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Friday Photo: Arizona canyons

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We were heading from the mountains of Show Low, Arizona to the desert of Phoenix, Arizona for the day so Krista and I could spend the day with her son Casey. The trip would normally be a six plus hours round trip by car.  However, being blessed and fortunate enough to fly, it is a 90-minute round trip allowing us to spend more time with Casey and still be home in time for dinner.

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An airline pilot gets his general aviation fix

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My good friend Jason arrived in Cape Town on an overnight with his airline and very large twin-engine jet. He normally comes to stay and we catch up over a steak, talking rugby and fishing. This time was to be slightly different in that I mentioned to Jay that there was a club outing to Saldanha and would he like to go. He was very excited and hence we awoke early the next morning to pre-flight the Yak.

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Friday Photo: sunset in the rain

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Dale Walton was flying his 1967 Cessna 150G at historic Minter field in Shafter, CA (MIT), an old World War II training base when he took this photo. As he says, “My first landing in the rain! No wind to speak of, but what a thrill it was watching the rain speed by my landing light in the wing Cessna. One of many more adventures to come. Shot with my iPhone 7+.”

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Go or No Go: finding a gap

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You’ve just passed 500 hours in your Cessna 182RG, and it has proven to be a very reliable traveling machine over the last four years. Today’s mission is to get you home from Columbus, Ohio (TZR), to South Bend, Indiana (SBN). The flight will take just under 1.5 hours, compared to over four hours driving, but as always weather is a potential factor.

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Flying a Pitts Special over the Amazon

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I am sitting in this brightly colored red, two seat, Pitts Special S2B stunt plane alone over the Atlantic Ocean at 9,500 feet. I have been flying out of sight from land for quite some time and occasionally the magnitude of the adventure I am undertaking sinks in and I have to mentally remind myself to take this trip one small step at a time.

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Silent night over the Appalachian Mountains

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We all have occasion to read accident reports, now and then, and hope to learn something for our effort. When we step into the cockpit, these thoughts are set aside in order to focus on the tasks of flying. It is only in the rarest circumstances when mortality infiltrates the cockpit and stubbornly takes hold.

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Friday Photo: Chicago fly-by

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I had been in Chicago on business the day before. It was a beautiful morning. Skies were mostly clear. Visibility was unlimited. Air was calm. Temperature was cool (it was late-September). Great day to fly. I had just departed O6C (Schaumburg Regional), about to head home. I decided to take a tour of downtown Chicago, from out over Lake Michigan.

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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: Arizona canyons

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We were heading from the mountains of Show Low, Arizona to the desert of Phoenix, Arizona for the day so Krista and I could spend the day with her son Casey. The trip would normally be a six plus hours round trip by car.  However, being blessed and fortunate enough to fly, it is a 90-minute round trip allowing us to spend more time with Casey and still be home in time for dinner.

Read More

Friday Photo: sunset in the rain

by

Dale Walton was flying his 1967 Cessna 150G at historic Minter field in Shafter, CA (MIT), an old World War II training base when he took this photo. As he says, “My first landing in the rain! No wind to speak of, but what a thrill it was watching the rain speed by my landing light in the wing Cessna. One of many more adventures to come. Shot with my iPhone 7+.”

Read More

Friday Photo: Chicago fly-by

by

I had been in Chicago on business the day before. It was a beautiful morning. Skies were mostly clear. Visibility was unlimited. Air was calm. Temperature was cool (it was late-September). Great day to fly. I had just departed O6C (Schaumburg Regional), about to head home. I decided to take a tour of downtown Chicago, from out over Lake Michigan.

Read More