“We was on fire; I could see the flames!”
The story of a winged boot, and the men who wore it
A day in the life of a fledgling instructor
Almost a ground loop

Almost a ground loop

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Friday Photo: logging some actual

Friday Photo: logging some actual

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Boring is the new black

Boring is the new black

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A flying gig in New Zealand

A flying gig in New Zealand

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The day I really graduated to airline pilot

The day I really graduated to airline pilot

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Pilatus ice

Ice bridging: the myth that won’t die

Spitfire

From the archives: Checkout in a Spitfire

New Articles

Our most recent posts
Pratt engine

“We was on fire; I could see the flames!”

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A DC-3 is never quiet, but for late night departures, we sometimes would reduce the power a little earlier for noise abatement. Just as I trimmed the RPMs to 2300, the right engine cut loose with a cacophony of explosions that resembled a 10-gauge shotgun being fired right next to my ear. The engine was backfiring. Badly.

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Stalag Luft IV

The story of a winged boot, and the men who wore it

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We have a lot of memorabilia from both of our fathers, however, one unique item really grabbed our attention. It is a small patch featuring an embroidered boot with a single wing on it. Susan and I wondered what the significance of a winged boot was and why it was part of her father’s memorabilia. I searched the Internet and was stunned by what I learned.

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A day in the life of a fledgling instructor

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It was an anxious moment. With palms sweating and sweat rings around my armpits I was hoping that my first student was truly ready to slip the surly bonds of earth. Hopefully I didn’t forget to instill any critical kernels of knowledge. Mark was probably thinking along the same lines and was sweating every bit as badly as I was.

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Cub on grass runway

Almost a ground loop

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I started with the stick well back. The engine was producing full power. I pushed the stick forward. Right at the point of lift off there was an abrupt swerve to the right. I closed the throttle and held the stick firmly back, planted in my ribs.

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Friday Photo: logging some actual

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Flying in actual IMC is an invaluable experience for any pilot and even more so for one training for the next level certification. We knew there would be good IMC opportunity (without icing or convection) on this day for some valuable flying time. We took off early morning, climbed above the first layer and found a nice area for this picture.

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ZUG on ramp

A flying gig in New Zealand

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After flying for a major airline more than 28 years, I reached the mandatory retirement age. I loved every minute of it, and I had no desire to retire. So, I began to research options so that I could continue commercial flying. As I scanned the internet, I came across a flying opportunity in New Zealand. A small airline was looking for a chief pilot.

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DC-3 Spooky

The day I really graduated to airline pilot

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Many senior pilots at Eastern regarded new hires as a “kid who didn’t have enough common sense to come in out of the rain.” This condescending attitude was particularly true of some of the older WWII captains flying the DC-8 at the time. Their view of your engineer status and job was simply, “get the fuel on board, sit down, shut up, and keep your feet off the seat.”

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Jet engine fire

Mayday, mayday, mayday!

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I am surprised at how reluctant some pilots are to declare an emergency with ATC, as if some stigma is attached to saying the “E” word, that follows you around for the rest of your flying life. What I find more intriguing is some folks who are the most hesitant to declare one have never had an actual “real world” emergency. Yet.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman
Cirrus

Do we want flying to be hard or easy?

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Earning a pilot certificate is one of the most difficult things you can do as a hobby. While technology has made many activities easier these days, pilots still have to learn about magnetos and Morse code, bank angle and Bernoulli. For some aviation boosters, that’s a problem; for others, it’s an opportunity.

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Flight stats

What I learned about flying in 2020

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The end of the year may be a magical time for personal reflection, but my latest trip down memory lane was caused by something much more prosaic: filling out my annual insurance renewal form. Besides a feeling of gratitude for the hours I logged this year—and a burning desire to reschedule some canceled trips in 2021—I came away with a few lessons learned. None of these are exactly revolutionary, but at least a few were surprising to me.

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GA safety trends: what should we worry about?

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FAA regulations are written in blood, according to the cliche, but it doesn’t seem like flight training reacts to accidents quite so consistently. That’s a mistake. While being a good pilot means more than just avoiding an accident, that goal is certainly a good place to start. That mindset is what makes accident statistics so valuable for general aviation, and the recently released Nall Report from the AOPA Air Safety Institute is a gold mine.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Tow bar

Flirting with real (and financial) disaster

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Departure was without problem, and soon we were ascending at 1000 FPM over the frozen landscape. It was then than I happened to notice that the amber gear-up light had not illuminated. I cycled the gear down and back up to see if it was a temporary glitch. No change. I then assumed that the light was simply burned out, and not being the green light I needed before landing, made a note to change it at the first opportunity.

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Owens Valley

VFR to IFR in a flash on a solo cross-country

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I can no longer recall if I was aware of an incoming system and thought I could beat it, or it developed quicker than forecast and “caught me” or what. But in a flash, I went from VFR to IFR as if someone had flicked a switch. My first reaction was to see if I would “pop-out” the back, like all of us did/would/still do. But after about 15-20 seconds, my thoughts turned to bugging out.

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AIRMET turb

Bratburger-itis: a memorable trip

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All week long, the weather was looking good. When I called for my flight weather briefing Friday morning (note this is before the common use of internet weather), the briefer mentioned the potential for moderate turbulence and potential for gusty winds. The velocity of the winds he forecast was less than what I had comfortably handled before so I wasn’t concerned. And, after all, I had a whole two years of flying under my belt!

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
Jet engine fire

Mayday, mayday, mayday!

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I am surprised at how reluctant some pilots are to declare an emergency with ATC, as if some stigma is attached to saying the “E” word, that follows you around for the rest of your flying life. What I find more intriguing is some folks who are the most hesitant to declare one have never had an actual “real world” emergency. Yet.

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Cirrus EIS

Fuel Reserve Requirements—the FARs Aren’t Much Help

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You’re pointed away from the destination airport on some controller’s vector and you are sweating the near-empty fuel gauges. As a last resort you tell the controller you are minimum fuel and need priority to the runway. Did you violate FAR 91.167, the rule that sets the requirements for minimum fuel when flying under IFR?

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Garmin engine gauges

Why it quits—and what to do about it

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If you are into the sort of thing that warrants full tanks of fuel for every flight, then you are already in the realm of those who live to read these tales. Otherwise, this one is for you. You see, flying with a half tank of gas when the trip requires more is asking for a prayer at some time before you reach your destination.

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Weather Geek

Understanding Mother Nature
Wing with snow

Is that airframe icing or snow?

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You’re flying in visible moisture with the air temperature below freezing and you notice something building up on the leading edge of the wings. Is that airframe icing? What you see collecting on the wing leading edges in a cold cloud could be airframe icing, or it could be snow. Icing is bad, maybe very bad, but snow isn’t much of a problem. How do you know the difference?

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Radar map

The two rules of weather flying

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It’s when you start to plan longer trips, over several hours or several days, that you develop a deeper understanding of how to navigate the atmosphere. And for me there are two principles that guide my thinking on these journeys: the weather will always change; and, it’s always scarier on the computer screen!

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500mb chart

How dynamics and thermodynamics create weather

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As a pilot, you know that the atmosphere is constantly evolving. The changes in precipitation, cloud types, and hazards you see all link back to changes in temperature, pressure, and forces. Understanding weather means understanding the two main meteorological processes behind weather changes: dynamics and thermodynamics.

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Young Pilots

Stories from the next generation
Chandler and dad

Pilot in command

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The fuel gauges were now bouncing between below a quarter tank and below half a tank. I knew we had enough fuel, but what was up ahead was not looking good. There was a thin layer of wispy, white clouds below us that allowed us to see the ground, so we continued. This lured us into a false sense of security that it was going to stay that way.

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Richard L. Collins

The second annual Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots

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The Richard Collins family has once again partnered with Sporty’s to offer The Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots. To qualify, the writer must be a pilot (including student pilot) who is 24 years of age or younger. The article must be original, not previously published, and no longer than 1,500 words. The topic should be an event that changed or shaped the author’s flying.

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Friday Photo

Incredible views from the cockpit

Friday Photo: logging some actual

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Flying in actual IMC is an invaluable experience for any pilot and even more so for one training for the next level certification. We knew there would be good IMC opportunity (without icing or convection) on this day for some valuable flying time. We took off early morning, climbed above the first layer and found a nice area for this picture.

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Sunset

Friday Photo: Sunset takeoff

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Airports around sunset are beautiful places to just sit and watch the world go by. Alan Connor snapped this photo of just that moment, as a tailwheel airplane lifts off, rising above a setting sun. It almost looks as if the airplane has a spotlight on it.

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Friday Photo: sunset from FL 380

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A sunset between layers, flying southwest between two of the most well known tourist destinations in Brazil: Rio de Janeiro and Foz do Iguaçú, home of our share of the amazing Iguazu Falls, on the triple border with Argentina and Paraguay.

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