Tomorrow’s good enough for me

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This story happened many years ago to my father-in-law and me, and the statute of limitations has hopefully run out on any broken or bruised FARs we might have encountered during the course of events. Nevertheless, there is a debt to be paid: that is the debt to one’s own conscience when, years later, you look back on things and realize your own stupidity.

Friday Photo: Isabella Lake

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A hundred miles north of Los Angeles lies the beautiful Isabella Lake, nestled against the Sierra Nevada mountains. In addition to the scenery, the area also boasts a nice airport restaurant at the Kern Valley Airport. That’s where Craig Narr was headed in his Cessna 310 when he took this week’s Friday Photo. The snow-capped peaks tower over the scenic lake, and you can just barely see the airport on the northern shore of the lake.

Top 10 articles of all time on Air Facts

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Air Facts was founded in 1938, but we relaunched as an online magazine six years ago today. Since that time, over 300 pilots have shared their stories with us, and we have published over 900 posts in total. We sometimes get asked which articles have been the most popular, so we’ve compiled a list here of the 10 most-read article since our relaunch in 2011. Enjoy!

My flight level epiphany

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In late Spring 1973, almost 44 years ago, I was 22 years old and on the cusp of achieving my life-long goal of becoming a professional pilot. It was an overseas flight with a notoriously-crusty old senior check captain so I was vibrating with anxiety. There would be no remedial training if this guy gave me a thumbs down at this tenuous point in my career.

Friday Photo: Cessna 180 in Alaska

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This week’s Friday Photo was taken from the cockpit, as usual. But in addition to Mother Nature’s natural beauty, it also shows another airplane: pilot Cory Kittle’s friend flying a Cessna 180 over Prince William Sound. The combination of crystal clear blue skies, a classic bush plane and the snowy mountain peaks makes this picture the epitome of Alaska flying.

My first passenger flight – and why I never fly alone

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The flight taking your first passenger is said to be one of your most memorable (in a good way) and that was true for my first experience. It was a great experience for me and my grandfather together and I will never forget him saying, “Your great-grandpa is with us.” I now realize that I will never, or have ever in the past, fly alone.

What about those spins?

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The low altitude, low speed loss of control has always dominated and back in the good old days this was often dismissed with the comment: he ran out of airspeed and ideas at the same time and he spun in. Do pilots know enough about spins?

Friday Photo: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Greg Chestnut was flying his Cessna 182 to Alamosa, Colorado, for avionics work when he passed over the Great Sand Dunes National Park. His photo captures the almost-surreal scene, with the Rockies towering over remote dunes, the tallest sand dunes in North America. Just another unique view that only an airplane offers.

Building a Sonex: what it’s really like

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As a young man growing up in Wisconsin, I was exposed to what was, at the time, the annual EAA convention in Oshkosh. Long before it became AirVenture, it was an aviation event of epic proportions that etched itself in my soul and led to the lifelong dream of building an airplane and flying it to Oshkosh for the show. On October 10, 2015, phase one of this dream came to fruition.

Near the end of the accident chain – 4 lessons learned

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As we started turning base to final, it was obvious that we were going to overshoot the centerline. “No problem,” we thought, “I can save this landing,” as we increased the bank angle and started thinking about how far down the runway we would touch down. Looking back out front, finally, our brain told us, “Time to go around.”

Engine shutdown over the Atlantic – why training pays off

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I was confident of flying a successful single engine ILS approach. However, Murphy’s law was lurking. We were informed that the ILS at Keflavik was not available and was shut down for maintenance. We would have to do a non-precision VOR approach to an altitude well below the prescribed safe landing minimums. The autopilot was not approved for a single engine non-precision approach. I would manually fly the approach.

Friday Photo: Grand Island Mansion

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California pilot Rick Torres shares this week’s cockpit photo, and it’s a unique place. The Grand Island Mansion was once a celebrity destination in California. Today, the lush grounds take you back in a time portal to the speakeasy days of the 1930s. You can just imagine the famous guests arriving by paddle boat for an extravagant weekend.

Dad, I really have to go!

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Those are not the words you want to hear at 4,500 feet, right around sunset in unfamiliar territory. They came from my nine year old son, Dan, back in mid-May of 1978. We were on our way in a Cessna 172 from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Hanscom Field, just outside of Boston.

From high to low, look out below

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They elected to make the first pass quite dramatic by keeping their speed high as they approached from the north. Ray leveled out at exactly 8,200 feet and aimed straight at the peak; Chug’s camera was rolling. In what they both said was a very sudden, terrifying moment, the airplane kicked to the left in a yaw condition then hit some moderate turbulence, and then they were looking only yards ahead at the radio tower on the peak of Highwood Baldy, well above their altitude.

Friday Photo: Glass House Mountains, Australia

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The Sunshine Coast in Australia is a beautiful place to fly, and Gerard Merchant captures the scenery beautifully in this Friday Photo, taken from the cockpit of his Cessna 172. The Glass House Mountains, a group of hills that pop up from the coastal plains of Queensland, are draped in shadow as the early morning sun breaks through the clouds.

Was it really pilot error – or was it something else?

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The oft-quoted statistic is that about 85-percent of the accidents in private aviation are caused by pilot error. I always had the nagging suspicion that what that really means is that in 15-percent of the accidents they can find cause with something other than the pilot so that just naturally means that the rest get blamed on the pilot instead of on some failure or fault in the training and regulatory system.