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Future Flight

Technological advances in aviation are few, slow and occur in small increments. Aside from composite materials, airframes are essentially unchanged over the last 70 years. Engines? Well, there have been a few interesting attempts to modernize, but even the antiquated magneto spark remains dominant. So, the aviator seeking the latest advances has to focus on electronics, which, fortunately, are evolving at a remarkably fast pace.

Our Training Sucks

Competition breeds innovation and lower prices. I think I read that a few decades ago in a business course. Sounds about right.

Keep those NASA forms handy

Last January, the FAA changed internal policy on reporting potential pilot deviations. The stated goal was to discover why adverse safety events happen and identify the risks. The real-world fallout of this is pilots are getting warning letters in the mail for events they would have blown off in the past.

Later-life flight: Part two

My editorial on learning to fly after the kids are grown (Flight Begins at 40, or Maybe 50, March 2012 IFR) struck a chord and earned several responses. The story was consistent: Im 50 (or 60 or 70) and just learned to fly. Youre right, we need older people acting as advocates to get more people with the means and the long-dormant wanting to make the leap.

Looking for eight more lives

My home recently came under the attack of two adopted, seven-month-old kittens. Watch these pint-sized entropy enhancers for five minutes and youll know why they say cats have nine lives. Climbing the curtains sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Now hanging in space by 10 front claws and slipping, diverting to a Plan B might be in order. Then superior engineering borne of millennia of evolution kicks in, and dropping 15 times their own height ends with a perfect landing and a surprise attack on the lamp cord.

Black ops for Black boxes

Today I'm daydreaming about sneaking into a boardroom where avionics execs are brainstorming the next generation of avionics. The more time I spend with...

Flight begins at 40, or maybe 50

One of my secret wishes is that when Im 90 Ill have at least half the belly-fire of Howie Keefe. The man is 90 (or maybe 91 now) and still attacks the day like hes flying a P-51-something he did 'round the pylons of Reno many years back. Thats just one facet of a flying career that would keep your rapt attention over several beers.

The sound of paper charts dying

One of the bigger aviation stories as 2011 wound to a close was the fact that the FAA was going to start charging for...

Getting What we Pay for?

As I write this editorial, the pilot community is buzzing with the news that Aeronav (a.k.a., the government chart folks) is going to start charging for the digital chart downloads after April 5, 2012. Well cover the fallout of this for IFR pilots in the next issue, as much of that fallout hinges on a meeting that wont happen until after we go to press.

Portable vs. Panel

I recently got an e-mail asking about ForeFlight's plans to add synthetic vision and asked myself if that even made sense. Is synthetic vision...

Look Out Below

Last month we published an excellent article by Lee Smith, "Danger Below MDA." In it, Lee points out that for many non-precision approaches you...

Dont Need no Stinkin Pilots

There are only four reasons for pilots: military, function, transportation and fun. The military is largely independent, so we can ignore them. Function might include taking tourists up for a great view or it could mean flying miles of pipeline looking for oily, wet spots. Transportation is obvious: people and stuff need to get from all the Points A to all the Points B. Finally, fun is the reason were willing to spend thousands a year to go out to the airport on a nice Saturday and spend a couple hundred more to fly somewhere for a bad hamburger.