In the news… General Aviation News

As promised, here’s a News Bulletin for you! Don’t walk, but run to your local airport and pick up a copy of the March 24 issue of GA news…

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…and turn to page 6 in the “A” section for the first dispatch in my multi-part look at air racing from the inside!

Speaking of inside, the editors featured a nice shot of the cockpit of the Plane Tales plane to illustrate the article:

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Wasted time

We were low and fast, the dam at Santa Rosa Lake falling behind our twin tails as I rolled out waaaaaay off course. The day was grim and grey, matching my mood. I don’t often suffer depression when flying, but my spirits were lower than my altitude.

I took me nearly 20 miles to figure out what went wrong. It was the wind, of course. Something I probably learned the first day in flight school thirty-five years ago, and then forgot since. Our timed turns were a disaster because I forgot to account for the effect of wind on a turning airplane.

All of our practice, and all of our hours of playing with math and protractors was a waste of time—the one thing an air racer can’t afford to waste. My six-second turn only worked in calm air. In a left-hand turn, a crosswind from the left pushes the plane away from the turn, requiring more time. A crosswind from the right pushes the plane into the turn, reducing the time needed.

My directional gyro now a paperweight, my GPS not accurate enough, my compass funky in turns, and my plan to use time as my secret weapon now in shambles—I had nowhere left to turn to make the perfect turn. And I was out of time to come up with a new plan. The first race is a week away.


As the sun crept up over a distant cloudbank crouched on the horizon, it dawned on me: Pilots pre-date instruments. At the dawn of flight, the mind of the aviator held the key to success. I would just have to wing it.

Thank goodness I have two wings. I’m going to need them to pull this off.


The literary mercenary

“…he was looking for something else and decided to walk in the minefield that is called freelancing. That is a form of unemployment where you seek out piecework that will result in income. It isn’t really a job, there are no benefits, and you get to pay both halves of the payroll tax.”

–Richard L. Collins, in his Introduction to Phil Scott’s Then and Now: How airplanes got this way


Never have I read a better description of my job, my life, my existence as a writer-for-hire. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is good on a pen and a wing. The quest for work is a satisfying challenge, and while that double payroll tax is annoying, I can take pride in the fact that I do well enough by myself that I actually have to pay it.

Now, one of the functions of Plane Tales is to serve as a continually updating resume in my quest for that piecework that (hopefully) results in income. Every time I get an assignment, or something new of mine appears in print, I post an announcement here.

What? You didn’t notice?

Yeah. Don’t feel bad. Neither does anyone else. Ironically, as an aerial nomad, I’m the victim of mobility. Those of you who read Plane Tales on a desktop computer might have noticed the list of publications in the right-hand menu bar. Those of you who read me mobile just said: What menu bar?

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Yes, I’ve just learned that when Plane Tales displays on the smaller screens of mobile devices, all the navigation tabs (and the email link) are moved to the bottom, buried under scores of older posts where no one ever sees them. So in addition to my usual Friday Tale, I’ve decided to give you a head’s up here in the main section of the site when something new I’ve written has landed.

Today, you need to file a flight plan for the April Issue of Flight Training Magazine…


…where I have an article called, “The case of the mysterious lever.” I confess, when I saw the title and my byline in the table of contents, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had written about. The article was one of those non-time sensitive “evergreen” pieces that editors sometimes sit on for awhile, holding them until they have some space to fill, and I’d completely forgotten about it.

What’s the lever? Well, you’ll just have to do what I did. Read my own article to find out.

Gotta run, I’m off to the minefield.