Night flight in an A4B Skyhawk

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I suited up, gave the A4B a pre-flight check, fired up the turbine, received Air Traffic Control clearance for my first leg, and departed Los Alamitos in a dense brown smog blanketing LA. I broke through the haze at 5,000 feet and was vectored to a northwesterly course, skirting the California coast.

Friday Photo: Badlands off the wingtip

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As a corporate pilot, Duane Mader is usually working when he’s in the cockpit. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy the view from the left seat. In this stunning photo, he shares the view over the left wing of his CJ2, with the Badlands of South Dakota under some puffy clouds. The light didn’t last long, but it’s saved forever in his memorable shot.

Seven things I know about flying in Illinois

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I “grew up” in my aviation career in Illinois, and I think it was a fantastic place to learn. One reason is that the weather changes often and has quite a bit of variability. As a pilot learning, it’s good to learn that weather conditions can be partly cloudy with light winds when you depart, and by the time you get to the practice area, a thunderstorm could have popped up.

Memory flights – sometimes you just know

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Every pilot has what I call “memory” flights; flights which were remarkable, special. The thing about these “memory” flights is that often we don’t know we’re experiencing them, that they’re shaping us, until we reminisce some time later. You don’t always have to look back, though. Sometimes you just know that you are flying one of those “memory” flights.

Friday Photo: solar eclipse over Chile

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Photos don’t get much better than this. Diego Errazuriz took this breathtaking picture of a total solar eclipse from the cockpit of his Cessna R182, as he cruised over Chile on July 2, 2019. The lights below and the Pacific Ocean frame the beautiful colors in the sky and the utterly unique view of the sun.

Aviation nirvana – my trip to Sun ‘n Fun

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“N12345, traffic, uhhmmm. 345, there is traffic pouring off of KLAL, I can’t advise you. Keep your head on a swivel. Good luck and squawk VFR.” Gulp. I’ve never heard anything like that before from ATC. He sounded like he was wishing me luck on my climb up the stairs to the gallows.

A memorable seaplane flight on San Francisco Bay

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Suddenly I was aware that my pontoons were only hitting tops of waves now and then. I looked back and down and saw water and spray dripping out from the pontoons. I eased off my back pressure to accelerate in ground (water?) effect, our parallel “V” wakes, then spreading apart behind. We were flying!

So what’s the rush?

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The constantly-mentioned “pilot shortage” has created a cultural shift in flight training. More so than ever, companies, flight schools, and students alike want training to be completed in the shortest amount of time. I am in the minority who strongly believe that students who meet the minimum requirements in a short time are not necessarily quality pilots.

Friday Photo: Gold Coast, Australia

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Australia’s Gold Coast in Queensland is a beautiful place to fly, as this photo from Ross Clarke shows. He was on his way to maintenance in his Jabiru J170 when he took this shot of the towering buildings and golden beaches below. It’s a famous tourist destination, but we think it looks better from the air.

Aerial patrol – spotting sharks

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I picked up a great (non-paying, volunteer) gig as a pilot flying an old Cessna 182 looking for sharks along the beaches between Wollongong and Ulladulla, New South Wales, Australia. Wollongong is about an hour and a half south of Sydney and a beautiful part of the world, especially in summer. Unfortunately that beauty can be spoilt somewhat by sharks swimming around in their natural environment.

Nine things I know about flying in Ohio

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In the second installment of our new series, John Zimmerman shares nine things to know about flying in Ohio. Yes, it’s the birthplace of aviation, but there are other facts to know, including why there is an airport in almost every county, where to find some great island airports in Lake Erie, and where to find a free lunch every Saturday.

A biplane engine failure, and the start of a new business

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As we approached the Twin Cities area, I was in control of the aircraft and maintaining a heading towards my house as I enjoyed the view of that peaceful summer evening. Suddenly, I felt a slight vibration in the stick and told Scott that something didn’t feel quite right. He immediately took control of the N3N as the engine RPM dropped dramatically.

Friday Photo: Laurel Lake

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The sun reflecting off a lake is a wonderful sight, but it’s even better when you’re learning to fly, as John Wesley Collins was in this case. There’s a twist: “His dad got to be in the plane with him and take these beautiful photos. Both sons are working on their private pilot lessons and their dad gets to live his lifelong dream of flying with them.”

Five dollar Frank and the poor man’s flying school

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“Five Dollar Frank” was his moniker, as he owned Thomas Flying Service and gave sightseeing tours of the area for $5. Each flight was a half hour, with his sister sitting beside the Esso gas pump next to the stone “terminal” waiting to gas up the plane upon arrival. Thousands flew with Frank over the years, and his name still brings a smile to those with history in the area.

From the archives: the 1968 Reading Show

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Before Oshkosh was the big show, the annual gathering in Reading, Pennsylvania, was the center of the aviation universe. In this article from the June 1968 edition of Air Facts, you’ll see what general aviation looked like during the heyday of the late 1960s. From the new airplanes to the celebrity pilots, it was a thrilling time to be a pilot.

Friday Photo: snowy French Alps

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The Alps never cease to amaze, as this week’s Friday Photo proves. Nicolas George captured this stunning vista from the cockpit of his ICP Savannah. The Chartreuse range is covered in snow, which brought back a lot of fond memories for George. The entire experience was the result of a short climb in a light airplane.