Jumping from 123

Paratroopers of the 1950s: in the trees, at night

After my chute stabilized, I reached up and grabbed my main canopy risers, tilted my head back and checked my canopy. In the pale moonlight I could see the drop zone (DZ) to my right. I immediately realized that the wind was moving me away from the DZ, and slipping was not going to get me there. The US Air Force had missed the drop zone completely and had dropped three plane loads of 82nd Airborne paratroopers, including me, in the trees—at night!
C-123 in flight

Flying (improvised) IFR in Vietnam

Flying IFR, we had few instrument procedures, so we had to improvise most of the approaches. This led to some quite interesting approaches as you can imagine. For instance, going into Saigon when the weather was bad, if you called Approach for an instrument approach, you would be given probably 45 minutes to an hour and a half for an approach time. If that happened, we would set the radar altimeter to 200 or 100 feet.
On ground

When hypoxia becomes real

As a late blooming, somewhat studious private pilot who earned his certificate at age 75, I certainly learned, knew, and could recite the Federal Aviation Regulations that relate to the use of oxygen while flying at altitude in an unpressurized aircraft—no doubt. I did not really understand, much less comprehend, however, just how dangerous a situation a pilot can find himself in when actually experiencing real hypoxia until a recent cross-country flight.
P-51D in flight

Mustang musings: what it’s like to fly the legendary P-51

Several years ago my close friend Lewis Shaw and I took a trip south from Dallas to Encinal, TX, in his North American P-51D Mustang. We were flying to the remote and little known town to visit with an associate who was a serious collector of warbirds. He was looking to buy a second Mustang to add to his collection and Lewis was looking to sell his—a polished aluminum beauty that was an exquisite example of the legendary WWII fighter in every way.

Friday Photo: pyramids of Giza from a 787

While flying six miles above Egypt, airline pilots Richard Pittet and Luc Martineau captured this wild juxtaposition. The pyramids at Giza, built almost entirely by hand some 4500 years ago, is seen through the heads-up display on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. How far we've come.
Mac McClellan

Podcast: GA trends and urban air mobility hype, with Mac McClellan

Mac McClellan is a frequent contributor to Air Facts, but as Editor-in-Chief at Flying magazine for 20 years he flew just about every new airplane delivered since 1976. In this podcast episode, Mac shares his favorite ones and some that he wished he'd never flown. As a keen observer of general aviation trends, Mac also explains why pilots are flying fewer cross countries, why personal flying inevitably means tradeoffs between safety and efficiency, and what the future holds for urban air mobility/eVTOL proposals.
Gear up

Harmony and distractions

I was planning the 45-degree entry for a downwind pattern to runway 24, when I heard the call that a Cherokee was on a practice ILS approach to runway 06. I looked for the aircraft below and to my left and could not see the aircraft. Nope, nothing there! And lo and behold, his localizer must have been pegged to the right because he blew right past me.

Confessions of a seaplane charter pilot

I took off, climbed out to 2,000 ft., leveled off for cruise and noticed that it was cruising 10 mph slow. I checked the power settings, flaps, and water rudders but suddenly remembered... the paddle! Looking out the window I could see that it was firmly plastered vertically to the leading edge of the float struts by the airflow.
Cockpit view

Get-home-itis: be on the lookout

During a recent long day of flying I had a chance to experience aviation’s version of completion bias—the drive to complete a flight—also known as get-home-itis. I learned a great deal from it and want to share the experience. First the set up and then we’ll unpack what I did right and wrong.
Shelf cloud at airport

Friday Photo: fog rolls in

Here in Florida we experience the beauty of some of the best weather views quite often, especially as winter turns to fall (which is rather quick as our winter lasts about an hour... sure seems that way!). The phenomenon of sea fog can turn a bright, sunny, warmer day into a blanket of fog in minutes. The airport is roughly 16 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. I followed the fog as it moved inland and as I was on short final I saw it start to roll back into the sky as it met the warmer air. This is one of the results.

What’s in a (fighter pilot’s) name?

Fighter aircraft have names such as Mustang, Lightning, Thunderbolt, Spitfire. Fighter pilots have names, or "callsigns," as well. You are probably familiar with some of the callsigns of characters in Top Gun. You may wonder where a callsign comes from, or what one does to earn a callsign that sticks forever.

Go or No Go: cut-off low conundrum

After a beautiful early fall, a cut-off low has installed itself over the southeastern United States and brought with it rain, storms, and IFR conditions. You need to get to Nashville from your home outside Cincinnati, so you've been trying to pick the right time for the two hour trip in your Cessna 182. Is this it?
En route

Proficiency test—a father-daughter cross-country to remember

The plan fell into place. The El Paso trek would be my first real test as a pilot. My dad would be my right-seat passenger. We’d make the trip a proper West Texas send-off: visit Carlsbad Caverns, hike Guadalupe Peak, play a few rounds of golf, knock out the visa appointment, get one last swig of Americana before jetting abroad.

A landing and a one-wheel takeoff on Interstate 25

On a hot August morning in 1976, at 7:20 (rush hour), I landed a Cessna 172 on Interstate 25 south of Denver, Colorado, near mile marker 172. Within a few minutes of my touching down, a TV reporter and cameraman showed up. Five minutes later—and quite predictably—the Colorado Highway Patrol arrived.

Friday Photo: Sedona sunset

There's a reason Cathedral Rock, near Sedona, Arizona, is called "the most photographed mountain in the world." This natural sandstone butte is a stunning sight any time of day, but as William Scherer makes clear in this Friday Photo, the setting sun adds a whole new dimension. Thank goodness for airplanes with high wings and big windows!
Pan Am 707

The big surprise: an unexpected fly-by

A good friend of mine and fellow Zipper jock, Bill, had come down with a very serious health problem and subsequently passed away after a short illness. We were all shocked at his passing and wanted to have a proper send-off for he and his family. We asked the squadron in San Juan if they could send a flight of Starfighters, but they reluctantly declined.

SportStar-ing it around Australia

Before I had finished my licence, I was a proud owner of an Evektor Sportstar. This has opened up a new world for my wife and me. While I would never plan to fly if it was an essential birthday party of one of our 13 grandchildren, out of fear of getting a dose of get-there-itis, what a great blessing to wake up, look out the window and say, “let's bomb in on some of the grandies.”

The art of staying at home—a letter from a monk to pilots

Flying at 500 feet off the shore or ruttering S-turns over the river is one of the most meditative things I’ve ever done. Thoreau, who as Pico Iyer reminds us was “one of the greatest explorers of this time,” wrote in his journal, “It matters not where or how far you travel—the farther commonly the worse—but how much alive you are.” Flying the Cub with the doors and windows open is the most alive I’ve ever felt.

General aviation trends in charts—2021 update

Four years ago, I tried to capture the state of general aviation in 12 charts, covering everything from new airplane shipments to fatal accident rates. An industry as varied as general aviation cannot be summed up in a few charts, but sometimes graphics tell the story better than thousands of words. Many things have changed since 2017—some for the better—so I thought it was time for an update.

Friday Photo: Le Bourget Lake

Even a simple airplane like the Cessna 152 can take you to some amazing places, as Phillippe Platek shows in this Friday Photo. His picture shows Le Bourget Lake in the French Alps, with snowy mountain peaks in the background and rolling green hills in the foreground. Another winning day for general aviation.