Archive for August, 2012

Photo of the Day: Top Cub in flight

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

CubCrafters’ Top Cub, photographed over Yakima, Washington, is a certified aircraft with a 180-hp engine and a gross weight of 2,300 pounds. It doesn’t qualify under the Light Sport Aircraft requirements, but its sister models–the Carbon Cub SS and the Sport Cub S2–do qualify.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Taxi time

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012



Do you remember the first time you taxied a GA airplane? Maybe you tried instinctively to turn the yoke as you would a steering wheel. Maybe, as you wobbled your way down the taxiway, you wondered if all of flying was going to be this bizarre. Or maybe you chalked it up to a new learning experience and just went with it. However your first time taxiing fared, the strangeness went away and you quickly became accustomed to navigating a perfect line. And your CFI never again called you “Mister Zig-Zag.”—Jill W. Tallman

The short list

Monday, August 20th, 2012

As much as pilots like hanging out with pilots, the fact is that in every population group, there is a small percentage that the larger percentage wish just wasn’t there. One of my favorite questions for folks I fly with is, “Who’s the worst captain you’ve ever flown with?” I ask this in part just for my own entertainment, but also because sometimes you can learn something from the stories.

As you might expect, certain names tend to be fairly common, making up what I call the short list. When I was a first officer, there were four or five, maybe 10, names that every FO wanted to avoid. That hasn’t changed much. Sometimes, a name comes up that others are surprised to hear.

When I was flying the right seat, I got stuck flying with a fellow for five days—my first five-day trip. By the end of the second day, I wanted to tar, feather, and set him on fire. We just didn’t get along. He was arrogant, cocky, and totally dismissive of any suggestions from someone who wasn’t…him. At least, that was how he presented himself to me. Others were shocked. Then again, other pilots complained about captains whom I would have been willing to fly with every day. Go figure.

But the one on my short list was also an owner of one of the out-of-nowhere airline pilot training schools that sprung up in the nineties. He quit to go to work for the school full time, and a few years later, one day after taking $80-100 thousand dollar deposits from several students, they shut the doors. It was an evil thing to do, and I hope he’s in jail for it. If he isn’t, I sure hope I never have to fly with him again…because I won’t.

But the list of those captains that people don’t like is so predictable that, as an FO begins to tell me a story, I can write the name down of who I think it is, show him the paper, and be right most of the time. The obvious question is, “What makes these guys so bad?” In a word, it is certain eccentricities. There is usually one trait that becomes overbearing to other crew members.

For instance, one was notorious for wanting certain numbers interpolated to make them as exact as possible. It was a ridiculous task; it wasn’t approved (nor required) by the FAA or the company; and it drove FOs nuts. Another would file ASAP reports over the most mundane items. The chart has a typo? ASAP report! Can’t read the mechanics’ writing? ASAP report! Another simply didn’t handle certain distractions well, would get flustered, then stutter.

A lot of times, it comes down to trust. If a captain is not a confident individual—and by that I mean if he doesn’t really trust his own ability to do his job well or his knowledge of it—he will trust the FO even less and scream and yell and carry on whenever the FO so much as sneezes. The biggest source of contention among FOs is the captain who claims to be standard and fly by the book, and then proceeds to list a series of “except for…” statements. You’re either standard, or you aren’t.

One was unpopular because all he did was break wind…the smelly kind. One would insist on eating tuna out of a can. One gave so many PA speeches it’s a wonder he had time to fly. But all were easy to fly with, and were good pilots and otherwise well liked. It’s the ones who come across as not-so-good that make you shake your heads.

I’ve been on the jumpseat of other airlines, and similar stories have come up. A name gets mentioned, and everyone on the flight deck knows who the individual is. Sometimes that notoriety is good to have, but other times…not so much.

The disappointing thing as a captain is to find out an FO you flew with has turned into one of the guys nobody likes. That makes me feel like I did not do as much as I could have to help mentor that individual. But the fact is that some guys are just destined to be on the short list, and sometimes it’s very predictable. Other times it isn’t, and when it isn’t, you try to explain how easy the guy or gal was to fly with when they were FOs, and you have to really argue your point. All you can do is sigh.

But one my favorite captains once said to me when I was a new hire, “You will learn far more about how to be a good captain from the (unmentionable name goes here) than you will from the good guys. The good guys make it appear so easy and fun because that’s what it should be. The (unmentionable name again goes here) just show you how to make life miserable.” Truer words were never spoken.—Chip Wright

Photo of the Day: News ‘copter

Monday, August 20th, 2012


 Mike Fizer photographed the Eurcopter Astar, a news helicopter for a Fox Channel 5 affiliate in New York City, near the Empire State Building.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: The ConVair Car

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Once in awhile, we like to shake things up a little and give you a Photo of the Day that’s, well, a little out of the ordinary. Hence the flying car image we found on the Lists o’ Plenty WordPress blog (

According to the author:

“The ConvAirCar was designed by the American Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss for the aviation company Consolidated-Vultee. This was a re-engined development of the Model 116, designed by Theodore P. Hall. The ConvAirCar debuted in 1947, and offered one hour of flight and a petrol mileage of 45 miles per gallon. Unfortunately a crash which occurred only 3 weeks after its first flight, and the resulting negative media quickly put any potential investors and customers off the project.”—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Crop dustin’

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Ag pilots rank right up there with bush pilots and military pilots when you’re talking about a certain type of aviator most of us would like to be. In this photo, Dan Geist sprays a sugar beet field in Crookston, Minnesota, flying his Air Tractor 502-B. Mike Fizer shot the photo to illustrate Mike Vivion’s 2007 AOPA Pilot article, “Low-Level, High Tech.” Vivion’s article describes how the industry evolved from working with primarily well-used biplanes to a fleet that employs many pilot-friendly and production-oriented features, such as seats mounted high for good visibility; steel cages to provide rollover protection; and even cockpit air conditioning.—By Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: The happy Champ

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

A friend of mine once owned an Aeronca Champ, which she affectionately called “The Happy Champ.” I’m not sure whether it earned its nickname because of its appearance or because of the emotions it inspired in her and others. In any event, the Champ is a popular member of the tailwheel family. While it doesn’t have the legion of fans that Piper Cubs boast, pilots new to tailwheel training enjoy the Champ because it’s a little more forgiving and it doesn’t sit up quite so high, making its forward view a bit better.–Jill W. Tallman

Who are your aviation heroes?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Who are your aviation heroes? Who inspires you to push on with your flight training even though quitting sometimes seems like a very attractive option?

The women in this photo are four pilots from the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. The WASP, as they were called, were civilians trained during World War II to ferry military aircraft. These four–Frances Green, Margaret (Peg) Kirchner, Ann Waldner, and Blanche Osborn–are shown at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio.

The WASP, collectively, helped me through some frustrating periods in my primary and instrument training. Each time I hit a stumbling block, I would reflect on those women and realize that if they could muscle around B-17s and B-26s, I should be able to handle something like a [insert maneuver here].

So who are your aviation inspirations? Which person or people gave you the inspiration and motivation to push on with your aviation goals? Please tell me in the Comments section, and I will blog your responses.–Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: 2005 Sweeps Commander

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

AOPA’s annual sweepstakes aircraft contest is a favorite among our members. Sometimes we acquire an older aircraft and refurbish it from the ground up. Sometimes–as is the case with this year’s Tougher than a Tornado Husky–the aircraft comes to us fairly new. (The Husky had sustained some damage in the storm that blew through Sun’n’Fun 2011. That’s since been repaired.) For the 2005 sweepstakes, we found a 1974 Rockwell Commander 112A that had a low-time engine and propeller and an airframe with just 2,038 hours. The Commander got a new instrument panel, among other upgrades. —Jill W. Tallman

The Idaho crash video: This is density altitude

Monday, August 13th, 2012

If you live in the flat lands like I do (303 feet above sea level), you’ve heard about the effects of high density altitude–but maybe it’s still a tough concept to grasp. The air’s less dense so there isn’t as much lift? Huh? AOPA’s aviation subject report puts it like this: “On a hot and humid day, the aircraft will accelerate more slowly down the runway, will need to move faster to attain the same lift, and will climb more slowly.” (There’s a lot more information in the subject report. It’s worth your time to review it, and your CFI will give you a gold star.)

A pilot and three passengers in Idaho have provided us with probably the most compelling, graphic display of high density altitude’s effect on aircraft performance that you could ever hope to see. Please be advised that while all four in the aircraft survived the crash, disturbing footage of the pilot’s injuries appears at 5:20. Click here for the video. Student pilots: You’ll note that the aircraft takes a long, long, long time to lift off from the runway, which was near the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.  

The preliminary NTSB findings for the accident are here.–Jill W. Tallman