Mnemonic Devices: words to fly by

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Who can forget how much there is to remember piloting an airplane? FARs, cockpit procedures, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t recall right now. To make it worse, after age 26, the brain starts shrinking to the tune of two grams of tissue each year. Sometimes I’m just happy to remember to put on socks in the morning. Luckily for pilots, there were the ancient Greeks.

The Great Debate: boy v. girl pilots

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It is my opinion that we males have created a fraternal bond in flying that largely excludes females. If so, how do we change that so more females will feel welcome as general aviation, airline or military pilots? None of the past efforts have helped. What do you think would help? Or do you think we should work to keep this wonderful activity a boy’s club?

My night from hell

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It was a dark and stormy night. Sounds like the opening line of a bad novel, but the night of May 24, 1996, was dark and stormy as we rocked our way in a 172 from St. Louis to Cincinnati Lunken. We pushed the envelope beyond reason and might not have seen the dawn except for a piece of luck that arrived at precisely the right instant.

The Great Debate: are glass cockpits better?

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Glass cockpits like the Garmin G1000 are standard in almost all new airplanes, and they’re starting to show up in older airplanes as well. The rapid adoption of this new technology brings large displays and reliable AHRS sensors in place of gyros and vacuum pumps. But some pilots are worried that these pros are outweighed by the cost and complexity of keeping glass cockpits up to date. Cast your vote!

John’s blog: holiday accidents have a lesson

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We are all salesmen to a certain extent when we fly with family. We want to prove that all the money and time we spend on airplanes is worth it, and brings value to the entire family. But you only have to be wrong once, and the airplane doesn’t care if this trip really counts, and it doesn’t care if your family is on board.

Technique Geek: tailwind landings

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Both the FAA and NTSB tend to suddenly discover things that have long been a factor and make a big deal out of them. One or more accidents usually gets this ball in motion. The latest hot button, from the NTSB, is what they choose to call tailwind landings. In what could have been a deadly serious accident, but wasn’t, an American Airlines 737 went off the end of the runway at Kingston, Jamaica.

The Great Debate: are great pilots born or made?

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“Boy, he sure is a great pilot.” We’ve all heard some version of this, usually standing around the airport as someone passes judgment on a fellow aviator. But what makes a “great pilot?” Is it experience and training or just natural ability? Does it have more to do with decision-making or stick and rudder skills? Or do you simply know it when you see it?

Top 12 iPad tips for pilots

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An experienced iPad pilot and flight instructor shares twelve of his most useful tips for flying with the iPad. With everything from a simple pre-flight check to a handy “night mode” for viewing charts, there are plenty of tricks for both new and experienced users.

Going out on top

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In this frank and personal article, Collins says he decided to “stop [flying PIC] with satisfaction” at age 74. His last flight was a good one, but “limiting flights to good weather took all the challenge and fun out of my flying. To me, dealing with inclement weather in light airplanes is one of the most interesting things that a pilot can do.”

John’s blog: risk management is a sham

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Risk Management in its current form is a sham, a feel-good phrase that is popular precisely because its meaning is so elastic. Just like “I want better schools” and “I support a strong America,” everyone is in favor of it until it comes time to define what it actually means and how to do it.

50 years ago in Air Facts: Double Trouble?

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In this groundbreaking article, first published in the July 1965 edition of Air Facts, Richard Collins raised the question–heretical at the time–of whether twin engine airplanes really were any safer than singles. His cogent, well-researched argument started a debate that rages to this day.

Is your checklist really necessary?

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Do you really need a massive checklist to fly a single pilot Seminole or Duchess? From the time a student first steps into an aircraft, he should not have to rely on a checklist as a crutch. Checklists are indeed a Good Thing in the big jets, but I sometimes wonder are they really necessary in light aircraft?

Technique Geek: crosswind landings

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Crosswind landings are a real challenge and making a perfect one is every bit as satisfying as a flawless ILS to minimums or a graceful eight-point roll. As a student I had a hard time learning to do them and later, as an instructor, I had a hard time teaching them. You simply can’t talk as fast as you have to think when landing in a gusty crosswind.

The Great Debate: an accident waiting to happen

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We’ve all heard the phrase, “that pilot is an accident waiting to happen.” Do we, as pilots, have a responsibility to do something about these people or should we leave them alone? If we do intervene, what should be done? Confront the pilot? Report them to the FAA? Warn their passengers? And how bad does it have to get before you step in?

John’s blog: where have you gone, piston twin?

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The piston twin became a victim of our culture’s relentless pursuit of efficiency. The second engine, just like elevator operators and flight engineers, didn’t provide the necessary return on investment. But I think the piston twin is worth mourning, because for all the practicality of a high performance single, something is missing with the new generation of transportation machines.

The Weather Geek: hello low

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Let’s get the geek business out of the way first. If a person who has an abiding interest in weather, especially as it relates to flight operations, is a geek, then I am a weather geek. Highs and lows are what make the weather engine go. Highs aren’t exciting, lows can be full of thrills. I was reminded of this when we had that October snowstorm in the northeast.

When was general aviation’s golden age?

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What era would you consider general aviation’s golden years? A fellow pilot asked me this question recently and it was quite thought provoking. Today’s glass cockpits, avionics, and electronic charts are wondrous devices that make technology from the 1990s seem positively quaint. But what about the exciting and innovating days of the 1950s and 1960s, or the early 1970s when gas was still cheap, airplanes were abundant, and the interiors oh so groovy?

Hindsight is wonderful

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A self-described “comedy of errors” causes a captain to misdiagnose an in-flight problem and put his 737 into a steep dive at night over the South Pacific. In hindsight, this rapid descent turned out to be unnecessary. See why.