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Pilot Stories

Enjoy pilot stories? Our Pilot Talk section is full of informative and entertaining flying tales from accomplished pilot authors.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ode To The Fast Lane


General aviation answers a question that wasn’t important until recently



I wouldn’t want to be riding out on the wing tonight. The wind is roaring down out of the north like a polar bear’s breath—a vicious torrent of air frozen by winter and twisted by the Rocky Mountains. Somewhere below, far down in a blanket of black sky four miles deep, the night snow of November blitzes New Mexico and Colorado into immobility.
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weather Encounters


Take weather briefings seriously



There’s never been so much pre- and in-flight weather information available for pilots. If you can’t gather the raw data, forecasts and current airport observations by yourself, a briefer at a Flight Service Station (FSS) can do it for you. Unfortunately, some pilots continue to experience trouble applying the wealth of data and meteorological analyses to the realities of flight.
Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Post-Oshkosh Blues


Good things never last forever, including AirVenture



As this is being written, it’s 7:45 p.m. on the night that the happenings in Oshkosh have ended. I’m sitting in an Arby’s across the street from the airport. I’ve just driven the empty field and, to be honest, I’m feeling pretty melancholy. In fact, I’m a little lonely and depressed. I think that after the high-profile week, my adrenaline meter has just dropped past the big “E.”
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Oshwatch!


A snapshot compendium of LSA overview, new aircraft and dish-the-dirt scuttlebutt



In a recent attempt to scare myself about how old I’m getting, I calculated the total time I’ve spent at EAA’s annual air show in Oshkosh. It’s more than half a year of my life—27 visits of around a week each! Pass the orthotic, please.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Citizen Near Miss


An encounter with the past and the future



Citizen Near MissPilots have a lot in common. They’re detail-oriented. They like direct routing and a good deal. But, most of all, they love adventure and the chance to go somewhere that few have gone before, especially in an airplane. I’ve often stared at the circled “R” on my charts and wondered what it takes to land at those special places. Such was the excitement I felt when I was invited to land at the Hearst Piedra Blanca Rancho airstrip in San Simeon, Calif.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From The Editor: The Sky's Not The LImit




I first met Lina Borozdina at Oshkosh in 2005, when Richard Branson and Burt Rutan announced a joint venture between Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites to manufacture a fleet of suborbital spacecrafts intended for space tourism. Lina, a biochemist who had mortgaged her home to purchase a $200,000 ticket on the suborbital flight, was next to me in line for a helicopter flight over the air show grounds. But as our flight time approached, she looked increasingly worried. She was having second thoughts about going in the air, and it became apparent that this astronaut-to-be was afflicted by a fear of flying. Nonetheless, Lina was determined to travel to space, having dreamed of it since her childhood days in Ukraine.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Memories Of Africa, Part VI


Seven days to Cameroon



In response to what seems like a gigabyte of e-mails, here’s yet another chapter of ferry-flying experiences in Africa during the ’80s and ’90s.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Glass-Cockpit Blackout


Dealing with electrical failure while trying to maintain aircraft control



The NTSB doesn’t just investigate accidents; it also routinely examines incidents to determine whether they expose an underlying safety problem, which, if not addressed, could set the stage for future accidents. Recently, it examined an incident involving an Airbus A320 operated by United Airlines. This led to the discovery that there had been at least 49 similar incidents in the United States and the United Kingdom. In response to its own investigation, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation, hoping to encourage FAA action.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Of Bachs & Ganns & Fabulous Words


Aviation has a deeper cultural background than most people give it credit for



If it had happened only once, I would have passed it off as just one conversation with an aviation newbie. He had to be new to aviation not to know Richard Bach’s name. But then it happened again. And this time, the student not only didn’t know Bach, but he didn’t know Ernie Gann either. Then it happened with another student. And another. I was floored. So much so that for the next month, each time a new student sat down in “The Ground School Chair” in my office, I’d bounce those legendary names, plus Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and a few others, off of them.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Master As Student


The more you learn about flying, the more you know there is to learn about flying



With his big rawboned hand almost lovingly cradling a gigantic bag of Skittles candies, Bob Elliott might almost—almost—pass for Professor Dumbledore munching on Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. But the baseball cap and screaming-loud, airplane-festooned print shirt puts the kibosh to that comparison in a hurry. His eyes are mere slits from the bright overcast, or insufficient sleep the night before, or more likely, too many Skittles. Tempting me with the open bag, he explains how he got the nickname “A.D.D. Bob” from his flying buddies because he’s constantly diving out of formation (“A.D.D.”=Aviation Deficit Disorder).
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Guest-Speaker: The Next Space Race


A new era of private space exploration is in prospect



NASA. ESA. JAXA. RKA. These are the world’s major national space agencies. They are the names that have dominated the past 50 years of space exploration. But over the next 50 years, new names will emerge. The names that history will remember from the next five decades will be those of entrepreneurs, members of the private sector who saw in space an opportunity for expansion and vast wealth creation.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Great Sandy Australia


See Down Under—on the coast



x-country His name is Blair Howe, and if he were any more Australian, he’d hop or eat eucalyptus leaves. Though he’s only about five feet and 11 inches, he’s a giant of a man—probably 270 pounds—all muscle and attitude and fiercely proud of his country and accomplishments.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Simplify, Simplify


Administering a dose of J-3 Cub may be the cure for too much civilization



No news can sometimes be better than good news. In fact, no news is probably good for your health, because lots of news certainly isn’t. That’s an easy conclusion to come to because most of us listen to, and read, so much news that we wind up feeling hard-pressed, oppressed and just a little depressed. Nearly every facet of life has become too complicated, and all most of us really want is to live life like a pilot flies a Piper Cub. Simplify, simplify.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Light-Sport Chronicles: A Tale Of Two Countries


In which princes and paupers strive to survive “interesting times”



A well-known proverb, reputed to be Chinese, says, “May you live in interesting times.” What’s less well known: The phrase was a curse against enemies.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Waking Up To Fatigue


Just because you’re awake, doesn’t mean you’re alert



The FAA is paying renewed attention to human fatigue in aviation, particularly in air transport operations. This issue has troubled the NTSB to such an extent that it has appeared on its annual “Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements” every year since the list was first published in 1990.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From The Editor: No Sleep Till Touchdown


Managing Fatigue, Flying The Fury & Using Google Earth



I’ll never forget the first cross-country flight that I was on. I sat left seat as we departed the Los Angeles Basin, headed north for the coastal hamlet of Shelter Cove, Calif. After reaching cruise altitude, my right-seat companion, who was the aircraft owner and PIC, told me he was going to take a nap. As a low-time student pilot, I was eager to take over as the human autopilot, and I followed the course set on our handheld GPS.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

GA & The Environment


Keeping our skies clean



GA & The EnvironmentEnvironmental awareness across the globe is becoming increasingly acute. The global media and the world’s population are increasingly focused on climate change and the extent to which aviation contributes to it. The general aviation manufacturing industry wants to actively participate in this discussion to speed the introduction of innovative technology and flight procedures that will reduce aviation’s impact on the environment.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Stearman That Changed Me


A 70-year-old airplane teaches that flying is a gift to be savored



My palms were sweating as I approached the hangar. Behind locked doors sat one of the most storied airplanes in aviation: the Stearman PT-17, and I was going to fly it. I felt like I had been invited backstage to meet Elvis. I had been dreaming about this iconic airplane since I was a kid who spent Saturday afternoons staring up at the type from the weeds of my local airport.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From The Arctic To The Tropics


Flying the Greenland ice cap



It’s cold. It’s white. And it’s north. (Very north.) Underneath us is 10,000 feet of ice. Surrounding us is an additional 1.7 million square kilometers of ice, and not much else. Looking out the cockpit window, I can’t tell the difference between 1,000 feet and 10 miles, vertically or horizontally. For me, this is the middle of nowhere. For the researchers we’re bringing to their frozen summer home, this is where it all happens.
 
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back To The Future!


Indeed, the future is incredible



guest speakerI love movies! I especially enjoy it when writers use their imaginations to create futuristic technology. For example, do you remember 1985’s Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly? He finds himself traveling back in time with the help of a DeLorean car that’s converted to a time machine by his mad scientist friend, played by Christopher Lloyd.