While all airplanes have stories to tell, some are more important and more interesting than others. Here are five I believe should be in every pilot’s logbook or on their to-do list. These aren’t necessarily the best or most exciting airplanes ever to take to the skies, but they define specific ages in general aviation and make up the rich history of our industry. Call it the general aviation canon.
When talk around the dinner table turns to Covid-19 these days, I find myself increasingly using the language of risk management, as if I were evaluating a tricky go/no-go decision in an airplane. I’m certainly not suggesting pilots are experts on infectious diseases, but I do believe the lessons learned by the aviation industry over the last 50 years have something to offer as we all think about life in a world of risk.
After nine weeks in quarantine, your family is ready for a visit to the beach. It might involve more quiet walks and fewer packed restaurants this time around, but in your Piper Saratoga, the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, are only two and a half hours away. Will the weather cooperate?
It’s a typical late afternoon flight for you, with the mission of returning your boss to his home in Lexington, Kentucky (LEX) after a day in Greensboro, North Carolina (GSO). The trip should take just under two hours in your Beechcraft Baron, which you fly professionally. Take a look at the weather briefing below and tell us if you would make the trip or cancel.
Making predictions about COVID-19 is a fool’s errand right now, with a year’s worth of news happening in a week. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think in broad outlines about the future of flying. I’m obviously biased because I love light airplanes and the freedom they offer, but I genuinely believe general aviation will come out of this crisis stronger. This isn’t just wishful thinking; there are reasons to be optimistic.
Today’s flight is one you know well, since you’ve flown this route at least once a month for three years, to visit your aging mother and father. It’s just under a two and a half hour flight in your Cessna 172S from Charleston, South Carolina (CHS), to Ocala, Florida (OCF). You don’t have an instrument rating, so you’ll have to fly this trip VFR. The weather looks reasonably good, but there are a few cells on the radar and the wind is blowing. Read the weather forecast below and tell us if you would make the flight or cancel.
It’s a perfect day for general aviation: your trip from San Diego (MYF) to Oxnard (OXR), California, should take just under an hour in your Cirrus SR22, which is a huge improvement over the typical 4-5 hour drive. The weather isn’t great today, but at first glance it doesn’t look impossible. Read the weather reports below and tell us if you would fly the trip or cancel.
Time to update an old debate: have Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs) taken off in popularity over the last five years? Are Sport Pilot certificates more common now that the economy is stronger? At the risk of provoking another argument, my review of the data suggests no. The Light Sport world is still alive, but it’s a niche industry with few real winners. But there is a silver lining.
Traveling by VFR airplane means staying flexible, especially in the winter months. That’s why you’re at the airport today: with a huge line of rain headed for the southeastern United States, you’ve cut short your visit to Savannah, Georgia, to see if you can get home to Tallahassee, Florida. Is there a safe way to make this flight?
The Richard Collins family has once again partnered with Sporty’s to offer The Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots. To qualify, the writer must be a pilot (including student pilot) who is 24 years of age or younger. The article must be original, not previously published, and no longer than 1,500 words. The topic should be an event that changed or shaped the author’s flying.
I was trying to fly home to Cincinnati, Ohio, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the end of 2019, and the weather wasn’t great. The screenshots here are the actual ones I was looking at as I sat in the lobby in Pittsburgh, making my go/no-go decision. I’ll share the weather briefing, then ask you to add your comment about what you would do. Then, at the end, I’ll reveal what my decision was and what my thought process was.
We published over 200 articles at Air Facts this year, including personal stories, tips for safer flying, and memorable pictures. Some of these were written by well-known authors like Mac McClellan, but most were written by everyday pilots. After reviewing all of them, we’ve selected ten must-read articles from 2019.
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but if I had to commit to one for 2020 it would be to spend more time traveling and less time as a tourist. That might sound like a distinction without a difference, but I believe the change in mindset is profound—especially for a pilot.
It’s December and you live in Albany, New York, so it’s no surprise there’s snow in the forecast today, but you’re more focused on the aviation weather than the chance of a few inches on the ground. Your plan today is to fly your 1980 Piper Aztec from ALB to BKL in Cleveland, Ohio. Can you make the flight?
The question is: can you spend the night in your own bed and fly tomorrow, taking off at 9am EST (1400 UTC) for the PDK to FXE flight? Or do you get in the car and start driving? Your 2015 Cirrus is well equipped with a Garmin glass cockpit, datalink weather, autopilot, and more. You’re also experienced and proficient, with over 2,500 hours total time and plenty of recent IFR flying under your belt.
The most famous decision pilots make happens before we even get airborne: to go or not to go? But after a busy summer of flying, I have learned that this is actually one of the easiest decisions in aviation. Saying “no” may be stressful when you’re on the ground, desperate to fly, but it’s much harder once you’re in the air. Call it plan continuation bias or get-there-itis; whatever the name, it is a worthy opponent.
At the end of a long week of work with a customer in northwest Arkansas, it’s time to fly home for a relaxing weekend with the family. The skies are cloudy as you drive to the airport, but the weather looks good overall. Read the weather reports below, then tell us if you would fly this trip.
in spite of the well-meaning advice, total time is still the measuring stick for pilots. A pilot with thousands of hours is assumed to be safe, and both his insurance premium and his reputation around the airport will probably reflect that assumption. But read through NTSB accident reports and you’ll quickly notice another measure of pilot proficiency is more important: time in type.
Summer is coming to an end, which means your annual family vacation to northern Michigan is coming to an end as well. Today is go-home day – if the weather cooperates – so it’s time to look at ForeFlight. The goal is to get from Traverse City, Michigan (TVC), to your home in Columbus, Ohio (OSU). Read the weather report below and decide what you would do.
The good news is technology like datalink weather has made it a lot easier to manage convective weather. With ADS-B on my iPad or SiriusXM on my panel, it’s fairly simple to avoid the worst weather; it just takes patience and discipline to go all the way around it. Since most of my cross country flights are IFR, those long deviations require a lot of coordination with Air Traffic Control.