Category: Fixed-Wing Studies

How Private Pilots Can Fly Like Airline Pilots

Fly like the big dogs: here are some little things private pilots can do to fly like airline pilots.

Vern Weiss

Private pilots who fly small aircraft are at a disadvantage when compared to airline pilots engaged in commercial airline flying. When you’re a “solo act,” you do not have the benefit of a large support staff taking care of peripheral planning and logistics for each flight. It can pretty much be said that an airline pilot needs only to show up and fly. When done flying, that pilot packs things up and simply leaves the cockpit while a cadre of others deal with baggage, security, clean-up and fueling.

Some of the protocols and habits that they do make their jobs easier, safer and less taxing. I concede that airline operations with two pilot crews permit the tasks to be split up. But I also contend that a private pilot adopting some of those airline methodologies will benefit as well.

Airline Pilots Know Their Airplane

It starts with knowing the airplane. 14,000 hours ago, I took my commercial pilot check-ride in a Cessna 150. I have not been in a Cessna 150 since, but I can still tell you from memory that it uses MIL-H-5606 hydraulic fluid. I remembered that because I had a terrific instructor who treated my prep for the commercial pilot check-ride like what is experienced in a commercial operation. He ground into me the importance of memorizing every C-150 limitation and systems fact. His philosophy was the same as that found in a Part 121 carrier’s training department: The more you know, the better you’ll be managing and controlling the machine. Rightfully, he believed commercial pilots should know all about their airplane whether it was a Boeing 747 or a Cessna 150.

Ask airline pilots the Vmo speed or maximum engine oil temperature allowed on their airplanes and they’ll tell you straightaway. A typical oral exam during an airline pilot’s “PC” (pilot check- ride) generally starts out with systems and limitations questions. The check airman points to a switch on a cockpit photograph and says, “What are the eight things that happen with this switch is armed?” Or “What is the maximum speed with 12 degrees of flaps?” followed immediately by, “…how ’bout at full flaps?” You’d better have the answer. Pilots who are new to the airline training discipline are sometimes blown away by the degree of detail with which they’re expected to recall systems facts and limitations. But when “flying the line” for an airline, sometimes there is no time to stop and look things up, so airline pilots must know the information.

This is typical of what is heard every day on ARTCC frequencies throughout the country:

Controller: “JetAir 463 can you give me 310 knots for spacing into LaGuardia?”

JetAir Pilot: “Uh negative…we’re unable 310 knots at this altitude but we can give you 280.”

How did that pilot know precisely what speeds could or couldn’t be flown at that moment? It was because he knows his aircraft.

So the first thing to give yourself an airline pilot’s “edge” as private pilots is to commit to memory as much as you can about the systems and limitations of whatever you fly. Do so and you’ll fly better, more confidently and integrate into the ATC system more professionally.

Study the Weather Briefing

At FBOs, I’ve watched general aviation pilots zip through cursory weather briefings, then blast off. A comprehensive weather briefing, in airline vernacular, comes to pilots in what is called “a package.” The “package” is created by dispatchers and includes thorough and pertinent weather information. The operative word here is “pertinent.” These weather briefings are not full of extraneous fillers but contain all the data necessary for that particular flight plan.

Before departure, airline pilots study it intensely. Even before their airplane’s wheels start rolling, they know the best alternate airports, best altitudes to maximize ground speed and minimize turbulence and predict the probable approach they’ll be using at their destination. Private pilots who take the time to obtain a thorough weather briefing have a leg up on making the best flight choices. To alter the American Express advertising slogan: Weather. Don’t leave home without it.

This means taking the briefing with you! Don’t obtain a verbal briefing or scribble a few notes on the back of a fuel receipt and consider yourself “briefed.” Most FBOs have printers available in their pilot lounges so print everything out and carry it with you. Don’t forget graphics like radar summaries. Enabling yourself to thoroughly digest it before departure and then referring to it in flight is important. Once airborne, you can determine if the weather is meeting the forecast or not because you’ll have the details to which to compare subsequent reports obtained via radio.

Take Off and Landing Distance Cards

Whether electronically or manually, airline pilots produce a Take Off and Landing Distance “cue card” for every flight and private pilots should too. Before every takeoff, calculate how much runway is needed for takeoff as well as landing. Why would you care about how much runway is needed to land at the airport you’re leaving? In the event that you must return immediately, you will know the amount of runway length you need to land which may render some of the airport runways unsuitable. With “TOLD” information, should the controller ask, “Are you able to depart from runway two-three at intersection Charlie…two thousand eleven feet available?” you can immediately look at your TOLD card and determine if the answer is yes or no. The same is true for the arrival airport. “Are you able to change your runway to runway one-five?” Look at your TOLD data and you’ll have the answer.

Delta Boeing 767 landing at an airport

Photo by: Andrew Cohen

Private Pilots Should Incorporate Airline Checklists

Airline pilots strictly adhere to checklists for every operation and private pilots would do well to adopt this as well. To streamline some of these checklists, airline pilots use what are called “flows.” The tasks for each checklist procedure (Preflight, Cockpit Preflight, Before Engine Start, After Engine Start, Before Taxi, After Taxi, Before Takeoff et cetera) is organized so that everything to be checked or configured falls into a pattern that is easily done without actually looking at the checklist. Then, once the “flow” has been accomplished, the pilot reviews the written checklist to confirm that each item has been accomplished. Generally speaking, flows are developed top-to- bottom, left-to-right. It is a far more efficient approach than singularly looking down to read each item, looking up to locate and accomplish the item, then looking back down to read the next item. Use of a “flow” accomplishes everything from memory but then you look at the checklist in one review, read it to yourself and can check off each item in your head, (“SET..OFF..ARMED..ON”).

Maintaining Consistent Procedures

Procedurally-consistent pilots are safer, don’t work as hard while flying and less prone to mistakes. Airline pilots fly every visual approach the same. They drop flaps at the same predetermined spots, lower the landing gear and complete checklists at the same point all the time. The same goes for precision and non-precision approaches. One ILS approach is done exactly the same way as another. I have watched private pilots make so much work for themselves because they don’t establish predetermined profiles for each stage of flying. Some pilots raise flaps and gear at vastly different times on takeoff as if they’re not quite sure when they’re supposed to do it. That is not a good habit to get into. Do you raise the landing gear at the same time on every takeoff? Determining a profile for every maneuver and sticking with it will make your job a whole lot easier. The beauty of flying consistent profiles is that regardless of whether everything is going smoothly or if you’re in the middle of an emergency (i.e. engine failure), everything is done pretty much in the same way. Ask a good instructor to sit down with you and develop profiles that you can use all the time based on your aircraft operations manual.

Have a Kit Bag

It’s called a “kit bag” and every airline pilot carries one. They also carry their charts and manuals in it, though with the advent of electronic flight bags, there is now more room in kit bags for other stuff. In my kit bag, I carry what is handy to have while on the road. Office supplies, tools, stamps, a stapler, Band-Aids, General Foods International coffee, fingernail clipper, a Swiss Army knife … anything and everything I might need or want to have access to while I am glued to a pilot seat. It takes a while to develop one’s personal inventory of what to carry in a kit bag; it’s trial, error, experience, and everyone is different. I flew with one co-pilot who had his kit bag filled with an arsenal of vitamins and herbs because he was really into that. Private pilots, too, should make up their own kit bag and have it accessible all the time while flying. Of course, the TSA has made much of what we once could carry in kit bags verboten if one has to pass through an airport check point. But most Private pilot operations involve only FBOs so you can still carry anything you need to conduct life on the road without fear confiscation at TSA airport checkpoints. One of the handiest things I used to carry I cannot anymore: a knife, fork, and a spoon. It was amazing how often I had to resort to using my own flatware while grabbing meals on the road.

Take It Slow

Slow up! Why are private pilots in such a hurry so often? Do you always taxi fast? Why? Do you start your take-off roll before you’ve lined-up on the center line of the runway? Why? I assure you that the additional 3 seconds it takes to square off with the center line is not going to be a liability. Rarely do you see an airline pilot “hot-dogging” with fast taxis and shortcuts. Pilot operations are deliberate, stable, defensive and done at an appropriate speed. They do that because they know hurrying can cause things to mount up rapidly and bite you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Cancel

Why are some pilots so afraid to cancel their trip? Flying magazines often talk about “get there-itis” and you know what they’re talking about. I concede that airline pilots can become impatient when delays are caused by inefficiency and stupidity, but impatience is scarce when safety issues might be compromised. If it is going to take a long time to get de-iced, so be it. If there are delays for planes headed to your destination airport and ATC has issued a ground stop; so be it. If the weather is deteriorating you won’t find any objection from an airline crew when the flight is canceled. It is taken in stride and they simply head to the hotel. Don’t push the envelope because it is not worth it. As a private pilot, it is prudent to adopt the same philosophical attitude about canceling. If there is the slightest doubt that the flight can be made safely, call it a day and come back tomorrow. That’s what the airlines do and their safety record confirms that it’s a good idea.

Don’t Let Passengers Distract You

Although light planes don’t have separate compartments for passengers and flight crews, private pilots should (figuratively-speaking) “close the cockpit door.” Aside from present day security edicts, airline crews don’t want distractions in their cockpits, which is the reason they started putting doors on cockpits on larger aircraft in the first place. Although there is no door separating you from your passenger,s you can mentally “tune them out” from interrupting, annoying and distracting you. You’re not driving a car, you are operating a fast moving aircraft so you should not treat your pilot’s role as you might driving an automobile by engaging in conversations and entertaining your passengers. Advise your passengers that below 10,000 feet the cockpit is “sterile” (no talking unless it is of operational necessity). That’s the way it’s done on commercial aircraft. If you never fly above 10,000 feet then the cockpit should remain sterile throughout the entire flight. Is that extreme? Absolutely not. Below 10,000 feet is where there is the greatest likelihood of other traffic and where things happen fast, especially when approaching B, C or D airspace or uncontrolled airports. You don’t need someone prattling on with conversation when you should be focused on taking care of the business of piloting the airplane.

In Conclusion

Private pilots certainly cannot duplicate everything airline pilots do, but by simply adopting some of their routines, habits and behavior, pilots who fly alone can improve their own safety and efficiency.

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How Not To Impress a Friend With Carburetor Icing

Shawn Arena

Welcome back for another installment of one of my ‘lessons learned’ stories from my personal flying experiences over the years. This particular story, about carburetor icing, could have just as well been sub-titled: “How do you un-declare an emergency?”

A Beautiful Flying Day with a Beautiful Friend

Our story this time takes place in the summer of 1986. I was living in a one-bedroom airport in Costa Mesa, California, about one and one-half miles from John Wayne/Orange County Airport (SNA) in southern California. By that time I had my private pilot license about two years and enjoying every venture I took to the air – but today’s venture was more than what I was expecting.

A very beautiful young woman Abby had moved in to the same apartment complex and we became good friends – not dating or anything, but more than ‘Hi, how are you?’

She would come over to my place, or I would visit hers and we would talk about the day’s events or just chit-chat. One day I got up enough nerve and asked if she would be interested in going flying with me the next weekend to do some sightseeing at Catalina Island (AVX).

Catalina was one of those island locations you hear about in the movies or read in travel magazines. It is part of the Channel Islands chain off the coast of southern California, crystal clear lagoons and flora, and Avalon (the only city) was a tourist’s paradise. Oh, and by the way, their claim to fame (among other things) were the buffalo burgers they served at the airport café. So the time and date were set to meet at SNA to begin our journey.

Some Unexpected Carburetor Icing

The day had come and it was spectacular. In a pilot’s vernacular it was CAVU (i.e. clear and visibility unlimited). I rented a Cessna 152 from the flight school where I learned to fly and off we went. Geographically, the statute distance is 26 miles and about 2 hours by ferry (Readers note: in 1958, the group the Four Preps released a hit song in California whose opening lyrics were- ’26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is waiting for me…”) , but even in a two-seat underpowered Cessna 152, it took only about 20 minutes.

About mid-channel, the ‘fun’ began (let me preface this ‘fun’ by saying air temperature at sea level was 95 degrees, but at 5,500’ MSL it was about 70-75 degrees or so – keep that in mind, as it plays a very important part in our story). I suddenly noticed the propeller beginning to feather and the RPMs were dropping. Up to that time in my brief flying career, I had not experienced anything abnormal, like carburetor icing, in any flights. All at once I had my flight instructor Lance in my ear, “Start a descent and push in the carb heat.” Well I started my descent (but did not instinctively push in the carb heat for some reason) – I guess some first time “Oh, Oh’s” took over.

KAVX Catalina Airport from the air

KAVX, Photo by Ravi Komatireddy

By that time we were close to the airport and I radioed the Unicom operator I wanted to declare an emergency. They immediately waved off any / all aircraft in the vicinity of the airport and I was cleared to land Runway 26. Since Catalina is an island airport, it is surrounded by cliffs on both sides of the runway. And as I was concentrating on putting this puppy on the ground, I realized I needed to listen to Lance’s second half of his imaginary message to push in the carb heat. I did, and the engine started back up and RPMs returned to normal. BUT, I was too high and was not wanting to make a bad situation worse.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate – and Aftermath

I passed over the airport about 2,000 feet above pattern altitude and as I was about to start my ‘stairway to heaven’ climb I heard myself thinking: “How do you un-declare an emergency?” and Lance’s voice came back and said two things: ’aviate, navigate, and communicate’ and ‘there is no substitute for altitude.’ ‘Fly the plane, Shawn,’ I told myself and kept on climbing.

By the time I was assured of a landing by gliding if I had to, I was at a comfortable 8,000’ MSL and headed back to SNA. Poor Abby, all through this she did not say a word, but I noticed that her fingernails had made an indelible impression in the passenger armrests. We landed safely and (figuratively) kissed the ground. And though we remained friends, Abbey never flew with me again, nor did I mention that three-letter word again to her.

In the weeks that followed, I did my best private investigator impression and asked as many mechanics and flight instructors as I could about my experience and all said the same: “Son, it looks like a prime case of carburetor icing.” So it was, a BIG lesson learned for a still-green-behind-the-ears pilot but a valuable one at that, and one I’m glad it happened. So, in closing, be careful out there and remember to ‘aviate, navigate, and communicate’ (and hopefully the girl will want to go on another flight with you!)

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Related:

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Aircraft Icing?

Un-Learning as You’re Learning How to Fly Airplanes

Shawn Arena

Okay, you have checked another box in your journey to earning your private pilot certificate. You and your instructor have set up a ground training schedule and an aircraft has been selected for your training. The next logical step then arrives, as you ask yourself, “So, HOW do I fly airplanes?” I’ll now provide you with an overview so you can answer that question.

Some Un-Learning is required

Since we spend our lives in a limited dimensional world on the ground, learning how to fly airplanes requires what I call ‘un-learning’. “What do you mean by that?” you may ask. As you are learning (or have learned) from your ground component of training, an aircraft operates in multiple dimensions as it is supported by the flow of the air around it.

To conduct many ground-based activities (like driving a car or riding a bicycle) much muscle input is required to accomplish the task. In an aircraft, however, very subtle yet direct muscular inputs and keen hand-eye coordination are required (as your flight instructor will remind you). Another piece of un-learning you’ll encounter is, since an aircraft is not designed for ground operations per se, that you use your feet instead of your hands to smoothly direct the aircraft while on the ground. You will quickly realize that while on the ground, your hand movements on the control yoke are basically useless.

A Quick Physics Lesson

Since the aircraft is designed to operate efficiently in the air, four forces of physics act upon it: Lift (Up), Gravity (down), Thrust (forward), and Drag (backward). In learning how to fly airplanes, you will find out (sometimes the hard way) that all four of these forces have to be in balance with each other. If one is not in agreement with the others, the aircraft will do something that you may not want it to do.

Today’s training aircraft are forgiving, allowing the student to get ‘a feel for the aircraft’. You will understand what your instructor means when he or she states, “Relax, become part of the aircraft, and things will become easier.” As each lesson progresses, the answer to the question “how do I fly airplanes” will be ingrained and easier to realize.

Flight Controls Management

As you gain confidence with every lesson, that hand-eye coordination will become second nature AND you will also realize the vestibular ‘feel’ in your body. Remember that sinking feeling you have when riding an elevator down? In an airplane, that feeling is magnified. Similarly, when that same elevator is rising quickly you feel a strange force pushing down on your body, and the same feeling (again magnified) is what your body feels in an airplane. Congratulations, you just discovered positive and negative g-forces!

That is where management of the flight controls comes into play. You pull back on the yoke or control stick and you go up (Lift), you push down and you go down (gravity). You accelerate the aircraft through the thrust control, you go forward (thrust), and you slow the airplane down, and drag (and gravity) take over. As you progress on how to fly airplanes, management of ailerons, rudder, flaps, and trim tabs become more important to control the pitch, yaw, and roll actions – THAT is how you fly airplanes! It is all about a smooth coordination of each of those individual three axes, that the aircraft operates.

Skyward

As you progress through the basic training, a better understanding of physics, flight control, and hand-eye coordination management enlarges your physical world. It is so powerful that all five of your senses (yes, I mean all five) will forever be changed because you have experienced something very few people get to do in a lifetime. That physical (and physiological) impact on your body is something you will enjoy and treasure the rest of your life!

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Flight Training Aircraft: The Most Common Types and Models

Shawn Arena

So, in your journey to earn your pilot certificates, you have most likely (a) enrolled in a flight school, (b) been presented the ground and flight curriculum you will follow and, (c) been assigned a flight instructor. The next step is the actual flying. At this step, you will most likely be learning in one of the more common types and models of flight training aircraft.

Flight Training Aircraft You May Be Using

The general aviation industry has a proud and safe reputation of providing successful flight training in time-tested training aircraft. Typically as you acquire the feel for the aircraft and the flight environment, you will be flying a ‘2-place’ trainer (i.e. 2-place is industry speak for 2-seats). While many 2-place aircraft are available, two of the most popular 2-place aircraft are the Cessna 152 and the Diamond DA 20.

Cessna 152 and Diamond DA 20

Over the past 40 years, the Cessna 152 has trained more pilots than any other type of aircraft. Cessna purposefully designed the 152 with the student pilot in mind. This aircraft model is reliable, very forgiving in the landing phase, and allows the student to learn the basic airmanship skills needed to progress in the training process. While the interior is tight, the student-instructor relationship is forged nicely, in a cost effective environment.

The Diamond DA20 Katana aircraft is an Austrian-designed, Canadian built 2-place training aircraft that has been in the general aviation fleet since 1991. Designed with the same mindset as the Cessna 152, the Katana design takes advantage of the technological advances in manufacturing using carbon-fiber composite construction for the airframe that not only reduces the aircraft weight but allows for a more aerodynamic flight.

Unlike the Cessna 152, which uses the yoke style control column, the Katana uses the central control stick system that is placed between the pilot’s legs. Another difference is the 152 is a high-wing training aircraft and the Katana is a low-wing configured aircraft. Regardless of the types and models of aircraft used in flight training, you can be assured of a safe, strong, and very stable aircraft that as you move forward in your career will be looked upon with nostalgia.

Moving Up to the Next Level of Flight Training Aircraft

Prior to your private pilot checkride, you will be introduced to one of two 4-place aircraft that not only will maintain that basic aircraft feel but will allow you taking family and friends along for rides.  They are the Cessna 172 aircraft or Piper Warrior/Cherokee aircraft.

Both aircraft are two of the most commonly available for training or rental uses at flight schools. Utilizing the same safe, sturdy, and reliable foundation of the 152 and Diamond Katana, both are great transition aircraft for instrument flight training.

The Piper Warrior/Cherokee is Piper Aircraft’s answer to the 172. The main difference between the two aircraft is the 172 is a high-wing aircraft like its predecessor, the 152. The Warrior/Cherokee is a low-wing aircraft, like the 2-place Diamond Katana. The choice between high-wing and low-wing is personal preference.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is with either 2-place or 4-place types and models used for flight training, you will initially gravitate to either the high-wing or low-wing aircraft configuration through the early and maturing stages of your flight career. After a bit, however, you may want to explore the other type and may find it just as exciting as your first training aircraft. So go out and flight test each for yourself!

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The Cessna Training Program: Flight Training the Cessna Way

Shawn Arena

So you have decided to not only begin flight training, but have focused on using Cessna aircraft and their associated Training Program. First a caveat – regardless of the type of aircraft and program selected, the main goal is training you safely, efficiently, (and as in this case) the use of a specific aircraft manufacturer’s best-recommended practices.

A Few Basics on Cessna Training Aircraft

Cessna utilizes two primary basic trainers for their Cessna flight training program: The 152 (C-152) and 172 (C-172). The main differences between these two are not only the number of seats (2-152 vs. 4-172) but engine horsepower (110hp-152 vs. 150hp-172). Training can be conducted in both, however usually the smaller 152 is used for most of the basic training and then the 172 after flying skills have matured to a safe and comfortable level per the individual flight instructor. Cessna flight training aircraft are high-wing, very stable aircraft that provide an excellent platform to learn and master the necessary flying skills.

The Cessna Flight Training Program

The Cessna Flight Training Curriculum is very comprehensive, logical, and easy to master. The Program is segmented into three areas: Pre-Solo, Solo and Cross Country, and Preparing for the Flight Test. In the initial phase of Pre-Solo, the student is indoctrinated into the nuances and ‘feel’ of the aircraft itself, expectations and milestones to achieve, and finally alignment towards solo flight.

The second Phase, Solo and Cross Country, starts with that indelible achievement of your first solo and builds on the skills, airmanship and expanded aeronautical knowledge so as to conduct a flight safely and efficiently outside of the confines of your home airport.

The third and final stage is preparing for the Flight Test to be administered by an FAA Designated Examiner. They will ultimately determine and present to you your “License to Learn” (as some call the Private Pilot certificate) or in some cases, the Sport Pilot License.

Flight and Ground Training Concentrations of the Cessna Training Program

Since all flight activity is conducted in three-dimensional space versus the two-dimensional ground experiences we are accustomed to, a core feature of the Cessna Training Program is to focus on the following:

  • Real-World Training
  • Risk Management for Pilots
  • Assessment

Real-world training is introduced to demonstrate what you may/will encounter during your flying experiences and how to strengthen your decision-making skills. Specifically, instructors want to see how you perform in pre-flight, automation utilization, and navigational operations. Risk Management for Pilots focus on the acknowledgment that flight is a constant assessment of risks and recognizing how those risks are managed and mitigated. Finally, the Assessment stage develops an inner-focus from the pilot’s perspective and an objective view as seen from the Instructor. All three of these phases work synergistically and cover such areas as in-flight emergencies, aviation weather, operations in and out of large-towered airports, small non-towered facilities and the associated airspace with both types of airports.

Stick-And-Rudder Skill Development and Closing Comments

Like in all new endeavors, flight training is an acquired learning of components such as ground maneuvering, takeoff and cruise, en-route flight, and finally descent and landing. Within all those phases you will learn how to safely conduct straight and level flight, stall recognition and recovery, steep turns, slow flight, emergency recognition and mitigation and unusual flight recovery.

All of those areas require separate stages in training that not only build confidence but mastery of basic aeronautical stick-and-rudder skills that will be required for safe travel in flight conditions.

In closing, the Cessna Training Program is built on solid information, and will allow you to confidently utilize aerial navigation skills that you will be proud and eager to display!

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Aviation and Your Flight Training: Choose the Best for a Lasting Impression

Wilson Gilliam, Jr.

A paper on economic aerospace forecasting could be as thick as your computer screen is tall. Even the FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2015 – 2035 is nearly 140 pages long. I’m glad this post is long on brevity and to the point about how you can fit into the increasingly influential world of aviation and aerospace.

The word “aviation” may not capture the complete role that aeronautics will have on our world during the foreseeable future. Having been a pilot for almost three decades, I’ve tended to consider the flying universe in terms of my own perspective. Within the last few years, I’ve realized that the aviation / aeronautics business will have an immeasurable influence on the world and will open up a myriad of economic opportunities. There is, or will be something for everyone.

A Cessna Citation on the runway - Aviation and Flight Training: Choosing the Best

Technology is driving innovation within many aerospace subsets. Innovations in imaging are permitting the use of lighter airborne equipment. Smaller, lighter aircraft can now perform aerial observation and recording missions than ever before. Computer chip memory increases are leading to an ever increasing number of features in avionics. Turbine engines are becoming more lightweight, resulting in a popular trend to design and utilize small business jets. These advancements are resulting in an increasing number of aviation career opportunities in the following areas (not all inclusive):

  • Aircraft Crew Operations
  • Drones
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Aircraft Ground Support (FBO operations)
  • Avionics (GPS and aircraft tracking products especially)
  • Aircraft Maintenance
  • Aircraft Design
  • Computer Programming

What better way to get acquainted with this burgeoning industry than earning a pilot’s license or a college degree in aviation? Having “in the seat” experience lends pilots an edge in the aeronautical job hunt by having first-hand knowledge of the flying world at work. This physical skills interface with aviation lays a bedrock foundation for almost any aerospace occupational field.

Pursuing an aviation interest in one emphasis can open doors in another. I remember initially attempting to prepare myself to be an airline pilot. I wound up owning an aviation company with a helicopter ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) instead. Maximizing your exposure within an interest area is the first step toward longer-term success.

Reduce the chances of becoming deflated by learning from a well-established, proven organization. As you begin to make decisions about your aeronautical flight training and/or college education, align yourself with a proven provider. Having a committed, well-experienced organization on your side from the beginning will help contain those early frustrations and career growing pains that all of us have experienced.

There is no substitute for learning from the best. After earning my flight instructor’s certificate in helicopters, I traveled to New York to attend some aircraft transition training for two weeks. The instructor introduced himself to me as Bill Staubach, a retired flight instructor from Fort Rucker. Now, that was a last name that brought back memories.

A helicopter flying with a pilot and flight instructor

The only Staubach that I’d ever known was stitched to the first name of “Roger” and threw a football for the Dallas Cowboys during my childhood. I figured that anyone with that last name couldn’t be bad at anything. I was right about Bill. He flew a helicopter just about like Roger threw a football. The funny thing is that they really were related. Bill is Roger’s uncle.

Before I flew with Bill, I had only performed some well-managed, full-touchdown autorotations. The instructor’s hands were always nudging the controls like Mother Goose and I never knew which one of us was pulling or pushing on what (and that’s not a good thing). Imagine my surprise as I flared too high for our first auto and I noticed Bill to my left, arms folded tapping his feet and hardly paying attention. He was singing…

Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for me – ‘cause I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.

The touchdown had nothing to do with the word “touch” and everything to do with slam, bend and panic. The result was an instructor-controlled hop back to the pad and prolonged stint in the classroom, talking about RANT (RPM, Airspeed, Normal Rate of Decent, Touchdown Point). He must have asked me 3,000 times – “What are three indications of an engine failure?” He knew that I knew the answer (needle split, left yaw and quiet). He was ingraining it in my memory like chipping hieroglyphics into a stone tablet. Bill’s skill as a flight instructor challenged me to be a better, more confident pilot. I believe that I passed along Bill’s etiquette and fundamentals to my own students after that.

Giving yourself an edge by lining yourself up with the best is an advantage that you cannot afford to miss out on. If your flight lessons are the first venture into aviation, then your contact with the training school will result in a long lasting impression. Hint: Make sure it’s the right school. The impression will serve to educate and motivate you into remaining engaged in one of many aviation careers.

The aeronautical / aviation industry will have a tremendous influence on the world’s economy in the coming generation. Why not be a part of it? No matter what your age, there’s going to be room for everyone that’s interested. Not only can you work in an exciting environment, the freedom will exist to “spread your wings” to other industry areas as you fly along.

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Cessna Flight Training: Why Flight Schools Love Cessnas

Jennifer Roth

It may seem odd and almost archaic these days that most initial flight training is done in a small aircraft like a single engine Cessna. Many times, students show up to tour a flight campus and they are often surprised at how small and “simple” the airplanes look. This, however, is an opinion that usually changes once they begin their flight training.

Cessna airplanes are excellent for flight training because they are able to handle the constant stress that training puts on them. Student pilots are able to make mistakes and learn from them during Cessna flight training without putting themselves in danger every time. The airplane is stable, yet controllable, allowing for a wide range of maneuvers to be practiced. Cessnas are also very cost efficient aircraft, not only for the student but also for the flight schools or training facilities using them. The aircraft tend to be smaller when used in the training environment, usually two to four seats. Although it may be smaller space wise, it is enough to allow for a student and flight instructor as well as all the available information for the teaching and learning environment (“Planes You Can Fly”, n.d.).

cess1

Cost efficiency and easier maneuvering are not the only reasons flight schools tend to utilize Cessnas for training, but also the vast amount of information that can be learned within one. When a person decides they want to start flying, usually the less aviation knowledgeable person assumes they will start off in a “jet.” In reality, that is just not possible, and with today’s ever-growing and changing technology, it is hard to grasp flying something like a Cessna. Many Cessna aircraft have older avionics, or “steam gauge” instrument panels.

And for prospective student pilots, this may seem like the “old” way to fly as opposed to the glass-paneled aircraft that are becoming more popular. Learning through these older instruments can sometimes help build a solid foundation of instrument interpretation, and with this knowledge, a student can apply it to more advanced systems such as a Cessna fitted with Garmin G-1000. However, starting out learning in a glass cockpit can also offer benefits to students, and Cessna has multiple types of aircraft allowing for a wide range of flying, depending on the level of learning being sought.

Once a student has completed their flight training, if they choose to continue toward a career in the airlines, they are able to take the knowledge they learned flying a Cessna aircraft and apply it to any aircraft they fly. Of course, like with anything, there will be new training to learn whatever specific aircraft they will fly, but they will have that solid foundation of knowledge. That groundwork will allow them to specifically focus on learning the aircraft rather than having to relearn to fly.

So, to some, the smaller aircraft such as Cessna may seem small in size, but Cessna flight training will teach a person everything they need to know about flying, and they will have fun in the process!

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6 Must Read Tips for Your First Airplane Flying Lessons

Spencer Martin

Your first few airplane flying lessons are some of the most important and memorable you’ll ever have. Here’s how to make the most of your pre-solo airplane flight training.

Get Your Hands on the Controls

You learned to walk by walking. You learned to drive by driving, and flying is no different. It takes hours upon hours of hands-on experience to learn how to fly safely, so don’t let your flight instructor hog the yoke. It can be very helpful to have something demonstrated to you before trying it yourself; in fact, good instruction will require demonstrations. However, one example is usually enough and then it’s your turn to fly again. Even when your instructor is flying, you should follow along with them on the controls to feel how they are maneuvering the aircraft. This builds positive muscle memory and leads to good habits early on. It helps to know what type of learner you are too. Some people like more demonstration than others, but the point is to learn how to fly an aircraft by yourself so the more stick and rudder time you get, the better off you’ll be.

Keep Your Eyes Outside
View from the cockpit of a small plane - Airplane Flying Lessons

Photo by: ravas51

You are training to become a pilot under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). This means that the majority of your time should be spent looking outside and not at the flight instruments. Younger students who grew up looking at screens and digital distractions tend to rely on their instruments too much early on in their training. There is no need to depend on the artificial horizon on your attitude indicator when you have the real horizon right out your windshield. While flight instruments can be very helpful, they are to be used primarily to validate what you see outside. In fact, the FAA recommends “90% of the time, the pilot’s attention should be outside the cockpit.”1 Keeping your eyes outside not only increases safety for everyone in the air, it also leads to better piloting skills all throughout any course of training you set your sights on later. Plus the view is just the best!

Ask a Million Questions

At this point in the game, almost everything is going to be new, so try and absorb as much of it as you can without feeling like you’re drinking from a fire hose. Your CFI will love how engaged you are in your own learning and do everything they can to answer your questions in ways that make sense to somebody new to the complex world of aviation. If the lesson is focused on landings, try and come prepared with a few questions on power settings and airspeeds. If you’re learning about stalls, read the appropriate chapter in your textbook the night before the lesson and take notes on what you don’t yet understand. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are before a flight, the more you will take away from your time in the air. This leads to less repeated lessons and better overall comprehension of aviation and flying technique.

Questions, comments, complaints, concerns?

This is what my initial CFI would ask me every time we got back to his office after a flight to start a debrief. Getting a thorough debrief from your CFI is vital to retaining what you did right, and examining what can be improved upon for next time. Take notes and actively participate with your CFI to get the most out of their critique. Instructors want you to succeed just as much as you do; working closely with them and taking their suggestions seriously will help you become the best pilot you can be.

Become an Armchair Captain

A student pilot in the cockpit - Airplane Flying Lessons

It sounds silly but similar to flight simulator training, chair flying will save you so much time and effort in the long run. Ask any professional athlete how they practice and they will almost all tell you they practice with the same focus they have in the game. Practice only makes perfect if the practice is perfect. Do yourself a huge favor and practice checklist usage, stall recovery procedures, or radio calls on the ground where it is a low-stress environment (and where its free too).

Have Fun with Your Airplane Flying Lessons!

If you get stuck in a rut knocking out lesson after lesson, go for your first $100 hamburger or fly over your house or the nearest scenic landmark (at a safe altitude of course). Training can be stressful at times so it’s perfectly acceptable to do something with your CFI that will be memorable and remind you why you wanted to become a pilot in the first place.

In Conclusion

When everything is new and exciting, your first airplane flying lessons can fly by without you realizing it (pun intended). If you come prepared, are open to new experiences, and take charge of your own learning, then you’ll be enroute to becoming a private pilot in no time.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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Sources:

1 – FAA-H-8083-3A Airplane Flying Handbook Figure 3-2

Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe VFR Airport Operations in Class G

Wilson Gilliam, Jr.

A small, white helicopter floats across the sky, practicing different types of approaches to the Class G airport in Virginia. The student pilot pulls the red trigger switch on the cyclic, still timid with inexperience.

November 2045 Romeo turning right base, 28, Hampton Roads Airport.

The pilot of an incoming twin engine airplane, hearing the first radio call and unfamiliar with the area, maneuvers into a right-hand traffic pattern for the same runway a few moments later. The pilot is late to a meeting and still has to grab a rental car.

November 8077 Papa entering a right downwind, Runway 28, Hampton Roads.

UNICOM quickly pipes up over the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency).

November 8077 Papa, this is Hampton Roads UNICOM. We have a right-hand traffic pattern for helicopters only. Fixed-wing aircraft are to use a standard traffic pattern.

These types of radio exchanges are sometimes followed by a few choice words that are broadcast to the public thanks to tense hands and inadvertently open mics. Airplanes and helicopters are both ingenious marvels of the modern world, but inherently possess different flying characteristics. These variations must be planned for, especially at airports without an operating control tower, in order to maximize safety and efficiency.

A small single engine airplane by a hangar - Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe Airport Operations

I have flown both airplanes and helicopters commercially for twenty-five years. I’ve seen my fair share of helicopter versus airplane arguments, near collisions and foot races across the ramp to prove the point in person (you should plan on being out of the aircraft by the time the other pilot gets there). Can’t we all just get along? Yes, we can.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided pilots with general rules pertaining to operations within Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. The FAA has a strong commitment to safety and is a regulatory agency. So, let’s use their position on the matter as a starting point for this discussion about airplanes and helicopters sharing the skies at uncontrolled airports.

The FAA’s 14 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 91 (General Operating and Flight Rules) states:

  • 91.126 Operating on or in the vicinity of an airport in Class G airspace.
    • (a) General. Unless otherwise authorized or required, each person operating an aircraft on or in the vicinity of an airport in a Class G airspace area must comply with the requirements of this section.
    • (b) Direction of turns. When approaching to land at an airport without an operating control tower in Class G airspace—
  • (1) Each pilot of an airplane must make all turns of that airplane to the left unless the airport displays approved light signals or visual markings indicating that turns should be made to the right, in which case the pilot must make all turns to the right; and
  • (2) Each pilot of a helicopter or a powered parachute must avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft.

Note that 14 CFR 91.126 (2) does not specifically indicate “how” the helicopter should avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic. This provides helicopter pilots with some flexibility while remaining compliant.

Tips for Airplanes and Helicopters Sharing the Skies

Here are a few tips for helicopter pilots at Class G airports, with 91.126(2) in mind. Remember that communication and avoidance are key elements in successful coexistence with fixed-wing aircraft.

  • Familiarize yourself with the Airport Facility Directory (AFD) prior to making your trip.

Note any instructions regarding helicopter operations, non-standard fixed-wing traffic instructions, taxiway diagrams, FBO location(s) and any nearby obstacles.

  • Listen to AWOS, ASOS or other advisory service.

Note the wind direction and any special instructions regarding landing information for helicopters. If the wind is different than forecast, don’t be afraid to change FBOs (or other landing areas) if the decision safely creates less interference with other airport users.

  • Request an airport advisory approximately ten miles away.

Hampton Roads traffic, November 2045 Romeo, small white helicopter, 700’ 10 miles north, airport advisory, please.

Adjust altitude to preclude interference with airplane traffic pattern altitudes. Note any possible traffic conflicts and turn your landing light on. Be sure to use the terms “copter” or “helicopter” during all radio transmissions to avoid confusion over aircraft type. If you have questions about acceptable landing areas, ask UNICOM (if available).

  • Your approach path must avoid landing airplanes.

Hampton Roads traffic, copter 45 Romeo, one mile north, will make approach to taxiway Charlie, remaining north of runway 28.

A helicopter in flight - Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe Airport Operations

The slower approach speeds of helicopters make them especially vulnerable to being overrun. Utilize an approach path well clear of airplane traffic and plan on landing in an area that minimizes rotor wash to parked or taxiing fixed-wing. Be very specific during traffic updates regarding your approach path relative to the active runway. Acknowledge nearby traffic to help alleviate collision concerns. Don’t forget to look out for other helicopters, too.

I have found it usually best to plan the helicopter approach directly to my final destination at the airport. This permits efficiency for paying customers, while minimizing the impact of my operations across the airfield.

Remember that helicopter pilots are taxpayers, too. As long as helicopters are not impeding the flow of airplane traffic established in the pattern for the “purposes of landing,” helicopters have a right to use the normally smooth, wide runway surface. Sometimes, this is preferred when practicing run on landings or full touchdown autorotations from altitude. Fixed-wing airplanes waiting on the taxiway for take-off do not have the right of way over a helicopter on final approach or on the runway. FAR 91.113(g) clearly indicates that:

  • g) Landing. Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface…

Airplane pilots waiting for departure should comply with 91.113(g) and not incorrectly invoke 91.126(2) to try and force helicopters off of the active runway. Helicopter pilots should clear the active runway as soon as safely possible.

  • If it’s necessary to cross a runway after completing the approach, utilize sound runway incursion avoidance techniques.

Remain clear of any hold short lines for the runway while making a radio call prior to crossing. Avoid radio transmissions while crossing since this does not allow for possible warnings via radio prior to runway encroachment. Position your helicopter so that rotor wash does not create turbulence on the runway (note wind and traffic conditions). If there is a passenger or second pilot, confirm tail rotor clearance during pedal turns and that the runway is clear prior to crossing.

  • Use care during hover taxiing.

Hovering helicopters can make ground bound airplanes dance in the wind, pelting them with loose debris. Believe me; this does not foster warm and fuzzy feelings between swing-wing and fixed-wing.

Be careful not to taxi behind large airplanes performing engine run ups (or any condition requiring thrust). These situations can create possible loss of tail rotor effectiveness (LTE) or hitting cyclic control stops.

  • Use caution if operating near self-serve fuel pumps.

Helicopters landing and taking off near fuel facilities have substantial potential for creating conflict. Be aware of your rotor wash. If in doubt, land nearby, throttle down and wait for a safe opportunity to use that credit card. Pilots of smaller helicopters may be able to land a short distance away and push the aircraft to the pump with ground handling wheels. That’s a better option than making airplane drivers so upset that you can’t even sit at the restaurant lunch table. If it does happen by accident, buy your fellow pilot lunch. A nice lunch. Steak if they have it. Remember, as in life – your reputation follows you around.

  • If operating at the airport on a routine basis, sit down with the facility manager and develop a plan.

Helicopter on a runway, with an airplane - Mixing Airplanes and Helicopters: Safe Airport Operations

Meeting with the airport manager about routine helicopter operations is some of the best advice I can offer. Creating well-developed helicopter operating procedures for the airport will enhance overall safety and enjoyment. Discuss traffic patterns, reasonable landing sites based on wind and traffic conditions and recommend that other helicopter operators abide by the same guidelines. Encourage airport management to distribute helicopter recommendations via updates to the AWOS/ASOS recording, AFD commentary and written dissemination among airport based rotorcraft operators. Helicopter flight schools should consider including the resulting operational plan as part of their standard operating procedures (SOPs) provided to employees, students and renters.

Remember, it’s a big sky with room for both airplanes and helicopters, but a small airport. Safety and communication are the keys to the facilities.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

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Sources:

14 CFR FAR Part 91

What to Expect When Earning Your Airplane Instrument Rating

John Peltier

Congratulations, you just got your private pilot airplane license. You want to use this newfound freedom to fly to the family cabin in the next state, but there won’t be any VFR weather between here and there for the next week. Grounded. But what if you had your airplane instrument rating?

Reasons for Getting Your Airplane Instrument Rating

Of course, being able to legally fly in IFR conditions isn’t the only reason for getting your airplane instrument rating. It shouldn’t even really be “the reason” for you to get your instrument rating. You always want to better yourself as a pilot, right? This is a great way of doing it.

There may come a day when you find yourself facing inevitable flight into IMC – the clouds close in around you and there’s nowhere else to go. Having your instrument rating will prepare you for inadvertent flight into IMC and give you the tools you need to safely recover from that dangerous situation.

Even if you don’t accidentally find yourself in IMC, your instrument rating will teach you an effective instrument scan, leading to better control of the airplane. You’ll be better able to hold altitude, airspeed, and heading. And guess what – these are things that potential employers will want out of you as well.

And speaking of employment. If you ever have any desire to fly commercially, most employers won’t even give you the time of day if you don’t have your airplane instrument rating along with your commercial license.

Airplane Instrument Rating Requirements

Getting your airplane instrument rating isn’t as hard as you might think. You may look at the regulations and say to yourself, “wow, that’s a lot, I’ll never get it.” Sure you will! It just looks like a lot on paper.

Summary of Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61, Subpart B, 61.65:

  • At least a private pilot certificate in airplanes, or are currently in the process of getting it.
  • Take a written test (knowledge test) and an oral & flight test with an examiner in either an airplane or FAA-approved simulator (practical test). Your logbook will need endorsements from an instructor stating that you’re ready for both of these.
  • The flight experience you’ll need for the airplane instrument rating is:
    • Forty hours of simulated or actual instrument flying, 15 of which must be with an authorized instrument-airplane instructor.
    • Fifty hours of cross-country flight as pilot-in-command. Ten of these hours must be in airplanes (you can credit helicopter time if you have it).
    • A 250-mile cross-country flight in an airplane, with an instructor, flown under instrument flight rules. You must complete at least three different kinds of instrument approaches and fly an instrument approach at each airport along your routing.
    • Three hours of flight training in an airplane within 2 calendar months from the date of your practical test.
  • The FAA now allows pilots to get their instrument ratings concurrently with the private pilot license. This will speed things up though you won’t have the 50 hours of pilot-in-command cross-country time. The FAA will allow you to credit up to 45 hours of you performing the duties of pilot-in-command (as you do when you’re a student pilot) in lieu of this.
  • If you’re using a simulator, as you most likely will, you can only credit up to 20 hours of instrument time towards your rating – you’ll have to fly the other 20 in an actual aircraft. If you’re getting your simulator time in a structured Part 142 school, you can credit up to 30 hours.
What to Expect

Ground Training: You’ll need a good understanding of academia for your knowledge and practical tests. The amount you spend in academics will vary but it typically runs around twenty hours in the classroom. You’ll learn even more about the national airspace system, regulations, instrumentation, and bringing it all together to fly under instrument flight rules. You’ll also become a near expert at reading the weather and planning cross-country flights. Paying attention in ground school will set you up to do very well during the practical test, which is taken at designated FAA testing centers around the country.

Simulator Training: You don’t have to use the simulator – you can complete your entire instrument rating in an actual airplane, but this will significantly drive the costs up. The other advantage to using the simulator is efficiency of training. Your instructor can replicate conditions in the simulator that you wouldn’t be able to call for in the air. It allows you more room to make mistakes and learn from them, and “start from scratch” if needed. The simulator is where you’ll learn a good scan, preflight instrument checks, communications, and instrument procedures. Exposure to these in the simulator will make them easier once you get to the airplane.

Flight Training: And this is where the real fun begins! You’ll sit in the right seat with a view-limiting device, affectionately known as “foggles”, restricting what you can see to only the instrument panel. You’ll put these on after takeoff and remove them prior to landing. But you’ll wear them for everything in between. Your instructor will have you do some very basic maneuvers like changing altitude, and some more complex ones like recovering from unusual attitudes. You’ll get exposure to different local airports, flying all of the possible instrument procedures that are compatible with your aircraft navigation equipment.

The Practical Test: This is where it all comes together! You and your instructor will go over your logbook to make sure all of your requirements are met and set up an appointment with the dedicated pilot examiner (DPE). The DPE will have you plan a cross-country flight under instrument flight rules, and it may or may not be what you actually fly. But the DPE will want to make sure that you can complete one of these without error. The day will start with an oral exam, and everything you’ve learned up to this point is fair game. The oral exam will vary in length depending on the examiner, but once they’re satisfied you’ll head on out to the airplane! The actual flight itself will be a lot like your instrument training flights. You’ll take off, put on the foggles, and fly under instrument flight rules. You’ll have to recover from an unusual attitude and have another emergency procedure thrown in the mix. After flying a few instrument approaches, you’ll take off the foggles and the exam is over!

Costs of Getting an Airplane Instrument Rating

It’s hard to nail down an actual cost of receiving your airplane instrument rating. There are many different variables to take into consideration – the equipment used, flight time needed, location, fuel prices, extra training required, etc.

A “standard” instrument rating, using a C172 with twenty hours of simulator time will run somewhere in the ballpark of $8,000. If you need extra cross-country time as pilot-in-command, expect these costs to go up.

A good way of reducing overall costs of getting to your goal of being a commercial pilot would be to combine your instrument rating with other requirements of commercial employment. You can satisfy the cross-country time required for your commercial license by taking an instructor or safety observer and flying with the foggles on these cross-country flights, logging this time for both instrument and commercial. You may also want to consider doing some of these flights in a complex aircraft, turbine, or multi-engine.

After Getting Your Airplane Instrument Rating

You can consider your airplane instrument rating as something that dies unless it’s used! You’ll need to stay current in order to legally fly under instrument flight rules. Staying current involves completing six instrument approaches, holding procedures, and instrument navigation within a six-month period. You can complete this in either an airplane or simulator, but you cannot fly under IFR unless these requirements are met.

But these are the minimum requirements to keep your rating current. In order to be a proficient IFR pilot, you actually need to fly in IMC. You need to use your instruments every time you fly, even in VMC. If you’re coming back to the airport on a perfect VFR day, dial in the localizer and shoot the instrument approach back home. It may save your life some day!

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Flying Airplanes: How Can Something so Disciplined Be so Romantic?

If everyone in the world could fly an airplane it wouldn’t be special and because of this flying airplanes requires initiative and effort but it’s rewarded with exhilaration.

Vern Weiss

You’ve just touched down at your destination airport. For the last ten minutes, your passenger has been scanning the ground and unsuccessfully looking for something recognizable. The radio chatter is incessant and the passenger wonders, even if he knew what the lingo meant, how do you know when you’re supposed to speak into the microphone? “Fih-yuv Niner Whiskey?” “Left Zero Two Zero?” What’s all that? Then, out of nowhere, the passenger notices that you have reduced the power and the aircraft slows. The passenger wonders why this is happening because you are still high in the air and nothing…but nothing…on the ground looks familiar. Suddenly you move your hand over to the flap handle and the whole aircraft pitches downward; then another power reduction for who knows what reason and another flap handle movement. With the passenger’s eyes popping out of their sockets in a vain attempt to find where you’re aiming this airplane, you reach over and throw another lever. With a startling “cluh-chunk,” you remain cool as the landing gear extends and your passenger’s bewilderment meter pegs. Left and right the passenger sees nothing and thinks, “for crying out loud, does that radio never shut up!” Then suddenly it’s right there in front… a long ribbon of concrete, inviting, safe…home. The wheels gently kiss the pavement and the airplane decelerates and it seems to anticlimactic. As you turn off the runway and onto a taxiway your passenger says, “how did you do that?!!!” There was so much going on and the passenger could hardly take it all in let alone see any of the visual cues you were using to guide you through the choreography of navigation and configuration for landing. But this is why you are flying airplanes and your passenger is not. Your training and your experience make it all look so simple and you don’t even notice that you were doing things an untrained observer would be incapable of doing.

Curtain falls. Curtain rises. You’re driving down the street and some jerk cuts you off. “Where’d that creep get a driver’s license?” you bellow as you hold back the urge to flip him off. That “creep” probably has a license because it is so easy and requires very little skill or study. This is why people can learn to drive a car in only a few hours. Driving was made to be simple so the masses could do it (and buy cars that do most of the thinking for them). Consider how most people are challenged if, while driving, they try to talk on a cell phone. Then toss into the mix it starting to rain. They’re overloaded…steering, yakking and now they have to throw a switch for the windshield wipers.

Ka-BOOM!

…Then they’re ticketed by the cops and their insurance rates go up. End of story.

But as a pilot, you are trained to safely multi-task. During your pilot training, you will be trained to prioritize and follow orderly procedures. This takes the guess work out of tasks, even emergencies. Flying airplanes demands methodical steps in everything that happens or that the pilot must accomplish. Yeah, sure, there are pilots out there that never use a checklist but with each flight, they’re likely getting closer to the one in which they’ll have an accident, incident or at least something that will be unsavory to them.

But in exchange for the skills you hone and the “smarts” you accumulate, you are controlling a vehicle that is traveling perhaps one-hundred miles per hour or more and leaping over the ribbon of red tail lights you see below on the expressway. Flying enables you to proceed directly to your destination without consideration of construction zones or other impediments around which you must detour like, f’rinstance, Lake Erie.

When flying airplanes you make both conscious as well as unconscious decisions that ultimately result in success. As an example, you are flying to an airport and between you and the airport exists a line of thunderstorms. You only have enough fuel to make it to the airport so long as you do not deviate around the bad weather. This is a no-brainer. You check your chart and see an airport is only a spitting distance from where you’re located right now so you land, take on fuel, wait for the line of storms to pass and then take off and fly to the destination.

Well done! Actually, it’s brilliant what you’ve done. But this is pilot’s think. If you wanted to take chances on a journey you’d drive a car. People are taking chances all the time in cars because they’re not disciplined and don’t take it all that seriously. As a pilot, you know that bad choices and mistakes in flying airplanes can have horrible consequences so you take better care of the judgments and decisions you make.

Do you want to know something that is pretty cool? After people become pilots they tend to be better drivers on the highways! As a pilot and while driving you will find that the whole specter of how you conduct yourself and the decisions you make will start being more pilot-like and less driver-like. When the fuel gauge on a car shows one needle-width above empty, many drivers will interpret that as, “hey, I’ve still got a little gas in there.” But a pilot will look at that needle and interpret it differently. A pilot will think “what if the float in the gas tank is stuck?” or “what if there’s a bunch of water in my fuel tank that the gauge is now measuring?” Or “what if I miss my exit and the next one is ten more miles down the road?” Or… Or… You get the idea. As a pilot you think more about eventualities and the unexpected. You will weigh your windows of vulnerability in everything you do.

There are few things as satisfying finishing a job well-done. As you tie-down your aircraft and walk to your car you will think about how you handled the last flight and those parts of it of which you’re proud. Sure, you may have made some mistakes but you “fixed” those mistakes by subsequent decisions that counter-balanced them; diminishing or eliminating the errors. All pilots make mistakes but it is how they handle them that determines success. And pilots tend to “fix” the small ones early so they don’t escalate into big problems.

There is a well-known poem written by John Magee who was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Mr. Magee’s poem, “High Flight1 begins:

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –

and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of…”

There is no doubt that slipping surly bonds and flying airplanes with laughter-silvered wings is probably as good as, say, a cheeseburger and a beer. But long after the cheeseburger and beer have been forgotten the craving to fill your senses with all that is flying and that flying means remains. You’ll think about it day and night. Some define their personal identity as fliers before even their own name. Who are you? “I’m a pilot…and, uh..my name is Oswald.”
It’s addicting. It will envelop you. It will not permit you to get it out of your mind. Those who have flown and stop flying usually admit that when they look up and see an airplane, they miss it. And that’s because it is a wonderful privilege.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Sources:

1 “High Flight” John Gillespie Magee. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/highflig.htm

Have You Ever Thought of Becoming a Pilot?

The Journey from Fixed Wing Single Engines to Jets

Shawn Arena

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

That is one question I am sure almost all of us can remember being asked by either parents, teachers, or friends when we were young. Most certainly we replied with an answer such as a ballplayer, a doctor, a nurse, or a fireman.

As we mature and experience the world around us our dreams continue to expand – until that one day when someone would ask that follow-up question “Have you ever thought of becoming a pilot?” Almost immediately our dreams turned towards the sky. That is what happened with me. Though I had a grandfather who first flew in the 1930s, I was left to discover for myself what I wanted to do when I grew up-until he asked the question that titles this article.

If someone has posed that question to you and you don’t know where to begin, hopefully this article will serve as that ‘leading edge of the wing’ to provide some insight. “But I don’t know where to start” may be the question you are asking yourself right now. Don’t worry, there are options readily available to explore. If you are in elementary school, consider a high school that has an aviation program. More and more high schools are expanding their core curriculum to include a private pilot ground school that can lead to earning your Fixed Wing Private Pilot, Single Engine Land Certificate. A nice add-on to also consider with your high school education is getting involved with an ROTC program- an easy bridge to an aviation career. That is what really motivated me!

After high school the amount of four-year universities that offer an aviation education are numerous: Embry-Riddle, Arizona State, Auburn, Ohio State, and Baylor Universities are just a few of the many offering Bachelor’s Degrees in an aviation program.

If you are considering a career in any branch of the military, aviation is an important component of their respective career paths as well (especially the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps. and Coast Guard).

Another option to consider if the aviation college or the military paths are not appealing, go down to your local airport and check out the FAA designated flight schools at a Fixed Based Operator (FBO). They are always eager to answer all your questions, provide a career path or even offer you a Discovery Flight to get started on your dream.

Either way you choose to pursue, advance ratings and certifications follow accordingly after the single engine experience. The tip of the pyramid however is the title of Air Transport Rated Pilot (ATP) – another fancy name for Commercial Airline Pilot. The commercial airline pilot is the typical mindset the general public thinks of when talking about aviation. Though the road may be tough – starting out as a regional pilot and then ‘getting your dream shot’ as an airline pilot, the satisfaction is priceless. Corporate aviation is a similar path to the airline pilot career. Since by definition commercial pilots are flying for hire – you get to fly executive aircraft with state-of-the-art automation to some of the most beautiful places on earth. Wow!

So what are you waiting for? Start by exploring your local airport, high school or even college catalogs to see which track you want to pursue as you’re researching becoming a pilot. After all the sky’s the limit.

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You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

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