Learning the hard way

In flying, as they say in recovery programs, “One has to do the work.” A written article may make an impression. Far better for learning is deep and concentrated study. Study plus practice is better yet. Then, there’s experience. One can learn from experience. Sadly, a wise man noted, “That always means bad experience.” I would like to offer you several learnings of this kind.
Super Cub landing

Stabilized approaches: the last six inches is all that counts

There are groups of pilots who seldom use a stabilized approach because the variables of most of their landings make that difficult, and their normal landing is to use a flexible approach with almost everything varying except the final contact with the ground. A stabilized approach is best for normal flying but is a luxury that some pilots don’t have.

Flying perpetual VFR—PFDs, HUDs, and conformal displays

The key is that with a full conformal display cockpit we are flying as though we are looking out the window in clear skies while still seeing the most precise flight guidance available. Are you flying instruments, visual, or both? Really both. And that’s the best of all worlds.
F-14 catapult

Learn to love stalls

Stalls are not a subject I ever expected to be writing about. They have been part of my flying repertoire since I first learned to fly in the 1970s. So why write this article? After a 25-year hiatus from flying, I returned to making stalls…

Managing engine failures on takeoff: a new approach

I have just read another accident report about the fatal crash of a twin engine aircraft following an engine failure shortly after takeoff. Conditions were VMC. The accident report stated that the pilot applied the wrong rudder, which resulted in loss of control. The bottom line is that training for this critical emergency was and still is woefully inadequate.
Decathlon takeoff

Crosswind operations—no drama, please

Contrary to the title, you frequently hear two different viewpoints being vociferously debated between the proponents of crabbing into wind or wing down and slipping for crosswind landings. Let’s dissect the arguments.
Cessna flare

Smooth operator: sometimes you can go too far

How smooth is too smooth? And how to achieve that? Before we start the never-ending discussion about super butter/greased touchdowns, an essential disclaimer right from Boeing’s Flight Crew Training Manual: “A smooth touchdown is not the criterion for a safe landing.”

Checklist vs. memory items

An old saw among pilots is that you use a checklist for actions you perform on every flight, such as lowering the landing gear, but for a very rare event, such as an engine fire, you’re required to perform the proper actions from memory. Does that make sense?
Turn on short final

Reducing loss of control accidents in five minutes

Let’s cut right to the chase: there is a strong case to be made that many base-to-final accidents may have as a significant factor the pilot’s fear of a runway overshoot, fearing that any runway overshoot can only be disastrous. However, if pilots have flown even one deliberate runway overshoot and seen that the real issue is instead fear of the unknown, then just one five minute traffic pattern with a deliberate runway overshoot has the potential to significantly reduce loss of control accidents.

The startle response

The crosswind, downwind, and base legs were uneventful. Then, while turning from base to final for Runway 11, a flock of redwing blackbirds suddenly appeared out of nowhere. A heartbeat later, the Cub’s windscreen was shrouded by a dark cloud of feathers and more. This was my first encounter with the startle response.
G1000 NXi

The magenta line children and buttonology

The aircraft that I fly is tricked out with a high-tech minimalism of the G1000 NXi. And lo and behold, the other day it decided to bite my hand. The very hand that paid for it, no less! On a very short trip of about 70nm to Caldwell, NJ (CDW), my human frailty showed its colors.

Great expectations: ADS-B traffic uplink

When ADS-B traffic uplink was announced, there were great expectations for what it could do to improve safety, specifically, to reduce mid-air and near mid-air collisions. After some years of flying with ADS-B traffic, my expectations have been, shall we say, down-sized. It’s nice to think that improvements are easy, but there are real world constraints.
Cockpit simulator

Desktop Flight Simulation and COVID: how it helps, how it hinders

The coronavirus pandemic caused the flight school to close for several months and also imposed some funding issues on me. I am even at the point now where I have to repeat the theoretical exam, because it is more than three years since I passed it. However, whenever I go back to the cockpit, I feel right at home. I am convinced that flight simulation on desktop computers helped me to keep in a mental state of preparedness.
Garmin Autonomi

How much should the autopilot fly?

Now that the Garmin Autonomi has been developed and certified the question of how much flying an autopilot can do has been answered. Everything. How does the human pilot retain and practice the skills necessary for precision hand flying while still making best use of the autopilot system? That’s the question.
Thermometer at 100 degrees

Density altitude: the calculation you cannot ignore

Density altitude. We cannot see, smell, or taste it. However, it is something that must not be ignored. There was an incident in which four people died because they failed to account for density altitude. Three Marine Corps helicopter pilots went up to a high altitude airport to pick up a passenger with their baggage, and, on a hot day, took off and tragically never got out of ground effect. 
Crosswind landing airliner

Landings at the crosswind limit

We’ve all seen this movie before on countless videos of airline pilots attempting to land in extreme crosswinds. More often than not, the amateur videographer captures the jet touching down in a significant crab angle to the runway, tires smoking, and the airplane nose pivoting back toward the runway centerline. How is it possible to land in such extreme conditions?

Preparing for the trip of a lifetime to Alaska

There is a lot of preparation for any long cross-country journey, but this trip had two elements that I hadn’t had to include in any of my trips before. These are the specific items needed for flying from the US through Canada, and the preparations for survival, in case of a forced landing, potentially hundreds of miles from the nearest town or road, across a largely uninhabited and often rugged wilderness.
Jet engine fire

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.
Cirrus EIS

Fuel Reserve Requirements—the FARs Aren’t Much Help

You’re pointed away from the destination airport on some controller’s vector and you are sweating the near-empty fuel gauges. As a last resort you tell the controller you are minimum fuel and need priority to the runway. Did you violate FAR 91.167, the rule that sets the requirements for minimum fuel when flying under IFR?
Garmin engine gauges

Why it quits—and what to do about it

If you are into the sort of thing that warrants full tanks of fuel for every flight, then you are already in the realm of those who live to read these tales. Otherwise, this one is for you. You see, flying with a half tank of gas when the trip requires more is asking for a prayer at some time before you reach your destination.