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Tom Neil, One of Two Living WWII RAF Aces, Flies West

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On July 11, 2018, Tom Neil, one of only two living RAF aces from the Battle of Britain, died a few days short of his 98th birthday. He flew an astonishing 141 combat missions in the Battle. His very long career in the RAF (he did not retire until 1964) also included such things as the Battle of Malta, and intercepting jet-powered V-1 “buzz bombs” over Britain in 1944.  

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Citation X

Congratulations, you’re a captain now

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I’ve always wanted this: to command a jet, to be the captain. My copilot, who was twice my age, had flown F-4s in Vietnam and did 30 years at the airlines, looked at me and said, “So, what do you want to do?” I felt small. I had passengers in the back and a jet I barely understood, and I was trying to figure out what to tell ATC.

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Radar map

Don’t ruin a flying vacation with weather worries

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Sure, the convenience of traveling by general aviation is hard to beat, and as pilots we usually have a lot of fun just getting there. But there’s another factor that can quickly overshadow the fun – weather worries. I’ve battled this off and on for years, but a recent family trip to Disney World was almost ruined by my constant stressing about the weather.

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Friday Photo: The Hague from a Cessna 172

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Long before 9/11 it was already prohibited to fly over the city centre of Dutch adminstrative residency The Hague. The royal palaces, the medieval court housing the parliament and senate are strictly forbidden to overfly below 3,000 ft AGL. To take pictures of the city I flew exactly along the border of the prohibited airspace.

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My first solo IFR cross-country

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My wife and I were planning a long cross-country to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to attend my niece’s wedding on the 18th. Without the IFR ticket, we would have been driving, so there was some pressure to pass the checkride on the 14th. For this trip, I reserved my club’s Cessna 172RG for the long weekend and we departed on the morning of the 17th.

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F-4 Phantom

Delivering F-4s to Iran

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Delivery crews for Phantoms going to overseas locations were drawn from USAF Phantom units, and I was one of those on several deliveries, including one to the German Air Force, one to our unit in Soesterburg, Netherlands, and one to the Imperial Iranian Air Force. It was the delivery to Iran that, as Ollie North says, is “a story that deserves to be told.”

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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
Radar map

Don’t ruin a flying vacation with weather worries

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Sure, the convenience of traveling by general aviation is hard to beat, and as pilots we usually have a lot of fun just getting there. But there’s another factor that can quickly overshadow the fun – weather worries. I’ve battled this off and on for years, but a recent family trip to Disney World was almost ruined by my constant stressing about the weather.

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The GPS revolution at 20 – how aviation has changed

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Decades after it first caught on, GPS is so deeply embedded in everyday life that we now take it for granted. But as important as GPS has been for the world as a whole, it’s hard to think of an industry more transformed than general aviation. Consider the long list of capabilities that even a 60-year old Light Sport Aircraft can now have thanks to this revolution.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Cessna Skyhawk

Never fly in New Jersey

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One of my most memorable flights was my long solo cross country during my PPL training. The two hours that I spent in the cockpit of my little Cessna would turn out to be two of the most valuable hours in my flight training.

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A bad case of get-there-itis

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What kind of idiot would knowingly take off into unsafe conditions, simply because they were in a rush to get home? I only skimmed this section of my training manual, secure in the knowledge that I was too smart, self-aware and cautious to ever fall prey to that kind of insidious thinking. Who could be so stupid and reckless? I now know the answer to that question: me.

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Landing gear up – how the unthinkable happened to me

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I was brought to my senses by a tremendous noise followed by an ominous quiet. In this quiet there was no sound of the motor. I realized that the airplane had stopped. I could get out of the airplane. I scrambled through the door only to be met by the tarmac three feet closer than it had been. It was not where I expected. I had crash landed. The wheels were still up. I had landed in a daydream.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
Airplane out side window

Surviving the merge: how to avoid a mid-air collision

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After presenting a mid-air prevention seminar at more than a dozen locations around the country, I’d like to highlight some observations and issues that came up during our discussions. First, we’ll review what the regulations say, then we’ll break them down and look at how they might be applied in specific scenarios.

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A kinder, gentler FAA

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The good news is that the FAA is currently operating under a new, so-called “Compliance Philosophy,” showing a kinder and gentler treatment of those charged with potential violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations and other aviation laws. However, the bad news is that FAA enforcement of the laws and regulations is still alive and well in many cases.

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Emergency landing vs. crashing

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The control of the aircraft during any approach and touchdown determines the difference of landing or crashing. A controlled aircraft flown to and through touchdown is a landing. An approach which stalls the aircraft at any time prior to touchdown will result in a crash. A crash is the aircraft falling uncontrolled to the surface, even just a few feet.

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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: bridge across Sarasota Bay

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Florida is a pilot’s paradise, as Todd Sullivan’s photo shows here. He was flying a Cessna 182 on a beautiful day in February when he took this photo of the John Ringling Causeway Bridge, which connects Sarasota and the beaches. The best part is soaring above that traffic stuck on the bridge.

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Friday Photo: The Hague from a Cessna 172

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Long before 9/11 it was already prohibited to fly over the city centre of Dutch adminstrative residency The Hague. The royal palaces, the medieval court housing the parliament and senate are strictly forbidden to overfly below 3,000 ft AGL. To take pictures of the city I flew exactly along the border of the prohibited airspace.

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Friday Photo: Trimotor view

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This isn’t your everyday wing photo. One look at the aileron and the back of the underwing engine reveals this to be an antique Ford Trimotor. Rick Torres snapped this photo from a passenger seat in the iconic airliner, as he flew over the Salinas Valley in California.

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