The GPS revolution at 20 – how aviation has changed

Decades after it first caught on, GPS is so deeply embedded in everyday life that we now take it for granted. But as important as GPS has been for the world as a whole, it’s hard to think of an industry more transformed than general aviation. Consider the long list of capabilities that even a 60-year old Light Sport Aircraft can now have thanks to this revolution.

Go or No Go: finding a gap

You’ve just passed 500 hours in your Cessna 182RG, and it has proven to be a very reliable traveling machine over the last four years. Today’s mission is to get you home from Columbus, Ohio (TZR), to South Bend, Indiana (SBN). The flight will take just under 1.5 hours, compared to over four hours driving, but as always weather is a potential factor.

Friday Photo: Richard Collins with Concorde

There were many important airplanes in Richard Collins’s life, including his Cessna P210, N40RC, which he flew for almost 9,000 hours. Close behind that special airplane was Concorde, the groundbreaking supersonic airliner. He rode on it 14 times, flew the simulator, and became good friends with John Cook, a British Airways captain on the graceful bird.

Aviation’s everyman hero

Dick wouldn’t have wanted a long tribute. While nobody ever accused him of lacking confidence, Richard Collins was a surprisingly quiet and private man. His idea of a memorial would be a tall glass of whiskey and a nod. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I ignore his wishes and remember the life of a legend – and my aviation hero.

Glass cockpits – don’t make it harder than it really is

Too many pilots exaggerate the difference between analog instruments and glass cockpits, as if it requires a completely new pilot certificate to make the transition. That’s simply not the case – the basics of flying are the same no matter what avionics you use. Focus on basic attitude flying, which, if anything, is easier on glass cockpits with their full-screen attitude display.

The next Cirrus? SureFly tries to reinvent the helicopter

I have seen the future, and it works… sort of. The SureFly looks a little like an upside-down octopus, but this hybrid gas-electric octocopter is striking nonetheless. It also represents one of the most interesting ideas in light aviation right now, with a unique mix of big ideas and pragmatic engineering.

Flying solo – why everything is different when you’re alone

On those rare occasions when I am flying solo, I instantly notice how different the whole experience is. The safety record for solo flights is different too. A pilot flying solo needs to approach each flight with good habits and perhaps larger built-in safety margins. For me, that means thinking about four key areas: the condition of the pilot, cockpit habits, teamwork, and personal risk tolerance.

Go or no go: Thanksgiving trip across Florida

It’s two days before Thanksgiving, which means it’s time for the annual pilgrimage from your home in Jacksonville, Florida, to the home of your 91-year old mother in Naples. It’s a 6-hour drive or a 1:45 minute flight in your Cessna 182, so it’s easy to guess which method you would prefer. Will the weather cooperate? Read the weather briefing below and then tell us if you would go or cancel.

Death, taxes, and airspace

Pilots and aviation lobby groups are up in arms right now about the potential privatization of Air Traffic Control, and rightly so. Unfortunately, these same groups have been much quieter about another government-led aviation disaster, one that has happened right under our noses: the relentless expansion of restricted and controlled airspace.

Caption contest #9

Welcome to our latest Caption Contest at Air Facts, where we post a photo and call on our very talented readers to provide a caption for that photo. Check out our most recent one below and if an amusing or clever caption comes to mind, just post it as a comment. In two weeks, we’ll cut off this contest and the staff of Air Facts will choose their favorite caption.

How to interpret radar in the cockpit

Radar seems so simple at first: red is bad, green is good. What else is there to know? As any pilot with more than a few cross countries in the logbook knows, quite a lot. While a lot of the problems with radar operation have been solved by datalink weather, few of the problems with radar interpretation have been solved.

Quiz: sectional charts

Even with iPads and iPhones, the sectional chart is still an essential tool for pilots. From planning a route to avoiding restricted airspace, no other resource packs as much information into a single page. How much do you know about all the airspace, airport, and obstacle symbols? Take our latest quiz to find out.

General aviation trends in 12 charts

What’s the state of the general aviation industry? That’s a question we hear at lot at Air Facts, sometimes by prophets of doom looking for confirmation, sometimes by new pilots trying to get a handle on the community they have just joined, and sometimes by outsiders who genuinely don’t know. Unfortunately there’s no simple answer, but these 12 graphs offer a partial answer.

Go or No Go: flying the front

After a great visit with family and a stunning solar eclipse, it’s time to head home from Carbondale, Illinois (MWA), to New Lexington, Ohio (I86). The good news is the winds aloft are helping today: the 340 mile flight will take just over two hours in your Cessna 182. The bad news is a cold front is moving in from the west, with rain and storms popping up ahead of it.

Caption Contest #8

Welcome to our latest Caption Contest at Air Facts, where we post a photo and call on our very talented readers to provide a caption for that photo. Check out our most recent one below and if an amusing or clever caption comes to mind, just post it as a comment. In two weeks, we’ll cut off this contest and the staff of Air Facts will choose their favorite caption.

We all need to be weather geeks now

While apps like ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot can simplify the flight planning process, if we’re not careful they can also make it confusing. We are all our own Flight Service Stations now, forced to assemble weather information, evaluate it, and make a plan. Which sources can be trusted? What do they all mean? How much weather information is enough? To answer questions like these, pilots need more than just a passing acquaintance with Aviation Weather.

Quiz: IFR departure procedures

Our latest quiz will test your knowledge of a forgotten area of instrument flying: departure procedures. From minimum altitudes to ATC clearances to obstacle departures, see how much you know about taking off when the weather is low.

The area forecast is going away – here’s why that’s bad news

Rumors have swirled for years, but now it’s really happening: the text-based Area Forecast (FA) will officially disappear on October 10, 2017, to be replaced by the Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA). On the surface, this seems like an inevitable step in the transition from coded text products to graphical, interactive weather maps. But before we relegate the FA to the dustbin of history, we should consider a few important details. This transition may not be quite so innocuous.

When the margins get thin

Richard Collins once summed up risk management, a subject that now elicits PhD-level jargon, in four simple words: “it’s all about margins.” Shave the margins too close and you’re one bit of bad luck away from an accident. The importance of those margins was driven home for me on a recent flight in a Pilatus PC-12, when I allowed schedule pressure to reduce them just a little too much, but not in the usual way.