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…]

Technology lost: A very real possibility


Modern society exists in its present form, all over the world, because humans have developed, deployed, and adapted to technologies that make our lives easier, more pleasant, and longer than ever before.

Every phase of life is improved to some degree by the availability of technologies we use without the slightest thought. These technologies are convenient, relatively inexpensive, and widely available even to the least fortunate among us. Microwave ovens, wide-screen televisions, airplanes, helicopters, GPS navigation in our cars and on our phones, computerized cash register/scanners, and compact florescent light bulbs are all available to us, more or less all the time.

I wonder if that will be the case 100 years from now. Or 200 years out from today. Perhaps not. [Read more…]

Why does GA get no respect?

The Wright Flyer

Regular readers will remember that my last few columns have been on concerns with the proposed new unleaded avgas. Well I am done venting on that subject for now, so I am getting off that bully pulpit until the alphabet groups and the federal agencies produce some more column fodder.

And I am getting on my soap box: Recently I was driving across the state and was listening to talk radio. The subject of the discussion was David McCullough’s new book on the Wright brothers.

The thing that got to me was not that the book described the Wrights as geniuses, but that the announcers seemed surprised at this assessment. [Read more…]

The magic number is 30 — for now

Benefactor James Ray at the grand opening of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy in 2011.

The number of pilots in the United States is decreasing. Pretty much anyone who flies is aware of this unfortunate fact. Consider the irony: Although aviation is more ubiquitous than ever and the overall population of the nation is increasing, the number of us who have a valid pilot’s certificate is actually diminishing.

In my little corner of the world, and by corner of the world I mean, this big ol’ sandbar that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean, there is a program intended to reverse that trend. I’m particulary enamored of and tremendously excited about the mission they’ve set themselves on, as well as the success they’re having.

Yes, actual success. They really are making a profound difference that extends well past the cockpit. [Read more…]

Do something

Photo courtesy AOPA

Frederick, Maryland, has an amenity often missing in my home town: Sidewalks.

Where I live they’re spotty at best. Hence, it’s common for walkers to get into a gasoline powered vehicle which they drive to a place where they can walk without undue risk of being hit by a car, or a truck, or perhaps finding a territorial alligator in their path. [Read more…]

What’s fueling higher engine temps?

Q: I own a factory overhauled O-360 A4A, which I’ve owned since it left the factory. I’ve flown behind it for 600 hours. I recently had a prop strike and the engine was stripped and reassembled with no damage found. All they replaced were the exhaust valve guides and piston rings. (And all the rest as per shock load spec.)

The plane has been put together exactly as before and performs almost better than before. I have 10 years of multi probe engine monitor data to compare. [Read more…]

The great migration of 1940

In the winter of 1940 over 600 light planes flew from around the United States to Florida. This image from the June 1938 cover of Air Trails shows the variety of new aircraft being offered for sale. (Source: Air Trails June 1938)

January 1940 saw a mass migration of light planes from throughout the United States to Florida. Held in conjunction with the Miami All-American Air Maneuver Air Races, the group flights of personal planes was known as the Light Airplane Cavalcade. [Read more…]