Dick’s blog

The weight – and the balance

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The video of the 747 crashing after takeoff from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan is hard to watch. As pilots will do, after watching the video I came up with an idea on what I thought might have happened.

The dream v. the reality: it’s a tough world

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It might also be true in other areas, but it has always seemed to me that general aviation is littered with more broken dreams than any other field. As an observer for about 60 years, the length of the list of failed projects amazed me when I wrote down the ones that I remember.

The perfect copilot–of many years

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I took Ann for her first ever airplane ride on May 30, 1956, in my Piper Pacer. I had been flying for five years then. A couple of years later we got married and she had really signed on. I took her for her final airplane ride on August 19, 2007.

What’s in a name?

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Names for various airplanes have always been interesting to me. After WWII, Beech came up with the hands-down best name ever for an airplane: Bonanza. It flies on 67 years later and is, and has always been, a survivor. That is probably because the airplane is as good as the name. My second choice in the name game is Gulfstream.

Move the wheel and wiggle the pedals

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When we let the electronic systems fly the airplane, we are still flying, if by proxy. That means that a big part of the pilot’s job is to fully understand the computers we use to tell the autopilot what to do. That puts the operation of the flight control system squarely in the “airmanship” category.

A dream of the 1970s: the Bede-5

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To say that Jim Bede was controversial is an understatement. Some called him a visionary, others had descriptions that were not so kind. The undisputed fact, though, is that Jim Bede excited and then disappointed a lot of pilots in the 1970s. He was a hard guy not to like and he exuded infectious enthusiasm even if he didn’t always deliver.

Check rides: I have known and loved

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Most of us remember notable things about our flying, check rides for example. When I was starting out and collecting certificates and ratings, it seemed like I was constantly either preparing for, or taking check rides. Some were more fun than others and I can honestly say that none made me nervous.

The silent killer

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Some years ago I got interested in the role of pilot incapacitation in serious general aviation accidents. There are some who think sugar-coating helps on things like this. I don’t. What I found was revealing and it is worth a review.

Lighten up, Sandy baby…

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Weather expert Richard Collins shares his perspective on Sandy, the super storm that hammered the northeast US this week. Learn why the storm turned back to the west, and how Collins rode out the storm.

A DC-3 dream: fleeting as it was

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Dick Collins shares a confession: “almost 60 years ago I wanted very badly to become an airline pilot.” He explains why in this trip through history, complete with DC-3 flights, local service airlines and $7 airfares.

The big bucks: a reason for the declining pilot population?

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From the comments on our series about the declining pilot population, there is no question that a lot of people think that the cost of flying is driving old people away and scaring away new people. I said that I though cost was an excuse, not a reason, and some of you took issue with that. Having been an active pilot and observer of the scene since 1951, I will try to put some of this in context.

Super long flights

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After reading Dr. Stephen Gray’s article about his trans-Pacific flight in a Beech Duchess, I had one of those old deja vu all over again feelings. In the first years that I worked for Air Facts, starting in 1958, we reported on a number of long distance flights. Some were flown by Air Facts contributors who then wrote about their flights in our magazine.

Neil Armstrong: the ultimate aviator

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We watched the moon landing on July 21, 1969 with some British friends. After the landing, one Brit, who worked on elements of the space program, said, “You must be proud to be an American.” I was and still am thanks to the fact that I have shared and still share this great country with some wonderful and exceptional people. This brings me to Neil Armstrong, Gone West on August 25 at 82.

The IFR conundrum: is it as it appears?

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Back in the good old days, there was a lot of scud running and not much real IFR. A lot of us thought that the best way to improve the general aviation safety picture would be to get more people into IFR flying. But one of life’s simplest pleasures comes in realizing that you were wrong about something and that is true here.

Is the NTSB stupid or do they just not pay attention?

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The NTSB recently made a startling (to it) discovery that there is latency involved with the Nexrad pictures that pilots are looking at as they try to avoid weather. To read the NTSB Safety Alert on the subject, you get the feeling that they just crawled out of a hole and discovered weather in the cockpit.

The ultimate responsibility: thoughts on family flying

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After the tragic crash of a Pilatus PC-12 in Florida, Richard Collins reflects on flying with family. He says, “One of the reasons I became such a weather geek over the years was if I was going to fly my family in clouds, I was going to understand everything there was to know about those clouds.” Does flying with family change the way you fly?

What was wrong with V-tail Bonanza pilots?

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I sort of stirred up a hornet’s nest with a recent post about Cirrus airplanes and Cirrus pilots. A few commenters compared the discussion with ones about the Beech V-tail (Model 35) Bonanzas a long time ago. That airplane was actually referred to by many as the “V-tail doctor killer” back in its heyday. As with the Cirrus, the problem was more with pilots than with the airplane.