Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How To Fly An Airplane

Rod Machado’s new “how-to” manual hits all the right buttons

When I was learning to fly, back in the 1960s, Wolfgang Langewiesche's seminal book Stick and Rudder, and William Kershner's series of aviation training manuals, were the standards by which other systems were measured. And they were good, perhaps even great. Bill Kershner had a light, breezy style of explaining the eccentricities of aviation, and Langewiesche could make any subject understandable with his simple examples and clear definitions. They didn't preach as if the rest of us were idiots, and in my case, Kershner helped me ascend through my private, commercial, multi and instrument.

I studied both writers' works extensively and used Kershner's manuals regularly for reference. Later, in the 1970s, when I was editor of this magazine for several years, I had the pleasure of buying freelance articles from Bill Kershner and felt privileged to do so. Bill was as adept at scribing short descriptions of flying techniques as he was at writing books; not too surprising since he was an accomplished military pilot, instructor, charter pilot, aerobatic expert, etc.

Along the way, I read Richard Taylor, Bob Buck, Guy Murchie, Gordon Baxter, Ernie Gann and, of course, Richard Bach, aviation's modern poet­—anyone who had something to teach me about the sky, and that was (and remains) practically everyone. Most of those heroes are gone now, but a new generation has risen to take their place.

Rod Machado is at the leading edge of the latter group, and his instruction books on the various aspects of learning to fly are some of the most readable and entertaining you'll ever encounter. I met Rod in the early 1980s when we were both contracted, along with TWA captain and author Barry Schiff, to write and host stories on the ABC-TV series ABC's Wide World of Flying. Rod took on the task of performing a series of video articles on flight safety subjects as diverse as perfecting the instrument scan, handling vacuum pump or propeller failure, flying the dreaded NDB approach, performing a winter preflight, avoiding mid-airs, understanding airspace, making proper tiedowns, dealing with faulty gas caps and a variety of other subjects. With his natural talent for explaining most anything related to aviation, Rod handled them all without missing a beat. He's a relaxed, comfortable speaker with a casual, engaging manner that lends itself to demystifying complex subjects. In contrast, my job on the ABC show was comparatively easy. I was assigned to flight-test a variety of aircraft, from Bonanzas, Mooneys and Super Decathlons to Cessna 310s, TBM 700s and Aerostars, stories that ABC labeled their "Left Seat Checkouts."

More recently, Rod has turned his attention to writing books on a subject he knows better than anyone else I can think of—learning to fly. So far, he has turned out eight books, and his latest effort is titled, strangely enough, How to Fly an Airplane. It's filled with wisdom, drawings, photographs and sometimes amusing ASRS reports, interspersed with personal anecdotes from Rod's 10,000 hours and 40 years of flight instructing (quite an accomplishment for a pilot who's only 48).

Rod's laurels are almost too numerous to mention, but he's a National Aviation Safety Counselor who has taught hundreds of FAA instructor revalidation clinics, and he was Western Region Flight Instructor of the Year in 1991. You may also recognize him as the instructor on Microsoft Flight Simulator. Additionally, Rod writes regular columns in the AOPA's two monthly publications, AOPA Pilot and Flight Training.


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