There exist very few things that I would wake up at 4 a.m. for. An airplane in the lens of my camera happens to be one of them. And so, two Sundays ago, hot coffee in hand, I drove in the dark to Long Beach Airport (LGB) with local pilots Ron Mohrhoff and Seamus McCaughley. In the quiet lobby of Signature Flight Support, we briefed our photo mission with Senior Editor Bill Cox and an eager team from Piper Aircraft.
After a runway 30 departure, Ron obliged LGB tower with a left turn at the Los Angeles River—if you can really call a concrete channel a river—and I turned to face backward in the right seat of his Bonanza E33, our reliable and proven photo ship. The first few moments of any photo flight are always filled with anticipation: waiting for the join-up, scouting the perfect background and monitoring the changing sunlight. Anticipation turned to awe—a common side effect of formation flying—as Jean-Marie Bonnar of Vector Sport Aviation and Seamus pulled into position off our right wing in a PiperSport, followed by Chase Bennett of Arizona Piper and Bill in a Piper Matrix.
At the start of a radiant dawn, our three-ship proceeded to the northwestern portion of Catalina Island, orbiting above a seascape of sailboats and the isthmus home of a small village called Two Harbors. Somehow, in the very small eyepiece of my Canon camera fit an entire world of general aviation. From a two-seat sport plane for the passionate aviator who loves to simply “go up,” to a six-seat cabin-class aircraft for the sophisticated pilot who thrives on technology and efficient transport, GA offers a vast array of solutions for any flying mission. This combined issue is devoted to our 2011 buyer’s guides, which cover a smorgasbord of airplanes from two-, four- and six-seaters; singles, twins, fixed gear, retracts, you name it; backcountry STOL performers, aerobatic mounts and sport planes of today and the future. Contributors Marc Lee and John Ruley round out the aircraft buyer’s guides by helping you select the best gear, including headsets, handhelds and flight bags. For the many pilots who use iPads in the cockpit, we’ve got a rundown of 20 great aviation apps, from flight planners to training tools. Plus, contributor Colin Summers reviews Airguide Publications’ Flight Guide iEFB, an app that was a “revolutionary” and extra-convenient resource on a cross-country journey with his family from Massachusetts to California.
I wasn’t there when it happened, but after hearing Kevin Eldredge’s vivid description of his dramatic mayday at the Reno Air Races, it’s as if I had been. There’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way after reading his guest column. When the propeller separated from his NXT kit plane Relentless, Kevin was faced with making instant decisions under extreme pressure—at over 400 mph. Remarkably, Kevin kept his cool during the next crucial “20 or so seconds” and was able to complete a safe deadstick landing on Stead’s runway 14. He shares with us how to handle an unexpected emergency, with three critical tips that shouldn’t be underestimated: listen, prepare, think. Watch our exclusive video interview with Kevin from the Reno race pits at planeandpilotmag.com/travel/journeys/relentless-loses-prop.html.
Kevin, as well as many of our guest columnists and contributors, can be found on Facebook, a venue we love for worldwide “hangar flying” with pilots who might have been out of reach otherwise. Plane & Pilot’s home on Facebook is an active community with thousands of users, where we regularly post video, photos and sneak previews of upcoming editorial. Discussions range from your picks for impressive pilot gear to ultrachallenging runways, which you’ve told us includes Fish Lake, a one-way grass strip in the Idaho mountains that offers no possibility of a go-around and an island off the coast of Ireland: “short and sweet and cold Atlantic on both ends.” Our Facebook home is your chance to share comments with us and your co-readers. Visit facebook.com/planeandpilot.