I had read plenty of articles just like this one before my unusual flight happened. It always seems so obvious until you’re actually there, in the situation. Luckily, in my case, we got home safe, and after the disappointment passed, I learned just a little more to make me a better pilot.
Here’s a number that should be on the front page of every major newspaper: 224. That’s how many people died–worldwide–in airline crashes last year. Around 3 billion people flew on airlines last year, which makes 224 a simply incredible number.
I was challenged to write something like this a while back and spent time looking at blank screens before finally formulating an idea. The challenge was to write about the good, but I feel compelled to write about some of the good and the bad.
For most of us amateurs and professionals, flying involves risk management. While boating has its own satisfactions (and accidents), the reward-risk level in aviation is substantially higher, and this to me indicates that aviation attracts people who are more likely to be “risk-takers.”
It was July 2, 1974, and my wife Mary Ann and I were flying home from Salilsaw, Oklahoma where we had dropped off an employee’s children. I was just north of Guthrie, Oklahoma; it was early evening and near sundown. We had our Beech Debonair cruising in smooth air at 7500 feet when a call came over 122.8. “This is Cessna NN; can anybody hear me?”
“So how hard is it to fly an airplane?” my good friend Mike asked as he settled into the right seat. It was the first time he had been in a plane smaller than a regional jet and I sensed he was apprehensive. “It’s simple, like riding a bike.”
It was getting dark. I had never flown at night. On top of that, I had no night cockpit familiarization training. Incredibly, I did not know where any of the light switches were. Does it surprise anyone that I was not carrying a flashlight as well?
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.
For some ancient, bureaucratic reason my Piper is not allowed to use the same newer, more capable and less expensive avionics and autopilots that experimental airplanes do, although we all fly the same airways, airspace and systems. Is TSO’d equipment really twice as good and twice as reliable as today’s non-TSO’d?
We often think of airplanes as a way to make long trips shorter, or make them possible at all, but sometimes we forget that the trip doesn’t have to be very far at all to make it worthwhile to fly, or that it can conquer more than one kind of distance. Here’s the story of one case in point.
Several years ago I started volunteering for the Angel Flight organization, which transports low income patients for distant specialized medical treatments. Such flights are a fine opportunity to share my good fortune in owning a relatively fast and comfortable cross-country airplane.
Where? Simple. Ice is where you find it. As pilots we have to accept the fact that ice will be forecast when it is cold and there are clouds but if we are to get any utility out of our airplanes in the wintertime, we have to develop the weather wisdom to recognize the times when ice is likely and when it is not.
After parking at the FBO and shutting the engine down, we looked at each other and laughed like a couple of kids that just got off their first roller coaster ride. Scary, exciting and fun all at the same time.
Most “accident” reports should be labeled “lack of judgment” investigations. Ian Seager says that too often we fail to learn from our own and other pilots’ errors.
In 2013, Air Facts debated the big issues in aviation, offered tips for safer flying and shared some good pilot stories. If you missed any of the 160 articles we published this year, here’s our list of the 10 most popular.