Thank you for your service Sam Puma.


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Sam Puma has a sort of gyroplane project and wanted to learn to fly a gyroplane so he came to Santa Maria for an introductory day. He is in his eighties and has had a remarkable life serving as a flight surgeon, fighter pilot and test pilot in the Marines and now helps people cure their airsickness.

Sam listened intently as I briefed him on our first mission and had clearly done some research and had good questions.

Strong gusting winds were expected around 1:00 so we wanted to get to landing and taking off as soon as possible. We decided to forgo the usual tour of the beach and the Huasna Valley. The plan was to do turns around a point and S turns over a road immediately before coming back to perform some takeoffs and landings if he didn’t scare me.

Sam still had his Marine issue flight suit and if fit him well. As the years advance some joints have a tendency become painful and The Predator is not designed to accommodate uncooperative knee and hip joints. Suffice it to say Sam is a lot tougher than I am. I could feel his pain.

I can’t do the required briefing well from the front seat and to get in the front seat I climb through the back seat requiring Sam to have the painful experience twice.

I demonstrated the takeoff and gave Sam the controls. I could feel him getting a feel for the controls. He was having a little trouble with the rudder pedals and like most fixed wing pilots over controlled with the cyclic. He immediately flew to practical test standards so we headed off to the practice area. Turns around a point went well as did S turns over the road and we decided to try landing and taking off. Sam’s first landing was at .8 hours of dual and the landing was lovely; right on the centerline.

We stopped to debrief remaining in the aircraft and then headed back out to do some pattern work. I demonstrated a pattern and then Sam took the controls and did well. The wind was starting to come up and his last landing required considerable rudder and we landed with zero roll.

Time for some gas and we headed off to self-serve. Rene, a Marine fighter pilot and flight instructor was filling up a Tri Pacer and as we waited I thought about Sam’s joint challenges I called the fuel truck so he would not have to get out of the aircraft. The nice lady from the Jet Center was a little confused about why I would want the truck to bring fuel next to self-serve but managed it well.

Self-serve was not working correctly and Rene came over to apologize for the delay and explain that it was not his fault. I told Sam who Rene was and they exchanged Marine Fighter Pilot talk for a bit. Rene teaches unusual attitudes in a Pitts S2 and was understandably interested in Sam’s cure for airsickness.

It was handy that the fuel truck came by because he fixed the pump for Rene after filling us up.

As we were waiting we watched the wind sock on top of the big hangar become fully erect and quite animated. I checked the ATIS and winds were 270 degrees at 19kts gusting to 29kts. Sam made the decision that he had learned enough and we headed back to the hangar for to debrief and to learn about preflight.

After I wound down we headed off for a nice lunch at Pepper Garcia’s and Sam shared some of his wonderful adventures with me.

I agreed to help Sam with his project any way I could.

We parted friends and I feel proud to know Sam Puma.


  • photo129824.jpg
    75.1 KB · Views: 0
  • photo129965.jpg
    65 KB · Views: 0