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On Autopilot

Article | Oct 01, 2000

Fighting wrong-way needles Everybody hates a back course (BC) instrument approach because it can be such a confusing, demanding experience, and because many instrument landing system (ILS)-equipped airports don't use back course approaches. So, needles that give wrong-way steering information—and a lack of practice—combine to make back course approaches avoided.

On Autopilot

Article | Sep 01, 2000

Who's flying—you or the autopilot? Who's flying? You or the autopilot? The question may sound a mite daft to any pilot who has spent any time at all flying with a basic autopilot. Why, of course you know who's flying.

IFR Strategies

Article | Jul 01, 2000

You've got the runway in sight. Are you ready to land? You're coming to the end of what has been a well-executed night instrument approach.

Staying Sharp

Article | Jun 01, 2000

Maybe your funds for the $100 hamburger went for a new clutch, or a home appliance, or college tuition, or closing costs. And then Christmas came, followed by lousy winter flying weather…has it been awhile since you flew? If so, Dan Mooney of CP Aviation in Santa Paula, California, has a few tips for you.

A Prelude to Takeoff

Article | May 01, 2000

It seems that every time you fly with somebody new, you learn an additional item to check during the preflight stage. Different instructors teach students to look for different things.

Fear of Needles

Article | Apr 01, 2000

If the day should ever come when the last nondirectional beacon (NDB) is unplugged and hauled off to a museum, I hope that the celebration will pause long enough for someone to write a nice epitaph for the pilots, least favorite nav system. I also hope that the historians responsible for documenting aviation's technological phases will leave room in their volumes for a chronicle of the peculiar spell NDBs and their airborne receiver, the automatic direction finder (ADF), cast on generations of pilots.

Wind-Triangle Computers

Article | Apr 01, 2000

Philip Dalton’s E-6B computer continues to set the standard In the beginning, pilots had their hands full just getting off the ground and keeping their machines in the air. But as engines and airframes became more reliable than a politician’s promise, pilots began to venture farther afield.

Back to Basics

Article | Apr 01, 2000

Arriving in style, VFR or IFR You're 20 miles out, and it's time to start thinking about just how you'll handle the landing at your destination airport. Some important strategic decisions are at hand, and how you conduct yourself over the next 10 minutes or so will have a huge bearing on the quality of your arrival.

All Shook Up

Article | Mar 01, 2000

The flight began innocently enough: an early morning departure from Glenwood Springs to Boulder, Colorado, in late spring. The early departure was intended to avoid the usual turbulence that begins as sunlight fills the valleys of the Continental Divide.

Mighty Pilot

Article | Dec 01, 1999

Baby boomers may recall the Terry Toons Mighty Mouse theme song, sung by a squeaky little mouse in a superhero costume: "Here I come to save the day! Mighty Mouse is on his way." Give yourself a chance to feel the same way. Depending on which package you buy, United Services, a division of United Airlines, now offers pilots and nonpilots alike a chance to fly one of its $20 million full-motion simulators.

Tips From Test Pilots

Article | Nov 01, 1999

When a new Cessna 172, 182, or 206 is rolled out for its first test flight at the Cessna Aircraft Company in Independence, Kansas, how long would you guess the preflight lasts? Thirty minutes? An hour? "One week," said Dan Andrew, the chief pilot for single-engine production flight testing. Subsequent preflights are shorter — more like those that most pilots do, but more thorough.

The 'Mystery' Airplane

Article | Nov 01, 1999

FAA Supervisory Operations Inspector Jack Patrick and I were climbing out of San Diego's Montgomery Field in a Piper PA-28-201 on a flight to Imperial, California. I was flying from the left seat, and he was giving me an FAA annual proficiency check.

Pilot Decision Making

Article | Oct 01, 1999

In many cases, the airline way is the right way Decisions, decisions — as pilots, we make hundreds of decisions each time we fly. Most of them, thankfully, are sound ones.

No Go-Around

Article | Apr 01, 1999

Like the moon floating serenely across the sky, a spacecraft in Earth orbit is in a constant struggle to escape gravity and streak boundlessly toward outer space. It is an exquisite blend of forces that allows an orbiting projectile to free-fall toward our planet at exactly the same rate at which the Earth's curvature falls away.

Looking for Traffic

Article | Mar 01, 1999

"This would be a good time for a midair." I wasn't trying to spoil the party when I said it. Under the circumstances it was simply true, and it couldn't hurt to point it out.

Tale of Two Crossings -- PC-12

Article | Dec 01, 1998

First of two parts Trucking across the North Atlantic Things like this don't happen every day, the Pilatus folks at their U.S. headquarters at the Jeffco Airport in Broomfield, Colorado, told me.

Infrequent Flyer Points

Article | Nov 01, 1998

Been flying? Been up lately? Unless we are burning up the airways, most of us tend to answer these questions with studied vagueness — "A little, here and there" or "always looking for the $100 hamburger" are casual code words that betray our relative inactivity. None of us wants to admit to our buddies at the airport that we aren't flying much; to do so would subject us to pity or ridicule.

O2 Issues

Article | Sep 01, 1998

Most pilots don't think too much about using portable oxygen. Sure, everyone knows that you have to use supplemental oxygen if you fly more than 30 minutes at cabin pressure altitudes of 12,500 feet or higher.

Contrails Tell a Story

Article | Sep 01, 1998

Except for those unforgivable mental lapses when we've left the Colombian coffee behind, most of the contrails that I've had a hand in making have been, I'll admit, monotonously straight. No daydreaming child ever conjured up a puppy dog or favorite cartoon character looking at one of mine.

Going the Distance

Article | May 01, 1998

According to the DUATS flight planner, the distance from Boulder, Colorado, to Memphis is 779 nautical miles — a bit of a stretch for my Cessna 185 Skywagon; without help from the wind gods, we would need a stop somewhere between central Kansas and northwest Arkansas to replenish the fuel tanks. On the morning of the flight, with high ceilings and excellent visibility, I decided to go VFR.

Beyond the Book

Article | Apr 01, 1998

It has often been said that, with the exception of the nuclear power industry, aviation is the most regulated activity in the country. In many ways we must fit our operations around, beside, and on top of the restraints that the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) place upon us.


Article | Apr 01, 1998

"Thanks for the memory ..." Who could ever forget that song that old What's-her-name used to sing: "Memories, like the BLAH blah blah blah blah ... misty BLAH blah blah BLAH memories—of the blah blah blah." Well, you know how it goes.


Article | Feb 01, 1998

A Nashville couple uses airline techniques in their airplane To err is human, and therein lies the problem. Flight-crew error remains the leading cause of commercial aircraft accidents, and cockpit resource management is the training technique airlines use to help prevent humans from being, well, quite so human.

Four-Course Radio Ranges

Article | Oct 01, 1997

To those who have been flying long enough, the GPS revolution of the 1990s is reminiscent of the VOR revolution of the 1950s. This is when "omniranges" began to replace obsolescent four-course radio ranges, which had been the backbone of the federal airway system since the late 1920s.

Nasty Attitudes

Article | Oct 01, 1997

Friends didn't say, "See ya later" when I left for inverted flat spin training in Chandler, Arizona. They said, simply, "Goodbye." The editor sensed a liability problem and emphasized that this was not an official assignment.