Category Archives: General Aviation

How’s Your Day Going?

Sometimes it’s useful to add perspective to the occasional trials that arise. As the saying goes: Sometimes you’re the statue and sometimes you’re the pigeon. Well, sometimes you’re the plane and sometimes you’re the pelican. A little “paper, rock scissors” happens in every life.

Wrong place at the wrong time. At least he missed the pylon. This isn’t going to end well either.

…and this didn’t end well..

In contrast I’d say my day is going pretty well.

…and that’s a compelling reason not to fly helo’s.


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

 First the good news: More pilots and specifically a lot more student pilots. The facts and stats of GAMA indicate that the pilot population is not only ahead of the 15 year average (615,400) but hasn’t been this high for seven years. Strange that in 2009, instructors outnumbered active student certificates by 22,583.  The 2010 increase is a significant development given the moribund economy.  

The bad news is general aviation flight activity fell by 10 percent in 2009 but accidents dropped only 5 percent. Worse, even with reduced flight hours, we’re killing ourselves more often. The number of fatal accidents and the number of individual fatalities increased slightly to 233 and 401, The number of fatal accidents increased 4 percent. The Nall report has it all summarized. That’s why the FAA is launching a safety standdown which began April 2. As usual, the culprit is pilot error with the top ten listed as: Continue reading

Spin Cycle

There are Records for Everything

Spinning an airplane is an essential part of aerobatics.  It can be fun but has it’s limits.

Suderman, who is scheduled to perform in this weekend’s air show, attempted to break the world record for inverted flat spins in one attempt Thursday. The record is 78 spins, he said.

Unfortunately, total rotations were 64.  There’s always next time., provided he avoids the low altitude record.

Innovation for Sale

An American Success Story Is No Longer American

Cirrus was founded in the mid 80s by two brothers out of college, Alan and Dale Klapmeier. They turned out to be aviation’s equivalent of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame.

The Klapmeier’s believed they could do for the safety of small airplanes what seat belts and airbags, had done for cars. Most notably , they introduced a ballistic recovery system the Cirrus Aircraft Parachute System (CAPS), which would float the entire aircraft to ground in an emergency.  The military uses expensive, heavy ejection seats, not suitable for planes with solid roofs.

The decision to introduce CAPS was based on a hair raising disaster that nearly killed Alan Klapmeier. When he was 25,  Klapmeier suffered a mid air. His wing sliced through the strut of the other plane which spun into the ground, killing the pilot. Klapmeier had to keep his control yoke hard to the left to keep his plane, which had lost part of its right wing, flying somewhat straight. He was barely able to land.

What’s surprizing is that Klapmeier’s start up airplane venture didn’t also enter a graveyard spiral. The average failure rate for start-ups is between 75 – 80% and the failure rate for new aviation companies is even higher. (Commercial aviation is very risky too). While expensive (about $500k for the SR-22GTS), Cirrus initially couldn’t keep pace with demand. They were selling them faster than they could get them out the door.The tubocharged version achieves 211 knots and 25,000 service ceiling. This is what you’d want if air taxis were to proliferate. A safe, fast comfortable light aircraft.

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Say Cheese

Over the years I’ve collected hundreds of aerial photos shot from the plane I was flying. There’s a few even worthy of framing. Twice, I’ve even been paid to photograph construction projects with one ending up in a magazine.  OK, it was Illinois’ “Roads and Bridges magazine”, not Better Home and Gardens.  Hope I haven’t burned up my fifteen minutes of fame with that. We were fortunate to get a good shot since we really didn’t know what we were doing. Still, this was a nice change: Being paid to fly.

So it was with interest that I examined a photography tool kit called “Fly and Earn”, developed by former air force pilot Jay Taffet. It’s only 49 pages but covers about everything you need to know. Note that the PIC must be at least a commercial pilot so as to not run afoul of the FAA..  The regulations are clear that you can’t fly for compensation as a non-commercial pilot, but you can make money if the CFI does the flying portion (shoot the aerials) while the private pilot does the ground work of marketing, customer coordination, photo processing and resales. 

Have a look. It’s renewed my interest sufficiently to spend time on E-Bay hunting for deals on a SLR Nikon.

(update: Link has been repaired)

Infrequent Flier

This story admittedly sounds weird. Here’s a guy that just learned his plane was stolen two years ago 

A Ballico man discovered his airplane was stolen two years ago after he was contacted by the Federal Aviation Administration… and reported that his 1955 Cessna 310 was stolen from the Turlock Airport

A twin-engine Cessna selling for $25k? Also strange that he never bothered to check on the Cessna 310 while paying hanger fees. Ah well. It’s in California.

Control Freq’s

 More than Pushing Tin

Last night, the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) allowed 20 lucky people to experience first-hand what it’s like to be an air traffic controller, to be on the other side of the frequency. I was finally going to meet some of the voices and get behind the scenes to learn “how do they do it”? Guy Lieser has done a great job organizing the event better known as: “ZAU Raincheck”. The Chicago Center moved from Midway Airport to Aurora, IL in the 60’s. As the story goes, the cold war was raging at the time en route centers were built.. The idea was to move them as far away from “ground zero” as possible. Ergo,  ARTCC facilities are located away from major metropolitan areas.

 Even if you don’t have an instrument rating you’ll appreciate just how magnificently the system choreographs movements of thousands of planes through a crowded airspace every hour. The United States airspace system is divided into 210 different regions controlled by 21 enroute centers.  Each ARTCC works traffic that is enroute between the departure point and destination airport.  For example, the Chicago Control Tower, (contrary to what Hollywood wants you to think), controls aircraft from the gate to the end of the departure runway.  After the aircraft’s wheels are up, it is switched over to a departure controller.  Enroute centers then handle the aircraft in all phases of flight until they get within 40 nautical miles of a destination airport. Continue reading