As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by birds. I remember sitting on the beach during family vacations to Venice, Fla., as a kid of seven through 13, entranced by pelicans in ones and twos patrolling the roiling Gulf of Mexico surf for fish. The big-beaked birds seemed to have total command of the sky, gliding soundlessly or climbing for an instant with hardly a movement of wing, then diving straight down into the water faster than I could think about it.
Alleviating a non-pilot’s fears of little airplanes
As one who is sometimes asked to speak before pilot groups, I was struck by a column written by fellow editor, retired airline captain and general-aviation bon vivant Dave Gwinn in the February 2005 issue of Plane & Pilot. Gwinn was lamenting that some of the experiences we relate to live pilot audiences and write about to 300,000 readers each month may only serve to turn off non-pilots.
Learning acrobatics can help you straighten up and fly right
Every job has its perks. Airline pilots, for example, fly practically free all over the world, doctors and nurses have the inside track on good health care, Formula One drivers are privileged to drive some of the most exciting cars available and are well paid for it, building contractors can live in lavish luxury at a fraction of the cost you and I might pay, and so on.
There are a few airplanes that deserve better than they got, and I’ve always felt the Shrike Commander is one of them. I flew the big twin for the first time on a ferry to Europe 20 years ago, and I was impressed with its handling and comfort.
In the world of flying, the range of experiences and the fun to be had are never-ending
One of the perks of this job is the chance to fly a wide variety of airplanes. My hours and ratings aren’t anything special, but I’m happy that I’ve been allowed to fly a little of everything at one time or another.
Roy LoPresti’s vision of a fast, fun airplane is close to completion
Every once in a while, I’m privileged to fly an airplane that stands out from the pack. While most general-aviation designs are safe, comfortable machines, few are exciting airplanes intended to do more than transport their pilots from Miami to New Orleans, or Chicago to Dallas.
Experience and new technology don’t protect a pilot from basic blunders
No question about it—the exponential expansion of aviation technology in the last dozen years has been nothing short of amazing. If anyone had suggested at the beginning of the 1990s that avionics manufacturers would be offering dual GPS and multi-function displays in practically every new airplane by 2004, most of us would have laughed and said, “Yeah, right.”
Early last summer, I had to leave a 421 with a mechanical problem in the middle of the Pacific and wrote about it on these pages. Maintenance dragged on for another six months before the airplane finally was ready to fly, delaying delivery from Subic Bay, Philippines, to the U.S. mainland beyond any reasonable expectation.
Does self-induced pressure to continue a flight supercede everything else?
The difference between a safe pilot and one with an enhanced chance of becoming an accident statistic often is found in the ability to detach oneself from the emotional and social aspects of flying. Have you properly planned for the flight or will you be playing catch-up once you get off the ground? Are your qualifications and experience sufficient for the expected flight conditions?
The NAA is leveling the playing field for pilots who would like to set national records
Speed! It’s the reason that many of us fly. For most pilots, faster is better. I raced stock cars as a kid, sports cars as an older kid, and the current, much older kid would be racing unlimited air racers but for a lack of money.
Does it ever seem as if you must’ve been standing behind the door when God passed out tail winds? Sure seems that way to me most of the time. Logic and the laws of probability might suggest you should experience tail winds and head winds in about equal proportions, but it never seems to work that way in the real world.
Each summer for the last half-dozen or so, I’ve had the privilege of flying the North Atlantic with one or two clients. Last summer, I made two such round trips, the first in a Turbo Arrow to Versailles, France, and the second in a Cheyenne IIXL turboprop to London. For most pilots, the trip is a long-term dream, something they’ve been planning for a year or more.
Ferry flying may seem glamorous, but Tony Vallone’s book tells the truth
It seems every aviator I know would like to be an international delivery pilot. Each month, I receive more e-mails and letters on the subject of ferry flying than on any other topic, and that’s been the pattern for 20 years. I hear from every segment of aviation: new pilots with the ink barely dry on their private tickets and retired; 20,000-hour airline types; bored accountants hoping to change careers; charter pilots looking for a more exciting job; prospective aviation soldiers of fortune; and admitted aviation bums like me.
Amazing reminders of all things beautiful and powerful
Although I’ve made some slight progress in learning to fly during the last 38 years, I’ve never even come close to understanding weather. Naturally, I’ve read Bill Kerschner, Guy Murchie, Bob Buck and a number of other authors on the subject, and I appreciate some of the principles involved, but dealing with weather in a real sky is a very different animal from reading about it in books.
All of us in aviation lost seven friends last February. No one can forget the horrifying video of the space shuttle Columbia breaking up in the high sky over northwest Texas. For many of us who love the sky, the image was almost incomprehensible, a nightmare revisiting the 1986 loss of the shuttle Challenger.
Animal lovers go to great lengths to keep their beloved pets happy
D’ja ever try to take two German shepherds flying in a four-seat retractable? It’s nearly an impossible mission. Years ago, on a whim, I took my big 120-pound Siberian husky, Kenai, flying in the family Mooney. Though Kenai was in the habit of talking a lot on the ground, he was pretty quiet and laid back during his short flight. He stared out the window for a while with that same curious look he gets when I put him on the phone; then, apparently bored with it all, he yawned and went to sleep, overflowing the entire back seat in the process.