As we transition into the early autumn season, we reach the long-awaited Best Time of Year for flying. It’s possible to climb above the afternoon thermal turbulence in just a few minutes, cooler and dryer air enhances visibility, and weather is generally more predictable. Daylight hours draw shorter, but are still sufficient for late-summer trips.
Recent traffic in-and-out reflected the welcoming weather, despite some mid-week thunderstorms, and we spotted a number of transients, including a Cessna Skyhawk, a Cessna Skylane, an AirTractor 802 from Seneca, KS, the eternal Dr. Ed Christophersen from New Century in his Piper Archer and a Piper Cherokee 140. Out of the local line-up, Brandt Hall flew his Avid B homebuilt, Jeremie Platt retrieved his Grumman Tiger, Lane Anderson was out in his Darter Commander and Chris Hall test-hopped one of his Cessna 182 jump planes.
It’s already time for another meeting of the Fliars Club, wherein stories will be told and breakfast consumed, as we come upon the last Saturday of the month. Those willing to take a chance on participating should assemble on the Butler airport ramp at about 0715 hours and we’ll see what our options of flying look like.
Another sad event occurred last week, with the third mid-air collision of the year between two general aviation aircraft, resulting in three fatalities. A Cessna 152 was overran by a Cessna 340 twin at Watsonville airport in northern California. Earlier, midairs took place at North Las Vegas, Nevada and Centennial airport near Denver, Colorado. As is typical in the 5 to 10 instances we see each year, both planes were lining up for landing and got together just short of the runway. There is no substitute for vigilance when in the vicinity of your airport; all of our fancy ADSB displays and advisory calls don’t take the place of the Mark 1 human eyeball. Always assume there’s someone out there heading for the same runway as you, and keep your head on a swivel.
Reports of a shortage of skilled labor in the aviation industry continue to sound dire warnings. We need 11,000 maintenance technicians to replace expected openings, but technical schools are only graduating 5800 new mechanics per year, and a quarter of those go into non-aviation jobs that pay better. There will be 14,500 commercial pilot seats coming open per year over the next decade; we only train 5000 to 7000 annually. Aviation has always been attractive for love of the game more than money, but at some point feeding a family takes precedence. “I’d rather fly than eat” only works for the aspiring young pilot, for a while.
Our question from last week wanted to know the price of the new AirTractor 802U counter-insurgency attack plane, an armed and armored version of the biggest sprayplane offered by the Onley, Texas company. The government will be paying $20 million apiece for them, and AirTractor was the lowest bidder. For next week, what’s the origin of the “802” designation? Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.