Top 10 Flying Blogs of 2013

A look back at our 10 most popular Flying blog posts of the year.

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Here at Flying we're proud of our history of confronting the important issues of the day with editorial insight that challenges the status quo when necessary while always serving the interests of our readers. It’s what we’ve done for more than 86 years, and 2013 was no exception. One big difference today is that Flying has a vast digital presence in addition to our storied print magazine. Here’s a look back at our 10 most popular blogs of the year, each a reflection of the broader issues that provoked discussion and debate in aviation. Click here to start our Top 10 Flying Blogs of 2013 list. _
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10. Should the FAA Grant Icon A5's Weight Increase? Many questioned whether the 250-pound weight increase requested by Icon Aircraft for its A5, a light sport aircraft currently in development, should be granted by the FAA. Kirk Hawkins, the founder and CEO of Icon, said the company needed additional weight beyond the 1,430-pound limit in order to incorporate safety characteristics such as spin resistant features, which Icon said meet Part 23 certification standards and make the amphibious A5 LSA less prone to stall/spin accidents. Stephen Pope asked the question in his blog, should the FAA allow for such an exemption? He wrote that an exemption should have nothing to do with competitive issues and everything to do with whether the A5 indeed meets Part 23 spin standards. And by the same token, the FAA shouldn't feel pressure to approve Icon's weight exemption request merely because the A5 is an exciting new design. In the end, the FAA sided with Icon Aircraft by granting a weight increase. Read Stephen Pope's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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9. Jeppesen's Surprising VFR Flight App Jeppesen announced a new app in the summer of 2013 with a price tag that made some pilots question whether the cost was for a monthly subscription instead of an annual one. For just $49 per year pilots could access Jeppesen’s Mobile FlightDeck VFR database, and they could even try it for free for a month. Despite a reasonable price, the app, which Stephen Pope reviewed in his Fly By Wire blog, has a lot to offer. Rather than the moving map being a digitized sectional chart, the database includes layers of various levels of detailed data. The layered, multi-colored moving map is one of many features Jeppesen used to make the app optimal for use on the iPad. Read Stephen Pope's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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8. Were Tower Closures a Grand Bluff? With big budget cuts at the FAA forced by sequestration, the agency announced a long list of contract and government operated control towers around the country that the administration intended to close in order to meet its new, strict budget. In his Going Direct blog, Robert Goyer questioned whether there was ever any intent to close all of those towers or if this was simply a stunt by the Obama administration to stir up public outrage against sequestration. If that was the intent, it appeared to have worked. But, the question is, would the towers have been closed if the public had not reacted? Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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7. Land the Damn Airplane In an article written by Helicopter Association International president Matt Zuccaro, he urged helicopter pilots in increasingly risky flight conditions to just "land the damn helicopter." What he meant by this was that when things get dicey, the ground is your friend, so long as you arrive there at a survivable level of G loading and with all the parts more or less still attached. Riding on the tails of that advice, Robert Goyer went on to write in his own blog that the very same thing is true for airplanes. He explained that we might not have the luxury of landing our airplanes everywhere a helicopter can touch down, but in most places in the country there are many, many available options for landing safe and sound at some point prior to our planned destination. Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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6. NTSB Links Crashes to Mythical Phenomenon Since there is no such thing as certain knowledge of the cause of aircraft accidents and because NTSB investigators are humans, there are times when the published probable causes of airplane crashes are questionable at best. While rummaging through broken and burned airplane parts and piecing together witness accounts to determine why an airplane ended up in the dirt is unquestionably a challenging task, there are times when an investigator publishes a probable cause that is aerodynamically impossible. Such is the case with the downwind turn, an explanation that has been used in several accident reports, which Robert Goyer called out in one of his many popular blog posts this year. Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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5. Pilot Arrested, Charged for Doing Nothing At the beginning of 2013, we began to seek answers after a pilot was seemingly arrested when there was no crime involved. The story that was featured by AOPA detailed the account of Robin Fleming who was held in jail for flying his glider over a nuclear plant, which the sheriff’s department claimed was a "no-fly" zone. The only problem with the detention or the arrest was, as Robert Goyer wrote in his blog, there is no such kind of zone, no such regulation and no such offense. It is hard to read this case any way other than that Fleming was arrested falsely. The message, of course, is that it could have happened to any of us, and as responsible and conscientious as we might be, how can we comply with laws and regulations that don't exist? Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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4. Why Pilots Love to Vilify Other Pilots With the wrong-airport landing of the Boeing 747-400 Dreamlifter at Wichita's Jabara Airport making headlines, the pilot of the Dreamlifter was under severe scrutiny by not only the aviation community but by national news. Everyone was quick to judge and many of the harsh comments questioned the pilot's ability to even be at the controls. So, why do we love to vilify other pilots? Robert Goyer tackled this common trend head-on in his blog by saying, "It's tempting to vilify other pilots when they make mistakes not because we're better than they are (though occasionally we are) but because more commonly, we're not better and we know it." And that the real lesson here is that it could happen any of us — we need to fight complacency. Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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3. This Isn't America Shocking reports appeared by AOPA and The Atlantic this year about innocent pilots arriving at their destinations after long cross-country flights only to be greeted by squadrons of police agents — from local cops to Homeland Security and who knows what other agencies — to search and question them as though they had done something illegal. Pilots began to come forward with their own stories of being similarly detained and searched. While detailing two unsettling incidents of his own, Robert Goyer talked about this secret program, whether it is intended to interdict drug traffic or because a pilot happens to fit a specific profile of flight, and how this violation of rights is totally unamerican. Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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2. Five Mysteries of Asiana 214 With almost any major crash, particularly those with outcomes that are difficult to fathom, we're going to ask questions. As with the Asiana 214 crash at San Francisco International Airport, while things may have seemed straightforward, there were still several of the same questions being asked. In his blog, Robert Goyer jumped in headfirst in addressing some of the biggest mysteries surrounding the crash and some of the thinking behind them — and if they are really mysterious at all. Why didn’t the crew notice how slow the airplane had gotten, reportedly down to 103 knots on a 137-knot Vref? Why didn’t the crew succeed in saving the day once they realized how low and slow they were? Why did so many people survive? Is it possible the blinding light the pilot reported was responsible for the crash? Is automation to blame? Read Robert Goyer's blog post here. Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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1. Why the 'TWA Flight 800' Documentary Is Wrong On the 17th anniversary of the TWA Flight 800 crash, documentary filmmakers grabbed headlines when they released a controversial docudrama that claimed new evidence proving that a missile attack brought down the Boeing 747. These renewed claims sparked wide debate, especially among Flying's readers who continue to express their thoughts in the comments section in our most viewed blog of the year. In his blog, Stephen Pope boldly spoke out about the documentary after viewing it — and why it was wrong. He explained how the film provided more questions than answers, was riddled with inconsistencies and even after speaking with Hank Hughes, former NTSB investigator and central figure in the documentary, many explanations were glossed over. Soon after, the NTSB also spoke out and refuted the missile theory claims that the documentary was making. Read Stephen Pope's blog post here. For more Top 2013 lists, check out our Top 20 Aviation Stories and Top 10 Flying Tips.