My first Counter Drug (aka CD) operation involved deploying F-15s to Howard AFB in Panama. Under the auspices of the USAF’s 12th Air Force, we took four F-15Bs down south to provide augmented air surveillance in the Caribbean as part of the grand plan to interdict drug running out of Colombia up in to Mexico and points north.
My student Max, like many before and after him, could just not bring himself to believe that he could not fly the airplane by the seat of his pants without visual references outside the cockpit in spite of instruction and all the materials he had read about spatial disorientation and vertigo.
Photographers call it the golden hour for a reason. As this Friday Photo from Kimberly Prodan shows, the time just before night falls is utterly amazing – especially from an airplane. This photo captures the emerging lights of Phoenix below, while the sun’s fading light paints the horizon.
As I advanced the throttle, the acceleration on takeoff was less than I thought it should be, but I justified this with the thought it was a 140 and not the 180. No alarms were going off in my mind yet. What could go wrong with almost 760 lbs of people and full fuel?
As he taxied to “line up and wait,” something was amiss. Yet he and I both persevered in our thoughts of better flight to come. Shattered easily by the slipping nose wheel as the throttle was advanced, I pushed the right rudder a bit and felt the resistance from his feet, locked in a state of motionless silence. He must have felt it, for he looked over at me with a quizzical look.
The title is a misnomer, but if I were to put in the actual title it would be: As important as practice in the pattern is, it doesn’t always prepare you for what can happen before and after getting cleared to land, and practice approaching from beyond the pattern is important also.
A cool, clear day in the mountains of Colorado is hard to beat. As Greg Chestnut shows in this photo, it’s even better with a high wing airplane. He took this photo while flying his Cessna 182 to Las Vegas, as he passed over the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area near Telluride.
I ran through the before landing checks from the laminated checklist card and right about then Laura announced she had the field in sight. Then a bump. Not a vertical bump one would expect on a warm summer day, but a fairly stiff bump with a bit of roll. “No big deal,” I thought.
You’ve probably said it to a nervous passenger: “Don’t worry, airplane engines almost never quit.” It’s only in World War II movies that engines cough and pilots have to save the day, right? This is mostly true for turbine engines, which have a stunningly good reliability record. Unfortunately, it’s far less true for piston engines.
When someone would come to me to learn to fly, the first question I would ask is why they wanted to take to take up flying. You want to guess what response I liked best? Because I always thought I wanted to fly was my hands-down favorite. Folks who came to flying with that thought in mind were always the best (easiest) students.
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.
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.