EAA multimedia journalist Brady Lane chronicled his journey to earn his sport pilot certificate
www.EAA.org/wings. Ab initio is Latin for “from the beginning,” and in this column he’ll
continue to share his adventures as he gains experience as a newly certificated pilot.—Eds.
The Sound of Silence
The “rules” of radio-less flying
FREEDOM IS AT THE core of why many of us fly. When we escape the
world below and are given the gift of being able to freely move in
three dimensions, we experience something that people throughout
all of history have been able to only dream about.
This freedom is pure and delightful, and many of us just can’t
seem to get enough. Sadly, not every flight produces this captivating
enjoyment. Some flights are packed with challenges and focused
work that test or refine our skills. To some degree all flights are both
enjoyable and instructional, but most are normally more one than
the other. I’m typically either focused on learning or focused on
enjoying. That was until I flew a little J- 3 Cub recently.
In that simple 60-year-old yellow plane, I experienced aviation
the way my grandfather’s generation did, and for the first time tasted
a new level of freedom.
The Cub is a loved classic for many reasons, but one feature stood out to me: its
simplicity. Most notably, in the plane I was
flying, the complete lack of a radio.
This gave me some trepidation at first.
Really? No radio? Is that even legal anymore? I thought to myself. Even if it was
legal, I wasn’t sure how I would feel being
airborne without any way of communicating with the outside world.
Kandace, who was my tailwheel
instructor and who would be flying in the
front seat of this deaf/mute plane with me,
told me there are probably an equal number of airplanes without radios at this small
airport as there are with radios. I was
intrigued and started to become more
interested in this grassroots form of flying.
Leaning into the small cockpit I saw only a
single row of instruments and thought back to
the acronym commonly taught to remember
what instruments are required for visual flight
rules (VFR) flight. When I realized there was
no “R” in “TOMATO FLAMES,” (see sidebar
on page 70) a small smile crept onto my face.
I admitted to Kandace that this was
going to be a new experience for me and
asked what I needed to know about flying
without a radio. She suggested the following five rules:
1) Keep your head on a swivel and your
eyes outside the plane.
Kandace leaned forward and looked me
square in the eyes when she told me this
rule, because, well, it’s rule No. 1 and the
single most important. In most vintage Cubs
like the one I was flying, it was easy to look
outside because there wasn’t anything to
look at inside the plane.