If you want to be a pilot, you better believe!

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Oh how I concentrated as the flight progressed, identifying those check points, talking to flight following, receiving timely handoffs from one sector to the next and being the best student pilot I could be. Then at the appropriate time, I dialed in, as instructed by approach control, the correct four digits in the correct sequence, hit ident in the transponder and eventually found myself in the traffic pattern with regional jets!

Friday Photo: touch the sky

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Flying with kids is always more fun than flying solo, and this photo is a great remind why. As Fernando Gonzales-Fisher says, “My grandson touches the window of a Mooney as if he is trying to touch the clouds. What is going through his young mind? We will never know; he will never remember. A moment I will never forget.”

Flight directors – a fatal attraction

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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.

Friday photo: skimming the clouds at sunset

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It’s one of the best views any pilot can find, and Antonio Rodriguez shares a great picture of it in this Friday Photo: skimming along the top of the clouds at sunset. He was flying a Piper Archer II to Nebraska with family when he snapped this photo, which beautifully shows the soft colors of the sun on the clouds below.

My (memorable) first flying lesson

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Fifteen hundred feet isn’t much altitude, but it momentarily seemed Olympian as our formation turned onto the downwind leg of our traffic pattern, with the airfield looking like a precisely detailed model on our right. Another banked turn onto base leg, then onto final approach for a low-altitude flyby. We came level at about 30 feet, roaring past the showline – I was momentarily sorry I couldn’t be down there and up here simultaneously!

Want to go to Belize? What? Sure!

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I was two months into my first pilot job flying skydivers at a small Canadian drop zone in a C182, when my boss approached me with this question. Our company had the opportunity to have a winter contract in Belize running the same operation for the winter months of our off-season, and we were quite excited about the prospect. This would require ferrying our little Cessna all the way down there.

Treating my fear of flying with… flying!

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My relationship to aircraft and flying is somewhat of a paradox. On the one hand, I’ve been fascinated by planes, airports and flying since childhood. I’ve been using flight simulators for nearly 25 years, and today I’m even earning part of my money with that. On the other hand, my first real flight happened only ten years ago, and, honestly, it was a bit terrifying back then.

Friday Photo: Yosemite waterfalls

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Although I’ve been to Yosemite a number of times I have never overflown. My friend, plane owner, and pilot Mike has never been there so we took the opportunity. Later, when I was able to better view the pictures, I found that shooting through his windows somehow gave the pictures a black and white appearance.

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.

Robbing two pieces of luck from my box of experience

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Impressive mountains were quite near on both sides, and I noticed that there were at least two separate layers of stratus above me. I could see that the lower level shrouded the glacier ahead, obscuring most of it. I could also see that, if I continued beneath the lowest level, I would soon fly into the face of that glacier right at its moraine. Did I mention that I had only 30 hours under a seat belt at that time?

The after symphony

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After the winds have been tamed, after the distance traveled; after you have set aside the weather maps and navigational charts and flying’s fears. After you have arrived… it’s a moment so sublime, there is no other feeling like it. Joy and pride and relief and excitement drenched in the smell of hot oil and the sound of happy strangers and friends who know exactly how you feel – because they have felt it, too.

Friday photo: fog and a full moon

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Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate and you end up fogged in. As Steve Ellis found out, though, that doesn’t have to mean a trip to the airport is wasted. He took this misty photo of his RV-4 on the ground at on a trip to Vero Beach, Florida, which captures the early morning solitude of an airport – complete with a full moon overhead.

Never stop listening – why it pays to be paranoid in the cockpit

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I rolled the airplane out onto the runway after checking that the final approach course was clear and began slowing to a stop. I was praying that the controller would catch his mistake himself and issue us a cancellation of our takeoff clearance. But he did not do so. Knowing that I would probably create some very big waves, I transmitted over the tower frequency a quite simple sentence.

Food fight in the flight levels

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I remembered we had boarded 40 pre-adolescents in Dallas, bound for a summer camp near Denver. While several adults had seen to their boarding, and more were to meet them in Denver, there was no adult accompanying them. Apparently my company felt that four flight attendants were more than enough to handle 40 rowdy kids and the 30 or so other paying passengers on our B-727.

Great free resources for learning and practicing communications skills

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While not a genuine stick-and-rudder skill, being good at talking on and – equally important – listening to the radio is a crucial ability to have as a pilot. There are many ways to improve your radio procedures, even when not actually in the cockpit. Here are some great free resources to help pilots of all skill levels improve their communications skills.

Friday Photo: a bright spot

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Fred Olson was flying from Osceola, Iowa to Harrison, Arkansas on a fairly dreary day when he saw a beautiful shaft of light breaking through the clouds and took this photo. It’s a reminder that aviation delivers stunning views even on cloudy days.

A frozen brake slide

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Suddenly the King Air started to move. But it wasn’t turning left, it was slewing to the right. I mashed both brake pedals as hard as I could, but the airplane kept sliding toward the Falcon and the FBO office building. The lineman started running backward as fast as he could on the icy surface.