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Space Shuttle launch and landing

This amazing footage shows the launch of the last space shuttle, the Atlantis, the last space shuttle to fly and marks the completion of the Space Shuttle program. The shuttle was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 8 2011.  The space shuttle is now retired. Different vehicles are now used to access space, including the Russian capsule Soyuz and the Orion. More vehicles are being considered and being tested.

The footage of this space shuttle  is very cool and shows some key phases during a mission, the launch, docking, approach and landing. As an extra bonus, it’s set to some pretty cool music. Make sure you have the music up for this video.

Have you ever wondered how the space shuttle comes back to earth? After approaching through atmosphere, the shuttle was flown very much like an airplane, with some pretty major differences in scale. The shuttle, with a heavy, rectangular body, huge nose cone and shorty, stubby wings is not very aerodynamic and essentially drops like a brick on approach. It takes roughly 3 and a half minutes to descent from 37,000 feet at a descent rate of 10,000 feet per minute. 

A flying brick

A typical descent path for an airliner is 3 degrees, but the shuttle is so heavy and produces so much drag, they use a 20 degree glide slope flown at 345 miles per hour with a descent rate of 10,000 feet per minute. To give you the immense difference of scale, a typical airliner will use a descent rate of 750 feet per minute flown at about 165 miles per hour. 

The shuttle touches down at around 200 knots (225 miles per hour), faster than the flown speed on descent of an airliner. 

In fact, NASA astronauts train in a modified Gulfstream II jet which simulates how unaerodynamic the space shuttle actually is. It flies with it’s landing gear down and engines in reverse. 

The landing gear doesn’t even go down until 300 feet before touchdown! The pilots only have one shot at landing; there is no fuel or power for a go around. The landing is simply a forced approach.

How exactly does the shuttle approach earth?

Interested in more information about the approach and landing? This video explains it really well, and is very entertaining. I’ve enjoyed watching this one a few times. Enjoy!

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Flying Eyes Sunglasses Review

Made for Pilots

Flying Eyes sunglasses were created by a pilot for pilots.  The founder of Flying Eyes, Dean Siracusa,  has been flying for the past 14 years, and was unable to find a set of sunglasses that fits comfortably beneath his headset. He found many other pilots have had the same problem, and the idea for Flying Eyes was born.

flying eyes couple

 Created for wearing under an aviation headset

If you are a pilot, you know that it can be challenging finding a set of sunglasses that fit beneath your headset. Many squeeze your head very tightly, making wearing them under a headset or a helmet is very uncomfortable.  On top of it, many sunglasses create a gap that leaks noise through the cups of your headset.

I love my current sunglasses, which are prescription Oakleys, but they are really uncomfortable under my headset: they squeeze my head and they create a gap in my ear cups that leaks noise.

flying eyes sunglasses
The Hawk Convertible by Flying Eyes Optics

Practical and Durable

These are the ideal aviation sunglasses. The sunglasses are the perfect way to protect your eyes while looking great and are virtually unbreakable.  Made from durable Resilamide, these glasses are very durable.


These sunglasses are easily convertible and come with three different options. First, the non-elastic strap that singes  behind your head is perfect for wearing with an aviation headset. It’s super comfortable and has a snug fit, and you can barely see the strap.  The glasses also come with a ultra thin temples that are perfect to wear with a helmet – they are 70% thinner than regular temples but equally strong and resilient. Regular temples are perfect for everyday wear.

Flying Eyes come with three different temple options which are quick to swap.
Flying Eyes come with three different temple options which are quick to swap.

It takes seconds to change the temple styles. Simply click the quick release top and bottom button on the temples and they will pop out. To insert the desired temples simply click them in, and you’re done.

The glasses have an excellent fit and are extremely comfortable to wear. The frames come in either a matte or glossy finish.  The glossy black looks sleek and stylish, while the matte finish is a more low key finish.

Three different types

The sunglasses come in three different types: the Hawk, which start at $169 depending on the type of lens chosen. There are four types of lenses available, the standard solid neutral gray tint being the most popular for pilots. Also available are:

  • Polarized: not recommended for pilots as they interfere with the view of the instrument panel and other devices
  • Gradient Gray Tint: subtle and excellent for blocking out harsh sunlight through the windshield, allowing for easier viewing of the instrument panel
  • Transition photochromic lenses, which darken when you go outside and lighten inside, responding to UV rays

The sunglasses also provide UV 400 protection, on all lenses. This is a very high level of UVA and UVB ray protection, blocking all sunlight up to 400 nm in wavelength.

They also come with a prescription option (starting at $336) and as bifocals (starting at $189).  To get the prescription version, you must send over an Rx from your optometrist and Flying Eyes will do all the work. Presciption range available is from +4.00 to -4.00.



flying eyes in the cockpit

No more IFR Hood

A neat feature of these glasses is they can easily be converted into ‘foggles’ – so you never need an IFR hood ever again.  They are cleverly designed, static-cling labels you can adhere to your sunglasses that turn them instantly into IFR training glasses.   These labels are custom designed for the Flying Eyes sunglasses and block out all extraneous viewing from your line of sight except for the instrument panel in your cockpit. These are available for $12.

instant foggles flying eyes


  • Precision polycarbonate lenses
  • Lightweight Resilamide frames
  • 3 convertible temple options included
  • Soft micro fiber bag and cleaning cloth included
  • Zippered protective hard case

group frame flying eyes

Where to buy

Interested in learning more?  These sunglasses are available online from the Flying Eyes online store.  


There are even more sunglasses to choose from now at Flying Eyes. 

Flying Eyes has been around for several years now and have expanded their product line up. Including the original Hawk convertible sunglasses which are available with or without prescription, which retail for $164- 194, there are also six other models, all made to fit under headsets or helmets. Check out their full product line! They even have classic aviators, the Cooper Titanium, with slim sides for wearing them under your headset. 

Unlike classic aviators, which even though they have thin temples, can still hurt your head, the Flying Eyes Cooper titanium aviators feature micro thin temples, which fit under headsets without pressure or pain, no matter how long you wear them. 

Or, buy them on Amazon for only 159 

These make a great gift.

Pilots love them! 

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Aviat Husky tows skier up mountain in Alaska

This video combines our two favorite things in the world – skiing and flying. Though we doubt we’d be brave enough to try this.

Towed behind an airplane – now that’s one creative and quick way of getting to the top!

U.S. Ski Team member Reese Hanneman is being towed by an Aviat Husky airplane somewhere in the Alaska range.   Hanneman tweeted the video on from his profile and it got picked up by Alaska Dispatch, citing a number of FAA regulations that were likely broken during this stunt.  He is personally not breaking any laws by agreeing to be towed up the hill. The ‘N’ or registration number of the plane is not visible nor the pilot identified.

Hanneman is the winner of the classic sprint in the 2014 US Cross Country Championships. He is used to going fast!

The Aviat Husky is a popular tail dragger bush plane, very capable in mountain and off airport environments.

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Top Ten Gifts for Pilots

What do pilots like?  Well aside from the obvious, airplanes, there are numerous things that you can buy for your favourite pilot friend or family member or simply any aviation enthusiast.

Coming up with holiday gifts can be tough but for gadget loving aviators, there are lots of options from small to luxurious. Most aviators love everything airplanes!

1. Aviator sunglasses

rayban aviator sunglasses
Ray Ban RB 3025 Aviator Sunglasses

With the sun shining in the eyes, protective eyewear in the cockpit is a necessity. Even in wintertime and on overcast days, it is so bright outside that you simply cannot do without sunglasses.  Aviators are important because they have thin arm bands that fit under the ear cups of the headset.  The arms of standard sunglasses are not compatible with the other cockpit necessity – the headset. Most arms are thick and push out the seals on the ear cups and are uncomfortable.

I have recently come across “Flying Eyes” brand eyewear, and I think they would be a great idea. These glasses have an adjustable cord instead of arms, that fits around your head and won’t obstruct your headset. The glasses also come with fixed plastic arms that you can use outside of the cockpit.

Other nice aviators are made by brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley.  There is lots of choice out there.  Many are compatible with prescriptive lenses.

2.  Flight Paraphernalia

Do they have a sense of humour? Pilot paraphernalia is always a fun gift.
Do they have a sense of humour? Pilot paraphernalia is always a fun gift.

If you’re dealing with a pilot geek, things like keychains and ornaments are nice to give. You can buy all sorts of things here.

From t-shirts, to mugs, to wall and desk clocks to doormats, coasters, stickers to jewellery, there is a lot of choice.  There are hats, weathervanes, ties and license plate frames. I’ve even seen a runway mat beach towel. Seriously. If you think of something, likely it’s available with a humorous aviation twist.

The classic “Remove before Flight” keychain or t-shirt is always a great idea. I’ve got one, and a lot of my pilot friends do too.


3. Movies and shows about flying

Many pilots love any aviation-themed movie – think of the cult classic Top Gun.  Most of my pilot friends have a copy. Other favourites include Flight, Disney’s Planes, Ice Pilots, Arctic Air or the Aviators TV Show. The show MayDay is one of my favourites however only the older shows are available on DVD.



4.  Flight Bag

Jeppesen captain flight bag. Image from Pilot
Jeppesen captain flight bag. Image from Pilot

There are numerous choices here.  I have a pink flight bag from Powder Puff Pilot that I regularly use, but there are lots of nice ones (and not so nice ones) out there!  The pink bag is definitely a great gift for the female pilot.

When you are selecting a bag, basically you need a bag big enough to fit a headset, notebooks, an iPad, charts, maps, books, a water bottle and snacks. The bag should have an outside pocket for small items such as pens and a few outside pockets on the side, and an interior big enough to house the main items.

If you want to spoil your pilot, check out the Classic Flight Bag, made of hand-cut leather, it’s rugged, durable and very stylish.  The bag is just under $500 and features one large back pocket, two smaller pockets on the side,  and a detachable and adjustable shoulder strap.  Very nice quality.

5. Headset

Flying with my pink ANR headset from Powder Puff Pilot.
Flying with my pink ANR headset from Powder Puff Pilot.

Every pilot needs their own headset.  Again, I’ve got a pink headset from the same company (Powder Puff Pilot) which I like. There are lots of options available here, starting from lower end (under $150) to high end ($1000 and up). Consider how much your pilot flies and whether or not they are considering a career in aviation.   If they are a more casual pilot, a less expensive but still good quality headset would serve them well.

Again, if you want to spoil them the most high-end styles are the Bose and Lightspeed Zulu.  I’ve also read that Sennheiser makes very nice headsets and they are quite a bit less expensive than the Bose and Lightspeed. For example the Sennheiser S1 Passive headset is priced under $400.  The David Clark brand also has lots of options.

Higher end headsets will have better noise attenuation (they will be quieter) and have a better fit.  Lower end headsets often rely on thick ear cup padding to provide most of the noise buffering and some of them can be quite tight on the head and heavy, which is not great for long flights or regular, daily use.

6.  Foreflight subscription

The ForeFlight Software for iPhone
The ForeFlight Software for iPhone

Foreflight is one of the most popular flight-planning software out there, and it’s sold on a subscription basis. If your pilot has a iPad or other tablet, or an iPhone, they will appreciate the simplicity of this app.   In this app you have your maps (VNC and VTA), IFR enroute charts, instrument procedures, and documents (iPad only).  You also get full screen weather maps, airport data, plates, SIGMETS, AIRMETS, NOTAMS, real time map imaging with either IFR or VFR maps. There is less to carry around when you have this app!

The app is sold on a subscription basis, and a standard subscription for the U.S. costs $74.99 and a professional $149.99. The app now has updates for Canada, and a Canadian subscription will cost $149.99 for the year.




7. Kneeboard

Those most pilots will have a regular kneeboard, many pilots now use an iPad or other tablet for flight planning, maps and calculations and not paper.  An iPad kneeboard is a must have in this case, it keeps your iPad conveniently on your leg so it doesn’t slide around, and a comfortable elastic strap goes around your knee without the bulk.

A kneeboard makes a great gift. It was one of my first gifts I received when I started doing my pilots license.

8. Electronic Flight Computer

Flight Computer from Sporty's pilot shop
Flight Computer from Sporty’s pilot shop

Most student pilots use the E6B, a manual flight computer that does unit conversion, fuel burn calculations and calculates wind correction angle, density altitude, among many other things.

Consider getting them either a nice metal E6B, while it’s also a manual computer it’s made of metal and is a lot more robust than the paper one that comes with most ground school kits.  Nicer calculators like an electronic E6B are a great gift and priced around $60.  They do all the same calculations and more convenient and quick.



9.  Flight Review or training DVD’s

Almost everyone who flies, no matter if they are working on their license or already a working pilot, can appreciate a bit of a skill brush up.  Many manoeuvres are seldom practiced past flight school. For example, stalls, precautionary and forced landings or things such as steep turns which don’t have much use in ordinary flight.  But they are important and those skills need to be retained and reinforced.   A review DVD or book can give an entertaining take on the basics to keep their skills sharp.

You can even buy whole courses such as the instrument training course, and more. So if they are considering doing more training you can buy them an online course so they will have a head start.

10. Refresher course with an instructor

Not into books or DVD’s?  Another idea is to buy your pilot a refresher session with an instructor at your local flight school instead of an instructional DVD or book. Often times many pilots want to do this but never find the time, so they will appreciate this.  Flight instructors are always teaching and they know this stuff that most of us forget inside and out.  An hour with an instructor typically costs $60 or so and with aircraft rental it will be around $180, depending on the school.

For the aviation enthusiast? Consider getting them started in flying with a familiarization (fam) flight at your local flight school. A fam flight is a deeply discounted first flight lesson which introduces them to flying and counts towards their training. I surprised someone with a fam flight for a gift once – and the look on their face the first time they flew a plane themselves was so worth it!

Happy gift giving!

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Top ten reasons why you should never learn how to fly

Flying? Boring! Why would I ever want to do it? Aside from being expensive and time consuming,  it’s also pointless. Why would I want to shoot around the sky in a metal tube?  It just seems like a poor use of time. Seriously, only those with poor judgement would consider getting a pilots’ license.  There are just so many reasons why you should never do it, but here are the top ten that I could think of.

1.  The view sucks.  Why would I want to see the world from 3000 AGL?  I have such a hard time picking out my house from the plane, it’s so much easier if I’m driving around in my car.  The world just looks so big from the air and it’s really not that interesting.  I’m just not interested in seeing the bigger picture.

These guys are always bossing us pilots around. You'd think they own the airspace or something.
These guys are always bossing us pilots around. You’d think they own the airspace or something.

2.  Airports are boring.  Nothing interesting happens at airports. Seriously, flight schools talk about teaching you soft field landings and precautionary/forced landings, but never actually let you do them, always forcing you to return to the airport. How about some danger? I’ve seen Top Gun – I’m ready!

3.  Air Traffic Controllers are bossy.  They constantly tell you what to do and they talk so fast that you can barely understand them most of the time.  And they always tell you to switch frequencies and get upset if you don’t call them.

4.  Too many calculations. You really have to learn how to flight plan to learn how tedious and pointless it is.  Just point the airplane in the direction you want to go – how much harder does it have to be, people? Fuel, schmuel. I’ll just keep an eye on the fuel gauge like I do when I drive. What could possibly go wrong?

5.  No in-flight entertainment.  Unless you count your instructor, there is no real source of entertainment when you’re flying.  No movies, TV, music or anything. No hot coffee. The service stinks.  Why would I want to sit in an old uncomfortable 30 year old Cessna when I can comfortably stretch my legs out on the couch like a human being.  When I stretch my legs out in the Cessna I just end up hitting the rudder pedals, which causes yaw and I have to do more work to correct it.  Can’t relax in the thing for a second.

6.  Flight instructors are annoying.  They are always telling you what to do and bossing you around. It’s worse than ATC because you can’t really get away from them.  Once you leave the control zone you are free of the claws of terminal control but you can’t get rid of your instructor once you let them in the plane with you.  They really don’t know that much … How much can there possibly be to know??

7. Too much safety emphasis.   Do you know how long it takes to prepare to actually go on a flight that lasts less than an hour? About two hours. Checklists, meetings, briefings, log books, journey log books, sheesh. So much paperwork and so many safety checks. I mean, did you know when you’re at the hold short line that you have to check your engine is operating? It started, so why do you need to check it again? Obviously it’s working and the plane is ready to go.  If it wasn’t it wouldn’t start. Obviously.

8.  Trainer planes are old.   Trainer planes are so old, I think they must have been built when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  They are loud and uncomfortable.

9.  It’s too hard.  The instrument panel in your car has only a few sources of information: speed, fuel quantity, engine temperatures and some have a tachometer.  The most basic airplane panel has six highly confusing instruments which are really hard to understand, ever mind all the other engine instruments, radios, direction finding equipment, navigation tools, approach systems, and the little floaty thing on the dash.  There are so many maneuvers, attitudes and movements too learn, it’s just seems like way to much work.

10.  It’s scary.  The whole concept of flying just seems like a bad idea.  There are just too many planes of movement.  It’s not that rewarding, and not really fun to be in control of the thing.   Constant briefings, meetings, exams, preparations, paperwork and safety checks.  Soaring through the air?  Make a career out of it? Seriously why bother. I’d rather just sit on the couch eating chips.

We hope you had a good laugh reading this.

Sarcasm aside, ever try to talk yourself out of getting a license?  So many reasons. The fact is that flying is hard, committing wonderful and very rewarding.  Like many things in life, if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth doing.   Challenge yourself and don’t give up.  Search your soul and if you discover flying is right for you, you will have the time of your life and you will not regret it!



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A student of weather

A student of weather.

Being a pilot means being a student of weather – all the time.

Weather is so fickle in Alberta that you quickly learn how much flying depends on it.

I did my ground school for my PPL a few years ago at Centennial Flight School in Edmonton City Centre airport.  After years of putting it off, I’m finally getting myself in gear to study for my ground school exam.  It’s harder once you’re done ground school and have had a long break from the theory in the lectures. And one of the most challenging topics is weather.  Things like instruments, aerodynamics, aircraft engines, navigation and air law, are more practicable, and used more often on a day to day basis. Many students struggle with weather theory the most.

Because I backcountry ski and climb, I feel like I already have a very close relationship with weather, specifically mountain weather. But in no other discipline will you have a more direct relationship with weather that you do when you fly.  It determines whether you can actually go up or not, and your safety while up in the air.  There is no ‘waiting out’ the weather once you make that decision to go up.

Weather determines whether or not we can fly VFR (with visual reference to the ground).   Fog will ground many of us.  Stay far away from thunderstorms, avoid icing and turbulence.  Mountain waves can be deadly. We need to know how wind shear affects aircraft performance.  Each airplane has a design limit for maximum cross wind – we need to be aware of these limits.

Air Command Weather Manual - by National Defense Canada
Air Command Weather Manual – by National Defense Canada

What are some of the best study aids for weather?

I want to share one of the most useful resources for studying weather I’ve recently discovered: the Air Command Manual which is published by National Defense Canada.  My instructor suggested I purchase it and I am really happy I did.  I find it very comprehensive and easy to follow: important sections are broken down into a series of lectures that can be easily referenced and reviewed.  In addition, an accompanying workbook can also be purchased in which you can test your knowledge in each specific area.  I find it a really great way to review and re-learn the specific weather topics. I have been using it every day since I got it, in preparation for the weather portion of my PPL written exam.


Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), published by Transport Canada.
Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), published by Transport Canada.

Transport Canada’s Aeronatical Information Manual (AIM) is also a very good source of weather information. It presents all of the weather products for aviation, in detail.  It tells us when the reports are published and for what areas, how long they are valid for and what all the various symbols and abbreviations are on the charts.  It is an invaluable study tool. This book is updated regularly and in fact, says on the cover when it is valid. For example, my old AIM book which is pictured was valid from October 22, 2009 to April 8, 2010. This book comes with your ground school kit when you sign up for ground school.

And of course,  the flying “bible”for Canadian pilots, “From the Ground Up” has a very good and detailed weather section, giving us the theory and application.  This also comes standard with your ground school kit.

These books can be referenced again and again, even once you are done your exams and have your license.  Certain areas, particularly when it comes to weather theory are easy to forget and these books exist so they can be easily referenced.  These books should be used regularly in your aviation career.

But of course, the best teacher is actually practical experience. Having all these resources is great but getting out and flying in all sorts of weather conditions, those we can manage of course, is indispensable.

Being a pilot means being a lifetime student of weather.

Review your weather reports!

Many different flight instruction books are available on Amazon