Editorial: Just Because I’m Paranoid

By Ed Downs

Is there anyone reading this who cannot complete the title of this editorial?  Sure, it goes, “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get me.”  Now, according to our friends at Wikipedia, the word paranoid, or paranoia, is defined in somewhat negative terms. It includes, “Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself.”  Wow, that definition looks a lot like the guy looking back at me in the mirror every morning.  But the fact that I continue to see that reflection is, perhaps, an indication the my “paranoid” behavior has served me well for an aviation career that has lasted well over half a century. 

Early in my flying days I read a quote by Wilbur Wright that ended with the concept of “deliberately accepting risk.”  Indeed, that is what we do in aviation.  We exercise a metered level of paranoia and try to figure out what is out there, “conspiring” to get us. This could be weather, aircraft design, marginal skills, carelessness, overconfidence, human error and many other gremlins that can conspire to spoil your day. 

Have I convinced you that “paranoid” can be a good thing?  If so, you are invited to direct your “paranoia” to the future of ownership and private use of personal and business aircraft, an activity typically clumped together by the term “General Aviation,” or “GA.” 

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Light Sport Flying With In Flight USA - July 2011

Strange Plane?

By Ed Downs

No, the title does not mean to imply that the airplane you are about to fly is “strange,” but that you are strange to the airplane.  In other words, that slick little S-LSA in which you are about to take a demo at AirVenture is just fine, but you may not be.

Many of those reading this month’s column will do so while at EAA AirVenture 2011.  A subset of that “many” will be touring the wide selection of S-LSAs on display, with some of you signed up to take a “fly-to-buy” demo.  The question is, are you really ready to fly that LSA for the first time and give it a fair evaluation?  How are your skills when it comes to jumping into an airplane that is quite different than anything you have flown before?

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Light Sport Flying With In Flight USA - June 2011


By Ed Downs

No, not old tires, although many of us “re-treads” appearing in this month’s sonnet do have some “spare tire” issues.  The re-treads being referred to are former pilots who have decided to give flying another go.  Sport Pilot has opened doors that some may have thought were closed.  This writer was reminded of the “re-tread” market, just the other day, while teaching a class at Yingling Aviation, an historic Cessna dealer located in Wichita, Kansas.  During our lunch break, I wandered over to the Cessna Skycatcher final assembly hangar to look at new planes on the assembly line.  While looking through a viewing window and talking with one of my students, a young line attendant approached us and asked if we would like to join a retired couple (in tow by the line attendant) and go into the hangar for a closer look.  Of course, we joined them.  It turns out, no sales personnel were available and the line attendant was doing his best to talk about the C-162.  My offer to help promote the plane (very familiar to me) was readily accepted.  Joe, the retired guest, was considering reentering aviation after a 40-year hiatus, but knew nothing about Sport Pilot or LSAs.  Skycatcher pricing, performance and simplicity left Joe quite impressed, especially after we discussed just what he would have to do to re-enter flying.  Of primary importance was the ability to get back into flying without the need to participate in the FAA medical bureaucracy.

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Light Sport Flying With In Flight USA - May 2011

Is Your Tower Asleep at the Mike?

By Ed Downs

The answer to the question posed in the title of this month’s column might be, Sport Pilots don’t care.  To be sure, recent weeks have set the media ablaze with stories of fear and trepidation, as brave, but apparently helpless, pilots are forced to land their airplanes without the critical and essential words from the FAA of “cleared to land.”  Media experts (really?) would have the general passenger public believe that landing without a tower in operation to utter those empowering words, “cleared to land,” leaves all aboard in deadly peril.  Okay, perhaps this writer is being a bit dramatic, but having a general belief that landings can not be made safely without a tower clearance does not do recreational flying any good from a PR standpoint, when citizens discover that their local community airport is “uncontrolled.”

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Light Sport Flying With In Flight USA - April 2011

Sport Pilots and Flight Planning

By Ed Downs

Is there something different about a shiny, new Sport Pilot planning a cross country flight and what we might expect to see from a typical pilot coming out of the pre-GPS world that preceded the late 1990s?  It is possible that there is, and pre 90s aviators might be able to learn a thing or two.

As spring fights its way into existence to end a long, cold winter, many are planning flying trips to a variety of business or recreational locations.  A lot of aircraft owners are beginning to realize that their passion for recreational flying may dribble over into the more mundane transportation needs for which they have used the airlines in the past.  Policy and pricing changes within the airline industry have become increasingly customer hostile, service to cities other than major hubs has been further reduced, and the TCA continues to add significant inconveniences to the travel experience.  The fact is, point-to-point travel time for most trips of less than 600 miles is significantly less in the typical S-LSA than by modern airliner.  The bottom line is that many more folks will turn to their recreational hobby planes for day-to-day travel needs.

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