America’s best airport: DCA

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.

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part two: intelligence

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.

Phenom jet v. house – everyone loses in terrible tragedy

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.

Those photo missions – smile!

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.

From the archives: Dick Collins on airline vs. GA flying

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.

Those pilot reports – of the magazine variety

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.

Retractable singles: the good, the fad and the ugly

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.

Logbooks: a long and wonderful flight, with beginning turbulence…

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.

Logbooks: Concorde adventures

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 shear: a danger vanquished, or, one waiting in the wings?

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.

Father’s Flying Day

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.

Searching… for a lost airliner and others

I don’t think that I believed I would ever see a search as long, expensive, and detailed as the one for the Malaysian 777. I did, though, in my time in the business, have some interesting experiences related to searching for lost airplanes.

A double tragedy: Colgan Air Flight 3407

The crash of a DHC-8-400 (Q400) on approach to Buffalo, N. Y. brought on the all-time most egregious case of smoke and flames rulemaking by the FAA. It was dictated by Congress, it makes no sense, and it will have a lasting deleterious effect on air service to smaller cities and on airline flying as a profession.

What’s wrong with Mooney pilots?

I have found that the safety record of an airplane relates more to who flies it and what they try to do with it than anything else. Maybe the pilot is 90 percent of the equation and the airplane ten. When thinking of it in this way, the Mooney 20 series is by far the most diverse airplane in the fleet.

Richard Bach and Air Facts: long time ago…

In the summer of 1960 a 24-year old Air Force jet fighter pilot, Richard Bach, submitted an unsolicited article to Air Facts. It was the beginning of an incredible writing career. Here, Dick Collins tells Bach’s story and we republish his very first Air Facts article.

The risky moments: when decisions go bad

Everyone who writes about aviation safety eventually comes around to the subject of risk management. The FAA wants CFIs to teach it using checklists, which is hardly realistic. The simple truth is that risk management can be done only through a deal the pilot makes with self.