Cape Breton view

How does an engine “know” when to scare a pilot?

I was doing my routine engine checks (EGT, oil pressure, oil temperature, RPM, manifold pressure), as we made that transition. I was also explaining to Linda about the weird phenomenon of "auto-rough," commenting on what a strange psychological thing it was. Sure enough, just as we crossed the shoreline at 10,000 ft., I felt 30H shudder ever so slightly. It had to be my imagination.
Pilot by airplane

My not quite rusty return to flight

I’m not a student pilot, and technically this wasn’t a lesson. However, flying as pilot in command for the first time in well over a year, it sure felt like it. It was never my intention to let that much time lapse between flights. But thanks to the Covid-19 induced quarantine, paired with the financial burden of my recent move halfway across the country, it was my reality.
Cessna 180

Test pilot: two lessons learned in Cessnas

The plane started its takeoff roll and went about 200 feet before pitching up and leaving the runway. It was about two feet above the runway when I suddenly found the seat and I were against the rear seats of the plane. The front of my seat was no longer on the seat tracks and had pitched backward as well.
Shasta off wing

Bringing the Comanche home—Apple Valley to Auburn

In late 2019 I became the caretaker/owner of a 1960 Comanche 180, but one with a slight problem: I was living in Seattle, and the airplane was in Southern California. Due to Covid complications, it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that I had a chance to get familiar with the plane and bring it home to the Pacific Northwest.
G1000 cockpit

Safety, philosophy, and the glass cockpit

Here’s the basic temptation of filing IFR with the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit: its improvement in your situational awareness is so great that it seems to allow you to lower your personal minimums and cut the FAR limitations, or commonsense ones your instructors taught you, a lot closer than you would with conventional instruments. Is this OK, or is it likely to create unsafe conditions?
G1000 display

Weight and performance—there is a tradeoff

Interestingly, upon reaching the cruising altitude of 10,000 feet, the cruise speed was 12 knots less than that calculated prior to flight. I tried various settings of manifold pressure, RPM, and fuel flow. Flying lean of peak, which the big bore Continentals are adept at, the speeds were consistently lower than advertised.
Father and son

Kids in the cockpit: be sterile and not heard?

As a talkative toddler who grew up in an aviation family, I became very familiar with the term sterile cockpit. Sterile cockpit was a kind way for my father to tell me to “shut up.” As I got older, I understood its importance because my dad was a single pilot operator and had a lot to focus on. We even started using the term outside the cockpit when somebody was busy with another important task.

How I became friends with ATC

ATC give us two turns the whole way before the arrival procedure, and cleared us up to one altitude, 8,000 feet. It was the smoothest, most peaceful ride for the baby and his mother you can imagine. They knew. They all had seen the flight plan. They all had a hand in bringing in a baby for care. The care and safety of our airplane and our baby were foremost, for us and for ATC.
flight surgeon

Tales from the doc side

Susan Northrup is an Air Force vet and now works for the FAA at the national level. In a sidebar conversation I asked what her favorite experience was. She quickly replied, "my first fighter squadron, at Moody AFB, and going with the unit to Desert Storm." For some reason that triggered my memories of flight surgeons I’d been stationed with, and the variety of personalities and circumstances.
clouds at night with moon

What are the odds? An electrical failure at night

As I depressed the microphone button, the lighted LED frequency numbers on my comm radio immediately dimmed and started to scramble to different numbers off frequency. I reset the frequency and tried again. Same result. I was unable to communicate because I did not have enough electrical power.

What STOL everybody’s attention?

If you keep tabs on current aviation news and social media, you’ve noticed this thing called “STOL” has become popular. Not a day goes by that you don’t see a reference to STOL, a reminder of an upcoming STOL event, or even an image or video of a STOL airplane approaching a gravel bar or a makeshift dirt strip. What is STOL, why is it growing like a wildfire, and how can you learn more about it?
Cedar Rapids

A minor emergency, but only in hindsight

I don’t remember if we had switched to the departure frequency, but shortly after we were in the air the windscreen started to glaze over with something and then then drops of something started running up the windscreen. The only fluid in front of us had to be OIL!

Maiden Mooney trip: lessons learned but fun too

I was a bit rusty in the air, not having flown much in the past two years because of grandchildren duty. So perhaps these near mishaps can be contributed to less-than-adequate planning. I’ll share them with you as a fellow pilot to reinforce the ever-present need to prepare and be aware. We all aim for perfect flights and when they are perfect we can be proud. When they are not perfect, we chalk them up as lessons learned.

You wanna land where?!

Atlanta Approach Control feigned ignorance and proceeded to vector us all around the area. I told them we were three Boeings but I don’t think they were impressed. I think they were hoping we would just quit and go away, like some pesky insects at a picnic, but they finally gave up and passed us over to the ATL Tower controllers who were more cooperative.

Being sick never felt so good—a whimsical tale of a Viking owner

It was an epiphany for me. As though smacked upside the head, I realized I am more than a pilot; more than someone who makes a living operating aircraft. All things aeronautical are part of my DNA. As a kid, I used to fly my fork at the dinner table and plan cross-countries by laying charts out on my bed. I am an aviator!

An altimeter tried to kill me

The only unusual aspect of the departure was that when the Dulles controller gave me the altimeter setting it was way off what I had dialed in before takeoff. I blamed the big change in altimeter setting I received from Dulles on myself for mistakenly setting the wrong field elevation before takeoff. It was my last and only chance to have prevented the near disaster that was ahead.
A-6 Intruder

One in a million: a chance aerial encounter in Laos

Cupcake checked in with his play time and ordnance. Lots of play time, but he had a time to be in the cue for landing on his carrier, and plenty of ordinance. Strangely, even in the static of UHF radios, I recognized Cupcake’s voice. I asked Jim if I could give him the brief, he OKed it, so I got on the mic and provided target type and coordinate, safe area for bail out, preferred run-in heading and threats observed. Then I paused, and said, "You ever live on Debolt Street?"
AirCam with kids

An astronaut, an AirCam, and some kids

It was a Saturday morning and former NASA astronaut Story Musgrave was leaning over drilling holes in his AirCam kit being built with my high school aviation class students. We connected with Story when he was a speaker at one of our EAA Chapter 1240 fundraising dinners supporting our youth aviation efforts.
Scott and Dave

Full circle: two brothers and the joy of flying

I feel sorry for pilots who know and appreciate only the practical side of aviation. Yes, they can be useful machines when getting from A to B, and some of us use our association with them to put food on the family table. That’s all well and good, but I’m here to testify that practicality pales when compared to the chirp-chirp of tires on asphalt and the smiles on the faces of a couple of graying old guys inside that little straight tail.

Open ocean, no instruments

Somewhere near the Rubicon, cabin lights flickered, then were gone. I looked at the instrument panel: a few needles held steady, the rest at nadir. The pilot turned to the navigator, “I guess it’s old school.” The navigator nodded, opened a compartment, took out a wooden box and lifted its lid.