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.
Being a hangar potato is actually hard work! No, really!
Until recently, I was convinced that the only exercise I get is pushing a computer mouse around between trips to the refrigerator (it’s a rule that periods of procrastination can only be interrupted for fridge trips). Last week, however, while defending myself in a conversation with a student who insisted golf was good exercise, I arrived at a startling realization—I actually do exercise, but it’s disguised as flying.
It’s both the pilot’s and mechanic’s responsibility to find faulty equipment
While the FAA makes the pilot responsible for determining whether or not an aircraft that he or she is about to fly is airworthy, the pilot must rely to a great extent on what others have determined about the airplane. It’s relatively easy for a pilot to check paperwork to determine whether or not an aircraft has undergone required inspections, to check that compliance with airworthiness directives is current and to ensure that required documents are on board.
The NTSB has released its final report on the October 25, 2002, accident in which U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and seven others were killed at Eveleth, Minn. The twin-engine turboprop King Air A100 didn’t have a cockpit voice recorder, so there was no possibility of investigators learning what the pilot and copilot might have said to each other about the way things were progressing during the VOR approach to Eveleth. Investigators had to rely on other things to figure out what caused the airplane to experience an aerodynamic stall at a critically low altitude. In reconstructing the accident scenario, investigators used radar data, ATC audiotapes, aircraft performance numbers, interviews and a large body of experience derived from investigating other accidents.
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.
The ASRS collects pilots’ admitted blunders so that others can gain knowledge from them
One of the best things that the FAA ever did to promote aviation safety was to provide immunity from FAR violations prosecution for pilots who voluntarily report problems and incidents to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) before the FAA gets wind of what went on. During most months, NASA’s ASRS receives about 2,000 to 3,000 reports from pilots, controllers and mechanics. Quite a bit of the information works its way into studies of various safety issues.
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.
I’m not on the outside, looking in. I’m just on the outside.
Lyn “I’m the boss?” Freeman, Plane & Pilot’s leader (a scary thought, at best) challenged me to put my flight-instructing skills to the test by checking him out in my airplane for an article. I figured, sure. It ought to be fun. I mean, it’s just a little article, right? And we’ll have a good time flying. But, the flying aspect turned out to be nothing compared to the talking part and the aftermath when the article came out.
The tiny voice in our head sometimes isn’t in our head
At first, I wasn’t certain I had heard it. It was a faraway voice, not quite a whisper, and my headset killed the engine noise just enough that I could tell it was there. Had I imagined it? Was I actually hearing it, or was my own mind talking to me and making it sound as if it was coming through my headset?
Crosswinds can be deadly, even for the most experienced pilot
With apologies to Margaret Mitchell, most pilots would welcome the opportunity to be “gone with the wind” and let Mother Nature help keep a lid on upwardly creeping fuel costs. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine found that favorable winds aloft coupled with a direct-to-destination IFR routing cut more than a half-hour off the usual trip home to New York after a business meeting in Ohio. Even better, there was an absence of shear and turbulence, making for a smooth, quick ride. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. From time to time, National Transportation Safety Board investigators have to look at situations in which the capabilities of the pilot and/or the aircraft were exceeded by wind conditions.
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.
Officially, the EAA AirVenture was over. Only a few hours earlier, a voice had boomed over the PA system, saying thanks and come again next year. That was the signal that it was time to return to the real world and normalcy. However, those of us milling around the boarding lounge at Appleton Airport, waiting for our commuter flight, were mentally and emotionally still walking the grounds at Oshkosh. We weren’t ready for normalcy yet.
Step back during the preflight and make sure the controls are in line
Back when I was a student pilot, I developed a habit during the preflight inspection of stepping back and pausing to get an overall visual impression of the control surfaces on the airplane. It started after I had noticed that one of the ailerons on a Cherokee I was about to take out for a solo flight didn’t look quite right. From a distance, it was easy to see that while the aileron on one side was in alignment, the other aileron was sagging significantly.
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.
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