In this important new article, Richard Collins sums up over 50 years of aviation safety writing with three key concepts – “the things that a pilot really needs to know to stay alive.” It turns out safe flying has a lot more to do with mindset than fancy maneuvers.
Articles By: Richard Collins
I never knew what people really meant when they talked about flying “hard” IFR. The implication is that there is also “easy” IFR but nobody seemed to know the exact difference between the two. The most logical thing we can do is examine things we can do to keep instrument flying from becoming “hard” IFR.
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?
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.
When contemplating a smoking hole made by an airplane, “That was a dumb mistake” is a frequent pronouncement. I think that is misleading because I am not aware of any smart mistakes, especially in airplanes. It just takes a relatively high level of native (as opposed to educated on things other than flying) intelligence to perform well as a pilot.
Here is a list of the things that I think define a sharp pilot. This is based on well over 50 years of studying general aviation accidents, the theory being that sharp pilots don’t crash. I put “aware” first.
A Phenom 100 light jet, flown single-pilot by its owner, a physician and businessman, crashed into three houses when on final approach to runway 14 at Montgomery County Airpark. That this is a PR disaster for general aviation and for that airport is an understatement. It would be hard to think of anything more tragic.
Having a photo mission go as planned and result in a formation flight with another airplane (or two or three) as the sun rose or set put the participants in a place of serene beauty and it was rewarding to share that with our readers and viewers. It was a thought that I often had, but on some of those flights I knew I had the best job in the world.
In our latest trip through the Air Facts archives, we discovered this gem from the April 1965 issue. Here, a young Richard Collins considers the advantages and disadvantages of traveling on the airlines versus flying oneself by light airplane. Is it really worth it to fly instead of ride? Nearly 50 years later, many pilots are still asking the question–Collins answers it definitively.
Over my 50 years in the print magazine business I would estimate that I wrote at least 300 pilot report features plus a lot of other airplane coverage in columns. I started to go back and count exactly how many there were but decided that wouldn’t be any fun. Instead, I’ll tell you about some that were different enough for me to vividly remember.
Over the years a number of airplanes impressed me as being “good” airplanes. I thought of many airplanes as “fads” because they burst on the scene and fizzled. A few were “ugly,” maybe because of their looks or maybe because of other things such as flight characteristics or poor performance. Rest assured that these are all opinions.
In flying this one airplane so much I learned a lot of things about every element of light airplane operation. Weather, mechanical considerations, insurance, flying technique, malfunctions, the pitfalls of building a new type based on an old certification and having fun dealing with all of it were part of my trip in N40RC.
Richard Collins made 14 flights on Concorde, both in the cabin and in the cockpit of the supersonic airliner. In this fascinating article, he shares the details of “the most extraordinary airplane ever,” from the performance numbers to the complex systems and what it was like to fly the simulators.
Wind can and does affect the airspeed of an airplane in flight, drastically in some situations. Many pilots didn’t, and some still don’t, think that wind can be a big factor in this regard. A steady wind can’t, but wind that changes in direction or velocity over altitude or distance can have a profound effect on airspeed.
Flying with my father meant that airplanes were part of my life from the very beginning. I have seen the highs and the lows as well as all in between and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Someone asked me if I grew up around airplanes. I said, no, I grew up with airplanes.