VORs: Avoiding Confusion with the TO / FROM Flag

John Peltier

If there’s one area of the Instrument Flying Course where most students struggle, it’s usually on the subject of VORs. For some reason, VORs are very mysterious, and for some reason many students have no motivation to learn them thanks to the capabilities of GPS!

VORs are still important to learn – not just because they’re on the FAA test – but also because there will be one time where you’re in Instrument Meteorological Conditions and your GPS receiver fails for whatever reason, and you’ll be left to navigate with your VOR. Don’t think it’ll happen? It’s happened to me!

One of the more difficult concepts to understand is that confusing TO/FROM indicator. Many of the modern Horizontal Situation Indicators (HSIs) remove this somewhat ambiguous indication, but the older indicators can leave many pilots confused.

Makeup of the VOR Instrument

To understand that pesky TO/FROM indicator, it’s important to first understand how a VOR ground station works and how it interacts with your cockpit instrument.

For those curious how the ground stations work, let’s take this simplified but maybe not so simple explanation. The ground station looks like a large antenna and has two emitters. The first emits a reference signal, and the second emitter spins while transmitting a modulated radio signal. Your antenna picks up the reference signal and the modulated signal. The difference between the reference signal and the phase of the modulated signal during its rotation is calculated to tell you where you are in relation to the ground station.

Your location around a VOR station is referred to as a radial. If you look at a bicycle wheel, the center of the wheel is the ground station and the spokes are the radials emitting from the ground station. They’re labeled like the numbers on a compass. The radial pointing north is the 360 radial, the one pointing east is the 090 radial, and so on, all the way around for 360 radials.

The instrument that displays all of this information is most commonly called the Course Deviation Indicator, or CDI. The Omni-Bearing Selector (OBS) knob lets you select one of these spokes (radials), and the CDI will tell you where you are in relation to your selected radial.

But the way this information is displayed is where the confusion comes in.

As you rotate the OBS knob, the needle in the instrument will move. You can think of the center of the instrument as your aircraft, and the needle is the selected radial. So it’ll show you if you’re left or right of the radial you have selected…sometimes.

Then the TO/FROM flag will show you if the course you have selected will take you towards or from the station.

Reverse Sensing

Even the FAA Instrument Flying Handbook mentions “reverse sensing”. I disagree with this term – I don’t think there is such a thing as “reverse sensing”. Just a reversed pilot!

In “reverse sensing,” the instrument is displaying exactly what you’re telling it to display. It takes some effort from the pilot to not become “reversed.”

Where pilots get confused and think that the instrument is reversed is when the OBS is set to the reciprocal of the course they want to fly. If the needle is left of center, turning left will actually push the needle away from you rather than centering it – because you’re already left of course, not right. This can sometimes make already confusing situations worse when pilots are multitasking.

To avoid this situation, always have the OBS set to the course you want to fly, not necessarily the radial you want to be on. The TO/FROM flag will tell you if this course is taking you TO or FROM the VOR. For example, if you want to fly south on the 360 radial (you’re north of the station), set the OBS to 180 and the flag will show TO – because you’re going to the station on a course of 180. Now the deflection of the needle left or right will spatially make sense to you.

Determining Your Position

We’ve seen that the CDI can tell you two things: if you’re left or right of the selected radial, and if you’re going to or from the station.

To determine which radial you’re on, once you’ve tuned the proper VOR, center the CDI with a FROM flag. Because remember, these radials emit from the station! Now read the number at the top of the compass rose, under the arrow. This is the radial you are on.

If you were to fly that heading, it will take you further from the station. Flying the reciprocal would take you to the station.

If you were to center the CDI with a TO flag, the selected course would tell you which course to fly to go towards the station, but not which radial you’re on.

Some instructors will discuss how to determine your position relative to VORs just by looking at the CDI and not rotating the knob. This works on the ground at zero knots, and you’ll need to do it for the test, but it’s much simpler in flight to just center that needle with a FROM flag and read the radial you’re on.

To do this for the test, draw the compass rose with four quadrants. Look at the course selected on the OBS and draw a little airplane in each quadrant flying that heading (aircraft heading has nothing to do with the CDI indication, but this helps visualize the aircraft’s course). If the TO/FROM flag is showing TO, “X” out the two airplanes pointing away from the VOR, and vice versa. Now look at the needle – is it left or right? That’s the side of your aircraft that the VOR is on.

See the example:

Example of Quadrants for VORs

In summary, always remember these things:

-Aircraft heading has nothing to do with what is displayed on the CDI. You can fly circles over a point on the ground all day and the display won’t change.

-Set the course you want to fly, not necessarily the radial you want to track, to avoid reverse sensing.

-Center the CDI with a FROM flag to determine the radial you are on.

There are many simulators available to practice this. I like the app Radionav Sim. It allows you to rotate the OBS, move the VOR station around, move the airplane around, and animate the flight path to show how the display would change as you move around the VOR. Use this app occasionally to refresh yourself on the operation of VORs.

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The Five Best Things About Being a Student Pilot Going to College

What Can You Expect as a Student Pilot?

Deciding to begin a career as a Professional Student Pilot can be one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging decisions you’ll ever make. Can you imagine, as a college student, getting to fly helicopters or airplanes on a daily basis as a part of your college experience?

Medical school students don’t get to start seeing patients for at least 4 years.  Law school students don’t get to represent clients for years after college. The same thing can be said about engineering students; they don’t get to build awesome stuff until years after graduating. Heck, education students (future teachers) don’t get to teach in the classroom for years.  But what about student pilots?  They can start flying weeks after starting their freshmen (first) semester. That is awesome! Helicopter flying over a city - Student Pilot

Medical students, law students, and engineering students have to go to school for 6 to 10 years before they start their career. Student pilots, potentially, can start flying “commercially” (paid) within 18 months of starting their training. When comparing an aviation career with any other professional career the benefits just keep stacking up.

The 5 Best Things About Being a Student Pilot and Pursuing an Aviation Career

#5 Global demand.  New Experiences:  Being a commercial pilot means you could be flying just about anywhere, at any time.  Potentially, you could fly all over the world. You will fly to some very interesting places.  With the global demand high for both helicopter and fixed wing pilots, you can virtually get a job anywhere on the planet. Helicopter pilots can take off and land just about anywhere, and typically you find heli tours in the most beautiful places on earth.  Airplane pilots can fly and land at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Sidney, and even backcountry airstrips or (With the right equipment) on shorelines.

#4. Live a Life of Adventure: Flying helicopters or airplanes is not necessarily something that comes naturally.  We were not built to fly (if we were, God would have given us wings).  Flying aircraft is extremely adventurous.  You will going places and doing things most people never do.  Helicopter pilots take people up on mountains to heli-ski.  They transport folks to oil platforms in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, transport trauma victims to major hospitals, and they might even help locate a criminal and bring them to justice.  Some very lucky pilots get to fly the President of the United States to and from the White House.

#3. Gain Respect:  Professional people garner respect.  Doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, and professional athletes typically enjoy respect from many aspects of the general society. The same can be said of pilots.  With your commercial pilot ratings, you will be one of a the chosen few that has gained the skills and earned the right to fly commercially.  This means you have risen to a place of respect in society.  People are generally impressed by the fact that you are a pilot. Most people understand what it takes to become a pilot and therefore, they know that you are something special and unique. Pilots receive tremendous respect from their family, friends, and the community.

#2. Personal Growth:  As a pilot you will be tested.  You will be challenged.  You cannot make excuses – people must have unshakeable confidence in you.  You will have to dig deep and find out who you are.  The best aspects of you will get better, and the areas you need to work on will become evident – and you will improve and conquer the areas of your life that most people never deal with.  The question is… do you have what it takes?  If you do, you will grow “personally” more than you could ever imagine.  The responsibility of flying helicopters or airplanes is tremendous.  In order to be “trusted” you will have to become the best version of yourself in all ways.  Get ready to grow to heights you never knew were possible.

#1. Rewarding Career:  There is no doubt about it.  Good pilots make great money.  It may take time and a great deal of sacrifice to become a commercial pilot, but remember, helicopter and airplane pilots make an extremely good income.  A pilot does not have the typical 9 to 5 job.  As an aviator, your office view could be at 35,000 feet.  As a helicopter pilot, you might be “spotting Tuna” at sea as you fly for a commercial fishing company. Or, you might be covering live major news events as they happen.  This list of “rewards” for commercial pilots goes on and on.

Coming to the Right Conclusion about Aviation and Pilots

First, please get the picture of being “Maverick” from Top Gun out of your mind. You will not be spending all your time between flights cruising the beach on your motorcycle, grabbing the Hot Girls (or Guys), drinking beer and playing volleyball all day in the sun. If you’re serious about becoming a Professional Aviator, you are going to have to be dedicated and be ready to make serious personal sacrifices.

You will have to commit yourself to studying; probably more than you ever have in your entire life. Learning how to fly and everything that is involved with flying requires a tremendous amount of hard work and focus. If a Flight School advertises a life of “Fun in the Sun” with a helicopter parked on a yacht in the middle of a lake surrounded by girls in bikini’s…  we recommend that you think seriously about the level of training they are actually going to provide. Remember, this is a serious profession and only those who take it seriously will be successful.

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Upper Limit Aviation Student and Instructor Report Fire

Upper Limit Aviation Flight Instructor, John Jackson was conducting a helicopter training flight mission yesterday morning with Upper Limit Aviation student, Albert Wood, when they spotted a fire on Pine Valley Mountain. Mr. Jackson called the fire into the flight service station around 10:30 AM. Jackson and Wood were flying a routine training flight between Cedar City and St George when they spotted the fire.

For the past three years ULA has assisted in dozens of search and rescue missions on behalf of Iron County Sheriff Search and Rescue, and assisted other law enforcement agencies in Southern Utah when called upon.

Last year thirteen Upper Limit Aviation pilots were sworn in as official “special deputies” with the Iron County Sheriff’s Department. As special deputies, the ULA pilots can land and pick up accident victims in support of search and rescue missions for the county.

Oak Grove wildfire near Pine Valley Mountain Forces Evacuations

Washington County, Utah – Fire spotted in the Dixie National Forest near the Oak Grove campground on Tuesday. Fire managers were alerted to the Oak Grove Fire, located about 13 miles north of St. George, after 11 a.m. The blaze is estimated to be around 100 acres – the equivalent of 100 football fields – and, as this report is published, the fire is zero percent contained.

The 100 acres was the estimate as of 2 p.m. The Forest Service later reported that the fire had grown to 200 acres by Tuesday evening.

To read the full article, check it out on St George News, by Mori Kessler, on September 8th 2015.

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Top 6 Tips for Student Pilots to Land the Best Aviation Jobs

For most student pilots attending helicopter flight school, it is all about landing the best paying jobs as a career pilot. Why else would anyone invest a great deal of money to learn to fly (as a commercial pilot) unless it was to position yourself to compete for the best aviation jobs?

Therefore, there are certain decisions that student helicopter pilots need to make before they start flight school. In other words, before you move across the country to attend a top flight school, you need to consider the steps successful student pilots have taken to land the best paying commercial pilot jobs. We recommend that you learn from those who have succeeded.

#6.  Personal Branding – Develop Powerful Social Media Presence: Start branding yourself before you start flight school. This may sound presumptious, but there is a lot you can do before you start developing your piloting skills. At the very least, get plugged into the vast network of commercial pilots and helicopter companies.

In the very near future your personal brand will become extremely important. And, it takes time to get your personal brand established (e.g. Social Media). When it comes to your current and future commercial helicopter pilot career, you need to establish and then promote your personal brand (your professional image). Imagine “branding” success when the brand you’re promoting is YOU!

What is a personal brand? “You’re a brand. I’m a brand. We’re all brands, whether we try or not”.

Personal branding is the purposeful process of managing and optimizing the way that you are seen by others, especially potential employers.sam-cribbs

The benefits of developing a powerful online personal brand.

1. Being seen by the right people (prospective employers), seeing you in the best light.
2. Build positive network associations – building your brand reputation.
3. Develop beneficial associations (connections) within your industry
4. Generate greater credibility and value
5. Create recognition and prestige through your associations.

Effectively designing social media profiles is the best way to promote and manage your personal brand. You can either control the narrative (the information), or be controlled by it.

Just how vital is your personal brand strategy? We recommend that you do a Google search of your name. Trust me, your future employers will Google your name before they schedule an interview. After Googling your name, what did you find? Is it positive? Does it represent you well? Will the info that comes up when Googling your name help you compete against others, helping you land the best aviation jobs?

The top search results should be from your social networks; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google+. If you’re serious about promoting yourself professionally, people should also find images, videos, and blog posts that you have written and published online. Next, when clicking on your social media accounts, is your professional image proprely presented? Does your social media presence help you to stand out above the rest?  If not, it’s time to get started.A helicopter association conference - Networking is a big part of landing the best aviation jobs.

Your social media presence (and content: images, video, blog posts) can be the backbone of your personal branding strategy – helping you to get your foot in the door and effectively compete for the best jobs.

#5.  Networking – Attend Aviation Association Conferences: You will hear the following over and over again… “its not what you know, as much as it is who you know.“ Mastering the art of “networking” is how most people get the top jobs in the aviation industry. For examples of top paying “Tier 1” industry jobs, click here.

Networking is hard work and takes skill and patience. Networking is not brown-nosing or schmoozing. There’s actually an art to it. When done properly, with authenticity, integrity, and honesty, networking will open doors like nothing else can.

#4.  Find an Experienced Mentor: Most employed commercial pilots can identify at least one person who took them “under their wing”, helping them to advance their careers. Before you get your start in the aviation industry, we recommend that you find a flight training program stacked with mentors.

r-44-feedAn effective mentor is an experienced pilot (or pilots) who will contribute to your overall success as a commercial pilot. A good mentor will educate you, through wisdom and experience, so that you can plot your career path before it ever gets started – and then be there as a guide as you advance your career towards the best aviation jobs.

At its most basic level, mentoring is a process in which an individual with more experience or expertise provides encouragement, advice, and support to a less experienced colleague, with the goal of helping the person being mentored learn something that he or she would have learned more slowly, less effectively, or not at all if left alone (definition by Chip Bell as written in “Manager as Mentors”).
Webster defines a mentor as, “a trusted counselor or guide.” Mentors will make the difference between getting a job and being unemployed.

Mentors, people with industry experience, will not only help you start your career, but also open some doors when you are ready to land your first industry job.  The aviation industry is small, and competing for good paying jobs is all about “who you know.” Through a well-connected mentor you can get your resume to the top of the stack.

If you have a family your spouse must be 100% behind your career. Before starting flight school your spouse has to know what you are getting him/her into – your spouse needs to know everything about becoming a commercial pilot (how long it will take, the time commitment, the cost, the career opportunities, the salaries and wages, location(s) of the jobs, and the type of work schedule). This commitment is a shared commitment (all family members), and without the spouse’s support it will become a nightmare.

Choosing the right flight training school is the first step to your commitment. Do your homework – don’t choose the first school that comes along.  Your flight school will determine your value and worth as a pilot, so make an informed educated decision. The flight school you choose should help you with all six of these “6 Tips”.

#3.  Total Commitment and Focus: Experienced pilots will tell you, that in order to become a commercial pilot (especially pilots with the best aviation jobs), you need to be 100% committed and focused on your training and career development. Becoming a commercial pilot means that you must be a professional pilot – with a big emphasis on “professional”.

A commercial pilot is not a part-time recreational endeavor.  Learning to fly can be fun, but to become an employable commercial pilot it takes tremendous sacrifice, persistence, and total commitment. Total immersion is required.

Becoming a commercial pilot is very similar to becoming a doctor or a lawyer.  Your training and education is very important, and not very forgiving. Meaning, as a student pilot you can’t afford to make mistakes. Your mind, energy, and focus must be completely funneled toward your training. If you are not ready, or able, to commit everything toward your training – don’t start.

#2.  Know the Industry: Before you start your journey toward becoming a commercial pilot you have to make the right moves from day one (i.e., choosing the right flight school). Your career depends upon making the right choices at the right time for the right reasons. Therefore, before you start training, you need to know the industry.

We recommend that you do your research. For example, call a few of the Helicopter Tour companies in Las Vegas. Tell them that you are serious about becoming a commercial pilot and you are conducting some research. Ask to speak with a Chief Pliot, or the Chief Instructor. You need to know the answers to the following question:

  • “What pilot jobs are available?”
  • “What is a good career path as a professional pilot?”
  • “What makes a good pilot?”
  • “What are employers looking for when hiring pilots?”
  • “What experience will make me more employable?”
  • “What is the typical cost for flight training?”
  • “How long is training going to take, and what personal commitment must I be willing to make?”
  • “What are some of the mistakes others have made that hurt their careers?
  • “What are the choices of high paying pilots that advanced their career?”
  • “Do I have what it takes?”

Once you have a pretty good idea about the questions above, start looking for a flight training school that will present a path towards the best aviation jobs. When interviewing prospective flight schools they should answer each one of the question above exactly in the same way that the Helicotper Tour companies did. The school’s answers to these questions should jive with the best Tier 1 Employers answers. If they don’t, move on to the next school.

#1.  Choose the Right Flight School – Do Your Homework: Have you ever noticed that most presidential candidates graduated from Harvard or Yale? The same is true with Wall Street executives and CEO’s of top corporations –they’ve all graduated at the top universities (there are always exceptions). The point is, to get the top jobs in government or private business you need to attend a top school. The same is true with getting the best aviation jobs.

Your flight training and education will matter. It will make you or break you. The type of training you receive, along with “who trained you”, will either advance your career or hold you back. Our recommendation is that you carefully explore your options and make an informed choice. Go so far as to visit at least three flight schools before you enroll. Interview the people who will be training you. Look deeply into their results… meaning, “Where are their graduates? Where are they employed?”

Related Articles

Tier 1 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

Landing a Tier 2 Helicopter Pilot Job

Types of Tier 3 Helicopter Pilot Jobs

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6 Student Pilot Mistakes That Can Ruin a Career

There are certain things that student helicopter pilots need to know before they invest in an expensive flight training program. In other words, you might want to consider some things that can sink your career before you ever start. You may be surprised to know the following examples of student pilot mistakes have kept many student pilots out of the cockpit.

#6. Social Media Disasters: Posting photos that would make your grandmother cringe or inappropriate Facebook posts can ruin your career. Images and videos you post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram last forever. Controversial, offensive, and off-color posts/images can keep a career from getting off the ground. Remember the day you got drunk with your buddies in Tijuana?  As a Facebook or Instagram post, it might be funny to you, but if you aspire to be a professional helicopter pilot, it could be a job killer.

When your potential employer finds photos of you looking less than professional, it could put your resume in the trash. Google your name and see if you need to start looking at damage control. When you post anything, think deeply about how your posts could affect your future.

For example, Alica Lynch did not think when she posted an image of herself in the outfit she’d put together for a Halloween party. She had on a Victoria’s Secret running skirt, blue T-shirt, and road-race bib, accessorized by a faux gash on her forehead and bloody, bruised legs. The 22-year-old Michigan resident uploaded the image to her Instagram and Twitter accounts, as she had done with so many photos before. She used the hashtag #boston #marathon #runner. Her costume? a Boston Marathon bombing victim. You can imagine how this social media disaster played out for Alica.

Your future aviation employer will check out your social media accounts – count on it. A recent survey by Vault.com found that 44% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Therefore, be smart… use social media to present yourself to the world in a way that reflects the values of prospective employers. Brand yourself to succeed.

#5. Being Too Heavy – Overweight: Helicopter pilots have to watch their weight. To a student helicopter pilot, weight is extremely important. Why? The cheapest aircraft for pilot training is the Robinson R22 ($200 to $300/hour). The weight limit for each seat in the R22 is 240 lbs. However, with fuel load and other considerations, student pilots above 200 lbs may need to train in bigger, more expensive aircraft, such as the Robinson R44 ($500 to $600/hour).

If you are a prospective student pilot above 200 pounds, and it is possible to lose weight and maintain a health BMI, our recommendation is that you start dieting now. Eat healthy, and cut out the beer, sodas and potato chips. We realize that this may sound cruel and insensitive, but the repercussions of being overweight are real. It’s also a safety issue, not to mention an expensive journey.

Some students lay down a big sum of money for flight training, sign up for courses, and attempt to start their training 15 to 20 lbs overweight. Guess what? They are grounded until the shed the excess weight – unless of course, they are willing to pay twice the amount for the larger aircraft.

#4. Piercings, Tattoos, and Dyed Hair: You need to know how piercings and tattoos can limit your career opportunities. Piercings and tattoos will not prevent you from becoming a pilot, but they might slow you down when it comes to getting your dream job.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29, have at least one tattoo. And, it should come as no surprise that body piercings are a growing means of self-expression among people in this age group. Although piercings and tattoos are becoming more acceptable, they can harm people in certain industries – aviation being one of them.

Just as important, piercings and tattoos can limit each new job opportunity – not to mention future performance evaluations, raises, promotions. The fact is that most employers will make assumptions about your character based on your appearance.

#3. Criminal Record – Driving Under the Influence & Domestic Violence Charges: If you are charged or convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), it will affect your future as a professional helicopter pilot. It might even prevent you from becoming a pilot. As a pilot, if you are found guilty of driving under the influence your career can be ruined. Although each situation may be looked at differently (case-by-case basis), a DUI is hard to overcome.

The FAA is not going to stop you from obtaining your pilot ratings if you’ve been charged with a DUI. It is also true that you can earn your pilot ratings having been convicted of a DUI. However, as a professional pilot your job prospects will be very limited at best.

With a DUI conviction, no employer will be eager to put you in an expensive aircraft with precious cargo. Prospective employers are very concerned about driving records (speeding tickets, reckless driving, etc.). So, a DUI can be considered a job killer.

If you don’t have a DUI, we recommend that you never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. Never! If you have a DUI, the best thing that you can hope for is to put some distance between yourself and your past poor choices. Somehow you have demonstrate that you have learned from your mistake(s). Show that you have become the kind of person who will never do those things again.

A domestic violence conviction will end your commercial flying career – period. Essentially, if you have a criminal record it will be very hard, if not impossible, to get a good job in the aviation industry. Our recommendation is that you don’t spend a dime on flight training if you have a substantial criminal record. There are way too many helicopter pilots out there without a criminal record – competing for those same jobs. Very few aviation companies will take the gamble on you.

#2. Skipping School – A College Educational: Earning a college degree is not necessary to obtain your flight ratings. Moreover, you can land good paying helicopter pilot jobs without a college degree. However, having a college degree is becoming more and more important to the industry. This trend is gaining momentum.

Some industry experts believe that it is only a matter of time before a relevant college degree will be a prerequisite to applying for the best jobs. Furthermore, in the aviation industry, there are plenty of incredible aviation jobs that pilots aspire to land – good-paying jobs. The top jobs in the industry require a college degree. At the very least, without a degree, you will be limiting your future career options.

#1. Choosing the Wrong Flight School: The best and worst decision a student pilot can make is related to the helicopter flight school they choose. Too many prospective student pilots fail to do their homework on flight schools before enrolling. Unfortunately, students can spend a great deal of money before they realize they chose the wrong school.

To become a commercial pilot (professional pilot), all students must earn a Commercial rating. But to get an entry level job as a commercial pilot it takes a lot more than ratings – it takes 300 to 400 flight hours or more (in most cases, a lot more). A student pilot can earn a commercial rating at 150 hours, which is not enough flight time to get a job. Therefore, most students go beyond the Commercial rating and obtain a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating. As a CFI, a pilot can earn the flight hours necessary to obtain their first industry job (referred to as a Tier 1 job). Find a flight school that can take you all the way through the process, including CFI.

What’s more, is the fact that most new pilots get their first industry job through networking. The aviation world is small, and where you get your training matters. To effectively compete for Tier 1 pilot jobs, you have to be credible – as a pilot and as a person. That means you have to be known by someone with credibility. Your mentors, flight instructors, and the school you get your training through must be able to help you enter the industry. So make sure you get your training through a school with a verifiable track record of graduates landing good paying jobs.

We hope this helps you avoid these student pilot mistakes and keep your aviation career progress on track.

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ULA Students with Flight School Training Support Rescue Missions

Upper Limit Aviation is known for launching student pilots into careers flying commercially – taking students from flight school to flying helicopters and fixed wing aircraft for a living. ULA students get real-world flight school training experience during their time with us.

What makes Upper Limit different from other flight schools is their commitment to real-world flight experience training. ULA students train under a scenario-based philosophy for the purpose of being uniquely prepared for real world “industry experience”. ULA students get actual industry experience as a part of their flight school training, distinctively preparing them for their first job as a commercial pilot.

Upper Limit Aviation (ULA) flight students participate in real-life rescue missions in the Utah area. ULA has flown ten life-saving missions since the program began in August 2013. ULA student Chris Powell states, “When we jump from a scenario-based training to an actual real-world situation, that’s what we’re all hoping for as students. It’s always fun.”

What does “real world experience” mean to prospective flight school students researching a variety of flight schools? Essentially, it means that ULA is one of the top-flight schools in the US. The aviation industry, particularly employers, are aware that ULA trained pilots are more experienced, and better prepared to start flying commercial missions.

ULA – The Pathway to a Commercial Pilot Career

When looking at flight schools, most prospective students want the best pathway to a commercial career. Danielle Vogel, ULA’s Director of Admissions, states, “we talk to hundreds of prospective students each month. Almost all of them are locked on a dream to fly commercially. This is their dream job, their passion. But they want to know if ULA is the school that will take them from being a student to landing a top job.”

Michael Mower, ULA’s Chief Flight Instructor and Director of Schools, explains that ULA students are the only students in the industry to take part in rescue missions. ULA students have supported rescue missions as “coordinators and spotters”. Mower explains, “If we are able to get the students in the plane, seeing what is going on and seeing what they would be doing on these missions once they receive their license, that’s a huge advantage,” he said. “Anything to get the students more involved on these missions is great experience for them.”

Rich Cannon, the Assistant School Director, and ULA graduate stated that ULA students are frequently part of the search and rescue missions and that the experiences students receive through ULA’s unique training approach is invaluable.

ULA is committed to teaching students through real-world flying situations, opening them to incredible opportunities whenever possible. ULA flies, on average, 103 flight hours per day, 11,000 flight hours per semester. Prospective students want the real world experience because they know it will give them an advantage in the job market.

Mower shared that a few of the rescue missions have been in coordination with local law enforcement – searching for homicide suspects and juvenile runaways, including one a girl who ran away and was stuck in the nearby mountains. Mower’s team of professional pilots, along with support of ULA aviation students, spotted the girl just before sunset – they might have saved her life.  Through ULA’s efforts, they were able to get her to safety within 30 minutes of learning about the missing girl.

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

Spatial Disorientation: How and When Does it Affect Pilots

Do you remember the fatal airplane wreck of John F Kennedy Jr.? In July of 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr, and two other passengers on board crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts. The official NTSB report concluded that Kennedy experienced spatial disorientation while descending at night over water. He lost control of the aircraft and crashed. How often do pilots experience spatial disorientation?

Interesting is the fact that Kennedy did not hold an Instrument Rating and was only certified to fly under VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Although Kennedy’s ill-fated flight was legal (barely), it was not safe. This tragic event happens all to often to recreational pilots, but it is something that we call can learn from.

178 Seconds to Live – a Dramatic Video on Sensory Disorientation:

Obviously, spatial disorientation, something very important that all student pilots should know about before starting flight school. This article offers a lot more than just interesting tidbits, however by no means does it cover all the information related to spacial disorientation. It is only a brief introduction meant to compel student pilots to dig deeper.

This article will briefly discuss one of many spacial disorientation effects, specfically the “leans”. Our recommendation is that you do your homework and find out everything there is about spatial disorientation and the “leans”.

What are Spatial Disorientation, Spatial Illusion and the “Leans” Effect?

”Spatial Disorientation”, including what is known as the “leans”, is the cause of many airplane accidents. Good training, and pilot awareness is the key to preventing certain disaster associated with the “leans”. This article is only meant to bring awareness to the important concept of spatial disorientation created by the “leans” effect.

Do the best pilots fly by the seat of their pants? Do great pilots rely on “feel” and their “senses”? We think not.

Humans were not built to fly, and certainly not constructed to navigate flying through the air by our sensory organs alone. Our bodies, brains, and sensory systems are built to help us navigate on the ground while standing upright. To fly using our senses alone, is very dangerous and could cost us our lives.

The video below describes the contributing factors which can lead to this condition and its many associated illusions.

Don’t Trust Your Sensory Organs

While flying, our sensory organs do not accurately reflect the movements of the aircraft in space. In effect, our sensory mechanisms do not properly read the 3-D environment around us, and can cause us to experience what is known as “sensory illusions”.

One very dangerous sensory illusion is the “leans”. The “leans” can be caused by level flight after a rapid roll of the aircraft. It’s where the process of the aircraft’s roll causes our body to lean in a direction that is contrary to the actual direction of the turn, and this effect can continue even after the aircraft roll is complete. In essence, our sensory readings coming from our sensory mechanisms send us faulty info.

When experiencing a “leans”, if our sensory mechanisms send us false readings, we may feel something that is not actually happening, and therefore react or respond inappropriately. While experiencing the “leans” effect, if we trust our faulty sensory readings, our physical reactions and responses will lead to our demise.

Spatial Orientation is our ability to maintain our bodies orientation to the ground. Again, humans are built to use our sensory mechanisms to maintain spatial orientation to the ground (our surroundings on the ground). When we get up in the air, we experience a three-dimensional world, which is totally unfamiliar to our sensory organs. This can cause sensory conflicts, and what we see and feel is not real. In this situation, we cannot rely on what we see, feel, or sense (gut).

How important is this? Well, statistics show that 5 to 10% of all general aviation accidents are caused by spatial disorientation affect, 90% of which are fatal.

When experiencing spatial disorientation, it can be difficult to correct. We can actually panic as the information on our instruments do not jive with how we feel (sensory input). Moreover, if we respond to our feelings, we can make things worse fast, causing more panic. If we do not correct quickly, in a very short period of time we can lose control of the aircraft and plummet into the ground.

Unless you have an instrument rating, and you are not legally able to fly unless you can see the horizon. You are only able to fly by Visual Flight Rules. A licensed instrument pilot can fly both VFR and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

If you are not licensed to fly by instrument, you should never fly into a cloud (bad weather that diminishes your vision), nor should you fly after dark. Flying into a cloud can certainly cause spatial illusions and disorientation. Unless you can see the horizon, and see all around you, as a non-instrument rated pilot you are susceptible to spatial disorientation, including the “lean”.

When flying, our bodies sensory systems are actually doing what they were designed to do. It’s just that our sensory systems are not designed to navigate airspace while flying aircraft. When we experience sensory illusions our sensory systems are functioning just they way they were designed.

Our spatial orientation systems, which create the lean illusion, were designed to protect us. During the course of our lives we have come to trust our spatial orientation systems – making it very difficult for some pilots to accept that their orientation (feedback from their sensory mechanisms) is incorrect during flight. If this happens to you, as a pilot, you can make a bad situation worse while you think you are correcting the problem.

Supporting Sources for this article:

John F. Kennedy Jr. Plane Crash

The Leans

Sensory Illusions in Aviation

Visual Illusions

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.

Knowing Simple Aerodynamics Helps Your Aviation Career

When it comes to teaching someone about aerodynamics, it is possible to teach simple aerodynamics in a way that doesn’t require a physics course as a prerequisite. I am a firm believer that as your flight career progresses, so should your knowledge. However, we need to take a simple to complex, known to unknown approach. If you are a Flight Instructor, you know this is a key fundamental of instruction. Take ‘Lift’ for example; at what point should someone be expected to know the Coefficient of Lift (CL)? Here’s what NASA says regarding the lift coefficient:

“The lift coefficient is a number that aerodynamicists use to model all of the complex dependencies of shape, inclination, and some flow conditions on lift. This equation is simply a rearrangement of the lift equation where we solve for the lift coefficient in terms of the other variables.

The lift coefficient Cl is equal to the lift L divided by the quantity: density r times half the velocity V squared times the wing area A. Cl = L / (A * .5 * r * V^2)

The quantity one half the density times the velocity squared is called the dynamic pressure q. So Cl = L / (q * A)

The lift coefficient then expresses the ratio of the lift force to the force produced by the dynamic pressure times the area.”

Above, NASA states this equation is “simply a rearrangement of the lift equation”.  Perhaps if you have a PHD and work for NASA this equation is simple. Why is this complex lift equation shown to brand new student pilots across the Country? If we know that a key fundamental principle of instruction is to go from simple to complex, known to unknown; why would we ever introduce a complex physics equation to a new student? Instead, when introducing lift, ask your student a few simple questions:

“Have you ever been driving down the highway with your hand out the window? Have you noticed that if your raise your hand up slightly, your whole arm wants to shoot up like you’re waving to oncoming cars? That is lift…simple”

When learning simple aerodynamics, where should one start?

The first thing I have my students learn, are the basic definitions of helicopter aerodynamic terms. I focus on their rote memorization of bullet point definitions. Once they have these memorized, I then focus on their understanding and application. I present aerodynamic terms to my students in a question / answer format. Before a Student Pilot is ready to take their Private Pilot exam, they will need to be able to describe aerodynamics much more in depth. However, if you’re new to aerodynamics, I recommend you start by memorizing the key definitions below. Writing these questions / answers down on index cards is a good idea to aid in your memorization of these key aerodynamic terms.

What are the forces of flight?

A. Lift, Weight, Thrust and Drag

How is lift developed?

A. LIft is developed by creating an area of positive pressure beneath the airfoil and negative pressure above the airfoil.

What is Bernoulli’s Principle?

A. Bernoulli’s Principle states that as velocity increases, pressure decreases. This is also known as the Venturi Effect.

What is Newton’s Third Law?

A. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

What is Angle of Attack?

A. The angle between the chord line and relative wind.

What are the three types of drag?

A. Profile, Parasite and Induced drag.

What is Profile Drag?

A. Drag caused by the frictional resistance of the blades moving through the air. Composed of Form Drag and Skin Friction.

What is Parasite Drag?

A. Drag caused from all Non-Lifting surfaces of the aircraft.

What is Induced Drag?

A. Drag that is a result of developing lift. Also known as Vortex Drag.

What is Coriolis Effect?

A. As the center of mass moves closer to the axis of rotation, the blades have a tendency to accelerate.

What are the two external factors that cause Coriolis Effect?

A. Coning and Blade Flapping.

What is Coning?

A. Coning is the result of two forces acting at the same time; Centrifugal Force and Lift.

Why do helicopter blades Flap?

A. Helicopter Blades are allowed to Flap to compensate for Dissymmetry of Lift.

What is Dissymmetry of Lift?

A. Unequal lift between the advancing and retreating halves of the rotor disc.

What is Retreating Blade Stale?

A. Due to Dissymmetry of Lift, at high forward airspeeds the retreating blade exceeds its critical angle of attack causing the blade to stall.

What is Translating Tendency?

A. The tendency of the helicopter to drift in the direction of tail rotor thrust.

What is Translational Lift?

A. Improved rotor efficiency resulting from directional flight or surface winds.

What is Effective Translational Lift (ETL)?

A. ETL occurs at approximately 16-24 knots when the rotor system completely outruns the recirculation of old vortices.

What is Transverse Flow Effect?

A. Occurs at speeds just below ETL. Induced flow drops to near zero at the forward disc area and increases at the aft disc area.

What is Gyroscopic Precession?

A. Gyroscopic Precession states that when an outside force is applied to a rotating body, the result of the outside force will occur 90 degrees later in the plane of rotation.

Begin introducing the “Why?”

450px-Clear_light_bulbOnce you have memorized some of these key definitions, it will be time to start asking “Why?” The short list above is exactly that…short. Notice I did not include aerodynamics of autorotations, conservation of angular momentum or other complex aerodynamic principles. There is a lot more to learn, but building a foundation of key definitions is where we should start. Once you have the definitions memorized, the next step is to gain an understanding of what is actually happening. Helicopter Aerodynamics can be made simple and enjoyable to learn. Start with the basics and develop a good foundation to build on. This is my approach to teaching aerodynamics to a brand new student. There are other good approaches that Instructors use and they are successful in their teaching. With a goodFlight School you will be surrounded by a large amount of Flight Instructors ensuring that your individual learning needs will be met.

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.

Schedule a Intro Flight with ULA

Are you ready to LEARN TO FLY today? Call Upper Limit Aviation at 844-iFLYEDU and schedule a intro flight, or click here to find out more information about our flight school. Need financing for flight training? If you’ve always dreamed of flying, or your desire is to become a commercial pilot, now is the time to make the commitment and realize your dream. Upper Limit Aviation has been training student pilots since 2004, and now is your time to take flight.

Stacy Steele’s intro flight was an amazing experience, beyond words, beyond description, and just what she needed. When Stacy arrived at Upper Limit Aviation to take her intro flight, she really did not expect to fly. Stacy thought she was just along for a ride. With ULA Chief Flight Instructor, Alan Carver, at the helm, Stacy actively participated in the takeoff, flight of the aircraft, and landing. Stacy was hooked.

Watch Stacy’s Intro Flight Experience with Upper Limit Aviation

Most people describe their first flight (actual “non-passenger” flying experience) as one of the most amazing experiences of their life. If you’ve always dreamed of flying an airplane, it all starts with your intro flight. So what are you waiting for? If you have not taken an intro flight, schedule one now.

If you are looking to learn to fly with Upper Limit Aviation, your first step is to schedule an intro flight. Most flight schools and instructors charge a reasonable rate for an introductory flight. Upper Limit Aviation offers serious student pilot candidates a great deal on their intro flight, and we go beyond what other schools offer.

Scheduling an introductory flight is not as complicated as you would think. We do suggest that your flight be scheduled to be flown in good weather conditions. Bad weather conditions (wind, or rain/snow) is not advised for your first flying experience.

When you arrive at Upper Limit Aviation, you will be well taken care of. We realize this might be your very first flying experience, and we want to make sure that it is a memorable one. You will be flying with an experienced flight instructor. Remember, no matter how experienced your flight instructor might be, he or she was in your shoes at one time. They uniquely understand the importance of an awesome introductory flight.

Before you go anywhere your instructor will take you through the preflight inspections (be ready to ask all the questions you can think of). Before you depart the tarmac, your flight instructor will cover the basics of the airplane (instruments, flight controls, shoulder harnesses, start procedures, taxi procedures, communication with the tower, and a checklist of safety items). Your first flight and every flight after that will be all about safety – now you are ready for takeoff.

Your flight instructor may allow you to taxi the aircraft to the runway, allowing you to steer the airplane. The instructor will always be flying the plane, but he or she may have you keep a hand on the control yoke and your feet on the pedals. This way you get a realistic feel for flying the plane. At this point, your instructor will take you through basic flight maneuvers, and described the “what and why” of each maneuver.

Your first intro flight will take about 30 minutes in the air. After flying, you will be encouraged to spend some time discussing your flight experience with your instructor. It is recommended you ask all the questions that come to mind. If, after your intro flight, you are set on earning your Private Pilot’s license, then it’s time to enroll.

Most ULA student pilots are considering a career in aviation, so they continue with ULA after earning their Private Pilot certificate. Upper Limit Aviation can take a student pilot from Private Pilot, Instrument, and to Commercial in 9 to 12 months. If you are also looking to obtain your Certified Flight Instructor and Certified Flight Instructor Instrument ratings, you can do so through Upper Limit Aviation by adding another six months of training.

For more information about scheduling an intro flight with Upper Limit Aviationcall us at (801) 596-7722.

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