Flying this aerobatic trainer across the Southwest makes for a fun and wild ride
Recently, I had a chance to fly a considerably less-ambitious Pitts delivery—pick up a 1999 S2C in Texas and ferry it back to Tom’s Aircraft in California. Not a big deal, only 1,100 nm across the Southwest with airports everywhere, and the weather was forecast to be good for the entire trip.
Using too much rudder can create structural in-flight failures
On November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587 crashed at Belle Harbor, N.Y., shortly after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 260 people on board the airplane and five people on the ground were killed. The investigation began pointing to the likelihood that the airplane’s vertical stabilizer and rudder broke off because of full-rudder deflection.
Making friends with those who share the same passion for flight is time well spent
It’s mid-morning on the first day of the new year as I’m writing this, and I’ve already managed to put myself in a serious funk. I just did something really (as in really) stupid: I looked at last year’s list of resolutions. The list wasn’t that ambitious, but looking back at it makes me wonder exactly what I did with my time for the last 12 months.
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.
A friend of a friend knew the pilot of a King Air that crashed, killing six of the seven people on board, so I was asked to be on the lookout for the NTSB’s final report on the accident. The thinking among those who knew the pilot was that there had to be some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure or a series of problems with the plane and avionics, far beyond the coping capabilities of any mere mortal.
“Baron Zero-Two-Foxtrot, the biplane ahead of you is in the pattern and will be turning on crosswind shortly. Turn inside and above him,” said the tower at SDL Airport in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Pitts Papa-Bravo, when you turn, you’ll see a Baron inside your turn and above you, but he should be no factor.”
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.
It hurts when even the simplest things make you feel stupid
What’s the tennis ball for?” asked one of my students. Almost every one of them ask the same old question. I answered, “That’s one of the IQ tests that came with my hangar. You can’t be issued a passing grade around here until you figure it out.”
When it comes to figuring out what caused an airplane to crash, the first and most obvious clues often lead to a plausible, but ultimately incorrect, explanation. A case in point is an accident that occurred on June 15, 2003, at Jeannette, Pa. A Cessna 205 went down, killing the pilot and three skydivers.
Am I the only person in the aviation world who has ever gone through, and still goes through, periods of apprehension when it comes to flying? I can even go so far as to say that I’m maybe even a little afraid. In my case, I don’t mean ready-to-soil-myself scared. I mean, I’ll be chugging along at about 4,000 feet, and for the briefest of moments and for absolutely no reason, a little twinge of fear sneaks a quick jab to my confidence. Then, it’s gone.
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.
Practicing how to handle runaway controls can prevent a major catastrophe
Many private pilots who were trained in airplanes using manual trim wheels, cranks or knobs have transitioned to aircraft equipped with electric trim without being trained to recognize a runaway trim condition. A malfunctioning trim control switch, relay or other electrical component can cause the trim motor to run out of control, ultimately moving the trim surfaces to dangerous positions.
It’s a fulfillment of a lifelong and childhood dream
The movie is starting. The cabin is dark with the window shades lowered. I open the ones by me and look down from FL350 at the landscape. I’m on United Air Lines flight 193 and over the Midwest, about two hours after takeoff from Dulles, Va., en route home to Los Angeles after a flight earlier this morning from Syracuse, N.Y., to Dulles.
Keeping quiet may be the safest tactic, but it’s not always the best
Exactly what part of the brain controls our egos, anyway? Since I’m not a shrink and simply apply what I’ve seen over a lifetime, I’d have to say that the part that controls our aviation ego is also tasked with the management of our sexual ego. This has to be the case and the reason for our egos because you get exactly the same reaction when you insult, degrade or, in any way, question a guy’s ability in either of those areas.
Underlining the importance of medical certification
When the new sport-pilot rules, which came into effect on September 1, 2004, were under development, one aspect that received loud applause was the proposed relaxation of medical-certification requirements. The promise was that a motor vehicle driver’s license could be used in lieu of the FAA medical certificate under the assumption that if you’re medically safe enough to drive, you’re also healthy enough to fly a light, low-powered, relatively slow aircraft in day-VFR conditions.
The countdown to next year’s show begins the minute you return home
We had just returned from Oshkosh, Wis., late last night, which is another way of saying that today, I’m going to be nearly useless. There are lots of things to be done, but I don’t have enough energy in order to cope, so screw ’em. That stuff will get done tomorrow.
Lessons gleaned from the big birds can teach us how to become safer pilots
A Boeing 727 is different from the airplanes that most of us fly. Nevertheless, there are some things that we can learn from the NTSB’s recently completed report on an accident involving a FedEx cargo 727, which was flown into trees and terrain during the pre-dawn hours of July 26, 2002.