2012 was quite a year at Air Facts. We welcomed more readers than ever before and tackled a wide variety of aviation topics, from the fun (why Oshkosh is great) to the serious (crashes involving family). In particular, our Special Report on the declining pilot population this Fall was a big hit, with five thought-provoking articles and hundreds of comments from our readers.
But many readers have asked us for the most popular articles of the year. Below is our list of the top 12. There’s something for everyone here, from weather tips to memorable flights:
12. Weather geek: rules to fly by. Richard Collins probably knows more about aviation weather than any other pilot, and he shares 10 tried and true rules for weather flying in general aviation airplanes in this article. A must-read for any pilot, whether you fly VFR or IFR.
11. Is scud running ever OK? Pilots are taught from the first day of flight training that flying in marginal VFR weather is dangerous. But John Zimmerman says we’ve gone too far, and suggests scud running can work–if done properly. Some readers obviously disagreed.
10. The great debate: do pilots lie on medicals? The medical certification process was a hot topic this year, with AOPA and EAA petitioning the FAA to eliminate the 3rd class medical. We asked if pilots tell the truth on medical applications, and over 200 readers weighed in on this red hot debate.
9. The IFR conundrum: is it as it appears? Richard Collins tackles a tricky subject: “There is almost infinitely more IFR flying now than there was in the 50s and 60s yet the accident rate where weather is involved has not improved much.” He offers some interesting thoughts on why this is so, and how pilot attitudes have changed.
8. Crappy runways. Acclaimed aviation historian Phil Scott shares a fascinating list of the landing strips around the world that cause the highest “Pucker Factor.” From New Jersey to Afghanistan, Scott tells the story of some places that barely deserve the name airport, and the pilots who fly into them.
7. 10 great online weather tools you may not know about. The Internet has made it easier than ever for pilots to get great weather briefings, but where do you find the information? In this Weather Geek article, we share 10 useful and free websites to help you make informed decisions.
6. What was wrong with V-tail Bonanza pilots? Long before the Cirrus came along, the V-tail Bonanza earned a reputation for being a “doctor killer.” Richard Collins tells the history of the design and explains why the Bonanza had so many problems early on. Was it the airplane or the pilot?
5. Touchdown: squeak squeak every time. Everyone wants to make better landings, but some of the advice pilots get is conflicting. Richard Collins skips the textbook and offers some real-world tips for making better landings. Number one? Be on speed as you cross the fence.
4. Mayday! The declining pilot population. Our five part series on the dwindling number of active pilots struck a nerve this year, with hundreds of pilots sharing their opinions about what’s wrong with general aviation and how to fix it. Richard Collins kicked things off with this thoughtful and realistic assessment of the problem–and no, not everyone can be a pilot.
3. The truth about the iPad. Few things in recent years have changed the way pilots fly more than the iPad. In this article, John Zimmerman explains why the iPad has been such a hit, what its limitations are and the top five uses for Apple’s tablet. Readers also added their tips and tricks with over 150 comments.
2. 11 things you must do with your pilot’s license. Every pilot has a bucket list, a set of goals they would like to achieve in their flying career. This list of 11 great aviation adventures is a good place to start, from $100 hamburgers to taildragger flying to Oshkosh. What’s on your list?
1. What’s wrong with Cirrus pilots? Richard Collins stirred up a hornet’s nest with this one, as he posed a question that many pilots probably have on their mind but haven’t asked. Why does the Cirrus, with more safety features than any airplane in history, have such a poor accident record? As the title suggests, it’s most likely about the pilots and not the airplanes.
Thanks to all our readers for a great year. It’s because of your contributions that Air Facts is a special place for pilots. We hope to see you back in 2013, where we’ll continue to ask the tough questions and share valuable tips for safer flying.