Growing up, I have many vivid memories of spending time with Dad at the airport. Whether it was changing the oil in the Pacer, helping with a compression check on the Bonanza, or just washing the bugs off the Pietenpol after a picturesque sunset flight around the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I learned a lot about flying and life in those moments.
I like to think there are a handful of driving forces in my life. Family and flying are two of those and, thanks to a supportive family, I sometimes get to combine those. My jack-of-all-trades FBO/mechanic/pilot/instructor career choice often means that flying takes me away from the family, but during a special couple of days I got to share an airplane delivery trip with my nine-year old.
On this particular early morning trip I was a passenger on a Lear 45 business flight when I witnessed the most amazing sunrise. We were somewhere over Illinois, headed to Boston from Wichita. As the sun began to shine, it illuminated the cloud layer from below and reminded me of a lava field. Sometimes, a guy is just blessed to have such a great view from his office window.
It was four-plus decades ago, on my solo cross-country as a student pilot flying from Salem to John Day and back, that I almost ran the tanks dry. So in the spirit of learning from others’ mistakes, I offer this true-life-student-pilot experience.
“Maybe we should wait until tomorrow to leave,” my mom inquired as she looked at the weather forecast on her phone. I noted that her voice was very nervous sounding.” No, it will be fine once we get to a high altitude,” my dad said reassuringly. The engine sputtered and then roared, then we started to roll onto the taxiway. I could feel the tension inside the cabin; everyone seemed a bit uneasy.
Aviation technology has changed rapidly over the years, and yet Air Traffic Control works much the same as it did during the booming 1960s. In this article from 51 years ago, Richard Collins goes behind the scenes at Washington Center to explore the technology at work, from flight plan routes to weather deviations. It’s a fascinating time capsule.
We drove down the dirt access road between cornfields, and over a slight rise, a magical world appeared. There were grass runways and airplanes. An airplane took off. The scene was complete all at once and etched into my memory. The airport was a magnificent place.
Lake Powell offers some of the most incredible views of anywhere in the southwestern United States, and Richard Garnett capture one such view in this Friday Photo. He was on a training flight with Jeniffer Kiraly in a Piper Archer when he snapped this photo of Padres Butte rising up out of the water.
FAA inspectors are some of the few that are exposed to aviation’s “dark side.” None of my former corporate aviation coworkers had ever been out on a fatal accident investigation. Trust me, there is nothing that can prepare you for being out in the middle of nowhere looking at twisted metal (that looks nothing like an airplane) and the gruesome remains where a pilot and his passengers experienced their last moment on earth.
It may have been falling apart – the cardboard and paper ripping at the seams and the ink slowly fading from its pages – but within it dwelled the memories and accomplishments of a young man striving to become a pilot. All of this I failed to realize as my grandpa’s logbook passed from his outstretched hands to mine just a few months before his death. Looking back, I wish I had explored the stories hidden within.
A CFI friend who worked with me on this rating told me that I would probably ruin the lives of my students for the first 100 hours that I instructed. It was true, but hopefully not that bad. As of this writing, I have over 700 instructing hours in most every single-engine trainer out there, and I have evolved in my thinking about this whole business of training homo sapiens to safely take to the skies.
My sister and her husband were visiting for a short trip and we started talking about airplanes. It was evening but the weather was perfect and the next two days looked terrible so we spontaneously decided to go right then and there. They had a phenomenal time and were enchanted by the beauty of NYC at night. It was my first time through the VFR corridor at night as well, and the views didn’t disappoint.
My search for a flying wing sailplane ended with the purchase of N86TX and its relocation to Hangar 115 in New Braunfels, Texas (my brother’s three-car garage). For the next several months he, with help from my cousin Rayford and my father Tom, did the remaining 30% of the work to get the sailplane to a finished state and ready for inspection.
Life sometimes takes you to places you never expect to be, and I recently found myself in Bandera, riding a horse at the Mayan Dude Ranch as part of a family visit to San Antonio. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was only 25 miles from Kerrville, Texas, the home of Mooney, and so many stories.
It’s your regular business trip: Cincinnati, Ohio (I69), to Atlanta, Georgia (PDK) for an overnight visit. It’s an easy two hour flight in your Cirrus SR22, and you’re familiar with the route, but the weather map is colorful today. As you open ForeFlight just before noon local time, here are the weather maps you see. Read the briefing below and decide whether you would make the flight.
Every airplane model has a personality; some even have a stereotype. So when a friend recently asked what I thought of the Cessna 210 Centurion, I hesitated. I felt qualified to offer an opinion since I flew one for about five years in the early 2000s, but I also felt obligated to go beyond cliches. I have very fond memories of the 210, but it is a love it/hate it type of airplane – its strengths are unique, and its weaknesses are maddening.
Grand Teton National Park never disappoints, with soaring peaks and a flat valley floor below. Even better is when the mountains are draped in snow. That’s the view Charlie Tillett had from his Piper Meridian recently, as he shares in this Friday Photo. From 20,000 feet it looks peaceful and majestic. From the ground it might look cold.
N5434A accelerated in her usual manner and soon I was checking airspeed looking for my 75-knot rotation point. Then, in the landing light, my heart seemed to explode as I saw a full line of deer spread across the runway from edge to edge and beyond. The turbo governor had already stabilized at full throttle travel, so with no additional throttle left, it was ground effect or nothing.
We’ve all got our stories as to how we got into general aviation. This is mine. I just started a bit later. OK – a LOT later than most. OK – virtually later than all other folks I have since met who fly. I was 56 when I started my flying instruction and 57 when I passed my licensing check ride. The key is, it doesn’t matter when or how you started – what matters is that you stuck with it and finished.
General aviation attracts all kinds of people, from teenagers learning to fly to Hollywood stars traveling by private jet. For many everyday GA pilots, that means it’s not uncommon to cross paths with a celebrity at the airport. For this month’s reader question, we want to know whether you’ve ever met a famous person through aviation.