Washington Report: written testing changes proposed

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In 2011, a rash of Knowledge Test (“the written” to long-time pilots) failures at numerous flight schools caused a bit of a stir, and the FAA admitted that they had added a number of new questions to the test question database without notifying test prep providers or flight instructors. In response, an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was formed by the FAA to study the issue of Knowledge Tests in general.

It isn’t always the instructor’s fault

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After reading the blog post Bad instructors by David Huprich, I thought it might be good to hear the other side of the story (from an instructor point of view) about some of my bad students over the years. Reflecting on David’s article reminded me of several interesting experiences that I have had helping students transition to new airplanes, complete flight reviews, and training primary students.

Trans-Atlantic in a Mooney 231

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For many years we had contemplated a trans-Atlantic flight in our Mooney, and finally in June of 1982 the plan became a reality. Our first plane, a 1967 Piper Arrow had taken us to the Caribbean and to South America safely and comfortably via an island-hopping route, so the overwater aspects of single-engine flying held no special terror for us.

8 things I love about Oshkosh

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Oshkosh. Have you ever met an aviation enthusiast who didn’t know exactly what that word meant? The annual EAA gathering in Wisconsin, officially called AirVenture, is a common thread in an aviation community that is remarkable for its diversity. Some pilots like homebuilts and some like certified airplanes; some like glass cockpits and some hate them. But everyone likes Oshkosh.

Bad instructors

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During my nearly six decades of flying I’ve had more good instructors than bad. But beware: there are bad ones. The worst instructor I ever had was in a Pitts S2A. I learned nothing from him except how to keep from redecorating the interior of his airplane. Share your experiences with good and bad CFIs.

WWII Watson’s Whizzers

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It was a mission late in the war. Lieutenant Robert Anspach was flying cover in his P-47 Thunderbolt for a group of B-26 Marauders near the Messerschmitt factory airfield at Lechfeld, Germany. From out of nowhere an enemy airplane rocketed past, blasting off a few rounds. It looked like nothing they’d seen before. Ever.

The ultimate responsibility: thoughts on family flying

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After the tragic crash of a Pilatus PC-12 in Florida, Richard Collins reflects on flying with family. He says, “One of the reasons I became such a weather geek over the years was if I was going to fly my family in clouds, I was going to understand everything there was to know about those clouds.” Does flying with family change the way you fly?

The coming currency crisis

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Are you flying enough these days? Based on the pilots I talk to, the answer for most people is a resounding “no!” This goes far beyond the old joke that there’s no such thing as too much flying. Below a certain level of activity, both pilot proficiency and airplane reliability suffer, leading to thinner safety margins and a whole lot less fun.

Anyone for a Speed Record?

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Today Air Facts is launching an exciting new feature–Speed Records. This contest, based on a similar program from the original Air Facts magazine, is an unofficial and informal way for pilots to claim speed records between 29 major cities. The contest is divided into horsepower classes, so everyone can participate.

What was wrong with V-tail Bonanza pilots?

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I sort of stirred up a hornet’s nest with a recent post about Cirrus airplanes and Cirrus pilots. A few commenters compared the discussion with ones about the Beech V-tail (Model 35) Bonanzas a long time ago. That airplane was actually referred to by many as the “V-tail doctor killer” back in its heyday. As with the Cirrus, the problem was more with pilots than with the airplane.

To South America in a Piper Arrow

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Talk about a memorable trip. Lawrence Zingesser shares the story of his 1974 trip from New York to Buenos Aires in his Piper Arrow. Although it took 8 days and covered 5700 nm, the flight went relatively smoothly. The bottles of Scotch for the customs agents, didn’t hurt.

What’s an LP approach?

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You’re a current instrument pilot and you even have one of those fancy WAAS GPSs in your panel. After some practice, you’ve just about figured out this whole LNAV vs. LPV approach deal. But what’s this new LP approach that’s showing up on some approach plates? Have the rules changed?

Blackbirds and the Colored Air Circus of 1931

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More than two decades after the Wright brothers made history, only one African American, Bessie Coleman, possessed an international pilot’s license. That didn’t sit well with William Powell, who sought to expose more African Americans to the art of flying. In the process he inspired blacks to take a greater role in aviation, and along the way he formed history’s first all-black aerobatic team.

Is flying safe? Wrong question.

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The real takeaway here–for student pilots and old pros alike–is simple: flying is as safe as you want to make it. You as the pilot in command control how safe you are, not the airplane (nor anyone else, for that matter). Unlike driving, drunks and 16 year-olds can’t kill you in the air by swerving into you. That’s a good thing if used properly.

Mission trip

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Drive four hours just to ride 30 minutes in an airplane? Michael McDowell says yes, and did just that when the opportunity arose to ride jumpseat in a freshly-painted Hawker. Read why some flights can only be called a “mission trip.”

Go or No Go: a tough flight home

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This Go or No Go is a little different. The scenario I’ll present is an actual flight I had planned, and I was faced with a tough decision. I’ll show the weather conditions that were forecast and my plan, then I’ll let you decide if you would have flown the trip. Later, I’ll share whether I decided go or no go.

Happy 75th birthday, Piper

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Piper Aircraft Corporation was formed in 1937 by W. T. Piper, Sr. Over its 75 years there have been many ups and downs and changes. A brief history is available on Wikipedia. Here I would like to offer some anecdotes about how I related to the company over the years.