Editor’s choice: our top 10 articles from 2019

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We published over 200 articles at Air Facts this year, including personal stories, tips for safer flying, and memorable pictures. Some of these were written by well-known authors like Mac McClellan, but most were written by everyday pilots. After reviewing all of them, we’ve selected ten must-read articles from 2019.

A bomber crew Christmas

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It was a week before Christmas 1964, and we had some time left to fly after returning to base from a typical nine-hour training mission. I talked the crew into flying at about 1,000 feet not far from the air base, to scout the snow-covered countryside for a Christmas tree. I was the copilot on the B-47E, and we started to look for the right size tree in a remote field.

Friday Photo: on final for Telluride

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Jason Harrison was flying his Cessna Turbo 182T from Albuquerque to Colorado for his 50th birthday when he took this dramatic shot of Telluride. A unique airport, TEX sits on a mesa over 9,000 feet above sea level. When the weather is good, the views are spectacular.

Learning Morse code in the 21st century

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I didn’t really need to be able to copy Morse code at full speed to recognize the two or three letters used to identify aviation navigational aids. Nonetheless, I thought I would give the Koch method a try and learn at low full speed. At the time I thought, “What could it take—a few weeks of working on it in the evening?

Doing soft field landings for real

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“Ever land on grass?” Chet asked quietly, as always, with great understatement that veiled the imminent challenge. “No,” I replied, knowing that I would do it soon. The turf runway at Harford County airport (0W3) in Churchville, Maryland, was only 17 nautical miles northeast of our home base

My life as a new corporate pilot

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When I was fresh out of college, I stumbled into one of the most fun flying jobs I’ve ever had. The operation wasn’t an airline that required an ATP so my low flight time, while not exactly a selling point, didn’t cause any legal issues. For someone with less than 1,000 hours and a mere 20 hours of multi, this was an amazing opportunity.

Friday Photo: Isla Culebrita

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For Omar Haedo, flying his Mooney Acclaim Ultra is just an efficient way to get around as he manages his health insurance company in the US Virgin Islands. But a commute like that does have its benefits, including wonderful cockpit views like the one shown here. This shot is of Isla Culebrita, just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico.

Always watching: why I wasn’t really alone on my first local solo flight

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I called the tower and instead of the usual Alpha to 29, I was advised to turn right on Alpha, left on Charlie and back-taxi on 29 to Echo. I stumbled through my read-back to the tower and cleared the taxiway prior to proceeding. I then noticed an airliner had been pushed back onto taxiway Alpha. The tower then called the airliner and asked, “Who cleared you to taxi?” There was no response from the airliner.

Go or No: staying out of the ice

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It’s December and you live in Albany, New York, so it’s no surprise there’s snow in the forecast today, but you’re more focused on the aviation weather than the chance of a few inches on the ground. Your plan today is to fly your 1980 Piper Aztec from ALB to BKL in Cleveland, Ohio. Can you make the flight?

Who Needs Charts? Under the Rules You Probably Don’t

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If you want to win a bar bet among your pilot friends, ask them to show you the FAR that requires you to have charts in your general aviation airplane. After some fumbling around on the FAA site on the web, one pilot will probably declare the rule is FAR 91.502. But before you pay off ask your friend to read the title of the FAR subpart that contains rule 91.502. It’s Subpart F.

Friday Photo: Mt. Hood reflections

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An inky black, velvety smooth departure emerging into a beautiful dawn. The passengers I am on the way to carry are two upbeat, optimistic friends who treat their cancer together with low-dose chemotherapy. I look forward to lifting their spirits by both flying them and by telling them funny stories and jokes from court and life.

A funny thing happened on the way to nowhere

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Like most “sporty” planes, the Luscombe, when flown with practiced precision, was like dancing to familiar music. Uncoordinated, the world suddenly surrounded you with a strange and uneasy countenance. The pilot always felt this; the passenger even more so. The exception was, that to a non-pilot passenger, even co-ordinated unfamiliar attitudes felt, well, unfamiliar.

Heroic rescue at Fremont

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The experimental airplane took off. I watched it climb out until it passed out of my view behind a hangar, then I turned away. Then I heard the engine quit. Okay, I thought, he’s got enough altitude. He’ll make it across the dikes and land straight ahead. He’s in for some embarrassment, but he’ll be all right.

Discovery flight at 16, Private Pilot at 17

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For my 16th birthday, my father thought it would be a great idea to gift me a discovery flight at the local flight center. From the moment the wheels left the ground in that Cessna 172 Skyhawk, I knew that one day I wanted to be able to do this. However, I was left with the heavy burden of reality; where do I even start to obtain this dream and more importantly, how will I be able to finance this?

Friday Photo: closing in on Telluride

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I was flying with one eye watching for landing sites – the only way I fly the Rockies in a single engine piston. (It seems there is always someplace to go near the airways – hope I never have to prove it!) I managed to stop my ground scan long enough to take this picture. You can see the ski runs above Mountain Village in the distance. Beautiful place to live and fly.

Remembering Pat Luebke, Long-time Air Facts Managing Editor

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Aviation lost a truly special person last week, but it’s not a name most pilots outside the publishing industry will know. Patricia Luebke, managing editor at Air Facts and one of the driving forces behind relaunching this magazine in 2011, passed away on Friday, November 22, 2019 after a brief illness. She was 69. Here we share remembrances from four colleagues.

Airline delays – sometimes you just can’t win

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No airline employee wants a delay. The corporate cultures at most airlines are distinctly non-Japanese; that is, blame is fixed, rather than problems. A delay of even the shortest duration will start a downhill flow of a substance that is neither colorless nor odorless. On some properties, too many delays can be detrimental to a career, sometimes terminally.