What’s In AOPA Pilot Archive

The most inspiring pilot . . .

Monday, September 15th, 2008

The most extraordinary thing about Logan Flood is that he doesn’t see himself as extraordinary at all.

In his mind, he’s just a regular, work-a-day pilot from the middle of the country who knew what he wanted to do and was lucky enough to get to do it.

But Flood, who was nearly killed in a 2001 aircraft accident that left him with disfiguring burns covering most of his body, has overcome unimaginable obstacles to reach his life goals of becoming a husband, a father, and–perhaps most astonishingly–an airline pilot.

I met Flood several months ago at a hotel near Washington, D.C., while the new first officer was on an 18-hour layover. It was hard, at first, not to stare at his scars or become distracted by them. I’m sure he’s used to seeing people study him. It happens whenever he’s in a public place.

But it doesn’t take long to see beyond Flood’s appearance to the sparkling character that lies beneath it. His colleagues recognize it, as do family members, friends, and an ever growing number of passengers. I’m sure fellow pilots like you will see it immediately.

Aviation has been blessed in its short history to have attracted more than its share of determined, visionary, courageous participants. Inventors, aviation pioneers, and warriors have all accepted risk and overcome obstacles to advance the science and art of flying. Listening to Flood tell the story of his loss, heartbreak, dedication, and triumph makes me believe that same spirit is alive and well, and that flying has a bright future.

Who is the most inspiring pilot you’ve known? And what have they taught you?

Please share your stories here . . .

Holding in lieu of Procedure Turn?

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

My “On Final, On the Gauges” article in the August AOPA Pilot discussed IFR final approach procedures, and it apparently hit a nerve in the “holding in lieu of” department. My read of the AIM, as set out in AIM 5-4-9, is that you don’t need to make that trip around the holding pattern–even if it’s published in bold on the approach plate–as long as: No PT is on the chart, when you’re getting radar vectors to the final approach course, when you’re doing a timed approach from a holding fix. Anyone ever done a timed approach? Not me.

Member George Shanks wrote me to emphasize that most RNAV (GPS) approaches with the “T”-style entry paths to the FAF are also exempt from holding. “If the approach is in the “T” or inverted “L” format and fly-by waypoints are in use … it would not be necessary to use the course reversal pattern.”

Jose Riera has a good question: “If a holding pattern is depicted at the FAF, you are required to make one turn around before resuming your course inbound to the runway. Can you tell me why this is?”

Personally, I don’t know. Maybe it has to do with steering clear of obstacles or terrain. All I know is that most times you’ll be on vectors from ATC, and a hold-in-lieu-of PT would be unlikely. Which is good, because let’s face it, most of us just don’t want to hold …..

Anybody else with views on holding at the FAF?

Is it real, or is it Gibson Boulevard?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

I laughed when I saw the sign for Gibson Boulevard, which runs just north of Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ). It’s a real place! After 16 hours in the simulator at Eclipse Aviation earning a type rating in the Eclipse 500, I was very familiar with the simulated Gibson Boulevard, but it hadn’t really sunk in that it was real.

A circling approach is one of the requirements for a type rating. At Eclipse, it’s usually done as an approach to ABQ’s Runway 8, circling to 17. One of the tricks you learn is that once you turn north for circling, you quickly cross Gibson Boulevard (with its simulated cars and trucks zipping by)–then count to about 8 and then make a left base leg turn and the end of Runway 17 will magically appear.

Eclipse 500 Level D Simulator

Author at the controls of the Eclipse 500 simulator.

So by the time I was driving to ABQ to airline it home after the checkride I had flown the circling approach a half dozen times. And there was the sign announcing the exit for Gibson Boulevard–it was a weird moment of realization of just how real the Level D simulator is.

It was a surreal moment a few weeks later when I touched a real Eclipse 500 for the first time. Sitting in the cockpit in Maryland, I expected to see only ABQ’s taxiways through the windshield.


Check out the video to see what it’s like to move from the high-zoot full-motion simulator and its spectacular visual system, all of which costs tens of millions of dollars, to the real thing, priced at a seemingly reasonable $2.15 million. For more on the Eclipse 500, see the August cover story of AOPA Pilot and my previous blog and videoThink you can fly the Eclipse 500?”

Skew-Ts?! Oh No!

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

In AOPA Pilot’s July issue, my Wx Watch column topic touched on Skew-T Log-P charts. These, friends, are the meteorological equivalents of our NDB approaches! They frustrate meteorologists and pilots alike. I’ve heard graybeard meteorologists get tangled up trying to explain the MANY aspects of information that can be deciphered on Skew-Ts. And briefers? Fugeddaboutit…. a typical briefer contemplating a Skew-T would be like a frog looking at a watch.

In the column I went through brief discusssions of stability, instability, and temperature-dew point spread aloft as signs of cloudiness. I was nervous as the article went to press. Would anyone think the topic too egg-headed?

Much to my surprise I got several e-mails asking for more info, wanting clarification, and wondering how hypothetical situations might appear on a Skew-T. Getting this kind of feedback was great…and it proves that many AOPA members do indeed have a curiosity about the weather that surpasses the usual in the pilot community.

What’s missing from this picture?

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Featuring the Cirrus Perspective by Garmin panel, our July cover story asks the question: Is this the Ultimate Panel?

Forget the brand for a moment, do the glass cockpits in today’s new single-engine piston airplanes represent the ultimate? What’s missing? New airplanes typically have a large primary flight display, often showing synthetic vision–so obstacles and terrain are depicted along with highway-in-the-sky guidance to the next waypoint. Add in traffic depictions and it’s hard to run into anything these days. Over on the equally large multifunction display you typically have terrain information, datalinked nexrad weather, lightning depictions, text weather, fuel and engine monitoring and alerting, and a host of other features. Today’s autopilots will fly any procedure in the book, including the holding patterns. See the video of my recent flight in the Cirrus.

What else would you like to see in the panel and if not in the panel, what’s the next area of evolution–or revolution–for single-engine airplanes? Give us your ideas by clicking the “Post your comments” link below.

Jailed pilot story: How pervasive is low-flying?

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Last winter, a short news item on AOPA.org about a Wisconsin biplane pilot being sent to jail for a fatal accident got a lot of attention from members.

Mark Strub had survived a low-flying accident that claimed the life of his passenger, and then he pleaded guilty to reckless operation of a motor vehicle and disorderly conduct. News of the first U.S. pilot jailed for an aircraft accident nearly set a record for hits on AOPA.org. That evening, I wrote Strub a letter and mailed it to the Wood County Jail in Wisconsin Rapids. I wanted to know more about the accident, and I wanted to learn about Strub. Was he a perennial screw-up with a history of reckless conduct, or a solid guy who made a terrible mistake?

How pervasive is low-flying among general aviation pilots? YouTube is full of video images of GA pilots behaving badly, and NTSB accident statistics show it’s been a common theme over many, many years.

Strub had been following the Wisconsin River in his Stearman at tree-top height on a summer day in 2004 and struck powerlines. He escaped, but his passenger, a 39-year-old wife and mother who had hoped for a thrilling but safe jaunt in an open-cockpit plane, died on the spot.

I met Strub at his rural home and found him candid, forthright and brutally direct. He doesn’t hide from his actions or make excuses. He lives with the life-altering consequences of his accident every day. And he would do anything to go back to that summer day four years ago and alter the outcome.

Among the AOPA publications staff, we had a rigorous debate about whether to tell Strub’s story at all. It’s sad and sobering, and publishing it is a stretch for an organization chartered to promote general aviation. But low-flying accidents have plagued aviation for generations–and we concluded that Strub’s bitter experience has a better chance of actually improving pilot behavior than all the preaching, accident statistics, and dry recitation of federal aviation regulations ever could.

It was a tough call–but I believe it was the right one.

And when you read about Mark Strub, do you shake your head and conclude he got what he deserved? That his punishment should have been more severe? Or do you close your eyes and think, “There but by the grace of God go I?”

Read the story online.

Cirrus’ new panel

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Among the airplanes on display at the AOPA Fly-In is this Cirrus SR22 GTS with Cirrus’ optional Perspective avionics suite by Garmin. Editor in Chief Tom Haines explores the Cirrus Perspective in the July issue of AOPA Pilot, currently at the printer–look for it in your mailbox soon.

Death of THE director

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Sydney Pollack died on Sunday at the age of 73. He succumbed to a short fierce battle with cancer.

If you’re a movie buff like I am, you know he directed some of the finest–”Out of Africa,” “The Way We Were,” and “The Firm.” He also acted in many of his movies such as “Tootsie” and “Michael Clayton.” He was also an accomplished jet-rated pilot and aircraft owner. We profiled him in AOPA Pilot in 1998.

When Harry met AOPA Pilot

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Harrison Ford is not a stranger to the pages of AOPA Pilot. Editing Barry Schiff’s June 2008 article took me back 10 years, when our June 1998 issue featured the making of Six Days, Seven Nights. Ford did all of his own flying in that film, which introduced him to the de Havilland Beaver–his favorite airplane.

In that issue, Ford also talked about how he became a pilot. I was asked to photograph Ford for that article, and the chosen day was miserable, with rain showers and low ceilings. Tom Haines, Tom Horne, and I flew up to Teterboro, New Jersey, for the shoot and Ford met us at the FBO door.

We waited in a large hangar for Ford’s mechanic to arrive with the keys to his helicopter. Just outside, an APU screamed, making conversation difficult. Some movie-related questions were met with polite nods. Noticing pop-out floats on the skids of Ford’s helicopter, I asked him if he ever flew the Hudson River corridor, a VFR route that follows the river right past Manhattan. Ford’s eyes sparkled as he responded, “Oh, yeah, all the time.”

We talked about flying the corridor, also a favorite of mine, until we gave up on the mechanic and went with Plan B, photographing Ford with a Beech B36TC Bonanza. He no longer owns that airplane, but our art folks found the photo (shown) in our files.

Look who’s in AOPA Pilot this month!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I don’t think of myself as a celebrity hound. However I’ve gotta admit that I gushed like a teenager when I interviewed Kurt Russell last year about his mentoring of other pilots (Me: “Mr. Russell I just love your movies and have been in love with you since I was a teenager.” Him: “Well, that’s very sweet Julie (call the stalker police).”

So when the call came through to this office that Harrison Ford wanted to speak with me, well, if I’d been here, I would have needed the gush-odometer. However that ever-lucky editor of mine–Tom Haines–got to take the call. He and Harry talked flying and then set up THE interview. But no, not with me. Barry Schiff–who has already flown more aircraft than most people will ever ever get the opportunity to and who hobnobs with all those Hollywood types out there in California, well, he got the interview.

OK, it’s good stuff. Lots of pilot-to-pilot talk. But, man, why don’t I get those kind of interviews? I won’t stalk them, I really won’t. I’ll give Kurt Russell’s phone number back someday, I’ll stop obsessively looking at the photo shoot for the Ford story…really, I will, Tom, really. Look for “Ford on Flying” in the June issue of AOPA Pilot. It’ll be in your mailbox around May 22.

Oh, and there are other great stories in the issue too–the Ryan PT-22 (that darn Barry Schiff got that one too); the King Air C90GTi; “the Candy Bomber;” a trip to Anuktuvuk Pass in Alaska where they fly even when it’s 60 degrees below zero…Mr. Ford, Mr. Ford, it’s me, Julie…