Pragmatic. That does sound like a pretty good flying plan for private aviation. I say that because our flying is unscripted and flexible as opposed to, for example, airline flying which is anything but unscripted and flexible and is not always based on practical considerations.
In this off-again on-again series I have touched on awareness, intelligence and coordination. Those are all important. Being realistic also sounds like part of a plan for flying. The first thing that comes to mind is the extremely tired old saw about knowing your (or your airplane’s) limitations. In fact, that has been said with evangelical zeal so many times that, with this mention, I am going to leave it behind.
Operating a private airplane has come to require more and more coordination as time has passed. In the good old days, coordination was thought of mainly in relation to the use of the elevator, ailerons, rudder and power. Now it has become a matter of getting all your stuff together before a flight and keeping it together until the airplane is secured after the flight. Multitasking might be a better word for that.
When contemplating a smoking hole made by an airplane, “That was a dumb mistake” is a frequent pronouncement. I think that is misleading because I am not aware of any smart mistakes, especially in airplanes. It just takes a relatively high level of native (as opposed to educated on things other than flying) intelligence to perform well as a pilot.
Here is a list of the things that I think define a sharp pilot. This is based on well over 50 years of studying general aviation accidents, the theory being that sharp pilots don’t crash. I put “aware” first.
Our first stop of the day would be Granby, Colorado (GNB) to visit the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River. This was the first leg of a flight that would demonstrate what I had learned in an eight-hour ground school at Western Air Flight Academy as part of a High Mountain Flying Course.
“Lights, camera, action!” I recite to no one but me. It’s my final mantra before takeoff in my Cavalier. Nav and strobe lights on, transponder to ALT, and power up to go. Gladys, my instructor, taught me that.
OK, so after a year or so of lessons, studying, agonizing over the written, sweating during the oral and dreading the practical, you’ve done it! You are a pilot! Now what? What do you do with this very rare right and privilege?
The 172 touched down at I69, just another Cessna making a landing at this busy flight training airport. But this flight was different, and this Cessna hadn’t come from the practice area. In fact, as I taxied N51766 to the ramp, I felt a sense of accomplishment I had never experienced before. This was the end of a 1600 mile journey from California to Cincinnati–and I really felt like a pilot.
We had 76 different pilots write for Air Facts over the past 12 months. Almost all of these were just regular pilots who had a story, tip or opinion to share, but they brought an incredibly diverse range of experiences and perspectives. In closing out the year, we thought readers might enjoy a look back at our top 10 most popular articles.
Before you accuse me of throwing gasoline on a fire, I’ll say up front that is exactly what I am doing. The airplane, it seems, has become almost secondary. It is this that has sparked the debate. Is the tail wagging the dog?
During my 45 years of observing and writing about aviation, pilot upset training is a topic that has waxed and waned. For the past few years the idea of learning how to recover from an extreme attitude is in ascendance. But the reason upset training emphasis falls in and out of favor is because it just doesn’t work.
I flew the L-39 jet, a former Russian military jet trainer, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The engine is a turbofan, giving it delightful, “push you back against the seat” power when you go to full throttle. Larry Salganek, master aviator and chief instructor, flew with me of course. I flew it from start to finish, Larry bravely never touching the controls, just offering advice through the hot mic.
One year ago, aviation lost a legend. Richard Collins left behind such a huge volume of writing over his 60+ year career that pilots will find rich rewards from re-reading his work. In general, the lessons he reminds me of seem to center around four main ideas: building margins, managing weather, respecting technology, and flying for transportation.
It’s becoming more evident that the 737 MAX Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes implicate airplane design, flight testing, and certification. And regardless of how crew performance in these events is eventually adjudged, there’s a growing consensus that airline pilot training is an important issue that needs addressing.
This particular day Al was flying on his third hour of supervised solo, meaning these solo flights needed to be approved by me beforehand. Perhaps 20 minutes after his takeoff, Al called on the Unicom frequency: “Bob, I’ve got trouble with the controls.” I responded quickly. “What’s the trouble, Al?”“I can’t move the control wheel forward or back. It’s stuck a little aft of the neutral position.”
Bob was listening intently while I droned on about the dangers of getting jet fuel pumped in by accident from the wrong truck. “Like this one?” he said as soon as I stopped talking. I looked at the fuel truck sitting right in front of me, pumping fuel in the nose tank as I was speaking, and read the words, JET FUEL, written boldly on the side of the tank.
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.
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.
In this trip into the Air Facts archives, ride along with Leighton Collins as he gets a familiarization flight in a Lear Jet 24 in 1967. With a variety of small jets hitting the market in recent years, from the Cirrus Jet to the Eclipse, many of Collins’s reactions to flying a powerful jet 50 years ago might sound familiar. Collins concludes, “they’ve really got themselves a show horse in the Model 24.”