Hypoxia: Sneaky assassin


Considering the alternatives, hypoxia is probably quite a pleasant way to die. When the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, there’s often an onset of euphoria, a gradual decline in visual and mental sharpness, and increasing drowsiness, then just a gentle fade to black.

The thing about hypoxia is that its symptoms are so insidious that pilots may not know anything is wrong until it’s too late. [Read more…]

Behind the scenes at Reno

Heroes abound, while initial races featured international flavor


By now, news of the Sept. 16 crash at the Reno National Championship Air Races has made its way across the country and through the international media.

The flurries of reports, video and photographs from the scene have resulted in off-the-cuff opinions and speculation as to the possible causes. Even now, as the number of front page headlines decrease, the stark reality is that, for the first time in the 48-year history of the Reno Air Races, spectators lost their lives, in addition to an accomplished race pilot. For those in the air race community, whether associated with a team, as a volunteer, a local area service or supporter in the stands, this was a devastating event.

With the widespread coverage the crash has received, it would seem that there is little more to be said, but those who were on site working behind the scenes should be noted. [Read more…]

‘Red Dog’ slated to return to Copperstate


A generous airplane collector — and the chief pilot for his cadre of stunning World War II aircraft — are helping to make the Copperstate Fly-In, which kicks off today, a world-class destination for aviation enthusiasts, both on the ground and in the air.

One of the most consistent attractions at the fly-in, which is based at Casa Grande Airport in Arizona, is Chandler, Ariz.-based pilot Larry Perkins and a pristinely restored World War II P-51 Mustang called “Red Dog” — just one in a stunning cache of vintage aircraft owned by famed collector Ron Pratte, also of Chandler.

[Read more…]

Hummelbird takes flight


When you see it coming, you might think your eyes are playing tricks on you. Do they even make airplanes that small? Ted Dearing of Chandler, Ariz., does. And he does it well.

Weighing less than most motorcycles — and delivering up to 50 miles per gallon — his 340-pound, Volkswagen-powered Hummelbird is a “daily driver” in the aviation community. [Read more…]

Celebrating 40 years at Antique Airfield


The annual invitational Antique Airplane Association (AAA) fly-in every Labor Day weekend is a closely-held tradition for hundreds of aviators. Through the years, it has evolved into an exciting-yet-relaxing “old home week” — providing a respite from the frenetic pace of the world. It’s a terrific place to see antique, vintage (including homebuilts), and classic airplanes, and have the opportunity to visit with their respective caretakers.

[Read more…]

Flying solo at nearly half a century


As I recently celebrated my 49th birthday, I couldn’t help but be a bit reflective about my life to date. I’m quickly nearing the half century mark and still feel I’ve got a lot more to accomplish, but a lot less time to do it.

By most accounts I’ve done a lot — went to college, got married, had three kids, was involved with a successful high tech start up, and traveled extensively around the world. That said, I still felt I was missing the one thing that many a soul dreams of: The chance to really be free. [Read more…]

CAP a decade after 9/11

Photo by Lt. Col. Warren Ratis, New York Wing


The buzz of the Cessna 172’s engine seemed an intrusion on the absolute quiet of Manhattan’s crystalline blue skies. In fact, the tiny Civil Air Patrol plane, tail number N9344L, was one of the few aircraft aloft that afternoon in all of America. It was Sept. 12, 2001 — the day after the country was rocked by terrorist attacks, when the phrase “9-1-1” took on a whole new meaning.

[Read more…]

Air Race Classic: An excellent aerial adventure


As I climbed into the sky southwest-bound over North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound a few weeks ago, the reality hit: I was about to become part of a tradition begun in 1929 by pioneer aviatrixes, determined to prove their mettle to a skeptical men’s aviation world. And it was too late to chicken out.

This year’s cross-country Air Race Classic was to include 50 little airplanes and more than 100 women pilots from all over North America, including my new friend and air-race pilot, Linda Keller, of Mobile, Ala., and her Piper Cherokee 180, “Ms. Lima.”

[Read more…]