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 (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.

APOD: Bayflite

Medical helicopters are a great asset for EMS providers. When every second counts, when the time to transport a critically injured human being by ground would prove fatally long, helicopters come to the rescue. 


In my career in the hospital, I’ve seen countless lives saved by the gift of air transport. Many patients would not have survived their traumas, or would have had much lower chances of survival, were it not for the men and women who fly these fantastic machines.


As with anything aviation, it is a calculated risk. There have been mishaps, but the ratio of lives saved to lives lost leaves no doubt that medical helicopters are invaluable assets for EMS providers, and by extension for the public at large.


So next time you hear the clattering thunder of rotor blades in the sky, look up and say a  thank you to an EMS pilot for the life-saving work that they do.

Aviation Photo of the Day: Ramped

Having obtained my FAA medical certificate with no major issues, I am no longer grounded!

Though I am legal to fly, budget issues here at Airplanology HQ have me ramped for the foreseeable future.


Legal to fly but short on funds. Ramped…

Part of it is for a good cause: my June flying budget went to a trip home to Maine, and much of July will be going to fund my excursion to Oshkosh. This when my flight school has two new airplanes to fly and OpenAirplane is open for business…typical!

But it’s not all bad. On my recent trip home to Maine, a friend was kind enough to bring me along for a flight in the mountains of western Maine and eastern New Hampshire in his airplane. The scenery in Maine puts flying in the midwest to shame…just a gorgeous place to be airborne. Look for more from my trip in the days to come, and more of the usual nonsense you’ve come to expect from Airplanology!


New flying video: Chicago sunset!

Well, a month or so after I flew it, I finally finished editing the video from my sunset flight over the Chicago skyline.

This version runs a little longer but has a ton of ATC/Comms and some nice views of the city, plus a photo of a B737 at sunset thrown into the mix.


Hope you enjoy! Some video from my recent flight to Kankakee, and a shorter version of the sunset flight will follow soon.

Aviation Photo of the Day: RV Glow!

You’ve heard of the RV Smile, the look on a builder’s face when they sit in the pilot’s seat of their brand-new RV and grin ear-to-ear at what they’ve accomplished. After the RV smile comes the RV glow, the overall sensation of happiness and accomplishment that seems to accompany many of these masterful aircraft.

And today, we see a literal RV glow. Brent Owens, author of the fabulous, a flying blog for pilots, builders, and owners, has contributed today’s APOD. It’s a beautiful photo of Brent’s RV-8 banking into the setting sun.





Sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to fly. Long shadows, intense lights, bright colors, and still air combine to make early and late day flying exceptionally vibrant. Add in an RV-8…and you’ve got pilot heaven.

Aviation Photo of the Day: I’m In a Balloon

From the archives: a hot air balloon makes a giant exclamation point on some trees as it lifts off the ground on a humid Central Florida morning.



It’s as if the shadow is expressing the joy of human flight. “I’m airborne! It’s the triumph of the human spirit over gravity! I can finally live out the dreams of ancient man and rise up into the sky…”

Or, only slightly less inspiring:

“Holy shit! This wicker basket and fabric envelope can actually fly!

Aviation Photo of the Day: Thunderbirds (Stop the Sequester!)

From my photo archives, the USAF Thunderbirds as seen at the always awesome Sun-n-Fun fly in!



The Thunderbirds are one of the finest flying teams in the world today. Their close-in formation flying and precision team aerobatics are amazing. The level of precision with which they fly is inspiring. The maneuvers they perform are splendid demonstrations of how beautiful the interaction between man and machine can be when it is done right.

Sadly, the Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels may find their ability to perform hampered by congressional ineptitude. The dreaded Sequester is slated to go into effect on March 1, with across-the-board spending cuts eviscerating the capabilities of much of the federal government.

While we can all agree that federal spending needs to be controlled, Sequester is a terrible way to achieve this goal. Universal cuts that hack across all departments and most programs will be harmful to the country. My own aspirations to be an air traffic controller could be harmed as Sequester is going to cut about $600 million from the FAA budget. There are whisperings of a hiring or training freeze, and of controller furlough…not good for me or the traveling public.

If Congress were more like the Thunderbirds, they would work together to achieve a common goal. The Thunderbirds don’t all get to be Thunderbird One; but even Thunderbird Seven, on the ground, is an integral part of the team. They don’t always fly the same direction, but they always work together, and even when they’re flying diverging courses they work as a team.

Instead, Congress is like a mid-air collision: two parties at cross purposes who fail to communicate and therefore end up ruining lives and destroying lots of valuable things. If our congress could learn to work together, or at LEAST to make a reasonable compromise, our nation would be that much stronger.

Keep our country strong and our demo teams flying! Write your congressman today and tell them that compromise is an art that will make us all stronger. Stop the Sequester and let’s get America back on track.