John’s blog

FAA wants your data – will you give it to them?

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In the wake of disturbing stories about pilots being tracked and detained for no reason, the FAA is considering a new data-monitoring program for pilots. “Big data” may help the GA safety record–but only if pilots give up their data. Right now, that’s a tough sell.

The new “killer items” for IFR pilots

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Many pilots learn the “killer items” checklist during their flight training–fuel, flaps and trim. But for instrument pilots, GPS receivers and WAAS approaches have brought new traps to be aware of. Here is an IFR “killer items” checklist to consider before shooting your next approach.

A revolution in remanufactured airplanes

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Have we seen the last clean sheet piston airplane? It’s a fair question given the current state of new airplane sales. But a handful of new companies may point to an alternative–remanufactured airplanes that are as good as new ones for half the price.

Fly safely – think like a golfer

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At first glance, flying small airplanes and chasing a tiny white ball around a golf course seem like completely different activities. But while the stakes are certainly higher in aviation–nobody ever died from a bogey–I think there’s a lot for pilots to learn from elite golfers.

Safety: our greatest challenge

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Pilots spend an awful lot of time talking about safety, and we’re no exception here at Air Facts. Some readers have suggested we actually do it too much–quit the morbid talk about crashes and promote the positives in aviation, they say. Are we really overdoing it?

Why do we still run out of gas?

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We stink at fuel management. The latest evidence? On January 23, a Cirrus SR20 crashed a few miles short of the runway in Danbury, Connecticut and made national headlines for its colorful parachute getting caught in power lines. Surely a plane as advanced as this one couldn’t just run out of fuel.

Abandoned airfields: history in our midst

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We all know that airports are disappearing at a depressing rate. But they are not forgotten, thanks to the heroic efforts of Paul Freeman and his fascinating website: Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields. This hidden gem offers history and pictures for over 1600 airports that are still among us, but no longer on the sectional.

7 good things about general aviation

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Pilots are famous for being passionate about flying, but they’re also famous for being pessimistic about flying. Call me hopelessly naive, but I think there is still a lot to be thankful for as pilots. With that in mind, I’d like to offer seven good things about general aviation right now.

The sorry state of weather training

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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.

Cub love: is simpler really better?

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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.

Flying the logbook: my best flights

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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.

Saying goodbye to an airport

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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.

Our airports look like prisons

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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.

Is scud-running ever OK?

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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.

8 things I love about Oshkosh

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Oshkosh. Have you ever met an aviation enthusiast who didn’t know exactly what that word meant? The annual EAA gathering in Wisconsin, officially called AirVenture, is a common thread in an aviation community that is remarkable for its diversity. Some pilots like homebuilts and some like certified airplanes; some like glass cockpits and some hate them. But everyone likes Oshkosh.

The coming currency crisis

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Are you flying enough these days? Based on the pilots I talk to, the answer for most people is a resounding “no!” This goes far beyond the old joke that there’s no such thing as too much flying. Below a certain level of activity, both pilot proficiency and airplane reliability suffer, leading to thinner safety margins and a whole lot less fun.

Is flying safe? Wrong question.

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The real takeaway here–for student pilots and old pros alike–is simple: flying is as safe as you want to make it. You as the pilot in command control how safe you are, not the airplane (nor anyone else, for that matter). Unlike driving, drunks and 16 year-olds can’t kill you in the air by swerving into you. That’s a good thing if used properly.

I really felt like a pilot when…

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The 172 touched down at I69, just another Cessna making a landing at this busy flight training airport. But this flight was different, and this Cessna hadn’t come from the practice area. In fact, as I taxied N51766 to the ramp, I felt a sense of accomplishment I had never experienced before. This was the end of a 1600 mile journey from California to Cincinnati–and I really felt like a pilot.

Do you cancel too many flights?

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Some instrument pilots apparently are uncomfortable in anything less than clear skies and unlimited visibility. It raises the question: do you cancel too many flights? Has the aviation community beaten everyone over the head with the risk management stick so much that they’re gun shy? From what I read and hear, I think it’s quite possible.