What it takes to be one sharp pilot: pragmatic

Pragmatic. That does sound like a pretty good flying plan for private aviation. I say that because our flying is unscripted and flexible as opposed to, for example, airline flying which is anything but unscripted and flexible and is not always based on practical considerations.

What’s wrong with single-engine turboprop pilots?

From studying everything that has gone on with the TBM and Meridian and with knowledge of the high performance piston fleet, I get the feeling that the lower fatal accident rate in the turboprops has to be attributable to better training. Better reliability could be a factor and the enhanced performance capabilities of these airplanes may have also made a contribution to safer operation.

Spooked about night flying in singles?

There will be a debate about flying at night in single-engine airplanes for as long as there are single-engine airplanes and it gets dark every night. That is a given. Recently the son of an old friend emailed and asked me what I thought about flying singles at night. My stock answer to pilots who express concern about this is simple: If you are not comfortable with it, don’t do it.

70 years ago: a first lesson and a first article

I am not much for commemorations, preferring a windshield over a rear view mirror view. But, hey, maybe I have set a record: 70 years and still going so I’ll offer that up for contemplation and as well as a challenge to the younger folks in this business today. It would make me proud if someone did it for longer.

What’s wrong with experimental pilots?

The higher incidence of accidents in E-AB aircraft is just as logical as the fact that the fatal accident rate in private (general) aviation is almost infinitely higher than it is in airline flying. When more freedom is granted by reducing regulations and eliminating stifling procedures then the risk goes up.

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part four: realistic

In this off-again on-again series I have touched on awareness, intelligence and coordination. Those are all important. Being realistic also sounds like part of a plan for flying. The first thing that comes to mind is the extremely tired old saw about knowing your (or your airplane’s) limitations. In fact, that has been said with evangelical zeal so many times that, with this mention, I am going to leave it behind.

Flying on edge – getting down to the nitty-gritty

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.

Mayday! What is an emergency?

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.

Is pilot interest in weather waning?

I am convinced that screens full of information are not a key to operating an airplane safely. The most important picture of all is not on a screen, it has to be in the pilot’s mind. A mental picture of where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there simply can’t be replaced by a picture on a screen. Nor will a screen show the churning inside a cumulonimbus.

8-3-1981: the day the FAA disappeared

The recent discussion about the ill-advised privatization of the air traffic control system sent my thoughts twirling back to a day and time when the system actually came to a screeching halt and we had no system, public or private.

Deep dark weather secrets about fog are really no mystery

It’s not accurate to say that Mother Nature keeps secrets. However, it is spot on to say that Mother Nature harbors all manner of surprises for pilots who fly on without making an effort to develop some personal weather wisdom. One key is in understanding that what you see and feel is what you get, regardless of what is forecast.

The devil is in the deadly details

Careful pilots use checklists. One item on all checklists calls for the controls to be free. After studying two accidents, one in a new production twin on a first flight and one in an experimental jet, because the ailerons were reversed, I paid extra attention to controls free and correct. I looked at the ailerons when I deflected them, every time, and made sure they moved correctly.

BasicMed: a cruel hoax?

Was 05/01/2017 a day that changed the life of a lot of pilots or was it just another Monday down on the farm? The first attempt to do away with aeromedical certification for pilots started about 70 years ago and the beginning of BasicMed on 05/01 seems to be all the progress that was possible on this sticky subject over all these many years.

Turbulent flying lessons: windy tales

The potential for turbulence should be an integral part of pre- and in-flight weather study. And I found over the years that experience is the best teacher because with turbulence what you feel is what you get. If flying IFR in clouds, the fact that turbulence there makes many riders uneasy and uncomfortable has to be acknowledged, and even some pilots riding as passengers get antsy in bumpy clouds.

What’s wrong with piston twin pilots?

Back in the heyday of piston airplanes being used for personal and business travel, one question was most often asked of owners of high-performance singles: When are you going to step up to a twin? It was automatically assumed that everyone wanted to and all would when they could afford it. In the history of private aviation, though, new piston twins were not a big factor.

What about those spins?

The low altitude, low speed loss of control has always dominated and back in the good old days this was often dismissed with the comment: he ran out of airspeed and ideas at the same time and he spun in. Do pilots know enough about spins?

Was it really pilot error – or was it something else?

The oft-quoted statistic is that about 85-percent of the accidents in private aviation are caused by pilot error. I always had the nagging suspicion that what that really means is that in 15-percent of the accidents they can find cause with something other than the pilot so that just naturally means that the rest get blamed on the pilot instead of on some failure or fault in the training and regulatory system.

The complex art of finding the IFR Sweet Spot

There’s a big difference between finding the VFR and the IFR sweet spot on an arrival. Weather doesn’t play much of a role when it’s really VFR and it plays a humongous role when it is IFR. In fact, weather determines the location of the IFR sweet spot. Sweetest of all would be when the runway pops into view at minimums with the airplane speed and configuration in perfect order.

Arriving at the VFR sweet spot – without colliding or spinning in

To me, the sweet spot on a VFR approach is when 500 feet above the ground and descending toward the runway. Here, if the sight picture of the runway is correct and the configuration, speed and rate of descent are right on, the fun part, the landing, should be a piece of cake. The question is, how do you get to that sweet spot with the least possible risk?