As it turns out, Bob’s wife, Cathy, is a
highly experienced pilot who now works as
an inspector for the Milwaukee FSDO.
Before Bob could get into the air, Cathy was
able to get on the UNICOM mic and start
establishing the human factors information
essential to know how Helen was coping,
and what she knew about the airplane, and
offer advice on how to keep the airplane
under control and near the airport.
Bob is a retired airline pilot who flew
corporate jets very early in his career before
the airlines. His flying experience is upside
down compared to most because he was in
the right seat of a Learjet just as soon as he
had the minimum time to qualify as copilot.
He skipped over the work-your-way-up-through-the-chairs of light singles and twins
career path and spent years and more than
28,000 hours in jets.
But along the way Bob also did flight
instruction and has taught upset recovery,
aerobatics, and formation flying. The forma-
tion flying experience would prove to be
crucial, along with the instruction hours
and, I think, the years of flying as part of a
crew. It’s impossible to imagine a pilot more
qualified for the job of coaching Helen to a
It was only from flying
formation that Bob could
see changes in attitude by
the 414 in time to instruct
Helen how to respond.
When he got to the airport, Bob hopped
up on the wing of his Bonanza and found
the door locked—and his airplane key at
home. But, the Collins family also owns an
A36 Bonanza, and it was fueled and ready
to go, and the key was there. Not his own
familiar airplane, but close enough, and it
was ready to fly.