General aviation trends in 12 charts

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What’s the state of the general aviation industry? That’s a question we hear at lot at Air Facts, sometimes by prophets of doom looking for confirmation, sometimes by new pilots trying to get a handle on the community they have just joined, and sometimes by outsiders who genuinely don’t know. Unfortunately there’s no simple answer, but these 12 graphs offer a partial answer.

Learning to fly before I can drive

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It might be hard for you to understand how lucky I am, but I am certain of it at this very moment. I’m on my way to take one of my flying lessons. I am 16 years old and I started a few weeks ago at Colts Neck Airport near Freehold, New Jersey.

Friday Photo: the floating city of Venice

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Venice, Italy, is a legendary tourist destination. Millions flock to the island city and its picturesque canals for a scenic trip by gondola. But as Benoit Vollmer shows in this Friday Photo, the view from the air is pretty spectacular too. He took this photo from his Robin RD-400 during a trip from Paris to Albania.

Flying on edge – getting down to the nitty-gritty

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Margins are a basic in safer flying. Maybe that’s just another way of saying to always cut yourself a little slack, and what it means is to stay away from the edges of the envelope. Where this often becomes critical is when the airplane is being asked to do something it either won’t do, or will just barely do. That is when precise flying is required and to use an old term, it often has to be done by the seat of your pants.

Video tip: get the big weather picture

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Checking the weather before a flight is a familiar routine for pilots, but it’s not enough to just glance at a few METARs. In this video tip from Sporty’s Takeoff app, you’ll learn why a good weather briefing includes a look at the “big picture.” If you know where the lows are, and where the fronts are moving, you can fit the other details into your own weather hypothesis.

My first flight to Canada – surprisingly easy and fun

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I had done a few longer cross country flights in the past, but nothing that required being in a specific place at a specific time for a specific event. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it does mean that any mishaps along the way must be dealt with on the move and a solution found immediately so that the trip can still be completed.

Friday Photo: Cessna over the Alps

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Here’s a great example of how a general aviation airplane can unlock new perspectives. Elke Quodt was flying her Cessna 182 of Mt. Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, when she took this photo of the snowy peak. The skiers on the mountain think they have a great view, but the pilot’s view is even better.

Dozing for dollars at 39,000 feet

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It’s quite funny to watch someone fall asleep sitting up, a condition described by researchers as head bobbing. The victims’ heads loll onto their chests then some wicked synaptic brain fart wakes them, their heads snap up like the cracking of a whip only to repeat the sequence moments later. The sleep experts and their theories notwithstanding, when you are tired no matter what you do, your brain will eventually just shut you down into a virtual coma.

Go or No Go: flying the front

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After a great visit with family and a stunning solar eclipse, it’s time to head home from Carbondale, Illinois (MWA), to New Lexington, Ohio (I86). The good news is the winds aloft are helping today: the 340 mile flight will take just over two hours in your Cessna 182. The bad news is a cold front is moving in from the west, with rain and storms popping up ahead of it.

Talking at non-towered airports

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During the last several months, I traveled around the country presenting an AOPA safety seminar on non-towered airport operations. I had some pretty interesting encounters/discussions with other pilots during my seminars. This subject seemed to inflame the passion in a lot of folks. I’d like to share some of my observations with you.

Friday Photo: Fresno sunset

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Fathers, sons, and airplanes – it’s a powerful combination. George White says, “While we spend time together often this was the first time in quite some time that we spent the entire day together like this. I don’t think I will soon forgot watching him fly (only his 2nd or 3rd time in the plane) and thinking now he understands the joy and passion I have for flying.”

Two aviators find closure after 40 years

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One man stood up, expressing a need to address Col Goodson. He was a smallish, well-dressed older gentleman, accompanied by a lady in a long mink coat. He was recognized by the moderator, and stood to attention and stated his name, rank and serial number. He followed in a very assertive tone, “Colonel Goodson, I have one thing I’ve wanted to say to you since 1944.” There was a pause – a very silent one.

A turbulent, rolling boil in Banning Pass

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Deeper into the pass I flew, watching Banning Pass airport pass beneath me. My groundspeed increased rapidly. Nearing the end of my journey through the Pass, I called Palm Springs approach to make contact. After completing the transmission, I felt a sharp, very assertive bump that lifted my little aircraft, pressing me deeply into the seat. My handheld GPS departed from the hook and loop fastener I had rigged onto the instrument panel and fell to the floor.

Caption Contest #8

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Welcome to our latest Caption Contest at Air Facts, where we post a photo and call on our very talented readers to provide a caption for that photo. Check out our most recent one below and if an amusing or clever caption comes to mind, just post it as a comment. In two weeks, we’ll cut off this contest and the staff of Air Facts will choose their favorite caption.

The opposite of get-home-itis

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Saturday we packed up everything and headed back to Livingston for the flight home. When I looked at the weather, I found that everything east of the Dakotas would be all IFR, low clouds and rain. I talked to my wife, and said we should try to fly halfway, maybe stopping in Bismarck, or Fargo, North Dakota. She was up for the adventure.

Friday Photo: early morning fog

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Helicopter pilots like Paul Pignataro often talk about “the golden hour.” The idea is that if an emergency medical helicopter can get an injured person to the hospital in an hour or less, their chance of survival goes up dramatically. But there’s another golden hour, as Paul’s photo shows off this week, one that photographers seek out. It’s the magical time after sunrise when the sky is utterly beautiful.

Mayday! What is an emergency?

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If you read through the available information on emergencies, there is but one conclusion. Everything is covered, several times, in the millions of words written about this but much, even most, of it revolves around the legalities. Logic suggests that if you are up to your ears in gators, what counts are results and if you get a good result you can think about the legal part later.

I had the sky to myself: my first solo at 16

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My takeoff was great and my landing was spectacular; “a greaser” as Dan would say. “Two more like that,” said Dan, “and I’ll let you fly solo!” My heart pounded. I knew I was close to my first solo, but now, with both parents right there with me? To say I was excited would have been a terrible understatement.