John’s blog

More than just a gadget – how the iPad is making flying safer

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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?

The world needs aviation – how flying keeps us grounded

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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

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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.

Look beyond the hype – ICON just might help aviation

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It’s been nearly impossible to miss ICON for the last five years. The sexy design of the company’s amphibian light sport airplane has been matched only by the company’s sexy marketing. But now that ICON has finally delivered the first A5, it’s worth revisiting the project with an open mind. I see reasons for both hope and skepticism, but maybe more of the former.

Letter to myself as a young student pilot

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So you’re taking a flying lesson tomorrow. Congrats. You’ll have a blast (yes, the instructor really will let you fly the airplane), but you may be surprised how much this flying thing will change your life. With that in mind, here’s some free advice from someone who knows a little about the journey ahead.

Why do pilots hate recurrent training?

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Regular training increases safety and confidence. It’s good for you, right up there with eating more vegetables and exercising daily. But while all pilots know these facts, very few of us practice what we preach. Instead, we treat proficiency flights like a trip to the dentist: something we do only as often as we’re required to, and even then we dread it.

Air Facts turns 4 (or 76) – what we’ve learned about pilots

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The original Air Facts magazine was founded 76 years ago last month by Leighton Collins, and we relaunched as an online-only magazine four years ago this month. Over this time period, we’ve debated hot topics, shared great flying stories and revisited some of the unique articles from our history. In reviewing many of these articles, a few trends stand out.

Aviation’s doomsday preppers

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Roughly 20% of Americans think the world will end in their lifetime. That seems awfully pessimistic, but these doomsday preppers have nothing on pilots. Based on a number of recent conversations and comments from readers here at Air Facts, a solid majority believe general aviation will end in their lifetimes. Not get weaker – cease to exist.

Is the ADS-B glass half full?

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Over the past 25 years, pilots have complained about three different transponder rules: Mode C, then Mode S and now ADS-B. Is the FAA really this incompetent or do pilots just like to gripe? As usual, the answer is a little bit of both. I say the ADS-B glass is half full.

Part of the team – what it means to be a pilot

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It’s one of the great pleasures of being a pilot–we get to play on the same field as the greats. Very few sandlot baseball players get to pitch at Fenway Park, but as brand new private pilots we can fly from Washington Dulles to New York LaGuardia in a 172. That’s an honor we shouldn’t take lightly.

Security theater – 5 things pilots shouldn’t have to live with

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It’s worth reviewing some of the wasteful and ineffective security programs we put up with. That’s not because we should forget what happened that day, but because bad security measures hurt everyone: they cost taxpayers lots of money, they discourage pilots from using their hard-earned certificates and they distract security organizations from doing real work.

The emergency procedure nobody practices

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Upon reviewing accidents from the past few years, it’s clear there is a disturbing trend in modern cockpits: pilots struggle to control the airplane after the autopilot quits flying. Now before you start bemoaning the state of stick and rudder skills and urging all pilots to start flight training in a Cub, let’s consider another (more nuanced) option.

USA Today, with help from trial lawyers, gets it exactly wrong

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The headline is so over the top that it looks like a parody. The front page of the USA Today screams “Safety last: lies and coverups mask roots of small-plane carnage.” Words like lies and carnage are a dead giveaway that the article to follow will be a hatchet job, not serious journalism, and Thomas Frank’s three-part “investigation” doesn’t disappoint.

Dad is my copilot – Father’s Day flying thoughts

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I’ve been flying with my dad for literally my entire life, growing up in the back of different airplanes while he flew me and my three brothers around the country. 2000+ hours later, I can’t imagine life without aviation in it. More importantly, I can’t imagine my relationship with my dad without flying.