Warbirds: a living tribute

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We move to the open side of the tent and gaze toward the clouds beyond the north end of the runway. Suddenly a B-17 appears from out of the overcast on a final approach for runway 17. I know the date is the 1st of September 1973, but my senses tell me I have somehow been transported back in time to an allied air field somewhere in World War II England.

How dynamics and thermodynamics create weather

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As a pilot, you know that the atmosphere is constantly evolving. The changes in precipitation, cloud types, and hazards you see all link back to changes in temperature, pressure, and forces. Understanding weather means understanding the two main meteorological processes behind weather changes: dynamics and thermodynamics.

The Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots

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The Richard Collins family has partnered with Sporty’s to offer The Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots. To qualify, the writer must be a pilot (including student pilot) who is 24 years of age or younger. The article must be original, not previously published, and no longer than 1,500 words. The topic may reflect any aspect of general aviation flying.

How one pilot’s story saved my life

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My friend was landing a high-wing Cessna at McCook, Nebraska, more than 30 years ago. As he began to flare, another low-wing airplane landed on top of him. Somehow both kept their cool and both landed safely. You may be able to say his story saved my life – at least it gave my story a much better ending.

Friday Photo: above the clouds in Argentina

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Agustin Rubiños took this photo “on a tourist flight to observe the city of three streams, in the typical climate of the southwest of the province of Buenos Aires in the winter season. With a FL030 roof of clouds over the terrain, we crossed the layer of thin clouds to provide an incredible view to our passengers who took a unique postcard for the rest of his life.”

Not your typical bombing run

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Fighter aircraft are designed and built to be fighting machines. The pilots who fly them are highly skilled in delivering many different weapons: bombs, rockets, missiles, 30 mm cannon… but killing was not the aim when we bombed a Northern territory airport in the early 1960s. As the wingman in a fighter pair for this mission, it was an experience I have held in my memory for decades.

The cellphone 27 approach into Helena

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At 30 miles east of LWT, as I pressed the push-to-talk button to report our position, all the lights on the panel went dark. I reached for the avionics toggle switch. It was very hot and the switch showed no resistance when I moved it up or down. My brother was busy enjoying the scenery, including the mountains in the distance which towered above us.

Who controls the navigable airspace?

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There were two theories on the status of airspace for international air navigation. One argued for freedom of airspace much like the freedom of the seas, by which the countries underlying the airspace exercised no sovereignty in the airspace and flight was free. The other argued that the airspace above national territories was not free, but subject to the sovereignty of the underlying country.

Friday Photo: backcountry flying in a Super Cub

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When Jody Kochansky signed up for a course at McCall Mountain Canyon Flying School in Idaho, he knew he would learn a lot. And learn he did. As he says, “I’m a better pilot for the experience!” Along the way, he captured this beautiful backcountry scene, with Loon Creek winding its way through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The picture is made complete by the yellow Super Cub cowl.

It was a smooth day until that one big bounce

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After eight days on the ground working on behalf of a national non-profit emergency services group running one of their Points of Distribution sites in Wilmington, North Carolina, I was ready for some air time. Lucky for me, one of the final air missions of Hurricane Florence was on the books for the following day and they were in need of a mission pilot.

I’ve got connections

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What is aviation, in a word? Many writers have tried to answer that question, and the word mentioned most often is freedom. Aviation sets you free, whether it’s freedom from the ground-bound view of the world or freedom from everyday worries. That’s certainly true, but I’d like to offer another nominee, even if it’s not as poetic: connection.

Friday Photo: sunrise over a Cirrus wing

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Sometimes, Mother Nature knows best. After evening storms delayed Salim Helou’s flight home until the next morning, the sun made a grand appearance over the co-pilot’s wing. The Cirrus SR22 meant Salim made it to work on time, but the view was the real prize.

Fighting the war on drugs in the Air Force

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My first Counter Drug (aka CD) operation involved deploying F-15s to Howard AFB in Panama. Under the auspices of the USAF’s 12th Air Force, we took four F-15Bs down south to provide augmented air surveillance in the Caribbean as part of the grand plan to interdict drug running out of Colombia up in to Mexico and points north.

How spatial disorientation can trap pilots

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My student Max, like many before and after him, could just not bring himself to believe that he could not fly the airplane by the seat of his pants without visual references outside the cockpit in spite of instruction and all the materials he had read about spatial disorientation and vertigo.

Friday Photo: Phoenix sunset

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Photographers call it the golden hour for a reason. As this Friday Photo from Kimberly Prodan shows, the time just before night falls is utterly amazing – especially from an airplane. This photo captures the emerging lights of Phoenix below, while the sun’s fading light paints the horizon.

Flying is no joke

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As he taxied to “line up and wait,” something was amiss. Yet he and I both persevered in our thoughts of better flight to come. Shattered easily by the slipping nose wheel as the throttle was advanced, I pushed the right rudder a bit and felt the resistance from his feet, locked in a state of motionless silence. He must have felt it, for he looked over at me with a quizzical look.

The case against practicing in the pattern

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The title is a misnomer, but if I were to put in the actual title it would be: As important as practice in the pattern is, it doesn’t always prepare you for what can happen before and after getting cleared to land, and practice approaching from beyond the pattern is important also.