John’s blog

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.

Want to fix flight training? Have some fun.

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The flight training system in this country is broken. That’s what a variety of sources tell us, from a detailed AOPA study to the experts at your local hangar flying session. What’s the solution? Unfortunately, it’s both easy and difficult.

11 things you must do with your pilot’s license

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You worked hard, paid a lot of money and earned your pilot’s license. Now what do you do? It’s a question that comes up more often than most pilots care to admit. Let me suggest 10 things that every pilot should do before they die. Call it a bucket list if you want, but I consider it a flight plan.

John’s blog: holiday accidents have a lesson

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We are all salesmen to a certain extent when we fly with family. We want to prove that all the money and time we spend on airplanes is worth it, and brings value to the entire family. But you only have to be wrong once, and the airplane doesn’t care if this trip really counts, and it doesn’t care if your family is on board.

John’s blog: risk management is a sham

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Risk Management in its current form is a sham, a feel-good phrase that is popular precisely because its meaning is so elastic. Just like “I want better schools” and “I support a strong America,” everyone is in favor of it until it comes time to define what it actually means and how to do it.

John’s blog: where have you gone, piston twin?

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The piston twin became a victim of our culture’s relentless pursuit of efficiency. The second engine, just like elevator operators and flight engineers, didn’t provide the necessary return on investment. But I think the piston twin is worth mourning, because for all the practicality of a high performance single, something is missing with the new generation of transportation machines.