2018, outside the Pfingston Reception Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Maker was recognized by his wingmen as a selfless leader and motivator during his time at BMT. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillon Parker)After enduring countless hardships and overcoming unimaginable obstacles, Airman 1st Class Guor Maker, a dental assistant currently in technical training, found his way out of war-torn South Sudan, Africa and into the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.


As one of roughly 20,000 children uprooted by the gruesome Second Sudanese Civil War, Maker’s childhood was far from normal. After losing 28 family members, including eight of his nine siblings, 8-year-old Maker set out on foot from South Sudan to live with his uncle.

“The country I came from was torn apart by war,” said Maker. “It was all I knew growing up, nothing else. I’ve seen people die in front of me, but I knew no matter what, I had to make it.”

During his harrowing journey, Maker was captured and enslaved twice: once by Sudanese soldiers, and once by herdsmen.

“When I was captured, I was forced to be a slave laborer,” said Maker. “I would wash dishes or do anything else needed to get by. I slept in a small cell and rarely got to eat…but not always.” 

Both times, Maker successfully escaped from enslavement and was finally able to join his uncle in Khartoum after three perilous years. However, his journey to safety was far from over.

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SPIRIT of Flight, Bay2Bay

By Denise Rae Donegan and Ana Carolina Uribe Ruiz

WAI pilots and CHP in front of CHP aircraft at Signature in San Jose airport. (Denise Rae Donegan)Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area has been an adventure, to say the least. On any given day you can hop in your plane and enjoy the view as you make your way down to the Monterey Bay. Take a deep breath as you and your passengers follow the rugged coastal mountain ranges south, and discover the many treasures and little towns dotted along the way.

It seems as if I’ve been back and forth between these bays for a lifetime. Forty-four years ago, my father moved our family from Cleveland, Ohio to the San Francisco Bay Area. I was eight. My dad was a sailor and veteran of the Coast Guard and NAVY; he relocated our family to California for a new job and business opportunity in South San Francisco. After graduating college, I had the opportunity to join the family business, and with that came many working lunches sitting with my dad on the side of the bay, watching planes take off and land at the San Francisco International Airport.

Author Denise Rae Donegan trying sky-diving. (Courtesy Denise Rae Donegan)My dad loved to fly. He wanted to fly. And, my mom did not. In fact, it scared her. Although, this fear was not enough to not get on dozens of airplanes and jet off to their next amazing adventure! My mom still loves to explore as much as my dad loved to get lost and look up to the sky to identify as many aircraft as he could. This passion for flight rubbed off on me! It’s in the blood. My love for flight, travel, and discovery has led me to a world of amazing people and opportunity within the industry of aviation. My friend, pilot, writing partner, mentor, Co-President of Women in Aviation, International San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (WAI-SFBA), and Jefferson Award Winner for Public Service, Ana Carolina Uribe Ruiz, introduced me to Women in Aviation, International, and opened the doors for me and others to discover the career possibilities within the world of aviation. Ana’s father formed an airline in Ecuador in the late ‘50s that was the flag Airline for the country for many years…

Recently I asked Ana why she loves to fly. Her response was simple, “Why? The view and the space you are in. Nothing better than looking outside and being able to fly, a bird’s eye view. That’s what I see!”

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The Aviation Craftsman 

An Interview with Lance Lockhart of Wyldebyrd Art

By Annamarie Buonocore

Here at In Flight USA, we come across many who are passionate about flying. Sometimes this passion goes beyond the sport itself, and many enthusiasts take to decorating their homes, businesses, and cars with aviation decorations and furniture. To satisfy this second level of passion, look no further than Wyldebyrd Art, the premier online store of aviation woodwork and art. In Flight USA is excited to have interviewed the master craftsman and artist behind these decorations. Lance Lockhart, a third-generation craftsman enjoys sharing his talents with pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and many others looking for new and exciting ways to decorate their space. He manages to run this successful operation while working as a Southwest Airlines pilot and being a full-time father of two. This is his story:

In Flight USA: Let’s talk about the art for starters. What got you interested in doing this work?

Lance Lockhart: My grandfather was an upholsterer. When I was a kid and before he retired, I would go to his shop down in San Antonio. We would make little rifles, picture frames, and yard art. When he passed away, he left me his tools. I became interested in carpentry through that connection. Later, I took shop class and took a couple jobs after that that involved woodwork. My parents had an air service, and I was the carpenter. I built buildings for them in Northern Canada. When I started having kids, my wife and I wanted to decorate our kids’ rooms with aircraft pieces. Everything we found was made in China or too expensive. My goal was to make these things accessible to the average mom. I worked at a store in Nashville for free to learn the ropes. Once I became established in Phoenix, Ariz., I got started on my own, buying things off of Craigslist and eBay. One relationship at a time, I started finding more parts. When Southwest retires air pieces, I am first on the list to buy pieces from them.

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Editorial: Why Check the Weather, We are Going to Go Anyway 

By Ed Downs

Okay, perhaps the title of this collection of thoughts is a bit sarcastic, but this writer has heard those words uttered in the world of airline ops and charter flying. For sure, airlines ads and proponents of ATC privatization have convinced unknowing passengers that “we always get you there on time” and/or “all delays will end with privatization.” They specialize in marketing and politics, not necessarily flying.

This subject came to mind just the other day, as a particularly harsh winter storm shut down major terminals, causing massive flight cancelations and passenger inconvenience. As is so often the case, major media jumped on the story and sped to the airports (slipping and sliding on icy roads) to interview desperate passengers, huddled pitifully (as said by one reporter as she gushed with Oscar award winning emotion) amongst the airport restaurants that sell a $2 hot dog for nine bucks. Yes, being captured in a secured area and surrounded by armed guards does seem to limit the competitive urge food (??) sellers have to participate in open market competition.

But back to the weather. Stranded passengers were interviewed, and only the most critical or desperate of remarks made to “news at 10.” One comment caught the attention of this pilot by observing “I can’t see what the problem is; the weather doesn’t look that bad.” Yep, how much can a quarter inch of glaze ice really weigh on the wings of a plane… shucks, they have lots of horsepower, let’s just go. Why check the weather, we are going to go anyway.

Okay, this is only one passenger, but there is a strong tendency for newbies in aviation to believe that technology can overcome the forces of nature. We have an amazing number of technological recourses available to us today that simply did not exist just a few years ago. The military and airline world have been working on “all weather” technology for years. First came the toughening of airframes, followed by more reliable engines, creation of anti/deice systems, weather radar, high altitude flight above the weather and now, communication technology that keeps one connected with weather resources 24/7. All of this has been in the quest of “all weather flying.”

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