John’s blog

The truth about learning to fly

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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.

One pilot’s Christmas wish list

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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.

7 instrument approaches you have to see to believe

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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.

Drones: the good, the bad and the ugly

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There’s a lot of talk about drones recently, some of it reasoned but most of it not. Which side is right? Probably both. If we look close enough, there may be a silver lining to this cloud–but the forecast is still cloudy.

Angle of Attack isn’t a miracle cure

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Hop on the bandwagon–Angle of Attack (AoA) is the new must-have aviation accessory. This year’s Oshkosh fly-in was just the latest evidence, with a number of new product introductions, safety seminars and ad campaigns all proclaiming the life-saving potential of AoA instruments.

FAA wants your data – will you give it to them?

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In the wake of disturbing stories about pilots being tracked and detained for no reason, the FAA is considering a new data-monitoring program for pilots. “Big data” may help the GA safety record–but only if pilots give up their data. Right now, that’s a tough sell.

The new “killer items” for IFR pilots

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Many pilots learn the “killer items” checklist during their flight training–fuel, flaps and trim. But for instrument pilots, GPS receivers and WAAS approaches have brought new traps to be aware of. Here is an IFR “killer items” checklist to consider before shooting your next approach.

A revolution in remanufactured airplanes

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Have we seen the last clean sheet piston airplane? It’s a fair question given the current state of new airplane sales. But a handful of new companies may point to an alternative–remanufactured airplanes that are as good as new ones for half the price.

Fly safely – think like a golfer

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At first glance, flying small airplanes and chasing a tiny white ball around a golf course seem like completely different activities. But while the stakes are certainly higher in aviation–nobody ever died from a bogey–I think there’s a lot for pilots to learn from elite golfers.

Safety: our greatest challenge

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Pilots spend an awful lot of time talking about safety, and we’re no exception here at Air Facts. Some readers have suggested we actually do it too much–quit the morbid talk about crashes and promote the positives in aviation, they say. Are we really overdoing it?

Why do we still run out of gas?

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We stink at fuel management. The latest evidence? On January 23, a Cirrus SR20 crashed a few miles short of the runway in Danbury, Connecticut and made national headlines for its colorful parachute getting caught in power lines. Surely a plane as advanced as this one couldn’t just run out of fuel.

Abandoned airfields: history in our midst

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We all know that airports are disappearing at a depressing rate. But they are not forgotten, thanks to the heroic efforts of Paul Freeman and his fascinating website: Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields. This hidden gem offers history and pictures for over 1600 airports that are still among us, but no longer on the sectional.

7 good things about general aviation

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Pilots are famous for being passionate about flying, but they’re also famous for being pessimistic about flying. Call me hopelessly naive, but I think there is still a lot to be thankful for as pilots. With that in mind, I’d like to offer seven good things about general aviation right now.

The sorry state of weather training

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It’s become fashionable to complain about the lack of stick and rudder training today–just tune into our long-running debate about stall training if you don’t believe me. But before we run off and mandate 100 hours of taildragger training for every pilot, we should look at the numbers.

Cub love: is simpler really better?

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Hang around pilots long, and you’re sure to see someone get all teary-eyed about the J-3 Cub, Piper’s venerable taildragger that turns 75 this year. That yellow color, the open door, the grass in the tailwheel–it’s all part of the mystique. But for a while, I just didn’t get it.

Flying the logbook: my best flights

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Have you “flown your logbook” lately? You know, sat down to read each entry and relive the flights in your head? It had been years since I’d done it, but an insurance renewal form sent me digging through my logbooks recently, and 20 minutes soon became three hours. I relived some great flights that I had nearly forgotten.

Saying goodbye to an airport

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I’ve been to plenty of funerals in my life, but never for an airport. But that’s the only way to describe what happened last week, when I joined a group of 13 other pilots and six airplanes to make the short flight to Blue Ash Airport (ISZ) and land on runway 24 one last time.