When The Norm Becomes The Abnorm

If you've been flying for much time at all, you've probably noticed that a significant portion of flight training is dedicated to handling deviations from the norm (or the "abnorm" as I have coined it).  A classic example is when your instructor pulls the throttle out...

The Simple Magic of Gyroscopic Precession

Some of the concepts that we have to grasp in aviation are fairly straightforward. If you nose the plane over towards the ground, you tend to speed up. Wind blows you sideways, so you have to correct for that drift by adjusting your heading into the wind. These...

Understanding Zulu Time

What time is it right now? Look at your watch or your phone. Your answer will likely differ from mine and others, even if we are all checking at the same moment in time. Think about the strike of midnight on New Years Eve, marking the turn of the new year. Everyone in...

Feed Your Aviation Bug While On The Road

When flying to another airport for a hundred dollar hamburger, a big part of the tradition is simply finding an excuse to fly somewhere. But that doesn't mean that the culinary experience that you have at the destination airport isn't significant. After all, food is a...

Lessons Learned From Cessna 172 Accidents

It's not hard to convince anyone that flying is an incredible way to travel. It's faster and often more convenient than other modes of transportation. It's the times when things go wrong that people fear the most. As a pilot, I'm not immune to that fear. Even as a...

Weight A Moment: Weight And Balance Explained

"Alright, you can go with us, but we'll have to go with half full tanks." The amount of seats in an airplane can be deceiving. I fly a Cessna 172, which has four seats, but carrying four people is rarely a reality. To know what I can carry, I have to run some weight...

A Peek Into The Future Of Aviation

Sometimes, movies that depict the future end up getting it right.  Of course, the only way to know for sure is to wait and see.  In the movie Back To The Future, the famous DeLorean blasts into the future and lands on October 21, 2015. For a 1985 movie, that's 30...

Two Methods To Develop Decent Descent Planning

We know that what goes up must come down, but when I was in flight training, I always had a hard time determining exactly when to come down. I'd tend to begin my descent to an airport too late, when it was in clear view, leaving me with a more rapid descent than...

Three Tips For Becoming A Professional Avgeek

As the Clayviation community grows, I like to find ways to get involved with other organizations and be a part of positive growth in the aviation community. A group of aviation bloggers is assembling around a friend of Clayviation called Hangaround. This...

Six Easy Steps To Create Your Passenger Briefing

Any time I run through my checklists and get to the "Passenger Briefing" line, I can't help but think back to a scene from the movie Tommy Boy. David Spade and Chris Farley are posing as flight attendants and get stuck with the passenger briefing. "Exits! Ok there's...

Keep These Five Aviation Traditions Alive

Have you ever stopped to think about why we blow out the candles on our birthday? How about carrying the bride over the threshold or eating turkey on Thanksgiving? While they all likely have a logical origin, these sorts of things are often continued today simply...

The Cost Of Airplane Ownership

The ding of the email hitting my inbox brought with it an exciting headline. "Hey, you wanna buy a plane?" It was from a friend of mine who is looking to become a Private Pilot. He heard about a couple of people in the area looking to buy an airplane together. I...

Are The Glory Days Of Aviation Gone?

"Ah yes, those were the days. A simpler time, when things were just...better." When exactly were the glory days of aviation? Some might say it was the "Golden Age of Aviation" - the time between the two world wars. It was a time of innovation, adventurous pilots and...

7 Lessons Learned From My Long Solo Cross Country Flight

It was the kind of day where you look up and think, "I should be flying right now."  Clear skies, good visibility and very light winds prevailed on a mid-sixty degree day in November of 2004. I stood by the airplane in Athens, Georgia, as a student pilot, but ready...

Four Fun Add-On Ratings To Your Private Pilot Certificate

It's been said that getting your Private Pilot Certificate is a "license to learn." It's true that you should continue to learn from every flight you take; no pilot ever knows it all.  And while enjoying and exploring the privileges of a Private Pilot is fun on its...

The Paper vs Electronic Flight Logbook Showdown

"How many hours do you have?" One of the biggest factors that makes up a pilot's experience level is the number of flight hours they have. It's not quite like a business, who might be judged by how many years they've been in business. After a flight, recording an hour...

Weather Or Not – The Decision Making Process

A successful flight starts long before the tanks are topped off with fuel or the ignition is ever started. It goes back before preflight and past even the restful night before. Today we'll walk through a decision-making weather scenario that begins several days prior...

A Guide To The Fixed Base Operator

Learning to fly naturally involves your own flight school at your home airport. The plane starts and ends at the same spot each time. Maybe you have the number to call for fuel saved in your phone. My flight school has the plane fueled and ready on the ramp when I...

10 Ways To Consume Aviation Content On The Go

When I was learning to fly, I didn't have nearly the resources that exist today, especially when it comes to technology. Don't worry, this isn't a lecture on how things were when I was your age. In the early 2000s, when I wanted to consume aviation content, I had...

Airplane Instrument Basics: The Six Pack

What in the world do all of these gauges do? That’s often the first reaction when someone sees an airplane cockpit. There is a lot of information being displayed on the various needles in an aircraft – it can be overwhelming. But every airplane has a few staple...

Airspace 101

It's easy to look up to the sky and see a bunch of nothing. I'm always in wonder when there are lots of unusual clouds because it gives great dimension to an otherwise endless blue void. On the ground, we draw imaginary lines all over the land, making states,...

Cessna 172 Flight Simulator Departure

In our last Clayviation YouTube session, we began a multi-part series showing each phase of a short cross country flight. We began in Smyrna, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, and started up the engine. This week, we are going to show the taxi, engine run up and...

Engine Failure Scenario – What Would You Do?

There's something to be said about doing things by the book. Learning the "textbook" way of doing things is important. For the most basic of reasons, you can't pass the test if you don't learn the textbook. In aviation, doing things the right way - by the book - is a...

Engine Startup In A Cessna 172

I sat in the cockpit, looking over the engine cowling, watching the mechanic as he worked his magic. "Okay try it now," he called, stepping away from the airplane. I ran through the checklist. "Mixture rich, carb heat cold, throttle open a quarter inch." I finished...

6 Critical Elements To Determine Your Personal Minimums

It's the time of the season for giving and thankfulness, and this week's blog is a contribution to an aviation colleague who's partnership I am very thankful for.  If you've been flying first class with me at Clayviation for a while, you might recall a blog about...

What Pilots Need To Know About Drones

The FAA estimates 7 million drones to be buzzing around in the airspace system by 2020.   As a pilot, there are understandable concerns about what it means to have so many people sharing the same airspace.  Having functioned as both an airplane pilot and a drone...

How To Read A Terminal Area Forecast

It's not always too difficult to tell if the weather is good enough to fly - in the moment.  Looking up to a clear blue windless sky is a pretty good sign.  The big question with weather is often "what's going to happen next?"  On a recent flight to Nashville,...

4 Reasons To Call Flight Service Before You Fly

With today's plethora of technology, making a phone call before a flight for a weather briefing seems like an unnecessary step - on the surface.  After all, programs like Foreflight can give you a step by step briefing of weather, notams, forecasts and more.  But even...

A Long Cross Country Flight

This past week, I took a cross country flight from Thomson, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee. You might wonder how one state over qualifies as a "cross country," but just like running cross country in high school doesn't mean coast to coast, so it is with aviation. In...

How To Read A Sectional Chart

Looking intently over the instrument panel directly in front of us, my seven year old son and I went back and forth. "Is that it?" He called, pointing over one way. "No, I don't think so," I replied. "There! Those lights - is that it!?"  He called back. "Those look...

The Hundred Dollar Hamburger

Much like touching the top of a mountain with your hand when reaching the top, or planting a flag on the moon, the Coke was the same sort of symbolic checkpoint.

How To Use A Manual E6B Flight Computer

What Is This Thing? It might look like you need a degree in Rocket Science to have any business trying to figure out an E6B, but you don't. It's actually quite simple once you understand how it's laid out and a couple basics.  There are seemingly limitless functions...

A Pilot’s Guide To Renting Airplanes

One of the first things people ask me about being a pilot is if I own an airplane.  My answer?  "I wish I did.  Well, kinda."  You see, it's not assumed that a pilot owns an airplane like it is that a driver owns a car. I think of it more like a house. There are times...

How To Read A METAR Aviation Weather Report

A METAR, or aviation routine weather report, is an hourly surface observation from a weather station, usually at an airport. It gets its name from the term Meteorological Aerodrome Report, but boy is that a mouthful. In a nutshell, it's what the weather is doing at...

12 Must Have Aviation iPad Apps

I tried to explain to my seven year old how incredible the iPad he was playing on was. It might be commonplace to most of us by now, but the technology we have at our fingertips is remarkable. In my most genuine "back in my day" sort of rant, I reminisced on tape...

How To Start Flight Training And Build Your Flight Bag

Maybe you are curious about flight training - you love the idea of being a pilot but don't know if you have what it takes (Read the Clayviation blog What Does It Take To Become A Pilot?).  Perhaps you've always wanted to do it but just don't know how to take the first...

What Does It Take To Become A Pilot?

The sun burst into the cockpit, nearly blinding me as I leveled off to land just above the runway on final approach. Using the visual cues that I could, I hoped for the best as my otherwise graceful approach to land settled down on the runway - a lot harder than I...

Does An Airplane Drop Like A Rock?

How And Why Airplanes Fly (Instead Of Falling) Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were flying on an airplane and all the engines stopped working?  Would you just start falling? A fear of flying is fairly common.  For some, it's the smaller space. Others,...

It’s Always Sunny Outside

The airplane windows faded to a hazy white as I climbed up into the cloud layer. It was my very first time in the clouds.  I had just taken off from Peachtree City Falcon Field (KFFC) on a gray, rainy day.  The kind of rainy day that just rains lightly.  Constantly....

A Pilot Is Born

I peered out of the window into the darkness below. The only indication that anything aside from a black void was below us were the sparkling lights of cities and towns as we flew over them. I was still in the first few hours of my initial pilot training over a decade...

Sharing Flight With A New Generation

My son was right next to me as I called the airport to cancel the flight. "It's a no go today.  These clouds just won't let us in the air." Reid is just weeks away from turning seven and he has never been flying.  Not on a commercial airline, and not with me, a...