Friday Photo: a busy rain cloud

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I was flying up to our family cottage in Gravenhurst, Ontario. The visibility was excellent and there were lots of fluffy white cumuliform clouds starting to tower up all around. This one caught my eye because it was pretty much on its own and it was producing a strong column of rain.

From Learjet to Cessna 150 in the same day

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We were in a hurry to get to Moab, Canyonlands Airport (CNY) to get the Lear fixed and ready before the passengers showed up. My concern: I was planning to fly myself back to Long Beach in my Cessna 150 if we weren’t too late getting back to Sacramento. Hopefully the weather would hold and Long Beach (LGB) would not go IFR with the marine layer before I arrived. I was keeping my fingers crossed.

Scud running in Vietnam

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One day, quite a few of us were tasked with missions to resupply Quan Loi in our C-123 Providers. The weather was not too bad as we broke out on top at approximately 1500 feet. I flew on top to the general location of Quan Loi, but could not see a thing except the clouds that we were flying over. I contacted the Army controller and found out that the runway was overcast, with the cloud height above the ground at 50 feet.

Go or No Go: another summer day in the Southeast

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Another summer afternoon, another radar splattered with red and yellow cells. After many years of flying in the Southeast, you’re used to this picture but that doesn’t mean you ignore it—thunderstorms are a serious threat for any airplane. The goal today is to fly from Sarasota, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, in your Cirrus SR22. Will the weather allow it?

On automation and airmanship

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The original intent of contemporary cockpit automation arose from the capabilities view of technology, in particular the capability to optimize aerodynamic efficiency while also optimizing airspace utilization. This was, and still is, clearly a machine in the service of man. The intent of automation began to migrate toward the cybernetics view with the notion that we could automate human error out of the equation.

One plane and one girl’s dream

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It was a calm evening and the sun was setting behind the Blue Ridge Mountains as the familiar smell of leather and avgas instantly brought me to my happy place. I smoothly advanced the throttle, my heels on the floor as I guided the Cessna 172 down the centerline of the runway. Once airborne, my face broke into a wide smile as I turned to my dad and our eyes met. Words were not needed in that magical moment.

The famous quote that da Vinci never said

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“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” This Leonardo da Vinci quote is everywhere — aviation books, magazines, websites, Instagram posts, coffee mugs, tee shirts, several science textbooks and some Smithsonian publications. Yet Leonardo da Vinci never said it; and it’s nowhere close to 500 years old.

Are pilots rediscovering how to travel by light airplane?

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By long standing tradition, baseball players never talk to a pitcher in the middle of a perfect game—if everything is going well, why jinx it? The same mindset applies to pilots, who are often hesitant to acknowledge good news for fear of chasing it away. I’m going to violate that unwritten rule because I think it’s worth exploring an interesting development: general aviation is doing surprisingly well during the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday Photo: an advancing storm

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I was on the first leg of my long solo cross-country, where the route was FMY-OBE-PGD-FMY. The storm was forecast to stay west of OBE, and this picture was taken as the storm cut off my path to OBE. I had clear skies to my right, so I executed a 180-degree turn to the right and returned to FMY from the southwest while remaining clear of clouds. I repeated the flight the following day to completion.

Unstable approaches in a pandemic world

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Who would have guessed? Most pilots—notably airline ones—are flying less than ever since March, and the number of unstable approaches has skyrocketed. According to a recent report from the International Air Transport Association, the rate of unstable approaches per thousand flights jumped from around ten to fifteen monthly in the last two years to 28 in April and 37 one month later.

A young pilot’s plan to eliminate get-there-itis

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Most of us have a Plan B in mind but it might not be developed into a concrete plan and often is not executed in time to put it into action. This is where Dylan’s plan works beautifully and has been very successful for both him and the company. One of the key elements of the plan is that it be implemented 24 hours before the scheduled departure.

Approach to oblivion

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Another low-pressure system was making its way through the Carolinas and into the Northeast corridor with enough attendant weather to bring low IMC to most of the Northeast itself. I had a flight in the morning to Salisbury, MD, then to Richmond, VA, and then back home to Chester County, PA—all forecast to be at or near minimums, or possibly even below. This posed a real problem.

Recovery from spirals with the LVL button

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In a flight in a Cirrus SR22, it was mentioned in passing that the LVL function on the Garmin autopilot is not taught for unusual attitude recovery. A flight in the RV-9A, equipped with a Garmin G3X Touch system, was then made to evaluate the LVL function for spiral recovery. These flight tests clearly indicate that the FAA technique is not always required for all airplanes.

Friday Photo: Father’s Day Flying Fun Times Two

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This Father’s Day will be hard to top. Two years ago I surprised my Dad and landed in his back yard on Father’s Day morning for coffee. During coffee I asked him if he would ever fly with me. He said “No freaking way!” But I guess he had a change of heart… here’s proof that he flew with me two years later to the day.

Smoke in the cockpit—and stuck in the clouds

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“Fire, Captain!” the co-pilot yelled. He turned around to look at the smoke billowing out from the rear of the airplane into the cabin. The passengers were screaming and trying to cover their noses from the acrid smell permeating throughout the cabin. He turned to me with fear in his eyes and repeated, “Cap, we’re on fire!”

Ditching a Cherokee off Hawaii

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During my first winter in Hawaii, soon after I arrived in what was to become my permanent residence, I was flying a rented aircraft between the islands on my job as director for University of Hawaii Peace Corps training, when my USAF flight training surely saved my life.

The forever weekend: flying my Cheetah to Canada

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When our Grumman-American Cheetah left the runway of Pearson Field, Vancouver, Washington, on that Saturday morning, my wife and I anticipated a pleasant, scenic flying weekend. It turned out to be that and much more. But we had no idea that this takeoff was the beginning of a trip that would mark a milestone in our lives.

Corporate Flying During the Pandemic

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The ATC frequencies are still pretty quiet. It’s easy to get direct routings and weather deviations most of the time. And FBO ramps are not often crowded. But corporate and charter flying are back. In fact, many charter, membership and fractional ownership aircraft operators are reporting record interest, mostly from first time private flyers.