Power Your Flight Training at Upper Limit with an HFI Scholarship!

HFI is offering a variety of helicopter scholarships that can help you build a career as a helicopter pilot through flight training with Upper Limit Aviation.

Upper Limit Aviation is excited to promote another great scholarship opportunity to prospective helicopter pilots hoping to start or continue working towards their helicopter certificate through our fantastic flight training program. This scholarship is funded by Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) an organization that is dedicated to preserve and promote what they call the “rich heritage of vertical aviation,” while doing whatever they can to support future rotorcraft pilots and aviation technicians. HFI is run by a board of directors who, much like our founders and instructors, are passionate about encouraging those interested in helicopters and hoping to pursue their helicopter license.

Like Upper Limit Aviation, HFI supports education and job placement for student pilots and strongly encourages safety. HFI also promotes historic preservation through it’s HFI Trailblazer series about rotorcraft pioneers and advancements.

This year, dozens of scholarships are available to both men and women, young and old aviation enthusiasts and rotorcraft students. After using the scholarship to achieve your dream of earning your helicopter certificate through Upper Limit Aviation’s flight school, both HFI and ULA will help you find a career, through direct assistance from our faculty, as well as HFI’s annual career roundtable, and the other programs ULA offers to further your career goals, such as Pilot Pathways.

HFI has two fantastic helicopter scholarships available that we at Upper Limit think would be invaluable to our students: The Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship and the Michelle North Scholarship for Safety. Applications for both of these amazing aviation scholarships are due by November 30th, 2017 by midnight, EST.

An HFI Helicopter Scholarship can power your flight training at Upper Limit Aviation in a Robinson R22 Helicopter.

Train in one of our awesome Robinson R22s with a professional, experienced CFI!

To apply for the Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship, you must already have your private helicopter certificate and be enrolled in a commercial helicopter pilot rating program such as Upper Limit Aviation. Additionally, in order to qualify for the scholarship, you should be on the track to complete this rating after January 1st, 2018

The Michelle North Scholarship for Safety is for commercial helicopter pilots interested in enhancing their aviation career by adding additional focus on aviation safety. Named after Michelle North, an industry advocate of safety, the goal is to “encourage a stronger focus on safety education and training in helicopter operations.” In addition to other rewards, the winner of this scholarship gets full-tuition to attend the HFI Safety Management course at the HELI-EXPO in Las Vegas. To apply, you must have your commercial pilot rating, and demonstrate an “outstanding aptitude for safe flying and aviation best practices.”

Any of these amazing opportunities can help you become a better helicopter pilot through Upper Limit Aviation’s thorough and career-oriented flight training at either our Southern California or Salt Lake City locations.

For more information on how to apply, visit helicopterfoundation.org/scholarships or email [email protected]. You can also take this opportunity to contact our representatives at either school location and start the path toward your private or commercial helicopter license. Call or email us today and we can also help you find the scholarships that are best for you, walk you through the scholarship application process, and receive top-level training that will enable you to enjoy a career as a helicopter pilot!

Get Started with Your Flight Training Today!

For our Salt Lake City, UT location, call 801-596-7722 or email [email protected]

For our Temecula/Murrieta, CA location, call 951-696-7722 or email [email protected]

And click here to fill out our online application!

Upper Limit Aviation and Whirly-Girls Are Helping Women Learn to Fly

Upper Limit and Whirly-Girls to committed to helping women start their career in aviation.

For any woman who’s always wanted to learn to fly helicopters, or who has spent years imagining an exciting career in aviation, now is the perfect time to start your flight training with Upper Limit Aviation. And that’s because the application season for the 2018 Whirly Girl scholarships has just opened! 19 deserving female aviators and potential aviators will be awarded flight training scholarships, which could make Upper Limit’s already affordable flight training even more affordable!

Whirly-girls Scholarship application

The Whirly-Girls Scholarship Fund (or WGSF) is a nonprofit, charitable, and educational organization dedicated to sharing helicopter aviation with women, and helping female rotorcraft pilots receive the training they need to advance their careers. The Whirly-Girls themselves, an organization of female rotorcraft pilots nearly 2,000 strong, have been providing scholarships to deserving female aviators since 1974, with the many different scholarships in recent years valued at more than $175,000. Their goal is to open up aviation to women, as only 4% or so of all pilots are women. As their Vice President Alison Martin says, “Every female pilot owes it to herself to apply.”

One of Upper Limit Aviation's Robinson R22 Helicopters

Train in one of Upper Limit’s beautiful R22s!

There are a variety of aviation scholarships available this year, such as one for Advanced Mountain Flight Training (something Upper Limit excels at), the Thurn-Herr Annual Advanced Training Scholarship, a Robinson Helicopter Company R22/R44 Safety Course scholarship, and the Whirly-Girls Helicopter Add-On Flight Training Scholarship, among many others.

You can apply for these scholarship simply by paying a $50 fee to join the Whirly-Girls, and heading over to the application page on their website. Applications for all of these scholarships will be accepted until October 1st, 2017. That means you have two weeks to submit an application that could potentially change your life. Upper Limit Aviation strongly believes in the advancement of female pilots, both rotorcraft and fixed wing, and encourages everyone reading this to share and apply this exciting opportunity with any woman who has always dreamed of flying. Our dedication to female pilots isn’t limited strictly to flight training; if you need any help applying or deciding which scholarship to apply for, or would like more information on how you can use your scholarship to get your rotorcraft certificate with Upper Limit Aviation, please call us at 801-596-7722, or email us [email protected] and we’d be thrilled to help you.

Winning one of these scholarships could mean the difference between landing a career as a helicopter pilot you’re passionate about, or continuing to dream about the career that could have been. So don’t wait to start or advance your helicopter flight training; change your future today!

The winners will be announced and the scholarships awarded in February 2018, at the Annual Whirly-Girls Awards Banquet at Heli-Expo in Las Vegas, NV. Apply today, and contact us to find out more about the next steps toward earning your initial certification or earning advanced rotorcraft ratings. We hope to see you on the stage accepting a scholarship next year!

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Upper Limit is Giving You a Clear Path to Becoming a Pilot with SkyWest Airlines

SkyWest Cadets receive a number of great benefits as they work to become a SkyWest Pilot.

Upper Limit Aviation is excited to partner with SkyWest Airlines as part of the SkyWest Pilot Pathway Program. SkyWest’s program provides a direct path for exceptional pilots who want to take control of their aviation careers. Upper Limit Aviation’s current chief pilot, Belinda Villa, is a captain at SkyWest and is a strong believer in the program, having already served as a mentor and coach for bright, talented, Upper Limit pilots who plan to fly with SkyWest’s amazing team. In addition to the in-depth, professional flight training you’ll receive from Upper Limit, as a SkyWest Cadet you’ll enjoy a variety of benefits as you work towards earning your place as one of SkyWest’s 4,000+ professional pilots.

Benefits include:

  • Company seniority for benefits eligibility, which activates as soon as you’re a SkyWest Cadet.
  • An enhanced introduction to SkyWest, which includes a tour of SkyWest’s SLC facilities and more.
  • Mentorship from SkyWest pilots, including regular visits, mock interviews and ongoing association with crewmembers.
  • A guaranteed final interview with SkyWest.
  • Increased seniority within your ground school class.
A SkyWest Cadet, taking part in the SkyWest Pilot Pathway program

Image courtesy of SkyWest

The Pilot Pathway Program, unlike an internship, allows pilots to stay on the campus and complete the flight training necessary to meet ATP requirements. And with Upper Limit Aviation’s campus being located in Salt Lake City, which is one of SkyWest’s largest operational hubs, our pilots are right in the heart of the action. The individual mentoring each SkyWest cadet receives is a key benefit, as SkyWest pilots provide invaluable tips to aid pilots on their journey to becoming professional commercial pilots.

If you are ready to take control of your career, professional flight training using Upper Limit Aviation’s tried-and-true teaching methods coupled with SkyWest’s Pilot Pathway Program provides the ideal path to becoming a professional commercial pilot. Our wonderful flight training program at Upper Limit Aviation prepares you to embody SkyWest’s values of professionalism, teamwork, and success; making us a perfect flight!

To become a SkyWest Cadet and take part in this program, you must hold:

Additionally, you must not have more than three failed check rides, though stage checks do not apply.

No matter where you are in your flight training, we can help you earn your ratings, guide you through the requirements and help you make it as a professional commercial pilot. So if you have the Upper Limit Motivation to succeed, this program with SkyWest can be your entrance into an amazing lifelong career in aviation. Get started now with Upper Limit Aviation and become the best pilot you can be!

Get started with your flight training today:

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Featured Image: courtesy of Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0

Finding the Humor in Flying With the Airlines

Flying with the airlines isn’t generally funny business, but that’s not stopping Kulula from trying to put a smile on your face.

Humor isn’t always the first thing you think of when it comes to flying with the airlines, especially if you’re currently studying for your commercial at Upper Limit Aviation. It takes a lot of hard work and focus, but that doesn’t mean that once you do earn that commercial pilot license, you can’t have a little fun. But if you haven’t heard of Kulula Airlines, a regional airline flying in South Africa, then you might not realize that sometimes humor is the perfect traveling companion. Take, for example, the opening to a recent in-flight announcement from of the flight attendants:

You know, Kulula has the best looking cabin crew in South Africa, but due to rostering problems none of them are on board with us.” 1

Or this gem after landing at the airport for the city of Durban:

Ladies and Gentleman, after that smooth landing, welcome to Durban, where the curry is hot. I’m [telling] you, you’ll enjoy it today, but tomorrow you’ll be doing handstands in the shower. If this is not where you want to be then you have some serious issues and I guess we’ll see you sooner than we thought.

Or maybe this zinger upon arrival in Cape Town:

If you need any assistance disembarking, sorry for you, help yourself…only kidding folks, we’ll ask one of the greasy engineers to come and assist you.

Obviously, the crew at Kulula Airlines have a strong sense of humor. Kulula (drawn from the Nguni languages of Zulu and Xhosa with the meaning It’s easy)2 was founded in July of 2001, and in August, they started serving South Africa as the country’s first ‘no-frills’ carrier. They weren’t interested in simply establishing a brand, but rather making it an affordable, complete travel experience. And over the past 16 years, though they have a modest fleet of 10 Boeing 737s (nine 737-800s, and one 737-400) and serve 6 destinations, their culture has attracted the attention of the world.

The world definitely took notice when these awesome pictures of two of their Boeing 737s with appropriately cheeky paint jobs started making the rounds.

Kulula’s humor isn’t limited to just the announcements, though. They also put a strong dose of humor into their advertising, ribbing rival airlines, spoofing pop culture, and crafting clever billboards like this one:

Kulula Airlines billboard

All in all, it sounds like Kulula isn’t just a fun airline to fly, it’s also a fun place to work. Becoming a commercial pilot with ULA will open doors into airlines everywhere, including those at Kulula. Here are some more gems from Kulula flights:

  • On one flight, when passengers were having a hard time choosing seats (there are no assigned seats), a flight attendant announced: “People, people, we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.
  • After landing, one flight attendant quipped “Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.
  • There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.
  • Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.
  • After the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport, a voice came on the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!
  • After a rough landing and flying through thunderstorms in the Karoo (a semi-arid desert region in South Africa), a flight attendant announced: “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as heck everything has shifted.” (ULA trained pilots only have perfect landings, just ask!)
  • Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.
  • In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite.
  • Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.
  • Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.
  • As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.
  • After a hard landing, a flight attendant came on, saying: “That was quite a bump and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.
  • After a windy, bumpy ride into Cape Town, including a particularly hard landing, the flight attendant said “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!
  • Another less than perfect landing earned this jab: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.
  • After another very hard landing, the pilot stood at the door as passengers exited, thanking them for flying the airline and smiling at them, as company policy required. However, he had a hard time looking them in the eye, fearful that after the hard landing, he’d earned a smart comment or two. Finally, everyone but an old lady walking with a cane had exited the plane. She stopped and asked the pilot, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am,” he replied. “What is it?” To which the little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?
  • Please pay attention to the safety announcement, because you will be writing a test shortly.
  • You could be fined up to R7999 for smoking on the plane, and for these prices, you could be flying SAA.
  • We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.

If you’re interested in punching holes in the sky and having this much fun flying commercial, complete your flight training with Upper Limit Aviation. Our commercial pilots are exquisitely trained and ready to fly left-seat for any airline out there.

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 801-596-7722, or click here to start a live chat with us.

References and Sources:

1 – Kulula Humour, South Africa TO, Retrieved 7-12-17

2 – kulula.com, Wikipedia, Retrieved 7-12-17

FAPA Pilot Job Fairs and Future Pilot Forums on the Horizon

FAPA members enjoy both registration fee discounts and FAPA Premier members may receive priority at FAPA Pilot Job Fairs.

Upper Limit Aviation is proud to promote FAPA (Future and Active Pilot Advisers) and their three upcoming Pilot Job Fairs, and three Future Pilot Forums, scheduled to coincide with each other. According to the company, the FAPA Pilot Job Fairs bring in pilots from around the nation and provide those looking to start their career in the airline industry a chance to meet those qualified pilots, and to conduct pre-screenings and on-site interviews. Just like FAPA, Upper Limit Aviation flight training will push pilots and student pilots in the right direction to create legendary skills and safety-minded Pilot Advisers.

FAPA says they average about 220 pilots at each event, with those pilots averaging around “5,900 hours of total flight time with 4 type ratings.” However, they do note that each event is different, and to be sure to inquire about the demographics for each event. For example, their Regional Airline only Pilot Job Fairs will have entry level pilots attending. The events also provide pilot candidates a chance to educate themselves with “up-to-date industry news from the experts at FAPA and network with your colleagues and peers.

Regional Pilot Job Fairs are free, but if pilot candidates or Upper Limit Aviation pilots are interested in attending a job fair with major airlines represented, there is a registration fee. In addition, FAPA members enjoy both registration fee discounts and FAPA Premier members may receive priority at job fairs, and so Upper Limit Aviation strongly recommends our pilots join and participate.  For more information on becoming a FAPA members and the variety of additional benefits FAPA members receive, click here.

Upcoming FAPA Pilot Job Fairs

FAPA Houston Regional Pilot Job Fair

No major airlines will be taking part in this job fair.

  • Date: Saturday, March 25, 2017
    • Registration – starting at 8:00 AM
    • FAPA welcome – 8:15 AM
    • Job Fair – 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Location: Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental
    • 18700 John F. Kennedy Blvd. Houston, TX, 77032
    • Direct: (281) 443-2310
  • Cost: $0.00

FAPA Las Vegas Pilot Job Fair

Both UPS and Atlas Airlines will be at this job fair, in addition to Regional Airlines. However, FAPA says that they UPS slots are currently sold out, and that FAPA members will be notified if more UPS slots become available. Atlas Airlines currently still has slots available.

  • Date: Friday, April 21, 2017
    • Registration – starting at 8:30 AM
    • Presentations – 9:00 AM
    • Job Fair – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Location: Tuscany Suites and Casino
    • 255 E. Flamingo Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89169
    • Direct: (702) 947-5925
  • Cost:
    • FAPA Premiere Members: $49.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • FAPA Members: $99.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • Non-FAPA Members: $139.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines

FAPA Seattle Pilot Job Fair

Alaska Airlines will be at this job fair, in addition to Regional Airlines. Exact details are still being worked out regarding the date, time and location.

  • Date: August 2017
  • Location: According to FAPA, this fair will be at “a Sea-Tac (KSEA) area airport hotel.”
  • Cost:
    • FAPA Premiere Members: $49.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • FAPA Members: $99.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines
    • Non-FAPA Members: $139.00 for Major Airlines, $0.00 for Regional Airlines

FAPA says after registering, you’ll only need to bring a photo ID with you to the event to pick up your name badge. They add that the attire is business casual, and to remember to bring plenty of resumes, as all the recruiting companies are accepting resumes unless otherwise noted.

Upcoming FAPA Future Pilots Forums

FAPA’s Future Pilot Forums are informative presentations and networking opportunities meant for aspiring pilots of all ages, including middle school and high school students, and are not job fairs for qualified pilot candidates. Topics that will be discussed are:

  • Projected Pilot Demand and Career Earnings Potential
  • Financing Your Aviation Training and FAPA Flight Training Scholarships
  • Choosing How To Complete Your Flight Education and the Paths To Be A Professional Pilot

Admission to these forums is free, and FAPA encourages parents and/or school counselors to attend as well, as the forums are a great opportunity for future pilots and their parents to learn about the available options and how to accomplish career goals.

FAPA Houston Future Pilot Forum

FAPA Las Vegas Future Pilot Forum

FAPA Seattle Future Pilot Forum

Featured Image: Boeing 777 cockpit, Jim Sher, CC BY-ND 2.0

Becoming a successful commercial pilot starts with excellent and thorough flight training, which we are happy to provide at Upper Limit Aviation. Once you take the first step with us towards flying with the airlines, FAPA could be your second.

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Regional Airline Association’s 2017 Scholarships Now Available

The submission deadline for 2017 RAA Scholarships is May 1, 2017.

If you’re studying for a career in aviation with Upper Limit Aviation and eyeing the Captain’s chair, you may be interested to know that the RAA’s (Regional Airline Association) 2017 scholarship window is open, and the RAA says that they will be awarding four $4,000 aviation scholarships this summer. The money you can earn with this scholarship can fuel your flight training with ULA and put you miles closer to your end goal of the Captain’s chair.

Qualification Details for the 2017 RAA Scholarships

In order to qualify for the scholarship, you must be a US citizen or permanent resident and submit a completed electronic application no later than May 1, 2017. The RAA says they will not be accepting mailed applications, and will only consider digital applications submitted through their website. Applicants will also need to meet the following requirements:

  • At the time of application and award, applicants must be officially enrolled in an accredited college, in a program that is leading them toward a career in the airline industry.
  • Applicants must have a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA, and provide a transcript reflecting those grades through the previous academic year at either high school or a college.
  • A resume that details the applicant’s working experience, extracurricular, and/or community activities will need to be provided.
  • Applicants will need to submit a 350-word career essay describing their interest in the airline industry.
  • Applicants will need to provide a faculty recommendation.

Student pilots in flight sim cockpit - 2017 RAA Scholarships Now Available

The RAA says that the scholarships will be awarded “without regard to sex, race, religion or national origin.” Instead, they say the following criteria will be used for ranking the scholarship applicants:

  1. Demonstrated scholastic achievement.
  2. Demonstrated work experience, extracurricular and/or community activities.
  3. The strength of the applicant’s faculty recommendation.
  4. The strength of the applicant’s 350-word career essay.

Recipients of the scholarships will be announced on July 14, 2017, and all recipients will be asked for a headshot and short bio so they can be featured in Regional Horizons, the group’s quarterly publication.

For more information, and to apply for the 2017 RAA scholarships, click here to visit their website.

Upper Limit Aviation is proud to offer any and all assistance possible to our student pilots to help them earn these scholarships and achieve their goals of flight and commercial flight.

Featured Image: Kent Wien, CC2

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

UAS Taking Off With Sheriff Departments Around the Country

Law enforcement officials are using UAS for a variety of purposes, from search and rescue to crime scene documentation.

With the FAA putting new rules and requirements for sUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) operators into place on August 29, 2016, use of UAS is set for massive growth in a number of organizations and industries. And one of the most important areas rapidly adopting use of UAS is law enforcement. Around the country, Sheriff Departments are starting to use or are set to start using UAS to aid them in fighting crime, gathering evidence and helping out investigative efforts.

Upper Limit Aviation offers a course to help pilots and non-pilots earn their UAS certificate. Through Upper Limit Aviation you can also earn your private pilot certificate and commercial pilot license which makes it significantly easier and faster to then earn your UAS certificate. Call now to inquire about flight training for UAS, fixed-wing aircraft, or rotorcraft: 801-596-7722.

In a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune discussing drone use by Sheriff Departments in San Diego and Imperial counties, drones came into play during a recent homicide investigation when “two deputies flew the drone over the outdoor homicide scene, taking aerial photos and videos that would become evidence.

The article goes on to say that the UAS is one of four in use by the Sheriff’s Department. In addition to documenting crime scenes, the department uses the UAS to aid in missing person searches, to aid SWAT teams, and for certain situations in dangerous or unfavorable scenarios. Sheriff’s Lt. Jason Vickery described the UAS as “an extremely valuable tool, and potentially life-saving,” adding that the department had deployed them nine times since acquiring them last October. Upper Limit Aviation is proud to support such a cause.

In Ouachita County, AK, the Sheriff’s Department purchased a drone a UAS after seeing one in action. According to Sheriff David Norwood, the first real test for the UAS happened recently when the department used it in the execution of a search warrant for a known drug dealer. Norwood, who was controlling the UAS, was able to identify a pair of suspects with the video from the UAS before the drone was shot by the suspects. Norwood said that “Without the drone, we may not have known there was a man there with a gun.”

And in Stafford County, VA, the Sheriff’s Department hopes to start using UAS this coming spring for a variety of purposes, “including search and rescue; Amber, Senior and Blue Alerts; training programs; damage assessment; traffic assessment; crime scene documentation; and execution of search warrants.

Vickery said that four deputies are currently trained and certified with a remote pilot certificate from the FAA to fly the UAS and that five more are undergoing training. According to Vickery, “This is going to be something that is going to be mainstream in a relatively short amount of time among law enforcement.

Earning a Remote Pilot Certificate With Upper Limit

Law enforcement is just one of many rapidly growing areas for UAS use, and Upper Limit is excited to offer a course helping people advance in their career or start exciting new careers by earning a remote pilot certificate. Email us with any questions about getting your remote pilot certificate and how it can work for you now: [email protected].

Click here to register for the program, and get started on earning your remote pilot certificate today!

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

Dealing With Bird Strikes

A bird strike can ruin a bird’s day as well as your own.

Vern Weiss

At about 3:30 on a chilly 20-degree New York afternoon, USAirways A320 took off from LaGuardia’s runway 4 with its first officer at the controls. Few are not familiar with the “Miracle on the Hudson,” after hearing the somber reports of a powerless airplane with 155 passengers and nowhere to go but the Hudson river. Passing through 2,800 feet the Airbus collided with a flock of birds and the first officer relinquished control of the airplane over to the captain who performed a flawless ditching with no loss of life. The birds were Canadian geese.

Captain Sullenberger landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River

History of Bird Strikes

Bird strikes on aircraft are nothing new. The first recorded bird strike occurred to none other than Orville Wright in 1905. The first fatality from a bird strike didn’t happen until 7 years later when pilot Cal Rogers hit a bird in his open cockpit “Vin Fiz” causing it to lose its engine and crash into a river. Pilot Rogers wasn’t killed from the impact. Instead, he drowned when he could not free himself from the inverted aircraft lying on top of him in the water.

Dangerous bird strikes have occurred throughout aviation’s history: 1960 Eastern Airlines, a flock of starlings resulting in 62 deaths. 1964, Astronaut Tom Freeman killed in a fighter jet when a bird struck his canopy. 1995, a Falcon 10 bizjet hits a bird and crashes killing 10 on board. In 2004 a KLM 737 struck a goose on take off and proceeded normally but the surprise came on landing when its damaged nose gear didn’t work. Fortunately no injuries in that one.

Bird Strike Regulations and Testing

FAA Parts 23 and 25 no longer mandates bird impact speeds as was once required of aircraft. However, certification of jets now must withstand a 4-pound collision on the windshield and an 8-pound collision to the tail and empennage. Curiously there are no bird strike certification requirements for light aircraft and light helicopters although, ironically, these are most likely to operate at altitudes commonly shared with flocks of birds. Let’s do some math. At 200 knots a collision with a 30-pound bird results in an impact force of 30 tons! At 250 knots only a 4-pound bird will make an impact force of 15 tons! Aircraft certification testing was once done by firing chickens from a cannon into a windshield however now it is done with gelatin blocks or computer modeling.

Bird Strike Details

One might think that a multi-ton aircraft striking a dinky little bird would result in a bird’s simple deflection off the nose as it careens to eternity. I have experienced one serious bird strike and that occurred over Philadelphia at 21,000 feet at 11 o’clock at night. We hit a goose and thought we’d struck another airplane. Our 100,000-pound0 pound aircraft shuddered and the flight attendants called up to us, “What was that? Are we OK?” Fortunately, there was no engine ingestion because, when there is, the imbalance caused by disintegrating turbine blades often literally rips the engine apart. But it destroyed the nose of the aircraft and all of the radar and avionics that sat inside it., probably $200,000 worth of damage.

The most dangerous bird strikes are those with geese because geese are larger/heavier, faster (closure speed higher) and they frequently migrate at night when pilots aren’t suspecting them. (See previous paragraph!).

Although it is true that light planes are moving slower so impact speeds are reduced, the damage can still be catastrophic. The plastic windshield thickness of a light plane is only between 1/8 to 1/4-inch. On a business jet or transport category jet the windows are laminated with layers for resiliency and optical correction and are between 1 to 3 inches thick.

The greatest threat of bird strikes (notwithstanding USAirways on the Hudson) is between March and April and then again between August to November. Birds tend to follow the same migratory routes that can be seen on various Internet websites1. The other interesting thing about bird migrations is that they tend to follow pressure patterns to take advantage of the best ground speed. As you know, in this hemisphere, air flows counter-clockwise around a low pressure system. If you take a look at the Prog charts and follow the isobar lines around the highs and lows you can roughly visualize where birds may utilize the winds aloft.

Most bird strikes occur on take off and landing with the greatest majority occurring below 3,000 feet and, of that, the heaviest concentration is within 1,000 feet of the ground.

“So What Can I Do About ‘Em?”

There are a number of things a pilot can to do minimize a bird encounter. For one thing, pay attention to bird warnings on the ATIS or when given out by ATC. Similarly, be a “good neighbor” and provide controllers with reports when you observe bird activity at an airport or at a particular altitude. Treat a flock as you would a thunderstorm and give ’em a wide berth. When taking off use a noise abatement climb (hustle to altitude, in other words), avoid 3,000 or below and fly slower. Use windshield heat to keep the window as resilient as possible and turn your lights and strobes on. In more advanced aircraft, turn on auto-ignition.

Airports that are troubled with birds often are equipped with various tools to discourage them. Chemical repellents, tactile spikes placed in roosting areas, loud bio-acoustic or pyrotechnic cannons and even effigies like predator “scarecrows” are used. Keep in mind that when you’re taking off, birds tend to dive when their birdie-TCAS goes off and tells them something is approaching them (like your airplane). When birds are on the ground they tend to flush to about 50 feet and then settle back down. Ground birds can be dealt with by requesting a sweep by an airport vehicle or cannon sounding.

There’s a couple additional things you can do that might seem a little hokey but if it helps, why not? When you are in an area of bird activity put on your sunglasses. If one comes through a windshield you may have shards of glass going everywhere and some eye protection might help. The other thing that has been argued about for years is the use of radar on take off. Some commercial pilots will tell you that the birds “hear” the radar and that scares them which is nonsense. However some years ago the Audubon Society conducted some experiments and found that they believed birds can “feel” the warmth of the radio signal coming from your radar antenna. This “hot spot” may be uncomfortable and the birds depart the area. If the radar thing works, you’re ahead. If it’s doesn’t, what have you lost?

Reporting a Bird Strike

Finally, whenever you have a bird strike be sure to fill out an FAA Form 5200-7 (BIRD/OTHER WILDLIFE STRIKE REPORT). Both NASA and the FAA monitor and track these things which enable strategic planning that provides additional equipment where needed to assist pilots in in bird prone areas.

Get started with your flight training today!

If you would like more information, you can:

  • Call us at 801-596-7722

References:

1 – Birds tend to follow the same 4 routes during migratory seasons. Such routes are depicted at http://www.birdnature.com/flyways.html

Featured Image: Tetsushi Kimura

Understanding and Practicing Basic Flight Maneuvers

It’s important to understand the purpose behind teach and learning certain basic flight maneuvers.

Jennifer Roth

With technology continually changing in the aviation world, flying airplanes has become more automated. With glass panel navigation to autopilot controls, the pilot can at times seem ALMOST not necessary. However, we all know that is not true and technology is well known for malfunctioning, especially at the worst times. With all that said, many of the basic flight maneuvers that are taught in flight school may seem very outdated to pilots. It is important to not only know how to do the maneuvers but why they are still being taught to student pilots.

Any flight student, current or past, will tell you there was never a shortage of training maneuvers. From basically day 1, students begin learning stalls, slow flight, steep turns and of course emergency procedures. Each of these has their own set of skills that safely teaches a new pilot how to handle the airplane in specific configurations. It creates a useful training environment to teach the student how the aircraft handles, what to watch for and how to adjust accordingly depending on what is happening or required.

Basic Flight Maneuvers – Stalls

One of the first maneuvers introduced are stalls. Many times, people do not have a clear understanding of what a stall is. Anyone uneducated in aviation tends to say or think it is an engine stall. In reality, is the loss of lift. Stalls can occur at high airspeeds as well as low. Stalls are taught utilizing flaps up, flaps down, throttle out as well as full throttle. The student will set the stall up in the specific configuration and if they are working for their Private pilot certificate, they have to bring the aircraft to a full stall. The purpose of this training maneuver is to teach a student to recognize a stall before it occurs as well as being able to safely recover with minimal loss of altitude and heading change. When a pilot goes on to the airlines, the airplanes will be bigger and faster, but they can still stall, and it becomes way more dramatic, dangerous and scary for passengers. So, pilots are taught how to deal with stalls and prevent them early on. Stalls are practiced at higher altitudes so a student can make mistakes in order to learn, but it’s important that they understand a stall can occur at any altitude, especially takeoff and landing when they are low to the ground. When they are low to the ground, they do not have the luxury of altitude for recovery and many low-level stalls have taken the lives of many pilots on takeoffs and landings.

Basic Flight Maneuvers – Slow Flight

Another flight maneuver that is introduced is slow flight. The purpose of this maneuver is to put the aircraft in a nose high, slow speed, unstable situation. There are two configurations required, with full flaps and with takeoff flap setting (depending on the aircraft). The student will set the aircraft up to the airspeed and pitch just below the stalling point. The stall warning horn will be going off. They are then required to make two 90-degree turns, one to the left and one to the right. Depending on where in their training they are at, private or commercial, they have specific standards to maintain such as how much bank angle they can exceed or how much altitude they can gain or lose. If the turn is too steep and become uncoordinated, the plane can easily go into a stall and if too uncoordinated could become a spin. A student may think this situation won’t happen on a “normal day, normal flight” but this situation can happen very easily especially coming in for a landing. They begin to sink too quickly and the student will then pull back causing a nose high, low air speed and because landing is a busy stressful time, they may not even realize what is happening. And as previously discussed, stalls at a low altitude are many times, not successfully recovered.

Basic Flight Maneuvers – Steep Turns

Steep turns tend to be considered a more “fun” maneuver. They are steep turns, usually 45 to 50-degrees of bank while at normal cruising speed such as 100 knots in a Cessna-152. The point of this maneuver is to teach the student to do 2 360-degree turns in both directions while maintaining their airspeed and altitude and rolling out on their starting heading after each turn. The purpose of this maneuver is for a pilot to know how to do a high-speed steep turn safely without placing themselves in an unusual and unsafe attitude. As discussed previously, it is easy for a pilot to become overwhelmed, like on landing and be asked to make a sharp left or right turn, and then they panic or get behind the aircraft and then they can lose their bearings, pitch the nose up and place themselves into a high-speed stall, or even a spin. Making student pilots practice steep turns teaches them to have a proper scan of all the instruments as well as the horizon and to pay attention to all cues they are being given.

Basic Flight Maneuvers – Emergency Procedures

The training and practice of emergency procedures is a given with any situation that can result in a crash and possible death. In aviation the procedure that is practiced almost every single flight is engine-out procedures. A flight instructor will pull the throttle to idle when the student is not expecting it, on takeoff, landing, practicing maneuvers or just basic flying. The student has to immediately set the aircraft up for landing. They follow their emergency checklist and begin setting up for full shut down and landing wherever the best field, or location is. They have to remember where the winds are coming from, take account of power lines, fences, homes etc and never stray too far away from the location they choose. Depending on what altitude they are at, it will affect how much time they have and how much altitude they have as a buffer. Unless over an airport, instructors will usually decide if the student would have made their field and tell them to go-around. The unplanned procedure allows for the student to learn to adapt and operate under pressure, as much pressure as a fake emergency can allow.

Just like with anything else, practice makes perfect, and continually practicing emergency procedures allows a student to rely on that in an actual emergency. They will tend to revert back to training, and it becomes almost automatic for them. Instructors will also ask students to recite what they would do in other situations such as loss of communications with air traffic control, or an engine fire, or bird strike. Anything that can occur, flight instructors try to teach students to prepare for. Of course, the reality is that no matter the preparation, you can never be prepared for everything. However, until that point, continual training and practice will lay a foundation for a student to rely on as much as possible.

In Conclusion

Even with today’s technology and ever-expanding intelligence of airplanes, pilots are still the ultimate authority and decision maker in the aircraft. If all resources failed, it then falls on the pilot. So even though autopilot is wonderful, it may not be there one day so it is important that a pilot never stop learning, practicing and keeping a lookout for danger when flying. Too many times complacency gets the best of people and that’s when mistakes are made. Pilots should always revert back to their training, and remember why they were taught what they were taught, such as basic flight maneuvers, even if in the moment it seemed tedious and monotonous.

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.

How The Grand Canyon Mid-Air Collision Changed ATC

A retrospective of the tragic Grand Canyon mid-air collision, and how air traffic control and flight safety changed drastically from one event.

Shawn Arena

I think all of us regardless of profession or interests, can instantly recall dates of certain events in our lifetimes that still resonate many years later: Assassination of President Kennedy (11/22/63), the beginning of Operation Desert Storm (1/16/1991), and ‘9/11’ (9/11/01). And for those of us in aviation or aerospace, events/dates such as the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy (1/28/86) and the Shuttle Columbia break up upon reentry (2/1/03) come to mind. However long before any of the above events occurred, one historical aviation accident changed forever how we aviators successfully navigate and communicate in today’s complex airspace – the Grand Canyon mid-air collision on June 30, 1956.

Two Commercial Aircraft Conducting ‘Flight-Seeing’ Activity

United Airlines Flight 718 (a DC-7 aircraft), and TWA Airlines Flight 2 (a Super Constellation aircraft) had taken off minutes from each other at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). United 718 was en route to Newark (EWR) via Chicago Midway (MDW), and TWA 2 was en route to Kansas City (KCI). As was customary in those days of commercial aviation, aircraft captains may ‘opt-out’ of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight protocol to fly ‘off-the-airways.’ In this case, the flight is then governed by Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and the flight crew would now be responsible to ‘see and be seen’ [ which remains today the VFR standard]. In the case of United 718 AND TWA 2, the respective captains decided to fly VFR for the same reasons.

For those unfamiliar with meteorological phenomena in Arizona, about late June or early July every year, there is a southwesterly flow aloft, brought in from Baja California. This creates thunderstorm activity in the afternoons over most or portions of the state (i.e. very prevalent in northern AZ and the Grand Canyon area). So, with the weather conditions as such, both United and TWA crews wanted to avoid the billowing thunderheads along their routes, and they both flew at the same altitude of 21,000 feet (flight level 210) – on converging paths. To make matters worse, both captains decided to provide a little ‘flight-seeing’ activity for their passengers over the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon Mid-Air Collision and Ramifications For Air Traffic Control and Safety

Imagine if you will, you are sitting in a right window seat of United 718 or the left window seat of TWA 2 and the feeling of terror and helplessness as you see both planes get closer and closer until you hear metal collide. 128 passengers and crew of both aircraft plummeted to the ground just below the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers – one of the most inaccessible areas of the Grand Canyon.  Mind you, at the time, the news was not instantaneous as our connected world is today, so it took a bit for word about the accident to get out. When it did, a public outcry arose.

This was the deadliest US airplane disaster of any kind up to that point, and the first time more than 100 people were killed in a crash. And it shattered the public’s illusion of a safe air travel system. Air-to-ground communication in 1956 was as archaic as we consider dinosaurs today. Air Traffic Controllers relied on pilot reports for positioning. Controllers literally had a large board or display area that they pushed ‘shrimp boats’ along the reported route. VFR was common (as stated above), and most shockingly there was only ONE (1) radar facility in the United States, in the Washington DC area.

Like many things in governmentally controlled industries, changes or improvements aren’t made until some tragedy. As a result of the Grand Canyon mid-ar collision, Congress, and President Eisenhower increased funding to modernize ATC, hire and train more controllers, build additional radar installations, and perform a complete overhaul of the navigational rules (also still applying today). Above flight level 180 (18,000 feet) all flights are to be positively controlled and are flown IFR.

But airspace authority was split between the CAA (Civil Aeronatuics Authority) and the military, and after another crash in 1958 between United Airlines Flight 736 and an F-100 Super Sabre, the public demanded more. So with the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, the Government dissolved the CAA and formed the Federal Aviation Agency (which became the Federal Aviation Administration we know today in 1967), and gave the FAA complete airspace authority.

In Conclusion

Those of us who fly today can thank our predecessors (commercial, military, and general aviation operators) for establishing what is considered the safest air traffic system (though not without flaws) that exists in the world today.

So each time you fly, keep in mind the 128 passengers and crew that perished on June 30, 1956, in the Grand Canyon mid-air collision, and say thanks. In part because of their sacrifice, our aeronautical adventures are possible.

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.

Featured Image: Darshan Meda

Using the PAVE Checklist As a Pilot

Using the PAVE checklist is necessary when flying off pavement in Montana’s last, best airspace.

Richard G. Wissenbach

It’s hard to beat flying from Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. It seems only logical that a state known as the “Last Best Place” would also have some pretty incredible flying. It doesn’t hurt that it borders Idaho, “A Pilot’s Paradise.” I would expect every pilot has a place near and dear to their heart, and the opportunities that abound in the Treasure State have a firm grip on mine.

A fellow pilot and I jokingly speak of the “Home School Course.” It consists of three airstrips, each with varying degrees of difficulty. We feel that if you can become comfortable going in and out of these technical strips, you can land anywhere. Each has its peculiarities and challenges and there isn’t a whole lot of room for error.

Montana's Bitterroot valley - - Using the PAVE Checklist as a Pilot

Life in the early 1990’s was simply wonderful. My wife and I were married in the fall of 1989 and had a newborn the following year. She was totally supportive of my desire to become a Commercial Pilot and our first loan was for $4,500.00 to finish out the payment of a 1966 Cessna 150G. A great year to be manufactured, I might add! While $6000.00 doesn’t seem like much these days, to an A&P making six bucks an hour, it was plenty.

While I’m definitely not as young as I once was, I also like to think I’m not as dumb as I once was. As youth, it seems like we’re invisible and in retrospect, we realize it is nearly miraculous that we get through some things unscathed. It’s a very thin line that often separates us from our follies and near disaster to experiences that shape our future.

Three hundred feet or so from our fifty by ten-foot trailer mansion was a small field, and it wasn’t long before the ditches crisscrossing it were filled in with the help of a shovel and wheel barrow. Piney Field was activated early one spring day 26 years ago. While 900 feet may seem short, it had a good slope to launch from and it just wasn’t a problem to clear the power lines at the bottom, 1700 feet away. I was now a bush pilot and had it all figured out.

While I didn’t get a whole lot of flight time each day that I flew to work, the one way out and no-go-around landing option was great experience for the logbook. I was now a living breathing bush legend, at least in my own mind. Asphalt lovers were pavement pilots and there was green grass growing under my tires.

Learning To Use the PAVE Checklist

For good reason, there is an emphasis on incorporating the PAVE checklist into preflight planning. Risk is mitigated when we perceive hazards. Trust me when I say it absolutely must be an integral part of our decision-making process. As Father’s Day has recently passed, I shudder to think of what the outcome could have been when I didn’t comply with the all important External Pressures located at the end of the acronym. Faith, Family, and Flying would have been nonexistent if I would have flunked out, which for all intents and purposes I should have. It may be located last, but it’s certainly not the least.

My sweet wife was very patient with my flying. I think part of it may have been that fact that she was a stay-at-home mom and we only had one vehicle. It was difficult hauling the laundry with the wheelbarrow and shopping on foot was out of the question, especially with town 10 miles away.

To put it mildly, she was not overly enthused one morning when I informed her she wouldn’t have the car that day as it was raining and I would have to drive. My spouse was all of a sudden a wonder weather woman, as she looked out and let me know that I had flown in way worse conditions than that. She didn’t seem to be able to comprehend the excessive tailwind on takeoff concept either. Patience is a growing process and at that point in the game, it was merely a seed that had scarcely thought of germinating. I overreacted in a huff and rushed out the door. I hated being late and while this argument wasn’t the hill I wanted to die on, it very nearly turned out to be just that.

Airstrip in Montana's Bitterroot valley - Using the PAVE Checklist as a Pilot

I untied my trusty bird, pushed down on the tail and spun it around pointed toward the east, ready for takeoff. The 100 horses were off and running and with a quick magneto check so was the pilot. It didn’t take but a couple hundred feet or so for me to realize that getting airborne was never going to happen. I’m not a swearing man, but there’s no doubt a few choice words entered my mind. I quickly got on the brakes and that’s when the real acceleration happened. The airplane started sliding downhill and it was totally out of control. I was simply along for the ride. It pointed northerly, it pointed to the south, and it nearly swapped ends, all the while headed down the sloped airstrip. I believe is was at that moment where I prayed really hard, probably contributing to the aircraft miraculously coming to a halt, just before crashing off the bottom of the field. I was far below what I ever kept mowed or free of rocks. How I missed the fences as well, I’ll never know.

It took a while for me to stop shaking and a real effort to taxi back up the strip. In fact, there was enough time for it to sink in my head that I could never again give in to external pressures in that manner. You see, there were actually two items in the PAVE checklist that were violated. Two strikes, not a good position to be in. The Environmental Conditions alone should have been such that the takeoff should never have been attempted. The pilot and aircraft survived that one but had the takeoff not been aborted precisely when it did, the results could have been catastrophic. While I don’t recall whether or not I had a nice hot meal that night, the recollection of the experience is still warm and fresh in my mind. The PAVE checklist is meant to be!

Every pilot has a responsibility to set and live by standards. What are your minimum standards? Do you find yourself relaxing them at times? Have you ever caved to external pressure? Let’s each look within and evaluate the risks as part of our preflight action. The PAVE checklist is not only the way for the next generation of pilots but a path we would do well to find ourselves on. Pilot (Personal), Aircraft, enVironment, and External Pressures.

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.

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.

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.

Call Now ButtonCall Us