Scott Main


Pop quiz: Name the lovely shade of blue that distinguishes the Air Force’s Presidential fleet. Scott Main knows, at least as it applies to one of the airplanes assigned to the Presidential fleet in the mid-1950s. The improbable answer: Baltic Blue, as in the very same Baltic Blue that Oldsmobile applied to the steel bodies that rolled out of the factory in 1954. Main knows this because of research that he and some sleuths at Twin Commander Aircraft LLC did in preparation for painting the very rare L-26 Commander he owns, has restored, and flies around to air shows.

Main’s 1955-vintage Commander is one of 15 the U.S. Air Force bought from Aero Commander for use in the Presidential fleet. It’s essentially a Commander 560A with special markings and paint. The story goes that, after he suffered a stroke and was recuperating at his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Dwight D. Eisenhower instructed his staff to get him an airplane that could take off in Washington, fly the 60 or so miles to Gettysburg, and land at his grass strip.

The then-new Aero Commander was the choice, but Air Force brass objected to the President riding in a piston-powered twin. However, when Aero Commander demonstrated the capability and safety of its new twin by removing one of the propellers before taking off from Oklahoma City and flying to Washington D.C., they relented.

The result was the purchase of 15 Commanders to transport the President and other high-level government officials on short trips. The baker’s dozen 560As and two 680s that the Air Force bought were the first and only piston-powered twins ever employed in the Presidential fleet. They received the military designation L-26, which even today is little-known among warbird afficianados.

Main has obtained the military records of his airplane, which has a pair of serial numbers—247 from Aero Commander, and 55-4638 from the Air Force—and according to its military records it remained in government service until 1973. Its history after being sold as surplus is unclear—it may have flown weather research missions for the University of North Dakota—but eventually it was bought at auction by two Oklahoma men who intended to restore it, Main said. Instead, the airplane languished.

More than a dozen years ago a friend of Main’s was pressuring him to partner on an airplane. Main, who has been flying for 40 years, has done it all in terms of flying—he was an instructor, he repossessed airplanes, he flew as a charter and corporate pilot, he is a lifelong warbird fan and former warbird judge at Oshkosh and Sun ‘n Fun, and for the last 30 years he has flown for a major U.S. airline. He grew up working on cars and airplanes—he is an A&P—and had restored a North American T-6 to Oshkosh award-winning condition. But he had tired of the expense and hassle of being a warbird owner and sold the T-6, vowing never to buy another airplane. That did not deter his friend, who said he found an Aero Commander 560A in Oklahoma. "I said ‘Geared engines and pressure carburetors—forget it!’ " Main laughs.

Then his friend said it may have been one of the airplanes Eisenhower used. "Tell me more," Main said to his friend. The hook was set. Main bought the L-26.

"It was in rough shape," he says, but he got it airworthy and flew it for several years before parking it in a hangar at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. The annual inspection and insurance lapsed, and the airplane sat. In 2005 Hurricane Wilma blew through, damaging Main’s hangar and the airplane inside.

The storm pushed the hangar door off its rollers, and it fell on the nose of the airplane. The hangar sidewalls collapsed onto the left wing. The wind pushed the airplane into support beams, damaging the flaps. And there was water damage. Although not severe, the damage had to be repaired. Main worked at it, then decided it was time do it right and restore s/n 247 to its 55-4638 Air Force glory.

Getting the paint scheme and markings correct wasn’t a problem, but getting the color right was. Main enlisted the help of Twin Commander Aircraft LLC to research obscure records, including military and Aero Commander files. They determined that the Air Force specified the airplanes be painted "Baltic Blue."

Great, but what exactly was Baltic Blue? In the early days Aero Commander painted airplanes in colors borrowed from Ford Thunderbirds and Lincolns. But in 1955, the year Main’s L-26 was completed, Ford Motor Company did not have a Baltic Blue in its roster of colors.

Twin Commander’s Pam Brown eventually solved the mystery when she found a reference to the color in the Air Force order for the aircraft. It helped identify the color as one used by Oldsmobile on its 1954 cars. "It was a DuPont Dulux color," Main says.

Mystery solved, Main took the airplane to Robert Loomis at Executive Jet Refinishing in Stuart, Florida. "He got excited about the project, and went way beyond the call of duty," Main says. Six weeks later the airplane emerged with every bit of the exterior spit, polish, and military bearing it had 55 years ago when Aero Commander handed the airplane over at Bolling Air Force Base.

After it was painted, Main went to work on the inside, gutting the interior. He replaced the original 1970s-vintage interior with leather-covered seats, and installed more contemporary avionics equipment in the panel. "The panel is not original—I updated it slightly," he says, "but I tried to keep as much of the 1955 look as possible." One component he did not have to put much time into was the engines. They had been overhauled years earlier but are still low time and run well. "The engines were the high point of the project," he says. "To start one I just prime, hit the starter, and in two blades it’s running like a sewing machine. The only issue is "sealing endless leaks,’" he says.

The project was completed in the fall of 2010. Its first public appearance was at the Wings Over Homestead air show at the Homestead Air Reserve Base south of Miami. "People loved it, but they scratched their heads because they had never heard of an L-26," says Main. Based on his research, Main does not believe his airplane ever flew the President. That duty was reserved for one of the two Aero Commander 680s the Air Force operated. However, it did transport high-level officials, and as far as he knows it is the only one of the original 15 purchased that is restored, airworthy, and actively flying.

(The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, has in its collection the Aero Commander 680 assigned to President Eisenhower. It carries the Air Force designation U-4B.

Main is happy with his decision to restore and fly the Commander. He calls it "the perfect warbird. There’s room for six friends, folding chairs, and coolers," he says. "And, at the air shows it’s a built-in shade tree. Plus, it’s a pleasure to fly, and everybody loves it. I get lots of positive comments."

Main stopped going to air shows when he sold the T-6. Now, thanks to the L-26, he’s back into it "and loving it. My kids fly with me! The project was expensive and very time-consuming, but well worth the effort to save an important chapter of American aviation history."

Bill Borchert


We all know professional pilots who have grown jaded with flying. What began as a passion became, over time, nothing more than a job, and if you listen to their complaining, a not-very-satisfying job at that. You won’t hear such complaining from Bill Borchert, a former Air Force instructor pilot who retired in September 2002 from what he calls a “terrific” career at Delta Air Lines. How is he spending his retirement years? He probably would say “What retirement?” and with good reason. Borchert is part owner of a primary flight school, and personally instructs students in a turboprop twin. He also shuttles between flight school, extended family, and winter retreat in a beautiful Dash 10T-powered 690A Twin Commander.

A native West Virginian, Borchert enrolled in the Air Force ROTC Flight Indoctrination Program while an undergrad at West Virginia University in Morgantown. After 40 hours of instruction he got his Private certificate, and upon graduating was awarded a regular commission in the Air Force.

He was assigned to Craig Air Force Base near Selma, Alabama (now Craig Field Airport—KSEM), as an instructor teaching undergraduate pilot trainees to fly the T37. After five years of service he resigned his commission, and soon after was hired by Delta. His first assignment was as a flight engineer on DC-8s flying out of New Orleans.

In September 1980 he was a passenger on a Delta flight en route to Atlanta, where he was to take regularly scheduled training, when two passengers hijacked the airplane to Havana. It was a cordial arrival in Cuba. The airport opened up its restaurant, and Borchert and fellow passengers enjoyed a good meal. “We got that out of the way, and flew back to Atlanta,” he says. Once there he decided to meet a Delta flight coming in from Columbia that was going on to New Orleans. Ironically, it, too, was hijacked after leaving Columbia. Borchert says the rest of his 32-year career at Delta was, thankfully, “uneventful.”

bob mays twin commander Over the next three decades Borchert flew just about every model airplane in Delta’s fleet, culminating in the Boeing 767-400. In his off time he invested in various projects, including hotels and real estate. After retiring from Delta he invested in a flight school, Falcon Aviation Academy, based at the Newnan-Coweta County Airport in Newnan, Georgia, with bases at Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field south of Atlanta, Dekalb-Peachtree Airport north of Atlanta, and Athens/Ben Epps Airport in Athens, Georgia.

Borchert soon found himself doing more than just managing his investment. As part of a training package involving airline-sponsored students from China, Falcon gives each student 10 hours of high-performance instruction in a King Air E90. When the school needed another instructor qualified in the King Air, Borchert agreed to help out.

Borchert owns one-third of the King Air, which also is used for charter flights. Along with its use for instruction and charter, Borchert occasionally flew it to visit family in West Virginia, Louisiana, and Texas; on golf outings; and to commute to a home in Southwest Florida. Meanwhile, he began to develop an interest in Twin Commanders. “People told me about its weight-carrying capability, ease of handling, and the low cost of operation,” he says.

That interest eventually led him to Eagle Creek Aviation Services, where in November 2008 he purchased N75U—a 690A powered by TPE331-10T engines and equipped with a full Meggitt Magic glass panel including pilot and copilot EFIS displays and an electronic engine and systems instrumentation display. Borchert had the airplane painted and the interior refurbished, and the result is a beautiful, capable, high-peformance ride.

The pillows in the passenger cabin are embroidered with a “TAC Air” logo. “It stands for Take A Chance,” Borchert laughs, then lays the blame squarely on his son. “He came up with it.”

bob mays twin commander The differences between the King Air, which has been retrofitted with Dash 10 engines—and the Twin Commander were immediately evident. “On a trip from Falcon Field to Ft. Myers, Florida, the King Air averaged 100 gph block-to-block,” Borchert says. “The Twin Commander on the same route burns 85 gph and flies 25 knots faster. In the winter it cruises at 300 knots, and 285 knots in summer. It’s an efficient flying machine.”

Given its performance and cost-effectiveness, the Twin Commander is proving to be a good investment for Borchert. Owning a large flight school may be a riskier venture, but Borchert, who is approaching his 50th year as a pilot, says the decision to invest in the school was at least partly based on other factors, chief among them a continuing passion for flying. “In aviation,” he says, “heart overcomes intellect.”

Jeff Berg


Any day that you can combine business with flying is a good day. And if the business you are flying in support of is surfing, surely that makes for an extra-good day. Jeff Berg—lifelong surfer, successful surfing entrepreneur, and chief pilot of two Twin Commanders—is enjoying lots of extra-good days.

One of the companies he is actively involved with as owner/investor is Surfline, which he describes as “the 800-pound gorilla in the world of surfing and action sports.” The company’s website,, is one-stop online shopping for surfing news, features, gear, travel, photos, videos, and most important, surf reports and forecasts for beaches around the world.

Someone has to research the exotic surfing destinations that reports on, and who better than Surfline’s chairman and chief pilot. “That’s what got me started in flying,” Berg says. “I started going with friends who were flying regularly to some pretty remote places in Baja, Mexico, to surf. The more I did it I thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’ We were escaping the crowds in California and finding phenomenal surf with very few people around.”


Berg grew up surfing in the Atlantic Ocean off Ft. Pierce, Florida. “If you have any ambition as a surfer, you start thinking, ‘Where am I going to go to surf any real waves?’ So you go to the Outer Banks, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Central America, Hawaii, Asia. There is great surf everywhere, a lot of it undiscovered. That’s part of the fun and adventure. That’s where with a plane you can do some pretty interesting things.”

As a teenager Berg used to fly with his younger brother, but Berg’s aspiration to become a pilot himself was set aside as he pursued an entrepreneurial career. His interest was rekindled when he hooked up with friends who were flying to good surfing destinations. “I thought, ‘Enough is enough.’ I really need to do this.”

As soon as he earned his Private certificate Berg began renting Cessna 172s to build time and experience, but he also quickly transitioned into multiengine and instrument training. His fly-and-surf mentor was Mike Castillo, whom Berg describes as “a Baja bush pilot legend in the surf world.” Castillo had once owned a piston Twin Commander, and his praise of its capabilities was not lost on Berg when he began to research an airplane to buy.

“The more I flew and talked with these friends the more I realized that the perfect aerial vehicle for missions was an Aero Commander,” he says. In 2003 Berg bought N62LL, a 1958 500A Commander that in 1963 was converted to a 500B by replacing the Lycoming IO-470M engines to IO-540-B1Cs. A year or so after buying it Berg had it repainted with a dramatic ocean-blue curling wave cascading across the fuselage midsection.


The Twin Commander has turned out to be a good choice. “It has the right combination of payload and performance, especially short-field takeoff and landing,” Berg says. “We’re loading up people and boards and equipment, and often camping equipment as well, and flying over a good bit of water and into short desert strips.

“The two engines are great, the payload is great, and the ability to get in and out of tight strips is really important. The high wing helps, too, for exploring and doing aerial photography. The extra clearance also is good when operating into and out of dirt strips.”

The airplane is equipped with long-range tanks (210 gallons), good for seven hours or more of flying. “I can do 1,000 nmi with room to spare, which is pretty nice,” Berg says. And thanks to an STC that allows surfboards to be stowed in the tailcone, he can take up to six surfboards on his trips. “That, plus the room it has in the cabin, makes it hard to beat.”

Along with trips to Baja , mainland Mexico, and Central America, Berg has used the Twin Commander to find good surfing in the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. “I fly over a lot of water to get there,” he says. “I wouldn’t do it in a single. And with some other twins I couldn’t get in and out of some of the strips I fly to, especially with the payload of the Twin Commander. It’s the best surf SUV that I’ve found.”


Early in 2010 Berg doubled the airborne research fleet when he bought a Commander 1000. “I got the disease—more speed and range,” he says. “ I looked at all the alternatives, and given where I go and what I do there was nothing that could touch it for the money. The range and speed are unbelievable. Twice I’ve gone nonstop across the country, from Carlsbad, California, to Ft. Pierce, Florida, and landed with close to an hour of fuel left.

“I’ve flown from Long beach, California, to southern Mexico, 1,600 nmi nonstop, on a surf mission. We took off with four big guys and a lot of gear and flew close to six hours.”

Berg still calls Ft. Pierce his primary residence—his parents and two of his brothers still live there—but he also sets up camp in San Clemente, California, during south swell season (summer), and ranges wherever good surfing takes him. “In the summer I try to set myself up so I can work just about anywhere. I’m a pretty passionate surfer, and the Pacific is much better than the Atlantic for surfing in the summer. During the winter the Caribbean has fantastic surf, so I just try to strike.

“It helps that is the best surf forecast service in world,” he says. “With that and the best aviation hardware, we can do surgical strikes. We can plan knowing there will be a swell hitting and that we’ll get really good surf. Often we’re taking pros along, generating content and photos for the website. Recording swell events is something surfers love to consume. We try to accommodate them.


“Surfline is cataloging and databasing pretty much all the surf breaks in the world,” Berg says. “That means cataloging most of the beaches in the world. And there is no better way to do that than with an airplane.”

Buying the 1000 has not diminished Berg’s enthusiasm for the piston Commander. “I have no intention of selling it,” he says. Having the two Commanders gives him a choice—the 500B for shorter trips and especially into smaller unimproved strips, and the 1000 for the long hauls.

Berg’s decision to start flying is working out quite well. The Commanders have greatly enhanced his ability to pursue his passion for surfing as well as the business opportunities that flow from that passion. “I plan to just keep flying and learning and enjoying it,” he says. “I want to keep becoming a better pilot, keep getting utility out of the planes. Right now I’m a pretty happy camper.”

Jerry Severson


Jerry Severson did a lot of flying earlier this year in his Dash 10T-powered 690A Twin Commander. His logbook shows 115 flight hours in 8 weeks, for a total distance covered of 35,000 statute miles. That’s about 10,000 miles farther than flying the circumference of the earth at the equator. In fact, that’s just what Severson did—fly around the world.

From mid-May to early July, Severson, sometimes alone, sometimes with a changing cast of buddies, flew to 50 different airports in 24 countries. It was the trip of a lifetime. “Usually I was two days at most in any one place,” he says. “It was all about the journey, not the destinations, and it was one hell of a journey.”

His constant companion for the entire adventure—his Twin Commander—proved to be the ideal magic carpet. It had the performance to handle any airport conditions, climb quickly to cooler cruise altitudes, and make long, lonely segments seem relatively short. It had the legs to allow Severson to depart Aswan, Egypt, overfly a planned but undesirable fuel stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and continue on to Bahrain. And it offered up a spectacular, unobstructed view of a very big and very diverse world passing by below.

One more remarkable thing about the performance of his 690A: in all of that frequent, varied flying there was not one mechanical problem. None. Zero squawks.


Severson spent a year carefully planning the trip, and the successful results speak to his preparation. Except that, early on, it looked like his timing was going to be all wrong. After departing from home base in Bozeman, Montana, and making stops at St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Quebec City and Kuuijuag, Quebec, he planned his next fuel stops at Narsarsuaq, Greenland, and Reykjavik, Iceland, before heading to St. Andrews, Scotland, and three days of world-class golfing.

But the ash cloud from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in southern Iceland was drifting over the North Atlantic and Europe, forcing him to change the planned itinerary. “For the first 10 days of the trip I didn’t go where I wanted to go,” he says.

St. Andrews turned out to be a lunch stop—no time for golf, thanks to the approaching ash cloud. Next stop: Amsterdam, but that turned out to be a simple overnight, again because of the threat of ash. Then it was on to Berlin. Munich was next up, but that had to be scratched in favor of Budapest. “That was the end of the ash cloud,” Severson says. Back to the plan, but not the end of the surprises.

“From the Greek Isles I was headed to Luxor,” he explains, “but then Egypt threw an unpredicted sandstorm at me. Cairo was iffy so I went to Aswan instead. It turned out to be a treat. I ended up staying in the best hotel. I shot pool with the general manager, who upgraded me to President Hosni Mubarak’s suite—all eight rooms of it.”


When the sandstorm swept through Severson waited and wondered what the effect would be on his airplane. It was covered up, but tiny, windblown sand crystals find their way past any barrier. Severson decided to seek some advice. He called his maintenance facility, Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis, where President Matt Hagans assembled a team to conference with Severson. They suggested several strategies including motoring the engines to blow sand out without heating and potentially melting it in the engines. “Everything worked perfectly,” Severson says. “That was a great resources to have.”

The only other unscheduled climatic event was a typhoon. “The typhoon season began June 1, and it tossed one at me,” Severson says. “I was going to stay in Muscat, Oman, but I had to leave after lunch because a typhoon was scheduled to come. Other than the ash cloud, the sandstorm, and the typhoon, all the other weather during the trip was pretty darn good.”

From Oman he flew to India, hoping to avoid Iranian and Pakistani airspace on the way. But published airways took him into Iran for eight long minutes. He was handed off to Iranian air traffic controllers, who turned out to be “very friendly,” Severson says. “I had no problems anywhere with ATC,” he adds. “They were outstanding through the entire trip, they spoke better English than the controllers in Latin America, and they offered very helpful changes.”


Severson had friends rendezvous with him at various places and ride along. “They would come for part of the trip, then leave and someone else would come along. And no one got sick. I did have a few days alone, which was dandy.”

His favorite stops? Europe—“I’ve flown there several times before and always enjoy it,” and, “I was 10 days in Australia. They drink beer well and they are proud of their convict heritage. Great people!”

Severson’s self-imposed limit of a maximum 900 nmi leg between stops (his 690A has standard 384-gallons-useable tanks) was tested on the flight from Seoul, South Korea, to the Russian seaport city of Vladivostok. To avoid North Korea he planned to head west and then north over the Peoples Republic of China. At the last minute China refused to grant an overflight permit. The alternative—flying to the east of North Korea—meant an 1100-mile leg, all over water. The prudent, though expensive, decision was to make an interim stop in Japan, and then proceed on to Vladivostok.

The finale of the trip was the Russian portion, exiting the country in far northeastern Siberia. “It was four long legs over lonely country with not many airports and alternates many hundreds of miles apart,” Severson says. He had to make an instrument approach in Russia nearly to minimums in driving rain, but fortunately did not have to divert to an alternate.

He took off from Anadyr, Russia, on a Thursday at 4:00 p.m. local time for a two-hour trip to Nome, Alaska, arriving on Wednesday at 10:00 p.m.


Severson used Universal Weather and Flight Planning for flight planning, ground handling, and other details during the trip. “It would be very difficult to do it all yourself,” he says. “One of their great recommendations was that they prearrange ground transportation to and from the airport. We could always get a cab to the hotel, but getting back to the airport would have been a corker. We would need to go back to the general aviation area, and we wouldn’t have had a clue how to tell a cab driver to get there.”

Severson has wanted to do an around-the-world trip for a long time. “I’ve known a number of corporate pilots who have done it, but not like this,” he says. “They make few stops and don’t see much. With my 900-mile limit I had a lot of stops.”

He says he’d do it all again tomorrow. “It was SOOO much fun—more fun than you can imagine. And the Commander was just excellent. It is a superb airplane in which to do something like this.”

Brad Goldman


goldman Brad Goldman has been fighting fires for most of his adult life. It’s his passion, and for the past nearly 30 years his job, too—he’s with the Snohomish County Fire District 7 in Washington State, north of Seattle. Some 25 years ago he learned to fly, and it, too, became a passion. Which explains Goldman’s summer job: fighting fires from the air.

Goldman owns and operates Gold Aero, Inc., based in Arlington, Washington. His two-airplane fleet—a Cessna 205 and Twin Commander 500S Shrike—function as aerial supervision aircraft over large wildland fires. An air attack supervisor in the airplane controls the airspace over the fire, and makes tactical decisions on what type of aerial resources are needed to support the ground crews battling the blaze. Air attack aircraft serve a critical function in the high-stakes effort to contain raging, fast-moving wildfires.

Goldman founded the business 11 years ago with the 205. A few years later he heard that his primary customer, the U.S. Forest Service, was going to require that its contractors fly only multiengine aircraft, so he began to research the options. A high wing is an obvious attribute given the need for good all-around visibility on an air attack aircraft. That narrowed the choices down to the centerline-thrust Cessna 337 Skymaster; the Partenavia, a fixed-gear piston twin built in Italy; and Twin Commanders.

He asked air attack supervisors for their preferences. “Most said that their first choice is a Twin Commander,” Goldman said.“The only thing I knew about Twin Commanders was that Bob Hoover flew one. So I started learning about them.”

That effort lasted two years, and eventually led him to San Jose, California, where he found the second-to-last Shrike Commander that Rockwell built. Although it had only 3500 hours on the airframe, it was nowhere near ready for active duty fighting wildfires. In fact, it was already well into retirement. The engines, props, and landing gear all needed overhauling; the avionics were outdated; and the paint was oxidized. Goldman bought it. “We spent a full year-plus going completely through the airplane, making it better than new,” he explained. “It was a lot of work, but now it’s a good airplane, very reliable.” Most important, “the Forest Service folks really enjoy flying in it,” Goldman added.

goldman Last year was the Commander’s first full season as an air attack aircraft. A typical mission has the pilots reporting for duty early in the morning at a temporary base for the airplanes and helicopters involved in battling a blaze. All pilots attend a briefing to review weather forecasts, the status of the fire and its predicted “behavior,” safety issues, and the plans and objectives for the day. Then it’s time to preflight the aircraft, meet up with the air attack supervisor who will be in the right seat and possibly a trainee-observer, and launch.

“We’re usually the first one over the fire,” Goldman explained. “We look for changes in the fire lines that occurred overnight, and relay that information to the fire bosses on the ground.” The air attack supervisor also communicates with crews on ground who have just arrived on scene, and calls in other ground-based resources. All the while directing tanker aircraft and making sure no uninvited airplanes jeopardize safety.

goldman The air attack supervisor also monitors flight times of each aircraft to ensure they have adequate fuel for the mission, and calls in replacements to allow for refueling. The objective is to avoid any gaps in the firefighting effort.

The Gold Aero Commander has long-range tanks (223 gallons), but Goldman said they don’t usually depart with full fuel. That’s because they typically fly for about four hours at a time, and most of that is spent loitering over the blaze with the power set at 16 inches MP and 2200 rpm for reduced fuel flows. The aircraft is equipped with a fuel totalizer and engine analyzer. Most days they fly one sortie in the morning and one in the afternoon, for a total of eight hours. “If it’s a big fire we use two air attack aircraft,” Goldman explained, “with one flying in relief.”

The Commander does not have air-conditioning. “I’m flying Forest Service guys around who are pretty tough,” Goldman said. “But there’s enough air flow in the cockpit when we’re flying two-to-three-thousand feet over the fire.”

goldman Sometimes there’s smoke in the cockpit as well. “That was one of weirdest things I discovered when I started doing this—flying and smelling smoke, and it’s normal,” Goldman said. “But it’s woodsmoke, not smoke from an electrical or gasoline-fed fire.

“You have to fly in smoke when you’re fighting fires, but if you can’t see through the smoke it’s not wise to fly through it,” he added, especially since they’re typically flying over hilly or mountainous terrain. “What you want to avoid are the large thermals, large columns of smoke. Most people have no concept of the power and energy in a large fire. I’ve seen smoke columns from a fire go up to 35,000 feet. They make their own thunderstorms. I’ve seen tree limbs go past the aircraft in a smoke column.”

Because they fly often in smoky conditions, Goldman changes air filters every 50 hours and washes the aircraft frequently.

Goldman splits the air attack flying in the Commander with one other pilot. “It’s a real treat to fly the Commander,” he said. “It’s a solid, tough airplane, and I very much enjoy flying it. It’s very forgiving as far as high-performance twins go. It’s a good airplane, and perfect for the mission. And it gets a lot of attention. People look at the airplane and ask questions about it.”

Goldman said he is happy with his decision to buy and refurbish the Shrike. “The last tactical group supervisor I flew with said it’s the best air attack airplane he’s been in. It’s comfortable, and the visibility is outstanding. And if the customer is happy, I’m tickled!”