Go or no go: California IFR trip

Business calls today, and you need to get from your home base in Santa Barbara, California (KSBA) to San Francisco (KSFO) for an important meeting. There’s a bit of fog on the coast of California, but you are instrument-rated and current. Do you make the trip?

Want to fix flight training? Have some fun.

The flight training system in this country is broken. That’s what a variety of sources tell us, from a detailed AOPA study to the experts at your local hangar flying session. What’s the solution? Unfortunately, it’s both easy and difficult.

Go or no go? Marginal VFR to New Hampshire

Your planned flight today is from Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport (KBKL) to the Claremont Municipal (KCNH) in New Hampshire. Since you do not have an instrument rating, the flight will be VFR, but your Cirrus SR-20 is well-equipped. Vacation awaits–will low clouds cancel your getaway?

11 things you must do with your pilot’s license

You worked hard, paid a lot of money and earned your pilot’s license. Now what do you do? It’s a question that comes up more often than most pilots care to admit. Let me suggest 10 things that every pilot should do before they die. Call it a bucket list if you want, but I consider it a flight plan.

Go or No Go: winter 182 trip

This article is the first in a series called “Go or No Go?” We’ll present actual weather conditions for a planned trip. You study the forecast and tell us if you would fly the trip or stay on the ground–and why.

The Great Debate: are glass cockpits better?

Glass cockpits like the Garmin G1000 are standard in almost all new airplanes, and they’re starting to show up in older airplanes as well. The rapid adoption of this new technology brings large displays and reliable AHRS sensors in place of gyros and vacuum pumps. But some pilots are worried that these pros are outweighed by the cost and complexity of keeping glass cockpits up to date. Cast your vote!

John’s blog: holiday accidents have a lesson

We are all salesmen to a certain extent when we fly with family. We want to prove that all the money and time we spend on airplanes is worth it, and brings value to the entire family. But you only have to be wrong once, and the airplane doesn’t care if this trip really counts, and it doesn’t care if your family is on board.

The Great Debate: are great pilots born or made?

“Boy, he sure is a great pilot.” We’ve all heard some version of this, usually standing around the airport as someone passes judgment on a fellow aviator. But what makes a “great pilot?” Is it experience and training or just natural ability? Does it have more to do with decision-making or stick and rudder skills? Or do you simply know it when you see it?

Top 12 iPad tips for pilots

An experienced iPad pilot and flight instructor shares twelve of his most useful tips for flying with the iPad. With everything from a simple pre-flight check to a handy “night mode” for viewing charts, there are plenty of tricks for both new and experienced users.

John’s blog: risk management is a sham

Risk Management in its current form is a sham, a feel-good phrase that is popular precisely because its meaning is so elastic. Just like “I want better schools” and “I support a strong America,” everyone is in favor of it until it comes time to define what it actually means and how to do it.

The Great Debate: an accident waiting to happen

We’ve all heard the phrase, “that pilot is an accident waiting to happen.” Do we, as pilots, have a responsibility to do something about these people or should we leave them alone? If we do intervene, what should be done? Confront the pilot? Report them to the FAA? Warn their passengers? And how bad does it have to get before you step in?

John’s blog: where have you gone, piston twin?

The piston twin became a victim of our culture’s relentless pursuit of efficiency. The second engine, just like elevator operators and flight engineers, didn’t provide the necessary return on investment. But I think the piston twin is worth mourning, because for all the practicality of a high performance single, something is missing with the new generation of transportation machines.

John’s blog: does anyone understand NextGen?

Have you heard about NextGen? It’s the FAA’s plan for a Next Generation Air Transportation System, and it’s going to save pilots money, protect the environment, improve safety and generally solve all the world’s problems. There’s just one problem with this rosy forecast–no one has any idea what NextGen means.

The truth about the iPad

You can’t read a story about general aviation these days without being confronted with Apple’s world-beating tablet computer. Some pilots are skeptical that the iPad really changes anything. Most gush about it and how flying will never be the same. What’s the real story? And what is it really good for?

Cross country at 26,000 ft. and 500 ft.

Two recent trips reinforced for me both the potential and the limitations of using general aviation airplanes for transportation. In many ways, they could not have been more different: the first flight was in a Pilatus PC-12 at 26,000 ft., the second in a Citabria at 500 ft. But while the equipment was quite different, the result was the same: a successful trip of 400+ nautical miles between cities poorly served by the airlines, and more or less on my schedule.