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Go or No Go: summertime in Florida

Summer in Florida means thunderstorms, but often the cells are widely scattered and easy to avoid. Will that be the case today? The mission is to fly your Cessna 172 from Orlando Sanford Airport (SFB) up the east coast of Florida, landing at Saint Simons Island (SSI). It should take about 1:15, and while you’ll be able to monitor the weather with your iPad and ADS-B receiver, the flight will be VFR since you are not instrument rated.

Sustainable aviation and the trouble with high performance airplanes

For many environmental activists, politicians, and even public company CEOs, the goal is not to limit the damage but to achieve net zero emissions. This campaign is starting to achieve real results: the European Union is expected to ban internal combustion engines in new cars by 2035. So whether you think climate change is an existential threat or a hoax doesn’t really matter—it is a serious issue for the aviation industry, at least from a public relations standpoint.

Rethinking light airplane limits

There are rumblings of an important announcement this summer, perhaps at Oshkosh. The headline is a new group of airplanes, somewhere between an LSA and a traditional Part 23 airplane, to be called Light Personal Aircraft (LPA). This would offer a major boost in performance, including higher gross weight, more powerful engines (perhaps up to 200 hp), and the option for retractable gear.

Go or No Go: ice and storms over Montana

Today is one of those “in between” days, which are frustratingly common in flying. The weather isn’t great, with some rain and potential in-flight icing, but it’s not terrible either, and you fly a well-equipped airplane. The mission today is to fly from your home in Bismarck, North Dakota, to Billings, Montana, the first leg on a five-day tour of the Western United States. The flight should take just under two hours—if you can go.

Go or no go: how bad is the turbulence?

Over the last 10 years, you’ve gotten to know your Mooney 201 quite well, using it to travel around the central United States at 160 knots. You’re hoping to do that again today, on a flight from your home in Wichita, Kansas (ICT), to Amarillo, Texas (AMA). Read the weather reports below and tell us if it’s a go or a no go for you.

What if flying cars are just a bad idea?

Billions of dollars have been invested in flying car startups over the past decade, and if the press releases are to be believed, tilt-rotor aircraft will soon be a reality in American cities. But I’m increasingly convinced that Americans don’t actually want a flying car in the first place. Maybe the problem isn’t the technology, but the product-market fit, to use the popular venture capital term.

Ten years of Air Facts

Ten years is a long time on the internet, so the fact that Air Facts has survived is an achievement, but it’s done much more than that—it has thrived, and grown into its own bustling community. In fact, it has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, with over 1 million visitors last year from all around the world. Even more satisfying are the 1,900 articles we have published since 2011, written by 760 different writers.

Go or No Go: home before the rain?

The goal today is to fly your club’s Cessna 172 from Marathon (MTH) to Orlando (ORL), Florida. It should take about two hours, and with a proposed departure time of 4:15pm, you would be landing a little before sunset. But the weather you see on ForeFlight isn’t exactly quiet. Since you do not have an instrument rating, this flight will have to be made VFR. Can you get to Orlando safely?

Do we want flying to be hard or easy?

Earning a pilot certificate is one of the most difficult things you can do as a hobby. While technology has made many activities easier these days, pilots still have to learn about magnetos and Morse code, bank angle and Bernoulli. For some aviation boosters, that’s a problem; for others, it’s an opportunity.

Go or No Go: over the ice at night?

Today’s mission is to fly from Duluth, Minnesota (DLH), to your home in Columbus, Ohio (OSU). It’s nearly 5pm in Duluth, so this flight will be completely in the dark. Your airplane is a Cirrus SR22T, with a full Garmin G1000 glass cockpit, autopilot, and datalink weather. Read the weather briefing below and tell us if you would take off or cancel.

What I learned about flying in 2020

The end of the year may be a magical time for personal reflection, but my latest trip down memory lane was caused by something much more prosaic: filling out my annual insurance renewal form. Besides a feeling of gratitude for the hours I logged this year—and a burning desire to reschedule some canceled trips in 2021—I came away with a few lessons learned. None of these are exactly revolutionary, but at least a few were surprising to me.

Go or No Go: above or below the clouds?

You earned your instrument rating years ago, but you haven’t been current in a long time. Now you’re kicking yourself for that lapse in currency, because your VFR-only limitation is going to make an easy IFR flight into a marginal VFR flight. You’re hoping to fly your 1972 Cessna 182 from your home in Middletown, Ohio (MWO), to Marion, Illinois (MWA). Will the weather cooperate?

GA safety trends: what should we worry about?

FAA regulations are written in blood, according to the cliche, but it doesn’t seem like flight training reacts to accidents quite so consistently. That’s a mistake. While being a good pilot means more than just avoiding an accident, that goal is certainly a good place to start. That mindset is what makes accident statistics so valuable for general aviation, and the recently released Nall Report from the AOPA Air Safety Institute is a gold mine.

Go or No Go: above the bumps, below the ice?

Fall in Maine is simply wonderful, as you’ve seen for yourself this week. The air was crisp and the colors on the trees were beautiful, but now it’s time to fly home. Your Cessna 310 is fueled up and ready to make the 3.5 hour flight from Bar Harbor (BHB) to your home near Gaithersburg, Maryland (GAI). Will the weather cooperate?

Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

The overall weather for your flight today from Scottsdale, Arizona (SDL), to San Carlos, California (SQL), looks excellent—no fronts, no storms, no ice, hardly any clouds—with one exception. Huge wildfires have covered much of Northern California with smoke. That means widespread IFR conditions near your destination. Can you make the trip?

Stop calling it the impossible turn

Pilots love a good debate, and some topics seem to come in and out of fashion like bell bottoms. Right now the wars over lean of peak and angle of attack indicators have cooled (thankfully), but the war over “the impossible turn” seems to be heating up. In the last few months I’ve seen multiple articles, videos, and forum threads on the subject. It’s fun to debate, but what problem are we trying to solve here?

Go or No Go: another summer day in the Southeast

Another summer afternoon, another radar splattered with red and yellow cells. After many years of flying in the Southeast, you’re used to this picture but that doesn’t mean you ignore it—thunderstorms are a serious threat for any airplane. The goal today is to fly from Sarasota, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, in your Cirrus SR22. Will the weather allow it?

Are pilots rediscovering how to travel by light airplane?

By long standing tradition, baseball players never talk to a pitcher in the middle of a perfect game—if everything is going well, why jinx it? The same mindset applies to pilots, who are often hesitant to acknowledge good news for fear of chasing it away. I’m going to violate that unwritten rule because I think it’s worth exploring an interesting development: general aviation is doing surprisingly well during the coronavirus pandemic.

Go or No Go: dodging storms in the Southeast

The mission today is to fly from your home in Louisville, Kentucky, to visit your business in Atlanta, Georgia. With the coronavirus pandemic, you’re trying to do it in a day and save the hotel stay. You made it to Atlanta easily with an 8am takeoff, but now the question is whether you can make it home. As you review the weather in the pilot’s lounge at PDK, ForeFlight shows some pop-up storms.