14 min read

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part 3: coordination

Before you accuse me of throwing gasoline on a fire, I’ll say up front that is exactly what I am doing.

I read all the comments that readers post on our site and I am always impressed with the battle lines that form with youngish technonerds on one side and the oldish purists on the other side. John Zimmerman’s article on the contributions of the Cirrus parachute to the airplane’s safety record is the most recent example of this happening.

Because I had coordination on my list of pilot attributes for the “sharp pilot” series, I considered whether or not the way the requirement for this skill has developed over the years is a major cause of the debate.

When I was instructing, mostly in the early to mid-1950s, coordination was a big deal. It was then discussed entirely in relation to the coordinated use of ailerons and rudder plus pitch and power. As airplanes evolved the aileron/rudder coordination became less important but pitch/power remains at the top of the list of things that need coordination.

Today, coordination relates to a lot more than what we do with the controls. I will tell you about two flights that occurred roughly 57 years apart to illustrate how this has changed over time. The flights were my first and my last solo cross countries.

Cessna 140 cockpit

Not many gizmos to get in the way of flying in a Cessna 140.

The first was on 12/21/1951 in a Cessna 140, N1808V. I had been flying that airplane as well as a Cub and a Champ and it was the best choice for cross-country flying. Not only was it faster, it also had a starter so I wouldn’t have to find someone to prop the airplane at every stop.

The trip was contained in south Arkansas and was from Camden to El Dorado, then to Hope (yes, that Hope), and then back to Camden. No long legs in other words.

I had flown these legs dual and, while good checkpoints were limited in that heavily-forested part of the country, there were enough. Following roads or railroads was not allowed.

I drew the lines on the chart and went through the business of correcting true for magnetic and deviation. Then I used the mostly inaccurate wind aloft forecast and drew wind triangles for all three legs to get an idea of any drift correction that might be required.

Excellent weather was a necessity and I listened to the scheduled broadcast (at 15 and 45 past every hour on an LF range) and verified that things were relatively calm and mostly clear.

Then I hopped in the 140 and flew away.

We had to get our logbook signed at each stop, I presume to prove we had been there. The person in El Dorado had an indecipherable signature after which he added “C&S.” That stood for Chicago and Southern, a DC-3 airline that flew in the area for a few years and was then merged into Delta. L. C. Martin signed me off in Hope and when I got back to Camden my instructor, Rudy Peace attested that I landed solo there.

The coordination that day was between me, a simple airplane, and a simple form of navigation that included my looking out the windows, a map, a compass and a clock.

Cessna 400

Still a Cessna, but a lot more buttons to manage than the 140.

My last cross country was on 07/15/2008 and was IFR from I69, home of Sporty’s, to Hagerstown, Maryland.

I looked at some weather using a computer terminal, computed in my mind that there was plenty of gas in the Cessna 400 for the trip, cranked up, loaded the flight plan that was stored in the G1000, took off, activated the autopilot and watched it fly to Hagerstown while the air traffic control system coordinated the movement of my flight with all the others in the area. Once near Hagerstown, I turned the autopilot off and landed. The takeoff and landing had been the only tests of my basic flying skill.

A lot more things had to be coordinated on that trip but they were pretty automated and by the time I flew that trip I had done it enough times that it was second nature. However, what was a simple trip could have turned complex if there had been weather issues or mechanical problems.

When I think about it, the thing that stands out most is that despite the huge technological changes and increases in complexity in those 57 years the flights were identical in outcome: I got where I was going. In both cases I put all the pieces together and solved the puzzle. There are just a lot more pieces to coordinate now than in the good old days.

Flying, for most folks using airplanes for transportation, has come to include a lot of relatively complex things that have to be done using memory, and while there are ever more safeguards there are also, for lack of better words, technological traps. The final element that has to be considered is that it is still an airplane and it has to be flown or operated with a complete understanding of what is possible and what is impossible. That means learning all there is to know about everything in and about the airplane, technical and otherwise.

Four-course range

It sounds shockingly complicated today, but four-course ranges worked pretty well.

When instrument navigation first started, it was based mainly on four-course low frequency radio ranges. We navigated based on what we heard, not on what we saw on the instrument panel. To stay on the beam, that is to follow one of the four legs, you listened for a steady sound. If it started turning into an “A,” a Morse dot dash, or an “N,” dash dot, you knew the airplane was moving off the beam and a heading correction was required. That was pretty crude and you probably have trouble visualizing it but it did work and it did not require much coordination.

Navigation evolved through the VOR/DME system, which is still there to use, that requires the nav instruments be set properly and the visual cues followed. That required eye time which had to be diverted from the flight instruments. It was still pretty simple though many pilots did have trouble making peace with radials. I never thought that figuring reciprocals would stump so many people.

GPS navigation added the requirement to properly program the equipment to fly the desired plan or procedure and in newer airplanes the use of the autopilot has to be coordinated with the navigational equipment. Where navigational equipment and autopilots used to be loosely wedded, they are now almost one. All this is why so much training is required on the use of this equipment. The airplane, it seems, has become almost secondary. It is this that has sparked the debate. Is the tail wagging the dog?

The most well-publicized failure of pilots to properly deal with high-tech equipment has been the Air France A330 that crashed into the Atlantic. The pitot tubes iced over, the automated systems lost their airspeed reference information, and, as the system was programmed to do, it shut the autopilot down and handed control of the airplane to the pilots who quite obviously didn’t know what to do with it.

Wreckage of Air France 447 is recovered

The Air France crash was, at heart, a failure to understand the technology.

Other examples have been the Turkish 737 at Amsterdam and the Asiana 777 at SFO. The Air Asia A320 that went into the Java Sea might join this list and you can bet there have been a lot of tech-related incidents that did not result in accidents.

In private aviation, accidents are not as well documented but I have studied (and written about) a lot of accidents that were connected to the pilot becoming discombobulated. These often involve a complex time in a flight when almost perfect coordination of the avionics system is required for a successful outcome. In some cases, the pilot freely admits that he is confused or having problems. In other cases, that is obvious from the outcome.

One particular type accident comes to mind. There are a relative lot of loss of control accidents that come soon after takeoff, especially in instrument meteorological conditions. In reading the reports you can almost feel control being lost as the pilot becomes confused by things happening that he did not expect to happen. This could be something as simple as activating an autopilot improperly or putting in an incorrect first waypoint.

Nothing will jangle a pilot’s brain faster than something unexpected right after takeoff and that is why it is so important to make sure all is properly coordinated before starting out.

Virtually all new airplanes, whether from a production line or out of a garage, have some form of glass cockpit. The few that don’t probably feature an iPad on the pilot’s lap. All this electronic finery is one thing that started the debate about high-tech gadgets ruining the purity of flight.

"Advanced instrumentation and automation is here, it is popular, and it is going to stay."

“Advanced instrumentation and automation is here, it is popular, and it is going to stay.”

The purists just have to get over this. Advanced instrumentation and automation is here, it is popular, and it is going to stay. Folks like having this stuff. Where we used to entertain ourselves with a crossword, a deck of cards, a library book, or spending endless hours updating Jeppesen charts, it’s now computers and tablets and smart phones. Most pilots have come to enjoy the challenge of integrating electronics into flight operation.

Airplanes are not alone in this. New cars have a whole host of distractions on the instrument panel to help drivers keep from getting bored by looking outside at a plain old road.

I was able, in my 57 years of flying, to embrace all the new avionics and when I retired my airplane (a year before I retired myself) the panel sported the latest and greatest of everything, including ground prox and traffic, with one exception. In my personal airplanes (the ones I paid for) I never had anything other than a single-axis (roll) autopilot. I flew all the sophisticated autopilots and I never got back into my airplane and wished for that bit of finery. If I were to buy one more new airplane, I would probably have to have a special one built without a full autopilot.

I guess that keeps me from being a complete technonerd.

The latest debate in Air Facts came about from that post about the Cirrus parachute. For some reason, the purists don’t like airframe parachutes any more than they like automation.

There is a Caterpillar Club for people who have saved their butt by bailing out of an airplane. Last I looked it has 100,000 members, people who did that last necessary bit of coordination and decided it was time to hit the silk.

When I think about the Cirrus chute, I like to try to put it in context, too. The Cirrus and what is now the Cessna Corvalis TTx (nee Columbia 400) were developed at about the same time. There are a lot of similarities between the two airplanes and some differences. For example, the Cessna is more fun to fly but the Cirrus has better payload numbers. The huge difference, though, is that the Cirrus has a parachute and the Cessna does not.

Cirrus with airframe parachute

“Folks vote with their check books. The 2014 results: Cirrus 308, Cessna 22. That says it all.”

Folks vote with their check books. The 2014 results: Cirrus 308, Cessna 22. That says it all. Properly used, the Cirrus parachute is just another piece of equipment to use as and if necessary. According to the record, Cirrus pilots want this and are doing an ever better job of coordinating the use of the chute when events unfold unfavorably.

I am going to relate two parachute tales with a personal connection. Both happened in this country, involving jet fighters.

In the first, over 40 years ago, I was IFR in my Cherokee Six, in clouds, eastbound near Fort Smith, Arkansas, when a controller called and gave me traffic. The he added that it was a jet fighter and that the pilot had ejected because of a landing gear problem. What was I supposed to do about that other than hunker down in the seat and try to be smaller?

I wrote a snarky item in my FLYING column questioning whether it was proper to risk other people’s lives by leaving an airplane to descend through many IFR altitudes, in clouds, to impact in an unknown location, just because the landing gear malfunctioned.

I got a nice letter from a public information officer setting me straight about my snarky comment. On this particular jet it was standard operating procedure to eject if the landing gear couldn’t be extended. The airplane was apparently not well suited to gear-up landings and the pilot was doing what he was trained to do.

Another event involved the late Bob Smythe who was chief test pilot at Grumman when the F-14 Tomcat was developed.

Bob and another pilot had flown a relatively brief first flight in the prototype and had then set out on a second flight on 12/30/1970. Not long into that second flight the pilot of the chase airplane reported that something smoke was trailing from the F-14.

It wasn’t smoke, it was hydraulic fluid. It was enough to cause them to head home and the closer they got, the more the loss of hydraulics rendered the airplane uncontrollable.

On short final, at about 100 feet, the nose pitched down. In what must have been the most perfectly coordinated ejections ever, the pilots punched out and in the video it looked like the chutes blossomed full just before they reached the ground. If you want to see this, Google “F-14 Tomcat first crash” and have a look.

When visiting with Bob Smythe at industry events after he retired, it was always enjoyable to listen to his tales, aviation and otherwise. He was in the disastrous 1979 Fastnet sailboat race where he skippered a Naval Academy boat with a group of midshipmen. The storm disabled many sailboats, resulted in 18 fatalities, and prompted the largest peacetime rescue mission to that point in time. To say that it was a harrowing experience for all the people involved is an understatement.

Bob was a special and quite cool guy. When we would part, his words were always “safe home.” The way he said it indicated that he had been in places and seen times where there was some doubt about that happening for him.

As we look at the changing pilot population and the challenges offered up as we balance technology and airplanes, it is obvious that our friends at the airlines are thinking about this as well. United Airlines management recently acknowledged that a changing pilot population can be a problem for them.

In an urgent United safety message to pilots, the following: “We are currently seeing a lot of movement in the pilot group, such as retirements, seat movements, and new hires, that – while welcome – introduces significant risk to the operation.” That is the same as in private aviation where the old guys are leaving through one door while new ones come in another door.

The United memo gave some examples of mistakes that had been made and emphasized that company policies and procedures must be followed. In other words, toe the line.

Most purists don’t like the part about policies and procedures because that takes the individuality out of flying. This is absolutely necessary in airline operations. There is just a lot that has to be coordinated with a high degree of precision. I think this is also required in the more complex forms of private flying, one of which is certainly single-pilot IFR.

One thing is certain, too. The argument will rage on but will slowly abate as the passing of time silences more and more old purists. About all that is left for us do is sit on the porch, rock the rocker, and hope these high-tech whippersnappers are able to answer all the questions and solve all the problems. We sure as hell never did.

Richard Collins
27 replies
  1. Steve Phoenix
    Steve Phoenix says:

    Maybe the total cost and lack of interaction with the airplane will lead many people to decide that it’s just better to let United provide the transportation. Also, that way you don’t have to worry about walking out of the woods after pulling the chute.

    I would bet that future personal aviation retains more of a sport like quality, with appropriate high tech, than a full gizmoed transportation quality.

  2. Ray
    Ray says:

    Mr. Collins, thank you for your article. Could you explain why you’d never have anything other than a single-axis (roll) autopilot?

  3. Duane
    Duane says:

    Thanks, Mr.Collins.

    I don’t really understand the “purist” viewpoint, at all. Fly what you like, don’t fly what you don’t like. Why criticize the developers and manufacturers, let alone the pilots, of aircraft you don’t like? Yet many seem to get all self-righteous about what is after all, simply their own set of personal preferences. To each of us, our own.

    You wanna get in an old J-3 or C-120 without an electrical system and fly cross-country? Go ahead … you’ll enjoy it. I would enjoy it.

    Just as I also enjoy flying my aircraft with a pair of GPS units (one in the panel, one portable on my yolk, for redundancy), one of which is coupled to my very nice single axis autopilot that is capable of taking over the course control while I do other things (like look out the window for traffic or obstacles or weather, or study the chart).

    And if I come down with a case of vertigo, or even partially incapacitated, the autopilot can help me or my passenger keep it sunny side up, and get the aircraft safely on the ground without losing control. And I never have to wonder where I am, which when you experience being truly lost, is one of the scarier things to experience in an airplane with limited fuel in the tanks.

    As for the AF447 accident, though it is “conventional wisdom” that the airplane crashed because the pilots didn’t know how to hand fly it, that’s really not what happened. If you study the full accident report, it’s clear that the pilot flying basically went nuts with fear of the approaching storm cells and foolishly tried to climb the aircraft higher than it could go and stalled it out high in the flight levels – and stalled it all the way down to the ocean. It wasn’t excessive automation that killed that aircraft – it was excessive panic by an otherwise capable pilot.

    • Chris Papageorgiou
      Chris Papageorgiou says:

      Regarding AF447, one version says that the pilot and co pilot were using the controls without each others knowledge and coordination,so the airplanes computer took a bizarre ” average” action based on the inputs.
      The lesson here is that automation confused pilots and computers and teaches us that we need to muster stick and rudder and technology.

      • Duane
        Duane says:


        Yes, there was also the matter of poor, virtually non-existent crew resource management in the cockpit of AF447. That was exacerbated by the lack of any electro-mechanical connection between the two sidesticks. For a few seconds at a time, the relief co-pilot attempted to control his sidestick, and the fly-by-wire system did indeed average the stick positions, which is a poor design factor.

        Despite all of that, if the pilot flying had not obviously panicked and yanked his sidestick all the way aft to the stops, and kept it there for nearly the entire accident sequence, the accident would not have taken place. Indeed, if the PF had done nothing at all on his sidestick, the aircraft would have flown on happily for another 30 seconds or so when airspeed indication was restored. It was the panicked attempt by the PF to climb the aircraft to some altitude above the approaching T-cells, which request his captain had repeatedly refused before retiring for his rest period, that was the proximate cause of the loss of control accident.

        As always, there are a chain of contributing factors, but usually there is one overriding factor. In AF447, the overriding factor was the fear-induced momentary insanity of the PF that started the accident. Absent his fearful state of mind, the accident would never have begun, even with the A/P going offline momentarily.

        • Chris Papageorgiou
          Chris Papageorgiou says:

          Simply stated, when a student is not coordinated / proficient she/he is not ready for solo or check-ride.
          No matter how simple and or sophisticated the machine, I need to be ready mentally and physically.
          The more I know, the better I steer out of loss of control(LOC).
          Aviate,aviate,aviate !!!!
          Everything else is secondary !!!!

          By the way Airbus test pilots found an easy way out of the problem. Sadly a little too late….

    • Tom Yarsley
      Tom Yarsley says:

      Forgive me, but any “pilot” who stalls an airplane (which couldn’t have been his intention, and therefore was not deliberate) at nearly 50,000 feet, and then sustains the stalled condition until the aircraft collides with the surface of the earth, is not by any means “otherwise capable.”

      • Duane
        Duane says:


        Please note, “ttherwise capable” is the full phrase I used. In other words, capable when not going crazy with fear.

        When a person is thinking normally and rationally, they are capable of acting normally. When a person is in full panic mode due to fear (such as fear of entering the big splotch of heavy red and purple T-cells painted on your radar screen just ahead, as the pilot flying did), he may no longer act rationally.

        Please tell me what flight academy, or designated flight examiner, or airline check pilot, or recurrent training instructor, would fail to train a pilot that there is no possible circumstance in which is it acceptable to pull the stick all the way aft, and keep it there for several minutes, aft all the way to the stops, while your aircraft is plunging 37,000 feet towards the ocean surface?

        It is one thing for a pilot to get rusty on his stick and rudder skills. What the PF did on AF447 is completely incomprehensible as a matter of hand flying any aircraft that was ever built, except in the circumstance that the pilot went crazy with fear.

        Read the full accident report. The PF kept bugging the captain to climb the aircraft higher as the aircraft approached the nasty line of “convergence zone” thunderstorms. The captain kept telling the PF to not climb the aircraft. The captain eventually retired to the crew bunks behind the cockpit, and the instant that the auto-pilot kicked offline due to the lack of airspeed indication, the PF immediately put the sidestick full aft and kept it there for almost the entire timeframe of the accident sequence. The relief co-pilot didn’t even know what the PF was doing due to the lack of hard connection between the two side sticks, and was also not aware of the building sense of fear in the PF to his right.

        That is not “lack of skill”. That is “lack of mind”.

        • Tom Yarsley
          Tom Yarsley says:

          Hey, Duane!

          I agree with all that you wrote. To your comment that “That is not ‘lack of skill.’ That is ‘lack of mind,’ I’d add this: That combination comprises a “lack of ability.”

  4. Chris Papageorgiou
    Chris Papageorgiou says:

    Let us remember that the airplane industry exists because some of us have the funds and the desire to pay for the new technology.
    That does not mean a buyer is an expert pilot, it only means he has the cash for the shiny new product.
    Naturally we see great designs and safe airplanes owned and flown (legally) by pilots that are way behind the machine. Laws of physics do their job and the person who happens to be at the controls at the wrong time, takes their family to the final resting place very prematurely. http://www.ntsb.gov/about/employment/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief2.aspx?ev_id=20120607X54234&ntsbno=ERA12FA385&akey=1
    If I do not understand the machine and its ” brain”. I do not care to be the PIC, I ask an expert to teach me first. That saves me from a potential disaster and keeps me ” humble”, always learning and respecting the flying machine.
    I need to be ready for the technology not the other way around.

  5. Gabriel
    Gabriel says:

    True airplane “purists” only fly open (non-cockpit) wooden planes, lying prone, with no stick, just as Wilbur and Orville did…or did we somewhere decide that a certain level of advancement (enclosed cockpits, aircraft aluminum, steam gauges, etc.) was okay but not more than that? I guess in that sense purist car drivers do not have passive headrests, cruise control, power steering or airbags, either, but none of those things take away from the way a car drives (unless you really don’t like power steering), that’s a different issue entirely unrelated to those safety and convenience features.

    Advancement in anything only helps people when we get past fighting change just to fight it, start embracing it, and start utilize it to our benefit. 20 years from now we’ll be saying the same thing about the good ole’ days of the Garmin 430. Heck, already you don’t have to manually enter your waypoints any more if you don’t want to, what with Aspen’s Connected Panel and the Garmin wireless tie in between their PFD/MFD displays and their iPad app.

    You know, gang, just because a plane has automation, does’t mean you have to use it all. You can still spin the trim wheel and not hit the electric button. Leave the rudder in the middle and just wear out your right leg climbing to FL250. If you find autopilot boring, just hand fly everything. You can still just look at the displays without engaging the automatic stuff, and to be true to the real spirit of aviation you can leave your seat belt off if you crash so the AmSafe bag doesn’t mar the “genuinness” of your collision with the tree experience.

  6. Cary Alburn
    Cary Alburn says:

    A certain amount of silliness aside, I probably fall more onto the purist side than the techno-geek side of things. Once upon a time, I used my ability to fly for business, and I did some aviation business as well as an instructor and charter pilot. Now I don’t very often use my airplane for real transportation, but more for recreation. Once a year I’m off to OSH for a week, and I go to fly-ins here and there and go off to visit my Sis and others, but none of that is what I’d call serious transportation–if it takes an extra day or two to get there, it’s no big deal.

    I do a lot of just flitting about, occasionally taking friends sight-seeing, fundamentally to experience (and to share) the same joy of flight I’ve enjoyed for 42+ years now. None of that requires more than a chart and compass and some knowledge of how to fly the airplane. The fly-ins into the back country require a little more knowledge of how to fly the airplane.

    The cross countries work better using the basic techno stuff, so I program the 430W, I watch the weather on the iPad, I cross check my position on the VORs and ADF, especially when I’m in or above the clouds, and I visit with ATC, either filing IFR or using flight following.

    But what I don’t do is lose that joy of flight, something I think that has happened to others. I honestly think that overly equipped aircraft, from light GA on up to the wide body airliners, encourage losing the joy of flight in favor of becoming skilled at pushing buttons and twisting dials. Use it if you need to, but don’t use it if today’s flight doesn’t require it. I didn’t learn to fly in order to push buttons and twist dials; I learned to fly because it’s a special and unique experience, something that very few ever get to do, and I fell in love with it.

    So the topic of Dick’s article is coordination. One dictionary definition is “the harmonious functioning of parts for effective results.” Today’s flight is to go around the patch and smooth out the landings, so the techo stuff is superfluous. Tomorrow’s flight is a 1500 mile cross country with weather systems, clouds, icing, and 3 Class B’s and a host of Class C and D areas and airports to negotiate, and involving several take offs, approaches, and landings in various weather. Much of that flight will require using the techno stuff for safety and navigation. Coordinate each flight by using what is necessary for each flight, and in the process, don’t give up the joy of flight–it’s too precious to lose.

    MORT MASON says:

    I can’t help but notice that newly graduated architects are masters of computer manipulation, but seriously lack basic design sense. Newly minted private pilots are largely devoid of stick and rudder coordination, probably because the rudder can pretty much be ignored in tricycle geared airplanes.

    More to the point, I’m in favor of improvement and innovation apropos of instrumentation. Still, I lament the near loss of basic pilot skills. Precious few of today’s new private pilots are completely lost when it comes to primary panel flight, and this basic skill virtually won WW II for us . . .

    • Gabriel
      Gabriel says:

      It’s very interesting, Mort, that you mirror many of the most frequent “pilots aren’t what they used to be” comments (which I also agree with) about stick and rudder skills…because tricycle gear has been around and has been generally the norm for many decades now post WWII. That is the lease “automated” innovation in a debate that is usually focussed on electronic automation as the scourge of old pilots, yet has nothing to do with any automation in the cockpit.

      I wish all pilots were required to get a taildragger endorsement, and while I’m at it I’ll say that I think all night flight should require IFR certification, but neither is a rule, just (to me) really smart.

    • Greg Klasson
      Greg Klasson says:

      Wow really Mel ?
      And my guess is that nobody ever dies in those other steam guage.. Non techno .. Non airbag …. Non chute equipped aero planes… Right ? Really ?
      Amazing !

  8. ed jamnisek
    ed jamnisek says:

    simmilar event. departed 530 am from seatac to sanfancisco on a large u.s. carrier. boarded on a stopover. looked left and saw no ice on the leading edge, or over the fuel tank but the rest of the wing was a mess. im guessing a good 1/2″ or more. plane taxies and im waiting to stop for deicing, then see the double blue lights, plane turns and balls to the wall were off. never gripped the seat rest so tight. we land in sanfran and i wait for the passengers to deplane and asked to speak to the captain. turns out he checked the wings for ice before the first flight of the morning, and the wings were clean. its mid november on the west coast. heavy layer of cloud in the decent and light drizzle on a 34 degree morning. now where could that ice have come from ?????? i have a phone video of the ice on the wings if anyone needs it. next time i see any ice on a wing when get to my seat im up and asking the flight attenedant to ask the pic if were getting deiced. no exceptions anymore. im still pissed off that we took off with contaminated wings. never again!!!

    • Chris Papageorgiou
      Chris Papageorgiou says:

      Possible explanation for the ice you observed, is the wing surface is super cooled at altitude due to very low temperatures. During the descent the air condenses (as it touches the skin) and sticks to the super cooled surface of the wing.
      I have seen similar type of ice in summer (90 degrees) with clear skies,mostly under the wing inboard towards the root as I was refueling airliners.
      I agree with you though that if you have a concern after your observation, to speak with the attendants and let the PIC know.

  9. Ed
    Ed says:

    The answer to Mr. Collins’ question is simple: both planes require a pilot, but you FLY the 140 and MANAGE the Cirrus.

    I would add this: the Cirrus is more likely to get you there quickly and less tired than the 140, but the 140 is less likely to surprise you than the Cirrus.

  10. Liad Biton
    Liad Biton says:

    Use a cub or a champ to learn HOW to fly.

    Use a 182 / Mooney to GO places.

    As long as you keep current on both, you should be all good.

    Someone once told me that a Mooney is used to go places and a cub is used to go in circles :-)

  11. Mark Honeycutt
    Mark Honeycutt says:

    Like all questions, especially those dealing with aviation … the answer is “it depends”.

    If I were flying a lot, distances of hundreds of miles routinely, especially in IMC conditions, like one likely is if flying often on trips of hundreds of miles … then yes of course the latest technology is the way to go. If however one is flying a simple machine, teaching primary students, learning to land, etc… to pass the Private Pilot Checkride, then all the technology just gets in the way. If one is flying an antique, like at least one of the pictures … then it baffles me why someone would screw up the airplane with technology. Why fly a classic if you don’t like it? I personally tell my students to stow the iPad in their bag and keep it there until we get through the check ride.

  12. Michael Cline
    Michael Cline says:

    From a nostalgic perspective, I would like to comment on Mr. Collins solo x-c on 12/21/51 from Camden to El Dorado to Hope to Camden. My solo x-c on 3/15/64 was from Camden to Texarkana to El Dorado to Camden in a PA-12. I had soloed earlier in a Champ 7AC. My logbook enroute was signed by John Dawson at the TXK FSS and Charles Couser at the ELD FSS.

    I may have met Rudy Peace but only briefly in the early 60’s as my father, Chuck Cline, had taken over the FBO in Camden at the time as Mr. Peace had gone on to other ventures.

    I think I met Leighton Collins at sometime in Camden in the early 60’s or perhaps it was Richard. Nevertheless, I will always remember the approximate 4 in x 6 in copy of Air Facts magazine that was left at Camden Flying Service as it was known at that time.

    Oh, the forested terrain was certainly a valid comment. It probably still is today.

    Best Regards

    • Richard Collins
      Richard Collins says:

      Dear Michael:

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I remember when you folks took over from Rudy but I was not getting back to Camden much by that time. I guess the main difference in the forest since then would be 50 years of growth.

  13. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    One thing I have to say is that the Cirrus spooks me. I wouldn’t fly in one. It is clearly designed for the pilot to be a passenger. On the other hand, all the Cessna aircraft form the 150 to the Citation X where clearly designed to be flown.

    I’m defiantly more of a purist. I don’t care what avionics I have as long as I can still fly the plane. Autopilot? Sure, I’ll know how to use it and use it when necessary but I’ll still hand fly most of the flight. I’m also in my mid 20s. I don’t think being a purist is necessarily linked to age.

    I learned how to fly in order to fly. I have no interest in simply operating a manned drone.

    I think Richard Bach’s Found at Pharisee and School of Perfection really capture the struggle well. It is dangerous to abdicate the responsibility to continue learning, simply fly the autopilot, or try to emulate an autopilot. There has to be a pilot in the airplane, no matter how you are using it.

  14. David Heberling
    David Heberling says:


    Thanks for another wonderful article. What the purists fail to appreciate is that the same old accidents have been with us from the beginning and continue to this day. What you said about current technology is true, there is a steep learning curve and it needs to be used, often. At the same time, flight training is not allowed to take any longer than when I learned in the early ’70’s. Something has to give when more learning is required but no increase in time (and cost) is allowed. Who would willing learn how to fly by getting stick and rudder skills in 35 hours and then spend another 35 hours learning the technology of a glass cockpit. For the aspiring pilot, I believe that a glass cockpit is more distraction, than an asset. Sure, the technology is what it is today. However, it is much more complex than anything that preceded it. The truth is that most pilots only know how to go GPS direct with their new fangled boxes. That is human nature.

  15. Gary Sackman
    Gary Sackman says:

    I am just starting my aviation education and have been studying basic flying techniques from Sporty’s and Mr. Collins’ Air Facts DVD’s (which are excellent). I have also examined a few hundred different aircraft and the instrument panels in particular. After working in audio and video production for a number years, I am used to looking a meters and gauges of all types. The six-pack instrument configuration doesn’t seem that hard to monitor once you know what the individual instruments are supposed to do and how to use them. I do like some of the glass panel configurations, like Aspen and Avidyne. They seem simpler to learn and use. The electronic engine monitors are great. I would think more accurate. The best combination that comes to mind is a WAAS GPS, ADS-B out transponder , extra NAV/COM and an all electric six-pack with two alternators (no vacuum system). Having the instrument cluster seems more intuitive to me. What you see is what you get and not a lot of knobs to turn. I am new to this and have a lot to learn. After conducting land navigation courses in the Army, the GPS is really a great tool, over the map and compass routine. Thanks Dick.

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