Cessna 172

What’s wrong with Cessna 172 pilots?

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Student with CFI

If you want to be a pilot, you better believe!

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Oh how I concentrated as the flight progressed, identifying those check points, talking to flight following, receiving timely handoffs from one sector to the next and being the best student pilot I could be. Then at the appropriate time, I dialed in, as instructed by approach control, the correct four digits in the correct sequence, hit ident in the transponder and eventually found myself in the traffic pattern with regional jets!

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Friday Photo: touch the sky

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Flying with kids is always more fun than flying solo, and this photo is a great remind why. As Fernando Gonzales-Fisher says, “My grandson touches the window of a Mooney as if he is trying to touch the clouds. What is going through his young mind? We will never know; he will never remember. A moment I will never forget.”

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Flight directors – a fatal attraction

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The very design of flight director systems concentrates all information into two needles (or V-bar) and in order to get those needles centered over the little square box, it needs intense concentration by the pilot. Normal instrument flight scan technique is degraded or disappears with the pilot sometimes oblivious to the other instruments because of the need to focus exclusively on the FD needles.

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My (memorable) first flying lesson

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Fifteen hundred feet isn’t much altitude, but it momentarily seemed Olympian as our formation turned onto the downwind leg of our traffic pattern, with the airfield looking like a precisely detailed model on our right. Another banked turn onto base leg, then onto final approach for a low-altitude flyby. We came level at about 30 feet, roaring past the showline – I was momentarily sorry I couldn’t be down there and up here simultaneously!

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Mexico coast

Want to go to Belize? What? Sure!

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I was two months into my first pilot job flying skydivers at a small Canadian drop zone in a C182, when my boss approached me with this question. Our company had the opportunity to have a winter contract in Belize running the same operation for the winter months of our off-season, and we were quite excited about the prospect. This would require ferrying our little Cessna all the way down there.

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First flying lesson

Treating my fear of flying with… flying!

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My relationship to aircraft and flying is somewhat of a paradox. On the one hand, I’ve been fascinated by planes, airports and flying since childhood. I’ve been using flight simulators for nearly 25 years, and today I’m even earning part of my money with that. On the other hand, my first real flight happened only ten years ago, and, honestly, it was a bit terrifying back then.

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Dick's Blog

Opinion and analysis from Richard Collins
Flight instruction

Teaching flying over the years

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I became a flight instructor in 1953. I last renewed my CFI in 2016 and will let it lapse today (2/28/2018). There is no log entry for that because there was no flight. I’ll tell you why I let it lapse in a bit. For now, I’ll just say that it has to do with the FAA at its petty and officious best.

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Air Facts turns 80: some things have changed, some have not

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On the 80th anniversary of AIR FACTS’ founding, I see two good questions: (1) What have been the major factors in the safety record improvement over the years and in particular the last couple of years? And, (2) Is there any way to reduce the risk even more? It is tempting to give technology a lot of potential credit for improvements but a look back throws a bucket of water on this.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman

Glass cockpits – don’t make it harder than it really is

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Too many pilots exaggerate the difference between analog instruments and glass cockpits, as if it requires a completely new pilot certificate to make the transition. That’s simply not the case – the basics of flying are the same no matter what avionics you use. Focus on basic attitude flying, which, if anything, is easier on glass cockpits with their full-screen attitude display.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Thunderstorm at night

What are we deviating for?

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I should be in bed. That was the thought that was going through my head as I bounced off the ceiling, again, and basically was tossed around like a dog with a toy. Unfortunately, my airplane and I were the toy, not the dog. We’d flown inadvertently into a thunderstorm.

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Dark clouds

Caught in a thunderstorm

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I have several cardinal rules of flying: Don’t fly in freezing clouds, don’t fly IFR in the mountains, don’t fly with less than one hour of usable fuel in the tanks, and don’t fly in thunderstorms. I have been conscientious about following these rules in my years of flying. Until one day over Pennsylvania.

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Undercast

Caught on top, Moses on board

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Fully proud of my license and confident of my newly acquired knowledge and 125-hour engine, I felt fully prepared for the 450nm trip that would take me from my home base at PDK to 5A1 in Norwalk, Ohio. For days I carefully reviewed weather patterns around my planned route of flight. It was not to be.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying

Flight directors – a fatal attraction

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The very design of flight director systems concentrates all information into two needles (or V-bar) and in order to get those needles centered over the little square box, it needs intense concentration by the pilot. Normal instrument flight scan technique is degraded or disappears with the pilot sometimes oblivious to the other instruments because of the need to focus exclusively on the FD needles.

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Rain on ramp

Demystifying Special VFR

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During pilot training, some aviation procedures are dutifully explained, yet the context around the procedure is lacking. By “context” I mean the reason, possibly historical, that a rule, process, or procedure is in place, typical scenarios of use, and modes or mechanisms of failure. One prominent example is that of “Special Visual Flight Rules.” Few other procedures elicit mystery and wonder from fellow pilots, wondering how or why these secret code words could be used.

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Weather Geek

Understanding Mother Nature
GFA cloud top map

The area forecast is going away – here’s why that’s bad news

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Rumors have swirled for years, but now it’s really happening: the text-based Area Forecast (FA) will officially disappear on October 10, 2017, to be replaced by the Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA). On the surface, this seems like an inevitable step in the transition from coded text products to graphical, interactive weather maps. But before we relegate the FA to the dustbin of history, we should consider a few important details. This transition may not be quite so innocuous.

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Fog around approach lights

Deep dark weather secrets about fog are really no mystery

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It’s not accurate to say that Mother Nature keeps secrets. However, it is spot on to say that Mother Nature harbors all manner of surprises for pilots who fly on without making an effort to develop some personal weather wisdom. One key is in understanding that what you see and feel is what you get, regardless of what is forecast.

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Surface analysis chart

Weather forecasts – there’s more to it than just charts

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On two recent occasions, I have spent my day staring down FAR 121.613. Both cases required a more in-depth study of the day’s weather than a simple scan of the TAF. Regardless of which part of the FARs you are operating under, the area forecast discussions put out by local forecasters are incredibly valuable when preparing for a day’s flying. They will give you the feel of a personal briefing.

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Young Pilots

Stories from the next generation
Liftoff of Cessna

I had the sky to myself: my first solo at 16

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My takeoff was great and my landing was spectacular; “a greaser” as Dan would say. “Two more like that,” said Dan, “and I’ll let you fly solo!” My heart pounded. I knew I was close to my first solo, but now, with both parents right there with me? To say I was excited would have been a terrible understatement.

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Kids at airport

Aviation’s future: a young pilot’s perspective

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“We need more young pilots, like you,” is a statement that I find myself hearing quite often. I typically hear this coming from older pilots and I completely agree with them. But a lot of the older pilots that I know got into aviation because they were either in the military, or they grew up around an airport. Today, these are not usually the top reasons why people get involved in aviation.

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Cessna in hangar

More comfortable in the air: an Adirondack odyssey

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My first long-distance flight in a single-engine aircraft began exactly like every other mission we’ve ever flown: with my worrying about the weather and Dad squinting at the radar image on his iPad, assuring me that we would be fine as long as we got in the air within an hour. I call our trips missions because we rarely fly without a purpose.

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Friday Photo

Incredible views from the cockpit

Friday Photo: touch the sky

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Flying with kids is always more fun than flying solo, and this photo is a great remind why. As Fernando Gonzales-Fisher says, “My grandson touches the window of a Mooney as if he is trying to touch the clouds. What is going through his young mind? We will never know; he will never remember. A moment I will never forget.”

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Friday photo: skimming the clouds at sunset

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It’s one of the best views any pilot can find, and Antonio Rodriguez shares a great picture of it in this Friday Photo: skimming along the top of the clouds at sunset. He was flying a Piper Archer II to Nebraska with family when he snapped this photo, which beautifully shows the soft colors of the sun on the clouds below.

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Friday Photo: Yosemite waterfalls

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Although I’ve been to Yosemite a number of times I have never overflown. My friend, plane owner, and pilot Mike has never been there so we took the opportunity. Later, when I was able to better view the pictures, I found that shooting through his windows somehow gave the pictures a black and white appearance.

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