The weight – and the balance

The video of the 747 crashing after takeoff from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan is hard to watch. As pilots will do, after watching the video I came up with an idea on what I thought might have happened.

The dream v. the reality: it’s a tough world

It might also be true in other areas, but it has always seemed to me that general aviation is littered with more broken dreams than any other field. As an observer for about 60 years, the length of the list of failed projects amazed me when I wrote down the ones that I remember.

The perfect copilot–of many years

I took Ann for her first ever airplane ride on May 30, 1956, in my Piper Pacer. I had been flying for five years then. A couple of years later we got married and she had really signed on. I took her for her final airplane ride on August 19, 2007.

What’s in a name?

Names for various airplanes have always been interesting to me. After WWII, Beech came up with the hands-down best name ever for an airplane: Bonanza. It flies on 67 years later and is, and has always been, a survivor. That is probably because the airplane is as good as the name. My second choice in the name game is Gulfstream.

Move the wheel and wiggle the pedals

When we let the electronic systems fly the airplane, we are still flying, if by proxy. That means that a big part of the pilot’s job is to fully understand the computers we use to tell the autopilot what to do. That puts the operation of the flight control system squarely in the “airmanship” category.

Aerial encounters

The sight picture of the approach end of the runway was perfect. The speed was perfect. It was a great day right up to the point where the innocence of the moment was lost. There was a flash of something, followed by quite a bit of noise, followed by the feeling that our Cub was injured and being jerked around.

A dream of the 1970s: the Bede-5

To say that Jim Bede was controversial is an understatement. Some called him a visionary, others had descriptions that were not so kind. The undisputed fact, though, is that Jim Bede excited and then disappointed a lot of pilots in the 1970s. He was a hard guy not to like and he exuded infectious enthusiasm even if he didn’t always deliver.

Changes at Air Facts: the torch is passed

A couple of years ago when we were hatching the idea for an online magazine called Air Facts, I made it clear that, because of my age, I certainly couldn’t be the future of any such publication. Now we are adding a masthead.

Check rides: I have known and loved

Most of us remember notable things about our flying, check rides for example. When I was starting out and collecting certificates and ratings, it seemed like I was constantly either preparing for, or taking check rides. Some were more fun than others and I can honestly say that none made me nervous.

The silent killer

Some years ago I got interested in the role of pilot incapacitation in serious general aviation accidents. There are some who think sugar-coating helps on things like this. I don’t. What I found was revealing and it is worth a review.

Lighten up, Sandy baby…

Weather expert Richard Collins shares his perspective on Sandy, the super storm that hammered the northeast US this week. Learn why the storm turned back to the west, and how Collins rode out the storm.

A DC-3 dream: fleeting as it was

Dick Collins shares a confession: “almost 60 years ago I wanted very badly to become an airline pilot.” He explains why in this trip through history, complete with DC-3 flights, local service airlines and $7 airfares.

The big bucks: a reason for the declining pilot population?

From the comments on our series about the declining pilot population, there is no question that a lot of people think that the cost of flying is driving old people away and scaring away new people. I said that I though cost was an excuse, not a reason, and some of you took issue with that. Having been an active pilot and observer of the scene since 1951, I will try to put some of this in context.

Letters on the pilot population

In addition to the hundreds of comments, we received some thoughtful letters to the editor about our recent Special Report on the declining pilot population. We’ve published a few of them here, and we invite your comments.

Mayday! The declining pilot population

The dwindling number of pilots in the U.S.A. has the attention of a lot of people. There are currently far more questions than answers and it is unlikely that those answers will come from one source. To that end Air Facts is working to get a dialogue going.

Super long flights

After reading Dr. Stephen Gray’s article about his trans-Pacific flight in a Beech Duchess, I had one of those old deja vu all over again feelings. In the first years that I worked for Air Facts, starting in 1958, we reported on a number of long distance flights. Some were flown by Air Facts contributors who then wrote about their flights in our magazine.