The Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots

Gulfstream in flight

Eight life lessons you learn as a pilot

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The most important bags aren’t suitcases

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I had a gurgling feeling in my stomach that meant only one thing and it would happen soon. I didn’t have a bag handy so I told Mike who was in the right seat “your controls,” took off my headset, opened the window and let it all hang out. The wind pulled my sunglasses off my face and gravity took them to the ground below never to be seen again.

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R44 hovering

What’s wrong with Robinson R44 pilots?

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Robinson R44 helicopters are death traps, right up there with Mitsubishi MU-2s and Cirrus SR22s – at least that’s according to a lot of articles you read online. But does it tell the whole story? In the spirit of Richard Collins’s very popular “What’s wrong with Cirrus/Mooney/Bonanza pilots” series of articles, I’d like to offer a more nuanced perspective.

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Thunderstorm cloud

“No complaints” – how I stumbled into a thunderstorm

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I asked NorCal if there were any ride reports over the mountains. “No complaints,” replied the controller. We went into the clouds about over PXN VOR. No big deal. We were just bumping along V301, in and out of the clouds at first, then solid IMC. In the clouds it was just light chop, and my little Piper pretty much just flew herself, even without an autopilot. Then the world suddenly went mad.

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Friday Photo: on top in a Cirrus

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It had been a long day already – 2 hour flight training in Naples and then dodging thunderstorms in southern GA on my way to Louisville. The peace in that view was a welcome sight which relaxed me before I arrived in Louisville with a 40 KT blow from 290, forcing me to abandon 2 approaches at KLOU and divert to KSDF.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman
R44 hovering

What’s wrong with Robinson R44 pilots?

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Robinson R44 helicopters are death traps, right up there with Mitsubishi MU-2s and Cirrus SR22s – at least that’s according to a lot of articles you read online. But does it tell the whole story? In the spirit of Richard Collins’s very popular “What’s wrong with Cirrus/Mooney/Bonanza pilots” series of articles, I’d like to offer a more nuanced perspective.

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A Christmas book list for pilots: 18 top picks

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As social media and cable TV deteriorate into ill-informed shouting matches, I find myself reading more and more books. And as a book lover, Christmas means making my list and distributing it to family and friends. So in the spirit of the holidays I’ll offer my list of great aviation books.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Bryce Canyon Airport

Hope is a bad plan in an airplane

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I graduated up the GA performance hierarchy through the usual suspects like the Piper Archer and the Cessna 182. But it was buying an RV-4 with an O-320 and a constant speed prop that freed me from all the pedestrian performance concerns of pilots flying lesser airplanes. Or so I thought.

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Grumman Cheetah

When a practice emergency becomes the real thing

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Everything looked perfect – too perfect as it turned out. I kept expecting Bob to advance the throttle (or tell me to) so we could fly out of there, but instead we kept getting lower, flying a final approach to the off-airport landing spot. I couldn’t quite believe it when Bob, instead of applying power and initiating the go-around, started a landing flare!

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Santa Clara River

Stuck on a riverbed in a Champ

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As I flew alone over the river near Fillmore, California, I noticed a really big area of sand that had been scoured flat and level by that high water. It was white, obvious and very clean looking, and the water was long gone. This is when it occurred to me that a guy might just be able to land on it in a Champ with big tires.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
Cessna on runway

The other 4 C’s of aviation

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We are taught the 4 C’s of aviation in primary training. When faced with difficulty, such as getting lost or flying VFR into IMC, the safest course of action is to Climb, Communicate, Confess and Comply with instructions. But there is another set of C’s that has become more relevant to me as my flying experience has progressed.

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A pilot’s dilemma: inoperative instruments or equipment

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A recent legal interpretation by the FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel (dated June 13, 2018) addresses the rule on operating an aircraft with any inoperative instruments or equipment, FAR 91.213. It gives us an opportunity to review this sometimes complex rule that has bedeviled many general aviation pilots and owners for years.

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Threats: can they keep us safe?

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Humans make mistakes. We always have and always will. We have to use our training and skills to recognize the fact that we will make errors, recognize those errors, use techniques to minimize errors and mitigate any negative outcomes caused by those errors. There are many methods and tools to accomplish this, but let’s focus on the management of the “threats.”

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Weather Geek

Understanding Mother Nature
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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How to use a Skew-T Log-P diagram

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Whether you’re a high or low altitude pilot, you can see how the temperature and amount of moisture in the air changes as you rise and descend through the atmosphere. How can we better understand these vertical changes to improve weather safety and awareness? Let’s get acquainted with a meteorological diagram called a Skew-T Log-P.

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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: steam gauges or glass?

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Pilots often argue whether new digital displays are better or worse than traditional round instruments. This photo from EAA AirVenture adds a new twist to the long-running debate. At least in this case, the younger generation is voting for glass!

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Friday Photo: on top in a Cirrus

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It had been a long day already – 2 hour flight training in Naples and then dodging thunderstorms in southern GA on my way to Louisville. The peace in that view was a welcome sight which relaxed me before I arrived in Louisville with a 40 KT blow from 290, forcing me to abandon 2 approaches at KLOU and divert to KSDF.

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Friday Photo: a wingtip rainbow in Colombia

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When you’re practicing aerobatics, it helps to have a good visual reference for your maneuvers. Santiago Arbelaez found the perfect one on a flight in his RV-4 – a vivid rainbow off the right wing. Here’s hoping 2019 brings you many spectacular views like this from the cockpit.

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