Go or No Go: afternoon buildups

The goal today is to get to Tallahassee, Florida, so you can be at a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. On paper, this is an ideal trip for you and your Piper Arrow. It should take just over an hour and a half, and a colleague will be waiting to pick you up in Florida. Of course the only question now is the weather. Let’s look at what your iPad has to say, then decide whether it’s a go or a no go.

How to fly safely when you’re low and slow

You don’t have to fly IFR at 10,000 feet to travel efficiently by general aviation. I was reminded of this fact after logging 15 enjoyable hours over the past month – all at 500 feet and 100 knots in VFR-only aircraft.
That doesn’t mean it was boring. Over the course of two long trips, I had a few speed bumps, and in the process I re-learned some important lessons about weather, decision-making and technology.

The pilot brotherhood – only as good as your next action

I think we get carried away with this brotherhood talk. Sure, pilots can be accepting and caring folks, and the common bond of aviation often does bring wildly different people together. That hardly means such behavior is guaranteed, though. Pilots are still human beings who often bring their own powerful emotions, biases and agendas to any situation.

To go or not to go? That is the (wrong) question

We falsely view most aviation decisions as binary. The language of decision-making subtly reinforces this, with exhortations to “keep it simple” or “be confident.” What we end up with is a hopelessly unrealistic set of answers: yes or no, black or white. We should know better. Flying is all about subtle clues, 50/50 decisions and shades of gray.

General aviation in Europe is both inspiring and frightening

For a crass American, AERO is a very civilized show, held in a beautiful convention center with great coffee and lively beer gardens. Oshkosh this isn’t. Beyond these mundane differences, though, the show offers a fascinating lesson for US pilots. If all you’ve heard is how awful things are for private pilots in Europe, let me offer a more complete – although not entirely rosy – portrait.

Area Forecast replacement – what does it really say?

The old Area Forecast (FA) is going away, and I for one say good riddance. This textual forecast product has plenty of valuable information, but its ALL CAP format is a leftover from a previous era, making it a pain to use. Besides, almost everything in the FA can be found elsewhere these days. Everything, that is, except cloud top forecasts.

Debate: what’s going on at ICON?

ICON Aircraft’s self-proclaimed mission is to “create products that not only deliver great functional benefit but also deeply inspire us on an emotional level.” But inspiration isn’t the word that comes to mind right now for many ICON position-holders. As the A5 finally gets close to being delivered to pilots, the company’s purchase agreement has raised a number of questions.

Why you should care about the new Part 23 proposal

There has been a lot of talk lately (perhaps too much?) about aviation issues in Washington: Air Traffic Control privatization, the third class medical, and user fees to name just three. Somewhat obscured by these Capitol Hill battles is a more complicated but also arguably more important legislative issue: aircraft certification reform.

Air Facts turns five!

This magazine was founded in 1938 by Leighton Collins to advocate for “facts – knowledge – safety.” Since then, its pages have been filled by some of aviation’s greatest writers, including Richard Collins, Wolfgang Langewiesche, Bob Buck and Richard Bach. Given that rich history, it may seem odd to celebrate a fifth birthday, but Air Facts in its current form was relaunched five years ago, in March 2011.

We’re thinking about electric airplanes all wrong

Bill Gates has famously said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” Thus we overhyped the internet in 2000, but failed to recognize how completely it would change life by 2010. The same could be said for electric aircraft, an emerging technology that seems to have been on the “coming soon” list for decades.

Go or No Go: coastal California flight

It’s not a long flight, and it’s the type of mission that makes your Cessna 182 such a valuable asset to your business: a dash down the coast of California from Santa Barbara (KSBA) to your home airport of Montgomery Field in San Diego (KMYF). A four hour drive turns into a one hour flight, but will the weather cooperate?

IFR departures: the forgotten procedure

Instrument pilots obsess about approaches: if you can keep those needles crossed all the way down to 200 ft, you must be a good pilot. While shooting an ILS to minimums is an important skill, this all presupposes you managed to depart safely. Unfortunately, NTSB reports prove that’s a big assumption – each year, a few pilots tragically learn that IFR departures aren’t as simple as they seem.

Debate: a kinder, gentler FAA?

The FAA has a reputation for being punitive and unequal in its enforcement, more interested in paperwork and police work than in promoting real safety. If you believe some recent announcements, though, that attitude may be changing. Administrator Michael Huerta spent much of 2015 promoting a new “Compliance Philosophy Order,” which promises to change the way his agency deals with pilots.

Top 10 articles of 2015 at Air Facts

We had 76 different pilots write for Air Facts over the past 12 months. Almost all of these were just regular pilots who had a story, tip or opinion to share, but they brought an incredibly diverse range of experiences and perspectives. In closing out the year, we thought readers might enjoy a look back at our top 10 most popular articles.

Long range weather planning tools – 4 favorites

All of us spend a lot of time poring over radar images, METARs and TAFs. But the focus is almost always on the short term weather products: can I fly right now? However, with some upgraded apps and websites becoming publicly available, there are more options than ever for long range weather planning. Here are four favorites.

Accident report – what would you do differently?

This article is the first in a regular series where we will examine accident reports. But we hope to do something different here at Air Facts. Instead of just proclaiming Pilot Error and assuming “it couldn’t happen to me,” we hope to use the NTSB reports to become safer pilots. The question we’ll pose each time is: “what will I change about my flying after reading this report?”

Debate: is registering drones a good idea?

The FAA kicked off one of its most aggressive rulemaking efforts in history this week, as the drone industry task force met to consider how to register the hundreds of thousands of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) projected to be sold this Christmas. Will it work?

More than just a gadget – how the iPad is making flying safer

For all their cynicism, pilots have adopted tablets and apps like eager teenagers. Just five years ago, no one had ever heard of an “Electronic Flight Bag app.” Today, the majority of general aviation pilots – and a whole bunch of airline and military pilots too – are flying with one. How many other tools are used by Air Force tanker pilots and J-3 Cub drivers alike?