Hone your pilot skills with the articles and advice below. Our sport-pilot articles cover topics of interest to novice and advanced general aviation pilots. Trust our ongoing training articles to improve your piloting skills.
Bill Stewart, until recently a lapsed pilot, sounds like something between a fighter jock and a kid in a candy store as he recounts his latest aerial exploits on the ramp at Chicago’s Aurora Municipal Airport (ARR).
If you’re a pilot, there’s more to staying centered than transcendental meditation
It was 1984, and I was ferrying one of the last of the Cessna 207s to South America. It was a midsummer afternoon in South Texas, and the mushroom cumuli were climbing high into the stratosphere all along the border and south toward the Gulf of Mexico.
VFR flight corridors serve a useful purpose in congested and some not-so-congested airspace
VFR corridors have served an important function in U.S. airspace since the creation of the old TCAs (Terminal Control Areas) and TRSAs (Terminal Radar Service Areas), now less telegraphically renamed Class B and Class C airspace, respectively.
From below sea level to a Colorado high in a light jet
I spent over a year making the transition from piloting a TBM 700 turboprop to becoming a jet pilot; a process that has taken me through an ATP rating, two type ratings, a lot of simulator time, a jet trip to Paris, a bit of mentoring, one or two scary moments, some frustration and piles of cash
I’ve seen few things in my lifetime as beautiful as looking down on other planes in flight while on the top of a wingover. Multiple airplanes acting as one require a significant amount of discipline, dedication and practice. Even after more than 3,000 hours of flying within 20 feet of other airplanes, I know that this is an extremely risky activity that should never be attempted without considerable ground and flight training.
What to do when the worst thing happens at the worst moment
Engine failure on takeoff is every pilot’s worst nightmare, but there’s one basic rule that applies to all in-flight emergencies, regardless of the situation: Keep your cool (easier said than done) and fly the airplane. Having said that, the most important aspects of survival can be summed up in two words: mental preparation and training/practice. Okay, that’s four words, but you get the point.
When you’re on short final and descending through 50 feet, it really doesn’t make much difference how good you are at centering airways, whether you can spout FARs or if you scored 100% on the written: The only thing that counts is how well you actually fly. Everything else is superfluous because every single thing you know about actually flying the airplane is compressed into a 10-second time span and an ever-decreasing sliver of altitude. This is literally where the rubber meets the road and where every one of your moves has measurable consequences.
In the air or on the ground, it could save your life
I was doing my first solo out to the practice area north of the airport. I was doing some ground reference maneuvers and noticed that the GPS and NAV lights were on. I thought that was strange, then noticed the annunciator flash, “low fuel.” I knew the fuel tanks were full because I checked them during preflight.
We’ve all seen super-pilots, such as Patty Wagstaff and Sean Tucker, who seem so in control of their airplanes that they’re never where they’re not supposed to be. Their airplanes flow from one position to another in a seamless rendition of flight that we know, for a fact, we can’t come close to duplicating. Or can we?
As pilots, we’re used to flight planning. Flights are usually straightforward and easy to plan, but occasionally, they involve multiple legs and traversing congested or complicated airspace. Longer flights require more-than-normal flight planning. I recently completed a 1,600-mile flight in my Garmin G1000–equipped Columbia across seven western and midwestern states and three time zones. It was apparent to me that, to do it right, longer flights entail more than just sitting longer en route and making additional fuel stops, particularly when the flight is more than 1,000 miles.
Realistic flight-planning requires far more than simply measuring the distance, figuring the book speed and fuel burn and then launching
My first airplane, a 1947 Globe Swift, purchased in 1966 for $3,700 when I had a whopping 80 hours in my logbook, was a cute little devil. It offered quick handling and was a ball to fling around the sky, but it obviously hadn’t read its own press releases. The stock Globe GC-1B came up short in virtually every performance parameter—it wasn’t nearly as fast as advertised, didn’t climb as it was supposed to, burned more fuel than the POH suggested and couldn’t carry nearly as much weight as it “should” have. I learned the airplane’s true nature by trial and error, probably not the best method in any aeronautical pursuit.
NASA reports are good for your certificate, as well as the air safety system
If aviation in the United States was a religion, its confessional would be the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Pilots, air traffic controllers and other people involved in aviation are encouraged to send reports to ASRS when they’re involved in, or observe, a situation in which aviation safety might have been compromised. These reports are often called NASA reports because they’re submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.