For pilots, aviation students, and those who are thinking about learning to fly. Interact with some of aviation’s top flight instructors and authors from ASA.

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Birthday Flowers

When celebrating birthdays with zeros in them, flowers alone won’t do it. So when Jean marked a new decade last March I sought a worthy weekend getaway. With most places still wintry, it made little sense leaving balmy Phoenix for somewhere frigid. But then I remembered our wish-list destination of Death Valley, California, tolerable only in winter when everywhere else is too cold. I phoned for a room.

Clearing the Funeral Mountains, we descended into Death Valley.

Clearing the Funeral Mountains, we descended into Death Valley.

“Sorry,” said the agent, “We’re booked up for Saturday night. Thanks to record rains, everyone’s coming for the biggest wildflower season in years.” He offered a room for Sunday. “Seems weird celebrating a birthday in Death Valley,” said Jean, but tantalized by those flowers she arranged Monday off of work. Sunday morning we sailed 2-1/2 hours westward from Phoenix, escaping rain and icy clouds for increasingly barren terrain.

Bypassing Las Vegas, we descended over the desolate Funeral Mountains into a moonscape of salt flats and mineral-tinted rock. There we spotted Furnace Creek Airport next to a tiny palm-studded rectangle, the only visible green in all of Death Valley. Our altimeter on downwind indicated 600 feet – field elevation here is minus 210 feet. Read More »

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A Pilot’s Story

A documentary film celebrating the passion for flight

Rico Sharqawi/Producer

A Pilot’s Story is a feature length documentary film that explores the mystical attraction and endless adventure that draw pilots into the sky. Exhilarating and inspiring, the story is told in the voices of the interview subjects, a gallery of noted aviators ranging from aerobatic champions and astronauts to industry innovators and Hollywood stars. Incorporating stunning air-to-air footage, the film will transport viewers into the flyer’s world to experience the milestones and the magic that are a part of every pilot’s story.

pilotstory

The public has long been fascinated by pilots, mystified about the world they inhabit and curious about what it really means to fly. In this feature length documentary, pilots explain in their own words their love affair with the sky, and why and how they fly. Read More »

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Aerial Road Trip to Oshkosh

Crowds. Craziness. Music. It’s enough to justify a road trip. I’m not talking Woodstock here, but AirVenture, that surprisingly similar event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. AirVenture’s tunes come not from wailing guitars but from airplane engines — vying like Stratocasters for the crowd’s approval are roaring radials and screaming Merlins. Like Woodstock, there’s a crowd of individualists here, their tents pitched under wings as far as the eye can see. Most people keep their clothes on, but where else can you watch a rocket-powered biplane fly 4,000 feet straight up? No wonder we, the faithful, are drawn each year to this mammoth Oshkosh tent revival, worshipping side-by-side the flying machines that draw us skyward.

The wonder of Oshkosh extends beyond AirVenture itself to the innumerable aerial road trips spawned by the event.

Morning mist fills valleys in Arizona’s White Mountains.

Morning mist fills valleys in Arizona’s White Mountains.

“Where did you come from? What do you fly?” For one week a year these questions fuel conversation at Oshkosh and airports all across the country. Devotees from far corners of the continent pile into everything from ultralights to bizjets and migrate toward Mecca.

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Failures on the Flight Path to Success

“Did you know that women ruined aviation?” asked the examiner.

I stared at the man across the desk with a blank look, not sure if I should laugh or cry. It was my instrument rating oral exam, and I was as nervous as I always am before a test, trying to keep my sense of humor while panic closes in.

“Back in the ‘60s, when they allowed women to fly in the military,” he continued, “airplane designers had to reconfigure the cockpit just to accommodate them. They even lowered the standards so they could fly.”

“I should have been flying back then,” I joked, trying to lighten the moment. While the examiner did not laugh once during our three hours together, I did survive the exam and earned my rating that day.

The moral of the story? Hang in there, keep punching, and don’t let ‘em see you sweat. In ten years of flight training, from age 40 to 50, I took five oral exams, two which I failed the first time and had to retake.

twin-engine-seminole-panelThe oral exam for my multi-engine rating began with a weight and balance problem, based on our upcoming flight. My examiner was a big man with tortoise-shell glasses who wasn’t interested in small talk. Since he left the room before I could ask his weight, I had to guess. I was certain he wouldn’t want me to underestimate it, since that could be dangerous.

His upper arms looked large, and a “bay window” hung over his belt. Read More »

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On Vacation this Summer: Great places to get into the pilot’s seat!

LSA “trike” over Kauaii

LSA “trike” over Kauaii

Kauai, Hawaii… what a great way to get to see a new place from a gorgeous perspective! And if you’re already a flight student, a wonderful way to build hours and try a new aircraft, as well. Read More »

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Choosing Your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

Unlike your parents, you get to choose your flight instructor. So take advantage of this precious opportunity now. (And avoid therapy later.)

Have you started your flight training yet? If not, why? Still looking for that perfect CFI?

It’s not uncommon for prospective student pilots to delay flight training months or even years, waiting for the perfect CFI to come knocking on the door. The trouble is, CFIs never come knocking on the door. (Hell, you’re lucky if some of them even show up for lessons on time.)

And “perfect” is really a loaded term when it comes to CFIs anyway. What’s perfect? Smart? Sexy? Funny? Knowledgeable? On most of these accounts you’re in luck:

  • Smart? Many CFIs are smart, often to the point of irritation. It can be particularly endearing when all that brainpower comes tucked behind a forehead that still dreads acne.
  • Sexy? Most CFIs are reasonably attractive, some being downright gorgeous. If you learn best whilst you giggle and blush, this is the attribute to consider. And though “distractions” are an important part of primary pilot training, distractions on this scale are really better suited toward more advance pilot training, like instrument or commercial ratings.
  • Funny? None are as funny as me, so let’s skip this one.
  • Knowledgeable? I’ll bet this is the one that’s holding you up. How do you know how knowledgeable a person is about a subject you don’t know yourself?

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Festival Flying

Ernie Adams shows off his ’39 Chevy at the Route 66 Fun Run stop in Seligman, Arizona.

Ernie Adams shows off his ’39 Chevy at the Route 66 Fun Run stop in Seligman, Arizona.

“Hey, Dan, check out that ’39 Chevy. It’s just like the one I owned in high school – even the same color!” Dan drives a tricked out Camaro, so I doubt he appreciated the old car’s beauty as I did. Then again, my view was burnished by memories. As we crossed the road to see it, I remembered my dad encouraging me to buy the low-mileage antique he’d spotted on a street corner. Among life’s rich lessons was when girls at the Dog ‘n Suds drive-in bypassed the muscle cars to ride in my emerald Chevy. It only did 55mph, but like puppies and babies it exuded character so the girls loved it. Best of all, the narrow front seat ensured that such passengers rode deliciously nearby. After graduation I rebuilt the engine and journeyed in the old auto from Chicago through Canada to Maine and back.

As Dan and I approached the car, however, something didn’t seem right. In hazy memories my old Chevy loomed much larger. Certainly I didn’t recall bending down to look inside, as we did with this one. Read More »

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Upside Down and Out

I thought I was doing fine flying loops and rolls, even a hammerhead, in the brand-new Pitts S2C with only 36 hours on the tachometer. A half-hour earlier, Sean D. Tucker (yes, world-famous airshow performer Sean D. Tucker) had said jokingly, “Now don’t lose your lunch in my new airplane, Laurel.” But, the flat spin did me in.

I was in this position because a few months earlier I had attended my first Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference in Denver, Colo. It was full of young women, like bees on a flower bush, buzzing around from booth to booth looking for commercial flying jobs. I was merely working toward becoming a flight instructor, a goal already attained by most of the women (who were far younger than my 50 years).

Not looking for a job, I had plenty of time to hang around the fund-raising silent auction table where I found one item I was willing to bid on: two hours of aerobatic flight lessons with Sean D. Tucker. His home base is Salinas, Calif., a four-hour drive from my home in Truckee, Calif., so it wasn’t an impossible wish. I had no idea what it was worth, but I thought I could afford $400 for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

About an hour before the bidding closed, I noticed that I was competing with one other woman who was raising the bid $20 every time. The price was up to $500, but I caught a glimpse of her across the room—twenty-ish, tall, blond, attractive, with a whole flying life ahead of her—and was inspired.

In the final moments, my competitor and I were standing shoulder to shoulder at the auction table with pens in hand. As she wrote in $600, she said, “I can’t really afford this.” Quickly scribbling $620 on the next line, I responded, “I can’t either, but I’m older than you, and this may be my last chance.” Perhaps she was relieved. I’ll never know, but she put down the pen and walked away.

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Stop Doing What You Do So Well!

Are you a creature of habit when it comes to flying practice? Maybe that’s not such a good thing.

Anyone who’s seen the inside of a gym can tell you: those with toned arms always have a weight in their hands, and those with killer legs are always squatting, extending, pressing, etc.

And, it makes sense: How else did they get that way if it wasn’t for all that hard work?

But those solid arms are often held up by chicken legs, and those award-worthy stumps are often supporting T-Rex-like upper torsos.

The trouble is, we tend to favor what works for us, whether in the gym or in the cockpit.

If you’re like many pilots, you practice, by instinct, what you already do pretty well. If you’re practicing soft field take-offs all the time, I’ll bet I could rely on you to get us out of the muddy grass. Or, if you’re practicing Read More »

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(Video) Why fly Light Sport Aircraft?

If you’re tight for time and prefer moving pictures over reading text, I’ve produced a quick video to give you a better answer to why you should consider learning to fly Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). It’ll take about a minute to run.

About Paul

Paul Hamilton is recognized as an expert in the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category. He is a pilot, flight instructor, aviation engineer, consultant, writer, video producer and business owner. Through his company, Adventure Productions, Paul specializes in teaching and informing people about flying (especially LSA) including students, pilots, instructors, mechanics, engineers and aerodynamicists.

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