Pilot in Cessna

Volare: the family circle of fliers

From the archives: Leighton Collins flies a 747 to Paris

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Smoke in cockpit

A checkride turns smoky

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The examiner was competent and fair, and he really put me through my paces. The flight was going well, and I was confident. He asked me to set a course for Lost Nation Airport in order to do some pattern work. The flight suddenly become far more interesting. I thought I noticed an odd smell in the cockpit, something  unfamiliar in the context of the trusty 152.

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New engine

The $20 an hour Cessna 172 experiment

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Although I had a GA background and built time as a CFI, I’ve been flying for the airlines for three decades and have been absent from the GA scene, which I mistakenly assumed had long evolved and would now seem foreign to me. After just a few calls, nothing had seemed to change except that the same 1970 vintage 172s were now renting out at $115-$125 per hour.

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VNY

From a rusty pilot: it’s not quite like riding a bicycle

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Air Facts Journal has published many stories about rusty pilots returning to the cockpit, some after years of not flying as a pilot in command. I last flew in March of this year. Like many readers, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on my flying. The economy is uncertain, there are few $100 hamburger destinations where you can eat on-site, and airplane rental FBOs have imposed previously unheard-of restrictions.

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Flight instructor

Flying with good and bad pilots—what I’ve learned as a new CFI

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I became a flight instructor late in life (my mid-50s) and it has been fascinating after many years of “left seat” flying to take this next step in my flying career. Shameless plug and article spoiler: If you’ve ever thought about becoming an instructor after years of flying, you’ll be fascinated by what you experience and learn in the process of training toward the CFI and even more once you earn the certificate and begin your CFI flying.

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Foggy runway

Low Visibility Takeoffs: How Low Is Too Low?

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The big risk that jumps to mind is engine failure during a low visibility takeoff. And that would be a critical situation. But the accident record shows that is an extremely rare event. Given that engine failure itself is uncommon, and that low viz takeoffs are infrequent, the odds of an engine failure during the seconds or couple minutes of a low viz takeoff are very long.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman

GA safety trends: what should we worry about?

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FAA regulations are written in blood, according to the cliche, but it doesn’t seem like flight training reacts to accidents quite so consistently. That’s a mistake. While being a good pilot means more than just avoiding an accident, that goal is certainly a good place to start. That mindset is what makes accident statistics so valuable for general aviation, and the recently released Nall Report from the AOPA Air Safety Institute is a gold mine.

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172 on short final

Stop calling it the impossible turn

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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?

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Rough River

Are pilots rediscovering how to travel by light airplane?

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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.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes
Husky coming out of water

My cold water splash: an airline pilot learns a painful lesson

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My first (and I hope last) aircraft incident in 45 years of piloting took place a few years ago on the first really nice spring day, with clear skies and glistening water beckoning for the first seaplane flight of the season. I was a very new seaplane pilot at the time, though my IACRA paperwork showed 29,000 hours total time when I applied for the rating.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
New engine

The $20 an hour Cessna 172 experiment

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Although I had a GA background and built time as a CFI, I’ve been flying for the airlines for three decades and have been absent from the GA scene, which I mistakenly assumed had long evolved and would now seem foreign to me. After just a few calls, nothing had seemed to change except that the same 1970 vintage 172s were now renting out at $115-$125 per hour.

Read More
Foggy runway

Low Visibility Takeoffs: How Low Is Too Low?

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The big risk that jumps to mind is engine failure during a low visibility takeoff. And that would be a critical situation. But the accident record shows that is an extremely rare event. Given that engine failure itself is uncommon, and that low viz takeoffs are infrequent, the odds of an engine failure during the seconds or couple minutes of a low viz takeoff are very long.

Read More

Startle: what it is and how it affects your performance

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When is the last time you heard “Whoop, Whoop, Pull UP!” or “Wind Shear, Wind Shear!” or a loud bang accompanied by a breathtaking yaw or loss of thrust? Have you been in 90 degrees of bank on final following that Gulfstream? The Greeks survived as the underdogs for centuries. In aviation you never know when YOU will be the underdog. How far will you fall before your training catches you?

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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
Chandler and dad

Pilot in command

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The fuel gauges were now bouncing between below a quarter tank and below half a tank. I knew we had enough fuel, but what was up ahead was not looking good. There was a thin layer of wispy, white clouds below us that allowed us to see the ground, so we continued. This lured us into a false sense of security that it was going to stay that way.

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Richard L. Collins

The second annual Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots

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The Richard Collins family has once again partnered with Sporty’s to offer The Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots. To qualify, the writer must be a pilot (including student pilot) who is 24 years of age or younger. The article must be original, not previously published, and no longer than 1,500 words. The topic should be an event that changed or shaped the author’s flying.

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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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Friday Photo

Incredible views from the cockpit

Friday Photo: the sun sets on a rewarding flight

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Sometimes you’re so busy flying that you forget to take a photo until after you’ve landed. That’s what Tom Kingston shares in this Friday Photo, but what a great way to remember a flight—a beautiful sunset in the western sky serves as a colorful reminder of a great flight in his Cessna 172.

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Friday Photo: one last flight

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As partners sharing ownership of a Nanchang CJ-6A and four and a half years and many hours of fun and adventure in the Decathlon, it was our last flight as co-owners. My longtime friend, who took this shot, had lost his medical due to a stroke. 

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