Two recent trips reinforced for me both the potential and the limitations of using general aviation airplanes for transportation. In many ways, they could not have been more different: the first flight was in a Pilatus PC-12 at 26,000 ft., the second in a Citabria at 500 ft. But while the equipment was quite different, the result was the same: a successful trip of 400+ nautical miles between cities poorly served by the airlines, and more or less on my schedule.
As the GPS and the autopilot guided us precisely along our assigned TEC route, I was reminded of an experience I had had here many years ago while earning my private pilot certificate in a taildragger that was equipped with a suite of avionics much different than was the airplane we were flying.
“Improve general aviation safety” is on a recently issued National Transportation Safety Board list of ten things that it wants to do. Funny they should mention that. It was on my father’s list when he started Air Facts in 1938, it has been on my list since I joined him in 1958, and I guess you would now say that it is on my bucket list.
“This remarkable account of a remarkable flight first appeared in the January, 1945, issue of Air Facts. Hurricanes haven’t changed a bit but hurricane research flying sure has.” –Ed. The airplane we use is a B-17, but it’s a lot different from most 17s. The turrets are off and so are the guns and the armament, and instead there is a lot of test equipment that we don’t talk about out loud.
A late June family wedding was to take place in West Dover, Vermont, at a location about a mile from the Mount Snow Airport. I have had a love/hate relationship with this airport for years. It’s the only airport that I have been unable to get into a whopping 75 percent of the time. Weather, wind, and runway conditions—or a combination thereof—have all stymied my attempts to land there over the last 15 years.
Birds did it. Bees did it. Even uneducated fleas did it. But every time a man strapped wings to his arms and stepped into the void, he simply ended up splattering himself. It felt as though winged creatures mocked mankind for mocking them. Then one day in 1809 a man stood up and did what any wealthy guy does when he keeps losing a game: he changed the rules.
Many people in our industry are compelled to share the aviation experience with others for the sheer joy of bringing them into this unique world. Others take it a step farther and reach out to those who, through some unfortunately circumstance, want to be involved but can’t. Charles Stites is one of those people.
Thunderstorms in summer. Thunderstorms with battlefield lightning, crop shredding hail and tornados. Sometimes the thunderstorms are dry and the lightning sets the prairie grass on fire. Sometimes the rain is so hard whole buildings go missing. Hans Ahlness makes his living flying into thunderstorms. He convinces other pilots to do the very same thing.
By mid-summer of 1956 I was 18 and had progressed far enough as a student pilot that my instructor decided it was time for me to do a long, solo, cross-country flight. After reviewing the flight plan with my instructor, I filed a flight plan with the CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration, the forerunner of the FAA) by telephone, did a pre-flight inspection, climbed into the yellow Champion 7EC, hit the starter and – nothing.
It was actually Father’s Day weekend, but this flight was all about Mom. The mission was to pick up my mother at her home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and drop her at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport in Islip, NY to see her friend who lives on Fire Island. I had the choice of flying either my family’s Cessna 172 or Beechcraft Baron.
A Dead-Stick Landing at Bozeman, MT. Over the years, in my daydreams on this subject–and I do daydream about this, it is how I mentally prepare myself for the possibility–the event always ends with an exhausted sigh of relief and the words: “We’re down safe, no damage, no injuries.”
Remember your first check ride? Remember the jitters you felt, the shaking hands, the funny feeling in the pit of your stomach? Well, I remember mine, and it was nothing to compare with a flight I had last week.
The final report on the Airbus A330 Rio to Paris Air France 447 accident is not out yet but preliminary information provides a lot of food for thought. It is a safe bet that many thousands of words will be written about this. They will come from all points of view and represent a multitude of opinions. Here is mine.
The general media does a great job of keeping us abreast of what is going on with fast-breaking events. Take away the tsunamis, tornados, executions and weddings, though, and it seems like the media wanders aimlessly while looking for something to attract viewers or readers.
Over the past 37 years of flying GA aircraft, I’ve become a strong proponent of totally understanding and using the available automation in the cockpit. I use the autopilot in our Aerostar 601P/700 a lot and make sure that I understand how the A/P or other automation works in every airplane I fly. I just don’t like surprises. But once in awhile, surprises still happen.
Our recent family trip from the Washington D.C. area to visit family and drop our money at Universal Studios in Florida was off to a crummy start and we hadn’t even left our house. A strong cold front was advancing to the East coast and trailed into northern Florida touching off daily rounds of thunderstorms over our first destination of Orlando’s Executive Airport.
The task on this week late in March was to fly the new owner of a not-so-new Baron from Indianapolis to Tampa by way of Atlanta for a couple of days of business. This would be the owner’s first trip in the airplane and only my second trip in Seven Tango Romeo after helping ferry the airplane to Indy
Back in February of 1958, my father and I took Leighton Collins’ first Cessna 182 back to the factory in Wichita, where it was traded for a brand new Cessna 182 Skylane. I was eight years old and the adventure was the first time my father had taken me beyond local flights, usually from Linden Airport in New Jersey. It was also a gamble for him
You might as well know right off the bat that I don’t have a jet, never have, and it’s beginning to look like I never will. The funny thing is, though, there are places I wouldn’t be able to go to without them. I’m talking about the King Airs and Citations that are flying every day into small and medium sized towns to do business.
One cold day, I was taxiing out to the runway in our Cessna 172 when another pilot says over the Unicom, “Uhhhh, Skyhawk taxiing out, you still have your cowl plugs in.” Ugh, how embarrassing. I was with my wife and had my tail thoroughly between my legs as I hopped out to remove them.