Halley’s Comet and the Go No-Go Decision

Shawn Arena

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of memorable flying experiences. And hopefully, by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned, it will help other aviators in the future be able to make the decisions that will help them fly more safely. I hope you enjoy reading these stories!

Making The Go No-Go Decision

I don’t profess to be an astronomer or cosmic expert, but when the appearance of a celestial event like Halley’s Comet comes around, it does capture my interest. March 2, 1986 was right in the middle of the observation window to see Halley’s Comet, its last recorded appearance. Since I most likely won’t be around to see the next appearance in 2062, the 1986 event captured my attention.

Halleys Comet

Some quick backstory to set the scene: I earned my private pilot certificate in April 1984, so by the time March 1986 rolled around, I began to feel like a ‘real’ aviator. The flight school I earned my certificate at was based at John Wayne / Orange County Airport (SNA) in southern California.

During the last week of February, they hosted an aviation safety seminar (i.e. FAA Wings credit, type program). At the end of the session, a young (and eager I must add) flight instructor approached me and asked if I was interested in joining him and another student on an ‘observation’ flight of Halley’s Comet. They were to be flying a Piper Archer (N81918). Well, I was biased at that time to Cessna aircraft, because that is the aircraft type I was most comfortable flying. And besides, I make a terrible passenger in a small aircraft if I am not flying. Finally, add to that the fact that I didn’t know either of them really well. So, I kindly turned down his offer – a decision I would treasure for the rest of my life!

Grace, Fate, Not My Time – The Result of My Go No-Go Decision

Since March 2nd was a Sunday, the following day was a typical work day. About 10:00 AM I received a call at work from a friend of mine who also flew with the flight school and his first comment to me was “Good, it wasn’t you…one of our planes went down last night!” I didn’t quite put two and two together yet, and went about the rest of my day. For those of you who are reading this and were born after 1995, you probably find this next comment a little stone age, but there was no Internet, texting, or Twitter. We had to rely on the news broadcast at 5 PM, 6 PM, or 10 PM. So out of curiosity, when I got home to my apartment that evening, I turned on the local news. A shiver went down my spine (yeah you guessed it) as soon as the news anchor said, “There was a small plane accident over Newport Beach last night, and witnesses reported the plane doing a cartwheel into the ocean just past the Newport Beach Pier…”

At that moment, I just knew it was the plane I had been asked to be a passenger on. In the coming weeks and months, the mood around the flight school was somber and very sad. Even sadder was hearing that the student aboard that plane was the husband of the flight school administrative assistant. About 6 months later (being the aviation/flying geek that I was /am), I was able to locate a copy of the NTSB accident report (LAX86FA131). To my utter amazement, I read that the student’s wife reported that her husband and instructor had been seen drinking beer before they left for the airport, and that the toxicology tests conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner revealed 0.32 micrograms of cocaine in the student’s body. So, call it what you want, I learned a valuable lesson from that sad event – never fly with anyone you do not know well and trust, because your life could be at stake. Flying an airplane is serious business, and needs to be properly respected. Trust me, when faced with this Go No-Go decision, I’m certainly glad I made the right one!

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Featured Image by D. Miller

Flight Training Videos: How Relevant Are They?

Mary Ann O’Grady

The term andragogy, which is defined as “the art and science of helping adults learn,” was used as early as 1833 but it was popularized in the United States by Malcolm Knowles in the 1970s (Whitmyer, 1999, p. 1). Originally, andragogy was contrasted with the term pedagogy, which focused on helping children to learn but over time. However, the term pedagogy became so entwined with educational or instructional design that the two terms have become synonymous. According to Knowles, as cited in Whitmyer (1999), andragogy is based upon four primary assumptions regarding adult learners and how they differ from child learners. First, their self-concept shifts from dependence to self-direction. Second, their expanding reservoir of experience serves as a resource for learning. Third, their focus on learning becomes oriented toward the developmental requirements of their social roles. Fourth, they immediately want to apply what they have learned to the challenges of real life. Accordingly, their academic orientation shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem-centeredness as illustrated by the following assumptions:

TopicPedagogyAndragogy
LearnersDependentIndependent
Subject matterOnly one right wayMany ways
Motivation to learn, change or improveExternal and dictated by othersInternal response to personal or career needs
Role of experienceUnimportant, discountedResource that serves as a basis for learning, change or improvement

Must be integrated

LearnerRequires outside directionAbility to self-direct
Learning orientationSubject-centered, Logic-orientedLife/career-centered

Process centered

ObjectiveMinimum requirementsSelf-improvement/betterment

(Whitmyer, 1999)

When entering flight school training, which includes ground school (theoretical), flight school (practical application), and testing (written and practical/flight test with an FAA examiner), the mastery of the course material as well as the practical application is often supplemented by flight training videos. These flight training videos are available through various sources including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and not-for-profit aviation associations. The format of the FAA broadcasts provides one-way videos and two-way audio satellite broadcasts that conduct short training and briefing sessions. All broadcasts that are classified as actual training courses are videotaped and close-captioned and made available as Video Self Study Courses. For example, two FAA videos specifically addressing aircraft certification service/air worthiness directives are available through Keybridge Technologies, Inc., and additional information pertaining to the ATN may be found on the FAA’s website.

Since the 1930s, not-for-profit associations have purported their mission statements to include the education of pilots, non-pilots, and policy makers alike, and remain dedicated to protecting pilots’ freedom to fly while keeping general aviation safe, enjoyable and affordable. Such associations continue to meet their education goals by providing flight training videos addressing a number of topics:

  • Weather and go/no-go decisions
  • Collision avoidance
  • Weather and pilot error
  • Weather and IFR flight planning
  • Weather and VFR flight planning
  • Avoiding power-on stalls
  • NOAA’s Aviation Weather Center (ADDS)
  • Gathering information about weather
  • Angle of attack indicators
  • Forced landings

The Internet also offers access to information relating to IFR risk management, instrument flying, GPS strategies, practical airmanship, and the strategies for becoming an adequately prepared pilot.

In recent years, the more typical list of instructional videos has been expanded to address more advanced aviation contexts, such as crew tracking, flight simulation, virtual chart plotter, aviation charts, business aviation navigation solutions and business training solutions; fatigue data collection, and mobile TC for the Samsung Galaxy Android Tablet. Updated training products, such as computer software, electronic books, and optional subscriptions that allow access to all the terminal charts and airport diagrams via tablets have begun to replace the traditional hard copy format. Instructional flight training videos appeal not only to novice pilots but also to pilots who are in the process of returning to flying as evidenced by the videos that address the issues of pilot currency requirements, TSA security awareness, the ever-challenging crosswind landings, and non-tower airport communications.

Videos are in a unique position to illustrate both of the two broad categories of practical examples posited by the academic research conducted by the teaching assistant fellows at the University of Wisconsin (1995). First, videos that aid in the explanation of theory and new concepts, and second, videos that illustrate the practical application of basic principles. These practical examples can also be sub-divided into different types based upon the format in which they are being used: analogies, observations, demonstrations that are experimental or mathematical, sensing phenomena, and observing secondary effects. When combined with one or more of the effective teaching strategies (practical examples, show and tell, case studies, guided design projects, open-ended labs, the flowchart technique, open-ended quizzes, brainstorming, question-and-answer method, and software) videos effectively serve to reinforce or anchor the course content for the student.

The guidelines underlying andragogy echo the need for the simultaneous development and presentation of a theoretical and practical foundation since neither one is useful without the other. However, andragogy also reflects adult students’ ability to self-direct as well as their ability to employ multiple means of assimilating the aviation course content. Since the construction of a culture of continuous improvement is a collaborative effort between aviation students and their flight instructors, the access to flight training videos aids in the successful acquisition of the flight school’s learning objectives. Access to advanced technology and the Internet provides aviation students and flight instructors with the capability to conveniently download instructional videos to their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Video programs also allow the production of short videos by flight instructors and their students that can be posted within an online course room or on social media for mutual viewing.

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References:

Strategies for Effective Teaching, A Handbook for Teaching Assistants. (1995). University of Wisconsin – Madison College of Engineering. Retrieved on February 26, 2016, from http://www.engr.wisc.edu/services/elc/strategies.pdf Whitmyer, C., (1999). Andragogy versus Pedagogy. San Francisco, CA: FutureU Press.

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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The Questions to Ask When Choosing a Flight School

Early in childhood, most of us were taught these basic types of questions and how to apply them in any given situation. When it comes to choosing a flight school, these old friends will not lead you astray. Selecting where to do your pilot training is a serious endeavor that can be tedious, confusing, and often overwhelming. My goal, however, is that you walk away from this article feeling a bit more prepared when taking the first steps toward your next aviation adventure, whatever and whenever that may be.

Choosing a Flight School: The Who

Do your best to meet several flight instructors, including those who would likely be assigned to you. If the Chief Instructor Pilot is available to discuss their programs, that’s even better. Try to speak with some of the office staff and aircraft maintainers, as well. Talk to them about their backgrounds, ask all your questions, and don’t be afraid to get their opinion on the company and training programs. You would be surprised the kinds of insight people will offer when given the opportunity.

Choosing a Flight School: The What

A Cessna 172 Skyhawk in flight.

Take a good look at the aircraft you’ll be flying, as well as the number of aircraft available versus the number flown on a daily basis. Having twenty aircraft means very little if only three of them are airworthy, and should be looked at as a red flag. Inside the aircraft of today’s schools, the systems and equipment can vary greatly. Do the majority of aircraft have glass cockpits or steam gauges? Dual GPS or a single VOR? Are you looking to be trained only in aircraft with new digital, glass cockpits? The options will be many, so have an idea of your equipment desires before you venture out.

Choosing a Flight School: The When

A student’s pace in training can largely be determined by availability, both on the part of the instructor and the student. Ask about CFI-to-Student ratios, and be honest with yourself about your own availability. Perhaps your planned schedule only allows for early morning flights on the weekends, which the school may or may not be able to support. These will be some of the factors that determine your expectations for the pace at which you complete training. Be justifiably leery of any school whose main attraction is a shortest-time-to-ratings mantra; effective instruction will be inherently efficient and should establish a reasonable pace unique to every student.

Choosing a Flight School: The Where

Is the airport in a remote location? Is it near an International Airport? Is it based at an International Airport? Are there other flight schools at the same airport, adding to the daily traffic density? How will those factors affect your training and do they align with your desires as a student pilot? Some students seek the structure and added rigor of Class Bravo airspace, while others may want the quiet radios of a small, hometown airstrip. Ask to see the briefing rooms where you’ll do ground training, as well as maintenance spaces and administrative offices. You’ll be spending a good amount of time, and money, so get to know the facilities.

Choosing a Flight School: The Why

One of the most efficient questions you can ask a prospective school is “Why should I choose your flight school over every other flight school?” This is where doing your homework and visiting multiple schools if your local area affords it, can really pay dividends. No flight school should be shy about answering this question. In fact, one would hope to hear a prideful undertone in their response.

Choosing a Flight School: The Howchoosing a flight school

The final two questions are a culmination of everything we have discussed. Often times the first and most decisiveaspect of flight training is “How much will it cost?” A valid concern considering the cost of present day flight training. Get specifics in writing for aircraft (including variously equipped), instructors, ground school, written exam and checkride fees, required vs. desired training supplies, security badge fees, and any other school-specific costs. This will be one of the best ways to compare apples-to-apples between various locations.

The last question, and in my opinion far and away the most important: How did you feel? Every flight school is different, from the people to the aircraft to the fabric on the chairs in the lobby. It is of the utmost importance that you not only feel comfortable and safe in the environment but that you get a deeper, internal sense of “this is the right place for me”. I would offer the flight school should feel the same way. They should be accepting of and forthcoming regarding your questions and supportive of you choosing what best suits you and your goals as a pilot. If they aren’t, how does that make you feel?

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