It was more than adventure

It was more than adventure

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Out of control – flying a vintage airplane in Ireland
Quiz: sectional charts

Quiz: sectional charts

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Ferrying the “Pokey Porter” 13,000 miles

Ferrying the “Pokey Porter” 13,000 miles

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Friday Photo: Golden Gate Bridge

Friday Photo: Golden Gate Bridge

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What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part four: realistic
My introduction to bush flying in Panama

My introduction to bush flying in Panama

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Growing up near a grass strip

Growing up near a grass strip

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Turn from cockpit

The three keys to flying safely

Part of the team – what it means to be a pilot

New Articles

Our most recent posts
New York at night

It was more than adventure

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While I have written about the adventures or misadventures of flying during my career, I don’t wish to leave the impression that I was in constant danger or that my career could be characterized as hazardous; it wasn’t. There were times when I witnessed unbelievable beauty—sights that I wished my loved ones could have shared.

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Luscombe parked on grass

Out of control – flying a vintage airplane in Ireland

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“Don’t you have to get permission from ATC or someone?” That’s the most common question I get when people discover I launch myself into the sky from a field. Confusion then turns to disbelief when I tell them “nope.” I usually let that little pot of incredulity simmer for a while; sometimes I’ll stir things with a “why would I need permission?”

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Quiz: sectional charts

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Even with iPads and iPhones, the sectional chart is still an essential tool for pilots. From planning a route to avoiding restricted airspace, no other resource packs as much information into a single page. How much do you know about all the airspace, airport, and obstacle symbols? Take our latest quiz to find out.

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PC-6 takeoff

Ferrying the “Pokey Porter” 13,000 miles

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This account concerns the delivery of one Fairchild Heli-Porter PC-6 from the factory in Maryland to Yosu, South Korea. As a pilot for World Aviation Services, Inc., I have been assigned the delivery and will train a Korean crew upon arrival. The Heli-Porter is a single engine, turboprop, short takeoff and landing aircraft capable of carrying eight persons 420 miles at an optimum speed of 115 knots, hence my private nomer of “Pokey Porter.”

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Friday Photo: Golden Gate Bridge

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As a new pilot, I’ve been nervous about going through class B airspace. Today was a perfect VFR day, and I took the plunge. I took a trip up the California coast past Half Moon Bay, across San Francisco, and then straight down highway 101 past KSFO. The controllers were fast and furious, but the flight was beautiful and uneventful.

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Cirrus SR22

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part four: realistic

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In this off-again on-again series I have touched on awareness, intelligence and coordination. Those are all important. Being realistic also sounds like part of a plan for flying. The first thing that comes to mind is the extremely tired old saw about knowing your (or your airplane’s) limitations. In fact, that has been said with evangelical zeal so many times that, with this mention, I am going to leave it behind.

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PA-11 on grass

Growing up near a grass strip

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My uncle and his friend opened up a flight training school after the war on our family’s Northern Indiana dairy farm with a 3000-foot grass strip and farm-engineered hangar. Many former military pilots and a lot of local people took lessons and rented planes. I was enchanted with all the activity.

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Friday Photo: Twin Bonanza sunset

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Seeing a beautiful sunset is one of the reasons pilots learn to fly. For Chris White, though, this sunset was even more special than usual. Sure, the Twin Bonanza he was flying is a unique and interesting airplane. But he was most proud of the mission he was flying: to transport a WWII Medal of Honor recipient to the groundbreaking for a memorial.

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Dick's Blog

Opinion and analysis from Richard Collins
Cirrus SR22

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part four: realistic

by

In this off-again on-again series I have touched on awareness, intelligence and coordination. Those are all important. Being realistic also sounds like part of a plan for flying. The first thing that comes to mind is the extremely tired old saw about knowing your (or your airplane’s) limitations. In fact, that has been said with evangelical zeal so many times that, with this mention, I am going to leave it behind.

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Sugarbush airport

Flying on edge – getting down to the nitty-gritty

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Margins are a basic in safer flying. Maybe that’s just another way of saying to always cut yourself a little slack, and what it means is to stay away from the edges of the envelope. Where this often becomes critical is when the airplane is being asked to do something it either won’t do, or will just barely do. That is when precise flying is required and to use an old term, it often has to be done by the seat of your pants.

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Smoke in cockpit

Mayday! What is an emergency?

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If you read through the available information on emergencies, there is but one conclusion. Everything is covered, several times, in the millions of words written about this but much, even most, of it revolves around the legalities. Logic suggests that if you are up to your ears in gators, what counts are results and if you get a good result you can think about the legal part later.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman

General aviation trends in 12 charts

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What’s the state of the general aviation industry? That’s a question we hear at lot at Air Facts, sometimes by prophets of doom looking for confirmation, sometimes by new pilots trying to get a handle on the community they have just joined, and sometimes by outsiders who genuinely don’t know. Unfortunately there’s no simple answer, but these 12 graphs offer a partial answer.

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Clouds from cockpit

We all need to be weather geeks now

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While apps like ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot can simplify the flight planning process, if we’re not careful they can also make it confusing. We are all our own Flight Service Stations now, forced to assemble weather information, evaluate it, and make a plan. Which sources can be trusted? What do they all mean? How much weather information is enough? To answer questions like these, pilots need more than just a passing acquaintance with Aviation Weather.

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ADS-B radar

When the margins get thin

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Richard Collins once summed up risk management, a subject that now elicits PhD-level jargon, in four simple words: “it’s all about margins.” Shave the margins too close and you’re one bit of bad luck away from an accident. The importance of those margins was driven home for me on a recent flight in a Pilatus PC-12, when I allowed schedule pressure to reduce them just a little too much, but not in the usual way.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Clouds above airport tower

Stumbling into IMC without a plan

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I believe this is where things go bad for well-trained pilots. It’s not that we can’t improvise and come up with new plans, but when we’re a little lost and our original plan isn’t working out, we need a few moments to compose a new one. I was in the pattern in IMC, trying to descend well below pattern altitude to get below the scattered clouds while trying to do what I told the tower I would be doing – and also not get in trouble with ATC.

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152 in a spin

A humbling solo flight

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So I poured the power on and hauled back on the yoke. With the lighter load, that yoke came right back and the nose of the plane pointed right up. For a split second I thought “that’s strange” and before I knew it, I was pointing straight down at the ground in a left spin.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
Flight instructor in cockpit

Talking at non-towered airports

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During the last several months, I traveled around the country presenting an AOPA safety seminar on non-towered airport operations. I had some pretty interesting encounters/discussions with other pilots during my seminars. This subject seemed to inflame the passion in a lot of folks. I’d like to share some of my observations with you.

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Class B airspace

What is a Class B airspace excursion?

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Security makes getting a Center, TRACON or tower tour increasingly difficult, but I have done it several times dating back to my first tower visit (VNY) in 1965, and I think it is worth the effort. It is fun, educational, and can enhance safety by allowing you to spend time in the shoes of the guy or gal on the other side of the frequency. My Denver TRACON visit was no different: I learned stuff, had a great time, met some wonderful people… and got an interesting safety lesson that I would like to relate here.

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Florida at night

A lasting impression: the power of spatial disorientation

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Sam was wise beyond his years and decided to show me what it’s like to fly over the Florida Everglades, at night. We departed our east coast airport in a cozy 152 and headed west toward our normal practice area. So far, so good. As the saying goes I was fat, dumb, and happy enjoying the smooth night air when suddenly all sense of relative motion was lost. I felt as if we were hanging by a string in a dark closet.

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Weather Geek

Understanding Mother Nature
GFA cloud top map

The area forecast is going away – here’s why that’s bad news

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Rumors have swirled for years, but now it’s really happening: the text-based Area Forecast (FA) will officially disappear on October 10, 2017, to be replaced by the Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA). On the surface, this seems like an inevitable step in the transition from coded text products to graphical, interactive weather maps. But before we relegate the FA to the dustbin of history, we should consider a few important details. This transition may not be quite so innocuous.

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Fog around approach lights

Deep dark weather secrets about fog are really no mystery

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It’s not accurate to say that Mother Nature keeps secrets. However, it is spot on to say that Mother Nature harbors all manner of surprises for pilots who fly on without making an effort to develop some personal weather wisdom. One key is in understanding that what you see and feel is what you get, regardless of what is forecast.

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Surface analysis chart

Weather forecasts – there’s more to it than just charts

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On two recent occasions, I have spent my day staring down FAR 121.613. Both cases required a more in-depth study of the day’s weather than a simple scan of the TAF. Regardless of which part of the FARs you are operating under, the area forecast discussions put out by local forecasters are incredibly valuable when preparing for a day’s flying. They will give you the feel of a personal briefing.

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Young Pilots

Stories from the next generation
Liftoff of Cessna

I had the sky to myself: my first solo at 16

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My takeoff was great and my landing was spectacular; “a greaser” as Dan would say. “Two more like that,” said Dan, “and I’ll let you fly solo!” My heart pounded. I knew I was close to my first solo, but now, with both parents right there with me? To say I was excited would have been a terrible understatement.

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Kids at airport

Aviation’s future: a young pilot’s perspective

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“We need more young pilots, like you,” is a statement that I find myself hearing quite often. I typically hear this coming from older pilots and I completely agree with them. But a lot of the older pilots that I know got into aviation because they were either in the military, or they grew up around an airport. Today, these are not usually the top reasons why people get involved in aviation.

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Cessna in hangar

More comfortable in the air: an Adirondack odyssey

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My first long-distance flight in a single-engine aircraft began exactly like every other mission we’ve ever flown: with my worrying about the weather and Dad squinting at the radar image on his iPad, assuring me that we would be fine as long as we got in the air within an hour. I call our trips missions because we rarely fly without a purpose.

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Friday Photo

Incredible views from the cockpit

Friday Photo: Golden Gate Bridge

by

As a new pilot, I’ve been nervous about going through class B airspace. Today was a perfect VFR day, and I took the plunge. I took a trip up the California coast past Half Moon Bay, across San Francisco, and then straight down highway 101 past KSFO. The controllers were fast and furious, but the flight was beautiful and uneventful.

Read More

Friday Photo: Twin Bonanza sunset

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Seeing a beautiful sunset is one of the reasons pilots learn to fly. For Chris White, though, this sunset was even more special than usual. Sure, the Twin Bonanza he was flying is a unique and interesting airplane. But he was most proud of the mission he was flying: to transport a WWII Medal of Honor recipient to the groundbreaking for a memorial.

Read More

Friday Photo: the floating city of Venice

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Venice, Italy, is a legendary tourist destination. Millions flock to the island city and its picturesque canals for a scenic trip by gondola. But as Benoit Vollmer shows in this Friday Photo, the view from the air is pretty spectacular too. He took this photo from his Robin RD-400 during a trip from Paris to Albania.

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