Smoke and flames report – is the GA safety picture changing?

The fatal accident rate has been pretty stable in recent years at just over one per 100,000 flying hours. Nobody will argue that this rate is acceptable. It is not, it is terrible, but it is what we get from our pilot population and the only way to change it would be to alter the behavior of pilots and that’s not going to happen.

Suicide by airplane: a dark subject indeed

Inevitably, the tragedy of the airline pilot killing himself, the rest of the crew, and the passengers, prompted articles in the general media about suicides using private aircraft. There is actually no similarity because one is a murder/suicide, which usually has a motive, and the other is a matter of a person taking his own life. Still, the question was raised and to be honest I wasn’t too sure I wanted to explore this dark subject.

The three keys to flying safely

In this important new article, Richard Collins sums up over 50 years of aviation safety writing with three key concepts – “the things that a pilot really needs to know to stay alive.” It turns out safe flying has a lot more to do with mindset than fancy maneuvers.

Is “hard IFR” a myth? 5 things to keep it from being that way

I never knew what people really meant when they talked about flying “hard” IFR. The implication is that there is also “easy” IFR but nobody seemed to know the exact difference between the two. The most logical thing we can do is examine things we can do to keep instrument flying from becoming “hard” IFR.

America’s best airport: DCA

Of all the constraints that have been put on general aviation over the years, the most hurtful (to me, at least) is the virtual ban on the light airplane use of Washington National Airport. In my active years, I used it a lot and being able to touch down so close to the center of power was something special. The airport is something special, too.

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part two: intelligence

When contemplating a smoking hole made by an airplane, “That was a dumb mistake” is a frequent pronouncement. I think that is misleading because I am not aware of any smart mistakes, especially in airplanes. It just takes a relatively high level of native (as opposed to educated on things other than flying) intelligence to perform well as a pilot.

Phenom jet v. house – everyone loses in terrible tragedy

A Phenom 100 light jet, flown single-pilot by its owner, a physician and businessman, crashed into three houses when on final approach to runway 14 at Montgomery County Airpark. That this is a PR disaster for general aviation and for that airport is an understatement. It would be hard to think of anything more tragic.

Those photo missions – smile!

Having a photo mission go as planned and result in a formation flight with another airplane (or two or three) as the sun rose or set put the participants in a place of serene beauty and it was rewarding to share that with our readers and viewers. It was a thought that I often had, but on some of those flights I knew I had the best job in the world.

From the archives: Dick Collins on airline vs. GA flying

In our latest trip through the Air Facts archives, we discovered this gem from the April 1965 issue. Here, a young Richard Collins considers the advantages and disadvantages of traveling on the airlines versus flying oneself by light airplane. Is it really worth it to fly instead of ride? Nearly 50 years later, many pilots are still asking the question–Collins answers it definitively.

Those pilot reports – of the magazine variety

Over my 50 years in the print magazine business I would estimate that I wrote at least 300 pilot report features plus a lot of other airplane coverage in columns. I started to go back and count exactly how many there were but decided that wouldn’t be any fun. Instead, I’ll tell you about some that were different enough for me to vividly remember.

Retractable singles: the good, the fad and the ugly

Over the years a number of airplanes impressed me as being “good” airplanes. I thought of many airplanes as “fads” because they burst on the scene and fizzled. A few were “ugly,” maybe because of their looks or maybe because of other things such as flight characteristics or poor performance. Rest assured that these are all opinions.

Logbooks: a long and wonderful flight, with beginning turbulence…

In flying this one airplane so much I learned a lot of things about every element of light airplane operation. Weather, mechanical considerations, insurance, flying technique, malfunctions, the pitfalls of building a new type based on an old certification and having fun dealing with all of it were part of my trip in N40RC.

Logbooks: Concorde adventures

Richard Collins made 14 flights on Concorde, both in the cabin and in the cockpit of the supersonic airliner. In this fascinating article, he shares the details of “the most extraordinary airplane ever,” from the performance numbers to the complex systems and what it was like to fly the simulators.

Wind shear: a danger vanquished, or, one waiting in the wings?

Wind can and does affect the airspeed of an airplane in flight, drastically in some situations. Many pilots didn’t, and some still don’t, think that wind can be a big factor in this regard. A steady wind can’t, but wind that changes in direction or velocity over altitude or distance can have a profound effect on airspeed.

Father’s Flying Day

Flying with my father meant that airplanes were part of my life from the very beginning. I have seen the highs and the lows as well as all in between and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Someone asked me if I grew up around airplanes. I said, no, I grew up with airplanes.