About Ben D

I'm a private pilot and aviation enthusiast. I took my first flight in 1998, took a decade off, and earned my pilot certificate in October 2010. Join me here as I ramble on about airplanes, gliders, helicopters, and other things with wings.

From the archives: P-51 at KTIX

With no new aviation photographs to share, I’ve decided to sift through my archives. Today I bring you two photos from the airshow in Titusville, FL in 2011.

F-16 and P-51: Heritage Flight

F-16 and P-51: Heritage Flight

A Cub sneaking in for a strafing run on a P-51.

A Cub sneaking in for a strafing run on a P-51.

With any luck, I’ll have some fresh aviation experiences soon. Observing from the ground is great but the taste of the sky is something else altogether.



NotKosh 14: Remembering OSH13

Today marked the beginning of the annual EAA convention and fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Oshkosh is Mecca for pilots. It is hallowed ground, the heart and soul of general aviation. It is pilot heaven.

T-28 Trojan

Unfortunately, I can’t make the pilgrimage to Oshkosh this year. But I can sit and fondly contemplate my memories from Oshkosh past, while looking forward to Oshkosh yet to come.

USCG Grumman Albatross

In that spirit, I’ll be posting photos from Oshkosh past throughout the week. And if any of my readers happen to be out and about at Oshkosh, send me a pic to share and have some extra fun for me.

Update for July 25

Florida has welcomed me back with open arms. The lush vegetation, the thick humid air, the late afternoon thunderstorms and the phenomenal opportunities to see marine birds have kept me quite happy since my return to the great expansive swamp.

My return to the skies, however, has been postponed by fiduciary gremlins. Moving across the nation is an expensive proposition. Between moving, sorting out bills, a weird gap in pay, and an unexpected medical expense, I’m missing the magical green paper that makes airplanes fly.

But things are on the up and up. My co-pilot in life and I have made a five-year plan, and one of my top priorities is to get back in the air and stay there. Things are finally stabilizing. I suspect that the timing will work out perfectly: I should be able to afford to fly right around the time the weather in Florida shifts from thermonuclear to merely extremely hot.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting my annual itch to make changes and re-invent my blog persona. With that in mind I’ve created a short survey. It’s only four questions and it would help me figure out what direction to take this in. If you’d fill it out I’d be much obliged.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Thanks for helping. Things are looking up. And I’m looking skyward.

Relocation Complete

At long last the dust has settled. Florida has welcomed me back with open arms and things are finally settling out.

I had hoped to fly again before the end of June, but the financial impact of the move has been worse than I anticipated. Between moving expenses and some required maintenance on the car, my flying budget has been somewhat anemic. By which I mean nonexistent.

But that’s a minor setback. A few more weeks and things should stabilize out nicely, and if I’m lucky I’ll be flying again before July is out. There’s a nearby airfield that has a fleet of Cessnas just waiting for me to fly them.

Meanwhile, I’m going to start getting into the local aviation scene. I hope to begin attending some of the local EAA meetings, AOPA safety seminars, and any other aviation meetings I can find.

Despite the minor budgetary setbacks, I believe this move will be good for my aviation future. The short-term game is not optimal, but in the long term, moving back to the swampland will bring me more flying experience and put a few more hours in my logbook. It’s hot as hell, but I’m glad to be back in the swamplands. Like the citrus, the flying here is abundant and sweet. Just a few more weeks and I’ll be free to fly.

Relocation: In Progress

Greetings loyal readers:

The relocation to Florida is almost complete. I and my feline companions are here, as well as a small and condensed version of my stuff. The remainder of my stuff is in transit and should be here within a week or two.

Work begins this coming week, with orientation expected to take the better part of a month. It could take longer, but with almost a decade of experience in the industry I anticipate a somewhat condensed period of training. I will be performing tasks at my new job that I have not performed in a few years so there will likely be recurrent training.

And speaking of recurrent training, I should be FLYING again soon! At the moment it looks like the income stream will be stabilized and balanced out by the end of June, at which point I should be able to head out to my local airport and get a rental checkout. I prefer my wings on the bottom, but the nearest flight school has a nice and inexpensive fleet of 172’s available for rent, so I may be flying wings-high for now.

Once the rental checkout is complete I’ll be flying as regularly as I can afford. Never as much as I want, but always as much as I can afford.

I look forward to being aloft again. I’m planning some cool flights to take once I’m checked out, and I can’t wait to share them with you here!

Big Changes Afoot

It looks like big changes are afoot here at Airplanology HQ. After a long period of chaos and stagnation and frustration following the CTI school / FAA BQ crisis, things are finally breaking up in a way that will bring positive changes in my direction.

I’ve accepted a job offer back in the swamplands of Florida. It’s not an aviation job, but it’s a stable job with decent pay. Among other benefits, I should be able to get back into the air! I’ve found an FBO that rents some nice 172’s, and after I settle in some I’d like to get a VFR checkout and get back to flying for fun.

My goal is to have four or five pleasure flights, then buckle down and begin the hood work for my instrument rating. I’ve been a VFR pilot for four years and it’s high time to upgrade my skills and enter the awesome world of instrument flying. The instrument rating is truly indispensable.

So posting may continue to be a bit light around here for the next several weeks. I’ll be packing, coordinating the logistics of the move, and settling in. But with any luck I will soon be documenting my brief respites from gravity with new flying photos or videos.

Wish me luck!


APOD: Howard 500

Today’s APOD comes to you from Oshkosh 2013.

The Howard 500 is a striking aircraft. A beautiful twin-radial taildragger, the 500 is a golden-age executive transport, the Gulfstream of its time. Rumor has it that the interior is relatively spacious, and quite nicely appointed in leather and wood, though I cannot independently confirm that.

Of the original production run, only a few airframes remain, and last I knew only two are still flying. Both of these beautiful birds were at Oshkosh, and I vividly remember their pass over the show line sending chills down my avgeek spine. Aircraft like this are a treasure, and the fact that they can still ply the skies puts a smile on my face.

Due to some unfortunate technical limitations I couldn’t get a good action shot of the 500’s flying. But my camera has been substantially upgraded, and I have high hopes for Oshkosh 2014!

Until then, enjoy this photo of the Howard 500 taxiing down the show line, and think back to the glory days of general aviation.

Howard 500 taxiing, Oshkosh 2013

Howard 500 taxiing, Oshkosh 2013

Ghosts of Sun n Fun Past

The Sun n Fun fly-in and aviation expo extraordinaire is happening NOW in sunny Lakeland, Florida!

I had had high hopes of attending this year’s Sun n Fun festivities. Alas, I am not there to partake. Things here at Airplanology HQ have been fairly hectic of late. But with any luck I’ll be at Sun n Fun 2015…

Since I can’t be there this year, I will re-live years past through photographs. Enjoy a few raw pics from the ghosts of Sun n Fun past.

F4U Corsair, SnF 2008

F4U Corsair, SnF 2008

Flagship Detroit, SnF 2009

Flagship Detroit, SnF 2009

Consolidated B-24 Liberator Ol' 927

Consolidated B-24 Liberator Ol’ 927

Ol' 927 airborne

Ol’ 927 airborne


F-22 Raptor

F-22 Raptor, SnF 2011


Aviation Bucket List: Top Eight

As part of my ongoing effort to re-focus after the much-bemoaned (and ongoing) FAA hiring debacle, I’ve decided it would be neat to make an Aviation Bucket List.

After all, aviation is a pretty broad interest. There are so many things to experience in the world of flight. From skydiving to ballooning to flying a sailplane or a helicopter, it all sounds pretty awesome. And while I may never get to sit in the left seat of a 747, there are a lot of very attainable goals I can put on my aviation bucket list. Here are my top eight.

1: IFR

First and foremost I need to finish my IFR ticket. I don’t suspect I’ll be doing a lot of IFR cross-countries any time in the immediate future, but having the instrument rating makes you a safer pilot. Whether it’s flying at night or being able to go when the weather is less than perfect, IFR is the top of my list. I may never have a panel as nice as the one below, but getting instrument rated is a must.

Dassault Falcon 2000 LX cockpit

By JetRequest.com (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2: Gliders

While it’s pretty well documented that the instrument rating makes you a safer pilot, I would wager that there are statistics out there proving that the glider rating makes you a safer pilot too. Two of the most famous plane crashes where everyone survived…United 1549 with Capt. Sullenberger and the Gimli Glider…were landed by pilots with extensive training in sailplanes. It’s one thing to fly when the engines work, but flying with no engines at all gives one a whole new appreciation for aerodynamics and the importance of good aeronautical skill.

US Navy 080921-N-4469F-002 Manfred Radius demonstrates the capabilities of his sailplane during the 50th Anniversary Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show

By U.S. Navy photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3: Skydiving

Why would any pilot jump out of a perfectly good airplane?

Because it would be awesome, that’s why. I’ve experienced the sky from the cockpit and I’ve experienced it from a balloon, but free falling through the air would be something else altogether. And under my placid exterior is a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Which brings me to my next entry…

4: Upset Recovery Training

I feel comfortable with stalls. I practice stalls pretty regularly when I am able to go flying, because fear of the stall will make recovery from the stall much harder. It’s good to know how your airplane will feel when it’s about to dump lift.

That said, I am less proficient at spins and unusual attitudes. I’ve only ever spun a plane twice, both times on purpose and with an instructor. And that was in 2010, during my primary flight training. I’d really like to spend a day in an aerobatic airplane with an instructor practicing spins and unusual attitude recovery. It makes you a more proficient pilot AND it’s a boatload of fun!

5: Get my wings wet

I love my airplanes, but the only thing I love more might be an airplane that can get wet. Seaplanes have always taken up a lot of room in my heart. There’s something very romantic and appealing about the notion of pulling out of the hangar, flying off the pavement, and landing on some remote lake for a few days of camping or even just a few hours of seclusion. The seaplane rating is a must-have for this pilot.

6: Fly a warbird

I’d really like to own a warbird. Something like a T-6 or even a Pilatus P-3 could be a realistic warbird option for me in the future, depending how the financial situation stacks up in the years to come. But whether or not I ever get to own one, I would sure love to get some stick time. Places like Warbird Adventures and Stallion 51 give ordinary pilots the chance to take the controls of these remarkable airplanes for a few unforgettable minutes. I need to do this before the warbirds are gone.

7: Fly a jet

Outside the wonderful world of flight simulation (as an aside: fuck you, CNN. Flight simulators are awesome) I’ve never flown a jet. My understanding, primitive as it may be, is that jets are quite a different animal from pistons. They are a lot less ‘seat-of-the-pants’ and a lot more by the book than pistons.

It would be pretty radical to score some stick time in a jet. Even something like the SubSonex would be a blast to fly, and if the guys at Sonex can pull the SubSonex off as a kit plane we might start seeing more home-built jets on the market.



8: Build a plane

Speaking of homebuilts, I want to make one of my own. I’m no machinist and my experience with metal is…well, I don’t have any. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of other pilots and aviation geeks from building their own airplanes.

While the Sonex used to top my list for it’s phenomenal fuel economy, I think I might prefer the Vans RV-12. The -12 is well suited for my ‘mission,’ which is usually short-haul cross-countries to sightsee or eat lunch, and the Rotax engine takes Mogas as well as Avgas and is not particularly thirsty.

That said, the RV-7 could enable me to get lunch faster…and upside-down. Decisions, decisions.


Aviation is pretty amazing. While there is so much more I’d like to do…multi-engine, helicopters, an A&P rating…these eight items make my to-do list for now. What’s on your bucket lists?

The hell with it, let’s go flying

Flying is within our grasp. We have naught to do but take it. ~Charles Duryea

My aviation pursuits have taken substantial damage of late. I’m on fire, my airframe is failing, and the ground is rising and twisting to smack me out of the air for good.

Time to bail out and start from scratch.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29S (9-13S), Russia - Air Force AN0196348

My flying budget was eviscerated by my student loans. To add insult to injury mysterious hiring policy changes at the FAA effectively killed my career prospects in air traffic control. I’m right back where I started, only now I’m yoked to the bank until I die.

But all is not lost. It’s just time for a change of strategy. I think it’s time to stop fighting it so hard and just roll with the resources I have. I have some amazingly supportive family and friends. I have a career that can pay the bills and I have a deep seated love of flight. These are all good things. With some good thinking and good luck, I can rearrange my life so that I can afford to fly a few times a month. I think that would be far more beneficial for me than banging my head against the career wall indefinitely.

It’s time to pursue a life free of ambition and the chains that it brings. It’s time to relax, surround myself with good people, and go flying when I can. I may not be able to make a living with it, but maybe that’s for the best. I can enjoy it for what it is and not feel the stress that flying for a living brings. I can let work be work and play be play and improve my quality of life all around.

The plane of my ambitions may be on fire and screeching to a rude meeting with terra firma. But I will survive. As long as this parachute doesn’t fail I’ll live to fly again another day.