About an hour into that leg, I noticed something disconcerting. It was getting dark, and it was only 7:30. All my questions about why this was happening didn’t stop it from happening, and by 8:00 PM, it was totally dark. It had never dawned on me that I lived on the western side of the central time zone, and that on the eastern side of that time zone, things were quite a bit different.
All went well, I reported final on 07, and was getting ready to perform a smooth touch down right past the threshold. Then, about one minute before touch down, I heard somebody saying something like, “LZPT taking off runway 25.” I was not sure I heard right. I mean, I just reported my final about a minute ago. Surely anybody on the frequency, let alone a pilot sitting in his aircraft about to take off, must have heard me?
Richard Collins often told me that the Mooney was a cult airplane. And he was right. While all pilots would brag about how fast their airplane was, and how much it could carry, and how fast it climbed, and how far it went on full tanks, Mooney owners focused on one thing. How fast they flew on so little fuel.
This photo was taken on the return leg of a day trip to Osceola, Wisconsin, from the Twin Cities, where there is still a grass runway to play on with this fun little taildragger. After a few landings with the wire and cork gas gauge telling us it was time to take a break, we took the courtesy car into the beautiful old town area for a look at Cascade Falls and lunch. Back to the airport for some gas, a few more times around the patch for good measure and then back home to finish off a perfect day of aviating.
With the honorable exception of the freighters, fighting the pandemic directly and covering for most of the belly cargo network lost due to the lack of passenger flights, pretty much everyone else in aviation has been flying less, perhaps not at all, during the last couple months. That is not healthy, either for humans or machines.
We banked north and both of us saw what had been developing while we were engrossed in our pattern work. There was a beast sitting on top of Paris Mountain and it seemed intent on eating airplanes. KGMU was in front of us at around one thousand feet of elevation. Paris Mountain was only four nautical miles north, extending another thousand feet above that. The beast stood a few thousand feet over Paris—close and imposing.
“Threat and Error Management” has become synonymous with the airline industry and particularly within the major carriers who, due to the sheer scale of operations, require structured solutions to risk. This does not mean we are risk adverse as an industry; it can’t by the very nature of what we do. But it does mean we have to manage risk in a way that always keeps us in the middle of the envelope.
Lake Champlain, lying north to south and bordered by the Adirondacks to the west and Green Mountains to the east, represents one of the beautiful natural environments to fly. Even when life feels overwhelming, flying is a reminder of a sense of calm and distraction and the good fortune of being a pilot.
Only a few years ago, a fully integrated automatic flight control system (AFCS) with an autothrottle was the sole domain of the air transport aircraft and heavy iron business jets. However, today’s AFCS with autothrottle (AT) are becoming common on single engine turboprops. Are you ready?
Making predictions about COVID-19 is a fool’s errand right now, with a year’s worth of news happening in a week. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think in broad outlines about the future of flying. I’m obviously biased because I love light airplanes and the freedom they offer, but I genuinely believe general aviation will come out of this crisis stronger. This isn’t just wishful thinking; there are reasons to be optimistic.
Time to update an old debate: have Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs) taken off in popularity over the last five years? Are Sport Pilot certificates more common now that the economy is stronger? At the risk of provoking another argument, my review of the data suggests no. The Light Sport world is still alive, but it’s a niche industry with few real winners. But there is a silver lining.
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.