Sweet!

Check out the “mobile-friendly” version of my latest for FAA Safety Briefing. It’s got this cool cascading set of graphics between the text sections as you scroll through the article. What article, you ask? Link Trainer, to Desktop, to Redbird: The Evolving Role of Flight Simulation, which was part of the recent Sim City issue!

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All good things (and times) come to an end

Well, hell. It’s over. I mean, I knew it was coming… But I didn’t know today would be the day. I sigh and set my phone down on the kitchen table. Drain my wine glass. A strong cold wind rattles the windows, matching my sombering mood. Maybe one more glass tonight, as a nightcap.

As a yearcap. Well, a nearly twoyearcap.

Yes, the final chapter of Air Racing From the Cockpit debuted online tonight at General Aviation News. I was checking the website on my phone because the battery on my FlightPad was low. Of course, that final chapter won’t appear in the print version until the October 5th issue, but the end of the journey is official, and damn, am I ever going to miss it.

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It’s been an extraordinary series for me—as a pilot, as a writer, as a person. Starting off as an assignment to write a few articles about what it’s like to join the Sport Air Racing League (SARL), for both the magazine and the website, Air Racing From the Cockpit blossomed into a mind-boggling 34-part series that dominated huge chunks of the publication, sometimes spreading over four full pages, my words illustrated by the work of my amazing photographer pal Lisa.

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The series was actually scheduled to run even longer, following all the races this year, which would have brought the total up to 40 installments, but my on-going engine problems cut that short. Actually, I’m the one who made the call to wrap up early. Sure, mechanical troubles are part of the story of airplanes, but I knew my readers were more interested in racing than wrenching. Fans of Air Racing From the Cockpit would quickly tire of Air Racing From the Maintenance Shop, so I felt a duty to end the series well.

Still, a 34-part series? Who the hell gets to write a 34-part series? I’m still pinching myself.

The entire body of work totals up to something like 60,000 words. That’s book length. About the same number of words that a typical novel has. So what about that? Will I turn it into a book?

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Clip art Courtesy Clipart Panda

No, I don’t think so. First off, that’s cheating. At least that’s how I feel about it. I hate it when a writer dusts off a bunch of old stuff, stitches it together, and calls it a book. Books need to be crafted as a single cohesive unit. I guess, since this is really one long story, it would read better than a book full of Dear Abby columns, but it still doesn’t seem right to me. It wouldn’t be an honest labor for a wordsmith. Plus, from a practical standpoint, why would anyone buy something they could read online for free? All the dispatches are right here, all you have to do is scroll back in time a few pages to get to the beginning.

Of course, there are a book-full of events, encounters, excursions, and escapades that happened between the pages of Air Racing from the Cockpit that didn’t make it into print. That’s a book I am considering. Writing the story of the story, as it were, using the Races as a scaffolding on which to hang a whole new work.

(So, if there are any book publishers out there interested, you know where to find me! Oh, and if you don’t, there’s an email link on the top left above if you’re on a desktop… If you are on a mobile device, it gets bumped to the bottom somewhere.)

Meanwhile, it’s not like GA News has kicked me to the curb. I’ve got some Reno coverage coming up and I’ll be writing about the season finale of the Red Bull Air Races. Plus, I’ve got an article that compares air racing to poker. Just wait and see.

But I’ll miss “my” series. I had the time of my life writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. But it’s time to move on. All good things (and times) come to an end. What’s ahead?

I don’t know yet, but my editor had a suggestion. She wrote me, saying: “We’ll just have to find a new obsession for you to write about.”

The Flight of the Phoenix

The final installment of Air Racing From the Cockpit just hit the streets. It’s part twenty. Can you believe it? I can’t. I’ve been writing professionally for nearly 40 years and I can assure you I’ve never had a gig like this! Aside from regular columns, I think the largest series I’ve ever written on one subject was four-part series.

Plus, each was given generous space and was lavishly illustrated.

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That’s over with now, but don’t be sad: I have good news. Air Racing From the Cockpit is coming back next season! Each story will be slightly shorter–web stats show modern readers don’t finish longer articles anymore–but every single issue from March until the end of the year will feature a new race adventure.

There are 18 races scheduled so far this year, and three more in the works. It will be a long and tough season. Will we score the Gold? Follow me on the pages of GA News to find out. The second season of the series starts March 23!

 

 

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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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…

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…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.