No, your other VFR


When the weather’s bad enough to call it IFR, VFR-only pilots are grounded. Except when they’re not.

The day’s mission was to re-familiarize with a long-trustworthy companion, a Cessna 172 owned by close friends, in which I had hundreds of hours flying throughout the eastern U.S. It had been a couple of years, though, since I’d flown it and the ultimate mission was to ferry a co-owner and the airplane from the Mid-Atlantic to Las Vegas. We were planning to depart the next day, but I wanted to check out the airplane before launching.

It was based at a tower-controlled airport reporting two miles visibility in haze and 2,500 scattered. With only two miles’ visibility in Class D airspace, the field was IFR. Of course, we needed three miles just to stay in the pattern and shoot some landings under VFR. [Read more…]

Ask Paul: Does glazing mean cylinders must be honed?

Q: I am in the process of acquiring a Piper Seneca equipped with twin Continental TSIO-360-RB engines. Both engines have about 450 hours to go before overhaul.

The aircraft was last flown approximately three years ago. Technicians maintain that the cylinders have to be honed due to glazing as a result of the time elapsed since the last engine run. [Read more…]

Fair warning for Negative Ned and Nancy

Hands on training augments theoretical lessons taught in school. Each of these high school students is a certificated pilot, and having the opportunity to rebuild the engine you’ll be flying behind is a priceless gift – to say nothing of the donation of the airplane itself.

There’s a change coming in general aviation. It’s starting small, but it’s growing and if you haven’t seen the effects personally, you almost certainly will in the very near future.

If you’re prone to negativity or nay-saying and have a tendency to see the dark cloud in every situation, you might want to find someplace else to be for a generation or two. Because general aviation is being revitalized in a way that is just going to amaze you. [Read more…]

Making aviation affordable and fun

Chip Erwin’s Aeromarine LSA company will soon offer a single seat PSA called Aeromarine PS E or PS G depending on which powerplant is selected; either electric propulsion or a small four-stroke engine.

It is no surprise to anyone that aviation has become expensive. Some four-seat, single-engine airplanes retail for nearly $1 million! Those airplanes are fast, comfortable, and superbly equipped, but at those prices few pilots have a large enough budget to allow for purchase of a new aircraft.

The great news is that not all airplanes are so costly. While you may not cruise at 200 mph, an entire field of airplanes is available from $15,000 to $200,000. Yes, $15,000 for a ready-to-fly three-axis aircraft, with hundreds operating successfully. In the $65,000 to $150,000 Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) space, many handsome choices are available.

Is an LSA still too pricey for you? Or, are you wary about an airplane that costs only $15,000? Well, how about something entirely new? [Read more…]

Trying to reason with thunderstorm season


Welcome to the first of what is planned to be a monthly installment about pilots. We’ll look at how well they aviate, how poorly, and how they can do better. We’ll pick apart news items affecting them, and also have some thoughts about their future.

It’s that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, when warmer temperatures easily translate into thunderstorms, making them much more prevalent.

With that in mind, a friend called the other day to pick what’s left of my brain on how to plan an upcoming cross-country. And by “cross-country,” I mean crossing the country: He’s based in the Pacific Northwest, and has business in South Carolina. He’ll be flying a fixed-gear Cessna single. [Read more…]

Batten down the hatches


Once I began flying the line, I rarely thought about seat positions and calibrations. At a certain point, takeoffs and landings in an airliner are all about holding a particular deck angle. That generally means eyes more inside on the artificial horizon than outside. Plus the time pressures we were under to run our checklists, procedures and flows and get out of the gate on time pushed seat adjustments down the priority list.

Anyway, I rarely put anything up on the glare shield. And if I did, I’d see it, right? [Read more…]

Frugal pilots vs. aircraft mechanics

My last column on aircraft maintenance that can be performed by aircraft owners in Canada, but not the U.S., stirred up a lively discussion online.

Reader Greg Wilson summarized it best, noting that the owner of a U.S. standard category aircraft can maintain the aircraft, refurbish or overhaul all or part of the plane, install certified parts, install or replace many instruments or avionics, modify the aircraft (within limits), and even rebuild an aircraft out of service — as long as it is under the supervision and signed off by an FAA-licensed A&P/IA mechanic.

“Finding a mechanic to work with you may take time, especially if you want to do a lot of changes,” he wrote. “Give the mechanic time to trust your abilities and you will be amazed at what an owner can do.” [Read more…]