Go or No Go: low IFR in a Baron

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It’s a typical late afternoon flight for you, with the mission of returning your boss to his home in Lexington, Kentucky (LEX) after a day in Greensboro, North Carolina (GSO). The trip should take just under two hours in your Beechcraft Baron, which you fly professionally. Take a look at the weather briefing below and tell us if you would make the trip or cancel.

Flying in the coronavirus sky—a freight pilot’s perspective

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Today, there is no global terrorist threat or war keeping airplanes out of the sky. The threat is a microscopic organism, silent but still deadly as it spreads around the world. On the ground, people’s lives have been disrupted, in ways small and large. But from 33,000 feet, the silence gives the feeling of a much more dramatic shift: like a Twilight Zone episode, in which everyone below me has disappeared.

Friday Photo: IFR between layers

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It is 98 degrees and 80 percent humidity in Mississippi, and you are shooting practice approaches with an instrument instructor sitting in the right seat. It’s hard to remember why you are putting yourself through this for an instrument ticket. Then the day comes when you are able to turn a six hour drive into a 90 minute flight. I remembered that it was all worth it. 

A tribute to an aviation supermom

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As I walk into the terminal building to grab my handheld radio, the K model Skyhawk works its way back to the end of the runway for yet another student solo. A momentous occasion for sure, but not that abnormal at our busy little airport. But tonight is different you see. A very special mother is PIC on this flight. My wife, Megan, mother to our (one at the time) son is making her first solo on this calm, quiet Sunday night.

A medevac tale of two cities

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I came on shift as pilot for the fixed-wing at 7am, and the request for medevac was relayed to me. By now the snow was letting up and weather was forecast above minimums. I called the snowplow operator for an update on conditions. He had been plowing in the storm, the runway was acceptable, and he promised to continue working on it. Less than an hour later, we were on approach.

A long ferry flight: the Bermuda Triangle, icing, and more

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The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, is a loosely defined area between Bermuda, Miami, and Puerto Rico. There have been many cases of ships and aircraft along with their crews mysteriously disappearing with no trace. There have been theories from plausible to ridiculous, including it being occupied by aliens from outer space. The following account is from personal experience.

What to practice with limited flying time

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No matter what you fly or why, you’re certainly doing less flying now as the country tries to survive the Covid-19 virus. So how can we get the most effective practice and proficiency retention out of the limited flying we can do? Practicing landing is important, for sure, but I think there are some other maneuvers that can test and refine your skills more effectively in less flying time.

Friday Photo: waiting to land

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SCTB is a busy general aviation airport on the eastern edge of Santiago, Chile, with a busy flying club and restaurant on the field. This photo from Gaspar Galaz shows the lineup for the runway as he approaches to land, with the airport looking like an oasis in a desert of buildings.

A minor electrical problem in Vietnam becomes a major problem

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We scrambled towards the aircraft and I headed straight for the cockpit. The flight mechanic fired up the APU (power supply). As I got into the cockpit, I hit the starter switch for the number one engine. Nothing happened. I called back to the flight mechanic and asked him if he had the APU online. He said yes he had it online. I tried the number one starter again with no results.

Is traditional proficiency enough?

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Regardless of license level, elements of being a good pilot normally include skill at operating the airplane; book knowledge; situational awareness of everything going on around the airplane and what it means; and experience. All of these are, good, no doubt about it, but what additional elements can be incorporated to make an even better pilot? In effect, what would constitute an Honors Course in flying?

Dealing with distractions

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The desire to fix what had been broken ceased upon my nerves and now my multiple thousand hours melted away and I felt I was back in training. A certain drift of scent that emanates from failure hit me square in my nostrils and I realized that the glide path indicator had drifted down to the lower end, in accordance with a required missed approach. Damn!

An airplane unlike any I’ve ever seen before – flying the AN-2

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When planning this Bavarian vacation, I wanted to include some flying, perhaps an hour of dual with an instructor at a local flying club. Searching online, I came across the website of a company called Classic Wings Bavaria, offering scenic flights in a 1957 Soviet-built Antonov An-2 biplane. Here was the unique flying opportunity I was looking for, even if it did not involve actual stick time.

Friday Photo: Monterey Bay

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The low sun angle illuminating the ocean swell and surface wind waves in fine detail—flying home at the end of a beautiful day. We take turns with one flying outbound and the other back. I was lucky to have the right seat for this shot. To me this photo is reminder of why I love flying, purely for the opportunity to see the world in a different way.

Your eyes have the deciding vote—my thunderstorm encounter

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I observed a huge gray mass of clouds directly in front of me. As a relatively new instrument rated pilot with minimal actual IMC time, it looked pretty intimidating to me. So I called ATC and asked if they were painting any weather along my route back to PDK. ATC advised that there was no significant weather between me and PDK. That gave me considerable comfort.

It was a dark and stormy night…

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A Phantom C, known as a “Chuck,” took off and had a hard-over rudder. That is a really big emergency in a Phantom. It not only poses a controllability program across the flight regime, but also has some complications in terms of interface with the other flight controls and the nose gear steering. Implications include a very fast approach speed for controllability and the need to engage an arresting gear.

I survived the deadliest helicopter crash in European history

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On the 6th of November 1986, at 1132 hours, I was the Captain of a Chinook helicopter that crashed just two miles short of its destination, the Sumburgh Airport in the Shetland Islands, 150 nautical miles north of the mainland of the United Kingdom. At the time it was the worst-ever civilian helicopter crash, taking the lives of 45 out of the 47 people on board. One passenger and I survived the crash. How or why we survived is a mystery.

What will general aviation look like after COVID-19?

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Making predictions about COVID-19 is a fool’s errand right now, with a year’s worth of news happening in a week. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think in broad outlines about the future of flying. I’m obviously biased because I love light airplanes and the freedom they offer, but I genuinely believe general aviation will come out of this crisis stronger. This isn’t just wishful thinking; there are reasons to be optimistic.

Friday Photo: USNS Comfort in New York

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Flying is one of the few aspects of life that continues much as before during the COVID-19 quarantine. Today (4/12) was a beautiful spring day, and we took advantage of the near-empty airspace to escape our confinement in our cramped New York City apartments and fly in formation overhead Newark Airport (with one solitary Delta departure) and take the tour of the city we have flown single-ship many times.

From Vietnam to Kobe Bryant—the long history of flying helicopters in fog

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Preliminary findings in Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash tell me things haven’t changed much in over a half century. Today, as back then, instrument rated pilots flying IFR capable helicopters continue to tempt fate by pressing ahead at low altitude in low visibility. And mostly they make it to their destination! But it’s an insidious gamble, particularly in hilly areas.