Trust but verify redux

I flew co-pilot on a 19-seat turboprop during my airline pilot rookie year. One hot summer day, we landed at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (KROA), deplaned our passengers, and loaded up 19 more. We didn’t take on any more fuel because we needed to be as light as possible for the windy, high, hot and humid […]

Nobody’s flying the plane

During one of my airline simulator training sessions, the instructor put us about 10 miles from an initial approach fix, then she asked us to turn around so she could show us something. So focused were we on her, the first officer and I forgot to pay attention to the thrust levers. While she was […]

Droning on

I checked off a New Year’s resolution in 2017 when I successfully added Unmanned, small Aircraft System Remote Pilot to my list of pilot certifications. I am one of the more than 23,000 people who has earned that license since the FAA began issuing it in 2013. More than 23,000 licenses in only four years […]

Human Factors: Self-inflicted

Last year I gifted my readers with stories of men and women pilots who acted heroically, and lived to tell about it. This holiday season I’m going in a different direction. The Aviation Safety Reporting System reports I chose this time come from pilots who, in their own way, shot themselves in the proverbial foot. Failure […]


My last column, “Asleep at the Yoke,” included a report about a Piper Seneca pilot who had to ditch his airplane in the Gulf of Mexico. The thought of having to ditch an aircraft intrigued me, especially when I realized there is a different psychology to the act of ditching vs. an intentional forced landing […]

Asleep at the yoke

Falling asleep while flying is something I’ve never done. I remember reading about a flight crew who did, overflying their Hawaiian island destination. I wondered what those two pilots felt in that moment when they both suddenly awoke with land and the airport well behind them. I can only imagine the gut-wrenching feeling they must […]