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.

What has the FAA done for (to) you?

I was challenged to write something like this a while back and spent time looking at blank screens before finally formulating an idea. The challenge was to write about the good, but I feel compelled to write about some of the good and the bad.

Ice: gotcha… Where is the ice?

Where? Simple. Ice is where you find it. As pilots we have to accept the fact that ice will be forecast when it is cold and there are clouds but if we are to get any utility out of our airplanes in the wintertime, we have to develop the weather wisdom to recognize the times when ice is likely and when it is not.

Ice: gotcha… in a heartbeat

Dick Collins spent decades flying through ice in piston airplanes, and says he had “only a few truly memorable ice encounters.” In this fascinating and educational article, he shares the lessons he learned–and some advice you won’t read in any textbook.

Are slow airplanes practical transportation?

In a posting about the future and the relationship between present and past costs, I referred to transportation airplanes as those cruising at 140 knots or more. At least one reader questioned this and noted the value of slower airplanes for transportation, at least over shorter distances. Was he right?

11 keys to safer instrument flights

Let’s look at some of the things we can do to minimize the chances of hurt while instrument flying. All along the way, remember that an important part of the operation is to continually ask yourself what comes next and what comes after that, and on and on.