Opinion

Pilot talking on radio in Cessna

5 things every VFR pilot should say

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Radio communication is always one of the hardest things to learn for many pilots. It actually seems to make flying harder sometimes: you’re already busy flying the airplane when ATC gives you a call so fast all you catch is your tail number. Other pilots in CTAF areas can make it even worse. Let me give you the top five things I’ve learned to say over the years that have made flying easier and safer.

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Confidence thermometer

Why CFIs need to think about confidence more

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Who would feel safe flying with someone who did not have an appropriate level of confidence? In my mind, developing a student’s self-confidence should be one of the main jobs of the instructor. During periods where pilots are not actively undergoing flight training, it needs to be something they work on themselves. I can think back to several experiences which taught me this firsthand.

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Facebook flying posts

Facebook is bad for general aviation

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How can we turn around the public’s fear and confusion about GA? Let’s all agree, and get other pilots we know, to take the three-item Facebook pilot pledge. The three items are simple: Don’t share bad news, share only good news and share the beauty we see.

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S-Tec 55X autopilot

The case for automation

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Lately there has been a lot of focus on over-reliance on automation in the cockpit – both in general aviation and the Part 121 world. Most of us can agree that as our avionics and aircraft become more sophisticated and automation becomes more affordable, this is a very real problem. But what about those of us who insist on flying with too little automation?

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Piper Cub

Old men and old airplanes

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Are old guys attracted to old airplanes by nostalgia? For sure, in the first 30 years or so after WWII, there were lots of pilots whose romance with aviation began in the excitement of Lindbergh’s Atlantic crossing, grew through the “Golden Age” of ‘30s air racing and record-setting, and perhaps matured as biplanes went to war.

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Mechanic helping kid

The real incentives young aviators need

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Aviation is not just about playing with your family’s toys and living out the thrills of flying every day. It’s about the friendships that are created in hangars, the sound of a Lycoming roaring to life after YOU replaced that cylinder, the old school feeling of grass under your landing gear, the controlling of numerous aircraft simultaneously, and the everlasting wonder of flight.

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AF night sky cockpit feature

At home in the night sky – the most honest place I know

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I assume my late night cruising position, lights down low in the cockpit, forearm resting on top of the instrument panel, chin resting on forearm, face as close to the windshield as I can get without leaving a smudge. I’m struck with an intimidating thought. The only thing between my forehead and a 470 mile per hour -54C breeze is about one and a half inches of glass.

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AF musketeer feature

Comparing your dreams – why owning an airplane is worth it

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What we love about these aeroplanes is how we feel when we are inside them, travelling across wide open spaces, chasing small puffy clouds or even just mastering two landings in a row without the instructor grabbing the yoke. It’s nice to have a beautiful interior, modern avionics and a super modern profile. But what’s more important is being able to fly, safely and passionately.

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AF cardinal in hangar feature

Home is where the hangar is

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Every pilot has more than one home. There’s the place where we sleep, eat, and get our mail (at least most of the time). Then there is another place where we have our being and that’s the airport. In my case, for 17 years, it was Hangar 2 at Fitchburg Municipal Airport.

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AF youth feature

How do we encourage new aviators?

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We proclaim the future of aviation lies in the hands of the youth, and we must give them opportunities to become pilots. We argue that flight training needs to be cheaper and we need to create more aviation programs so it is easier for them to succeed. We need scholarships and free flight training. But what kind of solution is moving the finish line closer to the start?

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AF flight instructor feature

Learning to fly – is it worth it?

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Why would anyone spend $100,000 getting all of the licenses and ratings, work bottom-rung flying jobs to get the 1500 hours, and then seek a $22,000/year position at one of the regionals? It makes no economic sense. For better or worse, commercial aviation is not the glamor industry it used to be. Is there more to it?

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AF - AOPA hat featured

Why I wear a ball cap when I fly

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It started blue, a dark blue, when my wife gave it to me as a Christmas present. Its latest achievement of many was earned in March when I completed my CFI training. It was instrumental in keeping my head from exploding while learning in flight, and during the check ride. Now my two-tone AOPA ball cap has faded to a light purple from long periods of exposure to the sun.

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AF quietairport feature

It sure is quiet at my airport

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There may come a time when our joystick and keyboard kids can load up, type in a destination, and sit back to let advanced technology avionics do most of the work. Until then we are likely to remain a pretty select group, airplane pilots–not airplane drivers–and our airports are likely to remain…quiet.

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