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what it takes to be one sharp pilot

Clouds in sky

What it takes to be one sharp pilot: pragmatic

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.

Cirrus SR22

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part four: realistic

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.

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

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.

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part two: intelligence

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.

An evening alone

“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.

This is why you became a pilot

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?

I really felt like a pilot when…

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.

Top 10 articles of 2015 at Air Facts

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.

Richard L. Collins

What I learned from Richard Collins

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.

Aeroflex-Andover airport

Student flight control jam

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.”

Fuel truck

The teacher becomes the student

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.

Flight directors – a fatal attraction

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.

Flight instruction

Teaching flying over the years

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.

Lear Jet 24

From the archives: Leighton Collins flies a Lear 24

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.”

San Juan Islands

My Bonanza is a time and dimension machine

Bonanza N3255V, born in 1947, is the machine that allows us to enter a world that I still struggle to get my head around. It is a world of possible extreme juxtapositions. We climb into the aluminum tube, go up into the air, and whisk across the planet to land anywhere we choose and instantly enter a different world – not forgetting the experience along the way.

152 in a spin

A humbling solo flight

So I poured the power on and hauled back on the yoke. With the lighter load, that yoke came right back and the nose of the plane pointed right up. For a split second I thought “that’s strange” and before I knew it, I was pointing straight down at the ground in a left spin.