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


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?

APOD: Piper 4923T


Today’s APOD is a gorgeous PA-28R departing runway 25 at KSPG, Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Piper 4923T

Piper 4923T

Last spring I was planning to earn my high-powered/complex endorsement in an Arrow similar to this one. Unfortunately financial problems intervened and prevented me from flying that machine. I still lack my high-powered/complex endorsement.

One of these days the cashflow will improve and I will be back in the sky, hopefully earning endorsements and moving to my instrument and commercial ratings. Until then I take photos and wait. So it goes.

L-39: Jet Blast Warnings

One of my favorite things about aviation is the proliferation of simple yet ominous warning labels on things. For example, the ubiquitous NO STEP. What happens if we do step there? Does the airplane self-destruct? Does a tiny boxing glove on a spring come out and whack us in the nether regions? Nobody knows, because we follow the instructions and we don’t step on a NO STEP.

EXPERIMENTAL is another of my favorites, of course. Certification is for wimps and commies. Real pilots fly EXPERIMENTAL aircraft: home-built, home-designed, often better-performing though sometimes more lethal than their certified counterparts.

But jets have the coolest labels. For instance, this one, taken from an L-39 Albatros:



I think this would look smashing on a shirt, actually. Don’t you agree? Perfect for airshows!


Buy Me!




I could use this warning label at work. Meetings and conversations there are full of hot exhaust, as are a great many of my co-workers. I’m sure you all can relate. But I digress.

Another good one from the L-39 is BEWARE OF BLAST. Again, this could be useful in all sorts of contexts.



I don’t have a lot of other aircraft warning-label photos, but I may start making more. Any of you readers have a good or humorous aviation warning label or placard to share?

APOD: T-28’s at Temora

Today’s APOD comes courtesy of Mr. David Foxx, editor of Airscape Magazine.

This is a line up of T-28s facing the dawn for the recent Warbirds Downunder Show at Temora Aviation Museum, November 2nd, 2013. The sound when they all started up was bowel-loosening!
What a fantastic weekend it was! We camped on the airport with a couple of thousand other absolute aviation geeks – and I swear I could still smell avgas in my nostrils the day after I got home. Temora itself is a friendly little town in country New South Wales, Australia, that’s population trebles during the show. They take it all in their stride, with a welcome smile for all comers.
The Trojans are (from closest to farthest):
• T-28D “Mekong Moon” – registered VH-ZUK, cn 174-374, first assigned #51-7521
• T-28D “Just Dreamin’” – registered VH-ZUC, cn 174-429, first assigned #51-7576
• T-28B “Miss Stress” – registered VH-ZSH, cn 200-106
• T-28A “Littl Juggs” – registered VH-VBT, cn 171-27, first assigned #50-0221
• T-28D “DP-232” – registered VH-DPT, cn 200-303, first assigned #55-138232
YTEM T-28's; photo courtesy David Foxx.

YTEM T-28’s; photo courtesy David Foxx.

Truly the T-28’s are thunderous machines. I can feel my whole body rumble when they fire those massive radials up…thanks to Mr. Foxx for the submission, and be sure to check out Airscape Magazine, which is available through a lovely app on iOS and Android devices.


Do you have a photo to submit for APOD? Shoot me an email to airplanology@gmail.com with your photo and how you’d like to be credited!

The Prettiest Mooney In The World

I happen to like wild color schemes on airplanes. I think that an airplane should be something bright and vibrant, not something dull and corporate.

When you take a vibrant color scheme and put it onto something as naturally beautiful as a Mooney, you’ve got art that flies. Clean lines, good aerodynamics, bright colors…I try to appreciate airplanes not just as an efficient means of transportation, but as a manifestation of the intellectual challenges of engineering and as works of mechanical art.

With all that in mind, I happen to think this is the prettiest Mooney in the world. Maybe you’ve seen one that’s nicer, and if you have please share, but this…this caught my eye. If I had a little more disposable income I suspect it would have caught my wallet, too. Love at first sight…



Today’s photo: Tinstix!



This display of precise flying ability by Skip Stewart and Melissa Pemberton was without a doubt one of the most impressive acts I saw at Oshkosh this year. Dubbed Tinstix, the act features an incredibly precise routine with Stewart and Pemberton flying mirror-image aerobatics on opposite ends of the showline, swapping sides, then coming together in between for spectacular close formation flying. Remember those early 90’s break-dancing contests? It’s like that, but with airplanes and smoke. Tinstix is an awe-inpsiring display of precision aerobatics and masterful flying by both pilots, and this photo captures only a single moment in a routine made of awesome.



APOD: B-25 Landing


MitchellLandingKeeping with the B-25 for today, here’s a photo I took of a B-25 touching down on Runway 36L at KOSH this year during Oshkosh.

Every year when I see these old birds fly, I try to take a little extra time to appreciate them. Keeping an airplane like this flying is a labor of love by the entire crew, from mechanics to pilots to the people who raise money to keep them flying. And as much as I’d like to see them aloft indefinitely, there may come a day when many of these machines end up mothballed for one reason or another, confined to hangars or museums instead of roaring into the sky. Such thoughts are tragic, and I try to keep them at bay, but there is a nagging doubt in my mind that these birds won’t fly forever.

That being said, they fly now. And keeping them flying, both for the sheer love of aviation and out of respect for their historical significance, is a worthy goal. Next time you’re at an airshow, or at an aviation museum, donate a few bucks to keep these birds flying. Better yet, join your local EAA or CAF chapter and donate your time to one of these precious birds.

Wing Walking: Gene Soucy & Teresa Stokes


Wing Walking: Gene Soucy & Teresa Stokes

Today’s aviation photo captures one of the most awe-inspiring acts in aviation: the wing-walk. Here, Teresa Stokes walks the wing on Gene Soucy‘s Grumman AgCat.

Wing walking has to be one of the most physically and mentally challenging aviation feats there is. There must be perfect coordination between pilot and wing walker. The wing walker must be physically strong enough to withstand the 80-knot or so slipstream while moving around on the aircraft, waving, dangling legs, and hanging upside down from struts.

Not only does the wing walker have to do all of that, but she does it while the pilot flies a full aerobatic routine. I have enough trouble walking on level ground at times. To walk a wing while it flies an airshow routine is truly an awesome feat.

APOD: Matt Younkin takeoff


APOD: Matt Younkin takeoff

From the Oshkosh 2013 archives: Matt Younkin takes to the skies with a load of skydivers at Airventure 2013.

Matt Younkin has to be one of my favorite airshow performers. What he and that Beech do is graceful and beautiful; it is a delight to watch. And thanks to the awesome noise from those engines it is also a delight to listen when Matt flies.

The only thing better than watching Younkin fly during the day…is seeing him perform at night.