Your connection with the sky

Stalls, Spins, and Misunderstandings

, April 30th, 2012

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The general public understands that, when a car’s engine stops running in an unplanned sort of way, that engine has “stalled.”

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But “stall” means something completely different in the context of aviation.  A stall in an airplane usually has nothing to do with the engine. Sure, an airplane’s engine can stall, but aviators usually use some other word, such as “quit” or “stop.”

Let’s talk about how an airplane stalls. Airfoils develop lift by moving through the air. Airfoils include the wings on airplanes, the rotor blades on helicopters, and lots of other things. The control surfaces on airplanes and even the propeller blades themselves are also airfoils. Heck, a barn door can be an airfoil under the right circumstances. Read More >>

Am I Too Young or Too Old to Begin Flight Training?

, April 24th, 2012
Simple answer, no. Flight training is a powerful experience that age cannot intercept. The only setback is the FAA, the DMV of the sky, who sets regulations in place to protect pilots and passengers alike. But there is always a way to get in the front seat and go follow ones dream of learning to fly.

I’ll start by addressing the younger crowd. Get this, to begin flight training, there is no minimum age! To solo a single engine aircraft requires one to be 16 years old minimum.Then, at 17, one becomes an adult in the FAA’s eyes and is able to take a checkride and receive a pilot license. When we think of the younger generation, we tend to generalize this group to be fit and healthy. If this holds true, it will be no problem getting a third class medical certificate from an FAA registered doctor. It’s even said that those who are young learn faster and gain fluent muscle memory with a shorter amount of practice. If you can’t wait until you’re 16 to mark your first pilot in command solo flight, you can solo a glider at just 14! Doing anything alone at these young ages is a feat that deserves recognition, especially something many are so passionate about like flying an aircraft. If you’re old enough to comprehend this, you’re ready to learn how to land a plane. But, if one or ones parents disagree, home flight simulation on a computer is a lot of fun and believe it or not, it aids in learning the physics of flight. Read More >>

Weather (and other inconvenient setbacks)

, April 20th, 2012

Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE weather. But that’s not to say I’ve always loved weather. When I was little, I would take our two little poodles down into the basement with me as the first dark clouds rolled in, and there I would sit until the threat of danger receded. Mind you, there was hardly ever a threat of real danger, but after watching the movie Twister, every storm seemed like it would spawn a tornado at any moment. Today I thrive on the urgency of severe weather. My eyes are glued to the radar and I count down the minutes until I know we’ll get our first rain drops or hear thunder. After that, I can usually be found outside under an overhang or staring out the window enjoying Mother Nature’s wrath. Unfortunately, in the world of aviation, bad weather means one thing—you’re not going anywhere. Thanks to some extremely high winds, dense fog, and unusually early springtime showers, I didn’t go anywhere for almost two weeks.

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Can I really do this?

, April 16th, 2012

From the time you were little you knew you wanted to fly. You were enthralled by all sorts of aircraft—airplanes, helicopters, balloons and airships, and anything else that slipped the surly bonds of Earth. Only your imagination limited your possibilities.

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Childhood dreams are a vital inspiration. But now you're grown up and asking yourself some tough questions. What does it take to become a pilot? Can I really do this?

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Learning to fly is a serious undertaking. There are many questions to ask before that first lesson. Let's start with the most basic issues—the ones that often deter would-be pilots from even considering flight training. Read More >>

After the Forced Landing

, April 9th, 2012

I haven’t blogged in quite a while – and got several notes from readers who said “Don’t leave us hanging! What’s the end of the story?” My strong apologies and an explanation. My sister has lung cancer and it metastasized to her brain. I flew overseas to be with her and was gone for almost two months. I didn’t have any energy for blogging. She’s been discharged to hospice care and so we’re in a limbo, waiting. Thankfully, she’s in no pain. It was very hard leaving, knowing that I’ll probably never see her alive again.

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What type of segue sentence can move from that last paragraph to picking up the story of my flight home from Oshkosh? Nothing that I can think of, so I’ll just dive in.

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At the end of my last blog entry, I wrote how I’d had a forced landing in a field in Custer, WY. I was more annoyed than frightened when the engine quit. I’ve done dead sticks before, and in this case I was over wonderful landing spots: lots of wheat fields. I set up for a glide to a particularly large field, and brought her down nice and slow and straight, aligned with the pattern of the plowing. (You can tell that by looking at the edges of the fields.) I felt pretty good as my wheels started to touch the tops of the wheat – and was absolutely astounded when I suddenly found myself upside down, hanging from my harness, my face tickled by wheat! Read More >>