Friday Photo: Melbourne from a helicopter
Summers long ago: a 1500-mile trip in a Cessna 120
Letting go: my first cross-country flight without an engine
Go or No Go: rain over Florida

Go or No Go: rain over Florida

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Are single pilot risks real?

Are single pilot risks real?

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Friday Photo: Sunset over the Columbia Mountains
That other ice

That other ice

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Nine things I know about flying in Iowa

Nine things I know about flying in Iowa

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Beech Starship

Why the Starship was such a disaster

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

11 things you must do with your pilot’s license

New Articles

Our most recent posts

Friday Photo: Melbourne from a helicopter

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There’s nothing quite like that first flight as pilot in command. For David Booth, it was extra special because he was flying his adult children. The view of Melbourne from his Robinson R44 helicopter is great, but even better was “the surprise and amazement when they found out that their father had learned to fly.”

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Cessna 120

Summers long ago: a 1500-mile trip in a Cessna 120

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In the grass of Harvey Young, an airport tucked just south of Tulsa International, there appeared a beautiful 1946 Cessna 120. I couldn’t buy it, but I convinced my buddy that this was the airplane for him. Tulsa, Oklahoma to Boston, Massachusetts: a 1500-mile trip in a 30-year old airplane with no nav radio, a com radio that just barely worked, no gyro instruments except for that needle and ball, and a wet compass. This was adventure!

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Go or No Go: rain over Florida

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The question is: can you spend the night in your own bed and fly tomorrow, taking off at 9am EST (1400 UTC) for the PDK to FXE flight? Or do you get in the car and start driving? Your 2015 Cirrus is well equipped with a Garmin glass cockpit, datalink weather, autopilot, and more. You’re also experienced and proficient, with over 2,500 hours total time and plenty of recent IFR flying under your belt.

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CJ

Are single pilot risks real?

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In the past year or so it has become very, very expensive to insure a light jet flown by a single pilot, particularly an owner pilot. In some cases the single pilot may not be able to buy coverage at any price. This is significant because the light jets provide our only glimpse into the risks of flying solo.

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Clouds over mountains

That other ice

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Structural ice is a known flight hazard and there are plenty of forecasting products to help a pilot avoid it. Curiously, there is another type of icing that has sent its share of airplanes to the salvage yard, and pilots to the graveyard. Because it is mainly an affliction of low-performance aircraft, it doesn’t receive as much attention.

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Nine things I know about flying in Iowa

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The “field of dreams” from the Kevin Costner movie is located near Dyersville, Iowa, and it’s worth a circle or two if you are flying over. However, if you are antique airplane enthusiast you know that Iowa’s real field of dreams is Antique Airfield in Blakesburg. Antique Airfield is home of the Antique Airplane Association, founded by Robert Taylor in 1953 and the AirPower Museum.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman
Clouds off wing

The discipline to say no

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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.

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ADS-B deviation

Thunderstorms and ATC – how to get from A to B when direct isn’t an option

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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.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Griswold Airport

Read those NOTAMs!

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We cruised on down to the Long Island Sound shoreline to shoot the VOR-A approach into Griswold Airport (now closed). Griswold was private, but nothing said we couldn’t shoot a low approach. Local scuttlebutt alleged that a Griswold family owned the airport and that they were “crazy.”

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Bonanza bent metal

I damaged my airplane. Now what?

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About three years ago, I had an unfortunate incident with my airplane. I flew to a nearby airport to pick up my instructor for a couple of days of training. We typically did intensive IFR training but this year, I wanted to refresh some basic flying skills so we planned a combination of some VFR basics and some IFR.

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Fuel truck

I almost ran the tanks dry

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It was four-plus decades ago, on my solo cross-country as a student pilot flying from Salem to John Day and back, that I almost ran the tanks dry. So in the spirit of learning from others’ mistakes, I offer this true-life-student-pilot experience.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
Citabria on grass runway

Always read the fine print

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It was pretty obvious that some folks hadn’t cracked open their respective book(s) in a long time. Those who had studied their documents, tended to be familiar with the BIG PRINT stuff, like their Normal Procedures sections and Emergency checklists, but were not so well-versed when it came to the various Notes, Warnings, and Cautions found throughout. There’s a lot of free, but hard-earned, wisdom in that fine print, all intended to protect life and limb.

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John Wise CFI

Lessons from a later bloomer CFI – and why you should be one too

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A CFI friend who worked with me on this rating told me that I would probably ruin the lives of my students for the first 100 hours that I instructed. It was true, but hopefully not that bad. As of this writing, I have over 700 instructing hours in most every single-engine trainer out there, and I have evolved in my thinking about this whole business of training homo sapiens to safely take to the skies.

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Static cone 737

What is that dragging behind the Boeing 737 MAX in TV news video?

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I’m sure you’ve seen video of a Boeing 737 lifting off as yet another news reader drones on about the MCAS troubles in the MAX version of the world’s most popular airliner. If you watched closely, you have seen what looks like a wire or tube with a cone on the end trailing from the top of the rudder.What the heck is that thing, and why is the 737 dragging it through the air?

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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
Ben Siepser

Into the fog: a kid’s view of IFR flying

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“Maybe we should wait until tomorrow to leave,” my mom inquired as she looked at the weather forecast on her phone. I noted that her voice was very nervous sounding.” No, it will be fine once we get to a high altitude,” my dad said reassuringly. The engine sputtered and then roared, then we started to roll onto the taxiway. I could feel the tension inside the cabin; everyone seemed a bit uneasy.

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Grandpa's logbook

Chasing my shadow

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It may have been falling apart – the cardboard and paper ripping at the seams and the ink slowly fading from its pages – but within it dwelled the memories and accomplishments of a young man striving to become a pilot. All of this I failed to realize as my grandpa’s logbook passed from his outstretched hands to mine just a few months before his death. Looking back, I wish I had explored the stories hidden within.

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Lakes by Grove

Medical crisis on a solo cross-country

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I had just taken off from Aurora, Missouri (2H2) heading toward Grove, Oklahoma (KGMJ), flying at an altitude of 4,500 feet. I was a student pilot, and this was my first solo cross-country experience. Everything seemed to be a pretty standard day; the weather was nice. The one big mistake I made I had no way of knowing or preparing for, but it happened all the same.

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Friday Photo

Incredible views from the cockpit

Friday Photo: Melbourne from a helicopter

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There’s nothing quite like that first flight as pilot in command. For David Booth, it was extra special because he was flying his adult children. The view of Melbourne from his Robinson R44 helicopter is great, but even better was “the surprise and amazement when they found out that their father had learned to fly.”

Read More
Columbia Mountains

Friday Photo: Sunset over the Columbia Mountains

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That first long cross country flight is always a memorable experience, and for Kevin Cook it was even better – just look at that sunset. But what he remembers most are the helpful controllers throughout his flight. As he says, “We truly have an amazing ATC system in place in the US.”

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Friday Photo: Monument Valley

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It looks like a setting for a Western – because it is. The sandstone buttes of Monument Valley, on the border between Arizona and Utah, appear in many famous movies but they are even better in person. Richard Garnett shares a photo of the otherworldly scene in this Friday Photo, taken from a Piper Archer during a cross-country training flight.

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