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.
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.
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.
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.
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