Too Laid Back? »

Aviation lore is full of heroes like Chuck Yeager, who saved the day while calmly muttering on the radio something about "some little fire going in them engines" or such. The quiet, unflappable, laid-back flyer has been the role model for young pilots since the days of the Lone Eagle. But is there such a thing as "too laid-back?" More

The Real Deal »

Back in the 1950s, social critic and philosopher Lenny Bruce said that no one is shocked anymore. He was probably correct, given our national tolerance for the excesses of those in the entertainment biz, and those seeking to join the weirdness. Yet, I find my level of amazement at flight schools that grind out new instrument pilots without insisting that they actually fly an airplane in the clouds remains at the near shock level. More

Flying With Babies and Kids »

One of the highest uses for a general aviation airplane is to take your family someplace enjoyable. Done right, the trip is much faster than in the family car and a heck of a lot more fun for all involved. I won't even comment about the joys of family travel on the airlines, baggage fees and clearing security with a screaming toddler. Here's what you need to know to do it right. More

The Annual Inspection »

I have been an IA mechanic and shop owner for years, and in my opinion the annual inspection is not a mystery, not a secret, and is a straightforward job that should not be made out to be difficult to conduct. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of mechanics who simply are not familiar with an effective and systematic way to conduct an annual, including keeping track of time and materials. As an owner you also may be paying them to learn on the job about your particular aircraft. Ask ahead of their experience. More

Stupid Pilot Tricks »

Why do holiday newsletters begin with, "It's hard to believe another year has passed"? Have we not yet accepted the earth's orbit around the sun? Or is it truly unfathomable that no matter what reality dictates we're doomed to repeat the same dumb things year after year? And I'm not just addressing you folks in Washington, DC. It's easy to ignore signs of catastrophe while hoping for positive results. The Chicago Cubs could win the World Series but only when we pilots quit reenacting the absurd. More

Instrument Upkeep: Repairing Saves Money »

Here's a common scenario: You bring your airplane to the avionics shop for its 24-month IFR pitot and static system certification and the tech says you'll be wheels up in a couple of hours. Thirty minutes later while you're cooling your heels in the pilot lounge, the technician tracks you down with news you don't want to hear: Your encoding altimeter flunked the test because it has too much friction. More

Old Aviation Truths for a New Year »

Out of respect for you following a three-day weekend over the New Year, the thoughts are succinct and paragraphs short in a conversation about some of the basic truths of staying alive, happy and well when flying. Okay, there might be a few opinions included. More

Your Margin of Safety? »

When was it, to avoid compromising personal limits, you decided not to fly? Sure, serious deteriorating weather conditions are an obvious one. As I write this, severe turbulence SIGMETS from surface to 5000 feet have been issued over northwest Europe, which for me is an obvious "no flight." But there are some diehards (or dare devils) out there, who are willing to give it a try anyhow. More

Dissecting The PIO »

We see it happen here all too often. The Franklin County Airport in Sewanee, Tenn., sits at the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau. During cooler months, northwest winds are thrust up the side of the plateau and swirl back down toward the airport. Tall trees surround the runway and make the airport difficult to see throughout the approach. Pilots in the pattern are greeted by updrafts followed by downdrafts that can make landing on our 50-by-3700-foot runway a challenge. More