I was there

Mr. Invincible

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Well I finally met that guy. That guy everyone has read about. That guy who seems to be at every airport. That guy whom no one admits to being. You know, the guy who willfully violates significant federal aviation regulations and openly brags to total strangers about his near death experiences.

Taking chances – the safe way

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Regardless of your views on the training aspects of simulators, if you have an opportunity to fly a sim, I encourage you to do so. After all, it’s flying, right? Well, sort of anyway. And don’t you like to fly?

Magic moments

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Throughout my often-interrupted flying history, there have been many memorable events, some standing out for how I scared myself through dumb cluck mistakes, and some for their delectable simplicity and beauty. The one I offer here has no drama, no risks avoided or skills demonstrated; it was just, well, a great place to be that evening. It was a place that only airmen can experience.

Moments of sheer terror

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At about the time that I intercepted the localizer course, I went into a personal “brain dump” that could have cost me my life and defines this moment of terror. I had engaged the autopilot coupler and was in that dangerous “fat, dumb and happy” mode as I flew toward the runway exactly on course. I was in clouds and fog when something made me glance out the window.

Ohio to Alaska by Swift

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In this must-read article, an Air Facts reader shares his once-in-a-lifetime trip from Ohio to Alaska in his award-winning Swift. Read his day by day account, complete with stunning pictures. As the article proves, flying to Alaska is not as difficult as you might think.

Why do we do it?

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It doesn’t take much of a thermal to have me prepping the little white bag, so my flights are not always a pleasant experience. At least that’s what my stomach is telling me. My spirit, and flying soul, well they tell me something completely different.

My night from hell

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It was a dark and stormy night. Sounds like the opening line of a bad novel, but the night of May 24, 1996, was dark and stormy as we rocked our way in a 172 from St. Louis to Cincinnati Lunken. We pushed the envelope beyond reason and might not have seen the dawn except for a piece of luck that arrived at precisely the right instant.

Hindsight is wonderful

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A self-described “comedy of errors” causes a captain to misdiagnose an in-flight problem and put his 737 into a steep dive at night over the South Pacific. In hindsight, this rapid descent turned out to be unnecessary. See why.

Landing on I-80

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In 1986, shortly after our marriage, Diane and I began making cross-country flights in our C-182 to attend the annual summer reunion of University of Wisconsin classmates. These flights had always been pleasant and uneventful. In 2006, on the second leg of our trip from our home field in Palo Alto, California to Waukesha County Airport in Wisconsin, the engine began to sputter.

Land of the midnight sun

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The most significant and defining feature of Alaska is, quite simply, its size. It’s a landscape on steroids; a wild land defying the sky to contain it in a voice that resonates with a visceral, primal power. Nowhere else in America are humans so dwarfed by the land they make noises about inhabiting.

Destination AOPA Summit

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This past September, the Northeast U.S. was plagued by “the low that wouldn’t go away.” This cutoff low-pressure system sat and spun for two weeks bringing daily gloom from the Mid Atlantic to Maine. Unfortunately, in the midst of this crummy weather, I was scheduled to give a talk at AOPA’s Summit in Hartford, Connecticut on September 24th.

A date with Juliet

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Flight 420, a Boeing 737 to Hong Kong, departed from a small island on the Equator at about the same time as an unnamed typhoon was born 2,000 miles further west. The depression that spawned the typhoon had been tracked by U.S. Navy weather satellites for several days. As it slowly spun in a westerly direction from 500 miles north of Ponape in the Carolines, the weather forecasters decided it met all the attributes of a maturing typhoon and from a list of names, selected Juliet.

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

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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.

Lost in the smog

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As the GPS and the autopilot guided us precisely along our assigned TEC route, I was reminded of an experience I had had here many years ago while earning my private pilot certificate in a taildragger that was equipped with a suite of avionics much different than was the airplane we were flying.

Skunked at Mount Snow–again

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A late June family wedding was to take place in West Dover, Vermont, at a location about a mile from the Mount Snow Airport. I have had a love/hate relationship with this airport for years. It’s the only airport that I have been unable to get into a whopping 75 percent of the time. Weather, wind, and runway conditions—or a combination thereof—have all stymied my attempts to land there over the last 15 years.

Storm flying

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Thunderstorms in summer. Thunderstorms with battlefield lightning, crop shredding hail and tornados. Sometimes the thunderstorms are dry and the lightning sets the prairie grass on fire. Sometimes the rain is so hard whole buildings go missing. Hans Ahlness makes his living flying into thunderstorms. He convinces other pilots to do the very same thing.

A student’s cross country tale

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By mid-summer of 1956 I was 18 and had progressed far enough as a student pilot that my instructor decided it was time for me to do a long, solo, cross-country flight. After reviewing the flight plan with my instructor, I filed a flight plan with the CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration, the forerunner of the FAA) by telephone, did a pre-flight inspection, climbed into the yellow Champion 7EC, hit the starter and – nothing.

Father’s Day trip for Mom

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It was actually Father’s Day weekend, but this flight was all about Mom. The mission was to pick up my mother at her home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and drop her at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport in Islip, NY to see her friend who lives on Fire Island. I had the choice of flying either my family’s Cessna 172 or Beechcraft Baron.