Explore Lessons Learned About Flying (and about life), where pilots share their first-person accounts of gripping flights gone bad, and how their skills and quick thinking allowed them to survive to fly another day
Crosswinds are never fun, but they’re usually manageable—usually
Sometimes lessons learned about flying are painful and expensive. Other times, you get lucky. Back when I bought my first airplane, I was convinced I’d become a tailwheel expert overnight. I’d learned to fly because I was in love with the sky, and with one airplane in particular, the Globe Swift, a low-wing, retractable taildragger, more »
Chance meetings and a mutual love of aviation pass along the passion and joy of flying
We’ve all seen that “annoying” ramp kid who wants to do nothing but talk about your airplane. Even if you’re trying to make a quick turn for an important client, this kid just wants to ask about your plane. Well, that annoying kid working the ramp was me. If I’d just gotten done putting gas more »
Anyone who has ever piloted an aircraft appreciates Virgin Atlantic’s catchy slogan of the early 2000s: You Never Forget Your First Time. Flying is magical. It’s one of those rare experiences that exceeds the hype of its depiction in movies and video games. As an operatic tenor, I always say flying is one of the more »
Changing weather and unforgiving terrain make it all too easy to lose your way
My logbook entry on May 29, 1984, says Cessna 185, N93033, Dillingham to Bethel, 1.5 hours, “Lost.” The writing is small, sheepish, hard to admit. I was excited about my first big solo trip in the 185. The 185 was the first small airplane I had flown, and I had since been working on my more »
I was only a few hours into my flight training before I began fantasizing about owning my own airplane. While the ink was still wet on my temporary private pilot certificate, I developed a five-year plan for aircraft ownership. I should have known that nothing would go according to plan. I had intended to purchase more »
Overcoming a speech deficit—and the naysayers—to achieve and share a lifelong dream
From the time I began, it was clear something was up, and while I was still a small child, I was diagnosed with a severe stuttering disorder. As though that weren’t bad enough, I was told throughout my life not to expect much because I would be working on cars or packing bags at the more »
Growing up on a dairy farm planted firmly in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, I spent many an hour outside watching the local crop duster seeding and fertilizing the fields. Visions of the feeling, the smell and the thought of flying mere feet above the rolling fields danced in my head as I procrastinated completing my childhood more »
A sacred mission for a pilot and his Cessna 185 in Venezuela
8:35 a.m. Paul calls us on our shortwave radio in Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela. “Uncle Ed just died here in Caracas, and Aunt Irma tells us that he wanted to be buried in TT. Can you come pick him up?” I hesitate. Venezuelan law says Ed must be buried within 24 hours, so it has to more »
A cross-country flight runs into mysterious trouble…over Roswell.
The Navy had issued orders for my transfer to Japan, an exotic land that I had wanted to explore since first studying the martial arts as a child. My household goods were packed, and I was beaming with excitement, until I learned that not all my belongings could go with me. The Yokota flight training more »
Sometimes the biggest risk of all is the challenge we don't take.
Whether we deny, shrug or flat out cringe at the thought, most of us are saddled with a nagging shortcoming or two, a bugaboo we’d gladly overcome if only the prospect didn’t challenge the resistance of our own inertia. As pilots, self-introspection isn’t our strong suit. And often wrapped around our weakness is a nearly more »
How you approach crew resource management can be the difference between a good flight and a debacle, whether you’re a new pilot or a junior first officer.
It was April 2003, and I was reeling in the wake of the worst disaster of my young adult life. Chris Smisson, my friend and the leader of our little airshow team, perished in an accident flying his Technoavia SP-95 at the Tyndall Air Force Base show in Panama City. Instead of being in Florida more »
The Gulfstream IV’s distinctive T-tail jutted above the airport’s perimeter fence. “Now that’s an airplane,” my father whispered, as our car rolled toward the large hangar. The business jet’s paint gleamed against the low overcast; smaller aircraft parked nearby were trounced by its mammoth wingspan and Rolls-Royce engines. Gulfstream 650s and Global 6000s were distant more »
Low on fuel and feeling the pressure to get home, a new parent struggles to make the right call
When my daughter was born, my flight instructing career had to become, for the most part, a standard 8:00-5:00 day. That was a major change. Given the demands of the job and the unpredictability of scheduling students as they work their way through the flight syllabus from first forays to long cross-countries, the flight instructor’s more »
After decades of thinking about flight, in late June 2003, I finally took my first lesson. It was a great move that has gone on to take my family and me to places I expected and places I never dreamed of. The timing, though, could hardly have turned out worse. My career, which had always more »
Poor visibility (and poor judgment) leads to potentially dire consequences over rural West Texas
In March 2011, after seven years of flying, I felt on top of my game like never before. With about 600 total hours and 100 in my current aircraft, I had made it past the days of self-doubt. Since earning my instrument rating a year earlier, I also had begun flying extensive, coast-to-coast business trips—accumulating more »
An emergency checklist for overwater flight for pilot—and passengers—makes the difference in surviving a crash
I’ve been flying as pilot in command of light airplanes pushing 40 years, and, yes, I’ve had my share of emergencies. Most of them were pretty benign, but one of them did cost me an airframe, and for a while, my confidence in machinery. (That passed.) Fortunately, that’s all it cost, and I’m forever thankful. more »
What should have been a leisurely demo ride in a perfectly good seaplane somehow went horribly wrong
I grimaced and tried to suppress a groan as I braced myself atop the chain-link fence before throwing my right leg over the top bar. It wasn’t much of a fence, coming up only to around my chest, and I’d been topping barriers far taller than this one since I was a boy. But the more »
As night falls and the visibility drops, can a home-brewed approach save the day?
When I was younger, and for the longest time, it seems, when I ate pizza, I would invariably burn the top of my mouth. It generally happened when I was really hungry-desperate to eat. Eventually, after running the pizza-mouth-burn scenario through my head a million times, my imaginings led to strategies that helped avoid the more »