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Friday Photo: Sportstar sunrise

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There’s no better time to fly, as Tom Smith shows with this Friday Photo. He was in his Evektor Sportstar on his way to a safety seminar when he snapped this photo of the sun rising over the horizon. The high clouds are painted that magical shade of orange, and you can tell the air is perfectly smooth.

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My adventures in the right seat

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What’s it like to be an active flight instructor? Some days are rewarding, some days are scary, but every day is different. This pilot shares the unique personalities he flew with over the years, from talented kids to eccentric entrepreneurs. Not every story had a happy ending, but a career spent in the cockpit made it worthwhile.

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Bush pilot landing

The old, bold pilots of Alaska

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We’ve all heard it, and most of us have said it: “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” I’m here to tell you that such purported wisdom isn’t very wise at all. Not long ago, Alaska was filled with old, bold bush pilots. In fact, if you weren’t just a little on the bold side, you had no business at all in trying to fly Alaska’s great outback.

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Friday Photo: Misty Mountain Hop

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The best aerial photos combine a great scene, dramatic lighting, and an element of mystery. Vaughn Schultz has all three in this photo of the volcanic lava domes called the Sutter Buttes. A soft sunlight comes through the clouds and highlights the jagged edges of this unique area, as seen from a Cessna 172 XP.

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A kinder, gentler FAA

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The good news is that the FAA is currently operating under a new, so-called “Compliance Philosophy,” showing a kinder and gentler treatment of those charged with potential violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations and other aviation laws. However, the bad news is that FAA enforcement of the laws and regulations is still alive and well in many cases.

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The GPS revolution at 20 – how aviation has changed

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Decades after it first caught on, GPS is so deeply embedded in everyday life that we now take it for granted. But as important as GPS has been for the world as a whole, it’s hard to think of an industry more transformed than general aviation. Consider the long list of capabilities that even a 60-year old Light Sport Aircraft can now have thanks to this revolution.

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Night flight

Why night flying is special

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Night flights are distinct. They are pretty rare for me. They seem unorthodox and more dangerous. It’s uncomfortable not being able to see everything as one would during the daylight hours. The excitement of my first night flight during training was unforgettable. The whole atmosphere around the airport was different. It was eerie.

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Dick's Blog

Opinion and analysis from Richard Collins
Flight instruction

Teaching flying over the years

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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.

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Air Facts turns 80: some things have changed, some have not

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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.

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John's Blog

From Air Facts Editor John Zimmerman

The GPS revolution at 20 – how aviation has changed

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Decades after it first caught on, GPS is so deeply embedded in everyday life that we now take it for granted. But as important as GPS has been for the world as a whole, it’s hard to think of an industry more transformed than general aviation. Consider the long list of capabilities that even a 60-year old Light Sport Aircraft can now have thanks to this revolution.

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Glass cockpits – don’t make it harder than it really is

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Too many pilots exaggerate the difference between analog instruments and glass cockpits, as if it requires a completely new pilot certificate to make the transition. That’s simply not the case – the basics of flying are the same no matter what avionics you use. Focus on basic attitude flying, which, if anything, is easier on glass cockpits with their full-screen attitude display.

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I Can't Believe I Did That

Learn from other pilots' mistakes

Landing gear up – how the unthinkable happened to me

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I was brought to my senses by a tremendous noise followed by an ominous quiet. In this quiet there was no sound of the motor. I realized that the airplane had stopped. I could get out of the airplane. I scrambled through the door only to be met by the tarmac three feet closer than it had been. It was not where I expected. I had crash landed. The wheels were still up. I had landed in a daydream.

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Thunderstorm at night

What are we deviating for?

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I should be in bed. That was the thought that was going through my head as I bounced off the ceiling, again, and basically was tossed around like a dog with a toy. Unfortunately, my airplane and I were the toy, not the dog. We’d flown inadvertently into a thunderstorm.

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Dark clouds

Caught in a thunderstorm

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I have several cardinal rules of flying: Don’t fly in freezing clouds, don’t fly IFR in the mountains, don’t fly with less than one hour of usable fuel in the tanks, and don’t fly in thunderstorms. I have been conscientious about following these rules in my years of flying. Until one day over Pennsylvania.

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Flying Technique

Tips and tricks for safer flying
Airplane out side window

Surviving the merge: how to avoid a mid-air collision

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After presenting a mid-air prevention seminar at more than a dozen locations around the country, I’d like to highlight some observations and issues that came up during our discussions. First, we’ll review what the regulations say, then we’ll break them down and at look how they might be applied in specific scenarios.

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A kinder, gentler FAA

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The good news is that the FAA is currently operating under a new, so-called “Compliance Philosophy,” showing a kinder and gentler treatment of those charged with potential violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations and other aviation laws. However, the bad news is that FAA enforcement of the laws and regulations is still alive and well in many cases.

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Emergency landing vs. crashing

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The control of the aircraft during any approach and touchdown determines the difference of landing or crashing. A controlled aircraft flown to and through touchdown is a landing. An approach which stalls the aircraft at any time prior to touchdown will result in a crash. A crash is the aircraft falling uncontrolled to the surface, even just a few feet.

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Weather Geek

Understanding Mother Nature
GFA cloud top map

The area forecast is going away – here’s why that’s bad news

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Rumors have swirled for years, but now it’s really happening: the text-based Area Forecast (FA) will officially disappear on October 10, 2017, to be replaced by the Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA). On the surface, this seems like an inevitable step in the transition from coded text products to graphical, interactive weather maps. But before we relegate the FA to the dustbin of history, we should consider a few important details. This transition may not be quite so innocuous.

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Fog around approach lights

Deep dark weather secrets about fog are really no mystery

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It’s not accurate to say that Mother Nature keeps secrets. However, it is spot on to say that Mother Nature harbors all manner of surprises for pilots who fly on without making an effort to develop some personal weather wisdom. One key is in understanding that what you see and feel is what you get, regardless of what is forecast.

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Surface analysis chart

Weather forecasts – there’s more to it than just charts

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On two recent occasions, I have spent my day staring down FAR 121.613. Both cases required a more in-depth study of the day’s weather than a simple scan of the TAF. Regardless of which part of the FARs you are operating under, the area forecast discussions put out by local forecasters are incredibly valuable when preparing for a day’s flying. They will give you the feel of a personal briefing.

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Young Pilots

Stories from the next generation
Liftoff of Cessna

I had the sky to myself: my first solo at 16

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My takeoff was great and my landing was spectacular; “a greaser” as Dan would say. “Two more like that,” said Dan, “and I’ll let you fly solo!” My heart pounded. I knew I was close to my first solo, but now, with both parents right there with me? To say I was excited would have been a terrible understatement.

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Kids at airport

Aviation’s future: a young pilot’s perspective

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“We need more young pilots, like you,” is a statement that I find myself hearing quite often. I typically hear this coming from older pilots and I completely agree with them. But a lot of the older pilots that I know got into aviation because they were either in the military, or they grew up around an airport. Today, these are not usually the top reasons why people get involved in aviation.

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Cessna in hangar

More comfortable in the air: an Adirondack odyssey

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My first long-distance flight in a single-engine aircraft began exactly like every other mission we’ve ever flown: with my worrying about the weather and Dad squinting at the radar image on his iPad, assuring me that we would be fine as long as we got in the air within an hour. I call our trips missions because we rarely fly without a purpose.

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Friday Photo

Incredible views from the cockpit

Friday Photo: Sportstar sunrise

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There’s no better time to fly, as Tom Smith shows with this Friday Photo. He was in his Evektor Sportstar on his way to a safety seminar when he snapped this photo of the sun rising over the horizon. The high clouds are painted that magical shade of orange, and you can tell the air is perfectly smooth.

Read More

Friday Photo: Misty Mountain Hop

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The best aerial photos combine a great scene, dramatic lighting, and an element of mystery. Vaughn Schultz has all three in this photo of the volcanic lava domes called the Sutter Buttes. A soft sunlight comes through the clouds and highlights the jagged edges of this unique area, as seen from a Cessna 172 XP.

Read More

Friday Photo: sunset over the Chesapeake

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November 11, 2017 was one of the nicest days of the year to be flying. The chilly air made for a smooth ride, and the early sunset cast a gorgeous light across the water. This was one of those days to turn the radio down low and just enjoy the view out the window.

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