In many countries, you can’t fly VFR without reference to the ground. This is applicable even to sport, recreational, and student pilots in America, but usually after you are a private pilot you can. But what if you need to land?
Recently, a video of a Cessna 172 crash into a hangar after landing in Canada went viral. The student pilot got out of it with minor injuries, but the fact that he was just another one saved by Cessna’s generous engineers underscores a critical point in training that might have been overlooked. It is a systemic issue across the industry, and it has to be mitigated, like any threat.
Who would have guessed? Most pilots—notably airline ones—are flying less than ever since March, and the number of unstable approaches has skyrocketed. According to a recent report from the International Air Transport Association, the rate of unstable approaches per thousand flights jumped from around ten to fifteen monthly in the last two years to 28 in April and 37 one month later.
You have probably seen this before: a GoPro video showing a pilot struggling with large inputs on the yoke, giving the throttle a hard time with either high thrust or idle power, and after a fair amount of time focused on that demanding approach, a smooth touchdown followed by a reassuring smile. On the title of the video, something mentioning a high crosswind component, and below, the comments saying that the pilot nailed it like a boss. Did he or she?
With the honorable exception of the freighters, fighting the pandemic directly and covering for most of the belly cargo network lost due to the lack of passenger flights, pretty much everyone else in aviation has been flying less, perhaps not at all, during the last couple months. That is not healthy, either for humans or machines.
People like to collect stuff. From postal stamps to magnets, from paintings to whiskey, and for more wealthy ones, cars and warbirds. I started collecting something lighter, more ephemeral, and extremely limited. Not for the supply itself, since it has been available for billions of years. But the number of sunsets we, as humans, can see in a lifetime is arguably restricted.
We had to divert, and I’ll get back to that later. But the tricky part was, as we were approaching runway 26 to land, it turned out that “28” was written on it! Damn—full throttle, flaps 10, Vy, clean up, and let me turn out of the traffic pattern here, something is not right!
Spring, 2016. On the last week of my vacation, I did my favorite activity for any vacation: I traveled to the United States to fly. Since my last FAA checkride (Commercial Multiengine) had been over two years before, I was required to do this in order to act as pilot in command of an American registered aircraft again. But there was another guy to do an arrangement with: Colin.