This is a chronicle of events of a search operation requested by a worried family when their loved one did not arrive from a short instrument flight. I got up on October 6, 2015, to a gloomy, overcast morning. After lunch my cell phone started to vibrate and when I answered it was Jim from the FBO office at the Chadron Airport. He explained that a V-tail Beechcraft had left Chadron for Alliance midmorning and had not arrived.
I had a 1943 Taylorcraft L2-M that I bought from a rancher from Lusk, Wyoming, north of Torrington (where I live), back in 1977. My dad heard about it and we flew up there and went out to the ranch to take a look. The guy actually had it in an open front shed, with nothing but a rope with some rags hanging off it, to keep the animals out. What kind of animals, you ask? Why, buffalo, of course!
I agonized over this for a very long time before I bought my first airplane. It seems to be one of those endless hangar discussions that divides pilots into one of three camps that almost serves as a form of introduction. And so, “Hi, my name is Dan, I’m a high-wing guy. How about you? Oh, you like low wing aircraft because you can see the numbers as you turn base to final?”
In July 2019, I finally obtained my private pilot license. It took me seven years. Being a pilot had not been in the cards for me. It wasn’t even on my bucket list, because I didn’t like flying and had no interest in airplanes. People seem to have solid reasons why they undergo the vigorous flight training, which takes considerable time and effort. So why did I become a pilot? Here is my story.
Sunsets are spectacular anytime airplanes are involved, and this Friday Photo proves that you don’t even have to be flying for that to be true. Kent Meyer took this gorgeous photo as the sun set over his Challenger 350, on the ramp at Inverness, Florida. It’s enough to make you want to drive to the airport and go chase the sun.
While we were hanging onto the balloon to keep it on the ground, a group of high school age kids approached us. They were obviously super excited about being up and close with it, which is great—I love seeing it. But after conversing I realized that they didn’t understand general aviation at all. What I gathered from them was that everything with flying seemed out of reach.
The aircraft ferry game is both interesting and where one always expects the unexpected. My card reads “Can Ferry, Will Travel.” Flying an older aircraft cross country is more than just throwing your bag in the back and departing. To do the job properly means planning ahead.
Things began to get interesting. I was about to learn a valuable lesson about checkpoints—namely, don’t use railroads or high tension lines. From the air they look exactly alike and as luck would have it I chose the wrong one and begin to get off course.
Van Vanderburgh and the American Airlines Training Department determined that pilots flying the new automated jets were becoming “Automation Dependent Pilots.” One of Van’s slides defines such a pilot as one who does not select the proper level of automation for the task and loses situational awareness.
Pilots love a good debate, and some topics seem to come in and out of fashion like bell bottoms. Right now the wars over lean of peak and angle of attack indicators have cooled (thankfully), but the war over “the impossible turn” seems to be heating up. In the last few months I’ve seen multiple articles, videos, and forum threads on the subject. It’s fun to debate, but what problem are we trying to solve here?
By long standing tradition, baseball players never talk to a pitcher in the middle of a perfect game—if everything is going well, why jinx it? The same mindset applies to pilots, who are often hesitant to acknowledge good news for fear of chasing it away. I’m going to violate that unwritten rule because I think it’s worth exploring an interesting development: general aviation is doing surprisingly well during the coronavirus pandemic.
While all airplanes have stories to tell, some are more important and more interesting than others. Here are five I believe should be in every pilot’s logbook or on their to-do list. These aren’t necessarily the best or most exciting airplanes ever to take to the skies, but they define specific ages in general aviation and make up the rich history of our industry. Call it the general aviation canon.