Little details are important

BasicMed was not available when I took my first flight physical, so I paid the money and passed the FAA Medical. However, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to one small admonition from the doctor. He told me I didn’t need to wear my reading glasses in the plane, but I needed to carry them with me. I use glasses to read, but my eyes are good enough that I can get by without them. That little detail almost led to a fatal accident.
Aeronca 7AC

The rising cost of membership in club general aviation

Recently I’ve read a few aviation blogs that suggest hangars are in short supply. Based on my observations over the past several years, I would tend to agree with that statement. What is interesting to me however, is the fact that at several of the general aviation airports I’ve visited, many hangars are filled with “hangar queens.”
SR-71 cockpit

How I got to fly the SR-71 simulator for NASA

“Look,” he said, "we need someone to pilot the 71 simulator while the engineers and sim operator conduct some conditions on stability for the 33 programs. Any interest?” "Sure," I said, "happy to help out." (I refrained from screaming "hell yes!" while turning a few handsprings.)

A close call on the water in the Bahamas

Rotating ten feet off the water, there was an ominous and very audible bang from the rear of the aircraft. Immediately the seaplane skewed 45 degrees into the east wind, heading us at 80mph toward a frightening scene. One can scoff at that expression of "doing things by the book" but in near every case of incident, almost all were resolved safely by resorting to this method—except this was not in the book.

Friday Photo: deviating around a forest fire

As we were approaching Denver airspace, we asked to deviate to left to avoid what looked like an unpredicted storm coming in from the northwest. The controller suggested there was no storm activity in the area, but permitted the deviation anyway. Not until that evening, did we understand why we also detected a faint smell of smoke.
Bob Hoover

How a local airshow thrives and dies

As any good story in aviation starts, the rise and fall of Airshow Chattanooga begins with Bob Hoover and a dare. At the turn of 1990, then 28-year-old Morty Lloyd found the legendary WWII pilot and airshow performer’s phone number. On a whim he called, asking if he and his buddies started an airshow in Chattanooga, Tennessee, would he perform.
Cessna 152

Base turn over the trees

I turned right on base and pulled gently on the throttle to reduce the airspeed and put down the next notch of flaps to slow down further. The aircraft was over the trees and descending and I noticed that the aircraft was buffeting slightly. I had noted a similar feel while practicing stalls with the instructor. But this was not a practice stall.
airline pilots

The art of being a co-pilot

During the last days of 2018, a Learjet 31A was being repositioned from England to Portugal. The captain, almost a decade older, asked the first officer during the descent if he agreed with doing a barrel roll. Because there were no voice recordings, it is impossible to tell what he said, but the fact is that the roll occurred. But the focus today is on the right seat guy. What was his role in it?

Managing engine failures on takeoff: a new approach

I have just read another accident report about the fatal crash of a twin engine aircraft following an engine failure shortly after takeoff. Conditions were VMC. The accident report stated that the pilot applied the wrong rudder, which resulted in loss of control. The bottom line is that training for this critical emergency was and still is woefully inadequate.

Friday Photo: Mt. Rainier on Victor 4

I’ve always thought Mt. Rainier to be the most beautiful of the major Cascade peaks. I climbed the mountain in 1972 (I was younger then!), and have wanted to do a fly-by ever since I learned to fly many years later. The weather and ATC cooperated for this view of the north side of the mountain.
Cherokee 180

A rusty pilot returns

Why had I quit flying? I don’t think I ever meant to. It’s not that I lost interest. I’d kept my AOPA membership current ever since I first joined as a student pilot in 1986. There’s an AOPA sticker in the back window of my car. I was proud to be a pilot, but as the years went by, I talked about it less and less.

When aviation comes to your front yard

Over the course of my career, I’ve had countless people in aviation help me. I have a lot of built up karma that I needed to pay forward. So imagine when I received a call from my neighbor saying, “Hey, did you know there is a helicopter in your front yard?” Wait, what?
Pilot's view

Things that go bump in the dark

I’ve never been an aficionado of night flying. You can stumble into weather you would normally avoid in the daytime and it’s often more difficult to do things that are routine during the day. Additionally, you always hear noises that never seem to occur during daylight. For instance, air-to-air refueling (AAR), which is challenging in the daytime, requires flying at 300 knots while close to another aircraft filled with fuel, and they intend to "pass some gas" to you—in the dark!
GTN screens

The greatest aviation safety improvement is…

The improvement in aviation safety is astonishing. No major US airline has suffered a fatal crash since 2001. Before this incredible 20-year period, the longest stint without a major airline fatal crash was barely more than two years. Though many factors contribute to the enormous advance in aviation safety, the single greatest factor is development of GPS.
Air traffic

9/11/01 — One pilot’s experience

It is now 5:25 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a day that will live—as certain as does Pearl Harbor Day—in infamy. I am sitting in room 212 at the Baymont Inn near the Indianapolis, Indiana, Airport. I will be staying here for at least tonight and probably even longer. According to local reports, I am very fortunate to even have a room because of the five to six thousand passengers stranded, like fellow pilot John Baker and myself, in this city that we had never intended to visit.

Friday Photo: New Mexico view

The American West serves up stunning views every day of the year. Tom Slavonik was ferrying a Cessna 182 from Colorado to California when he caught one of those views. Just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the combination of fields, mountains, clouds, and sun combined for quite a photo.
William Piper

From the archives: Bob Buck on William T. Piper

I know a wonderful man who believes that one of life's greatest gifts is the opportunity to work. He believes also that age doesn't keep you from doing what you want to do. He proved this by starting an airplane factory at 50. He learned to fly that same year – 1931. Today his firm has made more airplanes than any other in the world. The man is William Thomas Piper.
Duckbutt C-130

Flying a Duckbutt for POTUS

Precautionary Orbit Escort missions (Duckbutts) involved positioning rescue aircraft at strategic airborne orbit points along a preplanned oceanic route of flight.  These Duckbutts primarily supported jet fighters or other single engine aircraft which cross these routes with minimum navigation and communications equipment.  The rescue aircraft would be in a position to give immediate assistance at all times.
MSN airport

Making a big mistake on my solo cross-country

I forged ahead, making good time. It was 5:00. Did I mention the sun was due to set at 5:30 and there was already a thick overcast? I needed to go to plan B. Crap. I had no plan B. But I did have this VOR that would tell me how to get back to Madison. I tuned in to the Madison VOR and turned the OBS knob to center the needle. Then what? I had no idea.
Decathlon takeoff

Crosswind operations—no drama, please

Contrary to the title, you frequently hear two different viewpoints being vociferously debated between the proponents of crabbing into wind or wing down and slipping for crosswind landings. Let’s dissect the arguments.