Airspeed vs. angle of attack – what pilots don’t understand

Airspeed vs. angle of attack – what pilots don’t understand

Most pilots don’t really understand the relationship between airspeed and angle of attack. If they did, we would not have the loss of control accidents that we do. We fly strictly by numbers because we were taught that way. Very few flight instructors have any experience or knowledge in this area.

A harrowing tale(wheel)

A harrowing tale(wheel)

Back in 1979 I was working as a flight test engineer for Cessna Aircraft at the peak of general aviation’s heyday. One of the perks of my employment at Cessna was delivering aircraft to the dealers on weekends. Most times I would ferry the aircraft out in the morning and take the airlines home in the afternoon.

In the middle of a Cold War, Russians fish in the North Sea

In the middle of a Cold War, Russians fish in the North Sea

I had previous experience in RAAF Fighter Squadrons and was familiar in the use of air-to-air missiles from tours in the Australian Sabre’s sidewinder-equipped aircraft. However, this mission was different where my aircraft was, itself, to become a “missile and see if they can shoot you down,” was the brief by the squadron Intelligence Officer.

Aviation mentors: getting by (and thriving) with a little help from your friends

Aviation mentors: getting by (and thriving) with a little help from your friends

Step back in time; think back to when you were the one looking over the airport fence. What did you ask? How did you ask? Who did you ask? Luckily, I always stumbled into someone who was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of their time and answer my questions.

Is coordinating the use of gizmos to control stick, rudder, pitch and power really flying?

Is coordinating the use of gizmos to control stick, rudder, pitch and power really flying?

Before you accuse me of throwing gasoline on a fire, I’ll say up front that is exactly what I am doing. The airplane, it seems, has become almost secondary. It is this that has sparked the debate. Is the tail wagging the dog?


Logbooks

America’s best airport: DCA

America’s best airport: DCA

Of all the constraints that have been put on general aviation over the years, the most hurtful (to me, at least) is the virtual ban on the light airplane use of Washington National Airport. In my active years, I used it a lot and being able to touch down so close to the center of power was something special. The airport is something special, too.

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Debate

Ice on the wings – would you tell the pilot?

Ice on the wings – would you tell the pilot?

Just as I reached to push the call button and alert the crew that the wings were iced, the First Officer announced, “We’re number one for takeoff,” turned immediately onto the runway, and away we went. The clear, ripply ice on the wings was the only thing I could see; I vividly remember thinking, “Well, it’s a good day to die, sun shining, storm passed.”

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Opinion

Learning to fly – is it worth it?

Learning to fly – is it worth it?

Why would anyone spend $100,000 getting all of the licenses and ratings, work bottom-rung flying jobs to get the 1500 hours, and then seek a $22,000/year position at one of the regionals? It makes no economic sense. For better or worse, commercial aviation is not the glamor industry it used to be. Is there more to it?

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John's blog

Air Facts turns 4 (or 76) – what we’ve learned about pilots

Air Facts turns 4 (or 76) – what we’ve learned about pilots

The original Air Facts magazine was founded 76 years ago last month by Leighton Collins, and we relaunched as an online-only magazine four years ago this month. Over this time period, we’ve debated hot topics, shared great flying stories and revisited some of the unique articles from our history. In reviewing many of these articles, a few trends stand out.

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Recent Articles

Airspeed vs. angle of attack – what pilots don’t understand

Airspeed vs. angle of attack – what pilots don’t understand

Most pilots don’t really understand the relationship between airspeed and angle of attack. If they did, we would not have the loss of control accidents that we do. We fly strictly by numbers because we were taught that way. Very few flight instructors have any experience or knowledge in this area.

read more

A harrowing tale(wheel)

A harrowing tale(wheel)

Back in 1979 I was working as a flight test engineer for Cessna Aircraft at the peak of general aviation’s heyday. One of the perks of my employment at Cessna was delivering aircraft to the dealers on weekends. Most times I would ferry the aircraft out in the morning and take the airlines home in the afternoon.

read more

In the middle of a Cold War, Russians fish in the North Sea

In the middle of a Cold War, Russians fish in the North Sea

I had previous experience in RAAF Fighter Squadrons and was familiar in the use of air-to-air missiles from tours in the Australian Sabre’s sidewinder-equipped aircraft. However, this mission was different where my aircraft was, itself, to become a “missile and see if they can shoot you down,” was the brief by the squadron Intelligence Officer.

read more

Aviation mentors: getting by (and thriving) with a little help from your friends

Aviation mentors: getting by (and thriving) with a little help from your friends

Step back in time; think back to when you were the one looking over the airport fence. What did you ask? How did you ask? Who did you ask? Luckily, I always stumbled into someone who was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of their time and answer my questions.

read more

Is coordinating the use of gizmos to control stick, rudder, pitch and power really flying?

Is coordinating the use of gizmos to control stick, rudder, pitch and power really flying?

Before you accuse me of throwing gasoline on a fire, I’ll say up front that is exactly what I am doing. The airplane, it seems, has become almost secondary. It is this that has sparked the debate. Is the tail wagging the dog?

read more

Solo today – ha!

Solo today – ha!

On this day, just before my first solo flight, my flight instructor wanted to demonstrate high speed taxiing and have me do some. After his demonstration, I began the high speed taxi exercise. However, I got on the brakes instead of only the rudder…

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The taste of humble pie – admitting the “old-timers” were right

The taste of humble pie – admitting the “old-timers” were right

Sometimes in aviation we learn valuable lessons that reach far beyond the technical aspects of flying – like this story. I was young and full of youthful hubris at the time, and I thought I knew everything. I especially thought I knew more than all the “old-timers.”

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Ice on the wings – would you tell the pilot?

Ice on the wings – would you tell the pilot?

Just as I reached to push the call button and alert the crew that the wings were iced, the First Officer announced, “We’re number one for takeoff,” turned immediately onto the runway, and away we went. The clear, ripply ice on the wings was the only thing I could see; I vividly remember thinking, “Well, it’s a good day to die, sun shining, storm passed.”

read more

Destination flying – Outer Banks of North Carolina

Destination flying – Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Outer Banks have a prominent place in aviation history, but they’re also a beautiful place to visit by airplane. Local Ryan Thibodeau offers some airport tips and suggested stops in this pilot’s guide to OBX.

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Air Facts turns 4 (or 76) – what we’ve learned about pilots

Air Facts turns 4 (or 76) – what we’ve learned about pilots

The original Air Facts magazine was founded 76 years ago last month by Leighton Collins, and we relaunched as an online-only magazine four years ago this month. Over this time period, we’ve debated hot topics, shared great flying stories and revisited some of the unique articles from our history. In reviewing many of these articles, a few trends stand out.

read more

Now that was real flying – stick and rudder in a 737

Now that was real flying – stick and rudder in a 737

Many of today’s pilots are usually so addicted to the automatics, that the thought of switching off the autopilot and flying manually is practically a Mayday situation. Yet, when coaxed into switching off the automatic features the almost universal reply is “Jeez – I enjoyed that.”

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One (interesting) day in the life of a corporate pilot

One (interesting) day in the life of a corporate pilot

Sure enough, after a fruitful day, as I get ready to settle in for the evening, the phone rings. It’s my office marine dispatcher wanting to know if I can fly a tugboat captain home right away as he has a family emergency in progress. He is aboard a tugboat somewhere in the upper Chesapeake Bay.

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The low wing Cessna 170 – a great idea that didn’t fly

The low wing Cessna 170 – a great idea that didn’t fly

The three views, of the airplane described by the article title, that accompany this piece were taken from an “unofficial” board size drawing I knew I had stowed away somewhere around the house, but only recently found and reclaimed. The drawing is entitled “Preliminary Design, Model 170 Replacement” and dated February 2, 1955.

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Learning to fly – is it worth it?

Learning to fly – is it worth it?

Why would anyone spend $100,000 getting all of the licenses and ratings, work bottom-rung flying jobs to get the 1500 hours, and then seek a $22,000/year position at one of the regionals? It makes no economic sense. For better or worse, commercial aviation is not the glamor industry it used to be. Is there more to it?

read more

America’s best airport: DCA

America’s best airport: DCA

Of all the constraints that have been put on general aviation over the years, the most hurtful (to me, at least) is the virtual ban on the light airplane use of Washington National Airport. In my active years, I used it a lot and being able to touch down so close to the center of power was something special. The airport is something special, too.

read more