A day in the traffic pattern brings unexpected joy

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When I walked into the office, I brought my study guides, notes, and lesson plans fully ready to call it a day and start discussing aircraft systems and emergency procedures. To my surprise, my instructor looked at me and said, “Let’s do some traffic pattern work here at PTK; we need to get you in the air.”

There’s room for improvement at GA airports

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I don’t like to pen anything negative, but I believe that there is room for improvement in the way that our General Aviation community conducts business. Let me start with the “simple” process of getting avgas. The larger airports have the hard-to-read, difficult-to-use credit card machines installed.

When to disengage the autopilot

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A real hardware/software failure of an autopilot could lead to a dangerous situation, but so can pilot mismanagement of a fully functioning autopilot. The results are essentially the same in either situation—the pilot in command is not fully in control of the airplane.

Friday Photo: chasing the shadow

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Even after 10,000 hours, Claudia Garces loves the thrill of landing. Of course, when your airport is 4,950 ft above sea level, in the middle of a city surrounded by mountains, it is a little more interesting. “Every landing is an exercise of concentration and precision, and that’s exactly what makes it special.”

A ride to remember

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I’ve been wanting to write about my ride in the Collings Foundation B-24 for some time now. Sadly, due to the events that occurred on October 2, 2019, with the loss of the B-17 “Nine-O-Nine” and seven fatalities, I have decided now is the time to write about my life-changing ride.

Nodding off at 10 feet above the waves

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We usually climbed up to 400 or 500 feet and followed the Parkway toward home but I had a different plan. I was so damn tired I crossed the beach at Wildwood and dropped down to ten feet. The sun was low off my left. With the doors and windows open, a cool breeze and the near water would keep me awake.

Does flying into big fly-ins make us better pilots?

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Flying into Oshkosh can be a nerve-wracking experience. I would not recommend doing it alone due to the large amount of air traffic and the need for lots of eyes. During your arrival to Oshkosh, one of the VFR initial approach fixes is Fisk. At Fisk you may arrive as we did, to find a long line of planes just to your right already aligned before the starting point.

Friday Photo: Moscow under a HUD

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Richard Pittet was in the middle of a 17-hour flight to India when he took this utterly unique photo. It shows a very high tech heads-up display in the right seat of the Boeing 787 he was flying, with the glowing lights of Moscow below. Not a bad view from 38,000 feet and Mach .85, in our opinion.

Drones: a clear and present danger?

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I recently had an encounter that highlights some of my concerns regarding the exponential proliferation of civilian UAS. It has nothing to do with the operator’s “flying skills;” it’s the potentially dangerous attitude(s) and culture that are growing along with the number of machines.

Low on fuel: how I almost become that guy (or gal)!

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The one accident that I smugly assumed could never happen to me was fuel exhaustion—after all, is there any pilot error that is more avoidable? I always plan in excess of FAA minimums. So how did I find myself surrounded by widespread IFR conditions as night was falling in the White Mountains, watching my fuel gauge fall below an hour when I was still 15 minutes from the nearest airport?

Canceling IFR for the last time

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I knew that trading in my IFR K35 Bonanza on a VFR-only Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) meant that my 38 years of flying IFR were probably over. No need to recite here the reasons for the move (if you’re wondering, no medical issues or bad IFR experiences), but the decision was not hastily made and there were no regrets. I always enjoyed IFR flying, though, and my last IFR trip was one of the very best and most meaningful of all.

Hot cat pilot

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My self-image was a fearless street kid. As a Naval Aviator I had found the perfect stage on which to play that role. On the Roosevelt, I volunteered to be the “hot cat” pilot. The hot cat pilot was entrusted to protect the carrier and all the ships in the task force.

Friday Photo: Georgia sunset

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In flying over 25 years together, my wife and I witnessed probably the most luminous sunset as it reflected and radiated from underneath the impending cloud formations to illuminate our aircraft and the landscape with such an amazing orange brilliance. It was truly a spiritual experience that only flying can produce.

A night landing leads to serious target fixation

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He was doing a good job, I thought. I glanced toward the runway lights, noticing a strange flickering appearance in the bar of green glowing lamps. “Dirk,” I said, “pull up, we’re too low.” Just then, there was a sickening crunch from his side of the aircraft, then silence as we floated down to the runway.

A lesson for life

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The options to prevent fatal errors, even if it means to swallow your pride or to admit that you did not perform as expected, are always there. Some options might be inconvenient, or embarrassing. Nevertheless, if it is necessary to prevent something significantly worse, it is not only legitimate but mandatory to make use of them.

Friday Photo: two unique airplanes in one shot

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Here’s a pair of airplanes you don’t often see in the same picture: the giant Antonov AN-124 and the even rarer Boeing 747 Dreamlifter. Ernie Borjon was in the right place at the right time to see the Russian freighter take off while its smaller (not by much) rival sat on the ramp. The combined weight of these two heavy haulers is over 1.5 million pounds!

The second annual Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots

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The Richard Collins family has once again 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 should be an event that changed or shaped the author’s flying.