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To flap… or not to flap?

Let’s do a shallow dive into what’s required to execute a successful “high performance” takeoff. We’ll explore issues and confusion surrounding aircraft performance speeds (“V-speeds”) and flap use during takeoffs. We’ll discuss why it’s important to know exactly what’s required for your plane, and why you should always read the fine print.

Mayday, mayday, mayday!

I am surprised at how reluctant some pilots are to declare an emergency with ATC, as if some stigma is attached to saying the “E” word, that follows you around for the rest of your flying life. What I find more intriguing is some folks who are the most hesitant to declare one have never had an actual “real world” emergency. Yet.

Flying 1,500 miles with fumes in the cockpit

I will admit up front, this is the most scared I’ve ever been in an airplane! We were flying a B-1B, non-stop from Andersen AFB, Guam, to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. We were heading home after a lengthy deployment; we were all looking forward to family reunions and that Big Hug! Just past the halfway point, we suddenly got hammered by an extremely pungent odor in the cockpit!

Drones: a clear and present danger?

I recently had an encounter that highlights some of my concerns regarding the exponential proliferation of civilian UAS. It has nothing to do with the operator’s “flying skills;” it’s the potentially dangerous attitude(s) and culture that are growing along with the number of machines.

Always read the fine print

It was pretty obvious that some folks hadn’t cracked open their respective book(s) in a long time. Those who had studied their documents, tended to be familiar with the BIG PRINT stuff, like their Normal Procedures sections and Emergency checklists, but were not so well-versed when it came to the various Notes, Warnings, and Cautions found throughout. There’s a lot of free, but hard-earned, wisdom in that fine print, all intended to protect life and limb.

Surviving the merge: how to avoid a mid-air collision

After presenting a mid-air prevention seminar at more than a dozen locations around the country, I’d like to highlight some observations and issues that came up during our discussions. First, we’ll review what the regulations say, then we’ll break them down and look at how they might be applied in specific scenarios.

No way to become an ace

I could feel the Pawnee yaw slightly left as the glider got airborne, off to the right side as briefed. But as the Pawnee’s tail came up, suddenly, the Cessna began to climb out of the ditch and out onto the runway! I thought, “Certainly he’s going to stop!” But in fact, I saw his prop spin up faster.

Don’t turn a practice emergency into a real emergency

I was out at my local airport one recent afternoon, watching planes beat up (or should I say pulverize), the traffic pattern, and I saw something that really made me wonder what folks were thinking. I observed one locally-based Cessna 172 try to execute a simulated engine-out emergency landing on our 5,000 ft-long runway.

Talking at non-towered airports

During the last several months, I traveled around the country presenting an AOPA safety seminar on non-towered airport operations. I had some pretty interesting encounters/discussions with other pilots during my seminars. This subject seemed to inflame the passion in a lot of folks. I’d like to share some of my observations with you.

My dubious start to a flying career: anatomy of a checkride bust

As I sat outside the examiner’s office, nursing my ego and doing some cursory flight planning for my return hop home, I heard him call my instructor over at KBFI, who undoubtedly was waiting to hear a glowing review of what an outstanding job I had done. As soon as the examiner started detailing the reason for my bust, however, I could hear my CFI’s shrill voice over the phone and through the closed door.

How to do the world’s worst intro flight

Bellevue’s one small FBO sported a “Piper Flight Center” sign above the door, with a couple of relatively new Cherokees parked in front. I went inside and presented myself to the combination receptionist/ cashier/ scheduler/ Unicom radio operator, and told her I was interested in taking their $15 intro flight. She leaned past my shoulder to yell at someone behind me.

There I was: my near midair at Shelton, Washington

The Glasair came from behind and below, just under the right side of my fuselage. The flash of white made me pull up and barrel roll to the left. My right wing and his left wing overlapped our respective longitudinal axes. I’m not sure how his prop missed my right main gear. My best, no BS guess is we missed each other by maybe 10 feet.