8 SOPs for instrument flying

Do you fly with SOPs? Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are commonly used in the corporate and airline flying world, as a way of formalizing the do’s and don’ts of a flight department, but they can be very useful for private pilots, too. Here are eight SOPs I follow when I fly IFR.

The sorry state of weather training

It’s become fashionable to complain about the lack of stick and rudder training today–just tune into our long-running debate about stall training if you don’t believe me. But before we run off and mandate 100 hours of taildragger training for every pilot, we should look at the numbers.

10 great online weather tools you may not know about

For true weather geeks, a pre-flight weather briefing can be a lot of fun, not just a requirement to be completed as quickly as possible. Everyone has their list of favorite weather sites, but here is my top 10 list of useful weather websites that aren’t as well known as they should be.

The Great Debate: are straight-in approaches OK?

The vast majority of airports in the United States (some 20,000) have no control tower, a fact that shocks many non-pilots. But the traffic pattern at these airports usually operates quite smoothly, with pilots flying prescribed routes and announcing their positions on CTAF. But do you have to fly the classic four leg pattern?

Cub love: is simpler really better?

Hang around pilots long, and you’re sure to see someone get all teary-eyed about the J-3 Cub, Piper’s venerable taildragger that turns 75 this year. That yellow color, the open door, the grass in the tailwheel–it’s all part of the mystique. But for a while, I just didn’t get it.

Go or No Go: Florida build-ups

Today’s flight is a quick one, from the Atlantic coast of Florida (West Palm Beach, PBI) to the Gulf Coast (Tampa, TPA). The weather doesn’t look too bad as you drive to the airport around noon, but the afternoon is yet to come. In Florida, you’ve learned to expect the unexpected, as conditions change quickly. Read the weather report below, then decide if you’re going or not going.

Your comments on the declining pilot population

Last week, we launched a special report called Mayday! The declining pilot population. Five authors shared their thoughts on how things got so bad and how to turn them around, each with a unique perspective and interesting suggestions. As always at Air Facts, our readers really drive the conversation, and over 300 comments were written during the week.

The world has changed–we haven’t

It’s time for a radical re-thinking of what general aviation means and who it appeals to. But so much of the talk these days is disappointing. It’s as if the right engine has quit, the vacuum pump has failed and there’s smoke in the cockpit, but we’re running the checklist for a burned out landing light.

New Speed Record: George Nelson

Air Facts is proud to announce the latest Speed Record. George Nelson of California set the record for the 186-235hp class, from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back, flying his Cessna 182. Read the full details of his trip and learn you how can submit your own Speed Record.

Go or No Go: Northeast freight run

The weather isn’t pretty today, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks as a charter pilot. Your job tonight is to fly from Rockland, ME (KRKD) to Providence, RI (KPVD) to get those packages where they need to be. It’s time for a weather briefing, then you decide if you would fly the flight or cancel.

Flying the logbook: my best flights

Have you “flown your logbook” lately? You know, sat down to read each entry and relive the flights in your head? It had been years since I’d done it, but an insurance renewal form sent me digging through my logbooks recently, and 20 minutes soon became three hours. I relived some great flights that I had nearly forgotten.

Washington Report: digital charts no longer free?

The FAA seems to think all these iPad apps are a threat to their paper chart business, and are thus making noises about charging for the charting data that has been free for the past decade. Is the FAA’s plan a necessary reaction to a changing market or a new and unneeded user fee that will hurt a vibrant industry?

Saying goodbye to an airport

I’ve been to plenty of funerals in my life, but never for an airport. But that’s the only way to describe what happened last week, when I joined a group of 13 other pilots and six airplanes to make the short flight to Blue Ash Airport (ISZ) and land on runway 24 one last time.

Go or No Go: get to the beach

The flight today is from your home in Knoxville, Tennessee (KTYS) to Kiawah Island in South Carolina (KJZI), which should take just over 2 hours. Your 1980 Cessna is well-maintained, with a fancy new Garmin GTN 750 WAAS GPS and XM Weather on board. It looks like you’ll need that XM Weather–and maybe your instrument rating–for the trip today.

Our airports look like prisons

Almost every airport these days–regardless of size or location–is locked up, treated like a dangerous weapon instead of a community asset. As licensed pilots, many of us probably don’t even notice this anymore, but the message our airports are sending out is clear: stay away.

The Great Debate: is the LSA rule a failure?

The Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) rule is coming up on its 8th birthday, and that seems as good a time as any to reflect on the successes and failures of LSAs and the Sport Pilot license. Has it worked? Share your opinion in our latest debate.

Is scud-running ever OK?

In the last 20 years, we’ve conducted a war on scud-running, placing this technique in the same league as smoking and drunk driving. While the latter two deserve their bad reputations, I think we’ve gone too far with scud-running. A recent trip in a helicopter shows why.

Washington report: the future of 100LL

The future of avgas has been a hot topic for decades, with predictions of “the end of 100LL” coming every few years. But lately there has been a renewed urgency about the subject, especially as environmental groups and the EPA have turned up the heat.

Go or No Go: Oshkosh!

All pilots can be divided into two groups: those for whom the thought of flying into Wittman Regional Airport during AirVenture excites and challenges them and those who think you’re nuts to be in the air within 50 nm of Oshkosh that week. Which are you?

Washington Report: written testing changes proposed

In 2011, a rash of Knowledge Test (“the written” to long-time pilots) failures at numerous flight schools caused a bit of a stir, and the FAA admitted that they had added a number of new questions to the test question database without notifying test prep providers or flight instructors. In response, an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was formed by the FAA to study the issue of Knowledge Tests in general.