Chasing my shadow

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It may have been falling apart – the cardboard and paper ripping at the seams and the ink slowly fading from its pages – but within it dwelled the memories and accomplishments of a young man striving to become a pilot. All of this I failed to realize as my grandpa’s logbook passed from his outstretched hands to mine just a few months before his death. Looking back, I wish I had explored the stories hidden within.

Lessons from a later bloomer CFI – and why you should be one too

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A CFI friend who worked with me on this rating told me that I would probably ruin the lives of my students for the first 100 hours that I instructed. It was true, but hopefully not that bad. As of this writing, I have over 700 instructing hours in most every single-engine trainer out there, and I have evolved in my thinking about this whole business of training homo sapiens to safely take to the skies.

Friday Photo: New York City at night

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My sister and her husband were visiting for a short trip and we started talking about airplanes. It was evening but the weather was perfect and the next two days looked terrible so we spontaneously decided to go right then and there. They had a phenomenal time and were enchanted by the beauty of NYC at night. It was my first time through the VFR corridor at night as well, and the views didn’t disappoint.

A glider with no tail? I flew one

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My search for a flying wing sailplane ended with the purchase of N86TX and its relocation to Hangar 115 in New Braunfels, Texas (my brother’s three-car garage). For the next several months he, with help from my cousin Rayford and my father Tom, did the remaining 30% of the work to get the sailplane to a finished state and ready for inspection.

Visiting the Mooney family

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Life sometimes takes you to places you never expect to be, and I recently found myself in Bandera, riding a horse at the Mayan Dude Ranch as part of a family visit to San Antonio. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was only 25 miles from Kerrville, Texas, the home of Mooney, and so many stories.

Go or No Go: beating the storms?

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It’s your regular business trip: Cincinnati, Ohio (I69), to Atlanta, Georgia (PDK) for an overnight visit. It’s an easy two hour flight in your Cirrus SR22, and you’re familiar with the route, but the weather map is colorful today. As you open ForeFlight just before noon local time, here are the weather maps you see. Read the briefing below and decide whether you would make the flight.

Why I love it, why I hate it: Cessna 210

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Every airplane model has a personality; some even have a stereotype. So when a friend recently asked what I thought of the Cessna 210 Centurion, I hesitated. I felt qualified to offer an opinion since I flew one for about five years in the early 2000s, but I also felt obligated to go beyond cliches. I have very fond memories of the 210, but it is a love it/hate it type of airplane – its strengths are unique, and its weaknesses are maddening.

Friday Photo: snowy Teton

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Grand Teton National Park never disappoints, with soaring peaks and a flat valley floor below. Even better is when the mountains are draped in snow. That’s the view Charlie Tillett had from his Piper Meridian recently, as he shares in this Friday Photo. From 20,000 feet it looks peaceful and majestic. From the ground it might look cold.

Fifteen minutes at dusk

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N5434A accelerated in her usual manner and soon I was checking airspeed looking for my 75-knot rotation point. Then, in the landing light, my heart seemed to explode as I saw a full line of deer spread across the runway from edge to edge and beyond. The turbo governor had already stabilized at full throttle travel, so with no additional throttle left, it was ground effect or nothing.

On becoming an old, new pilot

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We’ve all got our stories as to how we got into general aviation. This is mine. I just started a bit later. OK – a LOT later than most. OK – virtually later than all other folks I have since met who fly. I was 56 when I started my flying instruction and 57 when I passed my licensing check ride. The key is, it doesn’t matter when or how you started – what matters is that you stuck with it and finished.

Whiteout in a Cub

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My plane had no instruments for flying in the clouds, and no radio for communication. Visual Flight Rules were the only option, and that didn’t look too promising. The time of go or no-go was approaching rapidly. The low ceiling would not be a problem if it held. Young and foolish? Yes, but the decision was made.

Friday Photo: wilderness camping

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Flying is usually about the journey, not the destination, but this Friday Photo might be an exception. Jim Mateski shares a photo of his campsite at the Shearer wilderness airstrip in Idaho, complete with a hammock and a Piper Super Cruiser. As he says, the plan was, “Solitude, hammock sleeping, a good book, and great native cutthroat fly fishing.”

Medical crisis on a solo cross-country

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I had just taken off from Aurora, Missouri (2H2) heading toward Grove, Oklahoma (KGMJ), flying at an altitude of 4,500 feet. I was a student pilot, and this was my first solo cross-country experience. Everything seemed to be a pretty standard day; the weather was nice. The one big mistake I made I had no way of knowing or preparing for, but it happened all the same.

Erasing four decades of regret, and remembering a friend

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A short message… “If this is the Jay Miller who was Ray Tenhoff’s friend, would you please call me?” A phone number followed. Thus began – unknowingly for me at that moment – a closure that I had considered unattainable for just over 40 years. Four decades of regret were about to be erased absolutely and unequivocally by the kindness of a person I had never known.

Battling G forces at Holloman Air Force Base

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There is another Air Force base not having the notoriety of Elgin or Nellis – Holloman AFB, in the southeastern corner of New Mexico. Along the way, it has served as weapons development establishment – about ninety miles south of the Trinity site where the first atom bomb was detonated, a test base for early versions of ballistic missiles, training for Air Force and Allied aircrews, a stateside station for German Air Force units, and an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle.

Friday Photo: Ohio sunset from a 172

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I am so fortunate to be able to see and do things like this. When I took this picture the only thing I could think about was that the people I am flying above right now will probably never see what my two eyes are seeing right now at this very moment. It is such an honor and a privilege to be able to see views like this from an airplane.

What is that dragging behind the Boeing 737 MAX in TV news video?

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I’m sure you’ve seen video of a Boeing 737 lifting off as yet another news reader drones on about the MCAS troubles in the MAX version of the world’s most popular airliner. If you watched closely, you have seen what looks like a wire or tube with a cone on the end trailing from the top of the rudder.What the heck is that thing, and why is the 737 dragging it through the air?