Upper Limit Aviation is now providing flight training at the South Valley Regional Airport, in the heart of Salt Lake Valley in Utah.
Upper Limit is excited to spread the word that AOPA has over 100 scholarships available for student pilots and pilots to start or enhance their flying career!
Finding ways to finance flight training can be challenging, and one great resource is scholarships. In 2019, AOPA awarded more than 123 scholarships worth more than $1 million dollars.
And now, AOPA Flight Training Scholarship applications are being accepted for 2020.
For details, and to apply, <CLICK HERE>
Application Deadline for Priority Consideration: March 1, 2020
Final Application Deadline: March 15, 2020
The flight training scholarships offered by AOPA fall into one of four categories:
AOPA High School Flight Training Scholarship
For: Eighty high school students, ages 15 – 18
Scholarship Value: $10,000
Recipients of this scholarship can use it, as part of the AOPA You Can Fly program, to cover direct flight training expenses in the pursuit of a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. Recipients will be required to complete a flight training milestone, by either soloing or earning their certificate within one year for receiving the scholarship.
AOPA Teacher Flight Training Scholarship
For: Up to twenty school high school teachers
Scholarship Value: $10,000
Recipients of this scholarship must be AOPA members, be a full-time employee of a high school or school system, and use the AOPA High School Aviation Stem Curriculum to help teach science, technology, engineering or math. Recipients can use the scholarship, as part of the AOPA You Can Fly program, to cover direct flight training expenses in the pursuit of a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate.
AOPA Primary Flight Training Scholarship
For: Current AOPA Members over 16 by the application deadline
Scholarship Value: $2,500 – $7,500
Recipients can use the scholarship to cover training expenses in the pursuit of a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate.
AOPA Advanced Rating Scholarship
For: Oustanding pilots with career aspirations
Scholarship Value: $3,000 – $10,000
Recipients must be AOPA members, and seeking one of the following ratings or certificates:
- Certificated Flight Instructor
- Certificated Flight Instructor-Instruments
- Multiengine Instructor
Recipients can use the scholarship to cover training expenses in the pursuit of these ratings or certificates.
Again, for full details, and to apply, <CLICK HERE>.
Upper Limit Aviation strongly believes in building an inclusive and thriving aviation community and is proud to work with incredible organizations like AOPA to provide flight training. And though we are dedicated to helping our student pilots and pilots succeed, our dedication to pilots isn’t limited strictly to flight training; if you need any help finding, applying for or deciding which scholarships to apply for, or would like more information on how you can use your scholarship to get your 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.
Get started with your flight training today!
If you would like more information, you can:
- Call us at 801-596-7722
It’s important to understand the purpose behind teach and learning certain basic flight maneuvers.
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.
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.
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Tori B. Mensching
Regulations can be tricky and sometimes downright confusing. Test your knowledge to see if you would make the same decisions this airplane pilot made in the example below. Would you make the same mistake?
Mark is an instrument rated private pilot who hasn’t flown at night in a while. He wants to fly his wife and two kids to the beach this weekend. They will need to fly at night because he doesn’t get off work until late on Friday. Mark hasn’t flown at night in a while so he isn’t legally current to carry passengers at night.
In order to regain the experience he needs to do the flight this weekend, Mark needs to go to the airport and take his Mooney up for three takeoffs and landings at night (per FAR 61.57).
As Mark walks to his hangar at the airport, he catches up with his friend Joe in the hangar next to his. Joe is also a pilot. He tells Joe he needs to go fly and do three quick landings so he can be legal to fly his family this weekend to the beach in the Mooney. Joe says, “Well it’s a nice night, would you like me to come along and be a second pair of eyes?” Mark isn’t sure if he can have Joe come along. Mark knows he isn’t legal to carry passengers yet, but Joe is also an airplane pilot. Surely two pilots are safer than one pilot. Can Mark and Joe legally fly together?
Mark decides it would be helpful and invites Joe along on the flight. Mark completes the landings then heads home for dinner. When the weekend comes, Mark and his family have a fantastic family trip.
Was the flight legal? Would you make the same decision in that situation?
You might be surprised to find, the answer is no. Technically, the first night flight was not a legal flight. Joe, although he is a pilot, is still considered a passenger if Mark is the pilot in command on the flight. A Mooney doesn’t need two pilots to operate. Mark needs to be the pilot in command so he can complete his three takeoffs and landings at night, and that makes Joe a passenger.
The FAA has determined that the relationship between a CFI and a student need not be considered a pilot and passenger relationship. But all other combinations are considered a pilot and a passenger. Mark made the wrong decision and flew at night with Joe, a passenger, while he wasn’t yet current to carry passengers. It doesn’t matter that Joe is also an airplane pilot.
This is just one confusing scenario of many which you will face as a pilot. You must be sure you get the best training possible from an FAA approved flight school that covers all the bases with you. Test your instructor’s knowledge with this question. See if your instructor is as proficient with regulations as you need them to be.
Did you make the right choice or did you mistakenly agree with Mark?
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Honor, Duty, Country … and Flying?
Hello again! Hopefully, my prior adventures have been interesting and informational for all readers; this one, however, while not describing any daring or skillful airmanship on my part (ok, my opinion), it does provide one of the most unique experiences I have ever been part of … and flying (or rather, my aviation knowledge) came in handy as I helped out Col. Mark Tillman, one of the pilots of Air Force One.
It All Started With a Wildfire
On June 18, 2002, the beginning of one of the worst wildfires in the history of Arizona was started by an arsonist in east-central Arizona. To those who may not be familiar with the geography of Arizona, outside of the larger cities and towns within the state (i.e. Phoenix metropolitan area, Flagstaff, Tucson, and Prescott), many parts of Arizona (believe it or not) are covered by dense, forested areas. East-central Arizona is no different. And as we learned from Science Class 101, once you combine heat, oxygen, and fuel, you have conditions ripe for fire. While wildfires are (unfortunately) common that time of the year, this particular one was very devastating (when it was extinguished on July 7 it had consumed 436,000 acres).
At the time of this event, I was working at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) as the Airside Operations Superintendent. Collectively, all airport operations staff were closely monitoring what was happening in the fire affected areas and were prepared to offer any assistance to not only first responder fire crews providing air support, but any airports in the region. Needless to say, it was a very fluid and unsettling time. To put things in perspective, when an event of that magnitude are headline news on the national scene, you KNOW it is big.
Air Force One Gets Involved and My Aviation Knowledge Comes Into Play
As Airside Operations Superintendent, it became very common (and I don’t mean to be flippant, nor arrogant in this statement) to have frequent interactions with Air Force One’s comings and goings within the metropolitan Phoenix area. For the first few times, it is exciting, exhilarating, and hectic. Prior to any presidential visit, the Air Force One Lead team (AF-1) and Secret Service agents, swoop in and (almost) take over the place! These lead visits are typically 1-2 weeks ahead of the event itself, so you have some time to digest what is happening…..(Ah yes, our taxpayer’s money at work!). However after a few times, it becomes almost typical and (depending on your airport) frustrating because they literally can close down your airport for their entire operation.
As I stated, MOST of the time you get a 1-2 week notice. Because of the enormity of the situation and national headlines it created, we were given a 1 DAY notice. The AF-1 Team and Secret Service prepped where everything is to be in place for the next day. As the Lead AF-1 agent was leaving for the day, he asked me if I could promptly show up the next day at 0700.
I arrive for my ‘ShowTime’ at 0700, and while the entire AF-1 Team was buttoning up loose ends (i.e. the B747 would be followed by a Gulfstream to whisk the president to east central Arizona), the Lead agent turned to me with a piece of paper and simply asked: “Can you take care of this for me?” THAT was when my aviation knowledge / flying / skill kicked in (after my initial OMG moment), it was the Flight Plan for Air Force One and he wanted me to file it with the Prescott Flight Service Station!
Not having gone through this before, I was curious why the agent calmly waited by my side until I was finished (he knew what was coming). I took out my cell phone and called Prescott FSS and upon initial contact with the Briefer, I stated: “This is PHX Operations and I want to file the Flight Plan for Air Force One.” And then I realized why the agent was nearby, because after the briefer’s (almost comedic answer) “Yeah, right” the agent took the phone and said, ”That is correct sir, listen to the man and let him file the plan.” I dutifully went through the entire filing process with the briefer. When completed, and to my utter astonishment, the agent started walking away and said to me “Oh, just keep the paper, we don’t need it anymore.”
Proud to be an American (Aviator)
I held that sheet of paper as if I was handed the original Declaration of Independence. I could not believe it…I immediately thought to myself…”do you realize you have American/presidential/aviation history in your hands, and I bet not too many civilians get this opportunity” I cherished that flight plan not only for the aviation significance BUT for the magnitude of the events themselves.
Fast forward 13 years to July 2015. I finally got up enough courage to personally write a letter to (now) former President George W. Bush at his Library outside of Dallas and explained the situation (not that I’d expect him to remember), and asked if he would kindly sign it for me. As aviators, we are taught to always have a contingency plan, so I made a copy just in case the original never returned. To my excitement it DID return and he DID sign it. I plan to proudly display it along with pictures taken that day and the business card of the Air Force One agent who let me file the plan.
In closing, (as I stated in the beginning) this wasn’t an airmanship focused story, but one of national pride tied into the thought…” if I was NOT a pilot and knew what to do with it, it would have been just following orders and I would have ignored the significance.” Take your learning and flight training seriously, because you never know when your aviation knowledge could serve you, and your country.
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Featured Image: US Air Force
A vastly different world exists when transitioning from flying small planes to understanding how to fly a commercial plane.
You’ve been grinding away making yourself marketable to large jet companies. Until now, your sphere has been light planes weighing only a few thousand pounds. The phone rings. You’ve been selected for an upcoming class of new-hire pilots flying “heavy iron.” “Flying is flying, right? How different can it be, right?” This new world is not dissimilar from that of someone who has driven only automobiles then transitions to 18-wheelers. Welcome to “The Big Time.”
By “heavy iron” we are talking about aircraft substantially larger than small corporate jets and turboprops. In the simplest of terms, the kinds of aircraft I am referring to are those in which you don’t have to bend to enter or walk through the passenger cabin or into the flight deck. Notice I said, “flight deck?” On larger airplanes, the cockpit is customarily called the flight deck. Behind the flight deck is the “cabin.” The place where the coffee pot and food preparation equipment is called the galley and the john/potty is commonly called, “the lav” (shortened form of “lavatory”). The men and women who supervise passengers in the cabin are called “flight attendants.” The “head” flight attendant is either called the purser, lead or in some cases “A” attendant. Obviously, the big cheese in the front end is called the captain and the second-cheese, first officer. “Co-pilot?”- nuh…not used so much.
How to Fly a Commercial Plane – The Flight Deck
As a first officer, what’s the first thing you’ll probably think about when entering the flight deck? Preflight? Computations? No. Garbage! In light plane flying, the most garbage you probably accumulated on flights was the wrapper from a Snickers bar. On large aircraft, you’ll likely fly multiple legs that are longer and the garbage mounts up. You and the captain will toss out the equivalent of a kitchen-sized garbage bag full of used coffee cups, scrap paper, TOLD cards1, weather/release packages, wadded-up Kleenex, pop cans etc. As such, your first order of “housekeeping” will be to obtain a small garbage bag and hang it on one of the pilot seat levers.
Depending on the company’s policies, as first officer, you might start the auxiliary power unit (APU) if it’s a “dark” airplane. This gets electricity flowing in the aircraft and provides heat if it’s cold or air conditioning if it’s hot.
How to Fly a Commercial Plane – Preflight
Your company may consider the first officer the designated preflight-doer. This means you do a cockpit preflight by checking switch and control settings and doing a walk-around inspection outside. There are some items on these checklists that will be only accomplished on the first flight of the day and not redone on subsequent legs. FAA Part 121 and 125 companies require an external pre-flight and post-flight “walk-around,” regardless of how hard it’s raining outside.
When both crew members are present on the flight deck, the entire checklist is verbalized. Some items only the captain responds to and other items are reserved only for the first officer’s response. Depending on the aircraft, this verbal checklist recitation is recorded on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR). Ordinarily the CVR begins recording as soon as power is applied to the aircraft either via APU, ground power unit or the battery switch selected ON. While older CVRs only record the last 30 minutes of radio and pilot conversation, newer Flight Data Recorders (FDRs) typically store the last 2 hours of ambient noise and conversation.
Once the flight crew receives its load manifest (passenger count, baggage) and has obtained the final “numbers” on fuel load (either through dispatch release or from crew member computations), the engine power settings, V-speeds and minimum needed runway lengths are figured out. This task is usually the first officers. Both pilots electronically or mechanically move little colored markers around on their airspeed indicators to denote important speeds. These are called “bugs.” Glass cockpit screens will “bug” the speeds graphically. It is different from light planes where take-off power amounts to just pushing the throttle(s) all the way to their limits. Because you are dealing with a variety of critical engine limitations, you need to factor in variables like weight, air temperature, and wind speed. Maximum power settings may be required due to available runway length. Use of anti-icing equipment needed for take-off also reduces the available take-off power. Crew computations are necessary to protect against over-torque and over-temp on engines. Noise abatement climbs and “flex” power settings will also require consideration. A “flex” power setting is used at the captain’s discretion when the runways are long enough to use reduced power for takeoff. This reduces noise, engine wear, and maintenance cost. After the “housekeeping” duties are done and you’re within 30 minutes of the flight plan’s proposed departure time, you can radio Clearance Delivery for the instrument clearance.
How to Fly a Commercial Plane – Taxiing and Takeoff
The flight actually starts with the captain setting the parking brake and calling for the engine start checklist. It is common for the first officer to start the engines. Once the after engine start checklist is complete it’s time to taxi. In large commercial aircraft operations, taxiing is permitted only when all passengers are seated. (There’s always some clod that feels he must stand up to get a roll of Certs out of his carry-on luggage so he can hit on the girl seated next to him.) In Part 121 operations, the flight attendants are required to notify the captain and the aircraft has to stop moving. Obviously, this boogers things up for ground controllers and all aircraft waiting behind you.
In the taxi check list, you set the flaps and trim and the flying pilot will verbalize a takeoff briefing. This briefing is vitally important and delineates who’s flying the leg, confirmation of power settings, climb profile and standard departure procedures to be used. Additionally, planned action in the event of an emergency is included. (“In the event we lose an engine after V1 we’ll continue the takeoff but since we’ll be above maximum landing weight we’ll advise ATC we need to burn off fuel or dump fuel prior to returning to this airport,” or whatever is prudent.)
Let’s say this is going to be your leg to fly. Even so, typically the captain generally taxis the aircraft and lines up the aircraft on the runway prior to takeoff, after which you’re advised to hold the brakes, then, “it’s your airplane.” Once cleared for takeoff, you will increase thrust, attentive to ensure both engines are accelerating equally until you’re close to the target power setting. You may hold full forward pressure on the yoke to place as much weight as possible on the wheels for traction. As you begin to move you will find the rudder/brake peddles are sluggish and won’t become effective until you’re beyond 40 or 50 knots. Meanwhile, believing that you’ve got the power set close to what it should be, you say something like, “SET POWER” and the non-flying pilot (the captain) refines the power settings as you concentrate on the takeoff.
Several call-outs are pretty standard on large aircraft: One is “80 knots” and you respond with “Cross checked.” You’re just confirming that your and the captain’s airspeed indicators agree. Next, the non-flying pilot calls out, “V1.” This is the point of no return: you’re goin’ flying regardless of what happens! High-speed aborts are often disastrous. Even if you blow an engine after V1, you’ll continue the takeoff roll. Shortly afterward, you hear, “Rotate.” You’ll pitch the nose up to the desired attitude and hold it while you wait for the wheels to clear the pavement. Once airborne the non-flying pilot says, “positive rate” (meaning you’ve got a positive rate of climb and not sinking back to the ground) and you’ll respond, “Gear Up.” The captain reaches over and retracts the landing gear. The first time you do this it may surprise you how noisy the hydraulic pumps are and how loud the “ker-thunk” is when the nose gear slams against its uplocks. Depending on aircraft profile, around 400′ AGL you’ll call for the flaps up. Some aircraft momentarily level out around 1,000′ AGL to accelerate at what’s called the acceleration altitude; then resume the climb.
How to Fly a Commercial Plane – In Flight
Use of the autopilot is encouraged after the configuration changes but especially passing through 10,000 feet. Reduced separation requirements mandate that autopilot use is required between FL290 to FL410 (29,000 to 41,000 feet).
You’ll climb to the cruise altitude using your familiar airspeed indicator but at a point called the cross-over altitude2 will transition to flying by Mach number. The reason for this is that, at altitude, the Mach number is limiting whereas your indicated airspeed will be lower than you’re used to seeing and be of little value.
Control responses are slower and take more muscle. The payoff is more stability. Standard rate turns (on which instrument flying is predicated) are no longer are used. Because you’re moving faster you’ll only use half standard rate in turns. In light planes, standard rate requires 15 to 20 degrees of bank angle. In large planes, producing a 3° per second standard rate turn would require a bank angle of 50°. The Aeronautical Information Manual states that turns in a holding pattern should be at 3° per second to a maximum of 30 degrees of bank, whichever results in the lesser bank angle. “Standard rate” in large aircraft typically is no more than 1.5° per second.
How to Fly a Commercial Plane – Approach and Landing
As you approach your destination a new TOLD card is needed containing runway length at your weight, speeds and go-around power settings. Landing speeds are “bugged” and ATIS information, approach procedures, and techniques for special conditions such as wet/slick runways and LAHSO3 are reviewed and briefed. The approach may seem to move pretty fast at first. The difference is flying approaches in light planes at 100 knots compared to 120 to 160 knots is conspicuous. But after you get accustomed to it, light plane approaches will seem to take forever.
“Grease job landings do not a pilot make.” In large aircraft, you’re interested only in stabilized approaches and touching down at the desired touchdown zone. It may seem awkward how high you are when landing. Depending on aircraft you’ll actually be sitting anywhere from 20 to 100 feet above the ground when touching down. Good positive runway wheel contact and minimal “wing-wagging” trumps a grease job. Yep, in large airplanes, you pretty much wanna “fly ’em on.”
Thrust reversers are maybe new to you.4 Before using them, it is important to ensure both reversers are equally deployed otherwise you’ll spin around faster than that guy with the Certs does when checking out good looking women after arriving in Ft. Lauderdale.
On landing roll-out, the non-flying pilot may call out “80 knots” which is your cue to begin stowing the thrust reverser levers. At 40-50 knots the captain will say something like, “I got it” or “my airplane” and take over control, taxiing to parking. You’re done with all flying pilot’s duties at that point and resume radio work and the “clean-up,” retracting the flaps, re-setting the trim and performing the after landing checklist.
One thing that is sometimes hard for first officers to understand is that the airplane is the captain’s airplane. It is the captain who is responsible for that airplane and you are there only to
assist. Although it is customary to alternate flying legs, it is at the captain’s discretion only. Privilege in a multi-crew setting is not a 50/50 proposition.
The difference between small and large plane flying is “bigness.” Its numbers and speeds are higher. Pilots sit two or more feet apart. Its weight is computed with index numbers such as 100.3 instead of 100,300 pounds. There’s at least one extra fold out seat on the flight deck for jump seaters. Center of gravity is a location measured in percent within the wing’s aerodynamic chord instead of inches after of a datum line. But there is one thing that makes learning how to fly a commercial plane worth it over smaller planes, besides the freedom to stretch your legs and walk around, and that is the salary is usually much better and who can find fault with that?
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1 – “TOLD” cards are take-off and landing distance data cards and prepared for each leg and generally include ATIS information for the airport from which you’re leaving and approaching. Once the leg is complete the TOLD card gets discarded. Sophisticated multi-function displays are also being used that present this information.
2 – Crossover Altitude is the altitude at which a specified CAS (Calibrated airspeed) and Mach value represent the same TAS (True airspeed) value. Above this altitude, the Mach number is used to reference speeds.
3 – LAHSO – Land and Hold Short Operations is landing on one of two intersecting runways requiring precise planning. Pilots are not required to accept a LAHSO clearance to land but it can expedite your landing at busy airports.
4 – In turboprops, deceleration is handled with a propeller reversal called “beta” which also slows the aircraft by reversing thrust.
Featured Image: Wilco737
When was the last time you checked your VOR receiver? As an IFR pilot, how often are you required to do this test? What about as a VFR pilot? Are you required to check your VOR receiver?
The answer for VFR pilots is, well, no you’re not required to check your VOR receiver. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea.
And for IFR pilots, how often do the Federal Aviation Regulations say you must check your receiver when using it for instrument flying?
According to FAR 91.171, you may not conduct an IFR flight using VORs for navigation unless your VOR system has been checked within the preceding 30 days and found to be in limits. The check must also be logged in the aircraft records.
Fortunately, these are checks that pilots can accomplish on their own, and in many different ways.
The FAA allows pilots a handful of different methods for checking VOR receivers. There’s an easy acronym to remember about these tests, including tolerances – do you know it?
The acronym most taught to IFR students is VODGA. This stands for VOT, Ownship, Dual, Ground, Air. Let’s take a closer look at the steps to check your VOR receiver using this acronym.
The VOR Test Facility (VOT) is the most accurate and is the preference to check your VOR receiver. Not all airports have a VOT. You can discover which airports do have a test facility in Section 4 of the FAA Chart Supplement (formerly known as the Airport Facility Directory [AFD]). The supplement indicates which airports have the test equipment, which frequency to use, and any other notes specific to that location.
Steps to using the VOT:
- Ensure you are situated on the airport in an appropriate area – the parking apron, taxiway, or end of runway. The Supplement will make note of which areas on the airport will not work.
- Tune to the appropriate frequency annotated in the Supplement.
- Turn up the volume to identify the station, which is indicated by a series of dots or one continuous tone.
- Twist the OBS to center the needle. The TO/FROM flag should indicate TO with 180 degrees (+/- 4) selected. Remember: Cessna 182. One-eighty two, or 180-TO. It should show FROM with 360 selected.
- The tolerance must be within four degrees, i.e. the needle must be centered when the OBS is from 176 to 184 degrees or 356 to 004 degrees.
In the absence of a VOT, you may use other checkpoints designated in the Supplement. These are the ownship tests, and they may be conducted in the air or on the ground.
Checking your VOR receiver may be done at either a designated location on certain airfields or over specific geographic locations while airborne. These locations, frequencies, and notations may also be found in Section 4 of the FAA Chart Supplement. The Supplement will provide the name of the VOR and/or airport facility, the frequency, and whether or not it is a ground or airborne checkpoint. If it’s an airborne checkpoint, minimum altitudes will also normally be listed. If it’s a ground checkpoint, the location on the airfield to perform the test will be listed.
Ground checks are preferred over air checks because it’s easier to position your aircraft to a more precise location on the ground.
Steps to doing an ownship location VOR receiver check:
- Tune to the appropriate frequency annotated in the supplement.
- Identify the station by turning up the volume and ensure the Morse code or voice identifier is correct.
- Twist the OBS knob to the azimuth listed in the Supplement.
- Position your aircraft at the appropriate location annotated in the Supplement, either on the ground or over a geographic location in the air, ensuring you’re at an appropriate altitude if airborne.
- If the needle is not centered, twist the OBS until it centers up.
- The tolerance must be within four degrees for ground checkpoints or six degrees for air checkpoints. So if an airborne checkpoint azimuth is listed as being 177 degrees, the OBS must be centered in a range from 171 to 183 degrees.
You may also make your own airborne check by looking at the charts and picking a significant geographic landmark under a VOR airway. Fly over the landmark and note the azimuth that your aircraft VOR receiver indicates. It should be within 6 degrees of the annotated airway azimuth.
The FAA allows for one more method of checking a VOR receiver, and you may do this if you have two separate receivers in your aircraft (they can share an antenna).
Dual Receiver Check
A dual receiver check is valid if you have two separate receiver units in your aircraft. They can have a common antenna but the actual receivers must be separate. These checks can be done on the ground or airborne.
Steps to conducting a dual receiver VOR check:
- Tune both receivers to a nearby VOR station.
- Identify the station in both receivers by turning up the volume and verifying the Morse code or voice identifier.
- Compare the OBS settings for both receivers with the needle centered. They must be within four degrees of each other.
Ground / Air
The final pieces of the VODGA acronym, GA, is to remind you that there are different tolerances for ground checks and air checks. It should make sense that ground checks are more accurate, and thus have a lower tolerance for error. All tolerances are 4 degrees, including a dual check in the air. The only exception is the ownship airborne check, which has a tolerance of 6 degrees.
Logging the VOR Receiver Check
This may be the most neglected part of the VOR checks, and if the check is not logged you are in violation of the FARs. Doing the actual checks is important! But so is logging them.
Logging the check is easy. It doesn’t even have to be in official aircraft maintenance logs, it just needs to be with the aircraft and available for inspection. A simple spreadsheet will suffice.
The log must contain the date, location, bearing error, and signature of the pilot conducting the check.
Summing Up the VOR Receiver Check
If you’re an IFR pilot using VORs for navigation, you must check your VOR receiver within 30 days preceding an IFR flight, and log the check.
You may check two receivers against each other if your aircraft has two separate units. This will be the easiest if you have two units. Tolerance is 4 degrees.
You can also check your receiver while on the ground at certain airports using a dedicated VOR test facility or a designated VOR ground checkpoint, both found in the FAA Chart Supplement. Tolerance is 4 degrees.
In the absence of any other way to check your VOR, you may conduct a check airborne. The tolerance is 6 degrees.
The checks must be logged with the date, location, bearing error, and signature.
These regulations are found in FAR 91.171. More information can be found in AIM 1-1-4. But most importantly, don’t forget to keep current with these checks, and log them.
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Featured Image: Ryan Blanding
Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady
Prior to making the decision to take family and friends flying, a new or recently licensed private pilot should carefully review the appropriate FAA Regulations under Sec. 61.113, Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command as follows:
- (a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) through (h) of this section, no person who holds a private pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire; nor may that person, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft.
- (b) A private pilot may, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of any aircraft in connection with any business or employment if:
- (1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and
- (2) The aircraft does not carry passengers of property for compensation or hire.
- (c) A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.
- (d) A private pilot may act as pilot in command of a charitable, nonprofit, or community event flight described in Part 91.146, if the sponsor and pilot comply with the requirements of Part 91.146.
- (e) A private pilot may be reimbursed for aircraft operating expenses that are directly related to search and location operations, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental feeds, and the operation is sanctioned and under the direction and control of:
- (1) A local, State, or Federal agency; or
- (2) An organization that conducts search and location operations.
- (f) A private pilot who is an aircraft salesman and who has at least 200 hours of logged flight time may demonstrate an aircraft in flight to a prospective buyer.
- (g) A private pilot who meets the requirements of Part 61.69 may act as a pilot in command of an aircraft towing a glider or unpowered ultralight vehicle.
- (h) A private pilot may act as pilot in command for the purpose of conducting a production flight test in a light-sport aircraft intended for certification in the light-sport category under Part 21.190 of this chapter provided that –
- (1) The aircraft is a powered parachute or a weight-shift-control aircraft;
- (2) The person has at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time in the category and class of aircraft flown; and
- (3) The person is familiar with the processes and procedures applicable to the conduct of production flight testing, to include operations conducted under a special flight permit and any associated operating limitations.
Once the new private pilot has determined that he or she is in compliance with the FAA regulations in Sec. 61.113, which prohibit remuneration for the services of the new PIC, his or her willingness to carry passengers is typically positively correlated with his or her level of self-confidence in his or her ability to fly the airplane. Although the acquisition of a private pilot’s certificate is often regarded as a prized possession, it is wise to remember that it is essentially a license to [continue to] learn, and as such, it is ranked as the most sought-after of the four levels of the more basic pilot certifications (private, student, recreational, and sport). Pilot certificates can be compared according to the following criteria: instruction flight time, solo flight time, total flight time, average total flight time, average costs, aircraft weight, aircraft seating, aircraft occupancy, aircraft max speed, aircraft range, aircraft engine type, aircraft max horsepower, aircraft number of engines, aircraft propeller types, aircraft landing gear configuration, aircraft max altitude, night flight experience, bad weather flight experience, international flight experience, sightseeing charity flight experience, and airport / airspace experience which reflect the skill level and practical experience of the pilot.
The private pilot certificate has the fewest limitations, and by earning additional training / endorsements it can be upgraded to include more advanced capabilities, such as flying in IFR weather conditions or flying complex aircraft with two or more engines, retractable landing gear, faster cruise speed, etc. The acquisition of more advanced endorsements through additional flight training can easily result in logging hundreds of hours of flight time which also serves to enhance flying skills and expand the awareness of safety practices. The FAA ensures that flying remains a very safe activity by certifying aircraft to a very high, rigid standard, and requiring that pilots undergo regular refresher training.
An excellent way for new private pilots to save money while they fly, enjoy access to great aircraft while spending time with friends and family is to join a flying club. Flying clubs are conveniently located across the country and open to all levels of piloting skills. A flying club can be described as an aviation co-op uniting a group of people who are interested in sharing the cost of aircraft ownership in an effort to make flying more affordable. Undoubtedly, dividing the acquisition cost of an airplane, the monthly recurring costs, such as hangar fees, annual maintenance, and insurance among several people makes great economic sense, but flying clubs offer a great deal more than just affordable flying. This includes quality flight training opportunities, the access to a variety of aircraft, and the opportunity to construct a sense of community among aviation-minded individuals whether they are just entering the field of aviation or reigniting their passion for flying.
The governance of flying clubs is guided by the FAA’s Minimum Standards 5190.6B which specifically grants them the rights of an individual rather than a commercial operator. This document allows flying clubs the right to form and operate at an airport in the same way that an individual has the right to base his/her airplane on the field. If an airport does not have a published Minimum Standards document, the airport manager is the final authority regarding the types of operations in which the flying club can engage. Generally, flying clubs are governed as follows:
- Flight club members CAN receive flight training in the flight club aircraft from anyone who is authorized by the airport authority to provide flight instruction on the field.
- Flight club members who are CFIs CAN provide instruction to other club members in the club aircraft.
- Flying club members who are mechanics CAN perform maintenance on aircraft that belong to their club.
- Compensation for member-performed maintenance and flight instruction depends upon approval from the airport manager.
- Flight clubs CANNOT offer scenic flights, charter service, or any other commercial activity.
- Flight clubs and their members CANNOT lease or sell any goods or services to anyone other than other members of the club (unless it is the sale or exchange of its capital equipment).
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Welcome back to the fourth installment of one of my ‘lessons learned’ stories from personal flying experiences over the years that highlight aviation safety. This story reinforces that age-old aviation adage: “Just Fly the Plane!”
A Breakfast Trip to Northern Arizona
This story occurs circa 1996-97. I was working as the Noise Abatement Officer at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and one of my co-workers named Doug (an IT Specialist at PHX) wanted to take a trip to Prescott, AZ (PRC) for a Saturday breakfast at the airport café. At that time, I was renting aircraft from Chandler Municipal Airport (CHD) which is located about 30 miles southeast of PHX. On the appointed day, Doug met me at CHD and off we went in our Cessna 172 to enjoy our breakfast at PRC. Now Prescott Airport (officially named Ernest A. Love Field), was (and still is) a busy facility – not only because of fly-ins like us on the weekend but PRC is the western U.S. location for a popular school’s resident campus, so the pattern is filled with “Echo Romeo” call signs from students transitioning the local airspace. The airport café (which I recommend to any pilot looking for a great meal) is decorated with all sizes of historic and current aircraft hanging from the ceiling – what else can a hungry aviator ask for! Needless to say, we enjoyed the food and scenery, and then it was time to return to CHD.
“What’s That Noise?”
Similar to many airports throughout the country, PRC has noise abatement procedures that aircraft are to follow immediately after departure (as my job title denoted, that was my “day” job at PHX to monitor). At PRC, in order to avoid neighboring homes to the southwest, aircraft are to maintain runway heading (210 degrees) for 3 miles before turning. As we approached the 3 mile mark to begin our turn further south, I heard a terrific noise and immediately saw that Doug’s door had flown open – the noise is something similar to opening a window while a car is cruising down the highway, only amplified – and we were wearing noise canceling headsets!
Almost simultaneously as the door opened, I heard my former flight instructor Lance in my ear saying “Just fly the plane, stick to aviate, navigate, communicate.” I had heard stories about pilots meeting their demise when the passenger door would fly open and upon reaching to close it, they caused the plane to ultimately end up in a spin. Fortunately for me, Doug was riding in the right seat, and without hesitation, he reached over and slammed the door shut – end of crisis. At the time, we didn’t seem to be that concerned about our moment of terror, as we uneventfully completed our flight home to CHD.
My “Then It Hit Me” Moment
After Doug and I parted ways at CHD on our respective drives home, I started critiquing my airmanship skills (this is something that Lance taught me years before, always evaluate how you conducted your flight so as to learn for next time), it was then that the gravity of our door incident hit me. I was fortunate to not only have a passenger with me to assist but one that did not even blink an eye and immediately nipped the situation in the bud by slamming it shut. (Later that following week when he and I were collaborating on a work project, did he sheepishly admit that he had trouble closing the door upon leaving PRC, which he surmised caused the door to fling open). So in my best Chuck Yeager (ah-shucks) moment, I told him no harm no foul as we made it back in one piece.
What I did not tell him, though, was that one situation made an indelible mark on me, reminding me of the age-old aviation safety adage: “Just Fly the Plane.”
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Feature Image: Simon Moores
Pilot reports (PIREPs) are an integral part of the aviation meteorological network. They’re used to assess the accuracy of weather reported by automated stations and instrumentation. Other pilots use them to make important decisions on the ground and in the air. FSS uses them to brief pilots. ATC uses PIREPs to sequence traffic around unfavorable weather. And they’re also the only way of knowing what’s going on in areas that have gaps in automated coverage.
ATC is actually required to solicit reports from pilots in the following conditions:
- When requested by another pilot
- When the ceiling is at or less than 5,000’
- When visibility is at or less than 5 miles
- Thunderstorms are present
- Moderate or greater turbulence is present
- Light or greater icing present
- Wind shear present
- Volcanic ash present
Unfortunately, not many pilots participate voluntarily. Hardly any pilots give routine reports to ATC when they’re flying. They either don’t think of reporting one, it’s too much work, or they don’t know what to say. And when ATC does solicit a PIREP, pilots don’t know what to do. Nonsense!
The Format for Giving PIREPs
Maybe it’s the written form of PIREPs that intimidates pilots. We all remember seeing the PIREP format on our test: KCMH UA /OV APE 230010/TM 1516/FL085/TP BE20/SK BKN065/WX FV03SM HZ FU/TA 20/TB LGT.
How am I going to do this while I’m flying?!?!
Plain English is your answer!
PIREPs only need to contain the following five elements: Location, altitude, time, type of aircraft, and an observation.
Remember the following acronym or write it down on your kneeboard:
- Type of Aircraft
Where were you when you saw this weather, what time was it, and what’d you see. It’s that easy!
You can report location any number of ways. Bearing & distance from a navigational aid is the easiest for you to give and the easiest for ATC to copy down, so if you’re dialed into a navaid you should use this. Otherwise something as simple as “five miles south of Folsom Lake” works just as well. GPS coordinates should only be given as a last resort because of the radio time required and greater possibility of transcription errors.
Altitude, Time, Type of Aircraft
Altitude is just what it sounds like – your altitude.
Time should be the time of your observation, not the time of your report. If you experienced some light icing but couldn’t get anyone on the radio for thirty minutes, you should give the time of your encounter. You can even just say “thirty minutes ago” and the person on the other end will do the math.
Type of aircraft is another item you can report without requiring much thought.
You don’t need to report all elements of the written PIREP (wind, sky condition, visibility, precipitation, turbulence, etc). You really only need to report what you think is significant.
Was there something that affected your routing or made you uncomfortable? Was there an element of the forecast that is completely off from reality? Then that’s all you really need to report. And you can use plain English for this.
You should also make a report when you go missed approach due to weather or if you encounter wind shear on takeoff or landing.
The different degrees of icing and turbulence are some things you should know how to report.
Icing should also be reported with your indicated airspeed and outside air temperature if you can remember to do so. If you don’t, that’s okay, ATC may ask for that information. Degrees of icing:
- Trace. You just start to notice the formation of ice on the airframe. This is “trace”.
- Light. Ice is accumulating at a rate that might become hazardous in an hour. Intermittent use of deice equipment removes it. This is “light”.
- Moderate. Ice has formed and accumulating, and is now presenting a hazard to flight. Continual use of deice equipment necessary. This is “moderate”.
- Severe. Immediate diversion is necessary because deice equipment can’t keep up. This is “severe”.
Turbulence is reported with both an intensity and duration. Intensity is reported as follows:
- Light. You experience slight & erratic changes in altitude or attitude, or some bumpiness but without noticeable changes in altitude or attitude. This is “light”.
- Moderate. You’re experiencing larger changes in altitude and/or attitude, but you remain in control of the aircraft. You see your indicated airspeed changing. Or maybe you’re getting quickly bounced around but altitude and attitude seems to be holding. This is “moderate”.
- Severe. You experience large and abrupt changes in altitude and attitude with large changes in airspeed. You may momentarily lose control. This is “severe”.
- Extreme. The aircraft is impossible to control and structural damage may occur. This is “extreme”.
The duration of turbulence is reported as follows:
- Occasional: happening less than 1/3 of the time.
- Intermittent: happens from 1/3 to 2/3 of the time.
- Continuous: happening greater than 2/3 of the time.
Now for some scenarios so you can try out your skill with PIREPs.
You’re approaching Reno International at 6,500’ and your GPS says you’re 4 miles to the south, flying your Cessna 182, callsign Cessna 1234. You can barely make out the outline of the airfield through the haze. What would that sound like?
“Reno tower, Cessna 1234 with a PIREP”
“Cessna 1234, Reno tower, go ahead”
“Cessna 1234, four miles south of the airport, six thousand five hundred feet, Cessna 182, currently reporting only four miles visibility in haze”
When you’re reporting current conditions, it’s fine to say “currently reporting” instead of the actual time.
You’re tuned in to the Fayetteville VOR/DME and showing you’re on the FAY 230 radial at 9 miles. You’re in a Piper PA-34 Seneca, callsign Seneca 78, at 8,500’. You’re getting bumped pretty good and your airspeed is changing plus or minus 8 knots from your cruise speed, but you remain in control at all times. This is happening half the time. Fifteen minutes later you get a hold of Raleigh FSS, now on the FAY 230 radial at 35 miles, still experiencing the turbulence. What’s your call?
“Raleigh Radio, Seneca 78 with a PIREP”
“Seneca 78, Raleigh Radio, go ahead with your PIREP”
“Seneca 78, from the Foxtrot Alpha Yankee two-three-zero at nine miles to the two-three-zero at thirty-five miles, eight thousand five hundred feet, fifteen minutes ago to present, Piper PA34, intermittent moderate turbulence.”
If your observation covers a geographic area, try to bound it like in the example.
The forecasted weather in the vicinity of Auburn Municipal was for scattered clouds at 9,000 feet, over ten miles of visibility, and winds out of the southwest at 10 knots. You’re transiting the area overhead in a Robinson R22, callsign Helicopter 30Y, and are forced to stay at 4,500’ MSL due to a broken ceiling at 5,000’. Visibility is ten miles and winds are out of the southwest at 5-10 knots. You’re seven miles to the east and in contact with Rancho Murieta FSS. What would you report?
“Rancho Murieta radio, Helicopter 30Y with a PIREP”
“Helicopter 30Y, Rancho Murieta radio, go ahead”
“Helicopter 30Y, seven miles east of Auburn Muni, four thousand five hundred feet, Robinson R22, reporting a broken ceiling at five thousand feet”
Because visibility and winds are more or less observed to be as forecast, you only need to report the drastic difference in the cloud layer.
Who to Report PIREPs To
You can make your reports to whichever ATC facility you’re currently talking to. They’ll disseminate the information appropriately.
There are also a number of EFAS stations around the country (En Route Flight Advisory Service), callsign “Flight Watch”. They serve as a central collection point for PIREPs and you can report directly to them if radio coverage allows it.
If you can’t make a PIREP by radio, you can make an electronic submission on landing. The FAA has simplified this process in order to encourage more participation.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Next time you’re out flying, go ahead and make some voluntary reports when radio traffic allows it – it’ll be good practice for when it really counts!
In the meantime, you can find out more information in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) Chapter 7 Sections 1-16 to 1-28 (reporting weather).
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Throughout my years in aviation, I’ve encountered a variety of situations in which by making the right decision, I avoided potential and real danger. And in the name of flight safety, I’d like to share another one of those stores here. This is a story that involves a chain of events that literally caused the hair on my arms tingle with trepidation, for I was witnessing in real life what Human Factors experts have called the “Swiss Cheese Effect.”
Dr. James Reason’s “Swiss Cheese” Model
For those readers who may not be familiar with Dr. James Reason’s “Swiss Cheese Model”, here is a brief primer. Dr. James T. Reason, from the University of Manchester, is considered the preeminent pioneer in the study of risk management and safety culture. In the mid-1990’s Dr. Reason published a document highlighting what he referred to as the “Swiss Cheese Model.” See the following graphic:
As one can see, there are several segments that represent layers or ‘links in a chain” of events that if aligned just right, can cause an incident or accident (i.e. the “Swiss Cheese Effect”). If however, the sequence of events is recognized, it re-aligns or breaks the chain and an accident is avoided. This is the background of this flight experience.
The Chain of Events in Real Life
In early 2002, I was managing a general aviation airport, owned by the City of Phoenix, AZ, named Phoenix-Goodyear Airport (GYR). During that time, local airport managers held a quarterly airport manager’s meeting at a selected Arizona airport to share day-to-day airport administration and issues of the time, so as to learn from each other. On the day of the meeting, I decided to rent a Cessna 172 from Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU), about 15 minutes driving time from my airport in Goodyear. Mark, Glendale’s airport manager at the time, agreed to come along rather than make the 122 mile, 2 hour drive to Show Low Regional Airport (SOW) where the meeting was being held. By flying, we could make the meeting at SOW, in northeast AZ, in less than an hour.
This is when the ‘chain of events’ and potential flight safety risks began. Event #1: The aircraft I had reserved was inadvertently rented out to someone else, so I had to take another that I had not flown before. “No big deal,” I thought to myself, I’d flown several 172’s from this flight school before with no problem. As I was conducting the interior preflight inspection, I noted that the engine would not start after a few efforts. “Oh, well,” I thought. Maybe it was just cold and hadn’t flown in a while.
Event #2: After I finally got the engine running to my satisfaction, I noted that the Number 1 COMM radio reception was very intermittent, but I continued to the run-up area to conduct the pre-takeoff checklist. As I started to listen to the Automatic Terminal Information System (ATIS) broadcast at GEU (i.e. a pre-recorded message telling pilots cloud heights, visibility, active runway and time), I recalled the weather report for SOW (Event #3) was a 30 knot crosswind upon landing, with gusts up to 45 knots. And this was at a 2200 foot runway located in mountainous terrain. Immediately after hearing the local ATIS, the radio knob literally broke off and fell to the floor.
Fortunately for me, it only took these three events to stop the chain. I radioed GEU ground control for taxi back to the ramp. I felt that not only had the “Swiss cheese holes” begin to align, but a slight but very apparent case of “get-there-itis” also began to creep in. Mark was, to say the least, very unhappy that we had to scrub the flight. I apologized but told him: “ I don’t care, I’d rather be in a position on the ground wishing we were airborne, versus being airborne and wishing we were on the ground.”
Yes, at first I was bummed too, BUT a strong dose of reality came across me saying enough is enough. I called Dennis, the Airport Manager at SOW, apologized for not making the meeting and we would catch up at the next meeting.
Flight Safety Lessons Learned
By no means am I postulating that no one would have continued a similar flight, but what I want to convey to my fellow airmen is that I reached my personal limits and was not willing to risk further events. As the saying goes: “Learn to fly another day.” The gravity of the chain of events really sunk in when I called Dennis the next day, and learned the winds actually increased about the time we would have arrived. Thank goodness I had chosen to remain on terra firma. Here is hoping others will pay similar attention to flight safety and avoid the “Swiss Cheese” from aligning for them!
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Featured Image by Marshall Segal
When Flying Aircraft, Exceeding Flight Minimums = Maximum Safety in the Skies!
Competency versus Proficiency. Flying aircraft competently means you have met the standards. Flying aircraft proficiently means you’ve taken that extra step to gain a certain comfort level in the cockpit – you’ve refined and built your competence to a point where you are confident (but not arrogant). As pilots, we must maintain certain minimums to fly legally. But sometimes the minimums only make us competent…not proficient.
Take for instance the fatal aircraft crash of a Piper Arrow on approach to an airport under a moonless night sky with Visual Flight Rule (VFR) conditions. The pilot held a commercial license, instrument and multi-engine ratings and more than 2,000 flight hours.
How did this happen to a seemingly competent pilot? Despite his impressive history of qualifications, he had only logged 2 night take-offs and landings the previous month; prior to that, it had been 7 years since he had flown at night! And yet, he still chose to fly.
Good judgment so often goes hand-in-hand with practice and training. And everyone is different. The challenge is recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and admitting to when you may need a little extra to gain the edge necessary to become safe. To exercise your piloting skills safely and proficiently, you must avoid getting wrapped around the word “minimum” and strive to hone your skills.
Many General Aviation (GA) pilots are part-timers so flying on a regular basis isn’t always possible because of competing demands. So determining your level of proficiency is sometimes difficult. Looking at where you’re at in your flight training often provides a good gauge. For instance, if you just got your instrument ticket (congratulations) you’re undoubtedly more proficient than the general aviation instrument rated pilot who only flies the minimum 6 approaches within the preceding 6 months, to keep “current”.
Most are aware of the flight minimums but just in case you’ve forgotten, fly with me as we go through a refresher. Who knows, you may just discover a thing or two about your competency level and just maybe, how to achieve that level of expertise that will make you a much safer pilot.
Regulatory Minimums for Flying Aircraft
Recent Flight Experience (FAR 61.57 (a) and (b))
Simply put, if you plan to take your significant other up flying because you think it would be insanely romantic to propose to her during the flight (or if you’re just heading somewhere warm with all your newly acquired friends) then you must have made 3 takeoffs and landings within the preceding 90 days.
And if you plan to fly at night, those takeoffs and landings must be to a full stop and performed during the period from 1 hour after the sun goes down to 1 hour before the sun rises (now that’s early morning).
Flight Review (FAR 61.56) – previously known as the Biennial Flight Review (BFR)
Once you achieve the coveted ability to pilot an aircraft as the sole manipulator of the controls (very cool), you must maintain your privileges by undergoing a flight review roughly every 2 years, consisting of 1 hour of ground and 1 hour of flight. If you recently passed a test for an advanced rating or license (think Commercial or Instrument), you are exempt. Passing a phase of the FAA’s pilot proficiency program also qualifies.
Instrument Experience (FAR 61.57 (c))
To fly in weather less than VFR minimums or straight-up IFR weather, you must have your instrument rating (duh). And to comply with the regs, you must have performed 6 instrument approaches, holding and tracking, and intercepting and tracking using navigational systems within the 6 months preceding the month you are flying in either in an aircraft or a flight simulator (could this get any more confusing?).
If you have access to an aviation training device, then 3 hours of instrument experience within the 2 calendar months preceding your flight will suffice. You still must perform 6 instrument approaches, holding procedures, intercepting and tracking and 4 unusual attitude recoveries (from various configurations).
And it gets better. You can combine aircraft, simulator and training device to fulfill the requirements- yay! If you choose to accept this route, you must still log the 6 instrument approaches within the preceding 6 calendar months (plus the intercepting, tracking, and holding) but you can combine your flight experiences using the different modes.
Instrument Proficiency Check (FAR 61.57 (d))
Bummer. You failed to meet the minimum instrument experience requirements within the preceding 6 months or maybe you’ve been away from flying longer than 6 months – if you fall into either category, then to regain competency, you must undergo an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) with a designated examiner, an authorized instructor or other qualified pilot.
Working to exceed the minimums and gain expertise not only makes you a better pilot but also makes you safer in the air. And I, for one, would much prefer to be a contributing member of the friendly skies rather than a dangerous blob, flying “fat, dumb, and happy”.
When you go beyond your personal flying limits (or you purposefully break the rules…think little devil on your shoulder), you tend to get uncomfortable which can land you in some less-than-desirable situations.
Regaining Competency Flying Aircraft and Beyond!
Plentiful options exist to help you in your quest for competency and beyond. More flight time, conducted with a great fight instructor, is always a good place to start. But if cost is an issue, many less expensive (often free) alternatives exist to help get you back into the cockpit, brush up on your current capabilities or gain the experience and knowledge to dominate the skies!
A Rusty Pilots Seminar (provided by AOPA) may sound like an event planned for a retirement community but in reality, it’s an excellent way to get back into flying if the only thing you’ve “piloted” for the past (fill-in-the-blank) years has been your automobile.
A Rusty Pilots Seminar is free (which is always good) and offered at many locations (check the Rusty Pilots Seminar link for a list of seminars near you). I chose one close to my sister-in-law so I was able to combine a visit with the event. The seminar consisted of a few hours of ground lecture (with ample coffee and food provided), which fulfilled the 1-hour ground requirement for the annual flight review. Aircraft and instructors were available afterward (yes a fee but nominal) to complete the flight requirement per FAR 61.56.
The WINGS program (provided by the FAA’s Safety Team or FAASTeam) is another great way to get closer to proficiency. You learn through seminars, online classes or actual flight training. Sign-up is-you guessed it-FREE and many of the classes are free, too.
Remember, gaining expertise in flying aircraft takes consistent practice over time…10,000 hours, to be precise…yep, according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, research shows that’s the magic number.
So open a book…or a browser and get studying. And the next time you embark on a flight into the wild blue, remember to do a self-check. Are you just flying the minimums or are you doing what you can to become an expert aviator in the sky?
Happy flying…safely and proficiently!
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Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). (2001). (Identification: IAD01FA038).