Limiting our freedom of speech

Photo courtesy Sporty's

The founders of this great nation — I refer to the United States of America, of course — did an amazing thing when they debated and passed a Bill of Rights. These 10 amendments to a Constitution so new the ink was still wet on the page set out specific areas of freedom for individuals and, more importantly, limits for government, that continue to guide us today. First among those amendments is the freedom of speech.

What a remarkable idea. Especially when compared and contrasted with other nations of that period.

In the U.S., an individual can speak their mind. You can say what you wish, whether it’s a cogent thought or an idiotic ramble. If you feel it, you may say it. And this freedom extends beyond the citizenry of our nation. It falls to anyone who stands within our borders. Speak freely, we say. Discuss. Debate. Explore the ramblings of your mind at will.

Of course, there are limits. [Read more…]

Changing lives one flight at a time

Ladies Who Lunch

Taking someone for their first flight in a small aircraft is always rewarding, but making the flight to an airport I’ve never visited makes the reward even sweeter.

I had the chance to fly two of my new co-workers to a private airstrip on a golf course in Wisconsin, and it was another great reminder of the cool factor that being a pilot embodies, as well as the intense impact one short flight can have. [Read more…]

Passion is a two-way street

Photo courtesy Nissanaholic.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been to many more airshows than car shows. But back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, my wife and I met up with my in-laws at a few car shows around the country.

Roy Nisbet, my father-in-law, was a car guy. After a lifetime as owner of Grand Forks Welding and Machine, he sold the business and retired. He retired right into a job building and maintaining street rods for a friend in Grand Forks, N.D. [Read more…]

Why worry about knock in an aircraft engine?

My last several columns have been on the relationship between knock and unleaded fuels in aircraft engines. I have received several questions from people who have experienced knock in their car engines, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. They note that knock didn’t harm their auto engines, so why am I worried about a little knock in an aircraft engine?

There are a number of significant differences between auto and aircraft engines. The biggest is liquid vs. air cooling. [Read more…]

Poking around perception, fear, and illusive rewards

Last night I spent the evening walking and talking with a young man from my neighborhood. He’s out of high school but hasn’t begun taking classes that would lead to a higher level of certification. He’s got a job, but it’s menial, low-paying, and often frustrates him. To his credit he wants to go to college, but he has no idea how to go about it.

In essence, he’s not much different than a lot of other young men and women who live near me. He’s probably not much different than those who live near you, either.

During our discussion, I suggested he might consider finding a new job. Something that required a little more skill, carried a bit of responsibility with it, and would pay better. At the very least that would make paying for college easier.

As it happens, there is an opening for a line-boy at a nearby airport. I mentioned this to him and was truly surprised to see how negatively he reacted to the idea. [Read more…]

The greatest threat to aviation

What appears as a dot of light on the ground can illuminate an entire cockpit, 
disorienting a pilot or causing temporary blindness

I was once blinded by my best friend while flying at night. He was trying to help me read a map. We were out of KDAL, heading to KSMO.

Inbound to KSMO, at night, over California’s high desert, the earth below looked black as pitch, the sky above a planetarium ceiling’s worth of stars. I’d purposely kept cockpit lighting low to preserve my night vision.

When ATC descended us from12,000 to 8,000, I dropped my sectional. Thinking he was being helpful, my non-pilot friend saw this as an opportunity to show off the new, high-intensity headband flashlight he’d brought along, the kind intended for caves, not cockpits.

“Check this out!” he said. I turned toward him just as he flicked on the flashlight.

“AHHH!” I screamed and jerked away, but not before being blinded completely. [Read more…]

A little solidarity can go a long way


When you get right down to it, politics are not really about Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Libertarians, Socialists and Capitalists. It’s about people. Individual people and how they interact with other individual people, and how those people plan, debate, and ultimately work together as their numbers grow into an ever larger group.

The study of politics can be as simple and basic as a discussion about how people interact in groups. There are politics at play between husbands and wives. Politics are in the mix when employers deal with employees, and vice versa. [Read more…]