Citabria in roll

What are aerobatics, and when do I need a parachute?

A recent magazine article on the subject of aerobatic flight got me to thinking about what the regulations actually say. While looking for information, I ran across a recent (2012) legal opinion from an FAA counsel that left me more confused than enlightened.
Pilot talking on radio in Cessna

5 things every VFR pilot should say

Radio communication is always one of the hardest things to learn for many pilots. It actually seems to make flying harder sometimes: you’re already busy flying the airplane when ATC gives you a call so fast all you catch is your tail number. Other pilots in CTAF areas can make it even worse. Let me give you the top five things I’ve learned to say over the years that have made flying easier and safer.

Certifying pilots: the new Airman Certification Standards

The FAA is gearing up to start replacing the Practical Test Standards – the FAA’s checkride guidance for applicants, instructors, and designated pilot examiners (DPEs). The PTS has been the “Cliff Notes-to-the-Checkride” for years. Why in the world would the FAA mess with a good thing?
Confidence thermometer

Why CFIs need to think about confidence more

Who would feel safe flying with someone who did not have an appropriate level of confidence? In my mind, developing a student’s self-confidence should be one of the main jobs of the instructor. During periods where pilots are not actively undergoing flight training, it needs to be something they work on themselves. I can think back to several experiences which taught me this firsthand.
Facebook flying posts

Facebook is bad for general aviation

How can we turn around the public’s fear and confusion about GA? Let’s all agree, and get other pilots we know, to take the three-item Facebook pilot pledge. The three items are simple: Don’t share bad news, share only good news and share the beauty we see.
S-Tec 55X autopilot

The case for automation

Lately there has been a lot of focus on over-reliance on automation in the cockpit – both in general aviation and the Part 121 world. Most of us can agree that as our avionics and aircraft become more sophisticated and automation becomes more affordable, this is a very real problem. But what about those of us who insist on flying with too little automation?
Piper Cub

Old men and old airplanes

Are old guys attracted to old airplanes by nostalgia? For sure, in the first 30 years or so after WWII, there were lots of pilots whose romance with aviation began in the excitement of Lindbergh’s Atlantic crossing, grew through the “Golden Age” of ‘30s air racing and record-setting, and perhaps matured as biplanes went to war.
Mechanic helping kid

The real incentives young aviators need

Aviation is not just about playing with your family’s toys and living out the thrills of flying every day. It’s about the friendships that are created in hangars, the sound of a Lycoming roaring to life after YOU replaced that cylinder, the old school feeling of grass under your landing gear, the controlling of numerous aircraft simultaneously, and the everlasting wonder of flight.

Global attacks on general aviation: freedom in retreat?

When I thought about why GA is distributed so unevenly across the world, and why it is so heavily assaulted by governments at all levels, I wondered if there is something about GA in particular that worries governments. Then it hit me: they don’t like the freedom that flying gives to their citizens.
Cirrus

Automation, technology and flying light aircraft

Sorry, the buck stops here with us pilots. Technology doesn't make us do anything, or enslave us. When we sign up to be aircraft pilots in command, we elect to use technology. We become solely responsible for flying the airplane, and for the safety of the flights that we conduct.

At home in the night sky – the most honest place I know

I assume my late night cruising position, lights down low in the cockpit, forearm resting on top of the instrument panel, chin resting on forearm, face as close to the windshield as I can get without leaving a smudge. I’m struck with an intimidating thought. The only thing between my forehead and a 470 mile per hour -54C breeze is about one and a half inches of glass.

Comparing your dreams – why owning an airplane is worth it

What we love about these aeroplanes is how we feel when we are inside them, travelling across wide open spaces, chasing small puffy clouds or even just mastering two landings in a row without the instructor grabbing the yoke. It’s nice to have a beautiful interior, modern avionics and a super modern profile. But what’s more important is being able to fly, safely and passionately.

How airplanes can bridge the gap between fathers and sons

Beneath the surface talk of sports or business are often sons who still desperately need to know their fathers are proud of them but don't know how to ask, and fathers who love their sons very much but don't know how to answer. Many times over I've seen an airplane bridge that gap.

Why I’m giving up flying – life as an “ex-pilot”

We all know the day will come when we will fly as PIC no more, whether because we keel over dead, get too sick to pass the medical, feel that our skills have deteriorated irreversibly, burn out on aviation, or simply run out of money. For me, a combination of factors added up to an important question.

Home is where the hangar is

Every pilot has more than one home. There's the place where we sleep, eat, and get our mail (at least most of the time). Then there is another place where we have our being and that's the airport. In my case, for 17 years, it was Hangar 2 at Fitchburg Municipal Airport.

The most important person at your airport

No, it's not the control tower operator, it's not the person who mows the grass, and it's not the person who plows the snow - it's an AOG (aircraft on the ground) transient. Sporty's Founder Hal Shevers explains why.

How do we encourage new aviators?

We proclaim the future of aviation lies in the hands of the youth, and we must give them opportunities to become pilots. We argue that flight training needs to be cheaper and we need to create more aviation programs so it is easier for them to succeed. We need scholarships and free flight training. But what kind of solution is moving the finish line closer to the start?

Learning to fly – is it worth it?

Why would anyone spend $100,000 getting all of the licenses and ratings, work bottom-rung flying jobs to get the 1500 hours, and then seek a $22,000/year position at one of the regionals? It makes no economic sense. For better or worse, commercial aviation is not the glamor industry it used to be. Is there more to it?
Fueling a Cessna 172

Treat the airplane like it’s yours, even when it isn’t

When you’re paying by the hour, it’s easy to cut corners, be a little careless, or belittle something that we would never forget on our own airplane. However, if we treat a rental plane as our own, every renter or club member benefits. Here are a few things I try to do when I rent.

Why I wear a ball cap when I fly

It started blue, a dark blue, when my wife gave it to me as a Christmas present. Its latest achievement of many was earned in March when I completed my CFI training. It was instrumental in keeping my head from exploding while learning in flight, and during the check ride. Now my two-tone AOPA ball cap has faded to a light purple from long periods of exposure to the sun.