So You Want To Be A Ferry Pilot - Spike Nasmyth Ever have a burning desire to fly airplanes that are as old or older than you are? Spike Nasmyth, who must be type-rated in just about every kind of airplane that exists, has written a quasi-memoir of his life ferrying old, often beat-up, airplanes around the world. Really a series of stories, each about an especially interesting trip; reading them is like sitting around the fire with someone's grandfather who has had some interesting experiences, not to mention a bushelfull of luck. Like the time he was ferrying an older Cessna from Pelau to the Philippines, a fuel drum strapped in the back seat. They discovered they were losing fuel at an extraordinary rate and after finally landing (an being accused of smuggling in Ferdinand Marcos) they discovered that the main fuel water strainer was literally hanging by a thread, the safety wire, which, had it come off, would have drained all the fuel in a matter of seconds.

Or the time he was asked to get an old DC-3 ready to fly and then deliver to another destination. Fortunately, he had some excellent Thai mechanics (he doesn't speak Thai) and a ready supply of replacement engines. On the first two flights, he lost 3 engines (a DC-3 only has 2, so you get the problem,) all from main bearing destruction. These were engines that had been overhauled, stored with oil and sealed. The resulting inquiry proved to be quite interesting. (Spoiler coming if you care about such things.) Turns out that in a particular series of Pratt & Whitney engines that the main bearings had been constructed of a particular alloy, which, when in contact with another alloy also present in the engines for more than five years, would begin to deteriorate leading to catastrophic main bearing failure. The delivery flight to Australia from Thailand was a masterpiece of improvisation, and if you ever need to know how to use a hand-held GPS as an ILS, check out chapter 4 as they need to land in Kuala Lumpur in thunderstorms. This is really seat-of-the pants flying.

Another story I enjoyed was told by the first officer of a flight of 3 Let-410s which were being flown from Smolensk to Australia. The bureaucracy at a variety of their stops could be infuriating. The paperwork didn't always get done properly, palms had to be greased, and the proper dose of sycophancy applied. Not only that, but often language was a barrier. Just buying six train tickets in Russia took six hours. And then there were the balky transfer pumps. Since several legs of the flight were longer than the normal cruising range of the planes, 55 gallon drums of fuel were install in the passenger compartment (making the takeoff weight at just 125% of the maximum, normal for ferry pilots, but stretching limits of the aircraft nevertheless. One transfer pump blew a circuit breaker and after install a new one, cause a fire. Of course, the was fuel lying around that had spilled and been wiped up with rags with burst into flame. Now a fire in an aircraft usually does not end well. In this case, he managed to stomp it out before it got to the fuel drum transfer line and from then on decided not to mess with it without a fire extinguisher in his hands.

Some of the stories are related by other ferry pilots. In one, the pilot's right engine quit and he didn't have enough power to stay aloft so he had to ditch in the ocean with 20 foot swells. The resulting back-flip caused immense personal damage and it was only because a pilot in an accompanying plane radioed his position and circled the wreck that he survived. After almost a year in the hospital and rehab. did he quit? Nope, went right back to ferry flying. Now he's a captain for Air Micronesia.

Always pushing the edge a little, even the uneventful flights are interesting. The pilots picking up planes never quite know what they might find in addition to bribe-seeking customs officials, planes in a state of disrepair, weather issues, one just never knows. The author was a jet fighter pilot in Vietnam who spent several years in a prison camp. There's one funny -- well maybe a little sad, scene where he and his co-pilot get hassled by DEA agents in Miami before they take off in an old DC-3 to be delivered to Columbia. He fought in Vietnam to get hassled by bureaucrats who want to tell him what he can fly? The irony is that the DC-3 was back in Florida, crashed on a drug run with a load of marijuana, before they had arrived back via commercial airlines.

The author does get a little cheeky with bureaucrats. For example, the local tyrant in Pelau wanted to know what Steven was doing with the beat-up airplane Steve had flown to test after some repairs.

"How did you fly that plane without my permission?"

"Wasn't too hard, I just pushed the throttles forward and when it got going fast enough I pulled back a little on the control column and flew off into the sky."