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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.

Monday, September 1, 2008

From The Editor: The Call Of Technology


The changing face of aviation



The market for new general aviation airplanes seems to be changing. Today’s new airplane buyer has different needs, goals and experience. To pinpoint this psychographic, Marc C. Lee spoke with sales representatives from various aircraft manufacturers, and it’s clear that there has been a shift in who’s buying what, and why.
Monday, September 1, 2008

Secrets Of Johnston Island


An emergency landing on a top-secret base



Secrets Of Johnston IslandMajuro in the Marshall Islands has to be one of the world's more remote locations.
Monday, September 1, 2008

Turbocharger Trouble


The finer points of turbocharged engine operation



turbocharger troubleYou may already fly an aircraft with a turbocharged engine. If not, and you plan on expanding your aviation horizons, there may be a turbocharger in your future. A turbocharged engine can maintain sea level manifold pressure up to critical altitude. When equipped with an automatic density controller, nearly constant horsepower will be automatically produced up to the critical altitude.
Monday, September 1, 2008

Fuel’s Gold


Sometimes cutting an expense costs more in the long run



fuel's goldAre we now seeing apocalyptic signs that the world, as we know it, is about to collapse in on us? I checked my avgas price this morning (yeah, I know, dumb move) and it was $6.72, which means, at present rates, by the time you read this, it’ll be over seven bucks.
Monday, September 1, 2008

In This Together


High fuel? Plunging dollar? We say, “bah!”



light-sport-chroniclesThis could be the greatest thing to happen to general aviation since the 1940s,” says Mike Zidziunas. “This” refers to the rise of light-sport aircraft (LSA). Industry “pundits” set the number of LSA sold so far in the United States at nearly 1,400, give or take an airframe or two. Although the credit crisis and fuel woes are doing a sumo squat on the picture as we speak, recreational pilots, aviation career seekers and flight schools intent on bringing fresh hardware and energy to aging trainer fleets forge ahead.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Accelerated Stall


Stalling at higher speeds than a normal stall



NTSBThe accelerated stall usually surprises a pilot because it occurs at a higher airspeed than a normal stall (in which a wing loading of 1 G is maintained). Remember, a wing can be made to stall at any speed—all that has to happen is for the angle of attack to get high enough. As G-loading increases, so does stall speed. If a wing reaches its critical angle of attack when the wing loading is 2 G, twice normal, the stall will occur at a speed that’s proportional to the square root of the wing loading.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Bucket List


Start early on your list, it makes for a wonderful life



grassrootsThe other day, a student called to book some flight training, explaining that flying a Pitts has been on his bucket list. I haven’t seen the movie by the same name, but I love the concept: You make up a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket, and little by little, you whittle it down. Naturally, when I heard that, I thought about what I’d put on my own such list. After a few minutes of thinking, however, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad that I couldn’t come up with many items.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why I Go to Oshkosh


It’s personality, not flying skills



 Why I Go to OshkoshEvery other summer or so, as I fly north with friends over the lush immensity of southern Wisconsin, find Ripon and then push along the railroad tracks, a sensation of satisfaction and memory overtakes me as the skyline of Lake Winnebago fills the windshield. I realize then that I don’t fly into Oshkosh just for the usual reasons—the air shows, strolling the avionics bazaars, enjoying the epic storytelling of Rod Machado. To me Oshkosh is a celebration of personality and spirit.
Thursday, June 19, 2008

From The Editor: Lessons Learned


In and out of the air



I can only imagine the first day back to school for Rinker Buck in the fall of 1966. As his classmates recounted tales of riding bikes around the block and jumping in the neighbor’s pool, Rinker’s version of “what I did this summer” must have been a showstopper. “Well, my brother and I flew an airplane from New Jersey to California in only six days,” the 15-year-old could have said.
Thursday, June 19, 2008

How To Blimp


Goodyear proves that low and slow can be fun



How To BlimpAfter a takeoff run of about one foot, the attitude pitches up to 10, then 20, then 30 degrees. I know we can’t maintain this pitch angle very long, but the pilot holds the nose up with no apparent concern for impending disaster.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

From The Editor: Snapped Out Of Complacency


Don't get too comfortable



On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, I was nearing a pit stop in Albuquerque when the radio crackled with the following: “Thunderbird One, you’re cleared direct Red Ridge.” “Hmm, can it be the T-Birds?” I thought as I sped toward the Lone Star State. The controller inquired about their loose formation, and the lead T-Bird confirmed their staggered positioning. Must be them, I gathered, and I looked down to the screens for traffic info, flicking the sensitivity from NORM to UNLTD in hopes of seeing something. Well, wouldn’t you know it, up pops a return moving quickly in the opposite direction, 7,900 feet above at my 11 o’clock.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Nauru—For The Birds


This island nation once operated the world’s hardest-working 737



Nauru—For The BirdsI'd overflown Nauru perhaps a dozen times. It's almost directly between Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, and the famous Henderson Field at Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tight Is Right


Inadequate preflights can have dire consequences



Tight is RightIt has been said that oil is the blood of an engine. If the oil is old and tired, contains foreign materials or flows at the wrong pressure, the engine’s optimum life span can be threatened. All pilots should know enough to check oil quality, as well as quantity, during preflight inspection. A quick peek at oil quantity marks on the dipstick isn’t enough. During preflight, you need to determine whether the oil seems suspiciously gritty, displays an unusual color or sheen, seems too thin or too thick for the ambient temperature, or has a “burnt” aroma. Inspect inside the cowling and on the ground under the engine for signs of oil leaks.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bad Landings, Egos & Me


Experience is a great teacher, but only if you listen to it



grassrootsI knew it was windy, but it wasn’t that bad. I mean 15 gusting to 25 isn’t even close to the top of the sphincter-tension scale in my little airplane. In fact, it’s so good in a crosswind that to a certain extent, those of us who fly the type tend to ignore crosswinds. Or at least pooh-pooh anything under 20 to 25 knots. My record, which I mention constantly, is 38 gusting to 50, 60 through 90 degrees to the runway. And therein lies the difference. At 90 degrees, I’m flying one airplane. At 120 degrees, as it was Sunday, it’s something quite different, and I knew it. Still, I didn’t have a doubt in my little airplane. We could handle it.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

State Of The LSA Industry


The future looks bright



State Of The LSA IndustryAt the 2005 AOPA Convention, barely six months after the first light-sport aircraft (LSA) airworthiness certificates were issued, AOPA President Phil Boyer observed, "This has got to be one of the most interesting things you can do: help bring a whole new segment of aviation to market."
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Touchdowns: Pregnant Plane Delivers


Kicking off the space race



touchdownOn May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his plans for the United States to put the first man on the moon by 1970. The space race officially shifted into high gear. His announcement also triggered events that led to the manufacture of one of the oddest looking planes in aviation history—the Pregnant Guppy, an aircraft that would help make Kennedy’s goal a reality.
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Contact: Filling The Generation Gap


Airparks, theme parks and warbirds



In the Siegfried family tree, there’s a Cub that flies from branch to branch, as each generation introduces the next to aviation. Whereas some parents pressure their kids to play piano or throw a football, the Siegfried’s child-rearing checklist revolves around taildraggers. “Old Bob” took his first flight in a J-3 in 1943; his five children each soloed gliders at age 14 and Cubs at 16. And while granddaughter McKinley’s classmates were cavorting on spring break this year, the high schooler devoted 50 hours per week to building a Texas Sport Cub, the kit version of an American Legend Cub, with her father. We joined them in Lakeland, Fla., where 16-year-old McKinley soloed the low-and-slow derivative, extending family tradition another generation.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sun ’n Fun 2008!


And so begins the air show season



grassrootsAs this column is being written, I’m sitting in an open-sided tent at Sun ’n Fun. The annual event is held in Lakeland, Fla., which is about 50 miles west of “Mickeyville.” It’s raining, it’s colder than an auditor’s heart, I got soaked looking for a sweatshirt, so I’m wearing a garbage bag in a vain attempt at limiting heat loss—I look like I’m homeless. Plus, I’m shivering so much that typing is becoming a chore, so excuse any typos. The ’08 air show season is off to a typical start.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tiger Or Demon In Your Tank?


Fueling mishaps



NTSB DebrieferMisfueling occurs when the wrong type of fuel is pumped into an aircraft’s tanks. It could be that jet fuel gets pumped instead of gasoline, gasoline instead of jet fuel, automotive gas instead of aviation gas, automotive gas containing ethanol instead of auto gas with no additives, or something else yet to be devised by a creative fueling person.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Llamas & Condors


XC Log: Try South America



x-c logI was at a speaking engagement in Alaska awhile back, talking about the joy and pain of flying the oceans, when a member of the audience asked about my experiences in Central and South America.