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



One of the best news sources these days is The Economist. Their ‘Difference Engine’ columnist, Babbage, has written an interesting piece detailing his views on cockpit automation and how it has affected airline flying. The usual suspects are identified: increasing complexity of flight management systems, lack of hand-flying time, and over-reliance on the onboard computers to achieve flight tasks. While automation and technology are obviously helpful in many ways, it would seem that they can have the ironic effect of distracting the pilot from actually flying.

Not being an airline pilot, of course, my opinion is pure idle speculation. But even in my GA flying I’ve seen (and experienced) the distractions that technology can impose. Automation and advanced technologies definitely help increase our efficiency and simplify many (often tedious) tasks, but they seem to have the effect of exchanging situational awareness with technological awareness. A pilot I know summed it up best while showing me a G1000 display in a Cessna 182:

This thing is great, but it will make you dumb if you let it. The ultimate paradox of modern technology.

Aviation Photo of the Day: KBML


Flying in Maine is a stark contrast from flying in Chicago. In Chicago, you have about 30 miles of sprawl radiating out from city center. There’s a brief transition as the suburbs peter out, and then suddenly you’re over cornfields for eternity.

Maine, or at least the part I was flying in, is not very densely populated. We took off in central Maine and pointed the nose towards the mountains that divide us and New Hampshire…and flew over dense forest and the occasional small New England town carved out of the granite. No suburbs, no sprawl. Forest and mountains.



Even the airports are rather picturesque, in my opinion.

Of course, not all of New England is like this, and it probably won’t stay this way forever. I need to make my way back home so I can treasure it while it lasts.


Aviation Photo of the Day: Maine


As I mentioned yesterday, I was recently given the privilege of flying with a friend in my home state of Maine.

My first flying lessons were in Maine, but I finished my lessons in the swamps and orange groves of central Florida. And most of my flying since has been over the endless soybeans, corn, and urban sprawl of northern Illinois.

Don’t get me wrong: flying anywhere is a treat. And Florida and Illinois both have their scenic places. But flying in Maine is one endless scenic vista, eye candy as far as you can see: lush forests and dense vegetation, ancient mountains and hidden lakes, fjords and rivers. The experience of flying in the mountains of western Maine is something altogether different from the experience of flying the flatlands.

Parked at 0B1 Maine: majestic!

I like it.


Aviation Photo of the Day: Teresa Stokes

To put your life in danger from time to time…breeds a saneness in dealing with day-to-day trivialities.
~Nevil Shute, Slide Rule


Teresa Stokes walking the wing on Gene Soucy’s awesome AgCat.

Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn’t get much more awe inspiring than that.

Positive Control

Being a pilot means being proactive, taking control. A reactive pilot probably has a shorter lifespan than a proactive pilot. My last flight had two moments that illustrated that for me.

Approaching Kankakee, their AWOS was reporting wind from 340 at 4. I made the standard radio calls and was lined up for downwind on 34 when I noticed a small low-wing waiting behind the hold short lines on runway 4.

Kankakee airport.

Kankakee (KIKK)

As you can see, the end of runway 34 crosses runway 4. In the event that I made a go-around or landed long at the same time as this guy was rolling for takeoff, we could experience a mid-air or on-ground collision. Is that likely? Not really, but it would be a very bad day if it happened. I made a change of plans.

“Kankakee traffic, Archer 175…I see someone on the hold short for runway four, so I’m going to go south of the field and circle around to a straight-in for runway four.”

A voice crackled over the unicom. “Oh…well, thanks a lot. We were going to wait for you but we can go now. That really cuts down our ground time, thanks a lot…Piper now taking runway four for departure to the north.”

A quick exchange of courtesies followed. I flew several miles south, then west, and made a three-mile final for runway four. It took maybe an extra three minutes on my part, but I felt a lot safer eliminating the variable of a departing aircraft on the crossing runway. As an added bonus the other pilot got out a lot quicker. It worked out really well. When I made my next radio call the other pilot thanked me again.

Could I have continued for 34? Absolutely. Would the other pilot have taken off? Probably not, but you never know. Accidents are usually a confluence of unlikely events, and the easiest way to prevent them is to break the first link in the chain. And it’s not like there have never been accidents where two airplanes collided at a runway intersection. With that in mind it seemed safer to take positive control of the situation and keep the other airplane where I could watch him.


Back at Schaumburg later in the day, there was a similar situation. I was preparing to enter the traffic pattern when two airplanes called for departure. A Mooney took off first, rocketing through the pattern and then out to the south. Easy to see, and no factor for me. The second was a Cessna. He claimed to be taking off, but I could not see him, and it was looking like we’d be on top of one another in the pattern. I slowed down and tried to figure out where he was.

Unable to find him, and knowing he’d just taken off, I didn’t want to enter the pattern and have the classic high wing / low wing conflict. I made a radio call and turned a 360 just south of the field to give him some space.

This is something I'd like to avoid.

This is something I’d like to avoid.

He called crosswind, so I followed, and then we both turned downwind. Neither of us could find the other. I was getting ready to break off the approach when the other pilot simply offered to let me go first. I gratefully accepted. The Cessna called me in sight when I turned base; I never saw him until after I landed.

A big part of flying is risk management. In my mind, good communication and positive control are both forms of risk management. If you’re not sure what someone else is doing or where they are, either find out or make plans to avoid them. Don’t just bumble along and hope it’ll work out. A lesson that works well for life AND for flying.

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: Ron Rapp’s Red Pitts!

Via loyal reader,  Gulfstream pilot, Pitts owner, and all-around modern day renaissance guy Ron Rapp comes this jealousy-inspiring image of an awesome Pitts moment:

“This photo was taken off the southern California coast near Dana
Point (about halfway between L.A. and San Diego). Mine’s the red airplane
on top.”

I think I can speak for most all of us AvGeeks when I say: That’s AWESOME!

Ron has more photos and some excellent aviation discussions and posting over at his blog, The House of Rapp. Go and check it out!

If YOU have a submission for the APOD, click here and drop me a line!

Aviation Photo of the Day: Skyline!

I know I’ve posted skyline photos here before, but flying the Chicago skyline is always rewarding and it often generates a good photo op. The routing is easy, ATC is always friendly, and the view is phenomenal…if you fly in Chicagoland, you need to take this trip.

Skyline, as seen from my trusty Archer

Skyline, as seen from my trusty Archer

My usual route takes me from 06C down over 1C5, then under the MDW class C to GAGME; then up the shoreline to VPFTS, OBK, and back home. You can take the Eisenhower Transition and thread the needle between MDW and ORD’s airspace; it’s a tight squeeze but it’s done all the time. Before I leave Chicago I will fly the Eisenhower.

Some local pilots seem scared of ATC, but I always get VFR flight following from Chicago Approach on 119.35 over 1C5; they’re busy, but even with furlough staffing, they always seem willing to help. I suspect they’d rather be talking to you then trying to guess what that VFR target is going to do next.

This trip I decided to get a little more extravagant. After my shot up the shoreline I flew out to Madison for a nice lunch at Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room. I’ve had the traditional $100 hamburger before, and even the less traditional but still delicious $100 Chicken and Waffles at KSPG; but this time I had the $100 Biscuits & Gravy and I have no regrets. My internist probably would not approve, but that’s why I don’t take him flying…

Departing from KMSN, headed Southeast.

Departing from KMSN, headed Southeast.

Happy skies and following winds, readers!


Aviation Photo of the Day: T-28 Formation

From the archives: A formation of T-28 Trojans shakes the earth as they rumble through the air at Sun n Fun!

Most T-28’s have a black stripe painted along the fuselage streaming toward the tail from the cowl. This isn’t just coincidence; in fact, the black stripe serves to camouflage the oil and exhaust gas stains that shoot back from the cowling. If you don’t paint it black, it’s going to turn black eventually anyway…