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?

7 ways to scare yourself in an airplane

Most pilots aren’t dare devils, but sometimes the only way to learn an important lesson is to scare yourself just a little. That doesn’t mean we should seek out frightening experiences, only that we should try to learn from them when we inevitably stumble into one. Here are seven common ways to scare yourself in an airplane, and I’m sad to say I’ve experienced all of them (but only once!).

Debate: do you support the revised Third Class Medical proposal?

Reforming (or eliminating) the aging Third Class Medical process has been the dream of aviation organizations and individual pilots for years. This reform seems closer than ever, thanks to a lot of lobbying from a lot of aviation organizations. But as usual, the devil is in the details.

Go or No Go: battling a Nor’easter?

As a corporate pilot, you watch your phone continuously – if it rings, you’re probably going flying. Today, you’re really hoping it doesn’t ring, because there’s a nasty weather system parked across the eastern US – right where you often fly. So of course Murphy’s Law is in effect and the boss calls.

The world needs aviation – how flying keeps us grounded

Before I stray too far into religion or politics, let me assure you I am not running for office. But all the complaining does make me consider the unique role aviation has played in my life, and most pilots’ lives I suspect. Might it be the miracle cure we’re looking for? Consider the following.

Stop the drone panic – pilots should take their own advice

For an industry that’s usually obsessed with “risk management,” aviation sure isn’t using much of it when it comes to drones. The constant drumbeat of stories about close encounters between airplanes and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) can be described as nothing short of a panic. Enough already.

Friday photo: Chicago skyline

This week’s Friday Photo shares the view from an annual aviation pilgrimage – the flight to Oshkosh in mid-summer. From many parts of the US, this flight means the chance to fly past the Chicago skyline, which offers a stunning view.