How to safely reduce the radius of your turn—in case you need to

If you're asked about the minimum ground turning radius of the airplane you fly, you probably know the number or at least you know where to find it in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH). What if the question is about the minimum turning radius when the airplane is flying? The answer might not be that simple, given the number of factors it depends on.

Learning Morse code in the 21st century

I didn’t really need to be able to copy Morse code at full speed to recognize the two or three letters used to identify aviation navigational aids. Nonetheless, I thought I would give the Koch method a try and learn at low full speed. At the time I thought, “What could it take—a few weeks of working on it in the evening?
Engine failure

Engine out: the essential steps to a safe outcome

In the unlikely event that you encounter an emergency like the one Sullenberger was faced with, there are a few things that need to be processed immediately and without hesitation to ward off a disaster. Let’s first ask the question: when would a pilot face such an emergency?
Citabria on grass runway

Always read the fine print

It was pretty obvious that some folks hadn’t cracked open their respective book(s) in a long time. Those who had studied their documents, tended to be familiar with the BIG PRINT stuff, like their Normal Procedures sections and Emergency checklists, but were not so well-versed when it came to the various Notes, Warnings, and Cautions found throughout. There’s a lot of free, but hard-earned, wisdom in that fine print, all intended to protect life and limb.
John Wise CFI

Lessons from a later bloomer CFI – and why you should be one too

A CFI friend who worked with me on this rating told me that I would probably ruin the lives of my students for the first 100 hours that I instructed. It was true, but hopefully not that bad. As of this writing, I have over 700 instructing hours in most every single-engine trainer out there, and I have evolved in my thinking about this whole business of training homo sapiens to safely take to the skies.
Static cone 737

What is that dragging behind the Boeing 737 MAX in TV news video?

I’m sure you’ve seen video of a Boeing 737 lifting off as yet another news reader drones on about the MCAS troubles in the MAX version of the world’s most popular airliner. If you watched closely, you have seen what looks like a wire or tube with a cone on the end trailing from the top of the rudder.What the heck is that thing, and why is the 737 dragging it through the air?

From the archives: Wolfgang Langewiesche on mountain flying

Wolfgang Langewiesche is famous for writing the bible on flying, Stick and Rudder. He was also a friend of Air Facts founder Leighton Collins and a frequent contributor for the magazine. In this detailed article from 50 years ago, Langewiesche offers some timeless tips for flying in the mountains.
iPad in cockpit

Bridging the gap – why we need to teach pilots how to use electronic flight bags

Today, tablets running EFB applications are common in cockpits. However, students wanting to become proficient with EFB use are left to search for training videos on YouTube and to experiment with it in flight. They are hard pressed to find a CFI who will not only teach them how to use an EFB, but also how to manage its use in the cockpit. Until recently.
172 on short final

Landing energy management – the key to smooth touchdowns

You go up in the air with a whole bunch of fuel burn and then coast down with a bunch less. But in that bunch less is a major wizardry of airmanship. How we manage that energy is what determines the difference between the sound generated by the repeating Doppler-effect-engine-power-hog-jock and an aviator.
Cessna on runway

The other 4 C’s of aviation

We are taught the 4 C’s of aviation in primary training. When faced with difficulty, such as getting lost or flying VFR into IMC, the safest course of action is to Climb, Communicate, Confess and Comply with instructions. But there is another set of C’s that has become more relevant to me as my flying experience has progressed.

A pilot’s dilemma: inoperative instruments or equipment

A recent legal interpretation by the FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel (dated June 13, 2018) addresses the rule on operating an aircraft with any inoperative instruments or equipment, FAR 91.213. It gives us an opportunity to review this sometimes complex rule that has bedeviled many general aviation pilots and owners for years.

Threats: can they keep us safe?

Humans make mistakes. We always have and always will. We have to use our training and skills to recognize the fact that we will make errors, recognize those errors, use techniques to minimize errors and mitigate any negative outcomes caused by those errors. There are many methods and tools to accomplish this, but let’s focus on the management of the “threats.”
Bonanza crash site

Accident notification and reporting – the details matter

In order to obtain the "NASA form" waiver of a disciplinary certificate suspension or a fine, the matter must not have involved an “accident.” This exception has caused some confusion because NTSB’s definition of an accident is narrower than commonly understood.
Airplane out side window

Surviving the merge: how to avoid a mid-air collision

After presenting a mid-air prevention seminar at more than a dozen locations around the country, I’d like to highlight some observations and issues that came up during our discussions. First, we’ll review what the regulations say, then we’ll break them down and look at how they might be applied in specific scenarios.

A kinder, gentler FAA

The good news is that the FAA is currently operating under a new, so-called “Compliance Philosophy,” showing a kinder and gentler treatment of those charged with potential violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations and other aviation laws. However, the bad news is that FAA enforcement of the laws and regulations is still alive and well in many cases.

Emergency landing vs. crashing

The control of the aircraft during any approach and touchdown determines the difference of landing or crashing. A controlled aircraft flown to and through touchdown is a landing. An approach which stalls the aircraft at any time prior to touchdown will result in a crash. A crash is the aircraft falling uncontrolled to the surface, even just a few feet.
Airline pilots

Flight directors – a fatal attraction

The very design of flight director systems concentrates all information into two needles (or V-bar) and in order to get those needles centered over the little square box, it needs intense concentration by the pilot. Normal instrument flight scan technique is degraded or disappears with the pilot sometimes oblivious to the other instruments because of the need to focus exclusively on the FD needles.

Great free resources for learning and practicing communications skills

While not a genuine stick-and-rudder skill, being good at talking on and - equally important - listening to the radio is a crucial ability to have as a pilot. There are many ways to improve your radio procedures, even when not actually in the cockpit. Here are some great free resources to help pilots of all skill levels improve their communications skills.
Rain on ramp

Demystifying Special VFR

During pilot training, some aviation procedures are dutifully explained, yet the context around the procedure is lacking. By “context” I mean the reason, possibly historical, that a rule, process, or procedure is in place, typical scenarios of use, and modes or mechanisms of failure. One prominent example is that of “Special Visual Flight Rules.” Few other procedures elicit mystery and wonder from fellow pilots, wondering how or why these secret code words could be used.

Saying no as a pilot

“The pilot in command of the aircraft shall be directly responsible for its operation and shall have final authority as to operation of the aircraft.” Encoded here is that singular autonomy, that point of application of free will, that has not changed through eons despite all of the changes in the architecture of man-machine interface as well as the changes in management theory and even the emphasis on crew resource management.