Jamail Larkins took his first airplane ride when he was twelve. As he recounts, “I remember going out to the airport. It was a partly cloudy day in the middle of summer. Mr. Fox pulled out his 1956 Cessna 172 and I watched him preflight. Then we hopped in and I helped him go through the checklist. I remember thinking, ‘I really can’t believe that I’m in the middle of an airplane right now.’”
In the fall of 2004, I closed a review of Jeppesen’s JeppView/FliteDeck 3 with a complaint about the lack of serious flight-planning functions in Jeppesen’s flagship electronic charting products. A Jeppesen representative responded: “At some point, we hope to offer a single solution.” He must have been serious because that single solution now exists.
Weather happens, and the vast majority of us mere mortals will probably never understand it. WX (as it’s rarely abbreviated) is almost universally regarded as the subject pilots understand least and fear most. For most aviators, it’s flying’s great question mark. Some people may have a perfect understanding of Bernoulli’s principle, but still consider weather a mystery.
For Greg Herrick, collecting airplanes seems to be more of an addiction, less of a hobby. His eclectic assortment of more than 40 aircraft spans eight decades, with a focus on the period between World War I and World War II known as the Golden Age
In 2005, the general aviation industry hit $15.1 billion in billings, an all-time high and a 27.2% increase over 2004. The good news came from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) at their annual Industry Review & 2006 Market Outlook Briefing. GAMA (www.gama.aero) figures put worldwide shipments of general aviation airplanes at 3,580 units for 2005, up 20.8% from the previous year’s total of 2,963 units.
A little more than a year ago, the FAA passed legislation creating a new category of airplane, light sport aircraft (LSA), and a new rating, the sport pilot license. The idea was to make flying more accessible (driver’s licenses became the new medicals), easier to complete (minimum flight hours were reduced from 40 for a private pilot to 20 for a sport pilot) and less expensive (LSA are significantly cheaper to own and operate). Despite all the kudos from aviation groups, no one really knew just how successful the new aircraft and license would ultimately be.
Some pilots may believe that an instrument rating and a fair amount of flight time are good insurance against getting into a situation that results in losing aircraft control or exceeding an aircraft’s design stress limits. However, without a healthy amount of good preflight and in-flight judgment, along with recurrent training that includes partial panel work and unusual attitude recovery, those two things can set the stage for getting into trouble.
There has always been some debate about the justification for piston twins. True, the second engine may get you home if one mill quits, but standard asymmetric-thrust multis haven’t exactly enjoyed a sterling safety record. In too many instances, directional control is so tenuous and single-engine performance so marginal that a safe landing on one engine demands that the pilot be flying a perfect airplane and be doing absolutely everything right.
Every day—yes, even Christmas—between 50 and 150 kids show up at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM), an incredibly unique nonprofit flight school in Compton, Calif. First they must finish their homework (there are even tutors there to help), and then they can take advantage of a variety of opportunities to earn money. The jobs might include graffiti mitigation, picking up trash from a local community park or even washing the occasional Cessna on the school’s flight line. But the money they earn is not available to the kids as hard cash. Instead they receive credit for flight lessons at the TAM flight school. The result is that an amazing number of kids from a tough inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood are learning to fly.
Fourteen years ago, when I met Tim Casey of Garmin International, we were at the Paris Air Show, and Carl Pascarell and I had just ferried the prototype Sino Swearingen SJ30 jet across the Atlantic to Le Bourget Airport with little more than point-and-shoot VHF radios. Like most prototypes, the first SJ30 was having its share of systems problems, and electrical glitches had burned up both of our VLF/Omegas on the eastbound crossing. By definition, we were flying IFR above 35,000 feet and needed a method of positively identifying our position for the trip back to San Antonio, Texas.
My timing couldn’t have been worse. On Monday, August 29, 2005, I boarded an American Airlines 767 out of Los Angeles and headed for Orlando, Fla., well aware that Hurricane Katrina was scheduled to come ashore at exactly the same time when we’d be passing overhead. The storm had grown taller than 50,000 feet, far above the maximum altitude of a 767, and was directly in our flight path.
Sometime back in the dark ages, I was getting ready to take my instrument instructor check ride, and the examiner, who was an actual FAA type from the FAA headquarters, asked me if I had done a weight-and-balance for the flight. Two thoughts flashed through my mind, the first being the obvious question: What has a weight-and-balance calculation got to do with an instrument check ride? The second was a little panicky thinking while I tried to remember how to do the calculations.
Ready or not, here comes a new year in aviation. And if 2005 is any indication of what we can expect, 2006 should be nothing less than remarkable. In the last year alone, general aviation (GA) has seen an unprecedented boom in new types of aircraft, pilots and technology. So here’s a recap of what made 2005 special— highlighting the most important developments—with an exclusive look at what we can anticipate in 2006.
In just the last few years, a series of T-34s, the military equivalent of a Bonanza, have suffered wing separations. An emergency airworthiness directive (AD) grounded the fleet. Just a couple of months ago, a well-maintained T-6, a World War II trainer, lost a wing doing maneuvers over Florida. With the general-aviation aircraft now averaging just less than 30 years of age, how can you tell if an airplane is safe to fly?
By the time you read this, I will have completed a two-week vacation trip circumnavigating most of Alaska and some of Western Siberia with an Indiana dentist, Dr. Bill Grider. (Hey, it’s a tough job, but…) Alaska is my kind of place, and despite a dozen trips around the state, I’m always eager to return.
Almost by definition, half of every delivery flight I make is on an airliner. I’ve been able to dovetail ferry flights to and from the same destinations a total of once in nearly 30 years of delivering airplanes.