History

From the archives: Bob Buck on low approaches

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This article, published 50 years ago in Air Facts, shows how the fundamentals of instrument flying remain constant. While the technology has changed dramatically since Bob Buck wrote these words, the practical lessons are as valid today as they were in 1969.

What doomed the Beech Lightning?

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Given its string of success in evolutionary model design it was natural for people at Beech to continue to look for more ways to evolve their airplanes in new directions. In the early 1980s somebody, or perhaps a small group of people, realized they had the basis for a very good single-engine turboprop.

From the archives: Wolfgang Langewiesche on quiet airplanes

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In this prescient article from 50 years ago, legendary pilot and writer Wolfgang Langewiesche considered the role of general aviation airports in a world of ever-expanding suburban communities. He saw the need for a quieter breed of airplanes in order to prevent a public backlash. Now, with electric airplanes tentatively finding a foothold, this article seems as relevant as ever.

From the archives: Len Morgan on the personal stories a pilot sees

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Most airline flights involve simply moving people and things from point A to point B, but sometimes an airline pilot gets a view of the human side. In this touching article by Len Morgan, the legendary pilot and authro shares a memorable flight that shows how powerful air travel can be and the lives it can connect. This article originally appeared in the November 1956 edition of Air Facts.

Remembering a Christmas tragedy 50 years later

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During the holiday season of 1968, in an isolated Pennsylvania community, Allegheny Airlines’ professionalism, safety culture and luck would abandon the airline to a sequence of events no fiction writer could invent. And the echo of those tragedies continues to resonate a half century later.

A brief history of single-engine solo circumnavigation flights

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Earth Rounders currently document 231 single-engine circumnavigations by more than one pilot and 124 solo circumnavigations. The range of single-engine airplanes that have made circumnavigations is amazing: Long EZs, RVs, a Stearman, a Searey. Unbelievable! Of course Mooneys, Bonanzas, Pipers, several Cessna 182s and all kinds of homebuilts have made the trip.

From the archives: Bob Buck on radar

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While datalink weather is all the rage these days, some 60 years ago, Captain Robert N. Buck thought another hot weather technology, onboard radar, was ready to change the world. This article originally appeared in the November, 1956 edition of Air Facts, and it’s still a fascinating look at how pilots interact with new technology.

Who controls the navigable airspace?

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There were two theories on the status of airspace for international air navigation. One argued for freedom of airspace much like the freedom of the seas, by which the countries underlying the airspace exercised no sovereignty in the airspace and flight was free. The other argued that the airspace above national territories was not free, but subject to the sovereignty of the underlying country.

Tom Neil, One of Two Living WWII RAF Aces, Flies West

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On July 11, 2018, Tom Neil, one of only two living RAF aces from the Battle of Britain, died a few days short of his 98th birthday. He flew an astonishing 141 combat missions in the Battle. His very long career in the RAF (he did not retire until 1964) also included such things as the Battle of Malta, and intercepting jet-powered V-1 “buzz bombs” over Britain in 1944.  

Beech X700: The Starship that could have been

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Beech, as every successful company does, had ongoing efforts to design improved and replacement airplanes for the company line. In the late 1970s John Pike had his preliminary design group perform configuration studies on airplanes that could supersede Beech’s King Air 90 and 200 stalwart turboprops. The X700 seemed to be the best idea, but it was never made.

From the archives: Flying W Ranch

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In this trip through the Air Facts archives, we stop in June, 1963, where Richard Collins reported on a new airport just east of Philadelphia with a unique community atmosphere. The airport is still around, but the idea never caught on. Why not?

Archie Trammell, the man who set airplane standards

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Archie Trammell died in early February at age 89. Archie accomplished much over decades in aviation, including being a foremost expert on use of airborne weather radar. But I think his greatest contribution was making it possible to compare airplane performance, weight and price using a constant standard.

Why the Starship was such a disaster

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When one examines a failure of such monumental scale as the Beech Starship program, the inevitable question is, “Why did they do that?” As in almost every instance where things go badly wrong, it was a series of decisions made under shifting circumstances that led to the ultimate disaster.

From the archives: Leighton Collins flies a Lear 24

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In this trip into the Air Facts archives, ride along with Leighton Collins as he gets a familiarization flight in a Lear Jet 24 in 1967. With a variety of small jets hitting the market in recent years, from the Cirrus Jet to the Eclipse, many of Collins’s reactions to flying a powerful jet 50 years ago might sound familiar. Collins concludes, “they’ve really got themselves a show horse in the Model 24.”

The disappearance of two Congressmen in Alaska

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Anniversaries of important events are times for remembering and other things good and bad, including reminding oneself of the dangers of misplaced trust and overconfidence. Forty-five years ago, October 16, 1972, two Congressmen on the campaign trail were lost somewhere in Alaska. They had trusted their pilot to get them from Anchorage to Juneau.

Whirlygig: the troubled life of the J-2 autogyro

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By the mid-1960s general aviation was booming, but airplanes and pilots were still regularly coming to grief in stall-spin accidents. Robert McCulloch sought to revitalize the autogyro concept for the mass GA market. Surely there must be demand for a stall-proof, slow-speed-capable flying machine that was both easier to fly and less complex than a helicopter.

Planes, puns, and politics – who has a right to the Wrights?

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This article should have been a joke. My goal was to write a satire piece that would make a mountain out of what I had anticipated was a mole hill. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve been beaten to the punch by none other than three state governments, a federal government, and some New Zealanders. I had naively believed that at most this first flight thing would be a minor kerfuffle. I was wrong. It’s a major kerfuffle.