I Was a New Private Pilot, Flying Small Aircraft In Busy Airspace

The Night I Flew a “Heavy” … Make that a “Cessna Heavy”

Shawn Arena

This article is similar in nature to the previous flight experiences that I have documented for you. As a newly minted private pilot, this experience taught me how to successfully navigate the fast-paced ground and air portions of flying small aircraft into one of the busiest airports in the country, with a little help from my friend/flight instructor/passenger.

My First Night Journey Flying Small Aircraft Into Congested Airspace

It was around 1988-89, and my private pilot certificate was barely bent in my wallet (only 2-3 years old) when I participated in one of the most interesting and challenging flight experiences to date. You might have remembered from another writing that my initial flight experiences were out of a flight school based at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Southern California.

I accepted an offer to participate in flying a Cessna 172 in a flight of three aircraft to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to tour a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft flown by Delta Airlines (the head aircraft mechanic for Delta at the time also flew privately with the flight school). I was to fly the second of three legs on our sojourn from SNA to LAX to ONT and then back to SNA. It was really fascinating to be in the ‘jump seat’ (i.e. backseat pilot-passenger) on that leg from SNA to LAX.

It was a summer night and most pilots will tell you that flying small aircraft at night is one of most serene experiences you can imagine, and between the twinkling lights of the cities below and the multicolored lights at an airport, it is pretty cool and also it is easier to spot other traffic.

It became very ‘real’ upon our approach into LAX. All seemed fine until the tower controller informed the pilot to ‘expedite approach, traffic is a Boeing 727 on 3-mile final.’ To say we landed and taxied off of runway 25L ‘hot’ (i.e. a lot quicker than a usual approach) was an understatement, but to all passengers, things went fine as we rolled to our stop under the left wing of the L-1011 parked at the gate for the night … yeah, you heard that right, under the wing!

Boy, It Is Tough Getting a Word In Around Here

The tour was awesome. For those not familiar with the L-1011, it was Lockheed Aircraft Company’s answer to McDonnell Douglas’s very successful DC-10. The L-1011 was state of the art at the time and one of the second generation commercial aircraft in automation and technology; featuring one of the first automated flight directors, area navigation (RNAV), configuration warning, and auto-land systems … a pretty cool airplane for its time!

OK, it was now my time to fly. Some of you ‘veteran’ pilots may remember that before headsets became the norm, when flying small aircraft, communications with air traffic control was via a handheld microphone attached to a cord right under the instrument panel. So it was with this Cessna 172 as well. I prepared for my standard communication chain with ground control and then tower control, when it became really apparent that this was to be no ‘typical’ departure process. When I would look out the left window and see that the BOTTOM of passing aircraft were HIGHER than the top of my aircraft, I knew it was to be interesting. Talk about living in the land of the giants!

After mentioning to the flight instructor / passenger in the right seat, “Boy, what does one have to do here to get any controller’s attention?” he did something that to me, at the time, was crazy (but it worked). He grabbed the microphone and stated: “Los Angeles Ground, this is Cessna 123 November Papa HEAVY request taxi.” A quick primer to those not familiar with ATC parlance in aircraft classification, the ATC system classifies commercial aircraft as ‘Large’ or ‘Heavy.’ According to FAA’s Air Traffic Control Policy, Order JO 7110.65V, a Large aircraft is determined by maximum certificate takeoff weight (MTOW) of 31,000 pounds but no more than 300,000 pounds. To be considered a Heavy, the MTOW is greater than 300,000 pounds.

After his bold statement, the ground control frequency went dead. The ground controller snapped back: “Last call say again!” to which my ‘passenger’ replied: “You heard me, we want to get out of here!” To say the least, our taxi and subsequent takeoff went off as clockwork. Imagine that!

Why Are You Doing “S” Turns on the Runway?

After our ‘adventures in departure’ from LAX, my flight into ONT was anticlimactic. I was able to identify ONT from about 20 miles out (I mean, it’s almost impossible to NOT notice two 12,000 ft. lit runways). As I lined up with runway 26L, there seemed to be lights EVERYWHERE, as if giving us several lanes to choose from on the runway. As I decelerated, but before we cleared the active, I began some ‘S’ turns to avoid (what I thought) were light posts on the runway. My ‘passenger’ flight instructor shouted out “Why are you doing “S” turns on the runway?” My answer was “I’m trying to avoid those lights sticking up.” to which he replied, “Ah, son, those are flush-mounted runway lights to assist aircraft in landing at night.” In my mind I thought, “they’re assisting me alright, almost to the point of distraction!

Final Thoughts

Many of you by now are chuckling or flat out bursting out in laughter, but to me, this experience of night flying small aircraft into busy airspace was a great learning experience, one that still resonates some 28 years later. In aviation, it’s all about learning. A good pilot is always learning. Safe journeys!

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The Dangers of a Falsified Pilot Logbook

Avoid rattlesnakes and falsified flight log books. Each has a nasty disposition and sharp fangs that bite.

Vern Weiss

In August 2012, a Federal Court in Des Moines, Iowa sentenced a pilot to 4 years probation and fined him for falsifying his pilot logbook hours when going for an FAA instrument rating.1

Federal court! We’re not talking about something that can be taken lightly. It would be bad enough to be taken to task with an FAA action but when you’re hauled into Federal court, you’re really in a big-time quagmire.

In the FAA’s eyes, forgery of a certificate is on a par with air piracy and it is not treated as a simple administrative action. In fact, it is considered a criminal act and the US Department of Justice gets involved. The “bible” used by FAA inspectors is called “FSIMS” which stands for Flight Standards Information System. This manual guides FAA inspectors as to how to handle things that can come up within the scope of conducting their duties. Here’s what it says an inspector should do when an altered certificate is detected: “An inspector should never attempt to confiscate a suspected forged, fraudulent, or counterfeit certificate. Since fraudulent certificates are sometimes used for criminal activities, the person in possession of this certificate may be armed and dangerous. If an inspector suspects that an airman certificate is counterfeit or forged, the inspector should immediately contact the Investigations and Security Branch of the Regional Civil Aviation Security Division or a local law enforcement officer.2

Is the inspector really in the restroom or did he leave the room to phone the cops?

In recent years more and more things aviation matters are falling within the purview of the Department of Justice, including mistruths of all kinds, and things like pilot logbook falsification are becoming criminal acts.

Over in FAR §61.59 the nitty-gritty is laid out for us regarding falsification of a pilot logbook: It’s defined as “Any fraudulent or intentionally false entry in any logbook, record, or report that is required to be kept, made, or used to show compliance with any requirement for the issuance or exercise of the privileges of any certificate, rating, or authorization under this part.” It further warns that “The commission (of such an act) is a basis for suspending or revoking any airman certificate, rating, or authorization held by that person.

But beyond the administrative laws of the FAA, let’s consider how it might affect a pilot in his or her career. When you’re hired by a commercial operator you will usually be required to bring your pilot logbook(s) to the interview. Very often, there is one person in the interview team who thumbs through your logbook. Although they likely do not have the time to actually total up all the columns and determine if the hours stated are accurate, they more often are picking out select flights you made which will surface later on in the interview. For instance, 3 years ago there might be a flight in a King Air from Austin, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas. During the interview, you’re asked if you have any turboprop time and you naturally will say yes. They’ll probe a bit more: “How long ago was this?” “Was it corporate or Part 135?” Who was this for?” They’re zeroing in on one of the details they’ve found and seeing if you are digging yourself a hole that you cannot climb out of or if you’re verifying that the ground is level before building a relationship with them. They may check out the tail number, who owned it and contact the company. If the company never heard of you, you just wasted your time interviewing with them.

There are other ways a falsified pilot logbook can be detected. We’ve all had less-than-sterling simulator check-rides but when someone claims an enormous amount of flight time and flies like a beginner, the logbook numbers become suspect.

Insurance companies have become ravenous vultures of data mining. When you go to work for a company, you will probably have to fill out a form for their insurer and flight time totals will be asked. This data will be entered and disseminated so if you were with Company “A” for six months and joined them with 3,000 hours but when Company “B” offered you a job you entered 6,000 hours, it will flag. You’ll also be tagged as a liar and may have problems for years to come getting an insurance company to believe you are who you are.

When there is an accident which ends up in a civil court proceeding or in a lawsuit, you can bet your logbooks will be subpoenaed and the lawyers will pour over them carefully. The ramifications that come out of this are obvious and not too pretty.

Some years ago I worked for a large pilot training school. Prior to signing anyone off for a check-ride, we had a dedicated session we called “the preflight.” “The preflight” had nothing to do with checking fuel and making sure the wings were attached but, instead, was the administrative portion of signing someone off for their check-ride. During this period, the instructor meticulously went through all the paperwork (this was prior to the implementation of the FAA’s IACRA system) including the student’s logbook(s) and confirmed all the hourly requirements had been achieved and proper endorsements made. One day a gentleman appeared at the school to train for an instrument rating. He carried a brown paper grocery sack with him and in that sack were hundreds of pieces of paper. Every flight of his piloting career was detailed on a small scrap of paper. Every training session he had experienced was documented on a valid receipt. That was his log and it was perfectly legal. Perhaps not every examiner would have been as patient with him as the one used by my flight school but he got through it even by using his non-traditional log-keeping system.

Today such a log style would probably not work. Even though you only have to log those flights that are required to show currency or for purposes of meeting the requirements of an FAA certificate or rating, a sloppy logbook reflects badly on the pilot whether you’re defending yourself in a serious legal entanglement or trying to woo an airline to hire you.

Your pilot logbook should be a matter of professional pride and visible proof of your integrity. Both things are as important for a pilot as safety and competence.

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Footnotes and References:

1 – Pilot Sentenced For Making False Statements In His FAA Flight Logbook

2 – Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS) 8900.1 09/13/2007 Para. 5-193 SUSPECTED COUNTERFEITING, Federal Aviation Administration.

Can You Fly For Compensation With a Private Pilot Certificate?

A Private Pilot Certificate doesn’t necessarily preclude earning money in aviation.

Vern Weiss

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.

That’s what FAR §61.113 says and there’s no way to dance around it. By “compensation” we’re not just referring to money but, instead, anything of value.

This article should NOT be construed as legal advice. If you’ve got an idea to conduct operations (or validate them) as a private pilot certificate holder, the FAA and proper aviation legal counsel1 should be sought.

However the FARs do allow a certain degree of accommodation so long as a private pilot is paid by his or her business or employer and the flight is only incidental to that business or employment and the aircraft does not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire.

Doctor Franklin owns a Beech Bonanza (as required of all doctors who are pilots). Ol’ Doc Franklin wants to attend the Annual Physicians’ Conference on Obscene Medical Fees in Atlanta. His partner, Doctor Taylor wants to go along. Both men are salaried and flying on company time. Is this legal pursuant to FAR 61.113? Of course it is. But let’s say Doctor Phillips wants to ride along and offers to pay Doc Franklin for flying him to the conference. Uh-uh. No-can-do! Doc Franklin can split the cost of the aircraft expense with the other two doctors but that is as far as it can go.

The Federal Aviation Regulations are quite explicit about what can and can’t be done with a private pilot certificate. One thing that a private pilot can do is give airplane rides for a charitable event or non-profit organization. However, there are some additional restrictions found in FAR 91.146 that must be met.

A private pilot may accept reimbursement of expenses involved in search-and-rescue operations under the auspices of a governmental body. Fortunately, search-and-rescue operations are not an everyday occurrence so let’s talk about careers in which you can fly as a pilot and receive pay.

Probably the most popular means of employment permitting you to fly and accept compensation is that of an aircraft salesperson. The regs prohibit you from such gainful employment until you have accumulated 200 hours. But after you’ve got 200 hours total time you can demonstrate an aircraft in flight to a prospective buyer while making money to do it.

Do you have a glider club nearby? Once you accrue 100 hours and meet the requirements of FAR §61.69 you can tow gliders or non-powered ultra light aircraft and receive compensation for your services.

A light sport aircraft on the runway

Photo by: Michael Tefft

Want to be a test pilot? According to the FARs, under FAR Part 21 a private pilot may act as pilot in command for purposes of production flight testing light-sport aircraft to be certificated in the light-sport category.

The definition of what constitutes a violation has ricocheted back and forth between the courts and the FAA for years. Remember earlier I said compensation is considered anything of value? According to the feds, this also means that a private pilot cannot barter pilot services for goods or services. “If you’ll fly me to Oshkosh this summer I’ll paint your garage…or give you my tickets to Saturday’s Cardinals-Phillies game…or…” Sorry. It’s all verboten.

Although it is not flying per se, a private pilot can use the certificate for many aviation-related careers and some of them are quite lucrative. Visit any of the Internet job boards and type “private pilot” into the search window. You’ll find good-paying jobs looking for people with a private pilot certificate in software development, avionics engineering and development, aviation product sales, airport management, FBO management and even in the “dark side” of aviation (as far as pilots are concerned these days) “flying” UAVs. The private pilot certificate is a highly sought after commodity and can link your other professional skills with positions that are allied to flying.

Other areas in which private pilots have tried to skirt the regs is by doing aerial photography and pipeline/power line patrol flying. Well-known aviation attorney and writer John Yodice2 tells of one legal decision in which an attempt to nullify the restriction didn’t work. An employee of a power company proposed to his employer that he replace the company contractor used to fly patrols of its power lines. The rule of law is that the flying services must be incidental to the service being provided and the FAA said that since aerial power line patrol operations are a foreseeable and normal part of the power business, even if relatively infrequent, they are therefore not incidental. The power company must use commercially certificated pilots.

Careful of the “Smoking Gun”

Do private pilots fly for compensation and outside of the law? You bet. And some of them get away with it for a long time. There also have been local FBOs selling charters on their airplanes that do not hold Part 135 certificates and they merrily have got away with it; for a time. But run an airplane off a slick runway, clip a fuel truck with a wing or blow a tire on landing and the feds are going to put every aspect of your flight under their microscope. You don’t want it to surface that you received compensation for flying contrary to the FARs because it will become most unsavory for you. The FAA generally doesn’t fine pilots for violations. They go after certificate actions, which means suspensions or in extreme cases, revocation. More and more enforcement actions are blended into the Department of Justice these days so it isn’t worth making yourself vulnerable.

Keep your nose clean.

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Footnotes and References:

1 – I cannot stress strongly enough “proper aviation legal counsel.” There are attorneys running around out there who advertise in the Yellow Pages® that they are “aviation attorneys.” Was it Shakespeare that said, “A lawyer who holds a private pilot certificate does not an aviation attorney make?” Get recommendations and after talking to the attorney, if you are not dazzled by his or her aviation knowledge and expertise, run and don’t look back. I had to explain to one of those so-called “aviation attorneys” one time the difference between GMT/UTC and local time and that altitudes above 17,999 feet are called “flight levels.”

2 – Aircraft Owner’s & Pilot’s Association AOPA Pilot, “Interpreting the rules on business flying” John Yodice, October 1997

When Is a Private Pilot Ready to Fly With Family and Friends?

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. 61.113Private 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.

Private pilot and a Cessna aircraft on the runway

Photo by: Juraj Patekar

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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The Cessna Training Program: Flight Training the Cessna Way

Shawn Arena

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

A Few Basics on Cessna Training Aircraft

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

The Cessna Flight Training Program

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

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

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

Flight and Ground Training Concentrations of the Cessna Training Program

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

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

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

Stick-And-Rudder Skill Development and Closing Comments

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

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

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

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Accelerated Flight Training Versus Regular Flight Training

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

When considering enrollment in a flight training facility that offers “accelerated flight training” courses that allow you to earn your private pilot’s license or other ratings, such as instrument, commercial or CFI/CFII (flight instructor) within a reduced timeframe [seemingly] in an attempt to save you time and money, reflect upon these questions:

How do accelerated flight training programs compare and contrast with regular flight training programs?

How does the quality of the education compare/contrast between accelerated flight training schools and regular flight training schools?

Do you have what it takes to attend accelerated flight training schools and successfully complete an accelerated flight training program to get your “ticket”?

Accelerated Flight TrainingThe definition of accelerated flight training in comparison to regular flight training suggests that a flight student will be able to complete any one of the pilot training programs within a reduced time frame while still adhering to the number of hours required by the FAA at every one of their FAA certified flight schools. For example, the private pilot license requires a minimum of 40 hours according to parts 61 and 91 of the FARs. This includes 20 hours of “dual” flying with an instructor, 10 hours of “solo” flight time when you will be practicing preflight procedures, airport operations, takeoffs and landings, navigation, flight at various airspeeds, stalls, night operation, and emergency operations. You will also need three hours dual cross-country flying with a destination in excess of 50 miles from their origin, three hours of dual night flying, and three hours of dual flying by instruments only. Your solo flight time includes a minimum of five hours on cross-country flights during which one trip must cover a minimum of 150 miles with landings at three airports.

The aeronautical knowledge required by the FAA in the FARs in addition to the time spent developing your flying skills in the air, includes aerodynamics, aircraft systems, aeronautical decision-making, weather reports and forecasts, planning for the unexpected, aircraft performance, and various methods of navigation that is often dictated by what avionics are available in the flight school’s aircraft as well as what nav aids are located on the airports where you are flying. My suggestion is to take advantage of everything that is available to you rather than developing a penchant for a particular nav aid that may or may not be available to you in the case of an emergency or due to other unforeseen circumstances.

In addition to the ground (classroom) and flight (in the air) training, it is necessary for you to demonstrate your mastery of both the theoretical and practical application of the material by taking and passing a written, oral, and practical flight test with an FAA examiner. Although you must pass the written test by taking advantage of any number of study guides that are available, I caution you that passing the written test alone will not make you a safe and competent pilot. Your flight instructor will guide you in what areas to study as well as where you will find the most up-to-date information which is the ideal way to spend those times when you have IFR conditions and you are working towards becoming a VFR pilot. As one honest flight instructor succinctly told his advanced aviation students: “Yes, I can teach the ATP ground school for taking the written ATP exam in three days, but you will never retain the information.”

If you are considering enrolling in accelerated flight training schools with an accelerated program, be sure to reflect upon whether that program will provide the same quality of instruction that a regular or non-accelerated flight training program does. It is wise to consider the level of flight training or rating that you wish to pursue at this point because they require varying levels of expertise to successfully complete. For example, if you are just entering your initial private pilot training program which will serve as the foundation for all the rest of the ratings that you may decide to pursue, you might want to ensure that it is at the highest level of ground school and practical (in the air) experience. This will maximize your learning of the course materials and developing your skills as PIC (pilot in command). Typically it is better to learn a skill correctly the first time than it is to have to unlearn it and then develop that skill correctly. Perhaps the major consideration when making the decision regarding an accelerated flight training program is whether or not you personally have the temperament and capability to successfully complete such a program to get your “ticket”?

Not every student functions equally as well in a high-stress environment which is usually exacerbated by an accelerated flight training program. In addition, flying has sometimes been described as “hours of boredom occasionally punctuated by several minutes of pure panic.” This is not meant to discourage your decision regarding accelerated flight training schools and accelerated programs. However, when you have flown for thousands of hours, you are bound to encounter challenging situations, such as non-functioning radios, a deterioration in the weather, a malfunctioning flap switch, etc. So, developing confidence in your abilities as a PIC becomes a prime directive where you must be able to make a decision based on the information that you have available to you at that point in time and then stick with it whether you like it or not.

There is one accelerated flight training program that is being advertised on the Internet which purports to be the “fastest, safest and most affordable path to the sky” and that you can “learn to fly as little as 10 days or less” with their accelerated flight training program. They also promise to focus on teaching “in a relaxed, laid back environment.”  One thing that is immediately evident with this program is the lack of the student-centered ideology, and instead a focus on the philosophy, talent, skills, and goals of the owner/CEO.  There is little or no reference to tailoring their instruction to maximize student learning potential and a successful completion of the program.

Accelerated Flight Training

And also keep in mind, the indication of an excellent flight instructor is his or her ability to instill those skills and information in his or her students.

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Different Pilot Licenses Explained: Sport, Recreational and Private Pilot

In the fixed wing airplane world, pilots often refer to their pilot’s license as a “certificate”. Essentially, both terms mean the same thing and are interchangeable (although, technically, they are slightly different). For the purposes of this article, we intend “certificate” and “license” to represent the same “pilot status”. According to AOPA, the most accurate description of the certificate is a “license to learn”. Below, learn more about the different pilot licences and levels of pilot certificate.

The Three Pilot’s Certificates Explained

Student Pilot Certificate (License to Learn): All pilots registered with the FAA begin their journey as “Student Pilots”. The Student Pilot Certificate allows you to train with an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Your first step is to learn the basics and fundamentals that will prepare you for your first “solo flight”.

There are several very important steps after your solo flight (advanced training) where a student decides to earn a Private Pilot’s certificate, Recreational certificate, or Sport Pilot certificate.

Each certificate has different requirements and differing pathways. The similarities of these certificates are – pilots are allowed to legally fly under certain conditions, and fly with one or more passengers for fun (no pay).

Private Pilot Certificate: The most popular certificate is the traditional “Private Pilot Certificate”. The Private Pilot is the pathway most student pilots take as they invest time, energy, and money into the process of learning to fly. This license requires 40 hours of flight training.

The Private Pilot licenses is the least restrictive of the three certificates.

The Private Pilot license is the pathway to advanced pilot certificates. Meaning, pilots with a Private Pilot license and are career-minded, can pursue the advanced certificates (Instrument, Commercial, and Certified Flight Instructor Certificates) and get paid to fly.

Getting Your Pilots License and Your First Intro Flight

Instrument and Commercial pilot’s licenses allow pilots to fly at night, fly in bad weather (fly by instrument), and fly multi-engine aircraft. Equally important, pilots with Private Pilot’s license, after advanced flight training, can become a commercial pilot and fly for a living. Private Pilot license holders can then earn a Certified Flight Instructor certificate (CFI), and even a Certified Flight Instructor Instrument certificate (CFII).

The top status of all pilot licenses is the Airline Transport Pilot certificate (ATP). Pilots who want to fly for the airlines, become corporate pilots, or fly charter jets are required to have the ATP certificate. Typically, pilots need 1,500 hours of logged flight time, an ATP certificate, and a college degree.

Recreational Pilot Certificate: The Recreation Pilot Certificate is a limited restricted version of the Private Pilot’s license, and considered to be a step below. Requires a minimum of 30 hours of flight training. The aircraft a Recreational Pilot flies is limited to 180 horsepower, and can only fly at a maximum altitude of 2000 AGL. The Recreational Pilot requires a 3rd class medical.

Recreational pilots typically fly from their “home airport”, fly during the day, and with only one additional passenger.

The good news is that a Recreational Pilot Certificate costs less and takes less time. And, a pilot with a Recreational Pilot’s license can continue training (gaining experience and flight hours) and eventually earn their Private Pilot’s license.

Sport Pilot’s Certificate: This version of a pilot’s license is relatively new (2004). It was created for people who desire to fly one or two seater aircraft that are smaller, lighter, and easier to fly. The main difference between Sport Pilot and Recreational Pilot cerftificates is the type of aircraft you are able to fly. The Sport Pilot is limited to planes with lower take off weight (smaller, lighter aircraft) with no more than two seats. Sport pilots require a minimum of 20 hours of flight training.

Additionally, pilot’s seeking Sport Pilot Certificates are not required to obtain a medical certificate (which is a big deal), but must have a valid drivers license. The Sport Pilot license is a limited and more restrictive pilot’s certificate than that of Private or Recreational. The Sports Pilot certificate prohibits pilots from flying aircraft that are more than 1,3200 lbs at takeoff and landing and 1,430 lbs at takeoff from the water.

However, with advanced training, Sport Pilot certificate holders can take additional flight training, pass an FAA Medical Exam, and earn a Recreational or Private Pilot’s license.

There are some conditions the different pilot licenses all require:
All Pilot’s License Holders Must Be or Have:
  • At least 17 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write and understand English
  • Receive logbook endorsements from authorized instructor who verifies aeronautical knowledge and preparedness for the FAA knowledge test
  • Pass the required FAA knowledge test
  • Receive flight training and a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who conducted the required training.
  • Pass the required practical test on the areas of operation that apply
  • Comply with the appropriate sections that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought
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.

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