As we have progressed through our aviation career we have events that occur that add to our experience and skill base. But even if we have played the “what-if game” some events can surprise us from unexpected quarters. Such was the case when we flew an inaugural flight across the Pacific through Guam and Manila with the destination Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport.
Sometimes when we look back to our earliest periods in aviation, we are rightly hounded by some of the infamously stupid things we did—or tried to do. But if you’re like me, you can honestly say you just didn’t know any better at the time, and that there was no one around to warn you of the dangers. We all have to learn. And every once in a while, the learning unveils itself ex post facto.
Alternate airports are a required part of an IFR flight plan when your destination’s weather is forecast to be below 2000 and 3. But the filed alternate is almost never used in the real world. This video tip, from Sporty’s Instrument Rating Course, explains why and offers some tips for making safe, stress-free diversions if the weather doesn’t support your original plan.
While all airplanes have stories to tell, some are more important and more interesting than others. Here are five I believe should be in every pilot’s logbook or on their to-do list. These aren’t necessarily the best or most exciting airplanes ever to take to the skies, but they define specific ages in general aviation and make up the rich history of our industry. Call it the general aviation canon.
The American West is an amazing mosaic landscape of deserts, mountains, rock formations, and barren nothingness. Flying a cross-country trip over much of it was a personal dream of mine come true. At the time, I was still in training for my instrument rating, and this trip gave me an excellent dose of real-world flying experience.
We were on about a half-mile final when the controller decided to add some information for us: “Be aware of Coast Guard aircraft doing routine engine maintenance adjacent your touchdown zone.” I didn’t have to look far to spot the gigantic C-130 in its Coast Guard markings.
You have probably seen this before: a GoPro video showing a pilot struggling with large inputs on the yoke, giving the throttle a hard time with either high thrust or idle power, and after a fair amount of time focused on that demanding approach, a smooth touchdown followed by a reassuring smile. On the title of the video, something mentioning a high crosswind component, and below, the comments saying that the pilot nailed it like a boss. Did he or she?
This is not a story about fast jets, elaborate cockpits or major life and death mid-air drama… it is the true story of a humble student pilot trying so hard to overcome a mid-air incident that he took leave of his common sense.
A number of years ago safety and training experts realized few, if any, crashes were being caused by the events pilots spend training time for. Those action-packed simulator sessions were difficult, and we sweated through them, but in reality accidents were happening because of much more mundane aircraft failures and pilot mistakes.
“Nature’s art gallery.” That’s what Elliott Meisel calls the view most pilots enjoy. In this example, the view isn’t necessarily beautiful or calming, but it is awe-inspiring. Meisel captured this photo as he deviated around some storms in his 2006 Cessna 172. A close encounter, but not too close.
I will admit up front, this is the most scared I’ve ever been in an airplane! We were flying a B-1B, non-stop from Andersen AFB, Guam, to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. We were heading home after a lengthy deployment; we were all looking forward to family reunions and that Big Hug! Just past the halfway point, we suddenly got hammered by an extremely pungent odor in the cockpit!
There have been various books written about bush pilots. We are great storytellers about our many escapades, but a lot of what has been published does not get to the crux of what makes a bush pilot. So here is my take.
My wife, April, and I flew over 11,000 miles in our Cessna 206 last summer. We pretty much circumnavigated the lower 48, with a couple of “great loops” to boot. Our mission: to take our daughter’s used Ikea furniture and household items from her Houston apartment to Bangor, Maine, where she was working on assignment.
Flying internationally has its challenges. In the West, there exist synergies between weather services and Air Traffic Control. This is something we take for granted. In other parts of the world, not so much. Below is a story of one such time where a latent threat could have caused an undesirable state.
The Erie-Ottawa International Airport in Port Clinton, Ohio, is a great stop for general aviation pilots. The views of nearby Lake Erie make for a great low-level flight, the Liberty Aviation Museum brings World War II history to life, and the Tin Goose Diner is an authentic 1950s restaurant. Tim Hornyak captures the view from the ramp, with his beautiful AA-1 Yankee in front of it.
Under certain circumstances, a 180-degree turn is the greatest life-saving maneuver that can be performed in an aircraft. I can personally attest to this fact, as it is highly likely that I’m here writing this thanks to a certain 180-degree turn that I made many years ago. That also applies to my three passengers at the time, hopefully still happy and healthy, wherever they may be.
Just then the controller came up: “Descend to 4,500, call the airport in sight, cleared visual approach Odessa-Schlemeyer. The airport is five miles at one o’clock. Cancel IFR this frequency or on the ground. Cleared local frequency.” OK, so where is that airport? Black. That was all I saw. Just black.
I’ve waited almost a lifetime to fess up to behaving badly. The statute of limitations has hopefully expired in sixty-six years. Specifically, in 1954 at age twenty, 165 hours total time, no IFR training and growing up on a rural Pennsylvania farm, I was living a teenage fantasy for adventure in a far-off land.
As we started down, day became night in thick clouds. My wingman, Mark, tucked in tight, fixed on my flashing wingtip strobe. Just then, inexplicably, the loud static began. Still in the clouds and unable to receive or transmit to ATC or my wingman, I got that I see bad trouble ahead feeling.
I was on a return flight, mid morning, deadheading back after an early Angel Flight. Downtown Chicago was basking in the morning sun and it was an excellent photo op. Soldier Field, the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Grant Park in the foreground and Willis (Sears) Tower to the John Hancock in the background.