One last airplane ride for Dad

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I spent the day after he died doing the things one does, particularly trying to figure out what to do with his ashes. One friend, a pilot at my airline, asked what the funeral plans were. I told her that we would probably inter Dad out there at the Jordan Cemetery in Indiana. Knowing something of his aeronautical passions, she texted back, “Oh, that’d be nice. He’d get one last airplane ride.”

The teacher becomes the student

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Bob was listening intently while I droned on about the dangers of getting jet fuel pumped in by accident from the wrong truck. “Like this one?” he said as soon as I stopped talking. I looked at the fuel truck sitting right in front of me, pumping fuel in the nose tank as I was speaking, and read the words, JET FUEL, written boldly on the side of the tank.

From now on, I’ll always…

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Airlines spend a lot of time crafting standard operating procedures (SOPs), which describe in exquisite detail how each part of a flight should be conducted. For the average private pilot, such formal SOPs are probably overkill and remove some of the flexibility that makes general aviation so rewarding. Instead, a few simple habits can prevent embarrassment – or worse.

From the archives: Wolfgang Langewiesche on quiet airplanes

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In this prescient article from 50 years ago, legendary pilot and writer Wolfgang Langewiesche considered the role of general aviation airports in a world of ever-expanding suburban communities. He saw the need for a quieter breed of airplanes in order to prevent a public backlash. Now, with electric airplanes tentatively finding a foothold, this article seems as relevant as ever.

A trip to Mexico in the best of the worst airplanes ends in a costly fiasco

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Most of the airplane’s weight was on the wings as we rolled across a furrow somewhat larger than the others about halfway through our takeoff run. Bouncing slightly, the momentary lack of weight on the wheels fooled the “foolproof” gear system into performing its duty. The left wheel, now unlocked and slightly off-center, collapsed as the plane’s weight returned to the wheels.

Friday Photo: FL430 from a Lear 45XR

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Paul Bowen says, “This was taken on my first ever flight in the Lear 45 since my sim training at CAE Dallas West. Watching the sun set from 43,000ft on your first ever real jet flight is a truly unforgettable experience. And what better aircraft that the truly iconic Lear!”

Dear NASA: learning from my mistakes

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The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is where maintenance technicians, pilots, controllers, etc. can anonymously report inadvertent violations of regulations or unsafe conditions which resulted from their action (or inaction). I have never been deterred from submitting an ASRS report for a transgression, mistake or bad decision. And I’ve had plenty of material to work with.

My night engine-out emergency

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I could see the lights of Concord from a little south of Fairfield, so I turned south. This put us over an area of wetlands but highway 80 was within very easy gliding distance off to our right. Then it happened. Right over Suisun Bay where the Navy stores a large number of dilapidated ships, our engine decided to cough, sputter, lose all power.

Go or No Go: winter warm front

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“Messy aviation weather today.” That’s what the forecaster wrote in the forecast discussion this morning and a look at the TV screen in the FBO at the Elkinds-Randolph County Airport (EKN) confirms that. The radar images shows lots of rain in the area and the forecast is for things to get worse. That’s mildly annoying, as you’d really like to get back home, a 1:15 flight to Raleigh, North Carolina.

A Tri Pacer is not an Alaska bush plane

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Taxiing took almost full throttle, and there was no way in which the plane would take off with the pilot and two passengers. We were now stuck on George’s choice of lakes. I suspected that we might have made the takeoff with a Piper Pacer, but with a nose gear poking down up front, there was no way we were leaving that small lake in our small, four-place tricycle-geared flying machine.

Friday Photo: Chicago sunset

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Why we fly – that’s Scott Fernandez’s three word summary of this photo, and it explains pretty well the magic of being a pilot. Watching the last light fade from the western sky as you climb out in a light airplane is both exciting and peaceful, and it is indeed why we fly.

Near miss in the pattern

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This very near-miss incident took place several years ago on a VFR approach to Archerfield (YBAF), in Queensland, Australia, a usually busy Class D general aviation training airfield adjacent to the state capital city of Brisbane, and it haunts me to this day. As a way of talking it out, I tender it here for my fellow pilots to read and consider and perhaps comment on.

Reader question: what is your aviation nightmare?

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This reader question was prompted by the comments on a recent Air Facts article. As one said, “The intense, and deeply disturbing, nightmares you experienced regarding wire encounters are not uncommon among pilots.” So we want to know – have you had any aviation nightmares or anxieties? Is it the same issue every time?

Making flight fun from the right seat

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Many people have found peace and tranquility in the air. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people have their license to fly the US skies. For them, it’s a way life… either for professional or personal enjoyment. Regrettably, for their significant other, it may not be that exciting.

Friday Photo: T-34 formation

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The T-34 Mentor has a long history as a military trainer, and training is exactly what Facha Reynaldez and Gabriel Freijo were doing when this photo was taken. But instead of a single T-34, this photo shows off four of them in formation over a dam south of Córdoba State, Argentina. The water an the sky are both blue, both the pilots were too busy watching their wingman to notice.

Accident report roundup: controlled flight into wires

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Many pilots worry about colliding with another airplane in flight, but not nearly as many worry about power lines. According to FAA numbers, that’s a mistake. There are roughly 75 accidents every year involving wires and while many of them involve helicopters, not all of them do. As the three accidents below show, airplane pilots regularly find ways to turn a fun flight into a fatal mistake.