The photos released last week of a Bell 412 towing a giant banner over the United Arab Emirates as part of a record-setting flight caught my attention. While helicopters do an admirable job of hauling sling loads from their bellies, they aren’t the ideal platforms for all types of towing.
One instructor friend with whom I chatted recently told me that on a “high percentage” of initial flights, the student is visibly afraid of the process, and this is despite the very best efforts of the instructor to assure the student that everything will be just fine, and it will be. In terms of both fatal and serious accidents, flight instruction is one of the safest types of flying there is (which is a good subject for another time).
We’ve been hearing talk about a looming “pilot shortage” for so long that we’ve stopped believing it. But I had dinner last night with a group of regional airline pilots, all in their mid-30s and all left-seaters on CRJ 700s, who told me they’re convinced a pilot shortage is coming. They might be right this time.
Does flying cost too much for “normal” pilots to afford? That’s a question we hear at Flying a lot, and it’s an interesting one, though I suspect that the people asking it have a hidden message. Let me explain.
Flying can be expensive. Clearly, flying a Falcon 7X costs too much for me to afford, but, thank goodness, there are other planes in the sky or I’d be writing third person stories about this stuff instead of giving you views from the cockpit of my airplane.
As I get ready to sit down for my Thanksgiving dinner, I’m reflecting on the things that I’m thankful for. While family and friends top that list, the freedom of flight is a close second. I still marvel at the fact that, at any time of the day or night, I can jump in an airplane and get the best view there is – the view from an airplane.
In aviation, as elsewhere in life, hope can be a four-letter word. I hope we’ve got enough fuel to make our destination (as opposed to picking one of the many good alternates gliding past below); I hope this downturn reverses course soon (instead of innovating during the downturn to put yourself in better shape once it is over); I hope that more people start flying soon (as opposed to ... as opposed to doing what, exactly?)
PC flight simulators are excellent for sharpening our skills, but with one glaring exception: The artificial ATC communications included with the software just isn’t up to the task of providing a realistic flight experience. I didn’t really understand how important this was until I recently had the chance to fly X-Plane 10 using something remarkably better.
Florida was once again last to the table with its tally in the 2012 President election. I know these are close races, but couldn’t somebody have figured out that we need to count the absentee ballots sometime before Thanksgiving?
Proficiency is a key aspect of aviation safety for all pilots. We all realize that flying once every two years doesn’t maintain proficiency or skills, but many pilots who don’t fly regularly for work or other reasons may need a little tap on the back to study and fly enough to keep their skills alive. The same is true for instructors and you may be surprised to know how many licensed instructors may not be proficient at teaching.