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Articles written by Dan Mcdowel

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  • From the Archives - June 2000

    Dan McDowell|May 1, 2020

    Most aviators recognize the power of lightning, but few understand this unique natural phenomenon. Take time to review a few facts about lightning. 1. A typical thunderstorm lasts about 30 minutes. 2. Though most tend to occur in the afternoon and evening during the spring and summer, thunderstorms can occur at any time of the day and along frontal boundaries. 3. Lightning can strike as far as 15 miles away from a thunderstorm. 4. Lightning can occur when it is not raining. 5. Deaths caused by... Full story

  • From the Archives - March 2000

    Dan McDowell|May 1, 2020

    When we think about how far air travel and space travel have come since the first drawings of da Vinci to the most recent flight of the space shuttle, we are truly amazed. Now imagine what can be coming in the next century or even just in the next ten years! It is mind-boggling. While those thoughts are in your head, why not have a little fun with a little aviation/space trivia test? The questions are in random order and are taken from three national sources of aviation and space information. 1. What aviation safety device predates the advent o... Full story

  • Spatial Disorientation Basics

    Dan McDowell|Feb 1, 2020

    Spatial disorientation can be defined quite simply as the inability to correctly orient oneself with respect to the earth’s surface. It is caused by a variety of sensory illusions. Pilots are especially vulnerable at night and in certain weather conditions. This is because sensory illusions can occur regardless of a pilot’s proficiency or experience. The body’s sensory system normally provides enough information to our subconscious to adequately orient us for normal, earthbound activity. In the environment of flight, however, the sensory syste... Full story

  • Normalcy Bias - When Normal Isn't

    Dan McDowell|Feb 1, 2020

    This past year we have had the unfortunate opportunity to read about a number of aircraft accidents. Far too many of these accidents were pilot error. Worse yet, a number of these accidents ranging from GA, to corporate, military, and the airlines were caused by and effect called the normalcy bias. Normalcy bias sometimes referred to as “analysis paralysis,” is a reference to a person (or peoples) mental state when facing a disaster. When in that state of consciousness it (normalcy bias) causes people to underestimate the possibility of a dis... Full story

  • Flying through a MOA

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Dec 1, 2019

    One of the greatest perks of flying is being able to see and enjoy the beauty of the earth below. But while casually enjoying these sights, especially at lower altitudes, pilots must maintain awareness, not only of other airborne traffic, but also their proximity to military operations areas (MOAs) and low level training routes along or intersecting with their route of flight. What is a MOA, one might ask? According to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) MOAs, "consist of airspace of... Full story

  • What can we do?

    Dan McDowell, Mn DOT Aeronautics|Dec 1, 2019

    To be a good pilot... The leading causes of general aviation (GA) accidents may come as a surprise to most GA pilots. In a June, 2019 article by Janice Wood, published in the General Aviation News, Wood said: “from 2008 to 2017, fatal accidents from controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) — another leading cause of GA accidents were reduced by about half.” She then included a list of the top 10 causes of GA accidents. The first three items in order on her list are: 1. Loss of control (LOC) in flight, 2. CFIT 3. Engine failure. What seemed to th... Full story

  • Winter is coming, "are you ready?"

    Dan McDowell MnDOT Aeronautics|Nov 1, 2019

    The first question you should ask yourself is, if I am this cold now and I haven’t even left the ramp, how cold would I be if I had to execute an emergency landing when miles from a town or even just a mile from a farm house, for instance. Am I properly dressed to be safe during this flight? The answer is no, you aren’t. You should always dress for the conditions you are likely to encounter anywhere along your route of flight. Then, in the event of an unscheduled landing, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your passengers until help arriv... Full story

  • Before it Becomes an Emergency

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2019

    Those who truly love flying find that aviation is one of the things that actually defines them. It is their love and in fact their passion for aviation, that sets them apart from most others. People like this are easy to spot. If they hear the sound of an airplane, any airplane going by, they immediately look up, even when in mid-sentence! There are a few other things that can immediately draw a pilot’s attention. Besides the sound of an airplane going over head, the sound of an engine sputtering and going rough, or worse yet, going silent. T... Full story

  • Opening the door to the future

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2019

    Nearly every child has a dream or dreams of what they want to do for a career in the future. Many have a dream to fly fighters, airliners or airshow aerobatic aircraft for instance. Once they have tasted the excitement and freedom of aviation, it becomes a burning ember in their hearts. For some, the ember becomes a flame that drives them to do amazing things in aviation. Many, if not most people in the aviation industry, no matter what their job or affiliation to aviation may be, are excited to see a young person take advantage of a chance to... Full story

  • GA and Gun Safety

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2019

    Flying in the cool, crisp air of fall can be absolutely spectacular as mile after mile of brilliant color passes beneath your wings. The variety of changing hues and distinct colors is quite simply awe-inspiring. It is in fact one of the great joys of being able to fly when and where you choose. Another great joy of the fall season for many is the opportunity to fly to locations where hunting is an active sport. Landing at a wilderness camp site can be relaxing, knowing of the solitude and peacefulness that is there the moment you shut down you... Full story

  • Trust and Verify

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Jun 1, 2019

    We all have likely heard the old axiom, "trust, but verify!" It holds true today in many facets of our lives, especially in aviation. With all the "gee-whiz" technology that is available in today's cockpits to make flying easier and safer, it is still critically important that you trust your displayed, and controller provided information. But it is equally important that you verify that information. When going into a towered airport for instance, it is common place to simply trust the air... Full story

  • Making the right call

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Jun 1, 2019

    Imagine you are a new pilot and live in an area where you don't have an air traffic control tower (ATC) at your community airport. Perhaps you can fly from point A to a number of point B's and C's without speaking to ATC. You may be wary of the day you actually have to push the microphone button and broadcast your information across the air waves to ATC. That day will come and you need to be able to make the right call. Well, today is the day. So, you have your communications radio on and you... Full story

  • One of summers challenges

    Dan McDowell|Jun 1, 2019

    Minnesota is strikingly beautiful no matter which season, but summer is quite simply amazing. With brilliant blue skies, diamond sparkles on the lakes, and a patchwork quilt of rolling prairie as far as the eyes can see, the beauty is seemingly endless. Even though it can get quite warm and humid, Minnesota’s summers range from tolerable to terrific and it validates why we choose to live here! While summer flying is generally awesome, it brings about some unique meteorological challenges that pilots must be aware of and know the proper a... Full story

  • The Violent Winds

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Mar 1, 2019

    Spring brings about changes in nature, the landscape, the weather, and even in people. The warmth of the strong sunshine and more daylight hours are welcomed with open arms. Even the early spring flowers and plants open their buds and spread their tiny petals or leaves like unfolding “wings” raised toward the sky to say ‘thank you’ for the relief from the frost. As the beauty of spring reveals itself in rapidly changing scenes, it is easy to be drawn to the gentleness of the moments along with the subtle, sweet scents of the first flowers... Full story

  • Just because spring is in sight...

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Mar 1, 2019

    Flying during any season in Minnesota can be stunningly beautiful. It can also present some really unique challenges. One of those unique challenges is icing. Yes, the days are getting longer and maybe a little warmer, but even as we edge toward spring, we still need to remember that snow and icing conditions can exist for several more weeks. Accumulated ice, snow, and frost can have a detrimental effect on your efforts to fly. As you begin your walk around, be sure to look closely for any... Full story


    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Mar 1, 2019

    “Approximately 75% of tactical decision errors that led to accidents investigated by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) were identified as plan continuation errors. These errors occur when a pilot inappropriately continues with a plan of action in the face of cues that suggest plan revision (Orasanu et al., 2001). A related phenomenon is a perceived feeling to “get there” and pilots report that they are sometimes overly influenced by this vague, unspecified pressure to get to their destination.” Submitted by Dan McDowel... Full story

  • Their Dreams Took Flight

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Dec 1, 2018

    This is an inspiring story of three forward-thinking Minnesota high school students. They are neighbors and best friends in life, and are now about to launch themselves into building their respective futures. The focus will be on one student, primarily because of her immediate efforts to give back to the very organization and community that helped guide her to make her dreams take flight, literally. Elizabeth "Ellie" Langdon, and her friends Jackie Little, and Molly Ruth, are currently Seniors a... Full story

  • Plan to be an ACE

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Dec 1, 2018

    Students in the 10 through 12th grades have an opportunity to experience more aviation than they probably thought exists. They can do that by attending the one of the 2019 Aviation Education Careers (ACE) Camp. At ACE Camp in June or July, students will spend one week of their summer fully immersed in exploring the many exciting facets of aviation and dozens of well-paying careers found in the aviation industry! Camps are held in June and July accommodating 30 or more students per camp. There... Full story

  • Your Winter Checklist

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Dec 1, 2018

    Most pilots who have flown for a year or more have likely experienced flying in cold weather. Some may actually prefer to fly in the winter months because there are few threats of thunderstorms (at least in the more northern regions of the US), and nearly unrestricted visibility on clear days. Also there are no bugs to clean off windscreens, struts and leading edges! In addition, the beauty of the winter landscape can be awe-inspiring in itself which can make flying in winter an amazing... Full story

  • Your Favorite Airport

    Dan McDowell with Kathy Vesely, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2018

    Every aviator has a unique fondness in their heart for an airport that holds special memories for them. Those memories will forever remain with them. The picture of that airport, in their mind, will always be 72 degrees with clear air and visibility unlimited. In other words, simply perfect. That "picture" of the perfect airport likely includes not just great weather, but perfectly manicured grass, clean, smooth and long, wide runways and taxiways. Clearly money was available to keep this... Full story

  • Five Things You Should Know About PIREPs:*

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2018

    A pilot report or PIREP is a pilot’s report of actual weather conditions encountered while airborne. A PIREP’s main purpose is safety — it helps weather forecasters update their data and improve quality of forecast A PIREP filed to report good weather is just as important as a PIREP filed to report bad weather. Yes, you can submit them electronically. Check out the electronic PIREP submission tool at the National Weather Service’s Aviation Weather Center Digital Data Service (ADDS) website. Don’t be overly concerned with strict format or... Full story

  • Into the Blue

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2018

    These days it is common practice for nearly everyone to spend large amounts of time staring at electronic screens. Whether for work or for fun, our electronic devices have been deeply embedded in our lives. Even in aviation, we are using electronic pads to read flight charts, check the weather, to file flight plans, and much more. Then we climb into a cockpit with two or more electronic displays and head off into the blue. While many of these devices have actually made facets of our lives... Full story

  • Business aviation is essential to thousands of companies competing in a global marketplace

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Sep 1, 2018

    Business aviation is defined as the use of a general aviation airplane for a business purpose. It is essential to tens of thousands of companies of all types and sizes in the U.S. that are trying to compete in a marketplace that demands speed, flexibility, efficiency and productivity. It is also a vital contributor to America's job base, economy and transportation system. Furthermore, it connects small towns and communities that often have little or no airline service. Equally important,... Full story

  • The Important Role of Your Community Airport

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Jun 1, 2018

    An airport can be many things to many people. It can be a place of magnificent solitude, like during an early summer's morning, just as the sun rises and the stillness is punctuated only by the chirp of birds in the distance. Perhaps a very thin layer of fog will form over the field and in minutes dissipate as the air quickly warms. It is moments like this when there are few things in life more beautiful and tranquil than the silence of an airfield before the days' operations begin. Now is when... Full story

  • In the Rhythm of Flight

    Dan McDowell, MnDOT Aeronautics|Jun 1, 2018

    Flight operations for military, airline, cargo flight crews, and even corporate/business flight crews are often disruptive to the normal cycle of human physiology. With frequent changes in flight schedules, (flights departing varying hours of the day and night), sleep for pilots, at least quality sleep, is often hard to come by. Quality sleep sometimes seems like a unique facet of life that busy flight crew members may experience only on occasion. That raises the question, do irregular... Full story

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