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SportStar-ing it around Australia

Before I had finished my licence, I was a proud owner of an Evektor Sportstar. This has opened up a new world for my wife and me. While I would never plan to fly if it was an essential birthday party of one of our 13 grandchildren, out of fear of getting a dose of get-there-itis, what a great blessing to wake up, look out the window and say, “let's bomb in on some of the grandies.”

Friday Photo: Le Bourget Lake

Even a simple airplane like the Cessna 152 can take you to some amazing places, as Phillippe Platek shows in this Friday Photo. His picture shows Le Bourget Lake in the French Alps, with snowy mountain peaks in the background and rolling green hills in the foreground. Another winning day for general aviation.
Maule

A close call on the water in the Bahamas

Rotating ten feet off the water, there was an ominous and very audible bang from the rear of the aircraft. Immediately the seaplane skewed 45 degrees into the east wind, heading us at 80mph toward a frightening scene. One can scoff at that expression of "doing things by the book" but in near every case of incident, almost all were resolved safely by resorting to this method—except this was not in the book.
Indian Harvard

Fire, fire, fire

I had qualified as a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force in 1966, completed the flight instructor’s course a few months earlier, and just upgraded to QFI Cat B a few days ago. In other words, I could do no wrong. I was indestructible! I was carrying out an A&E check on a Harvard IV-D which had undergone a routine servicing. I was flying solo and the plan was to do the engine and trim checks followed by a stall and spin.

Hand flying across Canada

2020 was an epic flying year for my son Daniel, his friend Theo, and me as we had the opportunity to fly our new plane across the country, to its new home in Nova Scotia from its previous home in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Auster

Aerobatics in a 1946 Auster—and a lesson learned

Let me tell you what makes this plane so incredibly fun to fly: it is a 900 kg, four seater cabin with a big prop fed by a 130 hp Gipsy Major (of the sort seen on Tiger Moths), its huge flaps when lowered to 40 degrees let you bring the speed down safely to 30 mph (28mph stall) to take off or land—shortly indeed in less than 100 metres. These are numbers that a microlight would struggle to achieve, should they be able to carry four adults.

Friday Photo: feet wet

There's a moment when you transition from flying over land to flying over water ("feet wet") when your whole view changes. That's the view Agustin Rubiños captures in this Friday Photo, as his Cessna 172 cruised over the beaches in Claromeco, Argentina.
Indo-Pakistani war

Flying helicopters in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

We had enough fuel to do three trips each, but by the time I was going for my third trip it was already dark. In addition, the Pakistani army had seen the helicopters and started surrounding the field we were landing in. They were firing at us as we came in to land. On my third flight I could see hundreds of tracer bullets coming towards us from all directions.
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.
Chile coast from air

Witnessing an earthquake from the air

As the return trip now headed east, about 20 nm from the metropolitan airspace and flying at 4500 ft AMSL, I noted something odd in the landscape. Some clear amount of dust was being elevated from the soil. In 10 minutes, the visibility went to almost nil. What happened?
ZUG on ramp

A flying gig in New Zealand

After flying for a major airline more than 28 years, I reached the mandatory retirement age. I loved every minute of it, and I had no desire to retire. So, I began to research options so that I could continue commercial flying. As I scanned the internet, I came across a flying opportunity in New Zealand. A small airline was looking for a chief pilot.
Air Force One

Read the NOTAM—my conflict with Air Force One

I tied down the plane and went up to the office to pay the fee. On departure (remember, the beer!), the friendly gentleman mentioned—just by the way—that the airspace over Warsaw was about to be closed from 10pm that day (Friday) until 10pm the following Monday. The reason? The US President was about to fly in to commemorate the outbreak of WWII.
Stoney Creek Gap

When VFR is the only option, fly to the blue sky

Straight line distance from Cairns (YBCS) to Longreach (YLRE) is around 830km (450nm or 515sm) but much further by road, so the only option for getting there and back in the one day was by air. Hew had borrowed hangar mate Michelle’s RV-6A to fly to Longreach and retrieve his aircraft. All that he needed now was another pilot to accompany him in the RV-6, then fly that aircraft back home to Cairns. Was I available? You betcha!
KLM 747

Hours of boredom, followed by…

We’ve been in the seats for 3.5 hours and feeling the effects of flying on the back side of the clock. Both of us are yawning and ready for a break. Not to worry though. The guys in the back will be getting their scheduled wakeup call from us in about 10 minutes. I’m suddenly startled by a loud voice: “TRAFFIC – TRAFFIC.” What the heck?
Schleicher K 8

Flying away—two experiences flying outside the US

The glider club, like almost every activity in Iran, was supported and controlled by government bureaucracy, often with many nonsensical rules. The rules often seemed to be created to prevent enjoyment or accomplishment. Everything was supplied and controlled by the government.
VH-PUL

Ferrying a 1946 Auster J2 through Australia

The aircraft ferry game is both interesting and where one always expects the unexpected. My card reads "Can Ferry, Will Travel." Flying an older aircraft cross country is more than just throwing your bag in the back and departing. To do the job properly means planning ahead.
Over Canberra

Flight of a lifetime—my 8,000-mile trip around Australia

To fly around Australia was not an idea that happened upon me overnight. It was an idea hatched in childhood, and ultimately flown solo decades later. Eight months in planning and eighteen days in execution, I suspect the planning would have been somewhat quicker if it had not grown into such a public exercise with such a genuine, interested following.
Tunisia

Err on the side of safety: how I relearned this lesson

Flying internationally has its challenges. In the West, there exist synergies between weather services and Air Traffic Control. This is something we take for granted. In other parts of the world, not so much. Below is a story of one such time where a latent threat could have caused an undesirable state.
On final

That radio is there for communication: a close call

All went well, I reported final on 07, and was getting ready to perform a smooth touch down right past the threshold. Then, about one minute before touch down, I heard somebody saying something like, “LZPT taking off runway 25.” I was not sure I heard right. I mean, I just reported my final about a minute ago. Surely anybody on the frequency, let alone a pilot sitting in his aircraft about to take off, must have heard me?
172 over Argentina

Friday Photo: a GoPro view of Argentina

Pilot and aviation enthusiast Agustin Rubiños describes it as, "vuelos divertidos en Skyhawk." As this week's Friday Photo shows, he does indeed have a lot of fun flying around Argentina. In this photo, taken from his wing-mounted GoPro, he's soaring over the vast plains in his Cessna 172M.