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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Go or no go – en route decision

Richard Collins has famously said there’s really no such thing as a single go/no go decision. Rather, weather flying can be seen as a series of “continue flying or land short” decisions. Tonight is a perfect example. After a long weekend with friends in Hilton Head, SC (HXD), you’re headed home to suburban Atlanta (RYY).

Have we won the safety battle?

Here’s a number that should be on the front page of every major newspaper: 224. That’s how many people died–worldwide–in airline crashes last year. Around 3 billion people flew on airlines last year, which makes 224 a simply incredible number.

The truth about learning to fly

As a community, pilots do a pretty good job of getting kids interested in flying. But I think we do ourselves a great disservice when we tell prospective pilots that learning to fly is all fun and excitement. It’s not, and we know it’s not.

Debate: do you have to be an enthusiast to be a good pilot?

A pilot complained: “It used to be, pilots were real aviation enthusiasts. But this new breed of pilots, especially the guys who learn to fly in a Cirrus, they don’t care about the joy of flying. They just use their airplanes to travel.” The obvious question is: so what?

One pilot’s Christmas wish list

A non-pilot friend recently asked me, “what do pilots want for Christmas this year?” Since he knows I work at Sporty’s, I think he was really looking for the hot aviation gadgets of 2013. But as I thought about what would make pilots happy in the year ahead, some much bigger wishes came to mind.

To grandmother’s house we go or no go?

Ah, the holidays. A fun time for relaxing with family, right? Maybe, but first you have to get to grandmother’s house for the big turkey dinner. And by looking out the window, it’s clear that the weather stinks. Are you flying your Baron or staying home?

Have pilots lost their sense of adventure?

Almost everyone today, pilots included, is less spontaneous and less accepting of risk. That’s probably a good thing overall (we’re living longer), but it’s less than ideal for getting the most out of a pilot’s license.

Continental Motors – betting big on diesel

Any discussion of general aviation’s future must include light airplane engines and the fuel they burn. While avionics get a lot of press, it’s the engine technology that really determines how reliable, affordable and useful an airplane is. And trouble is brewing.

7 instrument approaches you have to see to believe

In spite of what new instrument students might think, not all IFR approaches are straight-in ILSs to 200 and 1/2. Some airports just don’t lend themselves to an approach. But one look at the examples in this article shows that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Thunderstorm flying in the age of datalink weather

Datalink radar or onboard radar? XM or ADS-B? Panel mount display or iPad? The options for receiving and viewing in-flight weather have never been greater, with a proliferation of affordable and capable avionics. Which one is best? And what’s the right way to use each tool?