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.

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.
Snow below

Denver to Norway in a Pilatus PC-12

In early 2016, my family was ready to see something new and beautiful. The past year had been tough -- we nearly lost Dad to a stroke – then, during his recovery from the stroke, we determined that he needed a heart valve replacement, his second such surgery. By February, with a fresh reminder of life’s fragility and brevity, we began laying the groundwork for an August adventure to Iceland and Norway.

Memory flights – sometimes you just know

Every pilot has what I call “memory” flights; flights which were remarkable, special. The thing about these “memory” flights is that often we don’t know we’re experiencing them, that they’re shaping us, until we reminisce some time later. You don’t always have to look back, though. Sometimes you just know that you are flying one of those “memory” flights.

Friday Photo: solar eclipse over Chile

Photos don't get much better than this. Diego Errazuriz took this breathtaking picture of a total solar eclipse from the cockpit of his Cessna R182, as he cruised over Chile on July 2, 2019. The lights below and the Pacific Ocean frame the beautiful colors in the sky and the utterly unique view of the sun.

Friday Photo: Gold Coast, Australia

Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland is a beautiful place to fly, as this photo from Ross Clarke shows. He was on his way to maintenance in his Jabiru J170 when he took this shot of the towering buildings and golden beaches below. It's a famous tourist destination, but we think it looks better from the air.

Aerial patrol – spotting sharks

I picked up a great (non-paying, volunteer) gig as a pilot flying an old Cessna 182 looking for sharks along the beaches between Wollongong and Ulladulla, New South Wales, Australia. Wollongong is about an hour and a half south of Sydney and a beautiful part of the world, especially in summer. Unfortunately that beauty can be spoilt somewhat by sharks swimming around in their natural environment.

Friday Photo: sunset in Denmark

Fly 20 miles west of Copenhagen, Denmark, and you'll find a beautiful coastline of islands and peninsulas. That's where Natalie Kjaergaard was flying in her Aeroprakt A22 one afternoon when she took this beautiful photo of the sun going down over the water. Another classic sunset view from the left seat.

Friday Photo: Swiss peaks on a solo cross-country

This week's Friday Photo comes from Aaron Ochsner, who says, "When I was a kid, I used to hike up this mountain every weekend with my dad (you can see the trail snaking up the side). Today I got a bird’s eye view of that same peak. Soon I’ll be able to take my dad up to see it with me."
Archerfield airport

Near miss in the pattern

This very near-miss incident took place several years ago on a VFR approach to Archerfield (YBAF), in Queensland, Australia, a usually busy Class D general aviation training airfield adjacent to the state capital city of Brisbane, and it haunts me to this day. As a way of talking it out, I tender it here for my fellow pilots to read and consider and perhaps comment on.

Friday Photo: Australian lake

Australia is famous for its varied terrain, from beaches to mountains to deserts. In this Friday Photo from Down Under, Neil Sidwell shares a photo of Lake Eildon. This sprawling, man-made lake northeast of Melbourne is nestled in between the 3,000 foot peaks of the surrounding mountains, all part of Lake Eildon National Park.
Formation over Alps

Mornings in Mont Blanc

Today, in formation, we climb out of Annecy and make for the Alps through the Col des Aravis. This kind of flying is like a jam session, a music of angles and relative positions. You know your buddy knows... It’s a kind of magic made possible by experience and trust. The rocks below glide by as though in deep slow motion.
Father and son in airplane

Two procrastinators in a plane – a father/son story

I think part of the reason we hadn’t shared a flight before is is simply a lack of communication and misunderstandings. I won’t nag him, or anyone, to come flying and he won’t pester me to take him flying. So, outwardly it looks like I’m not too keen and that he’s not too interested; neither of which are true.
Cessna IFR

Seven things you should probably know before flying IFR in Canada

The US and Canada have harmonized a lot of the airspace rules and procedures to ensure seamless, safe travel between our two countries. However, I recently discovered some subtle differences between the US and Canadian rules while converting my US IFR rating to the Canadian equivalent that anyone who plans to fly IFR in Canada should probably know.
Piper takeoff

Reuniting with a special airplane, 46 years later

In the summer of 2008 I was looking at the pictures on an aviation site on the internet when my attention was captured by the photo of a red and white PA-20 and by the registration marks: I-CERR. I knew that back in the 1960s, Bruino airfield was owned by the Cerrina family. Was it possible that it was the plane of my first flight?

Friday Photo: Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile's capital and largest city, has a memorable skyline - not for the buildings, but for the snow-capped Andes that tower over the city. Gaspar Galaz was flying his Piper Archer over the city on a beautiful day when he snapped this photo of the scene. It's this week's Friday Photo.
Cessna 206 on dirt

Don’t EVER do that again

I was loaded with my precious passengers, sitting at the end of the grass, holding the brakes as I brought the power up, airplane shaking and rattling in the classic way of the short field takeoff procedure. The Cessna 206 lurched ahead on brake release and we bounced our way forward. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the fence post marker pass.
Super Petrel on beach

A $100 hamburger, the Brazilian way

This sunny morning, I could convince my wife to fly with me to the UNESCO heritage site of Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, a 50-minute flight that would take us along gorgeous tropical coastal scenery. With the help of my friend Siri, a true Caiçara - as the natives of the coast are called - I rolled the Super Petrel in front of the waterline for the pre-flight inspection, which I did by heart.