Rod Machado is a very well known figure in the aviation community–he is the voice of the flight instructor in Microsoft Flight Simulator, he teaches several lessons in the “King Schools” computer-based ground school courses, and is a regular writer for AOPA Pilot and Flight Training magazines. Last week I sent him the following email:

I fly out of a fairly congested class D airport with a heavy concentration of student pilot activity, and to decrease my workload I like to open my flight plan from the ground, after performing my run-up. However, each time I do this, my FSS requests that I only open flight plans from the air, in case I run into mechanical problems, cancel the flight, and forget to close it. It seems that every time I open my flight plan after takeoff I miss a position report or a traffic advisory while I’m talking to the FSS, plus it’s just one more thing for me to do in the air. I think the practice of opening the plan immediately before takeoff should instead be encouraged, assuming adequate radio reception from the ground. Do you agree with this?

This morning I received a response from him:

There’s no reason that I can see for not opening your flight plan from the ground. I, too, realize that it can be quite busy in the terminal environment during departure and this isn’t a good time to be opening flight plans. So I’d just insist that the FSS opens the flight plan when you ask him to. Keep in mind that some folks file a round robin flight plan
for, say, a period of 8 hours at a time. They land at several different airports during that time to conduct their business then close the flight plan upon landing. So if they can do this why shouldn’t you be able to open your flight plan on the ground? As an aside, just to keep from forgetting to close my flight plan, I always leave a message on my cell phone to
remind me to do so upon landing.

Makes sense to me–the next heavy-traffic day I fly, I’ll insist that the FSS open my flight plan from the ground. I may also consider withholding the fact that I’m on the ground–how would the FSS know the difference?

I encountered this sign on 13th avenue in downtown Portland:

Bike Sign

It seems to be depicting a somewhat complicated but very specific scenario. Here are some possibilities:

  • Danger! Your front wheel may snap off at any moment and propel you over the handlebars!
  • Warning: Your front wheel may become stuck in a groove, rotating the handlebars in one direction, and rotating you off the bike in the opposite direction.
  • Caution: Riding your bike into this hole may lock the front wheel in place, while inertia brings you to your doom.

Whatever the meaning, I’m more likely to injure myself while attempting to analyze the sign than to suffer injury from the hazard the sign is designed to protect me against.

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