Articles By: John Zimmerman

Security theater – 5 things pilots shouldn’t have to live with

Security theater – 5 things pilots shouldn’t have to live with

It’s worth reviewing some of the wasteful and ineffective security programs we put up with. That’s not because we should forget what happened that day, but because bad security measures hurt everyone: they cost taxpayers lots of money, they discourage pilots from using their hard-earned certificates and they distract security organizations from doing real work.

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Accident report: failure to climb

Accident report: failure to climb

It sounds so simple: full power, pitch up and climb. What could possibly go wrong on takeoff, assuming the engine keeps running? The truth is, an awful lot, as a Cirrus accident from 2013 makes clear. We are at our most vulnerable just after takeoff, with little altitude or airspeed but lots to do in the cockpit. Throw in bad weather or dark skies and things can get overwhelming in a hurry.

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Remote ATC towers – coming to an airport near you?

Remote ATC towers – coming to an airport near you?

The concept of remote towers, once the stuff of research papers and futurists, is now a reality–and it might be coming to the US sooner than you think. Is that a bad thing?

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Go or No Go: a legal alternate?

Go or No Go: a legal alternate?

You’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, as you and some buddies are headed to beautiful Bandon, Oregon for a long weekend of golf. But coastal Oregon is famous for two things when it comes to weather: overcast skies and gusty winds. Can you make the flight legally? How about safely?

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The emergency procedure nobody practices

The emergency procedure nobody practices

Upon reviewing accidents from the past few years, it’s clear there is a disturbing trend in modern cockpits: pilots struggle to control the airplane after the autopilot quits flying. Now before you start bemoaning the state of stick and rudder skills and urging all pilots to start flight training in a Cub, let’s consider another (more nuanced) option.

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USA Today, with help from trial lawyers, gets it exactly wrong

USA Today, with help from trial lawyers, gets it exactly wrong

The headline is so over the top that it looks like a parody. The front page of the USA Today screams “Safety last: lies and coverups mask roots of small-plane carnage.” Words like lies and carnage are a dead giveaway that the article to follow will be a hatchet job, not serious journalism, and Thomas Frank’s three-part “investigation” doesn’t disappoint.

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Dad is my copilot – Father’s Day flying thoughts

Dad is my copilot – Father’s Day flying thoughts

I’ve been flying with my dad for literally my entire life, growing up in the back of different airplanes while he flew me and my three brothers around the country. 2000+ hours later, I can’t imagine life without aviation in it. More importantly, I can’t imagine my relationship with my dad without flying.

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Accident report: learning to say no

Accident report: learning to say no

The checkride is a time of transition, when new pilots go from the clearly defined instructor-student relationship to the much fuzzier examiner-applicant relationship. Who’s in charge? The simple answer is the applicant, but an accident from late 2013 shows how tricky this question can be in real life.

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10 things “real pilots” do

10 things “real pilots” do

Have you ever met a “real pilot?” I sure haven’t–at least not the ones some aviation experts talk about. According to them, real pilots only fly taildraggers, real pilots don’t use GPS, real pilots don’t cancel flights, etc. I have a different definition of a real pilot.

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Go or No Go: Texas storms

Go or No Go: Texas storms

After spending a nice Easter weekend at home, tonight you’ll be flying from Wichita Falls, TX (CWC) to Wichita, KS (ICT) for a presentation at a big conference. The only question is (as usual), will the weather cooperate?

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The Skycatcher’s death proves the LSA rule is a failure

The Skycatcher’s death proves the LSA rule is a failure

Light Sport Aircraft entered the world with high–probably absurd–expectations. These lighter weight, lower cost airplanes allow pilots to fly without a medical certificate, and were supposed to introduce a new generation to the glories of personal aviation. What happened?

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The error chain in action: Pilatus crash at Butte

The error chain in action: Pilatus crash at Butte

According to Hemingway, a man goes bankrupt gradually, then suddenly. The same could be said of the way pilots crash airplanes: a series of small mistakes slowly build up until a final mistake suddenly ends the flight. A 2009 Pilatus PC-12 accident in Montana is a tragic example.

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Practice makes perfect–sometimes

Practice makes perfect–sometimes

Everyone wants to be a better pilot. The real question is: how do we become better pilots in the most efficient way? Fortunately, the past decade has seen a boom in the science of how people learn and improve their skills. This research has much to offer pilots.

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The approach plate olympics – more crazy charts

The approach plate olympics – more crazy charts

Everybody loves a good approach plate. At least Air Facts readers do. After we shared seven bizarre instrument approach charts last year, we had hundreds of positive comments and numerous requests for more. As we like to say here, the readers are PIC, so here we will indulge your desire for more torturous procedures.

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Night flying: out of our element

Night flying: out of our element

As much as we romanticize night flight, it’s not something most pilots do very often. It’s foreign territory, and the poor accident records backs this up. So what can we do to fly safer at night? Let’s consider terrain, spatial disorientation, weather, fuel and fatigue.

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