Here’s a pair of airplanes you don’t often see in the same picture: the giant Antonov AN-124 and the even rarer Boeing 747 Dreamlifter. Ernie Borjon was in the right place at the right time to see the Russian freighter take off while its smaller (not by much) rival sat on the ramp. The combined weight of these two heavy haulers is over 1.5 million pounds!
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.
“Once-in-a-lifetime. Bucket list. Wish list.” Terms we often use to describe an out of the ordinary, incredible experience. While we toss these terms around quite frequently, how often do we actually experience something that deserves the moniker “once-in-a-lifetime?” I’m sure you’ll agree it’s pretty rare. Recently I participated in a genuine bucket list experience.
I was trying to fly home to Cincinnati, Ohio, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the end of 2019, and the weather wasn’t great. The screenshots here are the actual ones I was looking at as I sat in the lobby in Pittsburgh, making my go/no-go decision. I’ll share the weather briefing, then ask you to add your comment about what you would do. Then, at the end, I’ll reveal what my decision was and what my thought process was.
During my 45 years of observing and writing about aviation, pilot upset training is a topic that has waxed and waned. For the past few years the idea of learning how to recover from an extreme attitude is in ascendance. But the reason upset training emphasis falls in and out of favor is because it just doesn’t work.
Composite wings are good for a lot of things. While low drag is first on the list, they also do a great job of reflecting the colors of the sky, as this photo from Tim Crawford shows. The pinks and oranges from the sun are visible above, while the glowing lights of Detroit are visible below. Even better? This photo was taken on Tim’s wife’s first general aviation flight.
I was taught to look ahead towards the end of the runway in the flare. Joe didn’t flare at all. He cut the power and the plane fell, the main gear with its large rubber tires hitting hard and bouncing 15 or 20 feet in the air. Joe pushed the yoke forward and we hit again, ballooning higher this time. “Go around power, Joe!” I yelled. But, no. Joe ignored me.
Not long after I had checked the weather on the club computer, I heard something through the open door. I rushed outside and saw a magnificent Spitfire passing by the tower, at high speed and low altitude. I was told that warbirds would be returning from an airshow that had taken place south of Paris, and that some of them would land in Le Touquet before getting back to their home base in the UK.
Around major airports, vectors to final on an instrument approach are the norm. But outside radar coverage it’s common to fly a procedure turn to start an approach. This video tip reviews the basics of this maneuver, including when it’s required, what shape these turns take, and why the winds aloft matter. It’s a great 3-minute review for any instrument pilot.
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but if I had to commit to one for 2020 it would be to spend more time traveling and less time as a tourist. That might sound like a distinction without a difference, but I believe the change in mindset is profound—especially for a pilot.
The most famous decision pilots make happens before we even get airborne: to go or not to go? But after a busy summer of flying, I have learned that this is actually one of the easiest decisions in aviation. Saying “no” may be stressful when you’re on the ground, desperate to fly, but it’s much harder once you’re in the air. Call it plan continuation bias or get-there-itis; whatever the name, it is a worthy opponent.
The good news is technology like datalink weather has made it a lot easier to manage convective weather. With ADS-B on my iPad or SiriusXM on my panel, it’s fairly simple to avoid the worst weather; it just takes patience and discipline to go all the way around it. Since most of my cross country flights are IFR, those long deviations require a lot of coordination with Air Traffic Control.