Friday Photo: sunrise over a Cirrus wing

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Sometimes, Mother Nature knows best. After evening storms delayed Salim Helou’s flight home until the next morning, the sun made a grand appearance over the co-pilot’s wing. The Cirrus SR22 meant Salim made it to work on time, but the view was the real prize.

Fighting the war on drugs in the Air Force

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My first Counter Drug (aka CD) operation involved deploying F-15s to Howard AFB in Panama. Under the auspices of the USAF’s 12th Air Force, we took four F-15Bs down south to provide augmented air surveillance in the Caribbean as part of the grand plan to interdict drug running out of Colombia up in to Mexico and points north.

How spatial disorientation can trap pilots

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My student Max, like many before and after him, could just not bring himself to believe that he could not fly the airplane by the seat of his pants without visual references outside the cockpit in spite of instruction and all the materials he had read about spatial disorientation and vertigo.

Friday Photo: Phoenix sunset

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Photographers call it the golden hour for a reason. As this Friday Photo from Kimberly Prodan shows, the time just before night falls is utterly amazing – especially from an airplane. This photo captures the emerging lights of Phoenix below, while the sun’s fading light paints the horizon.

Flying is no joke

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As he taxied to “line up and wait,” something was amiss. Yet he and I both persevered in our thoughts of better flight to come. Shattered easily by the slipping nose wheel as the throttle was advanced, I pushed the right rudder a bit and felt the resistance from his feet, locked in a state of motionless silence. He must have felt it, for he looked over at me with a quizzical look.

The case against practicing in the pattern

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The title is a misnomer, but if I were to put in the actual title it would be: As important as practice in the pattern is, it doesn’t always prepare you for what can happen before and after getting cleared to land, and practice approaching from beyond the pattern is important also.

Friday Photo: Colorado mountains

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A cool, clear day in the mountains of Colorado is hard to beat. As Greg Chestnut shows in this photo, it’s even better with a high wing airplane. He took this photo while flying his Cessna 182 to Las Vegas, as he passed over the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area near Telluride.

Lake Placid: anything but

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I ran through the before landing checks from the laminated checklist card and right about then Laura announced she had the field in sight. Then a bump. Not a vertical bump one would expect on a warm summer day, but a fairly stiff bump with a bit of roll. “No big deal,” I thought.

The bad news and good news about engine failures

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You’ve probably said it to a nervous passenger: “Don’t worry, airplane engines almost never quit.” It’s only in World War II movies that engines cough and pilots have to save the day, right? This is mostly true for turbine engines, which have a stunningly good reliability record. Unfortunately, it’s far less true for piston engines.

Video tip: IFR flight plans, fact and fiction

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Filing a flight plan is an important part of any IFR trip, but just because you put something down in black and white does not mean you have to fly it. As this video tip shows, some parts of the flight plan are fact, and some are probably fiction – keeping them straight is essential for safe flying. Just because you filed a certain alternate airport, or a specific altitude, does not mean you have to fly that if conditions change.

Why airline pilot schedules and cruises don’t mix

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There appeared to be five days on the itinerary for our four-day cruise. Counting the days… recounting them… uh oh. Too many days. We are now in the middle of the ocean, with no communication capability whatsoever, and had no way of telling our new company that we simply could not make it back for work the next week.

Friday Photo: a not-so-dry lake in Australia

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Lake Eyre in Australia covers half a million square miles, but it’s almost always dry. Not for Jeff Brooks. He captured this otherworldly picture of the lake after it had filled up with water that flowed 1000 miles down hill to the lowest point in the country. The sleek wingtip of his Long-EZ perfectly frames the scene.

Changing perspectives, one flight at a time

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Before I started working at this central Texas plant as an electrician, the people I would soon be working with already knew I was a private pilot with my own airplane. I had many people approach me with questions about being a pilot and flying. The most fascinating aspect of these discussions involved my dispelling the view that becoming a pilot was just for the super-rich.

When breaking the rules is the safest thing to do

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Everything was perfectly normal as I allowed the plane to accelerate to rotation speed, and gently lifted off the runway. But as soon as I began the climb out, I began to suspect that I had made a major mistake. The little Cherokee, normally as docile as an old mare, was suddenly bucking and swaying like a wild bronco trying to throw me off!

Friday Photo: an Austrian castle

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A European vacation turned into an unexpected flying adventure for Bob Bickford. In this Friday Photo, he shares the view from the cockpit of a brand new Diamond DA40NG, which he got to fly from the Diamond factory in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. As he says, it’s not every day you get to see a castle on final approach.

The other 4 C’s of aviation

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We are taught the 4 C’s of aviation in primary training. When faced with difficulty, such as getting lost or flying VFR into IMC, the safest course of action is to Climb, Communicate, Confess and Comply with instructions. But there is another set of C’s that has become more relevant to me as my flying experience has progressed.