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Announcement: 2022 Richard Collins Writing Prize for Young Pilots

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 “my first time at the controls of an airplane.”

Top 10 articles of 2021 on Air Facts

This year was another busy one at Air Facts: we celebrated our 10th year online by publishing over 250 articles, including personal stories and lively debates, first solos and harrowing military adventures. For now, we wish you a safe and happy new year—and hopefully one filled with flying. Enjoy the 10 most popular articles of 2021.

The datalink weather revolution: safer and less stressful flights

I put the iPad down after a few minutes and said to the other pilot flying with me, “we’ll just keep going and see how that line develops when we get closer.” I suspect that’s a common phrase for many Air Facts readers who fly cross countries—and indeed, this was just another day at the office—but that doesn’t make it any less miraculous. Quite simply, datalink weather has changed how we fly.

Go or No Go: VFR ahead of a cold front

It’s Monday morning, and that means it’s time for work. This week that means (hopefully) a one hour and ten minute flight in your Cessna 172, from your home in Greenville, South Carolina (GSP), to your satellite office location in Danville, Virginia (DAN). Read the weather briefing below and then decide whether it’s a go or a no go.

It’s time to reform Obstacle Departure Procedures

What’s the most overlooked and misunderstood part of IFR flying? I nominate the obstacle departure procedure (ODP). While almost any instrument pilot can recite trivia like holding pattern entries or VOR test requirements—important but relatively rare procedures—many are quite shaky on ODPs. That’s a shame, because ignorance of this procedure can be fatal.

Go or No Go: cut-off low conundrum

After a beautiful early fall, a cut-off low has installed itself over the southeastern United States and brought with it rain, storms, and IFR conditions. You need to get to Nashville from your home outside Cincinnati, so you’ve been trying to pick the right time for the two hour trip in your Cessna 182. Is this it?

General aviation trends in charts—2021 update

Four years ago, I tried to capture the state of general aviation in 12 charts, covering everything from new airplane shipments to fatal accident rates. An industry as varied as general aviation cannot be summed up in a few charts, but sometimes graphics tell the story better than thousands of words. Many things have changed since 2017—some for the better—so I thought it was time for an update.

Go or No Go: Cirrus vs. southern storms

You had hoped to get away earlier today, but business meetings have a way of running long and that’s exactly what happened. As a result, your proposed flight will depart Nashville, Tennessee (JWN), at 3pm local, for a two hour and 30 minute flight to Shreveport, Louisiana (DTN). Read the weather briefing below, then tell us if you would make the flight or cancel.

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.